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IAB Annual Summit Explores The Next $50 Billion

By Nick Price

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and the mood was lively at this year’s IAB Annual Leadership Meeting last week. Interactive advertising has become a $50 billion industry, and the theme of the program investigated where the next $50 billion would come from. Leaders in the online advertising and media business took to the stage in Palm Springs to share their insights and weigh in on the elements that would help drive the next wave. From technology, data storytelling, and better user experiences, some of the best minds in the business left us with a lot to think about.
Some of the thought leaders argued that the next $50 billion would come from embracing social media. Marisa Thalberg, Chief Marketing Officer of Taco Bell, thinks that the next $50 billion will come from great storytelling from brands. In her opinion, the digital and social media revolutions create an environment in which marketers work in a Pandora’s box of paradoxes. Her advice to overcoming this new paradigm is to recognize, embrace, and integrate those paradoxes. Jimmy Wales, Founder and Board Member, Wikia, expects the next $50 billion to come from fans, not surprising since Wikia is the largest entertainment fan site in the world.
Other insiders focused on the importance of technology. Sridhar Ramaswamy, Senior Vice President of Ads & Commerce, Google, thinks that mobile is at the heart of the next wave of revenues. Michael Rubenstein, President, AppNexus, credited innovation for the first $50 billion and he expects technology to be the secret to the next wave of success. Still he cautioned the industry to beware of four main challenges: “the ad tech complexity, the rise of walled gardens, consumers moving fast, and some supply chain cracks.”
Creating great user experiences was also a theme that echoed on the stage of the JW Marriott Palm Desert. Dionne Colvin-Lovely, National Media Director, Toyota, talked about design and great content experiences as the true key to the next $50 billion, in their promise to engage users. The media plan, content and creative at Toyota is all based on consumer behavior. The carmaker aims to create ads that are both relevant and innovative.
The show was not without some controversy. In his opening speech, IAB CEO Randy Rothenberg critiqued “for-profit” ad-blocking companies, insulting their practices and revealing that they had been banned from attending the show. According to Rothenberg, these companies create business models “predicated on censorship of content.” He specifically called out the ad-blocking companies Eyeo and Brave Software, which have a new web browser that blocks third-party tracking and ad serving but looks to replace those ads with ads from within its networks.
Still Scott Cunningham, IAB senior vice president, did address ad blocking in a panel discussing how poor user experiences contributed to their popularity. “Ad blocking is not a crisis – it’s a clarion call from consumers, who are reminding publishers, agencies, marketers and technologist that the user comes first, last and always,” explained the panel’s description.
To combat poor quality ads and bad user experiences, the IAB released new LEAN principles (Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, and Non-invasive) that aim to make ads lighter, safer, more privacy-friendly, and less intrusive. Publishers, advertisers, and agencies are encouraged to run their ads through this new system to measure their practices against “rational, reasonable and consumer-friendly performance benchmarks.”
Despite the snowstorm, which hit the North East US – delaying or preventing attendees from joining, the event was a great success. Those in attendance said that this year’s event was intimate, valuable and provided wonderful opportunities to network with peers in the warm California sun.

Nick Price

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