Six Things We Saw, Heard, and Digested at IAB ALM 2024

You just had to be there, but ICYMI, we’ve got you covered. IAB ALM was a melting pot of visionary minds converging to navigate trends, obstacles, and tactical blueprints.

AdMonsters was in the room at the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting 2024, soaking up every last nugget of wisdom. We were (I mean, I was) part of an immersive dialogue, a collective exploration with industry trailblazers, diving deep into the core of what propels the industry forward.

From AI algorithms to CTV, nailing down the nitty-gritty of new measurement methods, to retail media, and the emerging role of trust and safety, the well-rounded agenda left no crumbs. 

The importance of collaboration, unity, and direct engagement in creating standards was highlighted as the path to success, shaping the future of the digital economy. Brick by brick, together, we are finding solutions to some of the industry’s most pressing challenges. Following are six things we saw, heard and digested at IAB ALM 2024.

Six Things We Saw, Heard, and Digested at IAB ALM 2024

1. Google Is Not the Problem, We Are

At the Annual Leadership Meeting, John Halley, President of Paramount Advertising, dropped many gems. As highlighted in our X post, he did not shy away from calling out the audience. He put forth a strong charge for the industry to solve the identity crisis and nurture a healthy identity ecosystem.

He offered a fresh perspective, likening executives to students on their first day of school. With the industry evolving at breakneck speed, he pointed out, we’re all in a constant state of learning. Halley playfully noted that while we might be showing our age,  the industry remains eternally youthful, perpetually in its adolescence.

“We are now in the digital age, and the pivots that are involved belong to all of us,” Halley declared, highlighting the need for collective effort in steering the digital landscape. “All businesses are in a constant process of change. Nothing stays the same for very long.”

He highlighted how the CTV market, having never depended on cookies, confronted the identity challenge early on and cultivated a collaborative environment in response. “There isn’t going to be a single identity solution. There are only approaches,” Halley remarked. He suggested that a varied strategic approach is key to navigating the post-cookie era. By leveraging first-party data, predictive audiences, and other innovations, CTV provides a glimpse into a potential future for digital advertising.

2. We Learned How to Think like a Futurist

Dave Cohen, CEO of the IAB, sat down with Jen Brace, Chief Futurist at Ford, and Debra Kantt, Executive Director and Futurist at JP Morgan to explore how forward-thinking perspectives can elevate business.

“Imagine there was a discipline that teaches you how to exist in a world that doesn’t exist yet?” Kantt posed this intriguing question. She delved into the art of envisioning and then strategically planning for the most innovative products, services, and experiences of the future. Kantt and her team harness ‘strategic foresight’ to surf the early ripples of change – those faint ‘weak signals’ that hint at future megatrends.

Brace from Ford highlighted the importance of curiosity and acute awareness of one’s surroundings as key characteristics of a quintessential futurist. The conversation emphasized the necessity of looking past current trends, focusing instead on understanding and preparing for the markets and clients of tomorrow. Brace confronted the hard truths head-on: to remain at the forefront and flexible,  one must navigate uncharted territories and embrace a spectrum of potential futures.

3. CMO’s Talk About Leveraging AI to Enhance User Experience 

Esi Eggleston Bracey, Chief Growth and Marketing Officer at Unilever; Jenna Lebel, Chief Marketing Officer at Liberty Mutual;  Carryl Pierre-Drews, Executive Vice President and chief Marketing Officer at the IAB; and Jennie Weber Chief Marketing Officer
at Best Buy Co. Inc. discussed the major themes 
shaping the future of the digital landscape, including the impact of generative AI, the evolution of commerce strategies, the march towards a “streaming-first” future, navigating privacy challenges, fostering responsible media practices, and unlocking creativity in the digital age

The heart of the matter? The CMO gig is morphing by the minute. Today’s marketing leaders must focus on crafting experiences that center on the customer, push the envelope with AI-powered personalization, and drive sales through innovative marketing initiatives. Adaptation isn’t just key — it’s everything. 

They also shared specific examples of how they use AI and other tech, to better serve and engage customers  — think claim processing on steroids, content that writes itself, and futuristic products. 

