2016 Figaro Digital Marketing Conference – The Future of Digital

On 30th November, a heady mix of marketers, influencers and the like gathered at the Royal College of Physicians to discuss the year’s trends and hear about new technologies and strategic trends shaping the future of digital marketing.

The 2016 Figaro Digital Marketing Conference was a huge success, bringing together an esteemed panel of speakers across a range of sectors to discuss their insights and predictions for how everything from content marketing, social media strategies, AI and big data will influence digital marketing in the New Year.

It was a packed itinerary, so we decided to pull together some of the top insights and takeaways from the day:

Think about your customer

A marketing strategy focused on customers problems, motivations and needs may seem like a no-brainer, but this will play a huge roll in how we look at marketing for 2017. Truly understanding customer needs feeds into all areas of marketing from product development, UX and consumer engagement – all leading to increased sales and a greater digital brand presence if done right.

Robert Crook from Travelex advises to ‘pick apart your customer problems into their most granular parts to find out what motivates people’.

Authentic, transparent marketing is important now more than ever says Anna Whitehouse, creator of Mother Pukka, who reminds us that consumers are savvy to inauthentic marketing, so it’s imperative that your marketing strategy stays true to brand proposition, creating content that will genuinely engage with customers.

UX has never been more important

In the same way that customer-centric marketing focuses on the needs of your consumer, providing clear, accessible and optimised user experiences for consumers is a key if you want to stay ahead of the competition, retain users and engage with new ones.

Not only will it help to enhance your brand proposition, communicate your message more effectively and serve your customers more efficiently, but certain elements to UX like opt-in forms, privacy notices and the infamous cookies law will become the law of the digital land, according to the GDPR.

Steve Henderson at Communicator talks about the responsibility we now have to think about how we can give our customers a genuine choice, providing information that clear and accessible when it comes to their privacy and online experience.

To respond to that need, brands like Communicator and Curated Digital are developing ways that brands can re-imagine these engagement elements of the online experience (like these surveys) in order to promote engagement for data gathering tools that are often ignored or found to be an irritating element of customer’s UX.

Content is the present – and future – of marketing

Traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute; as a forward-thinking marketer, you know there has to be a better way.

You guessed it – that buzzword you’ve been hearing all year – content marketing. Simply put, content marketing, which includes social media and distribution, is there to help your customers find the information they need.

While many were sceptical around how content marketing could really take over traditional marketing, brands like Schneider Electric and Shazam stand behind this method, discussing how a strong content marketing strategy can help increase sales, save in cost and resources and encourage engagement with better customers resulting in brand loyalty.

Giuseppe Caltabiano with Schneider Electric emphasised that when developing content, more isn’t always better. Learn how to re-purpose and re-promote your content to save you time and resources. He recommends a Big Rock approach, which is essentially ‘a substantial piece of content based on the idea of becoming the definitive guide to a conversation that you want to own’.

Big data is just a pile of nonsense unless you know what to do with it

Having mountains of data isn’t the sole end goal anymore. Sure, it’s a start, but as Elizabeth De Freitas at Hitwise displayed in her presentation ‘5 Ways To Know Your Competitor’s Audience Better Than They Do’, making sense of all that data can be used to unlock incredible marketing opportunities, campaign strategies and hidden competitive advantages.

She recommends learning from your most successful competition, comparing your results with the wider industry, unlocking incredible hidden market opportunities. From there, you can understand what kinds of content your customers consume and when, which will help to feed into your content marketing strategy.

Richard Summers at Crowdcat melds creativity with big data in order to understand the brain to solve real world problems. With only 1 in 4 million of our thoughts actually making it to consciousness, understanding how people consume ads will help to shape a strategy that can help change the buying outcome and deliver consistent, measurable performance.

AI might be more human than humans

AI may be a source of stress or excitement depending on how you look at it. One thing’s for sure, understanding the capabilities of AI will help your business to determine if its right for you.

It definitely was for Havas. Executive Digital Director Lisa De Bonis shared their experiences with EagleAi, and how AI and big data were able to predict the 2016 Presidential Elections, now known as the night AI predicted human behaviour better than the humans.

One thing is certain. It’s not a matter of one or the other, as both Lisa and Phrasee’s CEO Parry Malm confirmed. At this point (at least) AI should be seen as a complimentary use of technology to be embraced in order to learn what it can do for us and marketing strategies moving forward.

Parry Malm of Phrasee recommends working within a limited data set when using AI for email marketing. He’s utilised artificial intelligence to generate and optimise response to your emails through marketing language science in his entertaining presentation, ‘Marketers, Watch Your Back: Here’s AI That Can Write Better Email Subject Lines Than You…’

The big takeaway?

We live in a world where it can be argued that technology changes faster than our capacity to learn it. Rather than jumping on every technological bandwagon, agility should sit at the heart of your business strategy.

What we mean by agility can be broken down into three steps:

  1. Understanding what options are available in the current market, how they’re being used, by who and who of those are doing it well (and possibly more importantly, who’s not doing it well)
  2. Assess which channels or tools will best serve your business strategy to produce the best insight and value for your business
  3. Implement those channels and tools with a simple process that ensures compliance and business success

Follow those steps 1-3, leaving room for changes and adjustments as needed. Because if this year’s taught us anything, it’s that we must be agile in order to successfully respond to the transient nature of today’s market.

To that end, if we took away anything from the conference, it’s to be open (yet critical) to what’s new, to be agile in understanding how to incorporate that into your marketing strategies and to be relieved that bots aren’t going to take over our jobs – at least yet anyway.

