Future of Britain: Now and Next

One year on from the launch of our Future of Britain research initiative, last week OMD UK was proud to host the Future of Britain: Now and Next. Taking over the Truman Brewery’s Boiler House on Wednesday 21st May, this was our first media event for our client brands, media partners and industry peers to celebrate the latest findings from our Future of Britain research and explore the future implications for consumer interactions with brands, media and technology.

Insight Director Chris Worrell kicked off the agenda with a recap of our story so far. 18 months ago in the wake of the recession OMD UK realised that Britain was fundamentally changing, with huge implications for the make-up of the British household, our behaviours, aspirations and interactions with technology and the brands that are part of our daily lives. We decided to seek deeper insights and so we launched the Future of Britain research initiative, starting with a single quant study of 2000 Britons in the Spring of 2013.

Fast forward to today and we’re now into our 3rd wave of research and very proud that the initiative has taken off to such an extent that our OMD peers across the world are now adopting similar approaches with 5 further markets across the OMD Network launching their own ‘Future Of…’ studies this year (LATAM, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Belgium).

See it for yourself

It’s been an inspiring journey and we’ve uncovered some fascinating themes (Crunched Consumers, Generation Rent, The Private Squeeze, Anonymity Illusion and Stack and Snack, to name just a few), but integral to our findings at every stage has been the proliferation of technology and the increasing scale of influence that it is having on how we are engaging with media and interacting with brands in our daily lives. For example, did you know that 40% of us check our phones throughout the day for no particular reason? Or that 55% of Britons agree that technology has helped them save money? And I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear that 51% of us feel more ‘in control’ because of the internet. Technology even evolved our own research methods and helped us to get closer to the British consumer through our first mobile ethnographic study – Living with Future Britain – which launched earlier this year. With this in mind, the Future of Britain: Now and Next was borne of the desire to focus on technology and media innovation and deliver an event that would allow our brand and media partners to explore and experience these insights for themselves.

“New conundrums”

So, following Chris’ introduction, OMD UK launched a series of short presentations on the 3 key trends from the latest wave of our research. I will never be able to do them justice here, but, by way of a recap, Insight Manager, Denise Funke and Managing Partner of Strategy, Hamid Habib, started us off by talking through ‘Connected Britain’ – at a time when we are all ‘hyper-connected’ through multiple technologies and devices which give us access to limitless sources of information, we’re faced with the conundrum of reliance versus independence. A new ‘Agile Consumer’ is born, and far from the cry that traditional media channels are dead, we’re seeing that, instead, new media moments within these channels have been created as a result of this hyper-connectivity.

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Next up, Digital Development Director, Tim Denyer, and Managing Partner Strategy, Rian Shah, took us through the Empowered Consumer: technology has created an age of ‘perfect information’, referring to the limitless supply of information, choice and brand alternatives at our fingertips, which impacts our purchase behaviours and relationships with brands. 47% of us have chosen NOT to buy something because of information about the brand that we have uncovered online which goes against our values. Now more than ever brands need to build trust and operate in a culture of openness and transparency with their customers.

Toby Gunton, Head of Innovation, and Ann Wixley, Creative Director, rounded off OMD UK’s presentations by exploring our third key trend, Living at Speed: as our lives adopt an increasingly fast pace, we’re seeing yet more contradicting behaviours from Britain. On the one hand, our attention spans are shorter and we are both demanding and creating shorter experiences and more digestible, bite-size content that can help us in the areas of our lives where we feel overloaded. On the other, we want time out and the chance to slow down. We’re seeing an increase in people enforcing the concept of a ‘digital retreat’ into their daily and weekly routines by simply ‘switching off’ and seeking out media that will force them to stop and slow down.

A risky approach?

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Whilst pleased to share our research findings, we didn’t want our audience to just take our word for it. So next on the afternoon’s agenda was a live focus group panel, hosted by former TV news journalist Katie Ledger. We invited 6 members of the British public (yes, ‘real’ people) up on to the stage to discuss these themes and hear their own (completely unchecked, unprimed and unfiltered) views and opinions on technology and their interactions with the brands in their lives. A risky approach, some may say, for a media agency to test its findings and theories live in front of its clients, but the focus group panel was a hit. Energy in the room was electric, audience attention peaked, there were lots of laughs (thank you Michael) and we delivered fresh, live insights to our ‘media bubble’ audience (a little in-joke for those who attended on the day – Dan will never again be able to tweet from a front row seat, Michael might be watching).

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The afternoon concluded with a final panel discussion, again facilitated by Katie Ledger, but this time we heard from the industry experts. TechCrunch Editor at Large, Mike Butcher, Marketa Mach, Piers North (Strategy Director, Yahoo UK), Harry Davies (Google), Cameron Worth (EVRYTHNG), Inmaculada ~Martinez (favr:tt) and Alex Pink (CEO of Eat Cake Media) all gave their own views the increasing web of interaction between brands, media, technology and the British consumer, and how, in their minds, this will evolve in the future and what brands need to do to prepare for these changes. An engaging debate and the perfect way to round of the day, before we all got stuck in to playing with Google’s Chromecast Photowall and some of the latest products from Evrything, take a sneaky peak at some 3D printing from Hobs Reprographic, all washed down with British Pimms and canapés, of course.

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We’d like to extend a big thank you to all our partners who helped to make the event a success, and to everybody who was able to join us and for your positive feedback.
In the next few days we will be sharing videos of the key presentations here on this blog and an e-book of the day’s key findings is also coming soon, so if you’d like a copy, please do let us know, we would love to hear from you. And of course you can continue to follow our progress here via this blog – the new home of our Future of Britain initiative – and by following @OMD_UK and #britfuture


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