IAB UK creates ‘chief digital cheerleader’ for first brand-building campaign

IAB UK creates ‘chief digital cheerleader’ for first brand-building campaign

On the face of it, digital advertising is not struggling for media budgets. So why does its trade body need to launch a brand campaign to get advertisers and marketers to reappraise it?

The IAB UK has today launched a campaign “to rediscover the joy of digital advertising”, and in particular shift the perception from the idea digital is purely efficient, rational, and easy to justify.

Ads feature an eight-foot bear called Joy, who is revealed as the “newest employee” on the IAB team with the title of “chief digital cheerleader”. She has her own LinkedIn profile and will chair the Joy Awards at the end of November to help advertisers “think differently about digital”.

No romance for digital channels

Speaking to The Media Leader ahead of the campaign’s launch, the IAB UK’s CMO James Chandler admitted the campaign idea did raise questions among members when it was first suggested.

Chandler said: Double-digit growth is great and digital has grown up. Yes, the money is not evenly distributed, but when you look at it versus recent numbers on TV or print, digital looks really, really healthy. But we had this restlessness that: is that sustainable? Is it always going to be that this happens?

“Our hypothesis was: great that the money is coming in, but do advertisers really love it in the same way that they reminisce about telly or the best ads ever, like the Guinness ad or whatever else?

“The way [advertisers] love magazines and the way they romantically talk about cinema advertising; no one talks about affiliate marketing or search or anything like that. The closest we’ve probably come is podcasts.”

Chandler theorised that if advertisers did not really have “an emotional relationship” with digital advertising, then it is seen as “very performancey and quite efficient” and was potentially not sustainable, especially in the long-term.

“In the long term the things that really stick around are if you are attached to them in some way. It felt cold versus how people talk about telly and radio and print. There are lots of legacy reasons why people feel that about them, but our sense was: can we make it sustainable in the way people feel about it, rather than the numbers coming in? In a weird way that double-digit growth masks the problem for us and that was the bit that we needed to pull it out.”

Futility and unease

The IAB commissioned Walnut Unlimited to carry out research into this with qualitative interviews with senior marketers, a survey of more than 400 agencies and brands, and semiotic analysis of industry commentary.

The research identified two particular reasons advertisers and marketers “do not love” digital, which helped the IAB UK shape how they might go about changing it in the long-term.

Chandler described these as linked to feelings of “futility” and “unease”. Marketers felt there was no human agency and creativity was “really hard” in digital and decisions were made by algorithms and big tech players. Meanwhile, there was “mistrust” around the big tech duopoly and a perception digital was “a bit black boxy”.

Additionally, the high speed of change with new innovations like AI and retail media was “terrifying” rather than “exciting” for advertisers focussed on boosting quarterly sales.

This paid campaign will run into next year, but Joy the bear will now feature in “everything we do” including events and communications, Chandler said.

He remarked: “What I really wanted for the IAB as a business, like the plight of CMOs everywhere, is we can’t just run this campaign and think we ticked the box. This is genuine behavioural change. We want to shift perceptions. We’re in it for three, four years at the very least.”

Media agency December19 planned and bought the media, while ad agency Now created the ad.

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