Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ. In 1973, Bruce Springsteen released his first album with the hit song “Blinded by the Light”. Fifty years later, IAB gathered the leadership of the video ecosystem back in Asbury Park, NJ to shine a light on the issues that are holding back the video industry from truly embracing the opportunities that come with a fully integrated digital video infrastructure.
I am filled with inspiration to help the industry make the real change that was discussed at the IAB Video Leadership Summit. The event highlighted the friction points that hold the industry back from reaching its full potential – for consumers, publishers, platforms, ad tech, brands, and agencies. The honest discussions, set up by panelists from across the ecosystem, enabled the 100 invite-only guests, who put aside their competitive spirit and agreed to sidestep the obfuscation of industry buzzwords, to come together to set an agenda for action. I can see a path forward; and I can see the role IAB can play to get us all to a better tomorrow.
Many of Springsteen’s songs echo a belief in unity, hope, and the need to partake in a collective journey to a better tomorrow. But no song’s lyrics resonate more right now than the song “Land of Hopes and Dreams.” In it, Bruce writes, “I will provide for you, yeah, and I’ll stand by your side. You’ll need a good companion now, for this part of the ride.” We have a tough ride ahead of us as the industry converts from linear TV to digital streaming to a future informed by AI. But together we can define the journey to a prosperous tomorrow. And IAB will be the industry’s guide in this wild ride.
The event began with a few stage setting discussions that laid out the key friction points in the streaming ecosystem. Here is a summary of those issues.
- Wall Street and Hollywood’s timeline for transitioning a media business from analog to digital are on a collision course. We will likely see increased activity in new bundling packages and mergers and acquisitions. The smaller players will find it increasingly difficult to compete against the bigger players that are vertically integrated and control large amounts of first-party data. In the race for viewers and investment, premium video companies will have to fight against global organizations that have sister companies that can subsidize content creation in other markets.
- Whether it’s legacy media companies or new digital first media companies, they are all fighting for consumer time and attention, and it is important we find a way to measure impressions and attention by a common yardstick across platforms.
- As supply outpaces demand (on a macro level), brands have greater asks of their media partners: interoperability between media companies so they can get a complete understanding of their media performance; measurement that is transparent and trusted; re-calibration of the dynamics between long-term and short-term commitments (is the recalibration comment about flexibility?)
- Gen Z’s viewing habits different from older generations and there is a belief that these dynamics will remain true as they age. For example, Gen Z has far less allegiance to teams than prior generations – what will this mean for Sports viewing?
- Media platforms must experiment with new, scalable ad formats as consumers respond positively to reduced ad loads on streaming platforms.
- Generative AI is real, it is here, and it will impact the media industry on all sides and at every level.
Based on the scene setting conversation – in the afternoon it was time for all participants to roll up their sleeves and discuss core issues that hold us back from reaching our potential as we all drive towards a quicker conversion to streaming / digital video while ensuring a healthy and transparent marketplace. The conversations revolved around three critical areas that we must resolve together.
The first was “Creating a Better User Experience with Streaming.” While the attendees raised many good issues that impede the user experience the team agreed to focus on frequency capping. This issue needs to be resolved within a media company and across media partners. We set forward a plan to tackle this issue.
The next conversation dissected the “Currency Conundrum.” While there are several players and many paths to take to defining new currency grade data, it was unanimously resolved that whatever path a media company, brand, or agency decides to take, as a collective we must agree on collecting the same metadata as the underlying diagnosis of “truth.” All parties need to be working with the same metadata that identifies a brand, campaign, and advertising asset appropriately. Regardless of what channel or platform is being measured or by whom, brands and publishers need to understand who is being reached and what message they are being served. To do that with seamless interoperability requires aligning around a key set of metadata and workflow practices so that data collected from across the landscape can be aligned with each other. The issue needs to be addressed quickly, because the potential onslaught of ad variation as a result of Generative AI will only exacerbate the issue.
The final topic was the natural flow from aligning on currency meta data. And that topic was measurement. Consistent and flexible measurement is key to building trust across the ecosystem. There was universal consensus that getting the base layer of impression counting accurate, transparent, and known is the necessary foundational step to be agreed to before true cross-screen measurement can take hold.
As we sat by the shore in Asbury Park, industry leaders took a sobering approach to moving the industry forward – together. There was consensus that we have had substantive lingering issues for a few years with limited scalable success. With an eye towards action and process, the leaders at the summit agreed to not “boil the ocean” but rather outlined smart, sensible, measurable, and “doable” actions. IAB will take these action plans and build working groups to move towards success. As Springsteen sings in Dancing in the Dark, “You can’t start a fire, you can’t start a fire without a spark.” The 2023 IAB Video Leadership Summit has provided the spark to build the foundational infrastructure that will allow the video ecosystem to thrive. So, here is to all the Hungry Hearts out there that want to see and be a part of that change.