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The buzz from opening night spilled over as a full-day of robust sessions got underway on Monday, February 22, at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Carlsbad, CA. Randall Rothenberg, President and Chief Executive Officer of the IAB, wasted no time, knowing he was the only thing standing between the audience of C-level marketers, agencies and publishes and what they came to participate in—intense discussion and debate on the next wave of revenue in digital advertising.  After calling attention to several pieces of key industry news being released on site by the IAB, Rothenberg introduced the first brand marketer to take the stage, Frank Cooper III, Senior Vice President, Chief Consumer Engagement Officer, PepsiCo Americas Beverages.

“We are in the middle of a brand marketing crisis,” proclaimed Cooper, asking the audience to challenge any thinking, systems and models that do not make the human connection with brands. Focusing on how digital technology allows marketers to relate to consumers in new ways, he stressed the importance of creating opportunities to truly add value to the lives of target audiences, citing the recent Pepsi Refresh campaign that elevated users to the brands level, rather than continuing to strictly talk at them.

Tolman Geffs, Co-President, The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc., balanced humor and in-depth analysis as he took on the task of providing an investment banker’s view of the current industry. M&A made a comeback in the second half of 2009, confirming that the digital space is still great place to create value. Geffs also showed a renewing trend toward robust growth due to the rapid pace of innovation and adoption in the space. View his complete presentation here.

 

What is considered “traditional” media or business models took to the stage next to explore how companies, individuals and partnerships are evolving—and reinventing—to stay relevant in the expanding digital lives of their audiences. Eric Hippeau, Chief Executive Officer, The Huffington Post, denied the charge that the popular site is contributing to the death of newspapers. He differentiated the Huffington Post from the traditional paper format by putting opinion front and center in the news and integrating social aspects that newspapers can’t keep up with. Describing the business model as having one foot firmly planted in technology and the other in content, he reinforced the online news outlets goal of providing information that is of interest to a wide group of audiences—from politics to sports to entertainment and more.

Predictions of the demise of advertising agencies have certainly not been understated, but Bryan Wiener, Chief Executive Officer of 360, just isn’t buying it. Clearly acknowledging that the current agency model is broken and that no single agency model will ever work for all clients, he followed Cooper’s lead by highlighting the needed value exchange between brand marketers and their consumers and how agencies can help brands replace “intrude and interrupt” with “inform and engage.” Three steps that will lead the way are 1.) Agencies must excel at using the Internet as the world's largest focus group 2.) Agencies must have search, social and mobile as the cores elements of agency DNA 3.) Agencies must be platform and tactic agnostic.

Meredith Corporation executives, Jack Griffin and Martin Reidy, then shed some light on how they envisions the magazine of the future continuing to bring them closer to customers and how their evolving business model--including agency services--helps them meet the demands of clients. Interactive pictures, text and viewing options will transform the print publications into essential content on any mobile device.

At the IAB Digital Video Marketplace in April, Curt Hecht,President, VivaKi Nerve Center, VivaKi, and Tracey Scheppach, Senior Vice President/Video Innovation Director, VivaKi, introduced attendees to the idea of The Pool--a collaborative research project designed to determine exactly what the future of video advertising will look like. Now they were both back with the results. The winning ad unit… The Ad Selector, allowing users to pick one of three available video assets based on relevancy. Some qualitative insights that proved important to users where personal ad relevance, empowering the viewer, respecting the viewer's time, leveraging the web and viewing orientations.

"I believe that the display industry is one of the most innovative areas of the web right now," said Google's Vice President of Product Management, Susan Wojcicki, as she presented seven trends Google thinks are important for an industry going through such massive change. Frictionless buying of ad inventory, more revenue from sophisticated yield management and developing the perfect ads for every user all made the list of Google hot buttons.

What do users want and will they pay for it? The answer isn't that simple according to Gordon McLeod, President, The Wall Street Journal Digital Network. While WSJ.com has successfully charged for its digital content since 1997 while growing its overall online, video, out-of-home and mobile audience. Many factors such as differentiation, ad sales support, audience demographics and channel options went into the decision to maintain a pay wall and should be analyzed if any hybrid business model is considered.

Change the pace of the afternoon, Avner Ronen, Chief Executive Officer of boxee, demoed the software, explaining the next wave of convergence. The integration of cable, internet, social media tools and other applications will continue to give consumers what they need and provide new opportunities for advertisings to engage target audiences in unique ways.

Social media dominated the closing sessions of the day as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and SocialMedia.com compared and contrasted their individual advertising models--with Twitter expected to introduce an ad unit in the coming days. Seth Goldstein, Co-Founder and Chairman of SocialMedia.com, moderated the panel. His presentation is available here. New MySpace executives, Nada Stirratt, Chief Revenue Officer, MySpace and Jason Hirschhorn, Co-President, also answered questions from Rothenberg on the recent organization changes, the diverse "entertainment" audience of the site and the future of brand marketing vs. direct response messaging in the social sphere.