Digital leaders convened at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida for the 2017 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, a three-day discussion of the most pressing topics in the interactive advertising and marketing industries. Increasingly dominant platforms are reshaping media and advertising as we know it, compelling publishers to emphasize content differentiation and to pioneer strategies for distribution that leverage the new ways we’re all doing business. This year participants explored the progressively intricate relationships and partnerships between and among platforms and publishers.
Day 1 Highlights
The 2017 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting opened today to a full house of around 1,000 attendees in Hollywood, Florida, bringing together leading digital executives to discuss reaching consumers effectively as dominant platforms increasingly reshape the media landscape. Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB, greeted the audience attending the 10th Annual Leadership Meeting, themed “Publishers & Platforms: What’s Next?”
Rothenberg began by introducing the new IAB Board slate for 2017 and announced the results of the vote including the newly elected Chair, Jim Norton, Chief Business Officer and President of Revenue, Condé Nast; and Vice Chair, Scott Schiller, EVP, General Manager, Marketing, Advertising Sales & Client Partnerships, NBCUniversal.
Jim Norton took the stage to encourage the audience to rally around the one principle of a commitment to quality storytelling above all else. He highlighted the massive evolution of our industry but noted that, throughout the course of that change, the ecosystem and importance of collaboration between brand, agency, and media company have remained the same. Great stories and quality content remain the essential tool to earn customers’ attention and trust, and marketers need to value premium content because their consumer does. Norton closed with a four-part call to arms: 1) We need to invite our editors and content producers to be part of the conversation; 2) We have a responsibility to find new revenue streams, and we need to help consumers better understand the value exchange between themselves and media companies; 3) We need to get away from blind ad networks and open exchange buying; and 4) We need to weed out bad actors in our ecosystem by cutting off revenue.
Following his remarks, as his first act as IAB chair, Norton, presented the 2017 IAB Service Excellence Awards and the 2017 IAB Tech Lab Service Excellence Awards.
After the presentation of awards, Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, P&G, came on stage to offer a clear call to action to create better advertising to drive growth, enabled by media transparency toward a clean and productive media supply chain. He went on to share the action steps that P&G is taking to clean up the media supply chain during 2017 and encouraged any and all in the industry to apply the steps to their own business. Action one is to adopt one viewability standard – P&G has decided to accept the one MRC-validated viewability standard. Action two is to implement accredited third-party measurement verification – P&G is expecting every media supplier, including publishers and measurement vendors, to adopt MRC-accredited third party verification during 2017. Action three is to get transparent agency contracts – P&G is now reviewing every agency contract for full transparency by the end of 2017. Action four is to prevent ad fraud – P&G is insisting that any entity touching digital media must become TAG-certified during 2017 to help ensure that it is free from fraud. Finally, action five is to vote with our dollars – P&G has made it clear that these are the steps that it expects its partners to take and comply with to achieve a transparent, clean, and productive media supply chain. Pritchard ended his talk by imploring the audience to join P&G in taking action.
Doug Weaver, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Upstream Group, opened the presentation of the IAB Sales Excellence Awards with a discussion of the ways in which companies are now cultivating a culture of sellers that are “describers.” He emphasized the need to better understand how to feed the seller culture and propagate the qualities that foster rather than stymie them. Four of the items to look out for and correct within your organization include: 1) Cultural ambivalence on the role of the seller, 2) Obsession with product as hero, 3) Institutional overreliance on presentation, and 4) Lack of focus on the interim process that leads to sales success.
Following the presentation of the IAB Sales Excellence Awards, Emily Bell, Founding Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, sat down with Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, Managing Editor, The Washington Post, and Shailesh Prakash, Chief Product and Technology Officer, The Washington Post, to discuss platforms, engagement, fake news, and the future of democracy. Garcia-Ruiz addressed how The Washington Post has always had a strong foundation in being able to marry great creativity with great technology. The publication is willing to experiment with and measure various platforms’ performance. As a company, they understand that each platform brings a unique audience, and it is not their role to dictate how consumers should access their news. With the growing threat of fake news, delivering the truth has great value today and will going forward. The Washington Post is committed to a focus on accuracy and honesty, and their consumers recognize and support them with their products.
