IAB UK Upfront Presentations Beg for ‘Change’

/ Oct 17, 2014


For the first time, the IAB brought the digital upfronts to the UK, stacked with the usual heavy hitters – Facebook, which kicked off the week of presentations, Yahoo, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as the original Digital Newfronts organizer DigitasLBi.

Aimed at presenting brands and media planners with each platform’s media offering, the IAB Upfronts in the UK fell short of what you’d expect to see at a television upfront or even a Digital Newfront. In place of the usual celebrity appearances and flashy presentations focused on content and data, were data analysts, heady discussions around how “mobile matters” (duh…?), the socio-political preferences of consumers in the UK, and general pleading with attendees to innovate or rather to deviate from the “traditional approach.”

The main takeaway from the IAB UK Upfronts? Not surprising, in fact, that the UK market is quite significantly behind the US market in terms of video (despite record growth in digital media spend). And every presentation was unified around propagandizing marketers to “change” their approach to buying.

Facebook UK’s head of agency relations Claire Valoti summed it up nicely at Facebook’s presentation: “Most importantly, what we’ve heard about today is the progress to change and the excitement that change creates. The biggest barrier to change is habit or inertia so we ask you to be bold. You don’t have a choice. The consumers are already doing it, so you’ve absolutely got to take action. Please don’t go back into old habits.”

And, in order to drive change, it’s important to start somewhere. And despite the low energy, star-powerless presentations, those I spoke with — including media buyers, planners, and creatives for big brands like Adidas, Mercedes, and various other UK-based companies — voiced a general consensus of satisfaction with what had been presented as well as the “intimacy” of the events.

While the IAB UK Upfront presentations were quite underwhelming. Here are a few takeaways from the best and the worst.

Facebook — While modest in presentation, Facebook’s content and takeaways were quite substantial so I’m recapping theirs over here.

YouTube — The video giant sizzled, and introduced Google Preferred to the UK crowd. For more on that, click here.


DigitasLBi Goes Over Heads with High Level Discussions on “Culture”

Despite having been a founder of the original Digital Content Newfronts in the US, DigitasLBi’s presentation was far too heady for its own good. Again, like Facebook, Digitas pushed the concept of change and how brands can impact culture through a series of presentations that featured industry intelligentsia like Cindy Gallop, Christian Payne, and Instagram star Documentaly.

“We want to help the market grow. We want the UK to become the world’s most creative, dynamic, and exciting incubator for branded content… and we want to help you take advantage of experimental new ways of content creation…” said Gareth Jones, to open the presentation.

Following his opener came a series of TEDx-like talks that discussed the high level nature of behavior, as well as how brands can and have made history through media — whether on Instagram, in video, or through social channels. The main takeaways for DigitasLBi’s presentation, however, weren’t tangible. While entertaining, and often funny, the nearly two hours of talks left me feeling unsure of how Digitas factored and what they really wanted brands to do. 

Mashable Unveils UK Site & Demonstrates It’s Chasing BuzzFeed in Business Strategy for Brands

Mashable’s Upfront matched classic expectations. Cocktails to warm everyone up — it was raining incessantly after all — before showing off the company’s offering. Unlike the Yahoo, DigitasLBi, and Facebook presentations, Mashable actually had some news.

The digital publisher announced a new site for the UK, and previewed a site redesign for all international extensions that were coming up.

The real question is whether all the publishers targeting consumer audiences are going the way of BuzzFeed — massive readership that serves as a pipe for the creative/interactive agency side of the business. From what Mashable presented, it would seem so. The company highlighted the multiple touch-points brands can access to reach their readers — including video, native advertising, and social media. The company also previewed a number of original series it was doing, and demonstrated how Mashable is outfitted for producing branded entertainment.

Mashable also plugged its forthcoming tentpole event, the Social Good Summit, as a way brands could activate celebrity and scale. Short, sweet, to the point, effective. And despite the lack of flashiness, I’d say Mashable nailed it.

For more of Jocelyn’s thoughts on the inaugural IAB UK Upfronts, click here.

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