IAB Engage Digital Advertising UK

From the quality of digital ads to harnessing data: the key themes of IAB Engage 2015


By Alex Kozloff | marketing director

October 19, 2015 | 5 min read

Last week we at the IAB hosted our eleventh annual Engage conference at The Barbican Centre, London. It was a star-studded line up, with a wide range of speakers, from tech companies and media owners to Radio 4 presenter Leo Johnson, Piers Morgan and Jack Whitehall.

Piers Morgan and IAB's Guy Phillipson at Engage

The theme of the conference was 'Higher Ground', and it couldn’t have been better timed. It provided an opportunity for the industry to come together for a day to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing the ever-evolving digital medium.

Many of the speakers of the day picked up on the same topics – and there were three key themes that came up repeatedly:


Throughout the day there were frequent pleas that everyone in the industry – both sell and buy side, and most crucially clients themselves – need to work together to improve the quality of digital advertising to stem the growth of ad blocking. As Hamish Nicklin, of AOL said, ad blockers are the “front facing symptom of the problems facing our industry” and this sentiment was echoed during the day.

The IAB UK understands the need to respond to consumer feedback, and on Thursday launched the L.E.A.N ads programme along with the IAB Tech Lab. These guidelines are the first step to better quality digital advertising in the UK, and to maintaining an ad funded internet that services both consumers and publishers.

A long-term view

Many of the speakers warned against seeking a quick win in today’s digital world. The IAB’s chairman, Richard Eyre, encouraged us not to “wait for the future to come to [us], get on with it now”.

Later in the day, Nigel Gilbert of AppNexus brought this into focus by encouraging us all to think about the long-term impact on our industry if we continue on a single-minded drive to performance and efficiency. He again called for quality, and encouraging us that clever use of technology and data can help us all protect our future. Leo Johnson put this into the wider context and urged us to see that advertising has a responsibility to solve world problems in the long term.


Lastly, the huge opportunity around data came up during the day in a variety of guises.

Scott Ferber of Videology not only shared a lot of data with the audience, but also pointed out the opportunity to bring together TV and online data, saying "the data rule is the new golden rule". Mark Lund of McCann encouraged us to be excited by the possibilities of “data-driven storytelling” and how data has the potential to make our creative even better. And Anna Hill from Disney spoke on how crucial it is for them to use data to understand their customers, and how this in turn allows them to create the ‘magic’ of Disney.

It was a great day and full of so many insights, some of which I haven’t been able to mention here. The IAB’s role is to create the right environment for digital advertising to thrive, and events like Engage are a critical part of this goal. As the industry continues to grow, these themes from Engage will be the start of many ongoing conversations and whilst I have no doubt there is lots of work to do, it does make for exciting times ahead.

Alex Kozloff is the acting marketing and communications director at the IAB

IAB Engage Digital Advertising UK

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