Key Takeaways from the PROI EMEA Conference 2019

From the corners of Europe, over 60 staff and partners descended on Prague in early October.

The aim of the annual regional conference two-fold. The first is a meeting of the minds, so consultants from PROI member agencies can discuss key trends in the industry, debate how they are responding and update each other on interesting campaigns and insights from recent client work.

It’s also an opportunity to build stronger connections between our agencies, have one on one meetings with those that work on joint clients, and connect with agencies who have recently been brought into the network – this year we were joined by new partners from Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

The meeting in Prague, with a view of Prague castle, was an intriguing insight into the PROI network – which reaches it’s 50th year in 2020!

To fill you in, we’ve pulled together a couple of key takeaways from the two-day conference:

  1. Start with “Story-doing”

A simple concept, but one which is too often forgotten when planning a new campaign. From ESG to financial education, brands are often over eager to become involved in new conversations, before they have been able to show that they have skin in the game.

Our colleagues from fischerAppelt AG presented on their years of experience with Ben and Jerry’s, and how they brought the company’s purpose to life in Germany. They demonstrated that a key component of the success of the launch of Ben and Jerry’s first bricks and mortar story in Germany was their long-term commitment to activists, who were invited to a special launch of the store.

The campaign reinforced the idea that you have to first show that you are doing first, and have credibility, before developing the story.

  1. Next steps for the media

“Fake news” and the “rise of the algorithm” were hot on peoples’ lips after two fascinating presentations from our hosts.

In particular, the issues facing some of our neighbours, dealing with state sponsored disinformation campaigns. While some mentioned the need for a regional standard or watermark, the consensus was that at an absolute minimum, brands need to keep a very close watch on where their ads appear online.

An ad from a well-known brand on a website spreading “fake news”, adds legitimacy to the article, and in doing so damages the brand by association.

While the threat of “fake news” is clear, the impact that algorithms have is more opaque.

Though algorithms help us manage information overload, systemic flaws have exposed bias in everything from hospital forms to credit rating systems (as was recently exposed in Apple Card). The lack of a formal mechanism for review, and the current system of self-policing by the social media giants is still a concern – and discussions ranged from the right to privacy to the impact of voice recognition on the way we interact in our homes.

  1. Rise of the digital exec

Almost any brand we encounter in our daily life has a presence on social media. Despite this, many executives still shy away from building their own social presence.

Too often they’re too afraid of saying the wrong thing to say anything, but having active leaders on social media is an important step towards building trust and affinity with a brand – even for small and medium sized businesses.

BrandFog reported that 79% of people agree that “CEOs on social media who take a stand on the key social can act as role models for the next generation of leaders,” which highlights that its not enough for anymore for  CEOs to hide behind a corporate brand.


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