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Advertising Week 2014 Proves That the Future Is Optimistic

10/04/2014 14:01 BST | Updated 10/06/2014 10:59 BST

This year's Advertising Week Europe (AWE) was a real whirlwind. For four days the European ad industry hurried enthusiastically between conference rooms at the iconic BAFTA building to beat the queues and grab front row seats to watch the likes of Sir Martin Sorrell, Idris Elba and Pete Cashmore. With over 40 sessions and panels a day, you have to be well-organized and clear on what and who you want to see, which the AWEurope App was useful for. I later realized it certainly wasn't an occasion to try and break-in new shoes.

Of the many sessions at AWE, I was particularly captivated by Mark D'Arcy (Facebook's Chief Creative Officer) and Michael Dwan (Microsoft Advertising's Senior Director) presentations, which challenged marketers who are often too obsessive about the value of various advertising channels, resulting in over-thinking and over-complication. D'Arcy boldly argued that 'platforms are actually not that interesting', which I found refreshing. The focus of what we do should be for the people; whether it is advertising for people (Facebook) or designing for people (Microsoft). D'Arcy and Dawn agree that consumers are a much more interesting, relevant and valuable subject for marketers to debate than channels. I agree that brands want marketing solutions that work, and the way we know something will work is by examining and understanding consumer behaviour and adoption. There is truth in this, and I think we all need to be reminded every once in a while that advertising is inherently a people business, but becoming more powered by technology.

And the most talked about subject this year at the event? Mobile and Video. The sweet spot? Video on mobile. Video content over mobile was described as a new 'ecosystem', where panelists from The Weather Company, Exterion Media and Rockabox highlighted the new opportunities of rich video content given the proliferation of screens and potential eyeball time. The panelists claimed that more long form videos are now consumed on mobile devices than desktop, which is in line with what we see in increased demand for video inventory. Creative content is promising to entice and engage mobile viewers more effectively than ever before. Mobile is also driving the native advertising agenda, which Piers North (Strategy Director at Yahoo) argues will continue to act as an engine in advertising even when it ceases being a buzzword. Many waxed lyrical on the idea of 'mobile acting as the media glue' and how it is no longer just a goal but a reality, with experts from all mediums including TV, outdoor, social and digital commenting on the merits of mobile in omni-channel marketing, i.e. mobile is everywhere.

Programmatic buying also dominated much of the debate. Dora Michail (Senior Director of Audience Solution, EMEA of Yahoo) argued that 'the promise of programmatic is that it can and should democratise online trading'. Advertisers widely agree on the appeal of automated efficiency and performance-led media, but there was significant debate around transparency, fraud prevention and most importantly measurement. Should we measure programmatic success through direct response or other brand metrics? How can we progress mobile programmatic buying without bringing about the same demise of desktop? There were more questions than answers, and Jamie McCloskey (Head of Programmatic at AOL UK) reassured audiences by revealing that even the experts are learning and changing strategies every month. Despite the many unanswered questions, I think the open debates reflect an honest desire to create and set new standards, which is an exciting opportunity for mobile advertisers as the industry continues to mature and fulfill its potential.

The atmosphere at AWE was truly energetic, and I am optimistic about the future of advertising and fortunately for our business, we're one of the disrupters focused on the platform changing everything. I would be less optimistic if I had a stale advertising business which wasn't evolving quickly. It's an old cliché - that change is the only constant - but what AWE proved is that consumers and technology are always and will continue to change. Brands, agencies and media owners need to move even faster as the generation born into the digital age become spending consumers that move seamless between online and offline realities. How we effectively communicate, target and engage with them will be exciting challenges for the industry, and hopefully challenges that industry leaders will continue to openly debate in future AWE to come.

Now, time to rest my feet and recover from that House of Lords bash to end a fine week...