OPS: Digital Media Shifts Seasons

Digital media shifts seasons

I’d like to say it’s feeling like fall in New York, but no, heat and humidity still assail us in early September, turning the Big Apple into a concrete sweat lodge. Hopefully the weather changes course before Sept. 26, with crisp autumn weather signaling the arrival of AdMonsters’ flagship one-day event, OPS – it’d be great to capitalize on that whole “change is in the air” vibe.

But wait, Gavin – isn’t digital media and advertising constantly in flux? Yeah, yeah, I know that argument, but I don’t buy it – I’d suggest development in digital advertising comes in spits and rushes. Spits when some new technology or process (think RTB four years ago) comes on the scene and digital strategists attempt to figure out where it fits (if at all) in current operations. 

This last year, however, was more of a rush – while native was arguably in a more conceptual phase last year, use of the term and related practices have spread like wildfire among publishers, agencies and service providers. Programmatic trading has hit new strides with increased adoption (and methods) of private exchanges and programmatic direct providers have dramatically upped their visibility. Digital video is on fire, especially with crossover TV metrics.

It may seem early to be pushing “year-in-review” material, but OPS is still well-timed for discussion – before the madness of the fourth quarter, we should evaluate the ground we’ve covered and put an eye on the future. As I noted in my Makegood column yesterday, a series of major acquisitions this summer and rumors of big ad tech IPOs in the coming year make this a ponderous time for digital media.

While AdMonsters prides itself on its operations heritage, OPS is really about thinking outside of operations, or rather viewing operations as a fine lens for examining the major trends – the tighter bonds between editorial and advertising, the reality of mobile commerce, the intertwining of social and content and of course the current state of programmatic trading.

Hot Keynote Action

Whenever I find myself flummoxed by the ad tech issues of the day, I know where to head: John Battelle’s Search Blog. The co-founding editor of Wired, celebrated author, and founder and CEO of Federated Media has a way of breaking down the issues du jour to not only assist you in analyzing current movements, but also illustrate the road ahead. We’ll be kicking off OPS by hosting a conversation with Battelle that will circle around many of the pertinent issues mentioned earlier, but namely the increasingly blurry line between content and advertising.

It’s been a pleasure to get to know Dave Skaff, partner and Head of Creative at innovative agency The Science Project. Wanna talk about a comprehensive vision? Through its “Theater of Retail,” TSP has built campaigns for numerous advertisers that seamlessly link offline and online channels. However, in his keynote he’ll argue that marketing and technology are not developing in sync, which is throwing off progress. How do the two get in line? You’ll have to listen in for the answer.

Media Metamorphosis

Speaking of crossing channels and linking digital and physical, Paypal has long been an innovator in e-commerce and is increasingly proving its potency in mobile commerce. But Head of Emerging Services (nice title!) Patrick Gauthier will detail how the company is taking its practices to the next level by circulating data gleaned via mobile commerce back into digital advertising – such as on parent company eBay’s sites. Commerce is increasingly linking digital advertising efforts across channels, and after talking to Patrick, I don’t know if any other company has made such bold moves to harness the glue.

In terms of reading material, I like to think of Gawker as a guilty pleasure. In terms of site design and advertising, I’ve always thought of them as a leader in digital publishing. This year’s site redesign and launch of the Kinja commenting/content creation system further cemented this belief – a pristine melding of editorial and social network. How monetization is boldly tied into this web is a work of art all in itself, which VP of Business Development Erin Pettigrew and Studio@Gawker Executive Director Jason Del have graciously offered to walk us through. Here’s a prime example with, of all people, Bill Nye, the Science Guy

Outside the Ops Box

As I mentioned before, OPS is about walking outside of the operations comfort zone. Data visualization and information design may sound like the fodder for eye-grabbing newspaper graphics and Cannes Gold-Lion-winning creative, but the uses for visualization techniques are seemingly limitless, and many of those are quite applicable to all facets of digital advertising. My friend Giorgia Lupi of information design firm Accurat – who developed a project on painters’ lives with illustrator Michela Buttignol, also known as my wife – was eager to talk to the OPS crowd about using data visualization to build narratives that offer insight into audience and more. It was quite an offer considering she’s often keynoting major international conferences. For a great (and extremely relevant) example of her work, check out “The Startup Universe,” built for Visual.ly.

I’ll admit, the term neuroscience sometimes brings to mind thoughts of mind scientists inserting electrodes into sliced opened brains, but that’s because I watched too many horror movies as a child. Really, neuroscience is the study of the brain’s response to stimuli – and a bold frontier for digital advertising explored by Plastic Mobile (which recently released an insightful report comparing and contrasting Canadian and US consumer habits) with the assistance of True Impact Marketing. As the full report isn’t coming out until later this year, consider the OPS presentation a sneak peak into an eye-opening experiment.

Glancing Back, Gazing Forward

Finally, we close with the investors. If you read the tech trades, it’s pretty obvious that venture capital is not flooding into ad tech like it did a few years ago. The well hasn’t run dry, but as several tech players pull together IPOs and the long-rumored consolidation becomes a reality, it’s prime time to examine the current state of investment, the effect the VC inundation had on ad tech development (the cause of rampant complexity?!?) and where the money is headed next… If anywhere at all. 

To debate these questions (and more), we’ve rounded up a group of disparate investors, including entrepreneur Gil Beyda of Genacast Ventures and Todd Sawicki (former CRO of Cheezburger, current President of Zemanta and one of my personal favorite PubForum keynotes).

Of course, this only a taste of OPS – hit up the event page for more of the day’s agenda. And don’t be a stranger – the topics of discussion will be evolving up to and during the event, so drop us a message at [email protected]. You can also tweet your thoughts my way at @AdMonsterGavin or @AdMonsters. We’ll see you in SoHo on Sept. 26.