A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM NEW YORK INTERCONNECT
Insights and Highlights from Advertising Week New York 2023
Navigating the Multiverse of Advertising Week 2023: Creative, Culture, AI and More
By E.B. Moss
One of the recurring themes of the first two days of Advertising Week’s sessions was the need for standout creative. Another was multiplatform navigation. The two could also be applied to the physical venue of the four day conference, hosted now in mid-town Manhattan from its more recent downtown digs. Doors opened at 8 on Monday. By 9:30a the line to check in snaked down 33rd Street and around the corner, past digital display trucks, and even the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, courtesy of Carat and its newly won account, Kraft Heinz.
Once inside, splashy brand booths offered snacks as compensation: Yahoo! Connected celebrated its third birthday with eye popping cupcakes. Viant took the healthy route with fruit and yogurt options and DirecTV had a full on “Advertising Diner” – if only offering themed desserts (“Programmatic Pumpkin Pie,” anyone?).
Past the high wattage, high caloric enticement, pull up banners offered colorful arrows pointing to the tonnage of overlapping sessions. But that was where the creative multi-floor / multi-escalator navigation began.
As Samba TV’s VP/ Head of Agency Development, Kris Magel, put it, “There definitely seems to be a wealth of content for everybody connected to the marketing and advertising industry: marketing, creative, and a lot of measurement sessions. Really something for everybody, which would be in the spirit of Advertising Week. What’s interesting is traveling to all the sessions in what’s the old Manhattan Mall [Gimbles before that, for nostalgic New Yorkers!], where we shopped just a short two years ago, but we’re managing.”
In an early session, Ampersand CEO, Nicolle Pangis, asked her powerhouse panelists, including Mike Law, CEO, Carat NA , Sean Muzzy, Global President, Kinesso, and Jay Askinasi, CEO, PMX US, what clients want today, versus just several years ago. The answers were telling: Data and measurement plus a huge push for creativity; flexibility; addressability – which moved from occasional requests to being “front and center for most clients.”
And the issues they broached were just as telling: Alternative currencies are still, well, alternative in agreement. As Law said, “The marketplace didn’t set itself up well for this shift. But there are a lot of smart people trying to make this transition. We can live in a world of alt currencies but the question really is ‘what do you want to trade on?’ Fill in the blank. We can trade on any number of KPIs. We have to accept that there will be a bespokeness to measurement.”
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM NEW YORK INTERCONNECT
There was curiosity and a definition and defense of all things content across the first couple of days, too. Askinasi believes, “There are still some things that matter like sports, but sitting back and watching a linear network has changed quite a bit. From our POV, linear content — and context — does still matter. For a lot of brands there’s still safety in that.”
Field Garthwaite, CEO & Co-Founder of IRIS.TV, expects one major focus at #AWNY23 to be quality of that content: “It’s a significant topic for everyone, from major networks like NBC to platforms like Paramount and various CTV providers. They’ll be emphasizing the importance of higher quality attention and measurement on premium content.”
But all comers touted their content offerings via all forms of delivery. Atmosphere TV and Energy BBDO discussed the challenges and opportunities presented by out-of-home viewing, for example, emphasizing the need to reshape people’s perceptions of screen use beyond the living room.
CRO Ryan Spicer acknowledged impatience when he’s asked if Atmosphere is Digital Out of Home (DOOH) or CTV. “We’re CTV is the polite answer. The less polite one is ‘who cares?’ We sit at the convergence of two previously distinct buckets. We change the optionality for marketers… to help brands show up in a way that adds value.”
To that point, New York Interconnect’s Jason Swartz, VP of Advanced Advertising, New Business, and National Sales, suggests that content providers could capitalize on some key categories: “…these include reality TV, live sports and news programming, as these continue as usual despite disruptions elsewhere. All three categories draw highly engaged viewers with tremendous collective buying power. Particularly when it comes to live sports and local news, advertisers will want to ensure their media plans include regional partners with access to the most popular programming for a given area, as well as the right multiscreen, measurement and attribution capabilities.”
