Renowned physicist Professor Brian Cox, OBE believes people could survive in space within our lifetime. Naturally, as many members of the audience listening to his speech at IAB Engage 2017 may have also considered, this led me to wonder what would this mean for brands and marketers? Would space-dwellers need to be targeted differently to average consumers?

Professor Brian Cox at IAB Engage 2017

Image by IAB

While space advertising is too distant to consider seriously right now, there were plenty of new ideas discussed at the event that are worth considering now. From using artificial intelligence (AI) to mimic biological processes and DNA as software, to the role of emerging technology in human processes such as creativity – the event provided a wealth of knowledge on what we can expect for the future.

Perhaps most useful for attendees was not the blazing trails new technological developments are making, but the thought processes and methods of working that can drive businesses forward – and empower them to create a more efficient and successful future.

Tracey Follows, a futurist with a wealth of experience, suggested digital should no longer be treated as an information system, but rather a living system – something that has become intertwined with our being, not just an addition to it. Taking this point of view would change the way many marketers work, but could well be the answer to truly understanding the modern consumer.

Matevs Klanjsek, co-founder of Celtra, discussed his company’s foray into discovering the creative potential of AI, highlighting that brands need to look beyond the data if they are to create content that really engages consumers and has the ‘je ne sais quoi’ they desire. A digital strategy needs to provide beauty, inspiration, and entertainment as well as a purpose to really connect with its audience – and marketers must be careful they don’t forget this when choosing whether to invest in emerging technology.

Matevs’ point was reiterated during a panel with the UK’s most prominent newspapers, hosted by The Sunday Times’ Chief Sports Reporter, David Walsh – who was heavily involved in revealing Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal. Despite conversations at the event centering on digital, Walsh signified the enduring relevance and importance of traditional media, and the value of human instinct in today’s society.

Overall, IAB Engage 2017 demonstrated that the number of opportunities available to us is soaring. There are almost too many technological and scientific developments for marketers to comprehend. At a time when the majority of us are uncertain of what is around the corner, it seems all businesses need to find a way to prepare for the unknown. The key is to create a working environment that is prepared for change – whatever the change might be – and promotes innovation and creativity.

As Mok O’Keeffe, founder of The Innovation Beehive, suggested, being innovative is a learned skill. By creating a situation in which all team members are encouraged to be innovative, companies can prepare for whatever the digital world throws at them. Perhaps then we can all take a more active role in creating a future that works for us.

By Naomi Whittome, Account Manager