IAB Annual Leadership Meeting: Day Two HIghlights
The foyer of the Frank Lloyd Wright Ballroom was buzzing Monday morning as IAB Annual Leadership Meeting attendees geared up for the full day ahead, discussing the activities of the night before, and catching up with colleagues, competitors, and new business prospects over breakfast.
After heading into the general session, attendees listened intently as Randall Rothenberg, President and Chief Executive Officer, IAB, told a story about the history of advertising from print to TV, and how it’s evolved into the long-sought-after utopia of digital advertising. But then, he changed course and challenged the audience: Have we reached that utopia yet or are we entering a new, dark age? Has our progress in telling great brand stories stalled with the advancement of technology? Have we cluttered the screens too much with “bad science” halting value creation? Then, IAB senior leaders took the stage one by one to explain what IAB is doing to solve this problem.
Rothenberg closed by presenting the founding principles of what he called “Digital Brand Advertising,” a new form of marketing expenditure.
And, Rothenberg said, “When people ask you what you do for a living, say ‘I build brands digitally!’”
The morning’s keynote speaker, Jim Speros, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Fidelity Investments, described Big Data as the power to connect things together. Big Data isn’t about processing power or storage, it’s about what you do with that data, he said. It’s about rapid experimentation, smarter decision making, and powerful and predictive insights. At Fidelity, data is the lifeblood of the business. He urged attendees to learn how to organize and unlock it, because companies that use data for a competitive edge are more than twice as likely to outsmart their competitors. But no matter how good the data is, you still need the Big Idea to make it all work. He cited Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” campaign and Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” as examples of game changing ideas. In closing, he wowed the audience with this riveting and inspirational Fidelity digital spot to remind us how powerful and idea and execution can be.
Michael Wolf, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Activate, and Anil Dash, Co-Founder, Activate, and Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, ThinkUp, illustrated what they called the data cycle. The data cycle, they said, is driven by user experience. What can you understand about your user? Use that data to create great user experiences that help you capture even more data. “Little data,” such as specific actions that a user takes, creates profiles and shadows of users, not a true sense of what people want. That’s were “Big Data” comes in. Analytics and dashboards aren’t the full solution—they can be a distraction. But they are a first step.
Mike Abbott, General Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, gave a venture capitalist’s view of the burgeoning startup space, and told of opportunities and challenges unfolding in the digital landscape. Between 2012 and 2020 the size of the digital universe will double every 2 years, he said. But one looming challenge is the effective use of data. Big Data in terms of volume is not new, but successful applications of Big Data activity is still nascent, with only a small fraction of companies latching onto the concept now. We’re still at the early stages of the trend with only 4 out of 10 marketers saying their company has a Big Data strategy. For marketers, he emphasized the need to help bridge the gap in consumer understanding about Big Data, tracking, and privacy—acknowledging that consumers often say they don’t want to be tracked, but then are willing to swap personal information for a special offer. Overall, it’s smart data we’re after, not Big Data, he said—data that will help us use history to predict the future.
The weather—with its volumes of data used to make predictions—took center stage. David Kenny, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, The Weather Company, and Curt Hecht, Global Chief Revenue Officer, The Weather Company, are helping marketers think through building advertising strategies around weather data. Weather impacts $5 trillion or approximately 1/3 of the U.S. economy and is the most primal, most universal factor in consumer decision making. Marketers want to know how the weather affects what their consumers are feeling and doing. They want to know: What does 40 degrees mean to someone in Orlando vs. someone in Seattle? What behaviors will change as the temperature changes? Those types of insights are what The Weather Company can provide marketers. On the hot topic of naming winter storms, David Kenny explained that social media saves lives—and when you name something people can more easily talk about it. This sharing is valuable for the business and consumers. It teaches The Weather Company about user behavior and it empowers people to warn friends and family.
After lunch, industry experts engaged in hot debate on the subject of native adverting. Andrew Essex, Chief Executive Officer, Droga5, asked pointed questions and demanded answers on what native advertising is and whether it’s good for the industry from Chris Cunningham, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Appssavvy; Meredith Kopit Levien, Group Publisher and Chief Revenue Officer, Forbes Media; and Jonah Peretti, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, BuzzFeed. After each shared their definition of native advertising and explained their company’s approach, they drilled down to the details. Levien revealed Forbes’ three strict rules for marketers going native in their BrandVoice product: Is it relevant to the Forbes’ environment? Is it narrative, and not a sales pitch? Can it be transparently labeled as an ad? Peretti stressed the need for brands to develop skills to respond to current events quickly, so they can truly take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, citing Oreo’s response to the Super Bowl black out. In the end, the room was left with a major question—are the publishers who provide native advertising the industry’s new creative agencies with social platforms the new standardized distributors?
To be a media and technology company—that’s the plan for AOL according to Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong. He suggested Big Ideas come before Big Data, and stressed that there needs to be a balanced approach between programmatic and non-programmatic. Marketers and publishers must not forget about what’s happening on the front of a user’s screen because they’re too focused on the targeting behind that screen, he said.
Ending the full day of sessions, attendee voices held the spotlight. The group split into four town halls each focusing on a major practical issue that is changing in the way the ecosystem operates. Drinks were served as industry thought leaders provoked lively discussion and debates with attendees. Insights from sessions will be presented tomorrow.
Stay tuned to this space for updates, recaps, photos, and videos as the 2013 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting commences.
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