IAB Mobile Engage 2015: The Connected Future

The IAB’s annual Mobile Engage conference took place on 14 May 2015 in front of a 650-strong audience of UK agencies, vendors and clients. The event was a packed mix of mobile themed presentation, debate and interviews and saw the official launch of SHIFT 2015 – Mindshare’s wearables research, developed by our global wearables unit Life+.

The conference’s theme of The Connected Future, was clear from the off – with IAB UK CEO Guy Phillipson reiterating that mobile no longer sat as a silo, but was now very much the mainstream.  So much so that this year’s Mobile Engage would be the last ever with the format being integrated into a new two day, broader Engage event from 2016.

Dr Simon Hampton, the IAB’s resident psychologist from the University of East Anglia, opened the morning session with an unconventional view on the Internet of Things and the future of human interaction with wearable technology and the connected home.  Martijn Bertisen of Google followed on to say that the seamless nature of wearables will make the experience we have with our smartphones seem ‘clunky’.  Specifically relating to the future of search on smartwatches and connected glasses, he noted that 41% of searches in the US were already voice-activated. 

Mindshare used IAB Mobile Engage to exclusively launch SHIFT 2015 – a research study into the opportunities for brands within wearable tech produced by our dedicated unit Life+ in partnership with Goldsmiths, University of London.  The key message was that the time to start developing a strategy for wearables is now, with our own forecast that penetration of wearables could reach 20% of the UK adult population by the end of 2015.

Marc Mathieu from Unilever followed by using the example of guests at a dinner party to describe how the world of marketing is changing.  Rather than be the guest dominating the conversation by shouting, brands should be ready to listen, react and converse.  He used examples from Dove and the All Things Hair YouTube partnership to highlight the point that brands need to bring something useful and entertaining to consumers.

In the remainder of the morning session, Opera Mediaworks talked about rethinking video for mobile – not just making TV ads work on smaller screens and Rob Newlan talked about Instagram as a new, highly creative medium for personal and professional content.

Lindsay Pattison, Global CEO of Maxus, wowed with her in depth knowledge of programmatic mobile and was treated to an impromptu round of applause from the audience after issuing a rallying cry to see more women in key leadership positions within the industry.  The morning was concluded by Dara Nasr from Twitter, who covered the social aspect of the UK General Election - #GE2015 – sharing insight that showed during election week, there were more than 11,500 tweets per minute posted.

IAB COO Jon Mew took to the stage in the afternoon, sharing examples of how mobile’s role has changed through the years and it’s huge impact on cultural events like the London Riots and Arab Spring through to ice bucket challenge and rise of the selfie.  Sizmek followed, renewing the ongoing debate about the chasm between time spent and media spend on mobile.  

Havas were next, using an augmented reality gimmick amongst the audience to land several points relating to how mobile has changed social behaviour.  A panel on mobile creativity followed - led by Jonathan Milne at Celtra, in which the divide between art and science was debated and ended in all parties agreeing that a collaborative approach is needed to get the best results.

The Guardian were next up, in a session dominated by their Head of Technology – Jemima Kiss.  She stressed the need to think about people first, technology second and that the new world of wearables should be seen through a human lens, rather than a gadget-focused one.

After a round of mobile themed University Challenge and Brainient’s CEO Emi Gal talking about 10 wacky connected future tech ideas that might just happen, the conference closed with IAB Chairman Richard Eyre quizzing The IT Crowd’s Richard Ayoade on his love of gadgets.

With Mobile Engage in its sixth and final year, it’s clear mobile has grown up.  Back in 2009, mobile made up just 1% of digital ad spend in the UK versus the 23% of share it commanded in 2014.

Beyond banners, search and social, mobile’s role in connecting physical and digital at sporting events, in the supermarket aisle and in front of the television screen has never been so important. 

The clear message from Engage’s finale was that the connected future certainly won’t be any less complex, but will have huge rewards for the brand and advertisers that get it right.