This year’s Festival of Marketing, again held at Tobacco Dock in Wapping, provided another fascinating mix of big name headliners along with dozens of break out sessions delivered by leading marketing practitioners, theorists and solutions providers. Each of the break out rooms focused on a key area of marketing with up to 8 sessions a day across subject matter which covered personalisation, content, social media, multichannel, data and analytics, brand and creative, b2b, digital transformation, customer experience and insights.

Most of the sessions were invigorated by the sheer calibre of the speakers who delivered them, all sharing their unique experiences, insights and in depth knowledge. These included many leading marketers, experts and specialists drawn from some of the biggest brands and leading solution providers from across the world. To name just a selection by way of illustration: Alison Clark – Associate Partner IBM IX Centre of Competence, Ryan Davies – Head of CRM & Loyalty at Marks and Spencer, Cass Gowing – Global Social Media Manager at AllSaints, Alastair Pegg – Marketing Director Co-operative Bank, Vijayanta Gupta – Head of Product & Industry Marketing at Adobe, Grace Smedley – Global Digital Media Manager at Just Eat, Robin Phillips – Omnichannel and Development Directorat Boots UK, Sarah Ellis – Head of Marketing Strategy – at Sainsbury’s, Sylvia Jensen – Senior Director of EMEA Marketing at Oracle Marketing Cloud, Mark Palmer – Group Marketing Director at- Pret A Manger, Rachael Pettit – Marketing and Business Director at Uber, Christian O’Connell – Radio DJ from Absoloute Radio, Keith Moor – CMO at Santander, Matthew Harwood – Analytics Manager at theRoyal Bank of Scotland… and the list goes on and on. Because all of this is somewhat information overload, will be blogging in more detail with summaries of some of the best of these presentations over the next few weeks.

Whilst most of the seminars were highly informative and thought-provoking, the headline speakers were positively stimulating. The event kicked off with Keith Weed, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer from Unilever, a very lucid and engaging speaker who outlined Unlever’s response to the digital transformation. Their vision is to grow the business while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing positive social impact. He identified sustainability as a driver of consumer-led profitable growth, introduced the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan and has pioneered new ways of integrating sustainability into the business. Keith has led a step change in marketing at Unilever, most notably with significant advances in digital marketing and technologies. This has included investing in numerous start up businesses, aligned to their overall strategy, to introduce new approaches and ways of thinking which the business incorporates.

The evening session commenced with legendary ad man Sir Martin Sorrell who founded WPP, the world’s largest advertising and marketing services group in 1985 which now employs nearly 190,000 people in over 3,000 offices in 112 countries. He has been chief executive throughout. In conversation with Carolin Roth from CNBC, he discussed the impact of Brexit, the role of technology and data in marketing and whether brands are too risk-averse and cost focused. Authority and knowledge poured out of him and the amount of statistics at his fingertips was almost mesmeric.

Even he was outshone however by the sheer boyish enthusiasm of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. For someone who has genuinely ‘got the tee shirt’ – having founded Apple with Steve Jobs in a Silicon Valley garage back in 1977, and then seen the company go through many ups and some very deep downs to ultimately become the world’s most valuable business – he is clearly still fascinated and enthused by technology and discovery. It was amazing to hear him explain how he single–handedly designed the first personal computer then invented the Apple II, with a central processing unit, a keyboard, colour graphics, and a floppy disk drive, which revolutionised the personal computer industry.

The final keynote speaker was also fascinating, albeit in a very different way. Whatever you may think of Katie Price, you have to admire her achievements having started a modelling career from the Sun’s Page 3 onto Vogue, Playboy, Elle, New Women, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan. As the modelling came to a natural end, she then built a successful TV career and, more recently, a very successful business empire all contributing to develop a unique personal brand. She discussed this and more during an interview that illustrated an undoubted savviness and an insight into her symbiotic relationship with the press. Love her or loathe her, you have to admire her ability to maximise her assets.