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April 16, 2008

Keynote Roundtable: State of the Industry

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No sooner does one keynote end than the next begins. That’s how we roll here at Ad:Tech. Michael Theodore (IAB) is moderating this State of the Industry roundtable with panelists Todd Teresi (Yahoo), Jeremy Wright (Nokia Ad Service), Jennifer Moyer (Washingtonpost, Newsweek Interactive), and Curt Hecht (GM Planworks/Starcom Mediavest Group).

While my computer freezes, Michael introduces the panelists. Gee, I hope that wasn’t important. Thanks a lot, Word.

We’re going to start by talking about the Recession. It’s Web 2.0’s first economic downturn. Are we really still pretending Web 2.0 is a thing? [I thought we were on like, Web. 7.0 now? It’s like AOL that way. – Lisa]

Are there any positives that can come out of this?

Jennifer: What we’re seeing is that advertisers in certain categories are reluctant to commit dollars. Jobs are down, cars is holding strong but that’s obviously going to go down. On a positive side, marketers will move dollars to less traditional forms online where the measurability is. Branded publishers probably won’t be the beneficiaries. It’ll be portals, ad networks.

Todd: He agrees that things are going to be moved to where there is more accountability for ad dollars. This isn’t like the first Internet downturn. They’re very stable now, unlike the bubble.

Jeremy: He says mobile is still at an earlier stage of advertising so it’s going to be interesting for them. Budgets are going to be cut, obviously, so it’s either going to be that you’re going to cut the new stuff (like mobile) or you’re going to cut the traditional stuff and try for a new platform. Everyone seems to agree that digital media is going to be a winner just based on its ability to be accountable.

Curt: Speaking of representing agency platforms, on the marketing side, clients are focused on the data and analytics. They’re really wanting to look a cross channel measurement. He believes that traditional media can drive digital media online. They’re seeing more data and analytics guys getting hired in their company because that’s really what people are looking for.

Michael: Traditional media is very certain. Is interactive really going to need to show that it has more definite numbers?

Curt: I think digital has proven that it’s good at showing a moment or a period in time. It needs a better macro view, particularly in the social space. How can I prove the fantasy football league was a good ROI? I think social media has the ability to provide a multiplier effect on traditional media. We need to start tapping into that and quantifying it.

Todd: We need to draw out the attitudinal factor.

Jen: It takes longer in the social media space to create value and marketers expect fairly immediate results. You have to change expectations and figure out what the value is.

Jeremy: Mobile’s in a different space in the way that it can be configured to get direct result and in that there’s very rich subscriber data.

Michael: Even without any economic uncertainty, mobile has been the next big thing for a number of years but it hasn’t happened yet. We’ve had some good handsets but we’re behind the rest of the world. What’s preventing mobile from fulfilling promise?

Jeremy: It has more than double the reach of TV and PCs. There are ways that people could and should be using it. SMS is now universal and people should be using it. [There’s one guy in the audience without a phone. Someone escort him out, please? He must have gotten lost.] There are brands that should be using short codes with SMS and sending users to mobile Web sites. What’s holding them back? People aren’t really putting enough time and effort into developing things for mobile.

Todd: It really depends on the handset manufacturer, the carrier, the content providers. You have to look at how things are working. It’s not just repurposed content. Yahoo! Go is a very simple experience that was developed specifically for the mobile environment. Its repurposed content with an experience built for mobile. You have to think about how people use their phone. It’s finally getting to the point where agencies can develop for this.

Jeremy: Mobile is a different medium. It’s not a reading medium, it’s an impulse medium. If you send something to a phone, it’s stored there on the person.

Michael: Can the agencies get their head around that? Why do they keep wanting to do banner ads?

Curt: One of the first questions is shouldn’t we just extend our search campaigns for the phone? And yes, we should. It’s about organizing your data so it’s useful on a small screen. We’re encouraging clients to go down the logical plan. What’s useful, the search side of it, the data side of it? You need to think where people want to find information. For fantasy football, is there a mobile side to this?

Jeremy: What you need to think about it what mobile can do for you. Advertising comes later. First you need to think about how mobile can make a difference.

Michael: Your premise is that there is this great untapped functionality. What is it, how does it meet consumer functionality? Is there time for that to be figured out in a time of economic uncertainty? In the area of UGC, what’s your patience like? How long before it’s got to return your investment?

Jen: The business model isn’t completely worked out. Advertisers don’t know how to control it yet. But hey, it’s free content, right? We need to get as large an audience as possible. We’re confident that once the audience is there advertisers will work with us.

Todd: People want to trust the experience. Everything we do has to be trustworthy to the customer because they will up and leave if it’s not. So we have to start with consumer experience and then integrate advertising into that without betraying the user. If you can engage the audience, marketers will love it. If they’re just checking sports scores and leaving that’s not as attractive as if they come and stay and are engaged.

Michael: Brings up digital video and (again) what’s the next big thing?

Todd: Digital video is still just starting to come of age. There are some major impediments that are getting solved right now. Needing standards, etc. The simplicity of the past – here’s my commercial, put it online – that’s not really working as well as it could. We just launched clickable ads. And we have overlay ads. And it’s more engagement without disrupting the experience.

Jeremy: Re: mobile–it’s going to be very important. Not just putting video on phones but also brands using it to connect to consumers. The days of having a 30 second ad are at an end. We need the right ad formats. There’s even less tolerance for pre-roll or post-roll ads on mobile.

Jen: Video on their site has been growing rapidly. The difficulty for advertisers is lack of standards. So publishers have been investing heavily in creating their own standards. Going forward where will the standards shake out?

Curt: Right now they’re set up to deal with video irrespective of screen. He gives credit to CBS for moving first and giving people access to their online content. Most of their clients feel safe with the publishers that they’ve been with for 50 years, even if they’re moving online. What do we do with UGC? How do we leverage that? That’s what they’re working on figuring out. On the advertising side, we’re stuck in a pre-roll world and we need ideas. It’s not good enough yet. They also need to remember that the marketer is a publisher too. What’s the pipe? How do they figure out what their distribution channel?

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