The advertising and technology worlds have worked hand in hand since the early days of paper, evidenced by commercial messaging found in the ruins of Pompeii, as just one historical example. But the advent of radio, television and Internet-enabled computers in the 20th century created an ever-increasing number of media options for brands and ultimately made things more complex for the two sides to come together.
Fifteen years into this century, it's obvious that disruption and fragmentation are the new normal, often causing fissures between those who make platforms and those who hold the purse strings to ad budgets. In terms of disruption, it has become relentless. Take Snapchat, which didn't exist three years ago but is set to be the belle of the ball at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity next week. With such realities in mind, the Interactive Advertising Bureau is releasing a white paper today that goes in depth on the dilemmas facing marketers and technologists alike.
We carefully read through the IAB's 16-page document called "Madison Avenue Meets Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley: Building Collaboration Between Creativity and Technology." And here are five statements from major industry players that we found most intriguing.
1. People, let's be real here.
Advertisers and technologists have made strides over the years in terms of becoming more like-minded. But let's face it: The two sides can still be as different as wearing a Ralph Lauren blue blazer (agency pros) and a worn-out T-shirt (startup peeps) to an industry conference.
"The cultural differences are enormous," said Sophie Kelly, CEO, The Barbarian Group. "You're talking about two different world views. Madison Avenue, at its best—at its most successful—is about being associated or involved in beautiful or famous work that makes money. Silicon Valley, on the other hand, has a very counterculture mindset overlaid with a rational engineer problem-solution approach to life. At its best—at its most successful— people want to make useful things that positively impact the world and make money doing it."
2. More native may mean more friction.
With ad blockers increasingly threatening a U.S. digital marketplace—worth $60 billion, per eMarketer—that currently depends a lot on banner ad sales, the march toward more native-style advertising is picking up. But, as today's IAB's report states, the emerging units can cause friction between brands and publishers because marketers want to be effective—yet, they also need scale.
"There's an interesting tension because now you have to standardize," said Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard, a popular news app. "The whole point of native is to break away from that standardization. Advertising and big agencies want to buy on mass scale, but publishers value their audience and don't want to be treated like everything else. It's a fascinating tension."
3. The pace of change nowadays can be insane for creatives.
Let's just focus on Facebook for a second. The algorithms constantly get tweaked, which drives many publishers mad. The ad units are constantly evolving, which keeps digital ad creatives on their toes, to say the least. That doesn't even take into account coming up with winning work or strategies for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Kik, etc. Quentin George, co-founder and principal at Unbound, sums up the plight of the modern creative well.
"If you're buying a new tech, you want to create the best opportunity to extract operating income from advertising," he explained. "At the same time, creative wants the best experience to engage consumers. The problem is that the nature of distribution changed. [Application protocol interfaces] change every six weeks, and at the same time, creative people say they don't have the canvas to express the ideas. Formats need to be consistent so they can be resalable, but we can decide together what the size and format can be."
4. The good news is that progress is being made.
Few marketers underscore how traditional brands and technology can come together better than General Electric, which has done notable work on Instagram, BuzzFeed, Tumblr, Vine and other emerging platforms. So, for all the challenges, there is inspiration out there for marketers who want to make more progress.
"More and more, each is borrowing from the other—Madison Avenue is 'borrowing' technology to reach customers in a more impactful way, and Silicon Valley is 'borrowing' some of Madison Avenue's techniques to filter out the noise and get better results," noted Beth Comstock, president of GE Business Innovations and General Electrics' CMO. "The successful businesses of the future will use a little bit of both approaches. Innovation will be driven by a combination of efforts, not one way versus another."
Wendy Clark, who heads Coca-Cola's North American marketing efforts, agreed with Comstock.
"We're a marketing company but may not have the wisdom and experience of technology," she said. "But when you put the two together and bring entrepreneurial thinking inside Coke, you draw experience from a nascent company that is immeasurably beneficial. It gives tech firms insights and experiences into customers and brands. It also informs decisions we make and provides us with instructional failures."
5. Everyone's bottom line depends on this working out.
Lastly, the quicker the two sides learn from one another, the more money everyone involved can make. Salesforce chief strategy officer Mike Lazerow brings an interesting perspective to this concept since, in addition to his day job, he has invested in 17 startups. Over the years—particularly working with agencies via his Facebook-centered startup Buddy Media, which he sold to his current employer in 2012—he's gotten to know both sides of the aisle well.
"The more that technology companies and agencies can work together, the more they can figure out how to market in a way that works for the customer and pushes the customer to the center," Lazerow said. "The power has shifted from company to customer, and agencies are forced to play in areas that they didn't care about before—customer service, technology deployment, app development and social networks."