Jon Mew: Thoughts on an eventful year

Reflection, resolution and optimism

Jon Mew, CEO

This piece was first published on The Drum Friday 14 December

If you focused on tabloid headlines this year, you may be forgiven for thinking digital advertising had experienced its annus horribilis. However, what sells papers and what helps brands grow are two very different things and there has been much to celebrate in 2018.

At the beginning of the year, the senior leadership team at the IAB wrote a 2018 Wishlist. Looking back on that list now, it is interesting to see quite how much has been achieved.

Jane [McNeill] talked about a desire to see fully engaged, happy members who are finding inspiration at our numerous events. This seemed very apparent at our inaugural Nonference in November this year, where over 800 members descended on Tobacco Dock to take part in a fast, furious and truly unique event. You can relive some of the many highlights here and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

Tim [Elkington’s] wish for 2018 highlighted the launch of the IAB Gold Standard and our desire to use this accolade to support the industry as it works together to make digital advertising better for everyone. In 2018, we saw over 100 companies either register their commitment or fully complete the certification process. Importantly, this has been across the entire value chain and includes publishers, tech platforms and buyers, including Group M, Mediacom North, MC&C Media, Publicis Media and Total Media.

There were several areas of importance from James in his wish list, with Control and Choice one that continues to resonate. I think the realisation that “everyone involved has a choice and say in the type of digital advertising industry we want to create” is evergreen and as true as we enter 2019 as it was at the beginning of this year. This is the spirit we will take into 2019.

Finally, there were my comments. Whilst my Brexit hopes are best left, as it seems even our politicians are mired in confusion, my predictions for video and connected TV seem on much firmer ground.

Our half year IAB PwC AdSpend figures, announced in October, revealed that AdSpend growth is being driven by video, with the largest year-on-year increase of 40 percent, taking spend on video in the first six months to £967m. This explosion in video consumption and new digital advertising opportunities with connected TVs is only set to increase in 2019.

Outside of our predictions, I feel particularly proud of our work this year with Mind, the mental health charity. We wanted to do more than just donate to a worthy cause, but bring the power of the IAB members’ expertise to play on a problem the charity faced.

The campaign identified during our Ideas Hack day focused on the reticence some men can face talking about their problems. The ideas generated were truly inspirational and any of the three finalists would have been worthy winners. At Nonference, the attendees were able to vote for their favourite and the ‘UberMind’ team won for their idea, which I am overjoyed to learn is going to be implemented next year. Watch this space for more!

So, as 2018 draws to a close, what will 2019 hold in store for the digital advertising industry?

I’d like to hope that the “either/or” narrative of digital vs traditional is left behind. The arguments in ‘The Long and The Short of It’ for long-term brand building over short-term direct response is as relevant for digital as it is for any other medium. Just ask Monzo, Eve, Mahabis and many others. I would like to see more focus on how the combination of channels delivers against these goals than which one may be the de facto ‘best’. After all, digital is now over 20 years old, to many it’s all they’ve ever known, so what can we even call ‘traditional’ media anymore?

Diversity and inclusion will remain an important issue for both the IAB and the wider industry. I am looking forward to announcing what we will be doing in this area in the new year. As with so many of our projects, I hope the industry will get behind the initiative in the way it so often does, for which I’m truly grateful.

Whether you consider the digital industry, or more broadly the mood of the country, it feels as if 2018 has been a challenge for many. I hope you are able to take the Christmas break to spend time with those you love, relax and come back fighting in the new year.

Then maybe we can make 2019 our annus mirabilis instead.

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