Once again there was a strong turnout for a vendor-driven, industry event -this time courtesy of data exchange, eXelate, who produced, "Data Wars: The Publisher Strikes Back" at the Union Square W Hotel in New York City.
A panel representing a broad cross-section of industry mucky-mucks tilting towards the publisher world was ably guided by Forrester analyst Emily Riley. On the advertiser side, MediaMath's ubiquitous CEO Joe Zawadzki and Omnicom Managing Director Todd Curry represented the interests of advertisers. AdMeld CRO Ben Barokas advocated for the interests of publisher-side technology companies. IAC President Greg Stevens, United Online VP of Ops Amy Lehman and The New York Times SVP of Digital Ops Martin Nisenholtz brought varying view points from publishers.
Overall, publishers seemed stressed about the new data-driven world but, for the most part, open to solutions. In fact, United Online's Lehman stated that her company had been building solutions in-house for 2.5 years.
In the interest of potentially finding a solution to appropriately compensating publishers for their data, inventory and audience, IAC's Stevens offered to "open the kimono" on publisher data in a limited test as long the buy side agreed to do the same. From the buy side, MediaMath's Zawadzki also appeared willing to "open the kimono" and find a possible solution as audience members were left to gasp at the visualization of panelists in kimonos, etc. Nevertheless, a limited advertiser-publisher partnership is intriguing but would seem complicated as hell. Who's gonna referee? Some VC could end up funding that ref/new startup.
Arguably, the highlight of the evening came from The Times' Nisenholtz, who appears to have had enough of the data-driven world as it exists today and said the following:
"I think that there is going to be an implosion in this marketplace in an 18-month timeframe. I think that this marketplace reminds me of the financial marketplace that existed prior to the bubble bursting. There are far too many players. There are a lot of people spouting a lot of crap that nobody really understands. I don't think they even understand. I hate to say this because I've seen this 5 or 6 times during my career and it always ended in ruin. It always ends with peoples' careers unfortunately ending. I sense that we are at that place in this marketplace."
In response, Zawadzki pressed Nisenholtz a bit saying internet marketing hasn't gotten smaller in the recent past, why would it happen now. Nisenholtz clarified that he's just talking about the data-driven business (how's eXelate feeling at this point?).
As eXelate's thought-provoking panel illustrated, no question about it: valuing data and audience across the web remains a huge challenge as does appropriately compensating buy and sell-side players. Yes, regulation will come around data -hopefully, self-regulation. But, technology is and will continue to bring increasing efficiency and transparency to advertising, which will eventually make its way to the big tuna: Television.
It's not about putting "the genie back in the bottle." (Cliche #94622) It's about opportunity!
By John Ebbert