Advertising Week Europe 2018

22/03/2018

In part one of his blog, Strategy Director Mike Liall, shares his experience of Advertising Week Europe 2018.

Mike Liall Mike Liall Strategy Director Manchester Advertising Week 2018 Events
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On Tuesday 20th March, fellow strategist Ric Hayes and I set off for Day 2 of Advertising Week Europe in London, hosted at the Picturehouse, Piccadilly Circus.

As AdWeek first timers, trying to see as much of the jam packed agenda was key - train reading sorted. Day 2’s theme was Data and Brand Innovation, with strategy front of mind, it was difficult decision on what to watch.

With the news story surfacing that morning about Cambridge Analytica allegedly using the personal data of millions of Facebook users to influence how people voted in the US Elections, we were compelled to kick off on The Guardian Stage for the aptly titled session ‘Targeting Fake News: Data & Democracy In a Post Truth Era’. A packed audience were clearly very interested to hear whether fakes news, dark ads and data scraping means digital dystopia has already begun or whether we can act to save the future of democracy.

A highly qualified and diverse panel, chaired by Jonathan Freeland of The Guardian, consisted of Toni Cowan-Brown VP of NationBuilder, Hossein Derakhshan Author and Researcher from Harvard University, Birgitta Jonsdottir Chairman of Modern Media Institute and Dr Mariarosaria Taddeo Director of Digital Ethics Lab at Oxford Internet Institute.

The positives voiced about the big tech platforms are that are we are now in an age where technology has broken the barriers to entry for new political leaders to emerge, and indeed big data captured in these platforms could be used for insight and research to shape a better society. 

However, the negatives occur when technology is manipulated. Where fake news is very easily and cheaply being amplified to influence people using robots and organised groups that trick algorithms into prioritising the surfacing of their content.

It wasn’t just technology to blame, but more human nature. The consumption of news has become public, not private, and this in turn changes our behaviour where we are driven by emotions and not facts. The shift in how we consume content, from open browsing through hyperlinks on the open web to blinkered browsing in walled garden environments, means peoples’ view of the world has become narrow and distorted.

The more content we consume, the more engaged we become with the technology and the more data we leave behind.  Which creates rich digital personas - the very commodity that these platforms are leveraging, selling.

With all this in mind, it was argued we all have a responsibility to better understand the data we are leaving behind. We have a responsibility to broaden our exposure, for instance we should follow people we don’t like, not just those we do. This is just the modern equivalent of reading a range of newspapers to get a balanced viewpoint. We have a responsibility to understand that our actions, even the smallest actions, such as liking a comment or a page, can have a ripple effect on others, influencing their opinion and behaviour subtly.

However, given the increasing level of technological sophistication of these platforms, it is critical that governance is put in place to protect society, and make sure we leave a society fit for the next generations.

The key steps outlined to create governance that ensures a better society were:

  1. Educate policy makers. The challenge is that there is a knowledge gap of those setting policy. We must, as a society, find the best set of people capable of setting the right informed policy.

  2. Ensure continuous collaboration between policy makers and the technology firms.

  1. Enforce third party monitoring of these technologies. For instance, the algorithms that are so pivotal in distributing content, should be managed and designed by neutral third parties, or at least monitored by them. Indeed algorithm design could create the next big technology marketplace.

  2. Identify how the data can be used for good, not bad. Eg Philanthropy, Health, Science, Climate Change

We were left with a bigger thought though, that really resonated with me, and seems obvious. Often the best inspiration of how to create change comes from looking at how others approach it. In Finland there is a Future Committee who are responsible for shaping the society of the future for their children. Now there’s a thought.

Mike Liall Mike Liall Strategy Director Manchester Advertising Week 2018 Events
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