Are you OK? How is Brexit affecting you? How have you ended up with such a weak government? These are the questions business people in London and the rest of Britain are asked first when we talk to our counterparts overseas.
This is a line of questioning that will no-doubt inform conversations taking place at Dmexco – the leading annual festival of ad-tech held in Cologne this week.
To the outside world Britain may seem a little confused and politically at least to have lost its way. Brexit dominates the media and yet dig a little deeper and you will find a country with challenges no more or less as significant as any other market or region.
The London business community did not want Brexit, but most now accept it will happen. So, while we are frustrated with our politicians and we want clarity about our relationship with the EU, we remain absolutely focussed on our commercial future and that means growth through innovation.
Innovation and increasingly the theme of deliberate business disruption and re-invention are the phrases that dominate business discourse in London. Whatever may be happening around us, we have our eye fixed on the future.
In that sense the atmosphere here is enormously positive and exciting – you can sense the change and confluence of new ideas, products and services flowing across every business sector.
The advertising and marketing tech sectors along with ecommerce and b2b software tech space are incredibly vibrant. London, along with San Francisco, New York, Germany and Singapore is clearly a critical hub for technology innovation.
Every ad tech vendor of note has a presence in London, not just because Britain is a very big market in itself, but because the UK is a natural bridge for US companies not just towards continental markets but other markets beyond.
This is because over the years London has built a critical mass in talent and expertise in branding, advertising strategy, creative marketing, design and corporate communications. Tech development and investment is the most recent addition to London’s concentrated milieu of talent and thinking.
For example, London remains a driving force for innovation in the agency space. The rise of programmatic advertising and increasingly mar tech and ecommerce technologies is forcing the evolution of the agency scene.
Agencies built around programmatic technology are emerging. For example Infectious Media, a company that started life as a DSP, pivoted to become a media agency service with its own fully integrated technology stack, interfacing with other vendors but working directly for brands.
You can also see the shift towards a digital/automation first policy in WPP’s recent decision to merge MEC with Maxus to create a new entity – Wavemaker and push digital agency Essence (born in London) to the fore as a global network.
Agencies in London know that their influence and positioning can no-longer be based on traditional media buying clout. Instead it will increasingly be based on their technology credentials.
The really important thinking about the future of ad tech is not around issues such as viewability and ad fraud – very important certainly, but also in a sense parochial when you consider the challenge of integrating AI-driven automated brand marketing, with brand services that are also artificially intelligent and smart household management or life management platforms.
How will programmatic advertising interface with a future iteration of Amazon’s Echo system, when Alexa has become so smart she can filter what we see to match our tastes across multiple devices?
This may seem an esoteric problem, but the fusion of intelligent service design, ad tech, life management and ecommerce is just around the corner and as a melting pot of different technologies, design and marketing expertise, London may be the place where solutions emerge.
So amidst all the chatter, uncertainty about Brexit, a vision of London and indeed the rest of the country as a global hub for investment, enterprise, talent and innovation is already emerging.
The Brexit dust will eventually settle, and we in London will continue to work with our colleagues in Hamburg, Cologne, Stuttgart, Berlin and indeed the rest of the world, shaping the future of marketing technology.
This article first appeared in CLUTCH Magazine, published by our partners in Hamburg, FrauWenk