Continuing on the topic of fake news, Andrew Heyward, Former President, CBS News, led a town hall about the digital industry and civic responsibility, and our industry’s role in fake news, fraud, and compliance. The audience discussed the ever-compounding problem, polarization caused by it, and some action steps that we as an industry can take to tackle the issue.
At the end of the first day’s sessions, the packed audience left for the welcome reception, looking forward to Monday’s agenda jam-packed with an incredible roster of speakers.
Day 2 Highlights
Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB, welcomed back all the attendees who made it to the Diplomat Beach Resort, in Hollywood, FL, for the 2017 Annual Leadership Meeting. He announced several important initiatives starting with the release of the “The Outlook for Data” study by the IAB Data Center of Excellence, which found that measurement and attribution were going to be top industry focus areas in 2017. Additionally Nielsen released their Q3 2016 Total Audience Report looking at an extensive profile of stay-at-home and working moms, and Integral Ad Science issued “Transparent, efficient, and universal: making the case for open sourcing software” a report that delves into the market challenges of measuring viewability in-app and the advantage of open sourcing. Lastly, Rothenberg told attendees that following the Annual Leadership Meeting, IAB will be issuing a membership survey to gain additional data on member knowledge and awareness. It is an important opportunity to voice opinions and thoughts on the organization, and going forward IAB will be leveraging the survey to set benchmarks for members’ perceptions.
Delving into the morning’s agenda, Rothenberg went on to emphasize that what we say and do at, and after, the Annual Leadership Meeting makes a difference. Throughout the years, IAB and its members have accomplished a great deal and it is the necessity of collective and selfless actions that make digital advertising a better industry. However, now we face a societal crisis where networks, technology, and even facts and truth can be turned in relativistic commodities for harm. Fake news is a failure of our supply chain and there is no one culprit to blame in this scenario. It’s everyone’s collective duty to act to stop it now. Rothenberg called for the industry to restore the trust that is essential for a thriving democracy and a free market. He reinforced that the digital media and marketing is at the center of an epochal shift influencing how citizens perceive and participate in the world around them. The industry must realize, as a whole and as individuals, that “their civic responsibilities overlap with their business obligations.” Rothenberg concluded his rousing speech by highlighting some principles to guide beneficial actions: 1) Comply with industry standards, and 2) Get yourself out of the fake anything business. Rothenberg’s full speech is available here.
Marni Walden, Executive Vice President and President of Product Innovation & New Business, Verizon, sat down next with Rothenberg to discuss what is next for Verizon. With the competitive landscape and pace of change reshaping how companies compete for growth, Walden discussed Verizon’s platform, strength in mobile, and great brands. Building further scale is the next critical step, and Walden pointed out that it’s not always necessary to own content. Verizon finds success building its own content, investing in others, and partnering with some creators. Walden addressed the crowded landscape of OTT and Verizon’s go90 strategy to be mobile first and access customers where they are first viewing, the need to have great content, and the desire to acquire a younger audience of millennials and younger. At the end of the day, customers want relevant experiences and Verizon’s goal is to create compelling citizen engagement pieces. As for the future, Verizon sees the Internet of Things, smart communities, and fleet businesses as areas for growth and investment.
Dan Rose, Vice President of Partnerships, Facebook, addressed the evolution of digital storytelling. With new tools and immersive experiences like live video changing the way people see and interact with content on social platforms, Rose shared examples of how Facebook is working with its two most important constituents―people and partners―to help them take advantage of opportunities. With people using its product, Facebook focuses on better tools for immersive content, native mobile, and video everywhere. Its key pillars for improving the platform and value exchange for partners include distribution, insights, and monetization. Looking forward, Facebook plans to have a big impact on VR/AR, artificial intelligence, and connecting everyone in the world over the next ten years.
