Google @ MEC – The 7 things we learned this week

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Today marked the last day of Google week here at MEC UK. It’s been an action packed four days of talks, demonstrations, panel discussions and hacks that’s inspired debate and idea generation across the agency. A big thanks to everyone who helped organise the different events and everybody who took part. To finish the week off I thought we’d look back over the last four days and pick out some of the highlights.

To do this I spoke to a plethora of different people from different departments and levels of seniority across the agency to get a sense of what resonated with them most from the talks they attended. This is what came back…

1. The speed of change
On Tuesday Matt Brittin, VP of Google Northern and Central Europe said that the rate of change today, is the slowest it’s ever going to be. He explained that with the surge of new users coming online in the next five years and the with 20 billion connected devices expected by 2020 we’re only at the beginning and the rate of change is only going to speed up from here. The challenge for brands is to keep up with this rate of change and adapt to how consumers are using new technologies and platforms.

2. Have an always on strategy
Not exactly a ground breaking revelation I’ll grant you that, but it was good to hear it reiterated by the people who know best. During our panel discussion on how best to use YouTube some of the biggest success stories in the UK, including DJ BBQ and Eylar Fox talked about the importance of frequency. It was interesting to hear them say that what people really want is regular, bite-size content from the YouTubers they love. It’s not about huge budgets and production value, it’s about being present, being visible and staying front of mind. I think when brands think of YouTube they liken it much more to TV than other social networks because of the video element. However, this is the genius of YouTube, it’s democratised video and made it possible for anyone to create and publish content. It doesn’t have to be perfect it just needs to be authentic.

3. Don’t be incremental. Think BIG. Go for a ‘moon shot’!
What I mean here is that we shouldn’t be happy to improve incrementally so we can show clients we’ve improved just enough to warrant more budget. Google’s Head of Agency sales for the UK and Ireland, Mark Howe spoke of these things called ‘moon shots’. A Google coined phrase which describes out of the box thinking. Mark spoke of how these are essential in planning campaigns for clients. We need to start big, ideas can always be refined or thrown out if they’re not the right solution or it’s not the right time. He explained that’s important to picture a situation where budgets and time frames aren’t considerations. A great example of a Google moon shot is their experimental contact lens that can measure the blood sugar levels of a diabetic and send a message to a smart watch or phone to remind the user that they need to take their insulin. It’s not a finished product on the market yet but it’s ambitious and shows where we can take things if we think outside the box.

4. Technology is an enabler not a replacement
Following on from the example of Google’s contact lens above we should start to think of technology in a different way. We shouldn’t think of it as being this big intimidating elephant in the room we don’t understand or that will replace humans in 20 or 50 years time. Technology enhances our day to day life, it makes things easier and enables us to live our lives in the way we do. This is particularly prevalent this year as we see coding coming into the school curriculum for the first time. Building websites and apps is becoming more and more mainstream and facilitating more commerce, more job creation and more innovation. Without a doubt London has become a hub for technology that is on par Palo Alto and we need to start embracing it when coming up with solutions for our clients.

5. Mobile and connected devices
Mobile is here and it’s going to be here for a long time. Eileen Naughton, MD of Google UK and Ireland, earlier this week spoke about how mobile is absolutely key to the future of Google, and the future of media in general. This point was validated yesterday by the IAB and PWC who released their latest digital ad spend figures for H1 2014. The report showed that digital ad spend reached £3.5 billion in H1 this year which is an increase of £467 million year on year. Mobile accounted for £707.1 million which is up 68% on H1 2013 and mobile video increased 196% to £63.9 million, meaning that mobile now accounts for 20% of total digital spend. If that doesn’t make the case for mobile I’m not sure what does!

6. Data and insights
As an industry we have more data than we know what to do with. Thanks to technology we can track a user almost anywhere they go online, build a profile of who they are and target and re-target them until they buy your product/service or lambaste you on social networks. Google are even making good strides towards connecting the online and offline worlds with their improved Google Analytics, Universal Analytics. In saying that, it’s not good enough anymore just to have the data, we need to dive into it, interpret it and garner actionable insights that benefit our clients and consumers.

7. Show up, wise up and speed up
I think that’s quite a nice way to summarise the week. I think as an industry that’s exactly what we need to do. This approach is examined in more detail in an earlier blog post but in short. Show up means – be present, be visible have an always approach and become reliable. Wise up speaks to the mantra of working smarter, not harder. We need to start making smarter decision based on data and become less precious about brands. Engage the people talking about you already. Speed up – this brings us full circle to the first point above. Things are changing rapidly and it’s only going to get faster. Adapt and keep up or you’ll quickly be replaced by someone who can.

Speaking to our MD of Digital Justin Taylor earlier, he summed up the week quite nicely so I thought I’d leave you with this quote. “It has been exciting to be exposed to a diverse range of speakers across content, Data, Connectivity and Innovation during the first Google@MEC event.   It has also been exciting to see the ‘lean in’ interest from all disciplines and departments who have attended the keynotes, demo and hacks.  For me one of the biggest outtakes from the week is the need to Think Big and without constraint.  Personal progression and marketing communication advancement comes from each department working together to capitalise on the data we have, the creativity we have, the technical skills we have already, the mix of talent we have at MEC and how we work with our key partners to make things happen… quickly. Thank you Google for an amazing week.”

We hope you enjoyed the coverage!