The Future of Data & Automation: Key Takeaways from the 2020 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting

Consumer trust, privacy, data integration, staffing, and brand safety led the data conversation at the Data and Automation Track of the 2020 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting (ALM). Arriving on the heels of Google’s announcement to discontinue the use of third-party cookies, the stage was set for lively and timely discussion around the future of the media industry and how data practices will need to evolve in the next two years.

Here are some highlights and key takeaways from the Data & Automation Track at ALM:

Rebuilding consumer trust starts with acknowledging the value exchange between consumers and data practices. Brands need to have a conversation with consumers about how their data is used. This can be accomplished by focusing on how we, as media industry leaders, can look at the loss of the cookie as an opportunity to develop a value exchange with our consumers. LiveRamp’s Travis Clinger noted: “We, as an ecosystem, failed to understand the value exchange we have with consumers. Now is our opportunity to tell the story of the exchange between data and consumers. We need to regain the consumer’s trust.”

The recipe for data-driven success is to focus on your data, your people, and your internal collaborations. Throughout the data track, several companies shared their tactics in developing a data-centric structure and the lessons they’ve learned. Consistently we heard that brands need to build a data-centric structure that uses data as a real-time input in the creative process. This doesn’t mean it replaces skilled, human intuition rather it improves business decision making.

Streaming service Hulu uses first-party data in every aspect of their brand building. Jaya Kolhatkar, Chief Data Officer, Hulu, explained: “Every single team at Hulu is data-driven. It is how we are successful, and it gives us the ability to tie together areas that could have been siloed. Over the last 18 months, we’ve worked on showcasing data for accessibility across teams. We’ve helped change the culture to reduce intimidation to work with the data.” As a result, Hulu learned from its data that 40% of consumers binge every month and they consume 3+ episodes in one sitting. Internal teams use this information to create ads directly targeted to binge viewers to create a better ad experience.

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Hearst uses data as a real-time input in the creative process. Todd Haskell, Senior Vice President and CMO, Hearst Magazines, explained that the data does not replace skilled, human intuition but contributes to all areas of business decision making. “We try to make the creative teams understand that we can use data to identify who to target, how to distribute, but not stifle creativity. We bring a diversity of perspectives to make decisions.”

Brands cannot outsource their values. A by-product of the growth of programmatic advertising solutions is the growth of brand safety and brand suitability issues. Agencies, brands, publishers, and ad tech partners all share in the stewardship of advertiser sanctioned digital ad placements. Without set standards, brands risk the unintended consequences of running in an unfavorable digital environment inconsistent with their brand values potentially jeopardizing long-term consumer trust.

Terri Schriver, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Customer Engagement and Investment, Bank of America, summarized it this way: “Brands need to engage; you can’t outsource the brand responsibility to partners. You need to protect your brands.”

Apply data insights to your long-term success. Know where the market is headed 18 months from now. Lung Huang, Head of Growth Solutions for Kinship, a division of Mars Petcare, shared a few tidbits from his specific business, noting that millennials own pets more than any segment and that Chinese empty nesters, who only have one child, now turn to pet companionship. These data-driven insights create new opportunities for business growth.

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Content and context matter. If an ad is completely irrelevant to the environment where it is placed, then it is wasted. Know your ad environments, and strive for relevance over frequency, not only for brand safety but for brand synergy to increase your opportunities to engage your target audience.

Personalization is under reconstruction. Audience targeting is at a crossroads as the era of the cookie ends, making some experts suggest offering payment for data access as a possible solution. Consumers tell you about themselves in exchange for an incentive. That said, a new challenge may emerge when trying to balance business-related data sharing and crossing the line to an uncomfortable transaction.

Get involved. IAB is embarking on an industry-wide initiative to rearchitect the digital marketing landscape while aligning the interests of consumers, businesses, and governments. Project Rearc needs industry leaders from the brand, agency, publisher, platform, and technology industries to join and address consumer demands for personalization and privacy through behavioral standards, codes of conduct, legal agreements, and enabling technologies. To learn more, visit iab.com/rearc.

Learn more about Project Rearc


Orchid Richardson
Vice President and Managing Director, Data Center of Excellence
at IAB

Joe Pilla
Director, Data & Automation
at IAB