Theme #1: A Defined Direction for the IAB: It’s All about Brands
The IAB realizes (like Undertone) that the current state of digital can be improved. In fact, IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg asked if digital was entering the “dark ages” and offered a mocked-up version of a publisher site, with lots of ads and a confusing layout, as proof. The IAB is asking the industry for support in moving towards a more brand-friendly approach, complete with an IAB version of the LUMA chart. While publishers and several ad tech companies I talked to were supportive of this vision, more than a few exchanges, DSPs and networks were not thrilled—and I am not surprised. A shift in focus from performance marketing to brand goals is going to be a big struggle for some companies in the space.
Theme #2: Big Data for Big Ideas
The theme of the conference was “Big Data, Big Ideas.” There were lots of presentations around data from all sides (marketer, publisher, tech), and in the discussions there were many definitions and frankly some confusion. There’s an overall feeling that this industry needs to move from talking about “Big Data” to using it to support brands beyond standard targeting and reporting. The basic infrastructure is there to target, optimize and report. The next step is to use data to tell stories, make research richer and insights more impactful and actionable.
Theme #3: The Custom/Programmatic Bifurcation
A split between custom and programmatic is clearly happening and was evidenced by mentions in various presentations. AOL’s Tim Armstrong admonished the industry for paying “too much attention to what goes on behind consumer’s screens than in front of it”. Debates around programmatic went well into the night, and there were multiple sessions devoted to native advertising. This theme is certainly top of mind for many publishers and I expect it to continue throughout 2013.