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM NEW YORK INTERCONNECT
Making More Magic
“Culture Unleashed by Group Black” was a well-curated break out area, with a mini gallery of photos by Cheryl Fox on the “Rock ‘n Roll of Hip Hop” next to the lounge-like “GB’s Sports bar.” Bonin Bough, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer of Group Black explained that “what’s very important, as always, is to make sure that we provide a space and opportunity for our collective members,” but he meant that both physically and strategically with a goal to “ensure that the conversation around how to reach this very valuable audience has a place to actually happen in earnest.”
Their sessions have sparked standing room only listeners drawn to a series concept of CMOs as “Chief Magic Officers”, or the forces behind brand value creation, with speakers like Sehr Thadhani, Chief Digital Officer, Nasdaq and Raja Rajamannar, CMO, Mastercard, exploring industry trends. Bough summed up two interesting conversations thus far: “One has been the impact of investing in multicultural and diverse audiences and showing real case studies and real business movement. I think for too much, we talk about the societal impact and we forget that at the end of the day the only place that you source growth is from untapped and under invested in opportunities and communities…actually investing in the communities versus just extracting value from it. …The second is the power of creativity in a world where everybody has data, everybody buys at the same rate, everybody has the same algorithms; there is no differentiator at this point outside of creativity.”
On that creative side, David Linde, CEO of Participant, which is dedicated to content that unites art and activism for positive change, said, “Shared experiences are the basis of human connection, and storytelling is one of the most powerful forms of shared experience. Regardless of medium, stories have the power to build empathy, which is the first step to creating cultural and social change.”
Talking about more ways to Achieve Advertising Success in the Vibrant (and Fragmented) CTV Landscape, Jackie Perez, Director of Programmatic Sales at Spectrum Reach volunteered that, “I’m super-hot on curation. It’s the sexiest trend in the marketplace! One benefit is that you can like skip the development queue in terms of innovation by six months to two years working with an SSP curation platform.”
And as if that wasn’t hot enough, Monday’s sessions wrapped up much the way it started, with a line that stretched the length of the “mall.” This time it was for closing keynoter, Paris Hilton, co-founder and CEO of 11:11 Media, who recapped her alignment with Taco Bell with her song, “Hot One,” that drove a “top ten” result. Not on the charts, perhaps, but in the Taco Bell campaign record results. More reality? Peacock kicks off Season Two of her “Paris in Love” soon.
At a more cerebral closed door session on Monday evening, strategy advisor Lou Paskalis spoke with Krzysztof Franaszek, CEO of ad quality and transparency platform, Adalytics, on the art of truth-telling. Truth be told, this private session should have been public, because more need to hear the takeaways loud and clear. As Ali Manning, co-Founder/COO of AI software company Chalice, described it: “Krzysztof revealed some new findings where marketers’ investments are just not being stewarded by the platforms that are benefiting from them.” She believes CMOs have to make financial risk management the goal, step up corporate governance and “demand greater transparency from their vendor partners and take ownership of the decisions that tech is driving, allegedly on their behalf, and stop outsourcing control to outside partners who may be serving a broader set of objectives.”
Apropos its mall-ghost setting, Advertising Week is serving up more than a dozen sessions dedicated to Retail Media. Stephanie Paterik of The Trade Desk moderated one on the Rise of Retail Data, calling it “the buzziest of the buzz words and phrases.” “Rise” in general is a good word, too, as much of the buzz is about projections it will hit more than $125B in revenue this year, and surpass linear and connected TV revenue combined by 2028.
But the combo with the other darling of media these days, CTV, is expected to pack a powerful punch. Per her panel on how they are working together for brand results, VAB EVP, Danielle DeLauro, noted: “Today we heard how the marriage of retail media and CTV is an exciting opportunity for marketers. Blending the benefits of a premium video environment with the data and targeting intelligence of retailers enables advertisers to move up the funnel, hitting customers earlier in their purchase journey. Although it’s still early days, this is anticipated to be a fast growing segment of CTV in the years to come.”
