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Guy Phillipson - why IAB has launched Digital Upfronts


By Guy Phillipson | chairman

May 7, 2014 | 4 min read

Guy Phillipson, IAB UK CEO, offers his insight as to why the organisation has launched its new initiative, the IAB UK Digital Upfronts.

In my look ahead at 2014 and beyond, I stated my firm belief that digital media is now at the end of the beginning. This is evident across digital, as various channels have achieved impressive scale in unprecedented timeframes. Ask most CMOs whether their businesses could thrive without search, email, content or performance marketing and the answer would be a resounding “no.” The fact that most of these channels were still in their infancy just ten years ago is truly extraordinary. Indeed, this is why this year’s 10-year anniversary of the IAB’s flagship event, Engage, is a celebration of the Digital Decade.

To help establish a way forward for the next 10 years, we’re launching the IAB UK Upfronts in conjunction with our 10-year anniversary celebration of Engage. As a mature industry, it is essential that we establish new ways of working together to deliver the full potential of digital media. For brands, the IAB UK Upfronts will be a chance to evaluate premium digital opportunities during a crucial time for planning, so that marketing has a more joined up approach across a brand’s full suite of advertising channels. For media owners, the IAB UK Upfronts will represent an opportunity to showcase the best of what digital has to offer: premium content and highly engaged audiences. For content creators, the IAB UK Upfronts offer the occasion to find new partners to support the development of original content for digital distribution. In the future, the distinctions between brands, media owners and content creators may disappear entirely. In some cases, this is already happening - or even happened years ago.

While this is a new world in many respects, it also looks very familiar. That’s why we’re using the terminology of “upfronts,” introduced 50 years ago in the North American television market. Though digital media allows for the creation of a new type of content distributed in new ways, some aspects of what we’re currently seeing are as old as media itself. Packaged goods companies, which funded radio and TV “soap operas” in the mid-20th century, now create original digital content like Unilever’s famed Real Beauty Sketches in the 21st. For over a hundred years, retailers have placed advance orders for advertisements in print newspapers and magazines to ensure they’d be in front of consumers in the run-up to Christmas. There’s no reason advertisers shouldn’t do the same with digital pure plays, online publishers and video specialists. So I’m delighted to be announcing the participation of AOL, DigitasLBi, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo in our inaugural Upfronts event.

It’s essential that every marketer has a robust grasp on the opportunities available through digital media. To help with this, it’s equally vital that we in the digital world make it as easy as possible for everyone to understand what can be achieved. Over the coming months, stay tuned for more as we release details about our inaugural IAB UK Digital Upfronts and about our stellar line-up for this year’s Engage, a fitting celebration of the digital decade that was, but most importantly, that is to come!

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