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Advertising Week 2013: AOL’s Programmatic Upfront

DigitasLBi is on the ground at Advertising Week 2013! Follow us on Twitter (@digitas) for live updates and insights, and check back here for recaps from some of our events.

This week, AOL hosted its first ever Programmatic Upfront, announcing new offerings, and featuring presentations from a wide array of brands and agencies on how technology and automation have changed digital advertising for the better. Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of AOL, kicked things off with a look at the massive growth of the ad industry over the last decade, the projected growth to come, and how powering people with technology will be at the forefront of those changes.

Some of the featured speakers and presentations included:

- Executives from Hyatt and Accuen explored the importance of data, and finding ways to make data and optimization a part of their daily workflow. For instance, an 18-month research study on the different needs of female business travelers led to Hyatt prototyping a number of operational changes, including healthier menu options, providing flat irons in bathrooms, smaller bathrobes, and more.

- VivaKi’s Chris Paul spoke about how technology has presented advertisers with an unprecedented opportunity to buy smarter, leaner, and better. His lessons for marketers as they dive into automation are to simplify the pitch (let’s avoid falling in love with our nerd-speak), think about winning the small victories, and put a stake in the ground—don’t be afraid to make a prediction and stick to it.

- Nate Silver, editor-in-chief of ESPN's FiveThirtyEight blog, discussed the need to sort through massive amounts of data (according to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of information are produced each day) to find the signal above the noise. If we really want to make accurate predictions about big issues and events, we must think in terms of probability, understand our own biases and assumptions, and constantly test our beliefs and revise our assumptions.

- DigitasLBi’s Nicole Estebanell and Lenovo’s Kevin Berman discussed how programmatic buying can give back time and resources to focus on creative ideas and executions versus spreadsheets.  The duo explored the algorithm that kicked off Lenovo’s fantasy football program this year with the Fantasy Coach of the Year contest, and then presented Tough Season, a web series done in partnership with The Onion. Combining a mix of real-life pro-football players, extensive social engagement, and real-time NFL events, Tough Season is both a mockumentary and a love letter to fantasy football fans.  And it’s an example of how programmatic buying has given them the time and space to take their media plans further, and focus on big brand ideas.


The eBay Cannes Global Marketing Summit: Rishad Tobaccowala, Tim Armstrong & Brian Cooley

Digitas is on the ground at the 60th Annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity! Follow @Digitas on Twitter for live updates, and check out @Digitas_LBi on Instagram for photo coverage.  

Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer for VivaKi opened the Summit with several key points:


  • Brands need digital to help navigate the analogue (i.e. an offline store) worlds.
  • Brands are built on utility and value, and must self-evaluate how they are resonating with culture to stay relevant and desirable in the marketplace.
  • Think beyond your title. What is your personal brand?


Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL shared an update on mega-trends, and his perspective on career growth:


  • The moment you feel like you’ve stopped learning, say something. Do something about it.
  • Everyone needs to operate within a plan, as that’s what binds us together and provides a common goal
  • Never underestimate the value of mentors.
  • Write down personal and professional goals at least once a year to maintain awareness and accountability.


Brian Cooley, Editor at Large of CNET, shared his outlook on consumer technology:


  • For mobile, think transparent, intuitive, and intimate
  • PC and laptop sales will remain the same over the next six years; smartphones will be the biggest selling screen, followed by tablets
  • The next interface: you. Cooley discussed the new Samsung device that pauses video when the viewer looks away; how xBox Kinect will now know how many people are in a room by detecting heartbeats; and the potential of Leap Motion.


*eBay Cannes Global Marketing Summit written by Dave Marsey, EVP/Managing Director, DigitasLBi San Francisco


Digitas at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity: Day #3

Digitas is on the ground at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity! Follow @Digitas on Twitter for live insights from the sessions, and check out Cannes By Digitas on Tumblr for photos, videos, and more.

Content and storytelling were hallmark themes echoed through the Palais on the third day of the Cannes Lions festival.

The night prior, in a Twilight Session Tuesday evening, AOL content lead David Shing joined Razorfish ECD Frederic Bonn and Digitas’ Lincoln Bjorkman, CCO North America, to discuss the origins of innovation and creativity. The source?  The stories in the world around us.

Bjorkman argued that a good idea can come from anyone, anywhere. The most valuable assets at an agency are the individuals, and their personal relationships, the stories they experience in the world outside the conference room: “Real brainstorms don’t happen in Brainstorms. Brainstorm everywhere.”

The crowd ‘unanimously disagreed.’ With a laugh the group chimed in at once: the best place for inspiration is the shower! Unfortunately, we don’t have our iPhones or notepads at the ready in there.

The theme carried through the next morning into a seminar hosted by Xbox Live and Fast Company: the next chapter in interactive gaming and its impact on creativity and digital.

Fast Company’s Robert Safian posed that gaming will continue to play a significant role in digital: “Gaming is more than a game. Our relationships are a game. Our experiences are a game. And it will continue to play a greater role in the social web.”

Usually carried out on a console with a traditional set-top box, gaming creates an interesting pivot on the conventional wisdom around the relationship between TV and the web.  Counter to popular belief, gaming merged with social connections has itself created an enhanced experience.

