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Prolific North Live 2023: The highlights

Prolific North Live 2023

A sold out Prolific North Live returned to Manchester yesterday, where industry experts shared all the latest trends and insights across media, marketing, and digital for 2024 and beyond.

Hosted at UA92, the day kicked off with a keynote from Mirage Islam, digital strategist and senior lecturer in digital marketing, and Innovation Lead at Salford Business School, The University of Salford. 

On building trust and enabling success in marketing teams, he highlighted the importance of encouraging curiosity in your team and said people are your superpower. Take calculated risks and give your staff permission to make mistakes. He shared how companies can innovate through the power of diversity and that ethnically diverse companies perform better financially.

Up next was a social media panel session chaired by Alexandra Balazs, managing director at Prolific North. She was joined by Claire Hoang, VP of Social Media at ITV Studios; Sam Thomas Alexander Royle, co-founder and CEO at SoSquared; and Stacey Anderson, director of marketing at UA92. The panel discussed a shift in the way social media platforms are used, away from networking and towards a more utility function such as browsing and finding products. In a world filled with increasing digital noise, the panel said you can stand out by trusting your niche.

There was a fascinating talk presented by Lindsay Rapacchi, research and insights director at Clear Channel on how to Gr-OOH your brand with Out of Home advertising. He shared how brands with less market share have far fewer buyers, and these buyers are slightly less loyal. One of his tips was to focus on light category buyers, that’s where the opportunity to grow is and where OOH can help. 

Stephen Bullivant, regional head of sales at Teads, then delved into the latest AI planning capabilities, creative content generation and contextual targeting technology during his talk on  AI to ROI. He shared how opting for an AI-powered platform can make all the difference to your marketing goals and the time saved can be given back to focusing on strategy, ultimately driving growth for your brand.

Hayley Powell, director of SEO at Candidsky, shared her essential SEO tips to turbocharge your organic traffic in 2024. Some key takeaways included how a successful SEO campaign is driven by data and considers all areas: technical, authority and relevance. Technical SEO is the foundation of a successful SEO campaign and needs continued attention. She explained how SERP layout will continue to change in 2024 with a move towards search generative experience and consistently building backlinks should be a continued focus in 2024.

During a fireside chat with Jonathan Warburton, chair of Warburtons, he shared how Warburtons has bloomed from a small bakery to becoming a well-loved brand now using Hollywood stars such as Samuel L. Jackson in ad campaigns. Understanding the value of investing in marketing and advertising he added: “I’m sure ad agencies don’t bake their own bread, so maybe we shouldn’t write our own ads.”

Generative AI was undoubtedly a hot trend at Prolific North Live. Louis Georgiou, chief creative and technology officer at EssenceMediacom North and Kenny Skelton, managing partner and head of UK Google Practice at EssenceMediacom, part of WPP, shared their four top tips to get started. Be clear on what you need to achieve, get familiar with prompt engineering and experiment, engage your staff by running things such as hackathons, and get familiar with business use cases.

Adam Irwin, Strategy Director at Ponderosa, shared his bird’s eye view beyond marketing trends and the importance of investing in strategy. Key takeaways were how new trends can be a big distraction and under spending is costly, compromising any investment already made. The ads that entertain are the ones that are more likely to be remembered so avoid average by making your audience feel something.

Courtney Scrivens, head of paid media at Candidsky, explored how to incorporate the new and optimise the old for your paid media strategy in 2024.

As many platforms are now incorporating machine learning and AI, she said it’s important to understand how to integrate them successfully into your current strategy. You should constantly consider and review your audience as they should be at the heart of campaigns. 

There was an insightful session up next with Larry Roles, marketing director at Alton Towers Resort and Rick Guttridge, founder at Smoking Gun. On closing Nemesis, Roles explained how Alton Towers was initially faced with a problem that while people loved the ride, it was coming to the end of its life. He shared how the internal marketing and PR team worked with Northern agencies to turn what could have been a negative news story into a positive. Through collaboration and using agencies as an extension of their team, instead of trying to hide that the ride was closing they chose to “disrupt” through storytelling. Data and insights were hugely important to the campaign and from a PR respective, the sentiment it landed was “resoundingly positive.”

Nicole Bradbury, brand partnerships consultant at Awin, and Gemma Ng’ona, global team leader at Awin, shared their insights on brand partnerships and the role of affiliate marketing in 2024. As customer loyalty over the past few years has increasingly become a challenge, brands are struggling to stand out and will need to find out how to provide additional customer value. Some of their top trend predictions for 2024 included how influencers and content will continue to grow, AI and automations can increase personalisation and improve efficiency, and affiliate and partnerships will continue to grow in the marketing mix.

On the evolution of the customer journey, Boutique’s Sophie Cork and Anthony Kenny shared how the digital evolution has killed the traditional AIDA funnel while revealing their agency’s own unique buying cycle. Their top tips were that buying behaviour is more complex than ever, AI needs to become your marketing best friend and to get ahead – you need to become integrated. 

With Google’s Search Generative Experience rollout in 2024, Liam Chappells, organic performance director at Wavemaker, delivered an insightful session on these big changes, exploring the significant impact it may have for some brands.

The power of audio and video can help to reinvent your marketing strategy, explained Mike Carr, co-founder and CEO at Crowd Network and Amy Thomson, BDM of the Branded division at Crowd Network, in a special interactive talk. The duo discussed trends in the podcasting landscape, where branded podcasts often fail, and explored the opportunities podcasting can offer when viewed as a content engine for your marketing strategy.

Wrapping up the day, we heard from Jason Spencer, business development director at ITV, on the learnings from ITVX a year after it launched. He shared the lessons and insights learnt over the past year, as well as explaining how streaming and viewing habits have transformed and the opportunities – and implications – for brand marketing strategies. With plenty of exciting plans to come in 2024 for ITV – including a series of Celebrity Big Brother for any fans out there – he delved into some of ITV’s investment and innovation plans for the future.

Thanks to everyone that joined us for a fantastic day at Prolific North Live and a big thank you to our headline partner Clear Channel and event partners.

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