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Prolific North Expo 2016

This week we visited Prolific North Live at the Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester. Billed as the biggest-ever gathering of media, marketing and creative professionals outside of London, we were eager to see what was in store! Here’s a quick recap of our day.

Determined not to let Manchester’s bleak grey skylines put a downer on the day we headed straight to the BBC’s Market & Audience talk, we’d earmarked this as a key talk of the day. It was interesting to see how an organisation as large as the BBC used its huge amount of data to shape its campaigns.

Sharing content among so many outlets can create difficulties in finding a balance between retaining the core message but also being relevant to the audience of that channel. The BBC combat this by having media planners sit within each channel, they shape the content to their channel to ensure it remains relevant.

Stakeholder management was another key area at the BBC and the best way around it? Having undeniably good ideas and campaigns, it makes things much easier if everyone’s onboard.

They were honest enough to say they were late to the party when it came to social media, but they’ve been quick to catch up. In order to promote the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the BBC created a roadblock across all their channels and combined this with creating a mini social media thunderclap across all of their social channels, whilst using their BBC influencers to push the message out. The result was a huge amount of interest and reaction, whilst reaching the vast majority of the UK population.


In between talks – Quick opportunity to check out some cricket history at Emirates Old Trafford

Back to business….


The Content section was really interesting, the infamous Paddy Power were up first, with Paul Mallon, Head Of Digital Engagement. His key message was ‘aspire to make content that is uncompromising’, as consumers ‘will smell bullsh*t a mile away’. They also showed a number of campaigns that didn’t work; for all of their huge successes, they have a few (expensive) fails. Paul emphasised not to be afraid to pull the plug on things that aren’t working, even if they’ve been invested in.

Stuart Rowson, Digital Sports Editor at the BBC, explained the importance they now place on mobile. Everything from design, content and video is all geared to mobile. In the office, he actively encourages his employees to pick up their phone and view the website as their users are. He believes content is still king, but as long as its mobile ready!


Bryan Adams, CEO at Ph Creative, believes that our attention spans haven’t suddenly got shorter, but we just have a lower tolerance for poor content. He emphasised that marketers should not become lazy; “be bigger and be better!”

Dave Chaffey posed a series of digital questions that still baffle him in 2016, some interesting points that came up were;

  • Why don’t more businesses have an integrated digital strategy? It’s 2016, stop acting like digital is something separate!
  • Mobile adaptive over mobile responsive design? Some businesses are more geared towards mobile audiences, should your mobile website design be the priority? And not just a responsive design from your desktop version?
  • Why isn’t the promise of marketing automation fulfilled? A crucial aspect that’s too often ignored.

Takeaway points

  • Should mobile be your priority? (Probably)
  • Don’t focus on the content too much, it’s just the output, instead focus on the story. Great storytelling will always lead to great content.
  • Make sure your content is uncompromising, audiences are less tolerable too lazy marketing.
  • There’s still a lack of strategy when it comes to digital, don’t just do it because everyone else is. Plan ahead and make sure it’s integrated to your business.
  • A theme throughout the day; some marketing departments were disjointed from their organisation, instead they now focus on looking inwards which helps shape external activities, therefore giving a better and more genuine reflection of the business.

All in all, a great day at Prolific North Expo! Plenty of food for thought for marketing and digital going forward. We’ll hopefully see you at the Expo next year! ^ST

PS. 2016 has been widely tipped as the year that Virtual Reality breaks into the mainstream, as a result I had to try the VR headset that the BBC had at their exhibition stand. As amazing as the technology is, it made me feel really sick. I also felt a little naked! Everyone in the room could see me but I couldn’t see any of them, I’ll stick to normal reality this year thanks!

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