AWXI – bigger, better, faster

I can’t seem to believe that it’s been yet another year of Advertising Week. Prior to leaving for the USA, the excitement and expectation of this year’s conference was somewhat the same as last year, but in reality, this year’s version was — in classic stereotypical American style — bigger, better and faster. Despite breaking the bank splurging on Fifth Avenue and having officially put my credit card into rehab on arriving back in South Africa (#firstworldproblems), AWXI has, as it did last year, inspired, energised and excited me all over again, about the advertising industry.

If you haven’t heard of Advertising Week before you started reading this, allow me to enlighten you. Advertising Week is a fast, highly diverse and engaging platform held annually in New York. Over 90,000 advertisers and marketers from around the world are brought together to listen, discuss and debate on why we all do the job we love and how we can be doing it better or differently. With 250 events scheduled over four days in locations across NY’s overcrowded Times Square, there’s plenty of exposure to people, content…and parties.

Of course, when you put this amount of advertising and marketing enthusiasts together in The City That Never Sleeps, you’re bound to have a few entertaining stories. But for now, I’ll stick to the business-side of things and give you the three key themes that I was most interested in and those that were discussed at length:

Programmatic is only scratching the surface

It usually becomes clear within the first day of the conference what the week’s buzzword will be. In 2013, it was ‘big data’. This year, although the ‘big data’ term still appeared, ‘programmatic’ was the obvious buzzword at just about every session — about 20 sessions alone were dedicated primarily to this theme.

So, what exactly is ‘programmatic’? It’s essentially the next step in big data; it’s how we take what we’ve learnt about big data over the past few years and actually start using it efficiently to better serve creative advertising, whether online or in the traditional space.

Through automation technology, programmatic ad buying can allow advertisers, marketers and publishers to purchase advertising space and target an audience across multiple touch-points, all in real-time. This results in more effective placement of ads and provides more accurate and immediate insights. These insights are made up of an incredible amount of captured user data, which sequentially can change the way we plan and strategise campaigns.

It is estimated that expenditure in programmatic media buying will reach $53bn in 2018, a 27% increase every year*. With this expected growth, it was no surprise that the week saw new ad buying platforms being announced, including NBC Universal’s ‘NBCUx’, AOL’s ‘ONE’ and Facebook’s re-launch of ‘Atlas’. It was obvious that marketers who embrace these new technologies will benefit now and into the future as they begin to connect with and reach the right audiences.

An important take-out for advertisers and marketers is to avoid the imbalance of data and creativity. Tham Khai Meng, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide CCO, expressively said in his session, “Data is the orchestra, creative is the music. You need both.”

We need to educate in privacy and security

There’s no doubt that with this increase in data collection, consumers fear the exposure of their private information. Two panels that I attended focused their discussions on this area.

The first panel had Jill Brill, the Commissioner of the United States Federal Trade Commission, speak about their efforts to protect consumers in the ‘big data’ space, both within the US and internationally. The issues discussed were mainly around how data — which is often linked to individuals — is being abused by data vendors and as a result, online users are not allowing marketers to gain access to their personal information. The problem with that, and as Jill Brill quoted Sir Martin Sorrell from an earlier session, is that unless we solve privacy concerns, we won’t be able to use data in a robust and effective way. Jill also discussed the importance of protecting data. Did you know that almost 88% of today’s connected devices still don’t transmit data over an encrypted network?

The second panel on this subject was a one-on-one interview with Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo. She gave us the three core values that guide Yahoo’s privacy policy: transparency, choice and control. Marissa said that users on Yahoo can at any point in time be able to access and control their data and privacy, which is relatively the same on other similar platforms.

But in her mind, some data — which isn’t invasive — should be accessible by all online platforms as it helps with online personalization. While those who are overprotective of their data won’t get: “Privacy fanatics will have a less-awesome life online.”

It was clear from these conversations that we still have a lot to learn about privacy and security in the modern world of data and that we cannot ignore the fact that current data minimization is a significant concern for marketers.

Talent and the lack thereof

Talent was certainly not left out this year’s Advertsing Week. There’s still a general consensus that the industry is suffering from a lack of talent, specifically in retaining the best. Companies need to ensure that they’re helping their people grow and understand the changing landscape. The other side of the coin is that talent, whether from traditional agency or ad-tech backgrounds; need to learn from opposite sides of the spectrum in order to stay challenged in their careers.

As Lauren Crampsie, Worldwide CMO of Ogilvy & Mather, said, that we as organisations, need to adapt to the new generation coming into the marketing world, who often at times want to work on multiple sides of a project at once – the one day a person is designing, the next day they’re writing code. She also commented on the importance of having a CMO in an agency: “Branding ourselves is important in the competitive landscape and key to keeping talent.” The competitive set has grown substantially and our clients need to see what we’re doing for our own brand.

Finally, her wish is for talent to have less fear in the creative process; “Agency people should be having the right conversations with clients and partners, without fear.” Working for an agency myself, I couldn’t agree with her more as we need to be seen as trusted partners to our clients and their brands.

Before I log off, I’d like to give a big shout out to my colleagues and friends at Ogilvy & Mather New York for a warm welcome during the week — ya’ll know who you are!

And that’s another year of AW. Hope to see you at #AWXII in 2015.

To catch up on all of what went down at AW 2014, checkout the video archive on

*Source: Magna Global


Originally published on BizCommunity

Mark Zeller is the Marketing & Communications Manager of Ogilvy & Mather South Africa. With a degree in design, Mark started his career in the Johannesburg office as a self-taught developer before moving into marketing the agency in SA. His Twitter bio reads: Lover of big ideas & biz dev; curious about the world; obsessed w/ Veblen goods.