“What AI does today is democratize skill in the way the Internet democratizes information. So that means we can help people better with more skill,” said Esi Eggleston Bracey, Chief Growth and Marketing Officer at Unilever. “The fundamental role of marketing is to help people. And what I’m super excited about with AI is that we can better help people. And so we think about AI not as artificial intelligence, but augmented intelligence because artificial suggests replacing people.”

4. Gen AI Is a Facilitator, and Then an Accelerator

I spoke with Oz Etzioni, Co-founder and CEO of Clinch, about the state of AI. Together, we hashed out the difference between gimmicky AI and actual operational generative AI. 

“The big challenge is to look at the whole workflow and think of gen AI as a facilitator and then an accelerator,” expressed Etzioni. “You start measuring it by the currency of time. This tool can start generating time, freeing up people to do a lot of stuff faster, and creating more efficiency.”

The industry is getting more complex. There are more channels, more audiences, and less signals. There is a lot to figure out all at one time. When used correctly, generative AI provides teams with more time to collaborate and strategize making it easier to solve these complicated issues.

Just last week Clinch announced its integration with Google Ad Manager’s Creative Transcoding API.

“Clinch’s latest integration with Google Ad Manager marks a notable advancement in ad serving efficiencies,” said Oz Etzioni, CEO of Clinch. “Our nuanced approach involves pre-ingestion transcoding, eliminating the necessity for transcoding during the initial impression. Transcoded creatives are directly available in Google Ad Manager’s creative repository from Flight Control, streamlining ad serving calls for a seamless viewing experience”.

5. Senator Blackburn Spills the Tea on Kids Online Safety

Senator Mary Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee provided some straight talk about keeping kids safe online, and she’s serious about pushing the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) through the legislative hoops.

She conveyed strong confidence in the passage of KOSA, highlighting its bipartisan support and backing from tech companies like Snap and X. Additionally, she highlighted the importance of protecting children from harmful online content and the need for social media platforms to take action.

“I think KOSA will pass because it is something parents want to see signed into law,” Blackburn stated. With 50 senators, evenly split across parties, co-sponsoring it, and over 200 organizations in support, its momentum is clear. The legislation aims to empower kids and parents with tools to disable harmful algorithms and provides a direct means to report issues like cyberbullying, eating disorders, and exposure to inappropriate content, and it compels social media companies to take decisive action. These steps are necessary for the safety of our children. Blackburn expects it to move swiftly through the Senate and onto the House for final approval.

Senator Blackburn also mentioned a push to address Section 230, emphasizing the necessity of a federal privacy standard and the importance of considering the end-use of technology when crafting legislation.  She argued for proactive engagement with lawmakers to mitigate the unintended consequences of proposed legislation, especially when it disproportionately impacts smaller businesses.

6. Why Companies Need to Level Up on Trust

Sitting down with Jeff Dunn, VP of Trust and Safety at Hinge, was an enlightening experience as we delved into the intricacies of brand safety.  He shared a wealth of strategic insights and practical steps for companies aiming to become stalwarts of trust. He emphasized the importance of advertisers vigilantly monitoring their ad campaigns, the use of their logos, social media conversations, their customer experience team’s engagement, and beyond.

Dunn schooled us on trust and safety, echoing back to Halley’s ‘first day of school’ metaphor that I mentioned earlier in this article. This constant learning curve is precisely what Halley was getting at. Trust & Safety, as a field, has been rapidly emerging in response to the explosion of online content creation. 

For brands involved in hosting, sharing, or creating online content (and who isn’t these days?), it’s essential to have someone dedicated to Trust and Safety. The role involves staying abreast of the latest forms of online abuse  (like scams, harassment, child safety, etc) and assisting your company in safeguarding your brand and its users.

Even for companies not directly engaged in user-generated content, Trust & Safety extends beyond mere content moderation. It’s about embedding Safety into your products and services from the outset — think “Safety by Design.” It involves conducting risk assessments, envisioning potential brand vulnerabilities, understanding user needs, and ensuring compliance.

Having a dedicated Trust and Safety lead in your company is vital. This person should be a public face, capable of calling the shots and shaping product design. They need to be supported by a squad focused on minimizing risks, ensuring compliance, and maintaining the brand’s reputation. Trust me, it’s the kind of upgrade your company needs to stay lit and legit in the ever-evolving digital world.