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The 2019 lowdown: What happened at Technology for Marketing this year?

Mon 4 Nov 2019

Propeller’s Will Parrott details the key takeaways from Technology for Marketing 2019, including retailers’ ‘tech backlash’, upcoming adtech regulation, the requirements for talent in technology, and the Love Island panel featuring Islander Curtis Pritchard.

With 15,000+ delegates, 250+ exhibitors, 350+ speakers and 200+ hours of content, the co-located event series Technology for Marketing, eCommerce Expo and ad:tech London at Kensington Olympia proved to be an even bigger, more explosive event than last year. So much so, the expo has outgrown Olympia and is moving to ExCeL London in 2020.

Across all of the conference streams, there was a general desire to better understand the needs of the consumer as technology and data further blur the lines between the roles and responsibilities of those working across adtech, martech and ecommerce. Suitably, this year’s event included the launch of Customer First Live, with its own premium theatre of content dedicated to smashing silos and top-down command structures that put shareholders before the customer.

The IMRG team hosted a series of intimate workshops for online retailers throughout the conference, offering practical tips and advice on how to best tweak the online experience to improve the consumer journey. Covering everything from the consumer site journey, to delivery and payment pages, it was definitely a hit with those looking to make convenient but effective changes to their online platforms and make marginal gains during a period of slow growth.

Tech backlash

Despite the tech surge across the omnichannel retail experience, some retailers revealed their desire for in-store experiences to maintain the human touch for an effective customer journey. Paul Kraftman, Chief Executive at gift and gadget retailer Menkind rejected in-store tech, “People can experience touch screens at home or on the bus. We feel an over technical approach to the in-store environment isn’t what it’s there for.”  David Kohn, Director of Ecommerce at Heal’s concurred, “There’s this obsession with putting tech into stores as if it’s going to magically improve the experience.”

Some speakers went further, campaigning for a rejection of tech altogether. In a speech promoting its recently relaunched Scroll Free September campaign, Duncan Stephenson of the Royal Society for Public Health RSPH called for people to reflect on their social media usage to lead healthier, happier lives. According to Stephenson, 91 percent of young people use the internet for social networking, and rates of anxiety and depression in the same group have risen 70 percent in the last 25 years.

Watch out, the regulators are about

To try and make sense of where the industry is going wrong, senior advertising leaders spoke about how to rebuild trust in advertising through transparency. On GDPR, Lisa Kalyuzhny, Senior Director, Advertising EMEA at Pubmatic argued that “GDPR has caused more chaos and confusion [than good]”. However, Bethan Crockett, Senior Brand Safety Director at GroupM EMEA, countered this by promoting the benefit of GDPR forcing the industry to sit up and take note, “We’ve seen greater collaboration and more partners talking about what they do with data…we’re not thinking about the consumer. For consumers it’s not about transparency; it’s trust.”

Thomas Schreiber, Director of EMEA Go-To-Market Partnerships at Google added: “We’ve made [our platform] simple so with one swipe, [consumers] can opt out of sharing settings, and we explain the benefits. We need to invest in these mechanisms. We still want to provide a good ad experience, but without the need for personal information.”

With European regulators looking at any opportunity to dig their claws into big tech post-GDPR, Simon McDougall Executive Director of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), warned companies across the advertising technology sector about the need to secure explicit consent for consumer data in line with GDPR. Offering a six month window to ensure compliance, McDougall stated that “[The ICO] doesn’t want to go down the route of regulatory action, it’s not a good win for anybody” but admitted that “what is going on in this market is illegal… if nothing changes by the end of six months, we have to start looking at what action we take”.

Tech talent to the rescue

Perhaps the wealth of young talent out there can change organisations from within. Four media agency CEOs shared their thoughts on attracting and retaining talent. Jo Sutherland, CEO of Carat UK promoted a completely different approach to recruitment, “we need to recruit straight out of school and find more data-literate people. We need to fish in different pools and remember diversity is good. As an industry, we all need to collaborate with other networks and media agencies too, so there is a sense of community and people feel welcome.”

Talking about in-housing, Jem Lloyd-Williams, CEO of Mindshare UK said, “On the talent element, even in central London with an array of stellar clients, even we can’t attract and retain people to do those jobs. If you are not in a glamourous location and in effect only working on one client and don’t have the opportunity to travel – you need to offer a different type of lifestyle.”

Speaking about how tech companies can work better with agencies and clients, Mark Howley, COO Publicis Media and CEO Starcom, said “Tech companies tend to be global and have [an established] tech set, whereas most clients only care about their problem in their market which can be a problem”. He also pointed to the fact that whilst the relationship between agency leadership, account teams, and tech company sales teams tend to be good, all parties need to do more to ensure that data scientists at agencies and engineers at tech companies are talking to each other.

Sharing the love

On the theme of relationships, Love Island 2019 contestant Curtis Pritchard isn’t short of options. Speaking alongside key sponsor Samsung about how Love Island is setting the bar for the future of brand partnerships, Pritchard revealed, “The only thing I’m low on after Love Island is sleep – I’m booked up for the rest of the year”. Hardly surprising with doubling audience figures every year between series one and four, with this year’s season reaching 5.6 million viewers.

Claire Heys, Director, Brand Partnerships & Content at ITV, moved on to talk about how this year ITV had eight brand partnerships down from 11 the previous year as they wanted to focus on doing less with more impact, pointing to the five returning brands as a real sign of how Love Island is getting the sponsorship process right.


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