As AdWeek Europe wrapped up last week, we were left with a feeling of both excitement and curiosity regarding the impending changes we foresee within our industry. With Merkle attendees having collectively absorbed over 60 events, Tom Parker, Senior Director – Media Strategy, and Caroline Ellyatt, Client Director, have distilled the biggest talking points into three unmissable observations that will affect brands in the year ahead. 

Making sense of CTV

It is clear that the industry is trying to wrangle the connected television (CTV) landscape. Many talks touched on not just the challenges of planning and buying this format, but fundamentally how are we defining TV content; is it anything viewed on a TV, or a level of production quality? I would argue the former, as we should be planning from the perspective of the consumer, who does not know, or care, about how the content they are consumer was produced or put in front of them. 

Beyond this, two key limitations of this format were highlighted; scale and measurement. Both of these are a challenge due to the diversification of buying platforms causing split budgets and walled gardens. There is a clear focus, particularly from the publishers and tech companies to try and solve these issues. This was particularly highlighted in an announcement from Ashwin Navin, CEO of Samba TV, that they are partnering with Yahoo to help bring TV and digital together through the use of Yahoo's advanced technology. 

With more consumers increasing their time on CTV platforms, it is an important space for brands to engage with, and is particularly a good route for those who are wanting to access reach and big screen format but who do not have big budget for linear TV. We are extensively testing in this space and keeping at the forefront of developments, so if this is an area you are interested in leveraging get in touch to understand how we can support you in your CTV ambitions.


AI. All bark, no bite

With a line-up filled with big players boasting impressive AI-themed titles (see "Welcoming Our AI Overlords"), AdWeek '23 was an exciting prospect for a certified AI enthusiast like myself. However, I was surprised to discover that many of the AI talks at the recent conference were frankly a bit boring. 

This stood in stark contrast to the discussions on diversity, equity, and inclusion, which seemed to have matured from mere good intentions and theoretical concepts into rich, practical, and inspiring examples. These brands showcased how their approach, when executed correctly, can be highly impactful to the bottom line. A standout example was the ever-impressive Diageo CMO, Cristina Diezhandino, who gave a masterclass in drawing inspiration from a brand's purpose and using it to revitalize its positioning for the modern, inclusive world. This pivot, begun in 2020, is credited with supporting Diageo’s remarkable 21.4% growth in sales in 2022, the year in which Cristina was awarded the prestigious WFA Global Marketer of the Year. Then there's P&G, who developed inclusive ad formats with audio description and closed captioning, to roll out across Meta and beyond. A huge step given 90% of ads today are inaccessible and 15% of the European population has an audio or visual impairment. 

This is not to diminish the power of AI or its potential to revolutionize our industry. It's more a reflection of where AI currently stands on the hype curve. Just as DEI was a prominent topic in the past couple of years without many powerful case studies, AI too will have its moment of blossoming, where innovative examples inspire onlookers, backed by indisputable data on its growing effectiveness. However, as of May '23, the truth is that most brands are still in the early stages of experimentation, and they have yet to fully realise the potential of AI for their marketing teams. 

If you aspire to be the next Diageo for 2024, now is the perfect time to start. Get in touch with us to explore the AI-enabled tools we already have in place and discover how we can collaborate with you to build custom AI solutions and develop an AI strategy for your business. 


AI provides answers not questions

The focus on data utilisation to deliver a value exchange for your customers was a prominent topic in this year's talks, and while we were not wowed by the innovation presented around AI, it is clear this is where it can power our approach. We can use AI to layer large numbers of data sets that may not seem obviously connected and surface patterns and trends that we would not necessarily have found previously.  

With AI able to carry out analysis previously supported by agencies their role is going to shift from executional to strategic partner. In my opinion, Joshua Nafman, VP Data & Operations Diageo, in a talk titled 'Gathering the transformation trio', said it best, that in a world of progressive AI answers are going to become a commodity, and where we can add value is asking better questions and writing better briefs. 

This is exciting for us at Merkle for two reasons. Firstly, we have a deep-rooted heritage in data and solutions, with our analytics and solutions teams constantly working with large data sets to highlight trends and building more efficient ways of reaching these. Secondly, we're a naturally curious bunch and so feel well prepared to face a future where value is placed in the questions we are asking of our data.

Another year, another highly enjoyable week, and we’ll certainly be back eagerly in 2024. This time next year, we expect and hope to see more innovative use cases of AI, increased sophistication and scale in the CTV space and a sustained focus on realising the power of media to affect diversity, equity and inclusion change. If these topics are of interest to you, contact your Merkle team to find out how we can help you stay ahead of the curve.