Yes, It's The @!#'^% Technology

The Unabomber delivered an anti-technology manifesto as he terrorized the U.S. for nearly two decades. Technology and its impact terrified him.

He’s not alone.

Technology stalks the halls of the executive suites of America’s corporations, and while most executives won’t admit it, it scares the hell out of them.

For good reason.

The average Fortune 500 CEO is a white male pushing 60 years old, whose grasp of technology is cursory at best. Technology is right up there with rap music, skateboarding, and planking  on The Understanding Scale.

Technology is the double-edged sword that may breathe new life into our industry, or leave a company to bleed out.

You wouldn’t expect the beneficiaries of the revolution to be the ones arguing against it. That’s why I was surprised to hear anti-technology rhetoric from a guy who makes his living supporting online publishers.

While I have been a harsh critic of Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and its failure to protect consumer privacy, I am dumbfounded as to why he told an audience at NYC Ad Week that technology was “absolutely irrelevant to the future of digital marketing and advertising.”

He doubled down by adding that “the future lay not in the development of new ad units.”

He should tell that to the other Randall Rothenberg. Less than 90 days ago, the IAB issued a press release asking for “mobile ad unit innovation.” In the press release, Rothenberg says, “We call upon experts across the marketing and media landscape to submit their most innovative ideas for the next wave of mobile ad formats.”

Worse, at his own conference, the IAB announced the results of its new ad formats, claiming that “the early results from the IAB Rising Stars prove that these brand canvases propel new heights of consumer interaction and engagement.”

It must be exhausting to constantly talk out of both sides of your mouth.

Since our industry leadership is maligning the great work of hundreds of technology providers that help make the Internet advertising industry work, I humbly put forth a pro-technology manifesto for advertisers, agencies and publishers:

1.     The Steve Jobs Rule: As the world continues to mourn the loss of Steve Jobs and contemplate his legacy, one thing stands clear: it was the brilliant marrying of technology and art that put him in a class of one. First and foremost, we must remember: the fates of advertising and technology are forever linked.

2.     The Sales Rule: Make no mistake; online publishers are in the business of sales. They make money when they market compelling content and sell advertisers on advertising around that content. The job of advertising is to deliver financial results. Branding is just code for “they buy eventually.” Advertisers need to build ads that entertain like content, engage like apps, and sell like hell.

3.     The Diapers Rule: You can’t sell single guys diapers (unless they are at that age). Every publisher needs technology-driven targeting (and retargeting) to enable the right ad to connect with the right audience at the right time.

4.     The Dirty Hands Rule: Nobody starts their day with ink on their fingers anymore. Technology has fundamentally changed how we consume information. Publishers need to use advanced content delivery systems to let their readers consume great content easily -- online or offline, and on whatever device they desire.

5.     The “One Week ROI” Rule: Most businesses think in terms of sales, not branding. Small businesses are cash-strapped and don’t have the cash flow to fund long-term campaigns. They need to drive foot traffic this weekend, sell tickets to the off-Broadway show tomorrow night, and fill the tables at their restaurant lunchtime on Monday. Advertisers need transactional advertising capabilities that drive instant offline results.

We need industry spokespeople who understand technology and its effects on both our business and our future. As any print publisher can tell you, technology has already had a profound impact on our industry.

When Rothenberg said, “it’s about what you put inside those spaces,” he failed to recognize that technology -- to drive targeting, to entertain, to sell, and to convert -- is exactly what you need inside those spaces. Technology is  what make “the story” come alive.

Rothenberg joked that he could be fired for his anti-technology remarks.

It’s time we take him up on it.

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3 comments about "Yes, It's The @!#'^% Technology".
  1. Bill Wise from MediaBank , October 20, 2011 at 1:55 p.m.
    The IAB, under R2's leadership, has driven the digital ad industry forward and is one of the best trade orgs around. I feel the need to defend him, even though I too disagree with some of the specifics he talked about last week. I believe Randy was making a point that advertising is not technology alone, and our industry cannot lose its passion for creativity and art, which really drive emotion and brand. I dont think he would disagree that art + science is the strongest combination.
  2. Phyllis Fine from Mediapost , October 21, 2011 at 9 a.m.
    test
  3. David Koretz from Adventive, Inc. , October 23, 2011 at 4:53 p.m.
    @Bill, it's hard for me to react to what he *didn't* say. All I know is that saying "technology is absolutely irrelevant to the future of the industry" doesn't seem like an 'art + science' argument...