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Imogen Watson

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Dr. Rupy Aujla

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Jack Preston

director of Acast creative, UK+ & US

My words of 2020? Change, collaboration, continuity

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2020 has been a hard year to put into words (understatement), but IAB UK’s CEO Jon Mew has narrowed it down to three key words as he looks back on the past 12 months.

Sitting down to reflect on 2020, it’s very hard to put it into words. The past 12 months have simultaneously flown by, while also bringing such fundamental and all-encompassing change as to make ‘normal’ life seem like, well, a lifetime ago.

The fact that the Oxford Dictionary is also having the same problem when it comes to summing up the year is somewhat comforting. Instead of releasing its annual ‘Word of the Year’, the gatekeeper of the English language has released a selection. ‘Words of an Unprecedented Year’ include Covid-19 (of course), lockdown, moonshot, furlough and circuit-breaker. All terms that we would have interpreted very differently this time last year, reflecting our altered world.

Explaining the decision to do away with the usual order of things, the president of the Oxford Dictionary said: "It's both unprecedented and a little ironic - in a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been filled with new words unlike any other." Which got me thinking, ‘unprecedented’ aside, what are the words I would use to sum up 2020?

Change

Let’s face it, this year has been a challenge. Change always is. From the first realisation that working from home was no passing fad, to the practicalities of recreating our daily lives online, nothing has been straightforward. I’ve said it before, but if you had told me back in March what was coming, I would have seriously worried about the IAB’s ability to continue functioning.

That we have is testament to our members’ willingness to continue contributing to and supporting our work. The launch of IAB UK Connected sums this up for me. Set up in the tumultuous early days of lockdown, this online hub pulls together resources, inspiration and support to keep us sharing while social distancing reigns.

It includes examples of how our members have been dealing with the pandemic, our topical webinars, latest trend reports to help make sense of the changing market, work from home tips and financial advice from the experts. While we haven’t been able to exchange ideas in person, I hope that IAB UK Connected has gone some way to recreating that interaction in a virtual world.

Collaboration

Perhaps unsurprisingly, isolation and distance have made coming together in spirit and collaborating on key priorities all the more important. While Covid has dominated 2020, it hasn’t put a stop to the big issues that we as an industry have been navigating. These include feeding into global User ID workstreams, delivering on our six-point action plan to address the ICO’s RTB concerns, and challenging the Government’s proposed HFSS online ad ban.

This year has also seen us launch more robust criteria for the Gold Standard, while continuing to build on our alliance of advertiser supporters - growing the ranks from two this time last year to 14. We’ve always known that having brands involved with the Gold Standard is key to driving lasting change within the digital ad industry and it’s brilliant to see this taking shape.

While we have each been dealing with the impact of the pandemic, our members have continued to collaborate on the core issues that are imperative to building a sustainable future for digital advertising.

Continuity

In many ways, it’s been anything but ‘business as usual’ in 2020, but we have continued to deliver many of the events and projects that were planned before the pandemic hit - transforming our annual Engage conference into a month-long series of Stay Engaged audio sessions and taking Digital Upfronts virtual.

Meanwhile, our SME research ‘Powering Up’ and new tool to help small businesses get more out of digital advertising have taken on a heightened significance as lockdowns and economic turbulence make support for small businesses more crucial than ever. In this context, ensuring that SMEs are maximising the potential of their digital advertising is imperative. Find out more about this project here.

Of course, we have also continued to trumpet the brand-building credentials of digital advertising, building on the launch of last year’s case studies bank with a new section of our site ‘Why digital advertising works’. This is where we pull together evidence to show what digital advertising can deliver for advertisers. From downloadable decks to case studies to tools, it’s a one-stop-shop on how to unlock the power of digital advertising and supercharge your investment.

So there you have it - my words of 2020, three positive Cs to counteract the one big C we’ve all heard enough of. As we head towards the finish line, it just remains for me to say a huge thank you to all our members for your ongoing commitment. While this year has laid waste to all of those carefully crafted January predictions, it’s also shown us what we’re all capable of and cemented the value of coming together. Here’s hoping that 2021 is anything but unprecedented.