Continuing on the theme of effective storytelling through video, Jon Steinberg, Chief Executive Officer, Cheddar, came on stage next to declare that we are living in a post television era where average viewing audiences are much older and younger generations are watching less TV. He made two bets: 1) The future will be on-demand TV programming and short form, salacious, stunts, and 2) Ambient linear will get rebooted for people under 60. These bets require distribution, which similar to marriage, don’t work unless both sides love each other. Currently most social networks and programs don’t have reciprocity because of misaligned incentives. The industry needs to think more about differentiation, making content visually stimulating, as well as emphasizing OTT and connected devices. The future will be a compromise with the past where we can cut deals to provide quality content, but there is a middle ground and we can take enormous share from the incumbents.
Alanna Gombert, SVP, Technology & Ad Operations, IAB, and General Manager, IAB Tech Lab; Christopher Guenther, Senior Vice President, Global Head of Programmatic, NewsCorp; and Scott Spencer, Director, Product Management, Sustainable Advertising, Google, Inc.; discussed how the creation of the Coalition for Better Ads was brought about by the desire to come together to create a standard methodology to create better advertising. The ultimate goal is to make so-called annoying advertising will go away. Spencer discussed the group’s first task of identifying methodology and firing out the better ad standard in terms of improving experience and lessoning annoyance. They needed a globally scalable tool to work across various ad experiences. Future plans include developing a roadmap to figure out what regions to cover next. Guenther then went on to point out that publishers need to think about the entire user experience. Ads that are cleaner in better environments are mutually beneficial for all parties.
The audience dispersed into five town halls around attribution and identity, selling user experience, the convergence of digital video and TV, maximizing revenue in an on-demand world, and the future of header bidding.
After a networking luncheon, Richard Gingras, Vice President of News, Google, spoke about building a better, open web. At a time when mobile content consumption is increasingly taking place inside walled gardens, publishers need open solutions that make it easy to build, distribute, and monetize content in as many places as possible. Gingras discussed how the web is not as instantaneous as it needs to be and how it needs to be respectful of the user. Google, publishers, and advertisers have a mutual self interest in the health and viability of an open web, and through AMP―open source collaboration with dozens of publishers, platforms and ad tech―Google has crafted technology to speed up the web and offer better UX with content and advertising. Gingras then went on to state that no matter how good the content experience, the web will be broken until we fix the foundation upon which the web is built. Google’s product, AMP for Ads addresses not just how ads are built, but how they are delivered and measured. Gingras closed by announcing several new partnerships to further enhance AMP Ads.
Following Gingras’ talk, Rothenberg came back on stage to congratulate the first graduates of the iDiverse Entry-Level Digital Advertising Program from San Mateo County Community College, first announced last year at the 2016 Annual Leadership Meeting. 94% of the students passed the certification exam and Rothenberg invited two of the graduates on stage to discuss their experiences.
Closing out Day 2’s main stage content, Amanda Richman, President, Starcom USA, discussed what publishers, agencies, and marketers need to address in 2017 to decrease distraction and be more relevant. The first opportunity is smarter targeting. If we convert and commit talent, make data a daily dialog, and partner in product and process, the industry can shift from broad audiences to precise consumers. The second opportunity is building more connected experiences. By committing to creating urgency around creative, moving from resources to relevance, and inspiring with data and insights, the industry can understand how to develop more relevant experiences and address ad avoidance ingrained within younger generations. The third opportunity is holistic measurement. By moving from definition to multi-dimension and from impressions to impact, and sharing data about our industry, we can build more confidence in digital with marketers. Richman closed her talk by encouraging three steps forward: Smarter targeting through programmatic integration, connected experiences now, and holistic measurement through data sharing.
