Trust Is Still The Secret Word at Advertising Week

Besides distrust, the topic of technology persisted at this year’s event.


Advertising WeekAdvertisers and their agencies love gadgets, so it is not surprising that there has been a lot of talk about AI in marketing tech, conversational marketing, audio interfaces, et. al at the 2017 meeting of the ad tribes at Advertising Week in New York this week. In fact, Unilever CMO Keith Weed couldn’t boast enough about the 15,000 U.K. users of its Amazon Echo cleaning advisor that can even sell you the cleaning solution on (pardon the pun) the spot.

Beneath the bright shiny objects, however, the persistent theme of distrust in the digital ecosystem remained strong. When he wasn’t gushing about tech, Weed also characterized the digital supply chain as “murky” with fraud and a lack of accountability still rife.

But what came through most clearly is that trust is also an issue for consumers and these emerging ad channels. Weed shared Unilever research showing only 2% of women surveyed considered women they see depicted in ads as intelligent. 40% say they do not relate to women in ads. The company is starting an industry group called the “Unstereotype Alliance” to move beyond stereotypical ad depictions.

The opportunity for media companies here is clear. Rethink the creative. Tap the authentic voices from your own audience and influencer networks on behalf of ad clients. The disconnect is not just a matter of ad formats, clutter and intrusiveness. It is the message itself.

Speaking of consumer/advertising disconnect, the CMO Council—lo and behold—discovered that context matters. Consumers are being turned off to advertising when it appears next to questionable content. In fact, 63% of consumers say they respond more favorably to ads that appear in media environments they trust. No word on whether Facebook or Twitter qualify as “trusted” in this equation. At a panel of media companies at MediaPost’s OMMA@Advertising Week, Disney’s Consumer Products VP of Business Insights, Dana McGraw, confirmed that it has the data to show how ads perform better on O&O environments than on distributed platforms. This was a point echoed elsewhere at AW by USA Today’s Michael Kuntz who touted similar research at his sites. These are precisely the kinds of metrics publishers need to emphasize with clients.

But the news gets better for traditional media. Also released for Advertising Week, a Morning Consult poll of consumers found that many consider ads best targeted on social media (46%) and Internet ads (45%) but 75% consider online ads most intrusive, followed by social (69%).

Interestingly (here is your sub-head, print folks), the least intrusive form of advertising is print (44%), and it is also the second most entertaining (49%), exceeded only by TV (60%). Interestingly, two of the most traditional media, TV and print, still come out best with consumers in terms of ad impact and enjoyment. But elsewhere in the media ecosystem, institutions are being upended. There was no shortage of industry hand-wringing over whether the ad agency itself will survive, whether it needs to be rebranded, whether advertising itself should continue to be called advertising. We heard more and more from brands like Target, Lenovo and Unilever about how much technology is allowing them to bring many agency functions in house and let them establish more direct relationships with the major platforms and publishers.

Superficially, this tumult in the client/agency relationship seems like it might be a good thing for media. There appears to be a flight (or at least lip service) towards quality environments and more data supporting the trend. But in my conversations with media themselves, it is still unclear how they as a group can take on the inertial forces and endemic strengths of the oligopoly (Google, Facebook, Amazon).

While there are industry plans afoot to provide a universal ID that may level the playing field in taking on the crossplatform advantages of the big three, a panel on the topic seemed to throw cold water on its feasibility. Agency holding companies like Publicis and Dentsu Aegis are trying to erect their own proprietary data piles that do this for clients.

In my own panel of different media, including Disney’s McGraw, Oath’s SVP Demand Platforms Jay Seidman and SheKnows SVP Advertising Solutions Manny Balbin, I came away sensing three very different perspectives and approaches to taking on the oligopoly. Seidman says scale and convenience are still the chief advantages these massive platforms maintain with media buyers, but that there is still room for contenders. In gathering AOL, Yahoo, and Verizon’s own customer bases, tech and data together, Oath clearly sees itself taking on the platforms on their own turf. In fact, there was a lot of discussion this week about the “silent giant” of telcos and ISPs (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast) helping to drive a resurgence of quality media against the oligopoly.

But smaller-scale verticalized concerns like SheKnows (which is probably closer to magazine positions) need to make the case that they can customize campaigns for more engaging experiences with an audience they understand better than any platform can. Meanwhile there are the handful of uber-brands like Disney/ABC whose identity is not diminished or commoditized by platform distribution. For them, partnering with everyone remains advantageous because the heft of their brands leverages quality and legitimacy.

Which is to say that the media response to oligopoly will remain somewhat fragmented and grounded in diverse brand identities and business strategies.

Meanwhile—the stronger get stronger. eMarketer opened the week by revising its projections upward for the share of digital media spend going to Google and Facebook in 2017—63.1%.




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