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Held in Milan on 23-24 May, IAB Europe’s Annual 2-day conference Interact 2018 will feature contributions from all stakeholders with a say in the future of the digital ecosystem, from advertisers to publishers, to ad tech businesses, politicians and regulators. Together they’ll examine the forces disrupting digital, how businesses can adapt to thrive, and how we can reinvent the digital ecosystem to provide a firm foundation for business growth in the future.

Ahead of her Keynote speech at Interact 2018,  Anita Caras, Director, Sales Insights EMEA, Oath answered a few questions from IAB Europe. Read more:

IAB Europe: Why has Oath conducted a research study around Brand Love?

Anita Caras: When Oath launched last year it was accompanied by the mission statement that we at Oath build brands people love. This is a pretty bold statement – but what does it actually mean?  We viscerally know that love is important but the data also stacks up.  We used Kantars Brand Z database, arguably the most robust and reliable sources of brand health as it covers 100,000 brands, 400 categories across 50 markets, to isolate brand performance according to consumers affinity or love of a brand.   We saw that the most highly loved brands in their database, have grown almost 3 times in value (+191%) over the 12 year period they have been tracking compared to a 32% growth for low love brands. This got us thinking – love is what takes a brand from good to great, from awareness to affinity, and from buyers to followers but how do you harness this knowledge to dig deep and comprehensively explore the drivers behind brand love? We embarked on this project to answer exactly that

IAB Europe: You are rolling out your first Brand Love Index, which reveals the key factors that drive consumers to love brands. What are the key insights that global digital brands should take note of, and does that change depending on the sector?

Anita Caras: We comprehensively explored the drivers of brand love, incorporating the views of 150,000 consumers across 13 countries which revealed that there are essentially 6 drivers of brand love.  These are:

  • Exceed Needs
  • Set Trends
  • Build Trust
  • Share Values
  • Respect Consumers
  • Elevate Experiences

Although the 6 drivers are constant, the proportions of brand love each driver equates to does vary by demography, geography and industry.  It is essential that you understand these nuances so you can align your brand focal points with consumer expectations.  While the brands that are in the best shape perform well on all six measures, it’s clear, for example, that in Italy investment in innovation and exceeding consumers expectations pays disproportionately high dividends; equating to 58% of the brand love score.  If a brand outperforms and over delivers, using innovation to improve the consumer experience, it can be loved for making life easier and perhaps a little more fun.

The same variances are true at an industry level.  What makes travel unique is the importance of respecting people. It is over twice as important here than in other industries. This means that a brand with a strong persona will take a backseat to a travel brand that delivers on personal, consumer-first relationships – this explains why Italian cruise companies rate so highly as cruising orientates around the impeccable service it provides – MSC Cruises ranked the highest in Italy amongst the travel brands we measured.

IAB Europe: The debate continues that you cannot brand online – do you agree?

Anita Caras: The short answer is no, this research reinforces many other studies, in emphasising that brands need to reflect and enhance consumers lives wherever they are spending their time.  In Italy, according to ZenithOptimedia, a quarter of all time spent with media is spent online and hence utilising online capabilities should be an integral part of a brands communication strategy for both brand building and direct response activities, ensuring we are evaluating the concepts in the right way to prove/learn from these approaches.

IAB Europe: What is your prediction for the next big thing for the digital advertising industry?

Anita Caras: Inclusion and diversity is in the spotlight, but I believe this light will shine brighter, in short, we should be leading the way for other sectors to follow.  It has been a highly debated topic at many industry events this year but the talk needs to turn to action, becoming part of the DNA of every media organisation.  Why? Because quite simply we have a commitment to reflect the people we are here to represent. Clients are also demanding it; they are starting to question how marketing and communications can resonate with the consumer  if the people working on them are not reflective or representative of the people they are trying to reach.   We saw through our Brand Love work that consumers are demanding it too.

We observed that consumers expect media brands to take the highest social stance – 13% higher than all other sectors, wanting us, as an industry, to openly show what true equality and diversity means.  It is worth noting that when we talk about diversity we need to look at not only gender, but  at class, race, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, neurodiversity, age –  to truly make us self aware and as inclusive as possible as an industry

IAB Europe: Can you tell us more about the Oath’s initiatives for inclusion and gender equality?

Anita Caras: Commitment to inclusion is one of our eight core company values. We are still on a journey in our diversity and inclusion ambitions, but we have programmes and brands both internally and externally to drive this value as a company.  Externally we have consumer brands such as Makers, Built By Girls and HuffPost (the only major news organisation whose editor-in-chief has always been female) that inspire and provide positive role models. Whilst internally we have launched voluntary Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that compliment our leadership and HR initiatives offering a voice and support at all levels of the organisation. These groups cover neurodiversity, race, sexual orientation, gender, parenting and veterans.

The goal is to provide an environment where each and every one of Oath’s employees feels comfortable being themselves at work, feeling empowered  to bring the richness and nuance of their unique experience to everything they do.  This encourages us to foster more diverse perspectives both internally and externally.

We at Oath believe that inclusion leads to better communication, more fluid collaboration and stronger relationships–all of which translate into business success.

IAB Europe: We’ve started 2018 with most companies in the industry committing to change in their companies with regards to inclusion and diversity. What is your hope for the agency landscape by this time next year?

Anita Caras: That gender no longer needs to be on the agenda!   Obviously diversity and inclusion by definition is far greater than gender as reflected in our various initiatives I have already spoken about, but I am a pragmatic person and believe we need to start somewhere, taking this step by step.

IAB Europe: What are the trends for native advertising for 2018?

Anita Caras: Native advertising continues to grow globally, including in Italy, because it is inherently mobile. Over 80% of the Italian population own a mobile phone (eMarketer, Jan 2018) so finding creative and engaging ways to reach them is obviously very important. Apps and mobile web native formats continue to get better and find new ways to engage users, including integrating new technologies into the formats like Augmented Reality, as Oath has done through its Yahoo Gemini platform. I think we’ll see that trend grow, with more advertisers happy to find new, fun ways to build their creative campaigns. As with your previous question, we see advertisers use native formats successfully for both brand building and direct response campaigns – some with a combination of both. The top priority remains for consumers to see the benefit to them in engaging with the ad, whether it be through its creativity, user experience or a promotional value, in the context of the content they are consuming around it.