Times Square is synonymous with glittering lights and flashing billboards.
So it seems like the perfect home for Advertising Week, which began on Monday and has scheduled 250 sessions for the more than 95,000 agency professionals and brand marketers expected to attend.
But this iconic intersection of commerce and its in-your-face display of persuasive images 20 stories high has little to do with the modern marketer or the sessions on day one of Advertising Week. The content focus of this year’s panels and presentations is about technology, not creativity, and the future of the advertising agency model and business structure.
It’s just the beginning, but here are three major themes that were prevalent during Monday’s event.
Programmatic Practices Are Expanding, but the Barriers Are High
Totaling at 11 sessions on Monday, programmatic is the topic of discussion this year. But it’s not just about inventory, data, and automation.
Much of the interest in programmatic wasn’t on if and when, but how to apply programmatic (and the success of desktop display automation) to other areas, such as TV, mobile, and native. Programmatic currently accounts for only 1% of TV media buys, but the panelists predicted this number to rise to between 3% and 5% in 2015. Kris Magel, chief investment officer for Initiative, predicted programmatic would account for 10% of buys in the next two to three years.
As for mobile, the interest is high, but ad formats are far from user-friendly due to their desktop heritage and consistency across the variety of devices and operating systems causes scale issues.
There are barriers to this high-growth method of buying and selling ads. Premium inventory is scarce, and publishers are still selling this inventory direct because they can demand premium pricing. It is difficult to identify undervalued inventory and opportunities to reach targeted consumer segments this way. And finally, the industry needs more data on consumers across channels to create benchmarks and define metrics, such as impressions. Brands have to trust the accuracy of the metric and the criteria of establishing the metric to invest.
There Is an Abundance of Content, But Premium Content Is Still Rare
Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, led the panel “Winning” on Monday morning. Discussions surrounded everything from emerging markets to the possible acquisition of Dreamworks to soccer’s growth in the U.S.
But the conversation kept coming back to content. There is an abundance, but “truly premium content is still pretty rare,” said CEO of CBS Interactive Jim Lanzone.
Live Nation’s Russell Wallach talked about the company’s content partnership with Yahoo, where it is putting on a live show every day. Amazon’s Lisa Utzschneider, vice president of global advertising sales, discussed her company’s work with brands like Nissan that don’t sell on Amazon, yet want to tap into its existing customer base and data. Amazon works with these brands to create content and drive users to a custom online destination.
Brands and platforms are putting a lot of time and effort into creating relevant, high-quality content that resonates with audiences.
“Brands care more about understanding the audience,” said Wallach, who expressed that this was a change in attitude from a previous focus on product placement.
Marketers Still Struggle With Cross-Device Targeting and Personalization
The cookie-based tracking that occurs on a desktop browser doesn’t work on mobile, which has made mobile advertising and the tracking of consumers across devices inaccurate and almost impossible.
Erik Johnson, the managing director of Facebook’s new ad-serving platform Atlas, moderated a panel on solving the cross-device issue for marketers. Facebook has the most extensive data set on consumers available, and now with Atlas, advertisers can use this data to personalize and target ads — both on the social networking platform and third-party sites.
If agencies can firmly place mobile advertising in the purchasing process, thereby proving ROI, then brands and agencies can make the case for reallocating budgets to mobile marketing. This coupled with data gathered from new mobile payment systems could give marketers a more defined view of the buying journey.
A unified system of measurement and the technology to understand all this data is the challenge though, and the only interesting solution was the idea that technology might solve the problem for us. As phablets and phones become even more powerful and advanced, we could see a move to a single device — one that serves as a central digital hub for both our personal and professional lives.