This is a great time to be in the digital advertising and media space, top executives from AOL Inc. and Fidelity Investments said at last week's Interactive Advertising Bureau Annual Leadership Meeting in Phoenix.
But IAB President-CEO Randall Rothenberg sounded a cautionary note, saying that unless marketers, agencies and publishers focus on digital branding, “a new "dark ages' of advertising” could lay ahead. To prevent this, he urged IAB members to abide by what he called the “founding principles of the digital advertising industry.”“This is the lowest-competition and highest-opportunity [environment] that I've seen in 20 years,” said Tim Armstrong, chairman-CEO of AOL and former president of Google Inc.'s Americas Operations. He compared the current state of the digital sector to the auto industry in the early decades of the 20th century. “The next 20 years will make the last 20 look small in comparison,” he said.
Armstrong noted several favorable trends, including the emergence of Big Data, which he said is still in its infancy, and the increasing digital connectedness of consumers. He also said he cheered the recent news that the U.S. Postal Service plans to eliminate most Saturday delivery, citing it as evidence that “the offline world is going offline.”
Jim Speros, exec VP-CMO of Fidelity Investments and a longtime marketing executive at AT&T, delivered a talk entitled “The New Golden Age of Marketing.” Helping to usher in this era has been the arrival of Big Data, he said.
“We are definitely entering a new golden age of marketing where big ideas and Big Data coexist,” Speros said. (The theme of this year's IAB meeting was “Big Data, Big Ideas: Friends, Enemies or Frenemies.”) “Data is the lifeblood of Fidelity Investments,” Speros said. For businesses overall, he said, “Data is becoming as important as raw materials and fossil fuels.”
But Speros said Big Data is only part of the marketing equation and must be matched with creativity.
“Simply collecting data is not an end in itself,” he said. “Collecting too much data results in chaos.”
In his “Straight Talk From the IAB Leadership” address, Rothenberg said the “empirical approach” that has won the lion's share of advertising expenditures in recent years has not brought about the “long-sought digital advertising utopia.”
“Far from being in a new age of digital advertising enlightenment, I worry that we are entering a new "dark ages' of advertising,” he said. “We assert that we are bringing science, at long last, to advertising, but what if we are merely bringing bad science to our industry?”
Displaying a Web page spattered with ads such as “Dr. Pete's Super Diet” and “Find Singles in Phoenix,” Rothenberg said, “This is what predominates in our medium and, like it or not, this is how consumers and major advertisers view us.”
To counteract this trend, Rothenberg urged IAB members to follow a new set of digital brand advertising principles. These include:
The three-day IAB meeting attracted 850 registered attendees.