For many in the digital industry, this week started off at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Annual Leadership Meeting at La Costa in Carlsbad, Calif. The industry and its trade association have come a long way from those first meetings in San Francisco and New York City back in 1996. Virtually all of the digital ad industry leaders were at the conference this year. Having attended the vast majority of the IAB's annual meetings over the past years, I was open to the industry perspective provided. Here are some of the takeaways:
How far we have come. Randy Rothenberg, IAB president, led off the event with a twin-themed keynote. First he praised the industry for its progress and painted a powerful picture of its future. But then he tempered the positives with a stern warning about public policy attacks -- on issues ranging from privacy to censorship -- that the digital ad industry must prepare for. That message was certainly driven home by yesterday's criminal convictions in Italy of several Google executives related to content hosted on its sevice.
How many we owe. It was great to see a number of early IAB leaders in attendance. Rich LeFurgy and Richy Glassberg, the IAB's founding chairman and vice-chairman respectively, were both at La Costa. It was their vision and hard work that created the IAB and helped nurture it through the go-go years of the late '90s and 2000. Former IAB president Greg Stuart was there. Greg, together with his board -- including event honorees Wenda Millard and Jim Spanfeller -- brought the industry out of the nuclear winter that followed the dot-com bust. They also introduced ground-breaking cross-media research that put the industry within the same considered set of its much bigger media brethren of broadcast, print and out-of-home. Our industry owes these leaders -- along with all of the thousands who worked with them to get us where we are today.
What we can't lose. 24/7 Real Media head David Moore, the longest-serving CEO in the online industry and the incoming chairman of the IAB, delivered a powerful speech forecasting a marketplace that would support both highly automated networks and exchanges, and premium content publishing. Moore challenged premium Web publishers to build dual revenue streams to ensure that premium content thrived online. A veteran of the birth of the cable industry, he advocated building consumer pay models as the early cable networks did.
What must be fixed. Frank Cooper, Pepsico's senior vice president and chief consumer engagement officer, talked about his company's decision to pull its ad budget from the Super Bowl this year to invest in social media. He explained why brand marketing was in "crisis." To reconnect with consumers, he suggested that brand marketers rethink the fundamentals of the practice, redesign relationships with consumers, and build future approaches around social networks. His message was clear: Companies that follow the old advertising paths will go away.
I'm sure I sound like a bit of a cheerleader here. I am. It's exciting to see how far digital advertising has come. It's exciting to think about its future beyond the PC, since we're seeing strong emerging consumer platforms in mobile and digital TV. What do you think 2010 will bring to our industry?