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Overheard at Advertising Week New York 2023: ‘Fighting fraud means demanding transparency’

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By Kendra Barnett | Senior Reporter

October 18, 2023 | 11 min read

This week, The Drum's US editorial team is reporting live from Advertising Week New York 2023. These are the insights we’re hearing on the ground from the industry’s top players.

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The Drum's Kendra Barnett (first on the right) moderates a panel at AWNY on Wednesday. / Webb Wright

Arielle Garcia, consultant, advisor and fractional chief privacy officer, ASG Solutions: “The most impactful starting point [in combating ad fraud] is for advertisers to demand transparency. A lot of the challenge, however, is that advertisers probably don't even know where they're sacrificing transparency. It's not like everyone keeps up with every platform's products and what level of reporting they get. They need to start being better at tracking that anyway, from a privacy standpoint, and understanding the products that are being used. I would use that process to also [determine] whether placement reporting is available, so if they accept less transparency, they do so knowingly and can monitor those campaigns more closely.”

Dan Gardner, co-founder, Code and Theory: “As businesses digest the implications of AI, they seem to be looking in the wrong direction. Many are setting themselves up for failure because a lot of the hype around AI has been about replacing jobs and creating efficiencies. That's only a part of the equation. The real opportunity for leveraging AI is for businesses to look at customer behaviors and then anticipate their needs and offer solutions before customers ask for them. The businesses that invest in AI and their people will grow exponentially compared to the those that just are looking to AI tools as a means cut staff.”

Shiv Gupta, founder and chief executive officer, U of Digital: “Maybe this is a little bit of a hot take, but I think that signal loss is good in a lot of ways. Signals have been a blessing and curse for the digital industry. Like, we can find a needle in a haystack; right person, right message, right time – all this stuff that we talk about and programmatic and adtech. But also we've lost sight, a lot of times, of marketing. We've lost sight of creative. We've lost sight of things that actually can move the needle aside from the signal, aside from addressability. So I'm excited about refocusing the energy of the industry towards some of those other things.”

Sean Cunningham, president and chief executive officer, VAB: “When you are semi-opaque [about your media like Google and Meta] and always pushing for the lowest standards [in terms of what defines an ad], there's a potential for compromised ad spend and brand damage. It's always possible. When you are 100% transparent, and you have the highest media standards, the potential for compromised ad spend or brand damage is minimal.”

Charlene Polite Corley, vice-president, diverse insights and partnerships, Nielsen: “One of the biggest initiatives that I've taken on since taking this role is, ‘How can we start to look at the measurement that we'll do across the industry from the lens of diverse ownership? When Nielsen set out to measure audiences in the marketplace, that was not really a consideration – so we literally had to go in and build it.”

Tiffany Rolfe, global chief creative officer, R/GA: “There are risks if you don't take [a stand on social and political issues]. Importantly, though … there's got to be trust and a partnership between agencies and clients; between clients and customers when we're doing these braver, more bold ideas. We have to have each other's backs. It's important that everyone’s behind [the mission] and we know what we're doing when we're bringing these ideas out there. [It needs to be] authentic to who the brand is and where they want to go.”

Sébastien Hernoux, chief data and technology officer, OMD: “From a measurement perspective … a focus on media mix modeling is coming back. We’ve heard a ton of brands going back to media mix modeling, but we need to make it more agile. We need to think about how we can get to monthly insights … [It’s important to understand that] we can use solutions that do not require cookies, that do not require an identity even, but give us new ways to think about optimization and think about driving more value. We are effectively collapsing the funnel in the measurement space and looking at making optimizations that help us understand how the brand connects to performance, and how we can activate on that.”

Nyma Quidwai, vice-president, client services and inventory partnerships, Vizio Ads: “[When it comes to CTV platforms,] it’s important to remember, ‘What can you bring to the table that is a differentiating factor, and what sets that inventory apart? Having a very strong ad stack definitely helps to ensure that there are seamless ways to integrate into the inventory. Transparency [is also important] … buyers have a lot of control with their programmatic dollars specifically on being able to shift to partners that are transparent. And the programmatic world is fast moving, CTV is so dynamic … remain adaptable. At the heart of our strategy, the viewer experience is the priority.”

Jill Smith, vice-president, media sales, Kroger Precision Marketing 84.51°: “Think about how you grocery shop – you might go three times a week, you might go two times a week, but every single time you go, it tells [retailers] signals of your life stage or your buying behavior. Maybe you're trying a vegan recipe. It’s just different things that start to trigger opportunities to reach consumers in different ways and be more personalized and leverage those unique moments. There'll be this transformative [moment] as we think about programmatic and using that retail data, because it's fresh as of yesterday. That data has some real pureness to it. It's purchase-based. It’ss first-party. It's not modeled. It’s not third-party. So there's a beauty around using that relevant data. You're not wondering, ‘Is it a year old? Is it three years old? Is it inaccurate?’ Using this retail data is just really powerful.”

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Abi Evans, chief growth officer, Denstu Creative US: “I think Threads is a little overrated, if I'm being completely honest. We’ll see happens ... but we’re in a really strange moment and a really strange landscape where we're thinking about platform usage, and as an industry, we get very, very twitchy [and get excited about new platform developments]. And certain platforms have staying power. And as we think about advertisers and where we go, it’s always where eyeballs are. We do a lot of social in our business, and I’d say that Threads hasn't picked up the way that [many expected after] the launch that everybody had been really bullish about. But we’ll continue to see in the Twitter/X-Threads world how they continue to duke it out. I’ll be watching.”

Patrick McCarthy, senior vice-president, programmatic monetization, Dotdash Meredith: “The programmatic ecosystem is currently broken, where 70% of our inventory is already cookieless or already lacks signal and everyone's just buying the percentage that [still has cookies or third-party signals], and we would like to see that [spend] distributed and then a flight back to quality publishers over the world of made-for-advertising sites. And so we're excited [for cookie deprecation and signal loss]. There'll be a little short-term dip of everyone figuring out how to change things, but in the long term it will help quality.”

Jennifer Langusch, generative AI GTM lead, Accenture: “I’ve spoken to many clients about the frustrations of previous trends that have come and gone that have potentially done a disservice to generative AI – [clients have asked,] ‘Is just another web3, is it another blockchain [insofar as its hype could be a flash in the pan]? … But I do believe that it has real staying power. We're still talking about how to execute personalization, some 20 years [after we first began thinking about it], and this is now the final solve for personalization. The International Data Corporation just announced today that they expect the generative AI market to be worth $143bn by 2027, so it's projected to continue to climb.”

Isabel Perry, VP of emerging technology, Dept (speaking about the transformative potential of AI): "I think we're headed towards the most productive period in human history."

Vincent Yates, chief data scientist, Credera (addressing the fact that marketers should start educating themselves about AI right now, before the technology becomes omnipresent): "Have fun, build the muscle, it's okay, we're all in the same spot ... you've had six months to figure [AI] out – no one expects you to have the answer exactly right yet. So start playing, start exploring, [because] a year or two from now, it might be too late."

Sean Downey, President, Americas and Global Partners, Google: "You're not competing against AI – you're competing against other marketers using AI."

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