Revealed at Possible: Insights Shaping Marketing’s Future

Sean Downey, President, Americas & Global Partners, Google

Dubbed the ‘Cannes of the U.S.,’ Possible lived up to its hype. Here are key takeaways from our conversations at the event.

Without a doubt, Possible was the place for digital media and marketing professionals. The 3-day conference was jam-packed with tons of digital advertising content, and just about everyone you know from the industry was there. Even Ad Tech God was there…allegedly. 👀

Attendees indulged in poolside conversations and meetings, which offered a refreshing change from the typical Zoom and office settings. The event content was diverse and engaging, ensuring that there was something of value for everyone in the industry. 

“While Possible’s second year did not have the Elon/Yaccarino jaw-dropping headliner, it matured into an impressive gathering of decision-makers,” said Richy Glassberg, Co-founder and CEO of SafeGuard Privacy. Possible tackled many important conversations, including brand safety, sustainability, the health of the ecosystem, DEI, and more, in a spirited environment with brand marketers everywhere.”

Last year, Possible emerged as the first conference to headline AI, and this year, it extensively focused on the application of AI. The event united diverse viewpoints across media, communication, ad tech, and MarTech industries. Stepping away from New York and immersing ourselves in a new environment with varied perspectives really inspired out-of-the-box thinking.

Since the Fontainebleau was right alongside the ocean, it was hard to hear at times. But here is what we heard beneath the wind. 

Navigating The Discomforts of DEI

Before getting hot and heavy into the bulk of ad content, the event launched with a lunch focused on diversity. Panelists discussed the power of ensuring inclusivity in your workplaces to provide a safe space for your team to show up as their whole selves. Tish Archie Oliver, Chief DEI&B Officer at Unilever, talked about being completely comfortable wearing her hair naturally curly to work and not hiding her identity. She explained that reaching this point took a long time.

Brianne Boles-Marshall, Global Marketing Services Diversity Media Strategy & Investment specialist at General Motors, fueled the conversation by encouraging the audience to embrace their discomfort in the workplace. “The fact that something is making you uncomfortable should let you know that there is something to be learned. Take it as an opportunity to grasp the situation in a way you never have. We should call it an opportunity to learn and grow with that person or through that situation versus feeling like, I’m going to mess this up,” Boles-Marshall said. “That’s how learning and growth take place.”

Your Business Strategy Comes First, AI After 

Sean Downey, President of Americas & Global Partners at Google, outlined a few steps publishers and advertisers can take to fully leverage AI. 

His sense of humor tickled the audience when he mentioned how his industry friends always asked him for AI advice. “My CEO said I have to have an AI strategy by Monday. Please tell me what to do,” Downey said. “Who here has gotten that question from their board meeting? Probably every single person. The answer is always that you don’t need an AI strategy. You need a business strategy that you want to apply AI to.”

According to Downey, focusing on a business strategy is paramount, and then you apply AI to solve specific business problems. To establish an effective business strategy, companies must do the following:

  1. Understand the importance of consumer behavior and the need for real-time insights to reach them effectively. 
  2. Embrace AI applications for measurement, media, and targeting to enhance marketing strategies and ensure quality data fuels AI to make accurate predictions and connections. 
  3. Breakdown silos within marketing departments and adopt a holistic customer-focused approach.

The Art of Partnering for Impact 

While discussing all things programmatic with Rose McGovern, Head of Programmatic & Digital Ad Sales at DirectTV Advertising, she emphasized the importance of publishers prioritizing collaboration to thrive. 

“Publishers need to be very deliberate and discerning with the partners they choose as those partners will steward their content and inventory in a compliant way,” McGovern explained. “At DirectTV, our viewer experience and consumer data are critical to us because we have such a loyal fanbase, and that loyal subscriber base differentiates us.”

Any publisher must maintain a focus on their loyal audience. You can’t just offer your inventory to every buyer. Publishers need to develop a framework for evaluating potential partners and ensuring alignment regarding distribution, ad tech, and data partnerships. 

The Biggest Programmatic Trend Right Now? DOOH & OOH  

At Possible, we also chatted with 2024 Top Women in Media & Ad Tech awards honoree Laura Manning, SVP of Measurement at Clint/Lucid. When we asked her about the biggest programmatic trend of the year, she promptly identified DOOH. “It’s a lot easier to transact DOOH inventory, and therefore, more people are including it in their plans, even if they are just a traditional agency,” she said. 

What is the biggest challenge for DOOH? According to Manning, its measurement is hardly surprising. The ecosystem is continuously trying to solve this issue. Tracking who saw an ad can be tough, but the right partners can help agencies and buyers tie it together. 

What is her advice for publishers navigating today’s programmatic challenges? Education. She recommends engaging with others, reading industry newsletters, attending industry conferences, and discussing trending topics like AI— even if some are weary of the topic.. There is value in learning more about it. 

