Suzanne Basra
Ad Week Europe
Top Trends From Ad Week Europe 2017

Soho has been a buzz with delegates for Advertising Week Europe’s fifth year in London. It was a week of inspirational talks, workshops, a secret garden, awesome gigs, a 360 degree selfie, so many free sweets and much more.

Ogilvy UK was on the ground all week collecting the latest trends from the industry’s biggest thinkers on the hottest topics. Here are nine of the key highlights from the week:

1. The future of AI

There’s no doubt that AI is starting to be present in every part of out lives – and is reaching new heights. On the future of AI, Google’s Director of Agencies, Matt Bush, discussed the next step as teaching machines to learn for themselves. The future of AI is machines teaching themselves. The wheels are already in motion at Google (for example with Google Photos as well as the new spam filters and ‘smart reply’ features in Gmail). The possibilities of AI certainly make the industry a very exciting place to be.

2. Look out – branded content is on the rise

Unilever’s Chief Marketing & Communications Officer, Keith Weed, spoke about the attention economy, believing we will see more branded content emerge. However, he warned that audiences won’t spend time with a brand if it fails to produce great content. Now, more than ever before, audiences can choose how they spend ‘their minute’. As an industry, Keith believes we need to better understand how people are using different devices and engage so we produce the right content at the right time – so consumers choose to spend ‘their minute’ with our brand.

3. Brand safety in the world of digital advertising

It came as no surprise that ad placement was a hot topic when Google’s EMEA President Matt Brittin took to the stage. Apologising to the advertising industry for the problem of brands finding their ads placed next to controversial content on YouTube, Matt outlined three different areas Google is looking at to address advertisers’ concerns: policies, controls and enforcement.

4. The dawn of the age of assistance

Google’s Distinguished Engineer Behshad Behzadi revealed an increase in the use of messenger apps, calling into question the direction of bots and complex search assistants. Google believes that as the most natural way for humans to talk to each other is with natural language and conversations, search assistants need to be as human as possible. Given that we are moving towards the average home having more than three connected devices where the only way to connect is via voice, search assistants and their programming will become incredibly important in the future.

Indeed, Google is already getting ahead with Google Assistant, a conversational interface between the user and Google. The goal is to have a back and fourth conversation. Each sentence Google Assistant speaks uses the context of the conversation to interpret the question being asked to allow for a more natural ‘human’ response. This, Google believes, is the future.

5. Big data – proceed with caution

Advertisers who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals, said The Guardian’s Nick Hewat quoting David Ogilvy. Yet, with the announcement that from May 2018 business will be required to have a Data Protection Officer of some sort, this session came with a number of warnings for brands and advertisers alike around the use of big data. The saying “just because you could, doesn’t mean you should” applies heavily. Advertisers need to use data in the right way, rather than just because it’s available to them, in order to reap the best rewards.

6. Authenticity is where it’s at

The importance of authenticity in marketing was a big theme throughout the week. Ogilvy PR London’s CEO, Marshall Manson discussed trust between either advertisers & publishers or brands & consumers. Marshall stressed the importance of authenticity for brands believing “authenticity is at the core of trust in the information marketplace”.

7. Realtime storytelling is a big deal

There is a lot of noise about real time content at the moment. Vice’s Creative Director, Adam Bracegirdle, argued that live content creates trust with audiences that you don’t get with pre-edited content. He stressed the importance of not forcing the message on real-time audiences otherwise you risk content seeming scripted or fake. His advice for brands and advertisers is to remember that the best real-time content happens in the real world; not in the confines of an office.

8. Embrace emotions

Ogilvy UK’s Vice Chairman, Rory Sutherland delivered an inspirational talk to end the week discussing the intricacies of behavioural science and marketing. Rory explained that how we perceive things depends on a whole host of contextual factors. An important element of this is emotion. If brands and marketers are not creating the right emotional response, then they won’t sell. Marketers should be looking for opportunities to achieve an emotional affect on the consumer.

9. Play the long game

Consumers will opt for buying a branded product over one that is unbranded because there is less chance of something going wrong. This is because brands have reputational skin in the game which acts as a commitment device and creates trust. An engagement ring is a great example of this. The financial strain a diamond causes the giver acts as a symbol of their commitment because of the implicit financial sacrifice – they’re in it for the long haul. There is an evolutionary mechanism around trust that means long game behaviour is attractive – marketers can learn from this. Rory explained that if brands are looking for repeat business rather than short-term one-off purchases, they need to play the long game.

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