Women Are Getting More Data Exec Gigs and 4 Other I-Com Takeaways

Confab shows that fraud and viewability are hot-button issues

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The 5th I-Com Global Summit just wrapped here in Seville, Spain, where a few hundred data marketing execs met to address industry challenges this week. Below are five takeaways from the show, which attracted the likes of Coca-Cola, Oglivy & Mather, Target, GlaxoSmithKline and other major brands you'll read about below.

1. Women are getting more leadership seats in the data world, if the I-Com speaker set is a fair representation of the industry. Female execs from L'Oréal (Kristina Grütters), Starwood Hotels (Janice Chin), Kellogg Co. (Amaya Garbayo), PHD Worldwide (Renee Cassard), Yahoo (Laura Chaibi), Johnson & Johnson/BabyCenter (Christina Hoff and Summer Schiavo, who explains what she learned this week in a video below) and other examples were on hand at the confab.

2. The digital fraud debate is heating up, underscored by an exchange between Dean McRobie, chief technology officer for Omincom's data division, Annalect Group, and the aforementioned Garbayo, associate director of insights and planning at Kellogg Co. He offered an agency view on digital ads fraud: "It's part of the ecosystem that is going to exist no matter what." She replied moments later: "If we are paying any [cost-per-thousand rate] for an impression, it should be an impression. Imagine you buy a dozen donuts, and you open the box and there’s one donut. I want to understand what I am getting for the money."

It's going to be extremely difficult to rein in bot-based click fraud, and brands are likely going to be getting cheated out of part of their investments into the foreseeable future. But I-Com showed that the subject—which has drawn a lot of press coverage in the last six or so months—is not going to be swept under the proverbial rug. Brand marketers like Garbayo won't stand for it. Andy Fisher, the U.S. chief analytics officer at Merkle, added, "We need to have an honest and adult discussion about how we improve the data quality and data validation in our industry so everyone truly feels they are getting the products, media and results that they buy."

3. Programmatic is the future of media buying, but this conference showed that—not surprisingly—the practice needs a lot of fine-tuning. Mikko Kotila, chief exec with Asia-based MediaQuark, lamented a "lack of sophistication" in the programmatic realm while speaking with Adweek in the courtyard of of the Hotel Alfonso XIII. While the industry utilizes buying-and-selling systems for display ads such as agency trading desks, data management platforms (DMPs) and demand-side platforms (DSPs), he said, "They they are still essentially ad networks." Amit Phan, chief data scientist at MassMutual, suggested that the I-Com discussions around digital marketing could lead to greater advertising impact on consumers in the video below.

4. Viewability is all the rage among U.S. practitioners nowadays, but the rest of the world has more basic concerns when it comes to display advertising. Abim Akanbi Onasanya, senior manager of research for MBC Group, spoke about simply targeting the right websites for his brands in Dubai. Viewability sounded like a concern for another day around the globe. But speaking off the record with America-based players here, it's going to be an increasingly hot-button issue in 2014. "I mean, right now, that's all some of us care about," one display guy said.

5. Social media had a pretty good conference. Jeffrey Graham, Twitter ad research director, said that "social media should be measurable against business results." Brands and agencies all responded with an "amen." Graham also argued that Twitter ads improved performance on TV spots. But probably the best social moment was Brand Karma winning the I-Com Data Creativity Award, pitching a case study about helping client Starwood Hotels get $2 million in bookings in Asia thanks to targeted Facebook page post ads on a budget of roughly $40,000. Those numbers about stole the show.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.