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Highlights from AdExchanger’s 2019 Industry Preview

January 29th, 2019   ||    by Rick Howe

In late January, the good people at Videa asked me to attend AdExchanger’s 2019 Industry Preview, and report the key findings.

The 2019 Industry Preview is two days of panels and one-on-one “fireside” chats that focus on marketing technology trends for the coming year.

From my personal observation, it’s pretty high-powered stuff. And has been relatively common in such conferences over the last few years, there is a lot of emphasis on advanced television, particularly connected TVs.

Of course, connected TVs have been around for about a decade. In the early days, measured by my own observations at the local Best Buy, the connected TV’s were certainly the largest and brightest screens in the store, but the Best Buy employers never bothered to connect them. That tended to mirror consumer behavior.

But with the proliferation of streaming services, along with more intuitive user interfaces on the devices themselves, connected TVs (THAT ARE ACTUALLY CONNECTED), now represent the fastest-growing entertainment hardware segment, followed closely by Roku. That’s impacting advertising spend to be sure and how streaming services are being marketed and deployed.

As Google’s Sean Downey, VP of Media Platforms, observed (with just a hint of sarcasm) in the next-to-last panel of the conference, “It’s always the year of connected TV.”

Another prevailing topic at the 2019 Industry Preview was the enormous amount of data the industry is generating about consumer behavior, and how we effectively organize and make decisions on that.  What we know. How we use it. And what the consumer thinks about that.

Global CEO Kelly Clark said “GroupM is trying to provide a data-driven, accountable and provable ad buying service across all advanced television platforms; we’re not there yet.” His comments were mirrored by other speakers over the two-day conference, and even by the conference logo. If you look carefully, you’ll see that the input arrow (lower left of the logo) doesn’t connect in a straight line to the output point of the arrow (upper right of the logo). Design error, or unconscious observation on the nature of the business?

The consumer (appropriately) was the focus of frequent sessions, none more pointedly than in the brief talk by Publicis Groupe’s Rishad Tobaccowala: “Digital companies who treat everybody as consumers ignores their humanity: there is more to people than their wallets.”

Beyond the humanistic nature of that comment, we need to remember that by focusing too tightly on the “consumer behavior” of the public at large, we ignore that non-consumer behavior that influences everything we do as an industry (and all industries for that matter).

Heavy stuff. But what can we do with that?

The humanistic underpinning of our marketing was highlighted by Michael DeLellis EVP for Integrated Global Marketing at Calvin Klein: “Our 2019 priorities are to be better aspirational storytellers; it’s more than just a beautiful polished image that we depended on for so many years.”

Coming from a brand with monumental global awareness, I found his comments refreshing.

Here is a link to Michael DeLellis’ fireside talk:

Salesforce SVP Product Strategy Marty Kihn said “80% of consumers value EXPERIENCE over product. Advertising needs to focus on that.”

And then we have the digital powerhouses, who are somewhat embattled these days:

Google’s Sean Downey said, “in the last 28 days, 160 million people have accessed their My Activity profiles on Google and changed their settings to ad things or delete things for trust and transparency.”

Matt Darella, Global Vice President, Revenue and Content Partnerships. Building credibility on Twitter is the #1 priority for the company. (Doctor’s note – they have a LONG way to go).

Facebook’s VP for Business and Marketing Partnerships David Fischer stumbled for 20 minutes about Facebook’s social responsibility and the needs of Facebook partners to build their businesses.

Finally, and perhaps most pointedly, Joanna O’Connell, VP and Principal Analyst from Forrester, suggested that our obsession with consumers is eroding their trust. It’s more than just the “creep” factor of a brand or advertiser knowing more than we think they should know, it’s the natural resistance to pressure. At the end of the conference, I chatted a bit with Ms. O’Connell, and she confirmed my observation that industry decision makers should take a lesson from parenting teens: the harder you push, the more they pull back.

Here is her talk (worth watching in my humble opinion):



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