My Takeaways: Advertising Week Europe 2017

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Last week, I had the privilege of joining the best and brightest of the ad world at the annual Advertising Week Europe summit in London. I got to debate, challenge and be inspired by today’s leaders in marketing, advertising, technology and entertainment. From debating the future of transparency in advertising, to inadvertently supporting terrorism, the debates held were significant.

One thing was abundantly clear – data is king. Or at least, it will be if it isn’t already.


The death knoll is tolling loud and clear for the cookie, but there isn’t yet full agreement on what should replace it. Lots of alternatives were suggested as to what a user-based view of the world could revolve around: location-based marketing, moment-based marketing and of course people-based marketing were all cited among others.

The key point was that the complexity of data for targeting – and the number of different elements that you can layer to ensure relevance of your message to your target audience – is getting bigger and bigger. Jeff Misenti (News UK) even suggested sales of different News UK titles as a data layer. And Sally Silver (Amplifi UK) was keen to layer more data into campaigns to power smarter conversations with consumers.

Traditional media is getting in on the act too. Sandy Ghuman(Sky) spoke about the use of data in linear TV and Justin Cochrane (Clear Channel UK) referred to live data influencing ad content and distribution in out of home (OOH).

The natural progression is making better use of data. Phil Stokes (PwC) really struck me when he likened data to unrefined petroleum; in the early days, crude oil was thrown away as an unwanted by-product of paraffin production. How funny that this ominous goop now makes up billions of dollars’ in the global economy.

This got me thinking; we’re at a point where everyone knows data is valuable, but do we know exactly what we’re looking for?

We know that data means we can undertake complex, targeting campaigns, but I’m not convinced we appreciate just how far we can take this. Coming at this from a very different angle, England rugby player James Haskell, spoke of his frustration in the past when data was collected but not used properly in his sport. It was a pleasure to hear from him the difference that making good use of data has brought to the game. If not to the final game of the Six Nations…


Of course, the hot topic at the moment is context. As you might expect, there were numerous positions on the Google / YouTube online brand safety issue. But there was a consensus that everyone within the media ecosystem – from end-to-end – has a collective responsibility to shine a light into any dark corners.

Daniel Creed (Santander) put it very clearly: “Everyone – including advertisers – needs to take more media expertise into their day jobs. Brands need media experts. There is an obligation on brands to be asking the right questions.”

The question of context outside of the online environment also came up. As Digital Audio and out of home come into the programmatic space, we need to understand the value of context for the physical form. Earlier this year, Clear Channel introduced programmatic to outdoor advertising. For a medium like OOH, programmatic advertising becomes not only right audience, right message, right media – but also right location and right level of impact. To quote Justin Cochrane again, “in out of home, the content is the message, there is only real world context.”


One of the big questions for the whole advertising industry came up during a panel discussion I took part in. We asked, “what do we need to do to ensure better cross-pollination between the silos in the industry?”

The session was called ‘Emotion: Is Programmatic Taking The Crucial X Factor Out Of Advertising?’ Not exactly the subject matter you would expect to bring the industry together.

However, I was pleased to see one brave creative person did attend. And I was delighted when they shared their view. Like me, Mindshare’s Ruth Zohrer thinks we need everyone at all stages of the advertising process to understand programmatic’s capabilities. Her ambition is to drive collaboration across the agency because ‘programmatic advertising’ is now just normal advertising.


Overall, one of my most inspiring conversations of the week happened at the Opening Gala event. During the event, I realised I was stood next to Brian Turyabagye from Mama-Ope. He had just won the Pitch@Palace award for this innovative biomedical smart jacket. Brian’s jacket can distinguish pneumonia’s symptoms in young children – a vital tool in countries like Uganda where thousands of cases of pneumonia are misdiagnosed.

Such a brilliant use of technology and data is literally saving millions of children’s lives. It was an inspiring example of what can be achieved.

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