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Transformational trends: A round-up of DigitasLBI's New Front event


By Stephen Lepitak, -

October 18, 2015 | 6 min read

Transformation was the name of the New Front event held by DigitasLBi UK, the first of this year's IAB Upfronts taking place, which included comedian and TV presenter Richard Ayoade; NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman; professor Hugh Herr, head of the biomechatronics research group at MIT Media Lab; DJ, TV presenter and founder of The Pool, Lauren Laverne; Mumsnet CEO Justine Roberts; and Sabotage Times founder James Brown.

The event was organised and presented by the agency's Chief Brand & Content Officer, Gareth Jones. Here are some of the transformational trends that were highlighted during it.

The first guest speaker, invited to discuss his work on the development of artificial limbs and his view on how they can actually aid people to improve themselves to overcome major restrictions imposed by the average human body, was Hugh Herr, who claimed that only "poor design" had previously prevented such prosthetics to be a benefit.

He explored the possibilities of new limb designs, stating that they didn't even need to look like a limb, just function better than someone with biological limbs, in order to be effective.

"Imagine a future where we fundamentally change the body," he asked the audience, later stating that in the future "we will give ourselves new bodies".

He added his belief that in the future, through the inclusion of limbs with tech, "humans will be wearing robots and be externally linked to robots", and that good design would improve lives rather than impede.

The theme of human evolution and the impact of technology was continued by DigitasLBI's chief creative officer Chris Clarke, who spoke about how the over-reliance on technology and constant connectivity through mobile devices was hampering humanity, stating that "technology is enslaving us".

This led him to explore what this has meant for a younger generation who he believes are now taking their behaviourist cues from brands and revealed that he found most brands were asking how young people are using tech, which has created "this weird loop" of content creation.

"Kids are more loyal and likely to buy into organisations with deeply held beliefs," he said of the growing trend where major brands create purpose around giving back to society and delivering good.

"Something is changing in advertising," he continued. "The impossible future is no longer the value of the brand - nobody believes that anymore," he said, pointing to younger people now more loyal to brands that share their beliefs, citing Volkswagen as an obvious example of one company which has ruined all the goodwill it had built up through the emissions scandal.

A panel, hosted by The Drum Works' boss Justin Pearse, examined the growth of content marketing and the impact that it is having on brand strategies. The panel included The Pool co-founders Lauren Laverne and Sam Baker who talked about their lack of belief in quality display advertising, which they pointed out their site does not carry, as they believe that they "are great at creating content" however, "someone's got to pay for it," added Baker. "People are beginning to see through the legacy of media's lack of transparency."

Also on the panel was Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet who advised content creators to 'butt out' of the reaction a piece of content evokes once it's live. "Don't come with a plan," she advised.

Wired UK's contributing editor and futurist Ben Hammersley discussed the growth of the power of technology which now grows year-on-year and liberates society as a result; however as a result, many of the jobs that were formerly carried out by people are being lost to technology, discussing IBM's artificial intelligence, Watson, as the most pertinent force.

"We've realised that there is a class of job keeping the seat warm for the robots to arrive," was one highly effective statement he made about the growing problem for society to face, describing us all as "meat puppets" who need to look at our own professions and examine what can, and can not, be carried out by artificial intelligence.

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman spoke to DigitasLBi UK CEO Michael Islip over Skype from Texas about his experiences in space.

He presented incredible motion footage he had captured from his mission above the Earth, including a very cloudy picture of Britain. These images have been distributed and shared with the world through social media which he explained had altered the communication methods that astronauts now possessed - meaning they were no longer waiting to speak to a reporter for a short period each month to relay their latest events orbiting the planet. Communications with family members had also become more real-time.

Another image shared included he and his colleagues watching the last World Cup final live from space, describing it as "a great game."

The founder of Jimmy's Iced Coffee, Jim Cregan, told the audience about his life story, which brought him to a point where he knew that making coffee was his future following a life he felt had not been full of achievement. As a result he has now spoken on stage with Sir Richard Branson twice about business - and he he has learned that by relaying an honest brand story, that his company now has real purpose that has connected with his consumers and gave him a story to drive through social media.

"It is important to be consistent," he advised, concluding with the unusual viewpoint that marketers should aim to be "offline as much as possible" before he explained: "It makes the online far more special. Only post if you need to. If it’s useful. Keep it real."

Also speaking on the afternoon was presenter, writer, director and actor Richard Ayoade, founder of Sabotage Times, James Brown, Rob Orchard, co-founder of the Slow Journalism Company and DigitasLBi International CEO, Ewen Sturgeon.

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