FFWD 2016 Highlights

FFWD Advertising and Marketing Week is Canada's largest and most diverse annual gathering, and we were there.

Last week, I attended a few sessions at FFWD 2016 (Advertising Week). Here’s what I walked away with.

First of all, we’re all still obsessed with Millennials.

But how could we not be? They’re the most discerning audience advertising has ever experienced, or as one panel speaker put it, “Millennials have an incredible bullshit detector.” They’re the cool kids everyone is trying to impress, but only a select few get to become friends with. The consensus at Ad Week was that brands must work harder than ever to develop relationships, not customers. That means identifying core values and ensuring those values are reflected in each and every product and piece of communication.

Speaking of Millennials…

When are those kids going to get off their phones already? The answer is never, and it’s not just kids. OK fine, you know this already, but I was still shocked at a few stats presented by ComScore, most notably: 2.3 million people in Canada consume digital exclusively on mobile. That’s up 44% from a year ago, and this number is on the rise. Furthermore, mobile digital consumption is taking place primarily on apps-six times more hours are spent on mobile applications than mobile browsers when consuming digital on mobile devices. It’s clear to see that if we really want to be friends with the cool kids, we must prioritize mobile user experience.

In addition to the need for a mobile-first mindset, a seamless multi-screen experience is emerging as imperative.

This means that a consumer should be able to jump from their phone, to their desktop, to their TV, to their connected car, to their smart home monitoring system (and so on…) completely uninterrupted, and receive relevant, personalized information each step of the way.

While these experiences rely heavily on technology, a presentation by Sapient Nitro’s Howard Goldkrand reminded me, and hopefully others, that innovation is about more than following technology trends.

Goldkrand asserted that we must reflect on the past, and learn from the philosophers and scientists that shaped our society. Only then will we be able to properly implement new technologies to create emotional, meaningful experiences. For example, in quoting a Greek myth about empathy, he demonstrated the potential for VR to put people in others’ shoes, and thus how the technology can become an incredible tool for not just advertising, but journalism, mental health and crime prevention as well.

Lastly, there’s the idea of magic, which popped up frequently in the sessions I attended.

First, anthropologist Victor Barac drew parallels between the practice of magic and advertising, stating that they both create an aura around a symbolic object, and associate higher meaning with objects and consumption. Then, Goldkrand left us with this quote:

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” (Arthur C. Clarke)

As advertisers and technologists, we have the power to create magic, and we should not take it for granted. Consider me inspired!