Published: 25th Jun 2020

99//Club Digital Festival Round-Up

We share the innovations and insight from the world’s biggest brands and marketers

Dave Jones - Senior Strategist

How do you communicate a world-changing idea in 99 seconds? 

That’s the challenge set by the 99 Club Digital Festival, a five-day live-streamed event dedicated to sharing the latest insights from the smartest thinkers in technology, advertising, marketing and media. 

I tuned in to the series of lightning talks to take in a tasting menu of provocative ideas designed to help brands and agencies navigate the choppy waters of 2020 and beyond. 

Here are some themes that emerged over the course of the festival that might inspire your business to emerge stronger from lockdown. 

How do we cope with change? 

Coronavirus, the climate emergency, Black Lives Matter; these issues are changing consumer attitudes and behaviour at breakneck speeds. How can marketers ensure their brand remain relevant in a world that feels like it’s spinning out of control?

According to Rachael Pollard, Chief Growth Officer at Starling Bank, the most important thing we can do right now is stop and listen. Resist the urge to react to change by jumping on bandwagons or implementing knee jerk changes. 

Use this opportunity to engage with your customers, find out what matters to them and prepare to revise your strategy as their priorities change.  

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, during turbulent times your own analytics can become your best friend. Pay attention to what it’s telling you and don’t be afraid to stop things that once worked but now don’t, or trial tactics you might not have considered in the past.  

Sometimes getting board-level approval for developing new initiatives is the biggest challenge of all. This was the subject of the talk by Leonardo Oliveira, Senior Global Brand & Media Manager at Vodafone, who spoke about the challenge of convincing risk averse corporate decision makers to adopt digital innovations during challenging times. 

His advice? Make sure there is a solid business case behind every decision but be prepared to fail and accept that it is an inevitable part of the learning process. 

How do we make the most of emerging media? 

As lockdown has forced most of us to stay home for the past few months, our media consumption has sky-rocketed and new avenues for brands to engage with customers have emerged. Where should brands be considering putting their budget?

Firstly, I heard from Zuzanna Gierlinska of Spotify, whose talk ‘Are you ready for an advertising world where listening attention is king?’ spoke to the growing importance of audio as a comms channel, particularly as more of us become podcast and audiobook devotees. 

Spotify’s ad service is compelling because they understand so much about the context in which audiences use the platform, from the mood they’re in, to what they’re up to.  

Want to sell trainers? Target people as they listen to their running playlist. Marketing to students? Reach an audience streaming their favourite study music.  

When you also consider the intimate relationship that can form between podcasts and their listeners, it feels as though audio offers a great opportunity for brands in almost every category to forge meaningful connections with audiences. 

Livestreaming is another medium that’s seen a boom in 2020 and, with more than 1.5 million viewers tuning in to streams at any one time, and Amazon-owned Twitch is at the forefront of that shift. 
Although best known as a platform for gamers, members of the Twitch team used their 99 seconds to explain how it has broadened to include content from sports stars, celebrities and musicians.

But how should cautious brands engage with fans in the brave new world of livestreaming? By being authentic, not taking yourself too seriously and not being afraid to sell. 

As Adam Harris, the Global Head of Brand Partnerships said, the Twitch audience ‘can sniff a commercial partnership a mile off so be blatant about it [and] embrace that you are doing a commercial.’

There can be big first-mover advantages to brands who successfully adopt new and emerging media, so it’s worth considering whether these channels are worth a test. 

How do we rise to the challenge?

I’ll leave my final thought to Ogilvy’s Rory Sutherland, who closed out day four with some thoughts on home working and a Q&A on the state of marketing in 2020. 

He observed that the coronavirus shock to our economy is largely on the demand side: people have stopped buying things at scale, either because the government has prevented them or out of fear of contracting covid. 

As restrictions are eased, it will be down to us as marketers and communicators to persuade the public to restart the economy by consuming again: whether that’s buying plane tickets or booking tables at restaurants. 

As Rory put it, ‘It is no longer “How do we hedge on aviation fuel,’ it’s ‘How the hell do we get people back on planes?’. So the importance of marketing is enormously high and we should step up to the plate.”

Our job is to provide the public with incentives and assurances that give them the confidence to get out and start buying again. 

The long-term health of the British economy depends on brands and agencies getting this right over the coming months.

After a difficult first half of the year, what better call-to-arms could you ask for? 

If you’re looking for a partner to develop your marketing or media strategy, get in touch with Tim.