These 5 Technology Trends Dominated Discussions at Advertising Week

AI, transparency and measurement were the event's hot topics

Solving tough issues in digital advertising was a huge talking point at Advertising Week. Getty Images

In recent years, marketers have played up new emerging technology like virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence during Advertising Week. While those topics are still a growing area of focus for marketers, this year’s chatter shifted to focus more on solving tougher issues in digital advertising like transparency, measurement and fraud.

Over the past year or so, marketers have increasingly demanded solid proof from partners and agencies that their digital ads are working and insights that can fuel future decisions and that theme was prevalent at Advertising Week.

Here are five trends that stood out the most to Adweek’s technology team last week.

1. Measurement

As marketers continue to grapple with how they should quantify and quality their digital campaigns across various platforms, measurement was yet again front and center last week, with both agency and brand execs expressing the need for more improvements.

Speaking with Google Americas president Allan Thygesen, Unilever CMO Keith Weed said there’s no reason companies like Google and Facebook shouldn’t be able to ensure brands that their ads were 100 percent in view.

“Would you buy a dictionary that ended at M and pay for the whole dictionary? Would you buy a tub of Ben & Jerry’s that’s only half full?… It’s dead easy,” he said.

While Weed and others expressed an interest in finding a way to have a standard way of measurement across platforms, it still might not happen anytime soon. In a separate panel about the state of measurement, another Google exec said the industry is still a ways away from having a “single yard stick.” Nithya Sowrirajan, head of brand measurement strategy and commercialization at Google, said putting trust in third-party measurement from “agenda-less bodies” could be a way to have accountability even without a uniform metric.

Sowrirajan said she would like to see industry groups such as the 4A’s and the ANA taking a bigger stand in saying that measurement matters.

“The truth is it’s a noble cause, but it is a research-intensive cause,” she said. “So when we go back and tell our engineers that yes, you have to go back and spend six months working on documents and all of that and the MRC (Media Rating Council) because it’s important, we want to know that it’s important to the entire industry.”

While many want better measurement for social platforms and publishers, some marketers experimenting with virtual reality say the emerging medium might need new metrics.

“We’re used to talking about media in terms of reach and frequency, but with VR we’re talking about depth,” Matt Miller, CEO of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, said during a panel about the future of VR and brands.

2. Transparency

From a panel about navigating new guidelines from the FTC that requires influencers to clearly label sponsored posts as such to multiple panels about the murky state of the digital media-supply chain, transparency was front and center at Advertising Week.

While marketers are increasingly pushing for better cross-platform measurement within the platforms, there are still questions around how transparent major platforms like Facebook, Google and Pinterest will be in sharing data to inform advertisers’ decisions on how effective their campaigns are across platforms. Execs from all three companies came together on a panel Tuesday to hash out cross-platform measurement.

“You’re going to see us push more and more into this notion of enabling cross-device measurement across the board from analytics through attribution,” said Babak Pahlavan, senior director of product management at Google. “This is still an unsolved problem at scale.”

Meanwhile, a Google exec explained the company’s brand safety problems that caused hundreds of brands to pull their YouTube campaigns this spring. “The brand safety incidents this spring were a complete miss on our part and we’re working very hard to rectify that,” said Allan Thygesen, Google president of Americas.

Then on Thursday, OpenX’s chief revenue officer Jason Fairchild talked about the murkiness in the digital media-supply chain, saying that he recently met with a demand-side platform that works with 75 different exchanges, making it hard to control premium ad inventory.

“There’s no way to make sense of that, and there’s no way those exchanges are curating that inventory, standing behind fraud and building trust into the ecosystem,” Fairchild said.

3. Snapchat

The amount of tech news coming out of Advertising Week was minimal this year, partly because the ad-tech conference Dmexco was only two weeks beforehand where Facebook, Twitter and big brand CMOs like Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard made headlines.

But on Thursday, Snapchat made up for some of the lull by launching 3-D augmented reality ads with Bud Light and Warner Bros. during a morning keynote by chief strategy officer Imran Khan. While Apple, Facebook and others are betting on AR, Khan played up the app’s 173 million daily active users as evidence of the technology’s marketing potential, citing a new stat that users have played with its popular puppy face lens for a collective 7,000 years of time.

“Our community is creating more than three billion pictures and videos a day,” Khan said. “That’s a run rate of a trillion Snaps in one year.”

Later in the day, vp of content Nick Bell talked with Vertical Networks founder Elisabeth Murdoch, which claims that it’s Snapchat Discover channel receives 7 million daily viewers. And during a late-afternoon packed presentation, Snapchat’s global head of creative strategy Jeff Miller reiterated a new stat that should force brands to think shorter with video ads: Two-thirds of lift in ad awareness comes from the first two seconds of a Snap Ad.

4. Artificial intelligence

It’s still early on in the life of artificial intelligence, but the role of AI in advertising—through voice assistants, automated content creation and data analysis, just to name a few—is increasingly becoming a popular topic.

Along with last week’s announcement by IBM that it has created a new unit of Watson focused specifically on powering advertising with AI, many others were talking about how other technologies like Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana interact with users to build brand loyalty, increase service usage or sell actual products.

“We all spend so much time thinking about what our visual identity is, but we don’t spend much time on what our sonic identity is,” said Susan Panico, svp of strategic solutions at Pandora.

Along with voice, chatbots for messaging apps are still an area of interest. For its Aloft brand, Marriott has been experimenting with a “ChatBotlr,” an automated assistant for iMessage that lets hotel guests get advice about nearby attractions or request services for their room. In fact, the bot has been so successful that it’s now rolling out to Aloft’s more than 100 other locations.

“It makes the guest interaction more seamless,” said Toni Stoeckl, Marriott International’s global brand leader and vp of distinctive select brands. “It takes away the need for us to pick up the phone and deliver things and it allows our crew members or associates to interact with you on a more experiential basis.”

5. Data

More than 50 Advertising Week panels had the word “data” in the description alone with a lot of the chatter focused on how brands use reams of data to make sense of how consumers interact with brands across multiple channels.

During a panel with Adweek and Accenture Interactive on Monday, Susan Bidel, senior analyst at Forrester Research said that by 2025, “grappling with all sources of data in your data,” will be key in helping companies organize first-party with second- and third-party data.

And during a panel with Deloitte Digital, Reggie Panaligan, svp of research and analytics at Paramount Pictures talked about the film studio’s work in managing online and offline data to make decisions like analyzing which cities to pull or add media spend to during a film’s release or picking cities where a movie’s cast will do a press tour. However, those examples are fairly small compared to Paramount’s larger goal of understanding a consumer’s interests and the media that they were exposed to when deciding to watch a movie.

“We’re not necessarily there yet to the point where we see the entire customer lifecycle and we know that this person watched eight movies and they’re going to watch our movie this weekend,” Panaligan said. “The reality is that we’re not hitting that home run—we have to hit a bunch of singles.”

@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.
@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.