Six highlights and five takeaways from the meeting.
To those who attended the IAB's annual leadership meeting last week, the future of digital advertising looked quite bright indeed...but also more complicated than ever. The spectrum of formal topics ranged from predictions to new creative formats to advertising technologies to legislation. Off the floor, the two recurring conversations I heard revolved around ad management and online video.
Since the meeting kicked off on the same day as the Oscars and since you can read and watch highlights of the event on the IAB website, I thought I'd have a little fun and deliver my key takeaways Academy Award style.
IAB President and CEO Randall Rothenberg once again proved why he's the right person to be helming the organization. Entertaining and gracious, he set the tone for the event. But he also set forth an impassioned entreaty for members to get involved, particularly with respect to matters of government legislation that will affect the entire industry. "What you don't know, can hurt you and can kill your company," Rothenberg warned.
I would love to say that it was the event's Twitter hashtag (#IABALM, which reminded me more of ChapStick than anything else), but sadly I think it was weakly used at best. Instead, the word on everyone's lips was engagement. "Advertising has the ability to convert attention into brand engagement and sales transactions," reminded author and advisor Geoffrey Moore; "Reach is no longer enough - we must have the ability to have meaningful engagement with our consumers," informed Peter Moore, COO, Electronic Arts; "It's all about the content - let users choose their engagement," urged Karim Temsamani, Google's VP new products and solutions, to cite a few.
Best Cool New Ad
The IAB showcased examples of the six new large-format, brand-friendly "Rising Stars" rich media display ad units. While they all demonstrated creativity and the expanded capabilities of these ad formats, my personal favorite was AKQA's use of the Portrait format to do live cam fundraising for Pencils of Promise.
There were a few I liked:
"Everyone's a marketer." - Susan Jurevics, Sony's senior vice president of global retail CRM and brand marketing
"For clients, Facebook is becoming the Internet - and for brand marketers, Facebook is the black hole of marketing - why aren't there Facebook specialty agencies?" - Tom Bedecarré, CEO, AKQA
"We need to solve the problem that it's easier to execute a seven-figure television buy than a $10K digital test." - Bill Wise, CEO, MediaOcean
Day 3 featured " Ad Technology in the Hot Seat " where five ad technology CEOs had three minutes to answer four core questions, explaining what they did and then taking hard-hitting questions from the audience (including how many of these tech companies were actually profitable). But in the session that followed, when the first speaker, Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, asked the audience if anyone understood what any of the five previous panelists' companies really did and if you could differentiate any of them from each other, virtually no one raised their hand. Case in point: ad technology is too complicated and if it can't be made simpler and if no one gets the value proposition in using these technologies, they're not going to succeed or find allies in the major players in the digital advertising ecosystem.
Best Surprise Session
The end of Day 2 closed with a panel of Chinese ad industry senior executives. We had to listen through headsets as a translator relayed most of the presentation, just like we were at the U.N.! It was fascinating to observe the similarities and differences in China's nascent online media ad industry compared with the early days of our own. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Here's my ear-to-the-ground list:
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A highly driven subject matter expert with a thirst for knowledge, an unbridled sense of curiosity, and a passion to deliver unbiased, simplified information and advice so businesses can make better decisions about how to spend their dollars and resources, multiple award-winning entrepreneur Hollis Thomases (@hollisthomases) is a sole practitioner and digital ad/marketing "gatekeeper." Her 16 years working in, analyzing, and writing about the digital industry make Hollis uniquely qualified to navigate the fast-changing digital landscape. Her client experience includes such verticals as Travel/Tourism/Destination Marketing, Retail & Consumer Brands, Health & Wellness, Hi-Tech, and Higher Education. In 1998, Hollis Thomases founded her first company, Web Ad.vantage, a provider of strategic digital marketing and advertising service solutions for such companies as Nokia USA, Nature Made Vitamins, Johns Hopkins University, ENDO Pharmaceuticals, and Visit Baltimore. Hollis has been an regular expert columnist with Inc.com, and ClickZ and authored the book Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day, published by John Wiley & Sons. Hollis also frequently speaks at industry conferences and association events.
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