By guest columnist Peter Minnium, head of brand initiatives for the Interactive Advertising Bureau
“Doesn’t jump at loud bangs.” This was the most significant compliment I was ever paid in my pre-digital career in the tumultuous agency business. Crises were an everyday occurrence in my role as an international advertising executive — and becoming rattled was a waste of time, when instead the right thing to do was to run toward the noise with a clear head and sense of purpose.
Joining the digital ad industry four years ago, I attended my first Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Annual Leadership Meeting and couldn’t help but notice that there were plenty of loud bangs — challenges of almost existential levels that required immediate attention. And, we as an industry were jumpy, very jumpy.
Today, there are no fewer challenges but there is less jumping — and much more running toward the challenges fully resourced, in unison, and with a common purpose. At this year’s IAB meeting, I was continually impressed by how publishers, ad technology companies, marketers, and agencies engaged in productive conversations on and off stage.
Certainly no louder bang sounded than that around a higher quality supply chain. Tom Phillips of Dstillery gave a stark presentation about the danger and reality of fraudulent traffic, using the show The Wire as a metaphor for the issues across the supply chain. He echoed Randall Rothenberg’s op ed pieceand incoming IAB board chair and Ziff Davis chief executive (CEO) Vivek Shah, who declared, “We have to stop devaluing digital media. No more traffic fraud. Let’s end it.”
If this was the loudest bang sounded at the meeting, it is also the best example of how key ecosystem participants are coming together to address the challenge. Anchored by the IAB Traffic of Good Intent Task Force, industry leaders explored, debated, and reached consensus in a Town Hall session, setting the agenda for IAB efforts in this area for 2014 and beyond. Other Town Hall sessions addressed different “loud bang” issues, including making mobile mainstream, how to keep big data from becoming an Achilles’ heel, harnessing automation to add value, and making measurement, including viewability, make sense for brand marketers. The measurement debate was propelled forward considerably with the release at the event of “Defining and Measuring Digital Ad Engagement in a Cross-Platform World, a definitive IAB paper created by cross-ecosystem experts.
In addition to these known issues, quite a bit of noise was made around newer challenges. With the announcement that the Digital Video Rising Stars were added to the IAB standard ad unit portfolio, capping an intensive two-year process of change, brand advocates turned their attention onstage to native advertising. Overcoming the issues surrounding this darling of new media was addressed live by experts from agencies, marketers, publishers, and ad tech companies. Brian Boland, vice president of Ad Products, Monetization, and Atlas at Facebook, proffered that native is a natural evolution of digital media and not a new animal, referencing how print and television went through their “native” moments as a natural part of their development. Vice Media showcased the inner workings behind its large Gen Y media platform, highlighting the critical importance that content marketing and community will play today and in the future.
Also focusing on beautiful content experiences was Yahoo’s Nick D’Aloisio. Much has been written about the 18-year-old’s prodigy status, which I won’t repeat, other than to say “wow.”
He reiterated with practical examples from the Yahoo News Digest that the future is about curated content elegantly designed. He left the stage with a tantalizing prediction about the return to digital anonymity. Given his background, I plan to watch that space.
Of course, the meeting wasn’t all work and no play. The loud bangs continued well into the night at the conference bar, which hummed with a roar just shy of that in the Seattle Seahawks’ stadium.
As the head of brand initiatives, Peter Minnium leads a series of initiatives designed to address the under-representation of creative brand advertising online. He was formerly managing director of Lowe Worldwide, the global creative agency network of the Interpublic Group, where he held leadership roles overseeing international operations. Peter’s passion is the intersection of creative ideas and technology and he is focused on fueling the full-fledged creative revolution that interactivity has long promised.