Unruly & News UK Team Up For AdWeek Europe

News UK and Unruly were out in force at Advertising Week Europe this week, with team members appearing in a number of lively discussions throughout the four-day event.

Chris Duncan, News UK’s Chief Customer Officer, and Sarah Wood, Unruly’s co-CEO and co-founder, spoke on panels about a variety of subjects – from ad blocking to the rise of online video.

Advertising Week Europe is in its fourth year and featured over 700 speakers at 200 panels and seminars – with around 28,000 attendees.

Below is a round-up of Unruly & News UK’s highlights!


How do we prepare for the ‘Adblockalypse’?

Things kicked off on Monday when Chris Duncan spoke on the panel ‘The Death of the Wild West: Putting the Consumer First in the Ad Block Debate’. He was joined by Johnny Ryan, head of ecosystems at Page Fair, and Brendan Eich, from Brave Software.

Duncan began with a metaphor, describing ad blocking as “like teenage acne, ugly now, but product of a growth spurt somewhere else.” He went on to argue that ad blocking offers publishers an opportunity to reflect upon the reader experience, particularly on mobile.

The panel also discussed issues around privacy, and whether ad blocking was a reaction to the ‘creepiness’ often perceived when ads follow users around the web. However, as Duncan said, “we can’t just say tracking is bad, it’s not as simple as that. Consumers that like unlimited content are prepared to give details and thumbprints in some places.” These assertions were confirmed elsewhere when Ben Williams, Comms Manager at AdBlock Plus, stated that only 13-15% of users enable the privacy settings on their software.

The panel rounded off their session by talking about some of the ways publishers could help solve the ad blocking problem. Duncan said, “It is important to have a different conversation with consumers, and explain the different things we can’t fund as publishers without advertising, we need to be able to be able to pay our journalists.”


 Scale, Develop & Grow: Building a digital startup

Later that day Sarah Wood appeared on a panel discussing scaling digital ad businesses, and the challenges of scaling up a start-up. The panel was hosted by Collider co-founder Rose Lewis and also featured Gabbi Cahane, Chairman of Multiple, and Guy Wieynk, CEO of Western Europe at Publicis.

She began by discussing the early ambitions of Unruly and spoke about the challenges Unruly faced at the beginning, predominantly ‘making a market’ in 2006 when people still thought video was a fad – and how working with early adopter brands and agencies helped overcome this.

When asked whether there was a single moment that propelled the company towards success, Wood said she thought the ‘eureka’ moment was “a myth” and that instead “there [were] lots of smaller moments – decisions, conversations, deals! – that let you know you’re moving in the right direction.” Wood and the panel also stressed the importance of peer-to-peer support, where entrepreneurs in similar situations help each other out in order to get the most up-to-date advice and get exposure to a wider range of perspectives.

The panel concluded with a Q&A session featuring three startup founders. Emily Forbes, from Seenit – a social video creation tool, asked “what’s the best way to approach and get established in the USA?”  The advice from the panel was unanimous- if the UK team can manage, it’s incredibly beneficial to have a founder on the ground, sharing the vision and bringing cultural DNA to the new market.


 What does the future hold for online video?

News UK and Unruly teamed up again later in the week for a panel hosted by The Sun’s Head of Strategy, Derek Brown. This panel focused on the future of online video and its intersection with TV and other media. Sarah Wood and Derek Brown were joined by successful YouTube fashion vlogger Rhiannon Ashlee and James Harris, Chief Digital Officer at Carat.

Brown guided the panel through a discussion that covered shareability, virtual reality, YouTube influencers and vertical video. The panel also touched upon the benefits of automation in advertising, with James Harris saying “successful brands are those who understand the balance of story-telling & programmatic.”

Speaking about engaging branded content, Wood said: “the strongest predictor of shareability is eliciting a strong emotional connection.” She went on to explain Unruly’s ‘social motivations’ methodology and the role it plays in the ShareRank algorithm, explaining; “once you’ve made that emotional connection with a viewer, you need to give them a reason to go on and share that experience, whether that’s for kudos, altruism, shared passion, self-expression or a whole host of other social motivations.”

However Wood was also keen to emphasise that “at the end of the day, it’s not all about the algorithms; success is driven by the combination of people and tech. ShareRank doesn’t replace the creatives behind the awesome content – it helps brands to better brief creatives on their digital video projects and it provides a framework for measuring consumer engagement with the content and the brand.”