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L.A. TV and Innovation Week: Streaming Wars, Data Wars, and ‘Star Wars’

Yeah, it was just two days, but they certainly packed an info punch. GABBCON’s Los Angeles TV and Innovation Week gathered a bunch of industry luminaries at the Beverly Hills Hotel and created a sort of knowledge firehose: OTT is up, silos are down, and everyone is worried about privacy.

Were you not there? You’re in luck. Here are our three big takeaways:

1. “The Streaming Wars Are the Snowflake Wars”

MadHive‘s Josh Helfgott had some bad news for all us Olds: Boomers and Millennials are fine, but it’s Gen Z marketers should really be focusing on.

Helfgott wants to reclaim the word “snowflake” from the somewhat toothless insult it’s become over the last few years, applying it to Gen Z as a positive — “Snowflakes are beautiful, and they are unique,” he said.

And they want the content they watch to be as unique as they are. “They view ads as content they can share,” Helfgott said.

But with the launches of Disney+ and Apple TV+, and with streamers like Netflix ratcheting up their content spend, is there still space for ad-supported services in this brave new world?

Yeah, duh. “People aren’t going to spend $150 [a month] on streaming services,” said Mark Rotblat, chief research officer of Tubi. “Advertising will have to carry some of that load.”

What that advertising will look like, though, is up for debate, and probably more akin to the brand integrations in Netflix’s Stranger Things than traditional 30-second spots.

Thank goodness 54% of the Snowflake Generation (according to his presentation) is open to advertising in their content.

2. Privacy: This Ain’t Getting Resolved Anytime Soon

Nearly everyone is trying to figure out how to not just be compliant with recent data privacy regulations — GDPR and CCPA (going into effect on Jan. 1) — recently put into effect.

What isn’t really helping is the amount of ambiguity in legislation like CCPA, said MatrixPoint Consulting Managing Partner Aaron Batte.

But something needed to be done, Batte argued. “The proliferation in the ad tech industry was out of control,” he said. Brands will surrender their data to agencies, who then end up handing that data out to vendors, who may or may not have the proper safeguards in place.

“My personal opinion is: If you’re a vendor working with a brand, you have an obligation to protect the data they are entrusting to you,” Batte said.

Not everyone shares this opinion, which is probably how we got into the GDPR/CCPA mess in the first place. And it’s only going to get worse: Batte said he sees the potential for a “sales tax scenario,” in which every single state has its own privacy regulations. Oh, and: “We’ll see something like GDPR at the federal level” in the near enough future.

3. Change Is Hard, But It Is Happening

The ad industry is still tremendously siloed, and that’s bad, as pretty much everyone agrees: “There were reasons silos were more productive,” said Jack Myers, chairman and founder of MyersBizNet. 

“We need to get to the point where we make a decision on how we aggregate all the information between us so we can react to it in real time,” said Louis Jones, EVP of Media and Data for the 4A’s.

That’s taking a long time, though it isn’t necessarily because everyone involved is resistant to change. Change is hard, in general, and specifically when you have such a wide range of stakeholders.

The shift of ad spending to OTT is one measure of recent change. But it’s also a good illustration of why industry-wide change is so difficult: Everyone has different needs.

Horizon Media EVP Autumn White said that while for entertainment clients, OTT presents an unparalleled opportunity for targeting and therefore is seeing an increase in budget devoted to it, other brands just don’t need it quite as much.

And though there’s much opportunity with OTT and connected TV, there’s a danger as well, cautioned Rob Jayson, EVP of USIM: focusing on the data, rather than how you’re actually connecting with consumers.

“It’s important for us to think about the strategy first, and the data second,” he said.

For Mac Hagel, head of Spark Foundry’s West Coast operations, using the data to create a much more effective content and production strategy has been a huge boon. And OTT allows him a degree of nimbleness that’s crucial to clients like NBC.

Horizon’s White has even seen clients that now view OTT as part of their video spend and will make deals for it during the upfronts. If that ain’t change, what is?