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British Ad Trends #2: Inside Digital and Direct Marketing


Leaders of creative direction, John Treacy, Victoria Buchanan, Kat Hahn, discuss the most influential changes to digital and direct over the last year

British Ad Trends #2: Inside Digital and Direct Marketing
Over the course of the last two years, the British creative industry has faced major challenges as a result of the global pandemic and Brexit. A recent study by the Advertising Association predicted the ‘UK’s bounce-back in 2021 to be the largest across any major international ad market – including the USA, France and China – while outstripping the global rate by more than 12 percentage points’. 

The UK’s creative industry has always been one of its biggest export markets, but its resilience in the face of big global change is astonishing. With this in mind, and ahead of the 77th Creative Circle Awards in Margate in September, we will be exploring the current trends shaping the UK creative industry in TV, Print, OOH, Audio, Digital, Film, Music Video, Craft, PR, Social and more. Across this series, each of the esteemed Gold Jury forepersons at Creative Circle 2022 will share their take.  

As market leaders, each major player on the Creative Circle judging panel has managed to remain at the forefront of the industry, adapting to the burgeoning trends, technologies, and events of the last few years. Creative Circle managing director, Jeremy Green, believes each juror will offer a fresh, unique perspective and invaluable insight to their category. 

In this instalment, LBB’s April Summers speaks to three market leaders and Creative Circle jurors: executive creative director at Tribal Worldwide, Victoria Buchanan, executive creative director at MRM, John Treacy, and creative director at Creative X, Kat Hahn. Each has their own take on the metaverse as a digital marketplace, the increased accessibility of smart technology and how to take advantage of burgeoning new virtual tools. 

LBB> What events or technologies have had the biggest impact on your work so far this year? 

Victoria Buchanan (Digital & Direct Gold Jury Foreperson)> We’re only four months in and have already had to contend with covid, war, fire, computer chips and electricity cuts; learning about scarcity and the lack of things, distribution issues and rising costs. We need to be clever and careful, as we look at new types of mobility, change the way we run our homes, smart metres, tracking ourselves, budgeting, recycling, planning, being ready for change and fast. There has been a rise in helpful, educational content, as well as useful tools for tracking and tracing our basic needs to help us out in harder times.

John Treacy (Digital & Direct Gold Jury Foreperson)> The metaverse has had the biggest impact. And it’s not ‘niche’ or ‘early days’ as everyone seems to be saying, it’s been here for years under the guise of the more accessible gaming. I think we’ll see an explosion of transactions there; Gucci and Nike have already sold digital versions of their products for more than their physical products and with NFTs being a new asset-class, the metaverse will become an entirely new marketplace. 

Kat Hahn (Digital & Direct Gold Jury Foreperson)> Without a doubt the Oculus Quest 2. Having read so much about immersive experiences and then actually being in those spaces is mind-blowing. For me personally there have been a few pivotal moments of technological developments - sending my first email, seeing the blue dot move on maps, using music streaming services - virtual reality is certainly joining that list. Seeing AR and VR becoming more accessible, and brands and institutions starting to build meaningful and enjoyable experiences, reminds me of the late noughties and the excitement around the seemingly endless possibilities of apps. In the metaverse the possibilities are even bigger, more immersive, and even more social. 

LBB> Which new digital trends are shaping the future of UK business in your sector?

Victoria> We made massive leaps in lockdown as digital was the only way to survive. Everyone just had to be digital to talk, share, sell, buy, to be covid safe, to get help. If you hadn’t transformed yet, you did, and if you had transformed before, you survived. The gaming sector led the way, getting super pumped by lockdown, and we saw growth and development in social gaming, communicating within platforms, and meeting in the metaverse. Brands went hunting in these worlds. 

We have also seen a huge jump in social shopping, start-ups, partnerships and buying directly from suppliers. I expect animation and craft to be bigger and better as we have filmed less but with more time to craft. We have seen leaps in connectivity with data fluidly moving from mobile devices to GPS locations scanning, touching, and sharing via AR, VR and the metaverse. 

Kat> The metaverse is obviously on everybody’s mind. Most people are still trying to get their heads around it: “What exactly is it? How does it work?” Throw in buzzwords like NFTs and web3 and you’ll have everyone confused. 


I find it helpful to think of the metaverse as the next evolution of social technology - it’s not about spending more time online but spending the time better. By allowing for deeper, more meaningful connections the metaverse can be seen as the successor to the mobile internet. The opportunities seem endless and we are already seeing some brands leaning into these spaces which is exciting. 

LBB> What would you say has changed the most in your industry in the past 12 months?

John> The biggest thing that’s changed in the last 12 months for me is the amount of extremely talented creative people who seem to have reassessed their lives and left the industry. Hopefully some will return refreshed and at the same time giving more space for junior talent to blossom.

Victoria> Consumers became more comfortable interacting with devices during lockdown, relying on digital devices to buy things. Now digital buying and selling is everywhere; we make purchases using QR codes, social media, click and collect, click and deliver; we scan passports, tickets, menus; we are happy to just touch. Digital and direct must now focus on mobile experiences, such as interactive shop windows and online shopping opportunities.

Kat> From a human perspective, working from home has been the biggest change. Many companies, including Meta, are introducing flexible models now, which borders on being revolutionary in an industry where presentism has traditionally been ubiquitous. New ways of working with mixed teams (partly office-based and partly WFH) will be the challenge in the coming months and years. The metaverse might be able to help here, bringing us closer to feeling those in-person connections. 


As ever, Creative Circle will continue to pledge 10% of all award entry fees and 100% of membership fees to supporting greater diversity in the creative departments of the future through the Creative Foundation. 

As of 2021, the show forms part of the UK Creative Festival, a three-day event hosted at Dreamland, Margate. Following the success of last year’s festival, which saw a wide range of creative leaders, speakers and students from across the UK congregate for a series of talks, workshops, panels, wellness activities, and social events, the awards show will return to the seaside town on 8th September 2022. Key dates can be found below: 

  • Entry Deadline: 14th April at 6pm 2022

  • Online Judging: April - May 2022

  • Live Gold Judging: June - 15th July 2022

  • Shortlist: End of July 2022

  • UK Creative Festival: 6th - 8th September 2022

  • Creative Circle's 77th Awards Ceremony: 8th September 2022

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Creative Circle, Thu, 14 Apr 2022 15:52:00 GMT