This year’s event, which runs from September 29 through October 3 in New York, is full of opinions on the current state and future of advertising. A few of this year’s hot topics include native advertising, mobile and video, programmatic advertising and women working in digital. Below, we’ve recapped some of the key discussions around each of these hot-button issues.
Programmatic ad buying took center stage at AdWeek this year, with more than 20 panels devoted to parsing out the intricacies of the subject. From maximizing profit margins to successfully combining native and programmatic buying, experts from agencies, networks and publishers alike were eager to get to the bottom of this evolving trend.
Although programmatic buying isn’t new, using it for television advertising is. Ad executives speaking on the panel “Programmatic TV, Advertising’s Next Great Frontier” predict thatprogrammatic will account for up to 5% of TV buying in 2015, up from 1% today.
As publishers are diving into programmatic, we’ve seen some interesting acquisitions, such as Facebook buying LiveRail and AOL buying Adap.tv, presumably to boost video ad revenue. Additionally, other traditional publishers like NBC are rolling out their own initiativesto offer programmatic buying to advertisers.
The question of programmatic buying becoming commonplace for TV is uncertain — networks are reluctant to stray from a model that has worked for decades — but advertisers are eager to capitalize on the reduced cost and improved targeting that programmatic offers. This hot topic will surely make its way back onto the AdWeek stage in 2015.
2. Native Advertising
IAB data indicates native advertising is a fast-growing part of the $43 billion U.S. digital advertising market. A study in September 2013 indicated that 66% of American agencies and 64% of marketers planned to spend on native over the next six months, and its rise warranted native getting its own category in IAB’s half-year report.
There’s perhaps no hotter buzzword in the advertising world right now, which explains why native advertising is one of the key conversation topics of Advertising Week. Native is firmly planted in the minds, conversations and budgets of advertisers around the world.
The practice, which integrates brand-sponsored material seamlessly into social platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, and news/media sites has raised quite a stir in the past few years, primarily due to its success in comparison to traditional online advertising methods such as banner ads. Now, the industry is struggling to define what makes a “quality” native campaign, how to properly distinguish (and label) native ads from organic content, and examining some of the native ad strategies that have proved the most — and least — successful to date.
It’s no surprise that panels such as “Brands and the Art of Content Creation,” “Content Marketing Success Stories,” “Branded.Content” and “Sports Journalism and Branded Content: A New Model” have been chock-full of phrases such as “seeds of content,” “online community” and, perhaps most ubiquitously, “storytelling.” Countless conversations among panelists and attendees center on this very concept: Brands as storytellers (or “storybuilders,” as Amy Pascal, director of digital marketing strategy at Johnson & Johnson, puts it).
While there are innumerable — and sometimes conflicting — opinions on the latest craze to hit the ad world, most marketers agree on at least one thing: It’s not going away anytime soon.
Even though online video has received less attention than other emerging ad forms — like mobile and native — the topic continues to be well represented at Advertising Week. This is largely due to many marketers’ decision to shift ad dollars from TV to digital video, mirroring recent trends in consumer viewing habits — time spent watching digital video has more than doubled since 2012. Many panels have also discussed the shift toward buying video programmatically, a practice that has been previously associated most closely with display. Programmatic video startup Virool even announced a buzz-generating contest that will send a winner into space with a ticket on Virgin Galactic. Virool is one of the first companies to offer viral video publishing to advertisers that helps push their creative through the company’s ad network.
Additional conversations have focused on how the industry should approach video content. For example, is it better to show longer, interactive pre-roll ads, or chunk ads into “commercial breaks” throughout content? Interactive pre-roll videos empower viewers to participate in video at the beginning of a show, which then allows them to watch without interruptions. Streaming site DramaFever gave viewers exactly that option — and found that 63% of viewers chose the option to engage in the beginning and then skip commercials throughout the rest of the content.
The changing landscape of digital video will be discussed further on Thursday at the session titled “Advertising’s Gold Rush: Online Video.”
While “native” might be the belle of the ball at Ad Week this year, “mobile native” is another hot contender. As brands delve further into the possibilities of reaching an audience that’s increasingly connected to smartphones, tablets and even wearables, advertisers are thinking of outside-the-box ways to monetize on the trend.
Mobile was once an afterthought in the advertising world — but today, brands are perking up and paying attention, as mobile usage now comprises 60% of digital media consumption. With new smartphone releases and iPhone 6 sales skyrocketing, everybody’s developing a mobile strategy. And while advertisers agree the platform has a ways to go before they can develop a viable advertising strategy, more and more marketers want in on the mobile game.
The dilemma is that traditional methods of advertising often don’t translate well on mobile — and there’s far less screen space on mobile than desktop. It’s clear that brands and advertisers will need to get creative in order to develop successful mobile strategies.
That doesn’t mean that banner ads are dead, though. In a panel entitled, “Masters of Monetization: Mobile,” Brian Blummer, SVP of monetization for social networking serviceKeek, warned against pronouncing banners as relics of the past — he posits that they’ll continue to play a role as brands adapt to an increasingly mobile-focused strategy. “I would call it a bridge to a new evolution,” he said.
5. Women in digital
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, has made a name for herself as an advocate for working females everywhere. During an impassioned Advertising Week talk, she pointed out that women represent less than 3% of creative directors in the entire advertising industry, even though women control 80% of consumer spending in the United States. “We need to get more women in this room and every room,” she said. In line with this sentiment, another Advertising Week event focused specifically on getting more women into tech careers.
Sandberg’s panel, which included BBDO CEO Andrew Robertson, also discussed the evolution of women in advertising. Robertson called out a recent BBDO campaign for Pantene in the Philippines, which encouraged women to fight gender stereotypes like “bossy” and “pushy.” The campaign, which helped the brand create stronger relationships with both women and millennials, is considered a great success, as is Verizon’s #InspireHerMind campaign.