WPP Stream Europe 2022: A Torrent Of New Ideas

WPP Stream offers an unconventional, laidback take on debate and discussion in the advertising industry. Hosting a variety of start-ups, tech companies, and marketing leaders, the “unconference” brings together a diverse array of speakers with various standpoints to celebrate creativity and innovation in the industry.

Bringing her insights in gaming, metaverse, marketing, and creativity, Anzu’s EVP for Marketing & Strategy, Natalia Vasilyeva, attended the WPP Stream Europe event and took her spot on several discussion panels covering the next exciting topics within business and technology.

Gaming: the biggest new social connector

With 11 discussion topics every hour across the two-day event, one of the highlights was the discussion around gaming as a social connector — is it a blessing or a curse?

The topic of safety is huge in gaming, from kids’ safety online to brand safety for advertisers. Yet gamers have revealed they often feel much safer and more socially connected to their own communities in games than in real life, particularly around discussions of sexuality, gender, identity, and representation.

Natalia Vasilyeva EVP Marketing Strategy Anzu WPP Stream Europe 2022

Anzu’s EVP Marketing & Strategy Natalia Vasilyeva attended this year’s WPP Stream Europe.

This may come as a surprising twist for some advertisers, given the ‘antisocial’ label often prescribed to gamers. Speaking of labels, according to Anzu’s proprietary research in the UK, half of the people who play games ‘definitely’ self-identify as gamers, and 75% of gamers say that going out and socializing is important to them. It goes to show that gaming is just another channel, just the same as TV, movies, and social media. Gamers are everywhere and of all ages, genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

With the scale of gaming as the biggest media channel in the world, and with the gaming industry expected to be worth over $321bn by 2026, the channel has the power to change and shift the world of advertising forever. That said, many advertisers still don’t yet recognize the power of gaming and why they should include it in their strategy, often shying away from gaming in their media strategies as something they don’t personally understand. But, as one Stream speaker said, gaming is no longer a separate thing, and it should be activated the same as all other channels. Non-endemic brands are leading the way by getting into gaming early doors, far quicker than endemic brands, according to Activision Blizzard’s session.

Gaming still holds a massive social pull for gamers to connect with their friends and communities online compared to conventional social media. It will be interesting to see how games, and the brands that advertise within them, continue to evolve with a more social aspect — and even further with the metaverse — by Stream Europe 2023.

WPP Stream Europe 2022 location-1

WPP Stream Europe’s breakout sessions were held in small discussion groups throughout the site.

Sustainability is the next mountain to climb in advertising

One topic not often discussed when it comes to advertising is sustainability, so it was an unexpected but pleasant surprise to see it surface at Stream 2022. Branching across several key discussions, the main question remained the same — how sustainable is advertising?

While advertisers may want to tackle the big topic of sustainability, many simply don’t know where to start. While many are unwilling to pay more for sustainable and eco-friendly measures like packaging, the main sticking point seems to be that we as brands need to be able to measure how sustainable you are, before you can set benchmarks and goals for future endeavors.

GoodLoop’s session, titled ‘15 Shades of Grey’, tackled sustainability and other big topics at WPP Stream Europe 2022.

This leaves MarTech at an impasse when it comes to sustainability. When there’s no technology or standards for sustainability, how can we start measuring it? To tackle today’s issues, we need to work together as an industry across media. Companies and competitors are currently closed off from one another and don’t want to cooperate with each other. How can we resolve it? More transparency and trust is needed from brands, who need to treat agencies as partners, listen to their advice, and collaborate — especially with an upcoming recession. Only with more open communication can we tackle the challenges that lie ahead.


Advertisers who step out of their comfort zone win in the long run

Strangely, there was still some hesitation around gaming as an advertising channel from advertisers at WPP Stream Europe. There’s the mystery of the “metaverse” and what it really is (we argue that it’s gaming!). But with “metaverse” on everyone’s lips, but without a solid definition, it can be hard to predict exactly how brands will look to incorporate it into their strategies.

Board of discussions on Friday at WPP Stream Europe 2022WPP Stream Europe’s ‘discussions’ or debates on various topics — across 2 days and with 11 sessions every hour — were agreed on-site and written up on two enormous whiteboards.

But with every ‘new’ channel before — from CTV to social media — there will always be an element of trial and test, and the metaverse is no different. Rather than sticking to comfort zones and refusing to experiment with a new media, it's high time advertisers took the opportunity to invest in the new channel.


Brand marketing versus performance marketing

Many discussion groups brought up the swinging balance between brand marketing and performance marketing. While brand marketing is by far the more long-term of the two, many industry leaders still don’t recognize its power, preferring to throw everything (including the kitchen sink) into performance for quick-and-easy wins. However, participants in the talks stated that it’s important to build brand affinity and equity — easier said than done for CMOs and C-suite executives who may not have the time or luxury!

One thing that was really driven home throughout the entire event was how well (or not) we use data to tell stories. Currently, we underestimate the power of data, and we may be missing out on key insights in the rush to jump to our own conclusions. Instead, the participants concluded that data is nothing without actionable insights, and we as an industry need to do more to ensure that data is integral to the story, not something additional to it.

What happens now?

It's clear that gaming is here to stay, and the advertisers and brands that get onboard with the medium now are the ones that will benefit the most. Thanks to our partnerships with WPP, NBCUniversal, Sony, HTC, and more global powerhouse companies, Anzu is at the forefront of in-game advertising and metaverse marketing and in the best possible position to help advertisers get into the gaming channel — whether you want to dip your toes or dive straight in.

But the time to act is now. As gaming grows in popularity with the biggest names in branding, advertisers have the chance to get things right from the start and build a future-proof strategy within gaming and the metaverse. Why not get started with us right now?


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Natalia Vasilyeva

Natalia Vasilyeva has been in the AdTech industry since 2013 and is currently VP Marketing at Anzu. She is a hands-on marketer with an extensive experience across different business domains. Natalia brings expertise in branding, positioning and content as well as strategic and managerial excellence to Anzu She is a dog lover and an advocate of sustainable living. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Natalia Vasilyeva