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Like every year, last week’s ABC Interaction provided us with plenty to think about as to the challenges facing the industry in the year ahead. We heard from ABC’s new interim chief executive, Simon Redlich, who started off the Interaction’s 10th anniversary conference with a quick look back at how much has changed in that time, from the meteoric rise of Facebook to the similarly phenomenal growth of digital ad spend; between 2005 and 2014, UK spend has risen from £1.36-7.1bn.


Redlich then looked to 2016 and laid out the organisation’s priorities, many of which are much the same as last year as the ABC continues to work on ironing out problems that have been facing the industry for some time. The most significant of these, of course, is online ad fraud, which the ABC continues to combat through its partnership with JICWEBS. Redlich then confirmed that video viewability will be tackled head on, and aims to add this to its viewability reporting in 2016. Last but not least, the ABC will continue to work towards ‘brand reporting’ - reporting all brands’ media in one place.


If you couldn’t make it to the conference itself, then fear not, as here we run through five key takeaways of the Interaction.


Consumers need to be your main concern


Hugo Drayton, CEO of InSkin Media, kicked off his speech with some uncomfortable truths, the first of which was that consumers don’t owe anyone their attention. Drayton also spoke of the key to success lying in collaboration between brands, agencies and publishers towards a goal that has the consumer at the heart of it but bemoaned a general lack of this kind of cohesion. Nick Hugh, VP EMEA at Yahoo, also spoke about the importance of a consumer-first way of working, citing it as one of his company’s key principles, as well as criticising the use of certain retargeting methods which he argues are turning off consumers.


Be creative


Scoota CEO, James Booth, underlined the importance of creative in successful campaigns. He pointed out that the average click rate for banner ads is a measly 0.06%. For rich media ads, the rate is a much improved 0.27%, but without the right creative rich media ads won’t work either. No matter how interactive your ad is, Booth said, without the right call-to-action, it’s going to fail. Hugo Drayton shared Booth’s concerns about creativity when deploring the use of repurposed content from other media.


Ad blocking isn’t going to destroy the industry…


…but it will force it to change, according to Nick Hugh. The Yahoo VP was adamant about that, and his comments on ad blocking contributed to a broader disdain at the tendency of the media to declare the death of any of type of media as soon as it faces disruption. Cost-per-mille, PCs and TV have all been recently issued with time-of-deaths, all of which were nonsense, claimed Hugh. One of the most important points on ad blocking made was a rallying call to the room to prevent ad blocking companies from becoming ad networks themselves. In light of ad blocking companies starting to sell their ‘premium audience’ to advertisers willing to pay for it, Hugh was clear that it was the industry’s responsibility to prevent that from happening.


The future is now


One of the most entertaining speakers at the conference was digital entrepreneur John Straw, whose segment focused on impending tech-based disruption. Describing technological breakthroughs and their implications for advertising, Straw’s speech felt like a new episode of Tomorrow’s World, though he was at pains to point out that nothing he mentioned was about to happen, it’s happening now. He spoke of artificial intelligence and in particular an AI that Google is testing, showing a clip of various events and the AI’s correct interpretation of those events in the corner of the picture. That, according to Straw, will present a huge opportunity to the industry in providing automated, context-based video advertising.


AI is also about to drastically improve search, with the development of Apple’s Siri and another from Google meaning that search engines will very soon provide answers to questions far more complex than they can currently handle. Last but by no means least, Straw declared that virtual reality is about to own the games market, expressing with certitude that mass-adoption of devices like Oculus Rift and Magic Leap is just around the corner.


Yahoo is fine, thanks


Nick Hugh’s criticism of the speed at which the media declares the doom of things extended to recent reporting of his own company’s situation. Yahoo’s alleged plight has frequented the business pages of many a news site recently, from brain drains and job cuts to falling share prices and questions over the workforce’s faith in chief executive Marissa Mayer. The veracity of these reports was played down by Nick Hugh who pointed to Yahoo’s recent achievements in its advertising operations, such as its audience data, the merits of its native-only offering on mobile and its success in pursuing cross-device recognition. Yahoo has mapped 75 per cent of its audience to two or more devices and this is something else that Hugh claims is crucial for the industry as whole in 2016.

More information on last week’s ABC interaction along with presentation slides from some of the speakers can be found here.