Rakuten Marketing’s Symposium London 2018 descended on The Brewery in East London yesterday (April 18), welcoming hundreds of brand and performance marketers to the UK leg of the network’s international conference series.

With attendees flooding in from the early morning opening, the venue was awash with leading fashion and retail brands including Bloom & Wild, Monki, Missoma, Fitflop and Kurt Geiger while leading performance and publishing tech specialists such as RevLifter, Dealmoon and Inflecto Media, were present in force.

Innovation through ideas

Following opening remarks from newly-appointed president Stuart Simms, the day’s speaker lineup held innovation – or “doing things differently” – as the central theme in an agenda packed with positivity for the present and future opportunities of performance-led advertising.

Setting that tone was Peter Fisk, the author of Gamechangers and a strategic business consultant, whose energetic keynote was a tribute to the brands and individuals pioneering new approaches to commerce in a world where success is no longer driven by money, size or skill, but by ideas.

On this agile and untethered way of thinking rife among leading brands – and a particularly sonorous point for the hard data-driven performance industry – Fisk emphasised the importance of balancing intelligence with imagination; merging rational, analytical focus, with emotion, intuition and creativity.

The teachings continued under the authority of James Chandler, CMO at the UK’s Internet Advertising Bureau, who explored how marketers should use historic performance to model their future strategy. Warning that the “shiny and new” won’t always be zeitgeist, Chandler’s advice can be summed up as such; patterns of historic performance often tell more than the numbers; mistakes are an inherent part of advancement, and storytelling will always remain key to marketing, whatever form it evolves to take.

APAC marketing

A crucial note to the day was the welcoming of Anthony Capano as the network’s new managing director for Europe.

Capano, who was responsible for Rakuten Marketing’s launch in Australia under his former watch as MD for the Asia Pacific region, took to the stage with the help of seasoned APAC publisher 55Haitao and advertisers Stylebop and Forzieri, to share valuable knowledge of the market; representing a potentially massive opportunity for Western brands and affiliates who are heeding the nuanced characteristics of each region and ready to take the right cross-border approach.  

Leading the global e-commerce scoreboards with an astounding $1744 billion in sales driven last year (eMarketer), APAC vastly overshadows the US as second biggest with $564 billion. For Rakuten Marketing itself, activity in the region has already accounted for £600 million in sales in just the last 12 months, representing “triple-digit growth’, said Capano.

For Western markets, APAC regions can be poles apart in terms of consumer interaction, key media players and retail events; touching on just a few of these, Capano revealed that NAVER dominates 74% of the search market in Korea with rankings driven by content creation; how QR codes, though defunct in the West, remain fundamental to mobile payment in China; and how the proliferation of counterfeit products in Asia has led to huge demand for authentic luxury brand imports.

A universal approach to GDPR?

Following two Innovation sessions aimed at drilling down into some of the company’s more innovative partnerships and a showcase of new-wave publishers employing disruptive tech to the affiliate scene; Rakuten Marketing’s VP of client success, Nick Fletcher, addressed the four-letter elephant in the room; GDPR. Laying out the network’s own plans for compliance, which includes releasing its own consent tool to partners – requiring all publishers and advertisers to gain consent, or at very least, legitimate interest – Fletcher aimed to quell concerns around opt-ins, leaning on the network’s own findings that in many cases up to 94% of consumers are willing to provide consent. 

Meanwhile, on recent concerns over an industry disparity among networks’ approaches to GDPR, Fletcher conceded that Rakuten Marketing and its competitors within the performance marketing industry had disbanded efforts to adhere to a “universal approach”; “We did our best to come to an agreement on it, our legal teams were talking for months and months, but once we started going into the detail of it we realised that we had fundamentally different approaches to how we use data to optimise campaigns.”

Commenting on the day’s events, Rakuten Marketing’s EVP global development and MC for the day, Mark Haviland, called Symposium London “vibrant and stimulating”.

“To be in a room with over 600 brands, media and technology entrepreneurs was inspiring, and the conversations, new connections and deals that resulted are testament to the energy and optimism of the industry.

PerformanceIN was the official media partner of Rakuten Marketing Symposium London 2018. Head to our Facebook page to rewatch session live streams and catch interviews with speakers and attendees from the day.

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