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The Drum Independent Agencies Census

This week the Drum published it’s annual Independent Agencies Census. This benchmarks the UK’s independent agency sector based on financial performance, agency staff size and client satisfaction.

The report provides a great overview of the current landscape – and it was encouraging to hear that 77% of the agencies featured, reported an increase in turnover. A lot of our clients are fast growing independents and we take great heart to see so many taking high positions in the rankings for both financial and client satisfaction.

Congratulations to the winners for each category:

Elite (balance across client satisfaction & financial performance)

100+ staff – Intermarketing

51-99 – MB advertising and Marketing

26-50 – Bluesky Interactive

1-25 – Miramar

Media – Space and Time Media


100+ Elmwood

51-99 – MB advertising & Marketing

26-50 Bluesky Interactive

1-25 – Ink Digital Agency

Media – Sleeping Giant Media


100+ – Oliver

51-99 – Red Brick Road

26-50 – Fold7

1-25 – Friend Studio

Media – The Specialist Works

Please click here to see the full rankings.

We find the Independent Agency Census is a great guide for clients to help find the right agencies. Often clients will want to make sure agencies are the right size for them – they want to be considered as important and one of their key clients, but not too big that the agency will be over dependent on them. And the rankings on client satisfaction, gathered through the Recommended Agency Roster (RAR), help future clients to better understand what it is like to work with each agency.

We find the report a very useful tool for Business Development and something we regularly reference when talking to prospects.

If you do appear in this year’s report, congratulations! Now make sure you share on social and as part of your keep in touch communication; it will help future clients to better understand your agency, build your credibility and give them greater confidence in your agency.

If you would like help building on this to further grow your agency, please get in contact.

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Econsultancy Top 100 Digital agencies 2016

Econsultancy has recently published it’s annual Top 100 Digital Agencies report, the definitive listing of the UK’s largest digital agencies. The report shows that marketing spend on digital in the UK continues to grow with total fee income across the top 100 digital agencies up 20% to pass the £2 billion mark.

The Top 100 Digital Agencies Report lists the UK’s top 100 digital marketing, design and build, technical and creative agencies. These are ranked on their fee income from digital activities in the UK.

In an ever increasing digital landscape, a large portion of total digital spend is now taken up leading consultancy groups who have diversified into digital marketing. IBM iX took top spot, with Accenture Interactive a new entry straight into second place. Last year’s winner Sapient Nitro dropping to third spot.

Click here to see the full list.

Business Development is increasingly important for digital agencies as competition hots up. Exciting new entrants to the list included EPAM, Isobar, BIO agency, Enviqa, Fetch, Poke, ANDigital, ORM, Geeks, Propellnet, Vaimo UK and Delete. Welcome!

Meanwhile, ones to watch for next year are Engage, 383 Project, Exposure Digital, UXB London, The Unit and AB… the ideas agency.

It was great to see so many Upfront and Upstream clients (past and present) with nearly 20 making the top 100. Particular mention to Ayima who jumped 25 places to 63 and Redweb breaking into the top 50.

Well done to everyone listed.

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Upfront clients well represented in Econsultancy top 100 list

Econsultancy has recently published it’s Top 100 Digital Agencies report, the definitive listing of the UK’s largest digital agencies. The report shows that marketing spend on digital in the UK continues to grow with total fee income across the top 100 digital agencies reaching £1.696 billion, this was up from £1.48 billion in 2014.

The Top 100 Digital Agencies Report lists the UK’s top 100 digital marketing, design and build, technical and creative agencies. These are ranked on their fee income from digital activities in the UK. Click here to see the full list.

Congratulations to Sapient Nitro who retain top spot with growth of over 15% last year. They were followed by IBM Interactive Experience and AKQA, with Tribal DDB a new entry at 4 and DigitasLBI slipping to 5th.

It was good to see breakthroughs by 4PS and True entering the top 100, both were highlighted as ones to watch back in 2014. And well done to Branded3 who enjoyed stand out growth of over 100%, jumping 39 places to 49th.

We were very pleased to see 10 Upfront clients in the top 1o0, with an average growth of 20% and very proud to have been a part of this.


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GADM to host FMCG event

Upfront is proud to partner with GADM, who will be hosting an exclusive Digital FMCG Breakfast at Google’s HQ London on September 30th.

Consumers are increasingly looking for services that tie in with their changing needs. How can FMCG marketers achieve this personalised and timely approach to digital campaigns, whilst also conveying their overall brand message?

FMCG and digital marketing experts, including Simon Miles, Digital Director at Coca-Cola Enterprises and keynote speaker David Black, Director of Branding, Google UK will share thoughts on key strategies that will help you bridge the gap between digital campaigns and physical sales. They will be joined by speakers from leading agencies Maynard Malone, Amobee and PrettyGreen who will be providing expert presentations.

This is an exclusive event for GADM members and industry VIPs. And with over 100 leading marketers set to attend, this will be a great opportunity to network and participate in the discussion around the future of FMCG marketing. Click here if you’d like to attend or interesting in getting involved in other GADM events.

Key Notes:

Registration and breakfast
Welcome by Damian Ryan, author of “Understanding Digital Marketing” and chairman of GADM
Simon Miles (Digital Director, Coca-Cola Enterprise) – presentation title TBC
Expert Presentation – Gavin Mackie (Head of Strategy,  Maynard Malone)
Expert Presentation – David Barker (SVP and Managing Director, EMEA,  Amobee)
Expert Presentation – Mark Stringer – (Founder and CEO of PrettyGreen)
David Black (Director of Branding, Google UK) – “Innovation at Google”
Panel Discussion and Q/A
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