The general sessions concluded and the audience once again dispersed into the five town halls around attribution and identity, selling user experience, the convergence of digital video and TV, maximizing revenue in an on-demand world, and the future of header bidding, offering the audience an opportunity to participate in a second discussion.
Day 3 Highlights
For the last morning of the 2017 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB, thanked all attendees for making the event a fantastic meeting.
Russell Wager, Vice President of Marketing, Mazda, kicked off the day by continuing the conversation about storytelling, focusing on the need for each brand to take control of its story. He shared examples of Mazda’s marketplace evolution and how it has been re-envisioning its brand story. The company focuses on creating experiences that drive customer loyalty and define the target customer―the consumer who shares Mazda’s passion of driving―not by demographics, but by psychographics. Wager said that customer engagement is the new frontier, and digital is the best way for the brand to reach today’s connected customer. He closed by stating that Mazda’s biggest challenge is to find the balance between telling the brand story versus selling a car today. As a brand Mazda wants to be more transparent, embrace how consumers prefer to consume content, and provide authentic experiences.
Troy Young, President, Hearst Magazines Digital Media, came on stage next to talk about the new media war between content and distribution. As media distribution has changed, the value exchange has not kept pace. However, modern distribution has always been reliant on content. Young highlighted that content is a source of value and content companies need to evolve to serve the new distribution opportunity. In the modern age of distributed media, publishers need to first ask how the story gets told. Content is finding leverage through collective industry action, and with technology like video carving a path to premium, platforms that get the ecosystem right, win.
Venkat Achanta, Senior Vice President, Chief Data and Analytics Officer, Neustar; and Becky Burr, Deputy General Counsel and Chief, Privacy Officer, Neustar; sat down with Dennis Buchheim, Senior Vice President, Data & Ad Effectiveness and General Manager, Data Center of Excellence, IAB; to discuss the opportunities for, and challenges with, building a Universal ID. Achanta began by highlighting that over the next decade, everything will be connected and that the key is to understand the connection across people, places, and things through authoritative identity. Burr added that consumers are seeing their information used more frequently, but that the industry should not expect that consumers will understand the technology. There is a call from regulators to work together to make the system more transparent and predictable. One of the key hurdles of creating a Universal ID centers around trust. With much more sensitive information being shared, the industry needs someone to lead and create the rule sets and guard rails to ensure innovation and growth.
Brian O’Kelley, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, AppNexus, addressed how the ad tech renaissance will lead to the rebirth of innovation, and how publishers can retake control of their destinies O’Kelley started by imploring the audience to bring the human back into advertising and add people to the conversation. He stated that we need a better marketplace, and that there are four things we can do to empower a marketplace: reduce friction, ignite the marketplace, create fair pricing, and rebuild trust. O’Kelley went on to share his vision for a better marketplace along four pillars: reducing friction, cost effectiveness, liquidity, and trust. He closed with some partner announcements and encouraged the audience to bring creativity back into the realm of digital advertising.
To close out the conference, Imran Khan, Chief Strategy Officer, Snap Inc., gave a talk about how mobile is changing the way people create and consume content. In a mobile-only world where time spent on mobile devices is increasing, the landscape has shifted and viewing habits are moving toward on-demand content. Khan said that publishers have to figure out how to create content to better compete and capture attention of consumers. The thumb is the new remote, and the audience is always in control. The new paradigm doesn’t work if mobile is treated like another TV screen. Khan shared examples of how Snap has emphasized more “bite-sized” content, why capturing attention at the start is critical, the effect of sound in ads, and the importance of screen real estate.
Rothenberg wrapped up the conference general sessions by thanking the IAB team for their hard work and all the attendees for joining. This 2017 IAB Annual Leadership Meeting was the opportunity to reflect on the fast growth of our industry, and to challenge us to think about the best ways to move forward and to keep on building our industry.
Thanks again to everybody who made it this year!