Make the Internet Great Again


Make the Internet Great Again

Stuart Aitken

Stuart Aitken looks back over the last three years of the Digitas UK NewFront and explains how the agency arrived at the theme for this year’s event.

We’ve always been proud to be the only agency representative in the IAB Digital Upfronts line up. We feel that we have a unique role to play in the week-long event. IAB CEO Jon Mew summed it up very well after last year’s event when he said, “The Digitas NewFront event really gives brands something a bit different. Whereas all the other Digital Upfronts events give media owners the chance to show off what they’re doing, this gives marketers a chance to come and think about things in a new way.”  

Over the course of our involvement in the UK Digital Upfronts, we’ve assembled a range of interesting thinkers for our annual event. Since 2014, the likes of Cindy Gallop, Richard Ayoade, Lauren Laverne, David Baddiel, Adam Buxton, biophysicist Hugh Herr and Nasa astronaut Reid Wiseman have tackled key issues facing both our industry and society as a whole. 

In 2014, we focused on the role that brands can play in creating culture. In 2015, the focus was on transformation - and what a buzzword that’s now become. Last year, under the theme of ‘Marketing in the Maelstrom’, we curated an afternoon of discussions on how brands and advertisers could respond to some of the seemingly chaotic events of the latter half of 2016. Discussions ranged from the ways in which digital technology has forced government to rethink their approach to data, to the efforts of challenger brands to look beyond quantitative data to better understand their audiences, to the role that creativity plays in political communications. 

Interestingly, last year’s event took place in those innocent days post Brexit but pre-Trump - the biggest shock was still to come. And so, the key discussions about how to understand and respond to apparent chaos where the normal rules don’t seem to apply have continued to be a major theme of 2017. As a result, we continue to advise clients on innovative ways that they can use digital technology - and in particular data - to better understand and communicate with their customers.  

As a logical evolution of all of this, this year’s theme is ‘Make the Internet Great Again’. Throughout the last year there’s been a growing sense that digital technology is at least partly to blame for some of the chaos that we’re living through. At a very dark SXSW in Austin for example, the spectre of the alt right, and the unholy alliance between Donald Trump, Breitbart, Cambridge Analytica and the like haunted the conference. So at NewFront 2017, we’ll be assessing the extent to which the original dream of the internet has been hijacked by forces we can’t control and exploring the power of brands to make the internet great again. 

To help us do this, we have much to look forward to. We’re very excited that author and broadcaster Jamie Bartlett will be opening NewFront 2017. Jamie has just published his second book, Radicals, an exploration of the individuals, groups and movements who are rejecting the way we live now, and attempting to find alternatives. His BBC2 documentary series Secrets of Silicon Valley has also just aired. In this new series, Jamie uncovers the dark reality behind digital technology’s glittering promise to build a better world. Jamie will be exploring many of these themes at NewFront.

We’re also looking forward to the appearance of Mei Lin Fung, co-founder of the People-Centered Internet. Mei Lin is a true internet pioneer and together with Vint Cerf founded the People-Centered Internet, an organisation which believes in putting people at the centre of the internet. Mei Lin will outline why she and Vint felt it was so important to set up the People Centered Internet, why they’ve done so now, and what they hope to achieve. Mei Lin may also have a special message from Vint recorded exclusively for attendees of NewFront…

We also have a few surprises for attendees on the day, including a special guest, an author and cultural commentator who will end the day. Stay tuned for more news on the programme.

In the meantime, you can check out the latest speakers and register your interest in attending here -

Stuart Aitken

Stuart Aitken


As Head of Brand & Content at Digitas UK, Stuart is responsible for seeking out the most compelling narratives from across Digitas‘s UK businesses, identifying marketplace trends for comment and managing the Digitas brand across internal and external channels as well as social media platforms. He is also responsible for planning and providing editorial guidance for key Digitas events such as the annual thought leadership showcase NewFront.


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