Will on Wednesdays: AdWeek 2013

The mood of the 10th annual Advertising Week in New York was charged with a sense of paranoid optimism about the future of advertising and marketing. For four days (Sept. 23-26, 2013) 90,000+ folks associated with the ad industry descended on the global pinnacle of advertising excess-Times Square--to absorb and twee-gurgitate (your friendly ITVT columnist included) the research and gospel of "where are we now?" and what might lie ahead--for advertisers, agencies and brand marketers.

In a reductionist sense, Ad Week 2013 was about: screens, screens--and more screens. But it was also about three major themes:

Story--as in digital, "liquid" content storytelling--flowing across the screens of our daily lives--through the magical enablers of Sponsored, Branded and--perhaps the most snarl-inducing of all topical buzzwords--Native Content. While agency and advertiser honchos both big and small repeatedly voiced their collective yearning for a refreshing new era of brand stories that felt true, credible and "authentic" to consumers (various tweets suggested "authentic" should have been the #1 drinking game keyword of the week), the parallel fervor to genetically splice advertising with editorial at the DNA-level will likely mitigate the future perception of "authenticity" (in backstories and brand narratives) among world-weary, ad-sidestepping audiences. The less incendiary term "Content Marketing" seems to be catching on (with some innovative examples to point to--like Vice Magazine's work with Intel and The Economist's partnership with GE), which may calm the nerves of those who cringed at the alternatives beyond "Native Content"--including the unfortunate "Storyscaping" (which sounds like the unplanned stepchild of landscaping and manscaping).

Data, the Big variety--with tightly wound narratives about automation and "programmatic" online ad exchanges/buying (17% today and forecasted to 35% by 2017)--but with all eyes on TV's juicy $70+ billion advertising market (#twitterannounces+nfl+cbsdeals), scant evidence exists of quantifiable 360° audience measurement across the screeniverse. Ad execs may dream and chatter about seamless, end-to-end "omni-channel" buying and measurement, but the reality isn't there yet. While MSO's and pay-TV distributors may now offer one ad buy for video ad avails across traditional linear and time-shifted/on-demand channels (including on iOS and Android), they can't yet quantifiably track, de-identify and report back the viewership data on the IP video platforms, and must still rely on third-party audience samplings to capture the BYOD (bring your own device) viewing numbers. That day will come, and the plate tectonic-level disruption to the ecosystem may well be epic when it does--but that day is not terribly soon.

Mobile--as in: Holy Crap! The Future is Here--and it's pretty damn well evenly distributed. It's a couple years old, but the quote about there being more mobile phones than toothbrushes on the planet made the rounds again--and for good reason. The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) last week said that mobile ad budgets had increased 142% between 2011 and 2013. What does this mean for interactive and multiscreen television experiences? No one has a definitive answer, but clues abound. According to Google's Multiscreen World report, 90% of people move between devices to accomplish a goal, whether that's smartphones, PC's, tablets or TV. Right there--television has a chance to see itself more clearly than ever as part of an ensemble cast of entertainment and advertising experiences--perhaps the best actor in the bunch. For some of us, it seems like we've been watching an ITV "Groundhog Day" loop for years, but opportunities abound to stand up and smartly connect TV to mobile--in an ambitious set of choreographed moves that create both better entertainment and user actionable advertising/marketing experiences, with better data measurement and reporting tools than ever before. We are in the early, clumsy days of multiscreen entertainment and advertising/marketing--and thinking about mobile as a Second-Screen ”nice-to-have companion device to TV" doesn't help.

Which brings me back to the "paranoid optimism" I mentioned earlier. From the Paranoia perspective--despite all the talk about welcoming a new era of "starting conversations with consumers" and delivering resonant messages containing "baked-in truths"--insecurities about the efficacy of advertising and marketing spends could be seen peripherally, and sometimes front-and-center stage. Booth-bearing startups pitched their toolsets for data-tracking and reporting every social media interaction, every news media mention, every facet and module of a modern, multiplatform campaign with 24/7, real-time accuracy. Seeking once and for all to crush Wannamaker's Dilemma of which 50% of the ad budget is pulling its weight, the urge to quant-up the metrics story was palpable. From the Optimism perspective, the Millennials now moving into agency leadership roles are unpacking their assumptions on what works and what doesn't from a generational angle--equally wearing their creative awesomeness and identity insecurities on their rolled-up sleeves, ready to work it out.

Whether it was seeing ad industry legend George Lois (now in his 80's) talk about the real "Mad Men"-era of Madison Avenue, or the dry, wry wit and yarn-spinning of Andrew Loog Oldham, former manager/producer of the Rolling Stones, or the host of college interns attending their first show, the range of Advertising Week 2013 (held concurrently with OMMA Global and IAB's MediaMIXX events) was hefty and healthy.  

Walking away from the show, some takeaways started to gel, but one in particular. That is, the inexorable rise of smart mobile devices and the current fixation on the value of second-screen apps point out a chagrined truth--that pay-TV operators have flailed for years to establish a beachhead where TV becomes a more interactive, engaging experience for their customers and network programming partners. A handful of forward-thinking networks have done an admirable job trying to work with them to safely land their interactive content visions on that beach, to negligible results. The new reality is that thanks to the CE makers, the Connected TV/ACR and HTML5 enabled world of today has the next generation of creative advertisers and content providers building new homes on that beachfront property. How this plays with measurable, user-actionable and personalized mobile ad and content experiences will determine the multiscreen audience engagement (and monetization) winners over the next few years.
 

Here’s the Smart TV Rising panel, with Michael Collette, Michael Strober (Turner), David Preisman, Ashley Swartz (Furious Minds), Jeffery Minsky (OMD), Wendell Wenjen (LG) and moderator Heather Way (Parks Assoc.)


Google’s Peter Crofut slide from the “Making Creative More Intelligent” session


Edelman Presents: the Brandshare Study - presented by Jennifer Cohan - Head of Consumer Marketing


Edelman Presents: the Brandshare Study - presented by Jennifer Cohan - Head of Consumer Marketing


Branded Storytelling - Heineken’s Departure Roulette (Edelman Presents: the Brandshare Study - presented by Jennifer Cohan - Head of Consumer Marketing)


People Want Brands to Help Them Reach Their Goals (Edelman Presents: the Brandshare Study - presented by Jennifer Cohan - Head of Consumer Marketing)