Last Wednesday (October 12), PerformanceIN visited the Barbican in London for the IAB’s 12th Engage conference.

The theme this year was Power and Choice, highlighting the formidable stance of the consumer amid the large-scale digital revolution that has set the scene for advertising in 2016.

This year’s speaker line-up included Facebook’s VP Brian Boland, who talked about driving value for customers and business alike, Huffington Post’s executive editor Poorna Bell, who focused on the female voice in advertising, and Google UK’s director of performance, who explored the topics of limitless choice for consumers. Moreover, IAB’s chief strategy officer Tim Elkington took to the stage to share the group’s 2016 H1 ad spend results.

Consumers were at the heart of the sessions on day one and the speakers focused on ways of winning them and giving them more power.

Mobile-first midset

Mobile was a crucial part of many sessions. IAB’s Tim Elkington revealed the game-changing numbers from the first half of 2016, where display spend for mobile was higher than desktop for the very first time.

Sharing his insights with PerformanceIN, Widespace’s co-founder and chairman Henric Ehrenblad expressed surprise with how little focus there is on mobile advertising, despite this emerging some time ago. Looking forward, Ehrenblad hoping to see more data and machine learning being brought in to fill the gaps in the space.

“Mobile is the new branding medium, whether we like it or not,” he said.  

Now the preferred browsing device of consumers, smartphones are a goldmine for advertising opportunities. Numbate’s MD Alex McIlvenny ran a session on making the most of the ‘now,’ focusing on picking the right moment to target users, using more data and creativity, and establishing a more personal connection with them.

Talking to PerformanceIN, Alex revealed his views on the theory behind the power of ‘now,’ as well as the proper use of data and targeting. 

Targeting audiences

Another key takeaway from Engage was that consumers want to have a choice over the content they view, but also what, when and how they are engaging with it. Different segments of audiences have different needs, and Engage gave voice to just some of those making up the advertising industry, as well as those it serves. 

The Exchange Lab’s Chris Dobson talked about millennials’ craving for creativity, storytelling and cross-device targeting. To get their attention, he insisted that advertisers would need to engage them and stay ahead of the trends.

The Huffington Post’s Poorna Bell talked about female consumers in advertising, reminiscing on the bygone days of adverts tapping into women’s insecurities. Advertisers today should target everyone with positive messaging and real stories, said Bell, yet it’s particularly important when the target audience is female, as they value authenticity, emotion and reassurance above all.

‘A brand that can be brave will be a game changer,’ Bell concluded.

Getting attention

Another big point was that no one wants to be forced to consume ads, and no matter what audience advertisers target, it’s crucial to engage them contextually. Interruptive ads are one of the main reasons for consumers to use ad blockers and Justin Taylor, MD UK at Teads, put emphasis on giving users a choice.

In our interview with Justin, we spoke about using data effectively within video, providing interactivity to engage audiences and adapting mobile for creative.