Gary Vee, Sadie Thoma, David Singh, among the highlights at Advertising Week New York

By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on September 25, 2019

Advertising Week New York is akin to a human intelligence experiment. Here, curious attendees enter unstructured data territory. However, the potential for mind-blowing moments is enormous. For that reason, you need to be prepared for a lot of them.

First of all, there are nearly 100,000 attendees, 300 events and over 1,200 speakers. Hence, Advertising Week and the industry it represents is active. Another impressive stat: the event will be well covered with 773 registered press in attendance, including a number of us from Grit Daily.

Everyone is seeking clarity amid the chaos. To this end, the masters of advertising are on stage at #AWNewYork to share what they know. Here are their insights.

Insights gained at Advertising Week 2019

Every aspect of the field is well represented between the “Story Crafters” and the “Tech Stars.” Furthermore, to round out coverage, hundreds of advertising leaders comprised the other aspects of the industry. These included the “Entertainers, Ad Shapers, Impact Makers, Culture Builders,” and “Insight Drivers.” Above all, multi-track events like Advertising Week offer something for everyone. As a result, you’re going to learn something regardless of which track you attend. Plus, you’re going to be entertained.

Advertising Week Experts Featured Day 1
  • Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO & Co-Founder, VaynerMedia
  • Vince Lynch, CEO,
  • David Singh, Digital Prophet
  • Kristen Bowen, Global Head Activation, Famebit
  • Will Kunkel, VP Marketing, a4
  • Sadie Thoma, Director of US Creative Partnerships, Google
  • Sean MacDonald, Global Chief Digital Officer, McCann Worldgroup
  • Brian Barrett, News Editor, WIRED
  • Ben Simon, Head of Video Sales, Vudu
  • Michael Rosen, Chief Revenue Officer, Intersection
  • Sean McCaffrey, President & CEO, GSTV
  • Will Kunkel, VP of Marketing, a4
  • Philippa Leighton-Jones, Editor-at-Large, The Wall Street Journal
  • Marc Minardo, Managing Director, Sard Verbinnen & Co.
  • Guthrie Collin, Chief Analytics Officer, Dow Jones
  • Gordon Crovitz, Co-CEO, NewsGuard
The mind-blowing insights from Advertising Week

Gary Vee knows how to command an audience. Convincingly, he discussed how the entire target market is held by five platforms. These are Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, and YouTube. In some ways, this makes it simple for big brands. While as consumers, we’re seeing the same content on all five platforms. Furthermore, he developed his “thesis” by arguing how scale unlocks true creativity.

Gary generated the biggest mind-blowing moment of the day. He stated, “Creatives need to start producing contextually relevant content at scale and to stop wasting money on the sh*t that doesn’t work.” Drop mic.

The leader of VaynerMedia warned of the “carnage that is to come.” Continuing on, he prophesied that the next economic collapse will “kick just about every marketing exec to the curb because they’re all operating in a world that no longer exists.” Next, those pending displacements will open the flood gates for a whole new generation of creatives. Consequently, the marketing industry will then be in dire need of more craftspeople. Probably a topic worth revisiting at future Advertising Week events.

Be brave

Sadie Thoma of Google was succinct and passionate in her directive for the marketing industry. “Be brave. Experiment. Try some new stuff.”

We’ve entered an era where we should expect the unexpected. For example, Linkedin and TikTok were cited as the best canvasses for marketers. Furthermore, the speakers discussed how Linkedin has somehow recently morphed from a business-only platform. Today, it resembles “something more like Facebook circa 2012.” The market leaders suggested that this juxtaposition of organic, raw content delivered in a business channel sparks the deepest levels of connection and engagement.

In contrast, “marketers are overwhelmed” is the counterpoint up for debate at Advertising Week. Because marketers can no longer keep up with the speed of change, level of consumption and demand for personalized content, they are increasingly relying on technology as a solution. But there’s one other element to consider. According to Philippa Leighton-Jones, Editor-at-Large of The Wall Street Journal,Fakery has been democratized.”

This new normal has spurred the conversation and challenge surrounding brand safety. Where is it safe to post? How can brands encourage engagement through re-posting and sharing yet be unable to control where their branded content goes?

Even pictures can be misleading in the absence of the accompanying text. Decades ago, the Wall Street Journal recognized the potential for distortion. As such, they chose not to use photos. Why? Because photos could negatively impact impartiality, accuracy, and fairness in their reporting.

Fake news

Journalists are being trained to spot fake news. However, despite training, even the most seasoned experts may be confused by some of the content. Video is particularly challenging to assess because it is so convincing.

Enter the realm of Human Intelligence (HI). This is the conjoined twin to Artificial Intelligence (AI). Both are equally relevant and necessary. Not to mention co-dependent.

