The event operates under the Chatham House rule, so I will not be naming names or revealing too many gory details about what was discussed in the seminars, talks, lunches and bars of the venue over the two days. But as I talked with attendees, listened to talks – and chaired the branded content town halls – a few key words kept sticking out.

I’ve listed these below, in no particular order.

1. Transparency

This word was used again and again and could well be the industry buzzword of 2018. From retainers to margins, tech fees to creative costs, transparency is the word. Advertisers want to know where the money goes – they know it goes somewhere – and want more and more transparency across the advertising supply chain.

Expect more to come on transparency as the year progresses.

2. Collaboration

This was a big part of the branded content town halls that I chaired, but also clear from wider conversations, too. Whether an agency, advertiser or technology, there is one thing that is clear in 2018: you can do much, much more through collaboration. The disparate, fickle nature of online audiences; the data; the technology; and the competition are so vast in digital that success now has to be a collaborative effort.

What does this mean in practice? It means trust. Advertisers have to trust their agencies; agencies have to trust their partners to speak directly to their advertisers (without trying to steal them); technology partners have to trust their trading partners to manage their clients effectively; media owners have to trust technology partners and advertisers to build long term partnerships.

Transparency will help here. Like the Colombian drug cartels portrayed in Narcos, the current climate is of reluctant collaboration and a suspicious view that someone, somewhere, is ripping someone off. This will have to change in 2018.

3. Mindfulness

This word popped up often in talks and conversations.

What does it mean? Well, “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Why the use? I think it’s an attempt by technology companies in particular to become more humble. It’s about reconnecting with start-up status, while trying to steer away from hubris. 2017 was a bad year for the Silicon Valley technology sector in terms of perception and PR (revenues were still awesome, though). It’s popular in the US and Silicon Valley – and it’s interesting to see it creeping into the thoughts and minds of UK leaders, too.

Mindfulness, it seems, is the phrase – and way of thinking – that is now encouraged to show that, to use a more British word – they don’t come across quite so ‘cocky.’

4. Change

I’ve worked in digital since 2001. When I started work the vast majority of the UK was on dial-up. Now I spend a lot of my time talking about mobile phone advertising with an artificial intelligence capability. That’s change. Change is inevitable.

And change is going to come at us faster and faster as technology becomes ever more advanced. Change will come in the form of greater transparency, collaboration and better technology, for sure. But there’s additional change on the horizon, too: major changes to media consumption habits; platform regulation; the changing nature of work and the workplace.

Politically, we live in extraordinary times, too: Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump and the greater polarisation of society mean that the environments in which we run our businesses can change suddenly on the whims of political immediacy. Expect more change in 2018!

5. Consolidation

This is the word on everyone’s lips this year. We’ve already had Sir Martin Sorrell clarify that consolidation is on the cards at WPP after 2017 was ‘not pretty’and Trinity Mirror buy The Express & Star titles. Expect to see more consolidation of big name agency brands, ad-tech and, publishers, too as industry leaders come to recognise that the bigger you are, the better you can embrace many of the volatile topics points covered above.

When two businesses take the lion’s share of advertising spend – and advertisers are confused about where they should be trusting their media spend – consolidation increasingly makes a lot of sense.

2018: The Year to Come

Read the above and it can seem like a ‘carousel of despair’ for business leaders trying to navigate ways through such constant change. Change can be scary. But all change brings opportunity. And where there is opportunity – there’s always a digital business model waiting to go big. We are in a period of change, yes, but haven’t we always in digital?

Rather than look at it as doom and gloom I’d prefer to think of change as opportunity for challengers and even long-established businesses – perhaps beaten, but not quite broken by the Tsunami of technological advances in recent years – to establish or re-establish themselves and take our fantastic industry off into fascinating new directions.

That’s exciting, isn’t it?

Econsultancy runs a variety of advertising training courses.