Across five days and 10 separate sessions in October -- not to mention two days of IAB Engage in the run-up -- there was a veritable feast of digital delight on offer at this year’s Upfronts. I didn’t manage to make it to every session, but I was lucky enough to attend a few, and it was clear that a common theme linked nearly all of this year’s showcases: digital video in its many incarnations of branded, live, VR, AR and 360.
Tremendous growth, yet more potential
In the run-up to this year’s Engage and Upfronts festivities, the IAB released its biannual ‘UK Digital Adspend’ figures in conjunction with PwC, which showed video was the fastest-growing ad format in the first half of 2016.
According to the latest numbers, UK spend on video grew 67% to hit £474 million. Driven by increased viewing on smartphones, mobile video spend alone grew a staggering 129% in the first six months of 2016. Consequently, the IAB reports that video now accounts for 30% of all display advertising and 37% of mobile display.
These numbers will come as little surprise to anyone working in the industry. Video and mobile together are where consumers are flocking, and in turn this is where the opportunity for the industry as a whole lies. Both were expected to dominate discussions at Upfronts, and indeed both did.
If we are to properly capitalise on this opportunity, then advertisers need to consider the moments in which consumers are engaging with mobile and video content. As presented at our own IAB Upfronts through our recent Content Moments research, there is a willingness to accept ad experiences, but quality is the key to bringing brand permission.
That was very much the message at Upfronts. Advertisers are inundated with data about their target audiences, but rarely think about the reasons consumers actually interact with content in the first place. To succeed, we all need to think about how we best come to grips with consumer psychology. Our belief is that great content, that's premium and quality video utilising innovative technologies like AR and 360, is at the core of building brands that people love -- both for us as a publisher and technology provider, but also for our clients.
Choice, context and branded content
Across Upfronts, hundreds of the UK's leading advertisers and media agencies came together to look ahead to what's coming. We already know that mobile and video were key themes, but there were a few other highlights that really resonated with me across the week.
At Engage, the IAB's annual conference that proceeds Upfronts, the theme this year was power and choice. This was particularly relevant, as 2016 has been a year of tremendous change for the digital industry, and the formidable stance of the consumer and their desire for choice in how brands engage with them has set the scene.
Without a doubt, the key takeaway from Engage was consumer choice, specifically with regard to the content they view but also what, when and how they are engaging with it. One word that kept cropping up in conversations was context. Different audience segments have very different needs, and no matter what audience advertisers are looking to speak to, it’s crucial to engage them contextually.
In terms of our fellow Upfronts presenters, I noted with interest various announcements on introductions of and expansions to various branded studio teams, while DigitasLBi pulled together a tremendous programme all that sought to address how we are grappling with the impact of new digital channels.
So another tremendous week of digital future gazing, thanks to the IAB. The UK ad industry is in rude health, and Upfronts has set off the starting gun already for 2017. I know from the many advertisers and agencies I have spoken to that the industry has been inspired by all that they have seen.
If we can continue to inspire consumers and provide quality content and brand experiences that they love, then the future of our industry is very bright indeed.