Most noteworthy, as an example, changing one pixel in photos of puppies has consequences. The unsupervised machine learning algorithm is then retrained to reference the altered images as kittens. As you’d expect, the search results for “kittens” now returns scores of photos of puppies. This is referred to as the “1-pixel attack” method.

Seems like we desperately need to put the breaks on the speed of culture. Or we may be headed for disaster. Leighton-Jones referenced Professor Farid’s hypothesis as a warning. Farid states that diplomacy is threatened by deep-fake technology. Specifically, that rogue behavior by a few bad actors could initiate nuclear war.

Along the way, social media has been allowed to serve as the source of fake news. Surprisingly, despite years of observation, we’ve collectively done little concerning our policies and practices to control it. Apparently, we haven’t learned from the 2016 US Federal Election. Is it going to take a cataclysmic, near-apocalyptic event by a twisted user of deep-fake technology to spur change? Perhaps the Advertising Week audience will have a solution.

It’s all about the customer

Almost all businesses today appear to rely on customer-centric campaigns, behaviors, and mindsets for their success. That said, keeping the customers at the center of a campaigns is somehow more challenging than you’d think. Simultaneously, marketers must consider three things each time that they reach out to audiences: 1) transparency; 2) the value exchange; 3) and consent.

To stay rooted in a customer-centric mindset, marketers were encouraged to talk to their “normal friends” more often. This will help overcome how they tend to get hung up on the jargon and actions of their peers which destabilizes a customer-centric focus. Finally, speakers were clear regarding their message of diversity and inclusion, “Don’t forget that there are two Americas here. And one is Latino.”

What’s lacking?

Gap analysis enables us to discover new opportunities. As a result, according to the speakers, the ideological approach to advertising spend is ripe for change. Rather than tailoring their messages, big brands are attempting to reach a broad audience in a single swoop. To do so, they pump out that message to as many digital channels as possible.

This is the modern mode of “spray and pray.” According to the speakers, one ad will frequently be “redistributed across all 13 platforms” without undergoing any alteration. Some of the experts lamented on how marketers were mindlessly designing ads.

Today, campaigns are being developed without considering the psychology of the user. This is important. Consumers approach each feed differently, depending on the platform it’s sourced from. Hence, marketers need to tailor their content for the given platform.

Certainly a cause for pause: the audience was asked the rhetorical question, “Are we even capable of creating enough contextual content for a specific platform?”

Simply stated, Gary Vee said, “We’re selling vanilla at scale but nobody cares.” He argued that we’ve become fixated on the rewards and reporting. In contast, the reality is that the marketing industry is churning out tons of expensive, homogenous content that people aren’t even noticing anymore.

Consequently, consumers have adapted. We’ve learned to tune out the noise. We live in a “Skip Ad” world where we can elect to watch an entire digital ad, disengage or jump ahead to the content we want to see. Buyers have too many choices and neither the time nor patience to indulge a non-specific marketing message.

More content – stat!

Gary threw down the gauntlet. He challenged the industry to generate 50x more creative content than we have today. Then he postulated that it still wouldn’t be enough to satiate the demands of today’s me-first consumer audience.

Did you know that the average household in America has eight screens? This observation underscores the need for massive amounts of content.

Consumers have been spoiled by heavy personalization to the point where they expect it. Consequently, they’ll walk away if they don’t get what they want. Therefore content must be designed to feel more like brand versus sales development.

Marketers no longer focus myopically on demographics. Today, they think more expansively. Likewise, great efforts are invested to study the customer journey. Even more importantly, Google has embraced the fact that no two journeys are the same. Customers enter and exit digital ads and videos at various points. For that reason, the new challenge is to be present throughout his/her/their entire online journey.

Similarly, marketers need to ask who’s watching, when and why are they dropping off? David Singh suggested that the industry needs to improve its interpretation of drop-off triggers. Moreover, comments and the psychology of posting habits may soon “require the aid of an anthropologist to decipher actionable insights.” Finally, panelists were agreed that all future campaigns will be better informed as a result of these insights.

No doubt we’ll be seeing a slew of new and improved ads once all the speakers, organizers and attendees of Advertising Week get back to their desks.

By Loralyn Mears PhD Loralyn Mears PhD has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Dr. Loralyn Mears is a Columnist at Grit Daily and a podcast host (The Grit Files, which aims to shine the spotlight on female founders). She is a content marketer, founder of the WORKtech startup, STEERus, specializing in personal and professional development to address gaps in soft skills - communication in particular. In her consultancy practice, she helps clients with content and strategy. Loralyn spent over a decade playing with mosquito DNA, got her PhD, decided she would rather market science than be at the bench and has never looked back. Along the way, she’s wined and dined her way around the globe. She's authored two books, including the 2018 Gold Medal Indie Book award-winning, One Sip At a Time: a Memoir and the hard science thriller, "The Battle for Humanity: How Science Saved Us." 

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