IAB UK Digital Upfronts 2017 – looking ahead to a brighter future

The IAB's Ad Tech Manager, Dee Frew, looks back at the previous week’s amazing series of Upfronts events.

Dee Frew

I have always been looking forwards to the future, and arguably I always will be, but perhaps more with a sense of optimism in regards to our industry than before. To quote Sarah Connor from James Cameron’s 1991 film Terminator 2 after coming to grips with the homicidal titular robots: “The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope.” And the participants at this week’s Mediatel Automated Trading Debate seemed to share this optimism, several of whom sit on the board of IAB UK.

Looking back at the previous week’s amazing series of Upfronts events, I can see that our members share that optimism too. Whilst I was only able to attend about half of them there was a diversity in perspectives and priorities that all looked ahead to a brighter future.

Facebook started the week for me with a short term focus on getting Christmas right, set within the wider context of revolutionary start-ups making the most of Facebook marketing solutions. Their event rounded up with a panel of pioneers in social marketing. It isn’t easy to launch a home-delivery mattress business, a mums-only social network or a gym clothing brand, but it’s certainly easier now than it was before the advent of grassroots networks. 

This was followed on Tuesday by Oath clearly setting out their joined-up approach across all of their properties, backed by their own personal oaths – as an ex-Yahoo I spent a few minutes wondering what my own three word oath would be and decided upon “Always be learning”. The members of RYOT Studios were on hand to demo the mind-blowing work they’re producing around augmented reality and how technology has democratised storytelling – truly an evolution of content marketing.

On Wednesday I attended the JCDecaux Upfronts so was front and center for the declaration of the BranDO gold standard for best practices in digital out of home. BranDO looks to address some of the headaches digital display has encountered online and apply unique solutions that combine the best qualities of both online and outdoor. 

The week ended at Amazon’s new Shoreditch offices with all the future tech on display; delivery drones, original video content and voice-activated home assistants. You almost feel that by merging all three you could walk into your living room and announce “TV night” and have popcorn dropped into your hand in time to watch the latest Grand Tour episodes. Automated voice recognition has now surpassed human speech comprehension accuracy so Alexa understands us better than we understand ourselves and an estimated 250,000 people have asked Alexa to marry them. Amazon’s vision of Alexa as the anchor point for the family is quickly becoming a reality.

Our office was abuzz by the end of the week with stories from the various other sessions I wasn’t able to attend – I think I will forever regret not being able to witness the confused ad experience live demonstration that one member put on, with attendees being sent through labyrinthine pixelated corridors and pelted with leaves by circus performers. That just sounds crazy and worth the detour.

While Upfronts may have ended, the future ahead awaits us, with our flagship conference Engage at The Barbican next week where we want to help Create The Future through a stellar line-up of speakers; futurologists, VR/AR Experience Designers, strategists, innovators and best of all a personal hero of mine, Professor Brian Cox.

It’s been a coming of age year for digital, leading to a lot of grown up conversations around the quality considerations and effectiveness it needs to improve upon, but with that work well underway, we have an amazing future still ahead of us.

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