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At Brand Innovator’s Media Buying Summit, Spring And Change Were In The Air

I recently had the honor of being the MC for the Brand Innovators Media Buying Summit. The three-day event was an eye-opener for someone who spends most of his time at shows featuring executives from networks, streaming platforms and ad tech companies, where much of the talk is speculation about what brands want and how to enable that.

So it was good to actually hear from brands first hand and get a real sense of where their heads were at.

There were several key themes that emerged from the event: how the pandemic is already affecting consumer behavior and what to look forward to in the years ahead, the rapid growth of streaming TV and how to incorporate that into their ads spend, and the interplay between the role of data in a cookieless future and growing consumer concerns about privacy.

How The Pandemic Has Changed Consumer Behavior

If there was one thing almost all panelists agreed upon, it was that the pandemic has accelerated changes to consumer behavior.

One key piece has been the rapid growth of online ordering and delivery, a trend few saw as going away, even after the pandemic.

Marketers shared success stories in this area–Petco’s Jay Altshculer and Tariq Hassan related how they saw demand for curbside delivery pick up tremendously at the beginning of the pandemic and how they were able to speed up the roll out of that feature, something that had been on their radar for a while.

Speakers also seemed to agree that the growth of online shopping and delivery affects all businesses, not just retailers. Car buyers are doing more shopping online, vacationers are doing more planning online and even fashion and beauty products are seeing an uptick in online shopping.

One caveat that several speakers mentioned: while it’s easy to fall into the trap of shifting media dollars to lower funnel (sales) messaging, given how easy it is to track online behavior, it’s important to remember the value of upper funnel messaging (branding) as that will help seed the ground and create a longer term propensity to engage with the brand.

The Shift In Media Consumption

Lockdowns during the pandemic meant that people were consuming more media in general, which speakers noted, resulted in a change in consumption patterns.

Two big changes that were noted were the rise of podcasts and the rapid shift of viewing to streaming.

Podcasts, and audio in general have become big this year, despite people no longer commuting, and there is a great deal of excitement about the possibilities this offers for advertisers both in terms of sponsorships and in terms of advertising. 

Some of the issues that were discussed was the brand safety issue–Spotify’s Joe Rogan podcast, for instance, has veered into sticky territory on several occasions, as well as the difficulty of buying ads at scale. Speakers felt the latter issue was changing thanks to consolidation in the industry, but that brand safety would remain an issue.

Looming far greater in most marketer’s minds however, was the shift from traditional linear TV to streaming.

The reaction here was measured: marketers are excited about the possibilities that streaming offers in terms of alternative formats like branded content and data collection, but they’re still very concerned about how complicated the ecosystem seems to be, and how hard it is to buy at scale. 

Key pain points for marketers were the inability to buy across the various streaming platforms, their lack of comfort with buying TV via automated buying platforms, and the lack of a consistent measurement standard that would allow them to combine their digital and video buys.

One interesting side note was a presentation from LG’s Michael Mercede on the rise of an ecosystem centered around smart TV OEMs who can provide programming, ad sales, data and measurement, in many ways replicating the role of MVPDs on traditional TV.

The Roles Of Data And Privacy

The impending “cookieless future” was first and foremost on speakers minds when it came to data.

Most felt confident that they would come out of this stronger, with many noting that it would push brands to amp up their first party data collection efforts, something they’d needed to do for some time. 

There was a further feeling that the increased availability of first party data would be a boon for brands whose consumers were increasingly interacting with them online as a result of the pandemic. 

While there was optimism over the availability and value of data, there was concern that brands needed to respect consumer privacy.

The conventional wisdom was that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how their data was being used, especially in light of Apple’s release of iOS 14.5 which outright asks users if they want to give permission for their data to be shared with an app. This has led to a battle between Apple and Facebook, with the former arguing that consumers have a right to their personal data and the latter claiming that advertising is what keeps many popular apps free.

Speakers sought to find a middle ground, giving consumers the right to opt out of sharing their data while making it clear that the data collected would be used in a responsible and privacy compliant manner.

It was further noted that consumers seem to be less concerned about sharing their TV viewing habits with brands, since they don’t regard that data as overly personal. 

It was a fascinating show overall, with participants offering invaluable insights based on their own experiences in the trenches of marketing. 

You can find videos of all of the sessions here, on the Brand Innovators site.