Back to the future: IAB explores predictions from the past to discover future success

Caitlin Moran

A view from Jon Mew, CEO, IAB UK.

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

To me, that famous quote from Jack Welch, former CEO at GE, best sums up the importance and need for businesses to think about the future and how the world is changing. It’s rather easy to get caught up in the ‘now’ because I think it's human nature to focus on short-term goals and outputs. But if you look at the most successful companies over the last 20 years, part of their success lies within their ability not to worry about (just) short-term profit but building toward a long-term plan. Companies like Apple and Amazon are obsessed with getting things right in the long term and testing new ways of wowing consumers.

The most successful brands will be the ones that continually innovate to stand out of the crowd; they’ll not only capture, but hold attention. To me, innovation is a mixture of data, creativity and culture, and I believe businesses succeed when they use a combination of those elements to surprise and delight their consumers through better targeted, proactive and tailored experiences and multiple touchpoints and on multiple channels.

What’s great about technology is that it breaks down communication barriers and allows for innovation to happen in places we couldn’t have dreamed about ten, five or even just one year ago. As the utility and sophistication of technology continue to evolve, the limits of digital advertising will become boundless.

And don’t just take my word for it.

Over the past 14 years, Engage, the IAB UK’s flagship conference, has gained a reputation for inspiring delegates. And that’s because each year we hand-pick industry leaders, visionaries and futurists to help us celebrate digital and think about what we’ll do in future, and how we can do it better.

While ahead of their time, most have been spot-on. Here are three of the predictions from past Engage speakers that really resonated with me:

Bill Gates: ‘The future of advertising is the internet’

Speaking at the inaugural Engage, Bill Gates made a bold statement when he predicted that ‘non-internet advertising will become obsolete over the next 10 years,’ because ‘the future of advertising is the internet.’

Whilst non-digital advertising still exists, digital ad spend overtook other forms to become more than 50% in 2017. He said television, newspapers and magazines would be delivered via the internet, and over the past six months, 57% of UK households have watched online video and 53% have watched online films on a connected TV. In reference to brand building, he admitted traditional media is better it at it, but as it moves to digital ‘it will be hard to talk about what is and isn’t internet advertising.’ As a result of increased customisation by consumers, advertising would be more targeted and personal, but that issues would arise in protecting the privacy of users.

David Shing: ‘Video will be everywhere’

In 2014, digital prophet Shingy started his energetic presentation by stating that the digital world is here to stay, but that it’s evolving from selfies and passive content consumption to people actively becoming creators, curators and critics.

While selfies don’t appear to be going away anytime soon, it’s no doubt the world is changing. One year ahead of the Apple watch launch, Shingy predicted that in the near future, everything will be immersive and come with built-in intelligence that pushes information when and where you need it.

Most important, perhaps, is when he said 90% of online consumers digest video. According to the full-year 2017 Digital Adspend report, online video is now the largest display format, up 47% year-on-year, with smartphones accounting for 61% of all digital display advertising.

Given the proliferation of video, content has never been more important. If a brand gets their content strategy right, it won’t merely compete with other advertising, it’ll complete with popular culture. His expectation was that success will be measured not with the old currency of click-through rates but by attention, and I’m happy to see marketers are finally starting to move away from generic KPIs into what really matters – effectiveness.

Caitlin Moran: ‘The future of debate is set by social’

Diversity in adtech is one of the most pressing issues facing our industry today. But journalist, author and broadcaster Caitlin Moran spoke on its importance two years ago, with a unique focus on social media.

The way we talk has completely changed because of social media, making the world sentient as it works together as a whole. In fact, heat maps of people connecting across the globe look like synapsis firing in the brain.

She pointed out how obvious it is that social media platforms have largely been developed by men because the user experience is typically about fast and short interactions without much room for debate. She predicted that the first social media platform to be created by a woman will be an incredible thing, filled with conversation and democracy.

Bottom line, the world is diverse and we need that diversity in our industry because it leads to many great things, delivers more business and makes the world a bigger place.

On 7 June, Engage returns to the Barbican with a theme of ‘Moving Forward’ because we want to challenge you to think about the future with a different perspective and our forecast is there will be some accurate predictions about the future.

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