05 An afternoon at AWE17

I managed to grab a couple of hours this afternoon at Advertising Week Europe. Running from Monday to Thursday, this is a huge event in the calendar of the UK’s marketing sector. It brings together all aspects of the mix – creatives, digital strategists, brand marketers, and agency bosses all rubbing shoulders with the great and good of politics and entertainment.

Already this week luminaries such as Al Gore, Gary Barlow and David Gandy have graced its various stages around Soho.

Liam Fox and Michael Gove have been here too.

First up for me was Roslyn Shaw, MD of Alpha Grid, presenting the research she’s done with the FT on how to get CEOs to watch marketing videos. There were some interesting insights including:

-93% of CEOs will go to news sites for video content, but only 47% will trust social media for them

– CEOs are willing to consume B2B thought leadership material at almost any time of the day but they’re looking for a different tone outside of working hours

– the smart B2B marketers are investing in one major panel survey and thought leadership report every 12 months and then finding ways to slice, dice and re-use it throughout the rest of the year

My second session was a panel debate on whether or not we can expect artificial intelligence to replace creatives. The panel contained representatives from McCann, Atomic London, MPC Creative and Blackwood Seven, and they concluded that there is much AI can and will do, but it won’t replace creatives.

Despite this somewhat predictable conclusion, it was an interesting session with panellists describing existing uses – for example Atomic are using AI to plan campaign messages, identifying the topics that matter to consumers. Current uses are though limited. As one panellist put it: “Algorithms already exist that write music but you’ve never heard of them because the music isn’t that good.”

After that future-gazing topic, my final session concentrated on one of the most pressing issues of the moment: the rise of the in-house agency. There was much of interest here, and much for external agencies to ponder on. The talk was based on a newly-released report from ISBA, Oliver and Future Thinking. The last is a research agency and had interviewed marketers on their views towards the model that Oliver is making famous: recruiting a creative agency to sit within the client organisation.

68% of respondents reported frustration with external agencies, compared to just 14% of those with in-house agencies. The chief concern seems to be with response times. A marketer from Atos bemoaned the fact that she would brief her external creative agency, follow it up with a written brief, and then have to wait a week for a response. In her digital world she needs it that afternoon, and that’s what she now gets from her in-house agency.

There was some good news for external agencies: they are still highly valued for their creative expertise (85% of respondents) and strategic capabilities (81%). This surely points out a clear direction of future travel for those external agencies.

All too often sessions at conferences are have either bland content, poor speakers or bad organisation. I still shudder at the memory of events where I found the perfect storm of all three. At AWE17 not one was true. In all three sessions there was spot on organisation, engaging speakers, and cutting-edge, well researched content.

It was an afternoon well spent – I only wish I had time to see more.

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