After years in the wilderness, the marketing director is back [IAB]

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Digital Maturity

The DMMA, a voluntary non-profit body which represents the interests of the South African digital industry recently rebranded as the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) South Africa. This afforded its chairman Jarred Cinman the opportunity to attend the IAB Leadership Meeting in California. We asked him to share some of the trends, lessons and debates coming out of the conference.

The IAB — apart from now having licensees in 42 countries — has a full-time staff of over 50, with headquarters in Manhattan. The conference is sold out and boasts speakers from major players like Google, Yahoo and Wells Fargo.

The second day of the IAB Annual Leadership meeting in California raised many themes central to the present — and future — of digital marketing. Most striking is the near consensus view that after years in the wilderness the marketing director is back. And it’s all thanks to the internet.

To understand why this is one must first understand why the position fell out of favour in the first place. Traditional marketing practises, whilst powerful in the early years of mass media, eventually started to sink under their own weight. Spurious claims as to reach and efficacy, creative agencies more in love with their own ideas than the client’s brand and a consumer that wearied of being intruded upon at every opportunity all played a role in this.

Initially, digital advertising offered a carbon copy of this paradigm. Basic display banners were nothing more than animated versions of print ads. But over the years the sophistication of what digital can offer has exponentially increased. Today digital advertising offers brands an opportunity to reach consumers, in a highly relevant way, across multiple touchpoints. And to measure the effect these messages are having – and adapt, and improve, in realtime.

As Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers said, “Big data is leading to big insights is leading to over-performance” in brands embracing this. And because this data is typically the purview of the marketing team they are suddenly in a position to guide strategy as never before.

Of course they cannot operate in isolation. Liodice and others, like Jamie Moldafsky, CMO of banking giant Wells Fargo and Ann Lewnes, CMO of Adobe, point to increased collaboration between marketing directors and IT, HR and Finance. But make no mistake: insights and data sit at the heart of the new marketing organisation. Wells Fargo, for example, has set up a “command centre” on both the East and West Coast of the US to monitor and respond to consumer sentiment in realtime. And to extract insights as they go.

In the US, the ANA and the IAB are driving toward what they’ve called “Marketing 2020”, a vision of the way marketers, publishers and agencies need to operate in the digital age. With typical flourish and cheerleading this vision has formed a basis for this IAB conference. It has called for a new commitment to integrity and collaboration. But it has done so with a skip in its step. Marketing, overall, is starting to win again. And a huge part of that victory is digital and digital marketing ideas.

A number of emerging markets like South Africa remain trapped largely in a traditional marketing paradigm. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the enormous chunk of the population in those countries who have no meaningful access to the internet. But one thing we know is that, given time, this will change. CEOs will demand the same kind of measurability and responsiveness that advanced markets like the US and UK have today. And as far as that goes digital is the only game in town.

Other key learnings from the day:

  • Close to 50% of all publisher sites are now relying on programmatic buying to fill inventory — including large publishers
  • There is a massive crisis emerging with fraudulent traffic and fake clicks. The IAB has set a goal to fight this lest it discredit the entire industry and erode the trust of advertisers.
  • Radio as a medium is not losing listeners to digital – even in the US. Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of Clear Channel, says listeners still rely on the radio to “tell us what we need to know”
  • The UK has 32% of adspend in digital – larger than TV
  • The “click” will be replaced with the “viewable impressions” if the IAB has anything to do with it. What this means in essence is a way of guaranteeing an advertiser that their ad has actually been seen by a human being. This is a bold – some might say desperate – attempt to find a GRP for digital that allows us to circumnavigate the poor click results typical online.
  • Mobile is the wild west globally. Few have figured out how to effectively make money from mobile advertising. And in a largely cookieless space, it is deeply challenging to track and measure advertising.
  • There is a substantial rise in the power of “native” advertising or branded content, especially among young people. VICE produces the largest amount of video content anywhere in the world — and it’s landing with so-called Millennials like crazy.
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