A Digital Creative Revolution Will Ignite In 2012 Says IAB CEO Rothenberg

2012 PredictionsThe 2012 version of the AdExchanger.com “predictions” piece comes with a twist as a selection of industry execs offer their thoughts on the following question:

“What’s going to happen next year in advertising that hasn’t happened before? And why?”

Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), offers his views.

A Digital Creative Revolution will ignite and become widely recognized, as the IAB’s new “Rising Star” ad units achieve widespread adoption among marketers, agencies and publishers, and enable something paradoxically never before possible in interactive media: intelligent, emotional expression at scale, across multiples of thousands of sites.

With the ongoing resurgence of so many of the great (but once digitally shellshocked) creative agencies of the 1980s, ’90s, and early 2000s (Wieden, McKinney, Martin, Hill Holliday, Crispin, Goodby Silverstein, etc.), the Digital Creative Revolution generates a counter-insurgency, with leading digital native agencies (360i, Big Spaceship, R/GA, AKQA, Barbarian Group, etc.) setting out to prove their digital cred against their digital immigrant competitors. This results in a replay of the 1980s, with agencies recruiting pro bono clients solely for the purpose of doing award-winning campaigns online, and bidding wars for digital talent between older shops with money-lined pockets and newer agencies with less cash but the promise of potentially lucrative partnership stakes.

Into this volatile mix, tablets set off more creative fires, especially as lower-priced iPad competitors show their viability and tablets rapidly establish themselves as preferred media consumption devices. Following the lead of Punch founder David Bennahum and Nomad Editions impresario Mark Edmiston, East Coast content entrepreneurs launch dozens of high-profile, original “tabzines,” pushing the borders of content creativity the way print aficionados Clay Felker and Harold Hayes did with magazines in the 1960s and 1970s.

The buzz around these “tabz” – and the demonstrable success of a few among readers and advertisers – divides the ad agency marketplace. Clients, once smitten with the promise of cheap scale offered by the media agencies and the acronym soup of SSPs, DSPs, RTB, ATDs, and DMPs, realize anew that nothing – not targeting, not data, not algorithms – is more valuable than a group of human beings totally engaged in an experience. Leading clients vie to associate themselves with hottest tabz; the tabz, in turn, make common cause with the hottest digital creative agencies – the moreso as a new form of advertising begins to dominate the tabz. Not quite video, not quite static, not quite rich media, not quite a television spot, not quite a print ad, yet somehow a combination of all-of-the-above, these full-page moving interstitials showcase the power of what Yahoo’s Ross Levinsohn has called “big, beautiful ads.”

Suddenly, by the end of 2012, people are talking about advertising again, and debating which among many multiples of visually arresting, esthetically engaging digital campaigns are the very best. The argument over whether digital media can build brands seems jejune. So does the “audience vs. context” war. So do the battles between the West Coast techies and the East Coast mediarati. Everyone settles down, breaks bread, and agrees that only one thing matters in digital media and advertising: delighting the consumer. With that realization, the Messiah comes to earth, wars end, poverty disappears, peace reigns, and people become happy forevermore.

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  1. “Clients, once smitten with the promise of cheap scale offered by the media agencies and the acronym soup of SSPs, DSPs, RTB, ATDs, and DMPs, realize anew that nothing – not targeting, not data, not algorithms – is more valuable than a group of human beings totally engaged in an experience.”

    I don’t see this as an either/or question. Just because creativity and algorithms/data/targeting tend to require different skillsets, doesn’t mean you can’t fuse the two in one campaign for optimal results; and anyone doing one or the other in isolation is failing to properly represent their client’s interests.

    I appreciate that might sound obvious, but time and time again I hear people drawing too firm a line between performance and branding, implying that it’s acceptable for a performance campaign to be creatively below par, while brand campaigns are somehow magically transformed via overly expensive direct buys that depend more on guesswork than data and targeting. The companies who marry the two will be the ones who succeed in this space.

  2. There has been a surge is equating the “revolution” in RTB to Wall Street type buying systems. However, when a stock is purchased the value of the company and the belief in its ability to engage its audience and sell is still a large part of that purchase. Just as the creative element in advertising is still so very important and is often overlooked. There are always ways to “trick” things up with technology advancements and Wall Street is very good at finding these methods i.e moving servers closer to the exchanges to execute trades in milliseconds faster and gain trading advantage. I am a huge proponent of the RTB segment and believe it is creating opportunities for advertisers that previously couldn’t have been imagined. However, it still takes “engaging content” and “quality” calls to action in order to complete the cycle. If something isn’t valuable and presented properly then its most likely going to be a tough sell no matter how advanced your systems are.