IAB Engage 2013: The Human Touch – Afternoon Session Round-up


The celebration of human insight and people power continued to dominate centre stage at this year’s IAB Engage. Myths debunked, a few teary eyes, inspiration a-plenty and a comedic close from Rob Brydon.

The era of the human-centric company

Given the transparency and heightened expectations in our digital age, IAB Chairman Richard Eyre highlighted the urgent need for “a radical reinvention” of business today.

Richard EyreNoting that past and current businesses were and are largely revenue-centric, structured around the premise, “What will they buy?” Richard advocated a human-centric business model, predicated around answering the question, “What will they love?” Richard concluded, “Marketing cannot be a brand’s clothing but must be a brand’s skin.”

Embracing this viewpoint, Unilever’s Jay Altschuler outlined the global brand powerhouse’s approach to crafting brands for a connected world: “Put people first, build brand love, and unlock the magic.” During a thought-provoking conversation with Mollie Spilman of Millennial Media, Jay provided many examples of Unilever’s compelling, story-driven campaigns. Particularly notable was the ground-breaking and deeply moving Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign—a video which never has a product shot, never says “buy today” and addresses something deeply personal (female self-image) and yet, in spite of going against the conventional FMCG ad “formula,” got over 150,000,000 views, making it the most-watched branded video of all time. 

Expect the unexpected

A theme throughout the day, particularly the afternoon, was the overturning of conventional wisdom. Microsoft took the stage to explain how gaming consoles aren’t the domain of HALO-loving teenagers—but of everyone in a household using them for myriad activities. Microsoft’s Ross Honey showcased the new capabilities of the Xbox One platform, launching on November 22. 

Ross HoneyAmong many new features, the latest Xbox and Kinect offerings have enhanced 3-D vision and heightened sound capabilities that represent a major leap forward in artificial intelligence. This yields more responsive gaming experiences, seamless Skype calls to your family and more. New Kinect sensors can even measure your heart rate through enhanced facial imaging capabilities—having implications for personal fitness programs and, in the future, more expansive home-based personal health. 

Taking the stage with the Queen, Jesus and an alien (look-alikes admittedly), James Aitken from Exchange Lab explored the power of the transformative touch. Insights gleaned through data overturn brands’ own conventional wisdom about their customers. For example, Weight Watchers assumed its online audience was single females, but was surprised to find that, in fact, its audience was male—among other attributes that the brand had not expected. 

Another surprising turn and more surprising findings came in Sarah Wood’s presentation for Unruly. To demonstrate Unruly’s Social Video Lab, the audience voted on a video to collectively analyse: a fairly hilarious video for PooPourri won the day. (If you haven’t yet heard of the product, Google it.) 

Sarah WoodSarah proclaimed that sharing is the currency of social and discussed the human motivations behind video virality, revealing the findings from the recently released book, The Science of Sharing. A virtual how-to primer for making successful, highly shared video, Sarah’s presentation had quite a few revelations that overturned the conventional wisdom, most notably, that celebrities and LOL cats don’t trigger sharing, but personal triumphs do. 

Exclusive launch of IAB RealView

The IAB’s Research Director, Tim Elkington, revealed the fascinating findings from the IAB’s biggest consumer research to date, “Real View.” Participants, wearing fish eye cameras to record their device usage, along with over 1000 survey respondents, demonstrated just how integrated smartphones, tablets and laptops have become in our day-to-day lives. Shopping, in particular, popped in the research as a source of both entertainment and content in its own right, rather than just a goal-driven pursuit. 

Tim ElkingtonCoining the phrase, #omniscreening, to describe the activity we observed, Tim highlighted how essential multi-screening has become in our multi-tasking, “always on” lives. Consumers tend to turn to their smartphones as their first response mechanism after seeing offline advertising (TV, out of home) that interested them. 

Consumers regard their phones as personal—as a component and repository of the self, according to Dr. Simon Hampton, from the University of East Anglia, one of the psychologists who worked with us on the project. Thus, keeping the right tone in mobile advertising is important— assumed intimacy and overly personal communications are as welcome to smartphone users as an overly intimate, overly familiar first date.

Fortune favours the bold…and the informed

Nick D’Aloisio, the young entrepreneur who created the news curation app Summly (acquired this year by Yahoo!) transfixed the crowd with the inspiring story of his career in computing—which really started to take off when Nick was the ripe old age of 12. Passionate about the importance of design in our new world of touchscreens, Nick reminded the audience that our “always on” culture likes short-form, steady streams of fresh content: Tweets, Vines, etc. to satisfy our demand for immediate knowledge. An advocate of educating everyone—particularly young people— in computer know-how, the example of Nick’s success speaks for itself. 

As Nick stated, “Today, in your pocket, you have access to almost everything that’s ever existed.” But as we at the IAB know, that’s only because of the visionaries and entrepreneurs like Nick, and all those who embrace knowledge and innovation-- including the hundreds of people who attended and supported Engage today - and for that, we thank you all.