Why the UK is poised to become the global leader in MadTech
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Why the UK is poised to become the global leader in MadTech


Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, machine learning, interactive video, and mobile multimedia are just a few of the decidedly buzzword-y innovations tantalizing marketers with a promise to capitalise on a growing abundance of consumer data.

Underlying these advancements are two less sexy-sounding but crucial catalysts: The marketing and advertising technology industries (sometimes collectively referred to as “MadTech”). From CRM to programmatic to novel ways of tracking customer behaviour both on and offline, savvy marketers are developing increasingly creative ways to put data-driven insights to work.

The UK is quickly becoming a leader in the MadTech space. Below is a brief overview of the current state of marketing and advertising technology in this region of the world, as well as a few examples of companies doing remarkable things in the space.

The state of MadTech within the UK

MadTech is gaining considerable ground both in terms of innovative product offerings and overall influence.

Recent studies, such as Salesforce’s 2017 State of Marketing report, make the motivation for this trend clear: According to the report, 52% of customers and 65% of businesses are likely to abandon brands if a company or vendor fails to provide “customised communications.” In other words, both B2B and B2C organisations must fine-tune their focus on optimising client experiences in order to stay competitive and boost ROI.

The lines of distinction between AdTech and MarTech, which have long been considered related but independent fields, are becoming blurrier by the day. Whereas AdTech has traditionally referred to media-driven initiatives such as programmatic and omnichannel advertising, MarTech has served as more of an umbrella term for SaaS-driven marketing platforms. (MarTech is a particularly convoluted industry as of late; a recent infographic detailing the 2017 landscape reported there are currently a whopping 5,381 solutions available from 4,891 distinct companies, a 40% increase from 2016.) 

But more than one source in recent memory has noted that these industries are on a clear-cut “convergence course.” In an oversaturated marketing landscape, companies want to further streamline strategy: Brands are seeking tools not only to make the most of powerful “walled gardens” (i.e. Google and Facebook)’s access to eyeballs, but also to consolidate their marketing stack and inch ever closer to the coveted single customer view.

With venture capitalists increasingly turning their attention to UK-based startups in the industry, the UK is particularly well positioned to leap to the forefront of MadTech innovation. It is, undoubtedly, a ripe market: Earlier this year, the Internet Advertising Bureau UK reported that almost 75% of UK digital display advertising is now purchased programmatically. The same report detailed that digital advertising grew at its fastest rate in nine years in the first quarter of 2017, surpassing the £10 billion threshold; spend on mobile video ads doubled, marking the medium as the fastest growing ad format.

Advertising has come a long way.

Advertising has come a long way.

Image: pixabay

Content marketing, a close relative to both MarTech and AdTech, is another arena that UK companies plan to prioritise in the coming months. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 61% of UK marketers say their organisations are “extremely” or “very” committed to content marketing, and 60% cite higher success levels in 2017 than with CM tactics a year ago. Of the tools they currently use to measure success and carry out campaigns, 80% use analytics platforms and 55% employ some sort of content management system. The average content marketer uses a combination of eight different tactics as part of their overarching strategy.

Additionally, video-centric media platforms like Snapchat are also gaining ground in the UK: Among the coveted teenage demographic, usage and engagement rates have topped that of the US for the same demographic in 2015.

Top-notch universities have recently homed in on the potential for MadTech to provide employment opportunities for UK-based graduates. With digital technology employment predicted to increase by 6% by 2020, world-renowned universities like the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), Oxford and University College London are particularly suitable for students seeking a career in marketing and computer science.

MadTech innovation on the rise

There are also a growing number of startups and established companies alike in the UK’s tech scene finding success in novel MadTech campaign tactics.

Marks & Spencer, for example, has employed HTML5 video overlays via Smartzer, a startup that lets brands turn their videos into interactive and clickable (i.e. “shoppable”) experiences. 

Unruly, a social video advertising startup that was acquired by News Corp in 2015, employs a predictive algorithm to “create better ad experiences for consumers, improve brand outcomes for advertisers, and increase revenues for top-flight publishers.” The company has had a hand in some of the most iconic viral marketing videos to date, including the iconic “Dove beauty sketches” videos. Unruly, which originated out of London’s Shoreditch neighbourhood, has become a global contender, with 20 offices worldwide and 91% of Ad Age’s Top 100 Brands in its list of estimable clients. Adludio is yet another organisation using cutting-edge technology to take MadTech to unprecedented heights: The company provides “programmatic sensory advertising” and interactive ad units that help brands master mobile strategy.

On the ecommerce side of things, Qubit, a London data analytics startup that was founded in 2010 by ex-Google employees, helps retail organisations like Topshop provide personalised experiences for online customers. The company’s suite of products collects and processes large data sets via machine learning, statistical analysis, and high-performance computing.

With a spirit of audacious innovation, the UK is well on its way to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the MadTech industry — and the world is, quite literally, watching.


September 11, 2017
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