Dan Hulse (MD & Planning Partner) has just returned from a fact-finding mission with the IPA and UKTI, where he heard from the change makers in Silicon Valley who are shaping the future of technology. Read his thoughts from the Drum, on what some of these companies can teach UK adland.
The final day of the IPA/UKTI West Coast mission has been a powerful reminder of the value of focus.
Throughout the week we saw companies expanding their offering, converging on each other’s territory and fighting on multiple fronts. On Friday, we saw some of that. But we also met some folk who have picked their thing, and got bloody good at it.
We started the day in an LA-style ‘power breakfast’ with studio executives from the likes of Lionsgate but also new entrants like Amazon. As with advertising, the TV industry is having to evolve quickly. In fear of being disrupted to the same degree as the music industry, the TV execs are trying to figure out where their next step lies. Is it scripted or unscripted? Conventional big talent, or tapping into the next generation of digital content makers? Lots of great ideas, and lots of very smart people – but at an industry level the way forward is looking fuzzy right now.
The team at Mitu are very clear about where their focus lies. This digital media company is setting out to be the voice of a generation of Latinos, and by all accounts it is well on its way. It works with creators across channels like YouTube, Snapchat and Vine, aggregating and facilitating the best content for Latino millenials around the world.
Mitu aims to become a meaningful brand to consumers, in the same vein as Vice. It understands the values of the community it serves: family, ambition and celebration. Its Mitu America initiative explores what it means to be American for a group that makes up a quarter of US millennials. While other businesses are trying to make money off the back of talented young content makers, Mitu is taking it a step further.
The Mobile Majority is at the pointier end of our business, but no less single-minded. These mobile advertising experts have set out to solve a very specific problem. When bidding programmatically for mobile ads, the buyer has 100 milliseconds to bid – and it generally takes longer than that to gather and process the data and understand what you’re actually buying. When you’re bidding in the dark, the results aren’t great. That explains the common criticism of poor response rates to mobile campaigns.
The Mobile Majority assembled a team of engineers to build the tech that allows them to figure out everything well within the time limit, and only bid on the impressions they want. The result, it says, is response rates orders of magnitude higher than what has come before. The proof will be in the pudding, but it sounds like it has built a better mousetrap.
Down the road in Santa Monica, Tastemade does one thing and one thing well – be the home of the best digital-first food and travel content. If you’re a budding Mary Berry, it has got an app to help you raise your game and produce your own cookery and food videos. If you’re already a talented food content producer, it may well contact you and invite you to be one of it tastemakers.
It is building a community of passionate foodies and travellersaround the world. The very best of these creators are then invited to work with the Tastemade team to produce original, high quality content. As a result, highly selective platforms like Snapchat and Apple TV have chosen Tastemade as one of a precious few editorial partners.
Our week ended on the lot at Fox Studios, discussing the knotty challenge of creating always-on engagement around franchises which only see a new movie every three or four years. After a week of being dazzled by the exciting new solutions coming out of Silicon Valley and LA, it was interesting to be presented with a problem. Moments into the conversation, the UK agency folk were sinking their teeth into the problem and discussing potential ways forward. I’m not sure the million dollar question was answered there and then, but for once it was the American making copious notes while the Brits talked.
It did our egos no end of good to see the tables turned. But more importantly, it was good to be reminded that UK agencies, just like the tech startups, rocket scientists and cutting edge content creators we’d been meeting all week, are at our very best when our energy and creativity is focused.