The UK is the most sophisticated digital marketplace in the world and it is a fantastic test bed for all kinds of new tools and strategies. Fresh challenges are emerging including how to reach the on-the-go customer and the fragmented TV viewing experience.

March 2015

The UK is the most digitally sophisticated and concentrated advertising market in the world.

That's high praise indeed and the numbers showing 50% of UK ad spend is going on digital channels, compared to the 25% in the US, should make UK digital marketing evangelists swell with pride.

Managing Director UK Eileen Naughton knows a lot about the accelerated changes in the 'traditional' media landscape wrought by digital disruption, having worked in the US at the publisher Time Magazine. Nevertheless she is "stunned" by how advanced the ad-tech infrastructure and all its underpinnings are in the UK.

But there are still fresh frontiers to conquer and big challenges ahead. The UK consumer has a very high propensity to shop — and indeed live their life — online and they have high expectations of technology and the companies and brands they let into their lives.

"At our core we are a company that creates technology and solutions to improve the lives of billions of people" Eileen said at Advertising Week Europe 2015 about the role of Google.

The 'toothbrush test' of making sure new products should be useable at least two times a day is a great guideline for developers and engineers and has produced solutions like maps and predictive search that ultimately are a win-win for consumers and brands.

There are two big challenges for marketers and brands with which everybody needs to grapple.

First there are the changing media consumption habits whereby viewers either mass to watch a 'must see' appointment to view or they make an individual delayed choice. "How broadcasters seamlessly insert an ad into that viewing experience is a new challenge."

Then there is the huge shift to consuming content on mobile devices. This "is the most significant shift from an advertiser's point of view" as half of search queries now come from mobile devices.

It is vital to understand the signals sent by consumers' TV viewing behaviour and advertisers must work out how they can use powerful systems like paid and organic search "to deliver more messages in those moment that are meaningful for consumers."

The role of traditional media is still important but brands need to be aware that there is usually a cap on a TV audience of 10-11M viewers, while platforms like search can deliver an audience of 30M.

YouTube is now becoming an essential search tool alongside Google — it is the world's second largest search engine. Its credibility is being built via partnerships with established broadcasters and content creators, such as the BBC and BSkyB, alongside the development of home-grown talent in the form of YouTube creators who can command up to 9M subscribers.

The copyright battles with content owners are long over and all stakeholders are now winners. "YouTube is now seen as a vast and important distribution platform for all manner of content" Eileen said.

Brand owners and advertisers can now use tools to create a picture of the viewer's video journey. They can develop "a coherent picture of the engagement route of the customer" and can pick up on any positive or negative signals they may need to adjust.

On a broader perspective, to help create the best consumer experiences connectivity must speed up. "The provision of connectivity is becoming a basic human expectation and we have a role in helping advance the technology."

There appear to be no limits to the capabilities of technology and data. "Disruption for the sake of moving ahead is what motivates us," Eileen added.

More disruptive but beneficial technological development are expected, from contact lenses that can measure blood sugar levels and monitor the health of diabetics to high-tech balloons that can help remote rural areas with internet connectivity. There's no resting on past successes — the modern consumer won't allow it.