Four things I never expected to hear at a conference

Earlier this Summer I had an all-round surprising week.  I was in Scotland in June with some of our clients and it was glorious sunshine.  I am not a golfer but totally fell in love with the golfing resort where the conference was held.  I actually enjoyed my first taste of haggis and I heard some surprising things from the esteemed speakers gathered at the event.  

To be fair, I was fully expecting to learn new things.  It was afterall a conference and my role at Kantar is all about new ideas that will help organisations understand the return on their investment (paid, earned and owned) so I’m always open to new thinking.  All the same, it took me by surprise. Here are a few of my highlights… 

Storytelling is bad  

Inga Thordar, Executive Editor CNN Digital International

In my time at the BBC, storytelling was definitely the buzz word.  It was all about storytelling (journalists, programme makers and even those of us in audiences) so I was not expecting to hear that storytelling is now a bad word.  But Inga Thordar, Executive Editor CNN Digital International fairly recoiled at the mention of the word.  Her point was that storytelling sounds like you are saying something untrue or at least not real and in this world of fake news we have to be real.  

Specifically, when it comes to brands and sponsorship, Inga emphasised the need for authenticity.  Journalists certainly do work with brands and that partnership can be powerful but journalists will not tell a story unless it is right.  Any brand hoping for sponsored coverage needs to work out very clearly what they want to say and how to get it to cut through. For example, they might focus on a human element or emotional element.  They must work with the journalists to ensure that any brand message fits naturally and authentically with the overarching story. 

Less is more when it comes to data 

After years of talking about big data, Phil Jones, Head of EMEA Partnerships - Ads & Research, surprised us all when he said that at Google they are trying to do more with less data.  There is plenty of data around!  But his argument was that we don’t need it all in order to do right by our consumers. We need to be using just the minimum required to provide the best consumer experience rather than holding on to personal information that we do not need.  

We should do more than GDPR

Jamie Barnard

Jamie Barnard, General Counsel Global Marketing, Media and e-Commerce at Unilever got us all talking about the ethics of data.  He raised a challenge that brands need to go beyond GDPR and take a bolder, more ethical approach to the responsible use of data.  He described GDPR as like the parent that forced us to tidy our bedroom.  We knew we should, really.  It makes your parents happy.  It makes the house feel like a home.  It earns you your pocket money! But sometimes it is hard to get round to doing it until someone makes you do it.  It’s similar with GDPR – it's asking brands to do something they really should have done anyway and many probably were.  But he urged us to go beyond what we have to do.  He wants brands to think about the ethics of data; not just what is allowed for brands but what is good for brands to be doing.   

His argument is that consumers are going to expect this of brands.  Whilst ostensibly GDPR gives individuals control of their data, the vast majority will not go to the trouble required. Who exactly reads all the way through the privacy statements or battles their way through the web links to find out what is happening with their data? They will expect brands that they trust to do right by them. Brands need to respond by doing the right thing by consumers, even if it is going beyond what is required by law. 

Iceland doesn’t have a word for ‘please’ 

And finally, I learned that Iceland doesn’t have a word for ‘please’.  They are just very direct apparently and perhaps take it as read when asking for something.  There is something quite refreshing in that. 

I’m not sure I will necessarily be applying that final learning to my working life.  Please seems to be quite a useful word in the UK.  But I will be thinking about how we can factor authenticity and ethical privacy behaviour into our assessment of the impact of earned media on organisational reputation and sales.   

If you are interested in hearing more about our new innovations in the area of earned, owned and paid media ROI please get in touch!  


Margo Swadley is a Strategic Product Lead at Kantar. In this global product development role she focuses on products which help clients understand better the return on their paid and earned media investment by bringing together media data with other insight and tools across Kantar. 

Prior to her current role Margo led the Kantar team providing measurement services to BARB, the UK industry body for TV measurement, most notably overseeing the introduction of 4 screen measurement (Project Dovetail).  Before joining Kantar in 2015 she worked at the BBC for 7 years across a variety of roles including Acting Director of Audiences and Marketing & Audiences Director, BBC Charter. Earlier roles include Research International and Added Value. 

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