Addressability is a ‘slow-motion train wreck,’ says IAB CEOAddressability is a ‘slow-motion train wreck,’ says IAB CEO

“Less incrementalism and more burning impatience from the entire industry.” This was the mantra repeated again and again by IAB CEO David Cohen in his opening keynote address to the Annual Leadership Meeting convened this week, both virtually and in-person, in New York City. His message was a stark warning: major challenges are facing the industry and a cautious response to them will be disastrous.

The “IAB State of Data” report, released to coincide with the event, underlined the scale of these challenges, raising concerns about a measurement blackout as the industry continues to invest in third-party data despite the threats of cookie deprecation and stringent legislation.

In the dark. “If we don’t diversify our approach to the market, soon we’ll be operating by the equivalent of candlelight.” said Angelina Eng, Vice President, Measurement and Attribution, Programmatic+Data Center, IAB, in a release. “The industry risks losing $10 billion in annual sales — without a serious plan for what happens when everyone’s in the dark.”

Advertisers are trusting in adtech and publishers to solve the problem, but in the view of the IAB, and despite its REARC initiative, it’s not happening. The IAB is calling for the industry to develop common standards and KPIs, develop privacy-centric solutions for addressability and measurement, and leverage existing tech standards to apply across channels.

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Diversity is mandatory. Among Cohen’s warnings was a shortfall in tech talent. By 2030, he said, more than 85 million tech jobs could go unfulfilled. “What does it have to do with diversity? Everything.” Failure to diversify the talent pool puts recruiting an adequate workforce at risk.

The media and entertainment industry has made big strides: “They had no choice. New technologies, our technologies, enable audiences to find what they want, where they want it, when they want it. Entertainment companies knew they had to reach deeper and broader to satisfy their existing audiences and the new audiences they [needed to] gather.” The marketing and advertising industries need to catch up. IAB is supporting this with its Digital Media Apprenticeship program. “Talent and DEI needs less incrementalism and more burning impatience from the entire industry.”

Privacy and addressability. The deprecation of third-party identifiers was described by Cohen as “the world’s biggest slow motion train wreck. We can all see it coming from miles down the track. And the industry’s response? More incrementalism. ‘Someone will figure it out for me.’”

It’s not just about cookies, it’s about Congress too, said Cohen, referring to the proposed surveillance ad ban legislation. “We are simply not prepared,” said Cohen. He called, inevitably, for less incrementalism and more burning impatience.

Next generation measurement. “We have at least 27 individual industry efforts focused on next generation measurement,” said Cohen. “Learning is good,” he continued, “but couldn’t we all use some standards in measurement we could all build off of?” It requires industry involvement rather than businesses defending their “favorite metrics.”

Why we care. Marketers and advertisers will look back on this speech as an urgent call to action. The question is whether they will look back from the perspective of an unresolved addressability and measurement blackout, as the IAB is warning, or from the happy uplands of an industry-wide resolution to these challenges.

Right now, with Google flip-flopping on what will replace cookies and a bewildering portfolio of composite deterministic/probabilistic identity resolution solutions on offer from a range of adtech vendors, the IAB’s warnings have force.

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