What happens when you combine an Oscar-winning creative studio with one of the UK’s best known broadcast talents, throw in some innovative new mobile formats, and then hear from three of the most successful mobile publishers on how they’re meeting advertiser demand for video inventory?
Don’t worry, this is not the start of an obscure ad tech joke, but a summary of the main highlights from Millennial Media’s recent IAB Digital Upfronts event at central London’s exclusive Ham Yard Hotel.
For those of you not familiar with Upfronts, this week long series of events is organised by the UK arm of the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau), and is a showcase of premium digital advertising opportunities from the UK’s leading content creators, media owners and tech companies. As you’d expect, Millennial Media was there, along with AOL and other leading lights of the digital scene.
Having taken part in last year’s first-ever UK Upfronts – where we organised the largest media lunch I’ve ever seen – we took no persuading to return once more. With one eye on 2016, we approached this year’s Digital Upfronts with a specific focus on two key areas for UK advertisers in mobile right now: video and creativity.
Video: It's about more than views – it's about the viewer
As a chance to showcase the latest innovations in digital advertising, we kicked off Upfronts presenting new opportunities in premium mobile video inventory to attendees.
Over the past two years in particular, we have seen phenomenal growth in mobile video consumption, spurred on in part by increasing 4G adoption. As a result we’re seeing mobile video ad spend growing faster than any other digital advertising format.
Zac Pinkham discussing the latest mobile video trends at IAB Digital Upfronts
However, in order to help maintain that growth we need to ensure that the technology available to brands and advertisers -and ultimately the end consumer experience - is both compelling and highly effective. At Upfronts, we presented four new Video Plus™ ad formats for smartphones and tablets – Lightbox, Background, Vertical and Swipe – that do just that.
You can find out more on our mobile video offerings and the 50-strong in-house Creative Studio team we have that builds them all around the globe, either on our site, or by contacting us directly.
In addition to offering exciting new ways of engaging consumers by video, we also talked at Upfronts about how we support premium publishers previously unable to offer mobile video inventory to add that string to their bow. My colleague Ollie Clamp was joined onstage by experts from MailOnline, Local World and Dailymotion to discuss the challenges and opportunities this presents to different types of publisher and app developer.
Millennial Media’s Ollie Clamp (left) joined by (from l-r) Amir Malik, Director of Programmatic, Local World Media, Simon Colas, Head of Programmatic Partnerships, Dailymotion & Lauren Dick, Mobile Commercial Lead, MailOnline
Hearing from leading mobile publishers like these was highly valuable for the brands and agencies in attendance, but perhaps one of the most interesting comments for me came from MailOnline’s Lauren Dick when she confirmed that vertical video is going to be a big push for the publisher. When unveiling vertical video as a new format moments before, I challenged brands in the room to be brave and take the plunge with a made-for-mobile vertical campaign, and hopefully MailOnline’s support underlined the vertical opportunity for advertisers in digital right now.
Creativity: Lessons from the worlds of old and new media
In addition to new mobile video opportunities, Millennial Media’s Digital Upfronts also looked at all things creative, with special appearances from Framestore’s Mike McGee and broadcasting legend Jonathan Ross.
Whilst you may not know Framestore right away, you certainly know the work they’ve produced, as the company responsible for the ground-breaking special effects in films like Gravity’ TV series such as Walking With Dinosaurs, and ad campaigns including Galaxy’s Audrey Hepburn commercial.
As one of the company’s Co-Founders and Chief Creative Officer, Mike McGee was the perfect guest, and attendees in the room were on the edge of their seat throughout his fascinating presentation. We asked Mike to come and inspire our audience, and with his tales of Framestore’s creative and technological approaches to their work, everyone was captivated.
Framestore’s Mike McGee asks the audience to guess which one is the CGI Audrey Hepburn – the answer, all of them!
Mike’s presentation and subsequent chat with my colleague Stephen Jenkins merit a whole blog on their own, but a couple of highlights I’d like to share come from his comments on screen size.
Emphasising the need to take a ‘screen-agnostic’ approach, Mike responded to one question about the challenges of creating experiences for smaller screen sizes by comparing the size of mobile devices to that of in-flight entertainment systems. For a company that started off creating advertising for TV before cementing its reputation in cinema, Mike was adamant that at Framestore it doesn’t matter at all about screen size, all that matters is the creative execution and the story.
Capping off an exceptional morning of content on video and creativity, we were joined onstage by British broadcasting legend Jonathan Ross.
Having invited Jonathan to come and discuss the changing world of media and share some of his creative influences, the conversation kicked off with his thoughts on storytelling and how actually he didn’t think it had changed a great deal. Indeed, Jonathan said that interest within media for him lies in the meeting of two worlds – old and new.
Jonathan Ross being interviewed by The Drum’s Justin Pearse at Millennial Media’s Upfronts.
Touching on a variety of subjects, ranging from cinema to the world of digital comics, Jonathan also shared his thoughts on how the ubiquity of mobile has given birth to new ways of creating content for smaller screens. Continuing the theme, Ross said, “What older creatives need to understand is that there is a new potential to tell stories that aren’t different per se but there’s an opportunity to allow the audience to explore that world via this technology.”
After concluding with Jonathan, I was inundated with kind words from attendees who wanted to share how much they enjoyed and took away from the morning. However, the real highlight for me is being able to bring together so many leading brands and agencies in one place, and then share our insights on key growth areas for digital advertising like mobile video and creativity.
I certainly left feeling inspired, and I hope that through this short recap of a packed morning we’ve been able to share with those that couldn’t attend, some inspirations from the pioneers of different screens.
More from Zac Pinkham
Millennial Media is the leading mobile ad marketplace, making mobile simple for the world’s top brands, app developers, and mobile web publishers. The company's data and technology assets enable advertisers to connect with target audiences at scale, while driving monetization for publisher and developer partners. AOL acquired Millennial Media on October 23, 2015. Millennial Media boosts AOL's global, mobile capabilities and scale across ONE by AOL for advertisers and agencies, and offers the most attractive monetization platform for app developers.