Interpret as desired, but Global VP Ad Sales for Netflix Peter Naylor and Jessica Padula, VP of Marketing and Sustainability at Nestle’s Nespresso brand commanded an even longer entry line than Paris Hilton. The pay off? The two illuminated the value of tapping the year old ad-supported side of the biggest streaming service. “We’re working closely to create a fantastic experience both advertisers and viewers who will love. Because …we’re trying to set a new standard …To be culturally relevant and allow you to have your ad nestled in the Netflix Top 10,” Naylor said. “But when brands want to align with specific shows, we just announced that option: Frito-Lay’s Smart Food is the inaugural sponsor of ‘Love is Blind’ for example.”
A new option allows a sponsor to “reward binge viewers” with an ad-free next up episode. But the hot off the presses news was the just announced Netflix Cup — matching up race car drivers with golf pros in a version of a tongue in cheek Grand Prix races (picture pit mechanics quickly servicing golf carts), sponsored by T-Mobile, and Nespresso, which is aiming to up its brand awareness with US audiences.
The female force was felt at AWNY, from the luxurious lounge of the Female Quotient through Tuesday advice from the Women of WBD session. “Believe in yourself. And trust the people who believe in you,” said Andrea Zapata, EVP, Head of Ad Sales Research, Data and Insights for Warner Bros. Discovery. Echoing similar, Sheereen Russell, EVP, Ad Sales and Inclusive Content Monetization said, “I sometimes feel I got here by accident. I wanted to be a singer or producer, but never set the path. I just became a lifelong learner that instead opened opportunities for me that I didn’t expect. So, my advice? It’s okay if you don’t have a clear career path. Networking can open doors.”
In the corporate world people are attracted to things that are familiar to them,” said Laura Galietta, EVP, Integrated Ad Sales Marketing. “But I have something totally different to say. So sometimes what’s needed is listening and sometimes seeking out the difference helps you gain a critical edge in the marketplace.”
They were supported from the top down, with Chief U.S. Advertising Sales Officer Jon Steinlauf in the audience, who said in in a hallway chat afterwards, “their day-to-day contributions are just excellent and we’re really proud of what they’ve each accomplished.”
A CYNOPSIS MESSAGE FROM NEW YORK INTERCONNECT
Executives intercepted in the hallways described their interest in other hot topics:
Michael Chock, Chief Solutions Officer of SmartMedia Technologies, wants to learn more “how AI will impact the advertising industry – from TV content creation and ownership to automated bidding strategies in new emerging platforms. And for the media side, hearing a lot of brands talking about where to put social dollars as we watch the Meta and X decline. And is this actually the time of cookie deprecation? What will this mean for targeting, reporting, and attribution?”
Plenty of sessions aimed to answer the AI questions in particular. In Unleashing the Power of AI in Marketing, Angelina Eng, IAB’s VP Measurement, Addressability & Data Center, explained that there’s great potentiality for AI to “help with improved consumer insights to help with cross channel attribution, media mix modeling, predictive forecasting, to create and expose different types of cohorts to target and to deliver relevant ad experiences.”…BUT, she made a point of expressing that “bias needs to be monitored closely and companies have an ethical responsibility to be sure AI doesn’t drive all decisions.”
When VAB CEO Sean Cunningham asked his panel about how they get more efficient at planning and buying using AI, Amol Waishampayan, Chief Product Officer at FullThrottle said, “As an agency it feels like you’re performing with Cirque du Solei without any training, but AI is allowing us to leapfrog by combining 1st party data propensity modeling to understand more.”
Isabel Perry, VP of Emerging Technology at DEPT® said, “Next Best Action Modeling is all about optimizing conversions. We were able to model out those customers, ID them to eliminate them. And for one luxury beauty brand client, we were able to determine the most effective products to display to a customer, increasing email revenue by an impressive 460% and social ROAS by 66%.”
On the brand side, CMO Gail Horwood at Novartis blithely noted: “AI is not ‘Press button. Get cupcakes.’ It’s magical in one level but it’s not magic. Garbage in is garbage out so it requires a level of rigor and deeper level of human intervention. We have the obligation and opportunity to set this up is a way that is responsible and sustainable.”