Demi Abiola, Press Account Director, gives his view on the Shift 2015 Conference.

Newsworks third shift conference on the 24th February  once again brought together agencies, clients and media owners to discuss and debate a wide range of issues pertinent to advertising and the News publishing sector.  With a wide range of topics on the agenda ranging from programmatic trading to predictions for the forthcoming general election.

The event was hosted at the British Library and it was fitting that first on stage was Roly Keating, the library’s CEO and custodian of millions of words.  The British Library collects and documents all British Newspapers (it has done since the 18th Century) and is undergoing a process of digitising the archive. He talked about the importance of newspapers throughout history and how they provide valuable reference points to scholars, historians, and economists alike in capturing the essence of any one era and also identifying future trends.

shift 2015 conference

The ubiquitous presence of Rory Sutherland then came onto the stage and was hilarious in addition to talking about the role of context and how it affects decision making.  He argued that the reach map has become overly dominant in media, and that most brands don’t have a target audience they have a target context.  The moments at which people are prepared to do something are more important. Media agencies are trying too hard to live by the view of procurement / finance departments and in doing so they are “taking on the worst characteristics of their abusers”.

Marketing should instead be “the science of knowing what economics is wrong about”. He used a great example of the use of engagement rings in society. “They are a commitment device, an up-front expense that is proof of long-term intentions” he said, shock horror could advertising work in the same way?! There is an assumption that digital must be better than print because you can get the same message to people at a lower price, he said: “But what if advertising works like an engagement ring, because it is perceived to be expensive?”

Doug McCabe, CEO of Enders Analysis had the unenviable task of being next on stage after Rory Sutherland. But continued on similar themes to Rory and said that while content is king, context is queen. He drew on a study with Millward Brown that compared the views of agency and brand owners on programmatic trading and the tensions as a result of it. Increasingly the benefit of context is becoming ignored as branded display ads are increasingly programmatically traded.

David Dinsmore gave us an insight into what goes on in the Newsroom at the Sun. He spoke about the Sun and its values, how it likes being the centre of attention and leading the conversation.  Despite circulations declining, the reach and penetration of the Sun has never been greater with its ever growing platforms on print and digital.  In a slight dig at some of his rivals, he said paying for content is vital for maintaining journalism for the future. I asked David a question about apathy with young people at the moment in politics, and would the Sun cover the forthcoming election in a different way to address this issue. He responded by saying they will always try and make stories as interesting and compelling as possible, however the difficulty lies with the politicians as they do not have a message that is grabbing  younger audiences.

The final session was perhaps the most enjoyable for me given my love of politics; it was a panel discussion with a number of journalists from across the political spectrum on some of the issues that may decide the forthcoming election.  It was particularly entertaining to see Kevin Maguire and Andrew Pierce engage in their customary double act of good cop bad cop.  But you would expect nothing less when you have two diametrically opposing views in the shape of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror. It is fantastic listening to these commentators and you got a real feel of the influence that Newspapers have and continue to have on current affairs and the world at large.  Noone would plant their flag in the sand however as to what the outcome of the election would be though!

I asked the panel why the major political parties have not properly addressed the issue of immigration and has this been linked quite obviously to the rise of UKIP. Suffice to say a lively debate ensued between the commentators on what can be a polarising topic…..

Everyone would certainly have left the conference with a lot cibus pro sentantia in addition to how Newsbrands currently operate and how evolution is critical to their success.