5 Big Takeaways From Ad Week NYC 2019

Joanna O’Connell, Tom Kershaw and Reshma Karnik. Photo credit: AWNewYork/Shutterstock

There were quite a few recurring themes that emerged from last week’s Advertising Week New York 2019 (henceforth referred to as #AWNewYork) that struck me as being of great interest to folks in the ad operations and ad tech communities. So after gobbling up all of the information and digesting it slowly, I came away with a number of highlights—five—no, um, six—to be exact.

What I heard mostly was: “We need to work on a solution to identity,” “We need more data scientists to help us structure and understand our first-party data,” “Privacy is good for customer experience (CX) and building trust,” “We need to rethink measurement,” “We need to stop saying there’s a tech tax,” “We need better collaboration,” “It’s all about the open web vs the walled gardens,” “The growth in this industry is coming from AI and blockchain,” plus a heck of a lot more ideas about how advertising will improve into 2020 and beyond.


Yeah, there was definitely a lot to absorb, but I managed to cull it down to five—no, um, six—major highlights.

1. Reengineering the Rails on the Supply Chain

Officially announced at the ANA Masters of Marketing Week, MediaMath has made a commitment to developing a 100% accountable and addressable supply chain by the end of 2020. With the launch of SOURCE, the ad tech leader is setting a new standard for media performance offering brands and agencies a new-and-improved supply chain that promises both accountability and addressability.

Hints of this major move were alluded to at #AWNewYork last week when moderator Joanna O’Connell VP, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research was joined on stage by Reshma Karnik Global Vice President, Amnet Audience Center, Amnet Programmatic Experts for Dentsu Aegis Network; Tom Kershaw Chief Technology Officer, Rubicon Project and Jeremy Steinberg Global Head of Ecosystem, MediaMath on a panel called “Building the Next Generation Media Supply Chain.”


The SOURCE ecosystem has partners across the spectrum including Rubicon Project, Telaria, Acoustic, Akamai, Business Insider, Crackle Plus, Havas Media, IBM Watson, Inscape/Vizio, IRIS.TV, News Corp, Octopus Interactive, Oracle Data Cloud, Publishers Clearing House and White Ops, who will all provide full visibility into supply path mechanics and costs.

This industry move seeks to bring back trust and eliminate wastage and fraud. The consensus across the board ad Advertising Week was that the industry needs stronger collaboration across the buy and sell sides.

2. Should the Open Web Think More Like Walled Gardens?

While the MediaMath initiative focuses on an addressable solution via a portable user-level ID across desktop, mobile, and TV to connect signals throughout the supply chain, other discussions around identity at #AWNewYork focused on the supply side leveraging identity better than the walled gardens—while also taking a page out of Facebook’s playbook.

“We’re still in the early stages. We’ve come a long way in the last three-five years and the narrative is mature. There’s still a Gaping hole. We still haven’t brought consistency to audiences across the open web with identity. There’s no way to look at me as a consumer and hold a history for me. That’s an advantage the walled gardens have to drive results. We need to simplify that from the publisher’s side,” said Todd Parsons Chief Product Officer, OpenX. Parsons talked about LiveRamp’s Identity Link, a cross-channel customer identity graph of advertiser, third-party and TV viewership data plugged into OpenX’s ad exchange as an example of how publishers can fight the walled gardens.

“Inherent value of consumer attention in certain segments of open web is higher than in the walled gardens,” said Tim Cadogan, CEO, OpenX on another panel called Open Parks v. Walled Gardens: Fighting to Restore Balance in Digital Advertising.

What we’re talking about here is a solution across publishers that creates a network effect thereby providing an end-to-end solution in the way that Facebook does.

3. Data Scientists are the Arbiters of Taking the Training Wheels Off First-Party Data (and setting new KPIs)


If we had a $1 for every time someone mentioned the growing importance of data scientists and their roles in taking every one out of silos and into more holistic operations/approaches at #AWNewYork these past two days, we just might be millionaires.

— AdMonsters (@AdMonsters) September 24, 2019

As the cookies crumble and access to third-party data becomes more limited, publishers and brands’ reliance on their own data will only increase. The problem is most brands and publishers’ first-party data is not in a clean or usable format. This is where the need for skilled data scientists come in. People who can properly structure and analyze data to better leverage it for improved reach, engagement and bringing greater transparency to measurement.

Hot topics at #AWNewYork, where the power of data science was lauded, included the rise of OTT and the need to address and maximize unduplicated reach, as well as conversations about audience-based buying and selling. Qualified data scientists will help to solve many of the issues we see in the complex advertising ecosystem related to audiences and measurement—even in developing better creative to drive engagement.

With talk of new measurement standards for viewers across all screens and devices, we can expect to see the role of data scientist ramping up.

4. Privacy is the Glue to Better Customer Experiences


As the countdown to CCPA moves closer, the anxiety around privacy is looming. Various consent-based options were presented over the course of the four-day conference that was #AWNewYork, including logins, paywalls, subscriptions, rewards-based systems and more.

Many of these solutions aren’t new, but hearing ad tech leaders and publishers talk about solving privacy together was refreshing. One theme that made the rounds was the idea of redefining the value exchange with consumers to rebuild trust. This is something that Dan Rua, CEO of Admiral likes to call Visitor Relationship Management (VRM), which is based on building consent-based relationships with consumers to increase revenue. On a panel entitled, “Kumbaya: Coming Together to Deliver a Better Consumer Ad Experience,” he talked about how important it was to really know the user when you engage them, “Optimize for whether they’re coming from Facebook or search, instead of treating them like a monolith, as if there’s only one way to engage them or one type of user.” He also talked about reaching ad-block users with acceptable ad formats and better ads standards.

5. Collaboration Across the Ad Ecosystem is Beneficial to All


One track at #AWNewYork was specifically called Collaboration Models, but the idea of collaboration was sprinkled throughout many sessions as various industry talked about working together to solve such issues as identity and measurement. Just like the aforementioned MediaMath and Rubicon partnership that has spawned deeper collaboration across the ad ecosystem to bring transparency to the supply chain.

There was also a hint of Ominicom Media Group working with Facebook on a tool to solve for reach and frequency across the open web and walled gardens.

Also, a number of speakers lambasted the use of the term tech tax, advising that it be thought of as a value chain instead. Truer collaboration could eventually break down some of the walls and complexities that are experienced in the ecosystem today.


Bonus: Blockchain (and AI) Will Power the Future of a Better Advertising Ecosystem

Technologies like blockchain and cryptography, as well as AI, were also being spoken about as solutions to identity, data sharing and cleaning up the supply chain.

At its core, MediaMath’s SOURCE, is AI-powered as a means to provide cleaner, richer, real-time data to publishers, brands and agencies.

There’s also Jonathan Steuer, Chief Research Officer at Omnicom Media Group, working on a blockchain-like depository tool that would use numerous databases to empower advertisers to create a standard for aggregating and measuring both TV and digital data. (Facebook might be working on its own cryptography technology to bridge over walled gardens that will make it easier to follow people, anonymously, across media.)

Ed Gaffney, Managing Partner, Director of Implementation Research & Marketplace Analytics, GroupM, also talked about a blockchainy, cryptographic solution to getting data in a privacy-compliant way across large segments to get better at measurement and reducing the complexity of the ecosystem. “We work better together than in individual streams,” he said.

Photo: Joanna O’Connell, Forrester Research; Tom Kershaw, Rubicon Project and Reshma Karnik, Amnet Programmatic Experts for Dentsu Aegis Network.

Photo credit: AWNewYork/Shutterstock