We called time on The Big Bang 2019 recently in London’s Science Museum, but plenty of good memories abound from the conference. The agenda included several big themes swirling around the digital advertising world, including artificial intelligence, feed management, big data, and the future of search.
Our opening session was a lively slam down debate about the impact of artificial intelligence on both marketing and our world at large. Charles Radclyffe claimed that AI is just “fancy maths plus data plus computational power,” whereas Sera Miller asked if AI can “help you unlock a strategy or help you get the creative solution to where it needs to be? If you don't ask those questions, AI will be like the emperor’s new clothes.”
Anita Caras from Verizon took the stage to talk about the strength of native advertising to drive more engaging user experiences. She described how difficult it is for a digital brand to survive, when some research shows that 75% of brands could disappear tomorrow and people wouldn't notice! That’s a long way from the brand love that advertisers crave.
Our shopping panel was a big hit (despite being interrupted by a museum fire alarm—thanks, kid!) with guest speakers from Facebook, Google, Bing, Marin, and Feedonomics. Panelists agreed that AI, feed management, and online/offline closed loop advertising are all important advances in advertising. But Michael Wicks, a shopping specialist at Google, seemed to capture the panel’s mood with his comment, “Retailers have got to remind themselves that the customer comes first and must be at the heart of everything we do.”
Ian Carrington, Google’s Managing Director of Performance Advertising Solutions, treated our audience to a fascinating keynote on the future of search advertising, which pivoted on a single fundamental concept—technology’s role in being helpful to users. “Understanding the customer journey and being aware of it is the first step in giving that customer what they want. All companies are finding their way through this. No one knows the answer yet. It's an exciting time.”
Wes MacLaggan, Marin’s SVP of Marketing, followed with an in-depth look at how data can provide advertisers with a huge competitive advantage, particularly when it’s used to leverage performance across multiple channels. Wes took the example of Google’s translation efforts, moving from rules-based to semantic, AI-driven translation techniques to get ever closer to the holy grail of natural language processing.
The conference ended with a truly inspiring talk by Doctor Sue Black, Professor of Computer Science at Durham University. Sue shared her riveting life story—starting as a single mother in her 20s with three young children to becoming a successful academic and public speaker. “Coming from very difficult circumstances, I never ever would have believed I’d become who I am. Education and technology have changed my life. It’s changed my family’s life. I love technology. If I can do it, so can you.”
Sue’s uplifting talk led us into a cocktail party in the Science Museum’s flight gallery (think champagne reception with large aircraft dangling overhead) followed by science-themed fun in the amazing Wonderlab space. We ended the day with tesla coil demonstrations, a gin lab, and controlled explosions—going out with a big bang indeed! Until next year...