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Impact Takeaways from Advertising Week 2021

by Pam Zucker, November 02, 2021
Impact Takeaways from Advertising Week 2021

It was so nice to see friendly faces at Hudson Yards last week. It felt like the first baby step in coming out of the COVID shadows and re-emerging as an industry ready to take charge of its new destiny. What new destiny, you ask?

  • We have to redefine how we will work in a post cookieless world.
  • We need to understand how to maximize opportunities in a fully data enabled video marketplace.
  • We have to figure out what the new currency and measurement standards will be.
  • We have to recognize that media can only be as good as the creative it distributes.
  • How do we work towards agility and flexibility in the midst of the great resignation?

These are all topics that need to be deciphered, debated, and re-imagined as we enter 2022.

So let’s break it down.

Redefining how we will work in a post cookieless world.

As cookies go away like old traditional jello mold desserts – brands, agencies, and media companies need to deploy a new identity strategy. While there are many solutions out there, and all can thrive together – they all have the same fundamental ingredients: greater reliance on 1st party data, clean rooms for data collaboration to safely join disparate data sources, the ability to stitch in panels, and the need for interoperability across platforms.

New identity solutions will also be controlled by various constituencies within the ecosystem. Agencies that have spent money and time integrating big data purchases into their workflow will want to own the solution for some of their clients. This includes Publicis with Epsilon, IPG with Axiom, and Dentsu with Merkle. For other agencies, they will likely look to outside parties to employ their Identity Graphs – and this is fertile ground for innovation and in-fighting. Many brands that control valuable 1st party data will want to create their own IDs. The question here is how will they connect their data with media companies’ data for execution. The walled gardens will have their own solutions, but they remain “walled-off” within a limited set of inventory options. And there will be technology platforms that choose to remain neutral and be open to accepting all forms of IDs in a “you bring your data and I’ll share mine with you to make it better.” Whatever solution agencies, brands, media owners, and technology companies choose, no doubt 2022 will be all about testing and learning.

Maximize opportunities in a fully data enabled video marketplace.

With the explosion of CTV, comes great opportunities and great risk. We all see the opportunity, and it was spoken about endlessly at Advertising Week. But you may be asking yourself – what is the risk? The risk is creating a terrible viewing experience by not enabling cross-screen, cross-distribution point frequency capping. The risk is wasting brands’ media spending by not optimizing across all screens and buying modalities at once. The risk is media owners not allowing their AVOD platforms to grow organically, but throwing in more ad units to grow supply to keep up with the advertising demand. The risk is wasting employees’ time and motivation by not arming them with technology that allows them to plan and execute seamlessly in this new marketplace. And the net result of all of this risk is that as an industry we kill ad-supported CTV before it has a chance to mature. So be patient when it comes to wanting more supply. Accept that pricing may outpace your planned benchmarks in the short term. But if we allow CTV to grow naturally, everyone with an interest in seeing the long-term viability of ad-supported CTV will win. Consumers will win. Brands will win. Media owners will win. Agencies will win. And technology solutions will win. 2022 is a time to test technology solutions so that ad-supported CTV can accelerate without crashing and burning before it ever takes flight. 

Measurement changes and uncertainty

Given the disruption with Nielsen over the past few weeks, it is no wonder that measurement and currency were a hot topic at Advertising Week. The great debate that has ignited will lead to more customizable solutions. We no longer have to all use one currency and one measurement service as the single source of truth. The reality is that measurement solutions are dependent on KPIs and the role of marketing at different intersections. So as the industry grapples with new currency and measurement possibilities, I believe it is paramount that agencies do not look for a single source of truth. What a QSR or retail client needs to determine their success is very different from what an auto, CPG, DTC brand should value as success. So it’s time to explore the menu of options and curate your special buffet of tools and partners to help you plan and evaluate your media choices in the coming years. We have been pigeonholed into one way of thinking for far too long. This moment of “crisis” is truly a moment of opportunity.

Media can only be as good as the creative it distributes.

As a long time agency veteran, turned ad techy, I have always known the power of great creative plus great media. In today’s world where consumers are very selective about the content they view and the moment they view it, the marriage of creative message and media has never been more critical. As an industry we can not marry smart media with dumb content; that is simply a recipe for a quick divorce. Technology now allows brands to adjust creative messaging along the consumer journey path. And to do this in an authentic manner, brands must be willing to go on a cultural journey with the consumers.  This is a fertile ground for creativity and innovation that will increase brand ROAS quicker than just about anything else. 

Adapting to the Great Resignation

Finally, the topic of “The Great Resignation” was discussed – on panels, in the hallways, and in private corners. The reality is that agencies are struggling to keep teams staffed. This necessitates a new way of working. And the foundation of this new operating model must have three components: agility, flexibility, and technology. Teams are being asked to move at lightning speed. And in their hearts, they want to meet the clients’ demands. But they also never want to sacrifice accuracy or opportunity. The only way to ensure this requirement is to have trusted technology that automates parts of the business that don’t need the human touch and to make more efficient those elements of the business that rely on human touch. As “The Great Resignation” plays out across all parts of our industry we must be resourceful and recognize that the only way you can effectively do more with less, is to have the right partnerships that keep the ground under your feet stable and allow you to keep reaching high for innovative solutions.

Summary

I loved the return of an in-person event. Not only did it make me use some social muscles that have atrophied a bit while I was stuck behind my desk at home, but it ignited a sense of community and conversation that I have always loved about this business. Here’s to looking at our future and recognizing the opportunities and challenges that lay before all of us.

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