What’s Real, What’s Next and What’s the Noise?

Photo from Audigent's panel at AWNewYork

By Becky Johnson for Advertising Week

Advertising Week 2022 kicked off Monday with a panel filled with dynamic insight into the future of digital marketing, hosted by Drew Stein, Founder and CEO of Audigent.

Out the gate, the Retail Media Network “playbook” was front and center as a core trend whereby data rich companies are becoming media powerhouses and how that trend was extending far past just retailers.  Maria Weaver, President of Warner Music Group and the innovator behind WMX, discussed WMX’s curated environments and how being  “data-rich” was driving opportunities for marketers and their platform. “We are at a pivotal moment when it comes to how our audiences are curated,” she said, explaining how WMX’s broad data delivers insight and connection across every step of the consumer journey. Referencing the similarities in the scope of WMX’s data versus some of the thriving retail media networks, Stein asked,  “Ten years from now would it be crazy to think that WMX could have as much revenue coming from media as it does from streaming?”

“That’s the goal,” Weaver confirmed.

Nancy Hall, CEO of Matterkind, saw the positives in the flurry of new offerings discussed on-stage and in-market. “It is so fantastic that retailers, travel companies, and entertainment companies are all building these media networks, because that competition breeds innovation,” she said.

The conversation then turned to a discussion on the make-up and role of agencies in the future. “The media agency of the future still has to be expert at strategy and planning and buying…it also has to be expert in data, in tech, in measurement, in identity, in compliance…in order to future proof their brands’ business,” Hall said.

In his signature fashion, Bough Bough, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer of Group Black, flipped the question, pointing out the agency of the future would depend on “what the client of the future would look like.” “The client of the future is a client that realizes that there is a real opportunity in inclusion right now,” he said.  Bough further weighed in, picking-up on the theme that data provides insights beyond a single audience make up or preferences and about how Group Black’s strategy goes far beyond targeting any specific groups.  Group Black’s portfolio approach is about buying media businesses and not only media companies that reach multicultural audiences.  The company is unlocking new scaled opportunities for brands to drive growth by expanding their consumer bases. He summed up a potential misconception right at the start: “Just because you’re black-owned doesn’t mean you’re targeted.

Tying it more closely to a conversation about identity, Weaver discussed how buying media should not be about picking a demographic. She pointed to a common problem with planning where buyers often feel they have to make a choice between minority owned/targeted media and the general market, and even feeling the need to choose one minority targeted outlet over another. Her advice is to build plans thinking about those platforms as an “AND” and not an “OR.” Often there is little audience duplication and value is left on the table when buyers use an “OR” mindset.

The panel then shifted to a discussion about Curation and how the practice of applying data through the supply path and building Curated Marketplaces is driving exciting outcomes for clients at massive scale.  The discussion was highlighted by thoughts about the future health of open exchange inventory and the important role of curation/curated marketplaces will play.

“Curated marketplaces are equally important [as open exchange] if not more for accessibility, matching first-party data to a publisher’s or a platform’s data,” Hall said. ”I believe both are important.”

“This is an evolution and it is going to be both [open exchange and curation]” Weaver said.

Closing the conversation, the panelists agreed that open exchange will maintain a role, while curated marketplaces are new and important to go beyond what open exchange can deliver now and into futures where third party identifiers (such as cookies) are no longer available.

Be sure to watch What’s Real, What’s Next and What’s the Noise at AWNewYork 2022.