And for broadcast, many view a clash here. That clash is also due to digital content, platforms like Twitter, and the DVR. It’s “iTV versus Web TV,” with the web in the lead.

Later in the afternoon, Twitter and Digitas leadership met for an informal discussion that furthers this idea. Interestingly, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo shared another, disruptive perspective counter to this belief: “Twitter is where people experience world events together, real-time. Superbowl. World Cup. Even broadcast programming like Glee. Consumers are actually waiting to watch live so they can be a part of the thrill of real-time shared experience.”

As such, with mobile adoption rates and mobile Twitter usage on the rise, the “2nd screen” and the Always On nature of content today may actually be helping to revive broadcast media. Broadcast programming and second screen user generated commentary tell the story together.

Later in the afternoon, Digitas and Razorfish hosted leadership from AOL, Microsoft Advertising and others in a seminar on global content and the Digital Content NewFronts.

Digitas' Olivia Yabsley, VP of Brand Content, discussed the importance of storytelling in many forms: “The big content bursts with media spend are important, and ongoing content series extend the story over time and keep the dialogue going.”

Digital content is on the rise. Jordan Bitterman predicted continued growth in digital video over the next 12 months. Even upwards of 50% from $2 billion to $3 billion, maybe more. And the Digitas New Front is leading the charge. Bitterman added: “Yahoo and Vevo report they’ve driven revenue deals directly from Digitas NewFront.”

And the biggest news of all? The Digital Content New Fronts will be back in 2013, during the week of April 29th.

Ultimately, the 2012 Cannes Lions Festival has been less about the advertising industry, but rather how the world is changing and the way we experience the world and each other.

And for us marketers, success is no longer found in advertising alone, but storytelling. Not just telling stories. Creating them. Stories that connect on a personal, human level that the world will tell for you.

The future? Content, not ads. Partners, not clients. Co-creation, not impressions.

This post was written by Digitas' Alex Jacobs, Associate Director, Marketing and Roger Box, VP/Director, Marketing. Follow them on the ground at Cannes as they live-tweet sessions from @Digitas, and get more of their insights from @AlexJakes and @BoxRoger.


Digitas at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity: Day #2

Digitas is on the ground at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity! Follow @Digitas on Twitter for live insights from the sessions, and check out Cannes By Digitas on Tumblr for photos, videos, and more.

On Tuesday, the buzz around the Palais de Festival was palpable.

Creative thought leaders from around the globe showcased best in class work, provocative and inspiring seminars, and new perspectives on advertising and the ever-evolving world that we live in. And like yesterday, the theme of storytelling as the key to successful marketing carried through.

In an inspiring seminar, Paul Adams of Facebook discussed "The Psychology and Creativity of Sharing", summing it up as such: "Social is going to go away."

Disruptive. And not something you'd expect to hear from one of the lead product developers at Facebook, the largest social platform on the planet.

He continued: "Social is going to go away. The social web will just be the web. Social campaigns will just be campaigns."

The world is social. And all of our interactions, the stories we tell, the content we consume, the products we buy – they all have layers of social relevance. He contended that just as 'digital' was considered a new form of advertising, social too will become ingrained in the shared human experience, not a separate entity.

Adams posed another provocative yet illuminating thought: "Our research indicates that this theory of 'influence and influencers', is false"

Someone with many Twitter followers or Facebook fans isn't necessarily more likely to influence perspective or purchase decisions than an individual who has what we'd consider to be 'low' social relevance. Your friend who was a competitive tennis player in college, who may not even have a Facebook or Twitter profile, is more likely to influence your decision on which racquet to buy than even the most 'socially influential' identities.

So how do we connect with, inspire and influence those across all circles? Storytelling. By creating interesting stories that resonate on a human, personal level. If the story feels credible and authentic, it can reach all audiences.

Later in the afternoon AOL’s David Shing and Digitas France’s Chief Creative Officer Bridget Jung gathered in a panel to speak freely about creativity. Where it comes from. Where it's headed. And how to inspire it from their teams.

The key? There is no secret recipe to be had. Creativity and inspiration can come from all places, moments and people. And, of course, from the stories we tell, hear, and pass on that resonate and inspire the most creative minds in the world.

This post was written by Digitas' Alex Jacobs, Associate Director, Marketing and Roger Box, VP/Director, Marketing. Follow them on the ground at Cannes as they live-tweet sessions from @Digitas, and get more of their insights from @AlexJakes and @BoxRoger.


Digitas Newfront 2012: Creators, Consumers and Distributors

We’re live from the Digitas NewFront! We’ll be recapping sessions all day. Watch it live on, and follow @Digitas and #NewFront on Twitter for updates.

The biggest players in content distribution and creation including Hulu, YouTube, MSN, Yahoo, AOL & Huffington Post and Digitas discuss the convergence of their business models.

It is no longer a black and white matter. With consumer expectations of content on-demand, quality content affects the way it is distributed, and new distribution channels impact the content that consumers demand.

The model continues to evolve, but for now we know that when we connect the right content with the right viewers, by whichever means, everyone wins.

Today's NewFront live-blogging was done by Digitas' Alex Jacobs. Read the next entry here. For more insights from Alex, follow him on Twitter - @alexjakes.