Regarding OOH, Lucy Markowitz, SVP, GM US Marketplace at Vistar Media, offers her insights on the space”

“The fragmentation in OOH has been part of the reason for the rise of programmatic buying in this space,” Markowitz said. “Being able to leverage multiple publishers as part of a single campaign simply and easily has helped to create opportunities to do better work on behalf of clients as opposed to taking what could be viewed as an “easy route” only leveraging a few publishers to mitigate work.”

According to Markowitz, as advertisers better understand consumer ad fatigue, they try other channels, making DOOH and OOH a great opportunity.  

“Advertisers are recognizing the value of OOH ads, which can adapt to real-time contexts and audience movement,” said Markowitz. DOOH can integrate technologies that boost contextual relevance to audiences, whether driving along the highway or browsing the aisle at the pharmacy. According to the Out of Home Digital Advertising Association, the medium has an impressive 82% ad recall.”

The Evolutionary Journey of the CMO

Over the past two years, CMOs and their strategic importance to the industry have gained prominence. We sat down for a poolside discussion with Natalie Bastian, Global CMO of Teads, to hear her thoughts on the future of the role.

“I’d love to see CMOs turning to CEOs,” she said. “That, to me, is a great indicator of the power and the strength of marketing, and if marketing has a seat at the table at the company as part of the business plan and part of those business decisions, then marketing will be successful. It’s about being simple and correlating the value you can bring to your target audience. Accountability is also a big takeaway; CMOs must be more accountable and responsible with their investments.”

Looking to the future, Bastian advises that CMOs maintain a close-knit relationship with the CFO. Speaking the same language and creating alignment between the two roles is the secret sauce to success; ensuring marketing investment can be effective and scale.

The Future of Advertising in Social Media 

Social media has proven to be an extremely resourceful marketing tool and it is only getting more efficient. As social platforms continue to leverage AI and machine learning, advertisers can employ these tools to create more personalized ad experiences. As well, the shift towards video and interactive content will only continue, with social commerce, like the TikTok shop, gaining more ground.

To gain more insight into the future of advertising in social media, we spoke with Bill Schild, GM of Americas at Channel Factory. As a data platform, Channel Factory uses contextual to maximize ad effectiveness while prioritizing brand safety and suitability on YouTube. The company’s partnership with the YouTube Measurement Program grants them unique access to YouTube’s data, resulting in more accurate and dynamic campaign adjustments. 

“There’s enough commentary to tell us that social media often gets the short end of the stick,” Schild explained. “However, there are two sides to every story, and enough positive content is promoted on the internet that can be a force for good. This should be how the future of social media advertising operates, and it’s something we actively help brands uncover. We envision a future where conscious inclusion and suitability are paramount. Brands, agencies, and advertisers will adopt inclusion-first strategies and utilize advanced AI to grasp context and achieve results that enhance their return on investment (ROI).” 

The Publisher’s Advantage In The Shopper’s Journey

By 2026, commerce media will represent over $150 billion in global ad spend. 😱 What does this mean for publishers? According to a recent report by Criteo, publishers across all regions can expect to make money through retail media networks in the next 12-18 months. 

With the end of cookies on the horizon, the ecosystem is diversifying revenue and heavily pursuing commerce media as an alternative.

“Like retailers, publishers have a wealth of first-party data, but their differentiation lies in their ability to connect with shoppers higher up in the shopper journey,” said Sherry Smith, Executive Managing Director for the Americas at Criteo. To effectively operate within the broader commerce media environment and drive new revenue streams, publishers must activate their powerful first-party data while building long-term partnerships with brands, agencies, and retailers. This combined effort will unlock direct access to powerful commerce data that provides continued personalized advertising on their owned and operated channels.”

Smith predicts publishers will look more like retailer websites in the next three to five years. The sites will combine personalized commerce experiences with core content, creating tailored user experiences where customers can shop and consume their favorite publications. 

Planning on Attending Possible Next Year?

If not, I am sure the following testimonials from ad tech industry leaders are enough to convince you. 

“In the constellation of industry gatherings, Possible shines as a guiding star, its second year solidifying its status as a premier tent pole event. Under one roof, Gen Z consumers, diligent workers, and esteemed executives converged to delve into the depths of industry trends, challenges, and the transformative potential of AI and other technologies. While Cannes will always retain its allure, Possible democratizes the stage, inviting every voice to contribute their brilliance to progress.” – Heather Macaulay, President MadTech 

“A mini-Cannes, complete with a productive mix of brands, agencies and solution providers. AI was a recurrent theme during the conference. It was exciting to hear how marketers are narrowing in on AI solutions that aren’t just flashy distractions, but instead genuinely help address some of marketing’s most basic challenges – like connecting the right ad with the right viewer.” – Peter Crofut, VP, Business Development – Agencies & Brands at Wurl

“This was my first time attending POSSIBLE and it exceeded my expectations in turns of scale and productivity. As we prep for Cannes and our engagement strategy for the rest of the year, I felt like it provided a nice combination of inspiration, engagement and opportunity to fuel creative ideas to take us through 2024 and beyond.” – Meredith Brace, CMO of XR Extreme Reach