Matt Scheckner, the chief executive of Stillwell Partners, which runs AWE and the original Advertising Week in New York, said he was hoping the new venue would take the whole event to a new level.
"The logistics of what we did last year were ridiculously ambitious. We built a building that went up and down in ten days next to Bafta, we had to buy out the market in front of St James Church next door to do it, the delegate queues were all outside at Bafta, and the single corridor inside was very tight and there wasn’t a proper space for a delegates lounge. Net-net we made it work but we knew we had to alleviate the physical pressure. We’ll see how people respond to the Picturehouse Central this year; I always say ‘hold the applause till the curtain comes down’".
With more than 220 events in London through Thursday, the festival will include sessions with speakers such as Keith Weed, the chief marketing and communications officer for Unilever; Martin Sorrell, the chief executive of WPP; Nick Bell, the vice-president of content for Snapchat; and David Abraham, the CEO of Channel 4.
"I’m really excited about the programme," Scheckner said. "It goes a lot deeper; it’s the strongest thought-leadership programme that we’ve had. A lot of that is guided by the fact that we have no theme and if there’s a little bit of paprika in the whole thing, the extra spice, that’s it – it means you’re not boxing people in."
Tonight’s opening night gala is being held in Southwark Cathedral.
"I’ve been to church more than I’ve been to the synagogue in the last year," Scheckner said, "as I’ve been working with the Dean of the Cathedral. I’m top Jew with the Anglicans right now I think. I asked them if they would ever consider allowing us to use their church – it’s a beautiful place, it’s William Shakespeare’s parish, it’s stunning and everything we asked for they’re allowing us to do.
"Sky came in as our partner this year and Rachel Bristow [director, client partner and collaboration, Sky Media Sales] and her team have a really great vision around Game of Thrones, which is the theme for the evening. Then for the closing night we booked Jack Garrett, who just won Brit’s Critics Choice Award at Coco."
After launching in New York nearly 12 years ago, Advertising Week is now in its fourth year in Europe. It will debut in Tokyo on 30 May and in Mexico City next year.
"There’s a delegation from Mexico City coming to London for AWE this week," Scheckner said. "We’re looking at a one-off in Havana, maybe then Sydney and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for us to start up something in ad-tech in Israel."