Mirroring the Industry: Advertising Week New York 15

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Sometimes the future takes root in the mundane. For Matt Scheckner it was a phone call made to his office in New York on a bright, Spring, May afternoon in 2002. The 4A’s (Advertising Association of American Advertisers) Value of Advertising Committee was searching for a new way to attract great talent and reaffirm New York as a global advertising hub.

A producer in his bones, Scheckner seemed a natural choice. He had made a name for himself as the first Executive Director of the New York Sports Commission aged 23 after pitching Mayor Koch that New York needed to recognize sport for what it was: a gateway to further economic development. Over 8 years or so he re-established New York as a centre of big-time athletic competition.  He “wrote the winning bid for the ’98 Goodwill Games and spent the summer of ’94 in St Petersburg in a room negotiating with Ted Turner and Boris Yeltsin.”

On that call, the 4A’s asked the simple question: “what about producing an event for the advertising and marketing industry?”

He mulled it over, assembled a team, and a year or so later in 2004 Advertising Week opened its doors for the first time.

60,000 advertising and marketing professionals flooded Madison Avenue and were greeted by parades of brand mascots like the Michelin Man and Mr. Peanut waving from convertibles. There was one venue, two stages and a packed thought leadership schedule.

“Would you consider doing something for the advertising and marketing industry?”

The formula on paper was simple: world-class thought leadership from industry titans by day, and a fascinating array of entertainment by night. Think musical powerhouses like Outkast and Nas. World-renowned comedians like Tina Fey and Susie Essman, all in unique venues across New York.

Getting there took moxie, brains and some luck in the form of great timing. But the idea at the core has always been the same – engage, educate, entertain and enlighten.

In 2018 Advertising Week celebrates its 15th anniversary and lots have changed. In 2004 Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg were still on the Harvard campus. The iPhone didn’t arrive until 2007. Twitter, nor Instagram or Snap existed. Programmatic, VR, or bitcoin weren’t on anyone’s radar.

Though as smartphone ownership slowly became ubiquitous, and mobile web access began delivering seamless digital experiences beyond pictures and text, more time was being spent staring at screens of all sizes. Advertisers and marketers were handed scores of new opportunities to understand, reach and engage consumers. Brands were able to have real-time conversations with people as they interacted with websites, mobile apps and platforms.

Today’s advertising and marketing skill set looks nothing like what was needed in 2004. A firm shift from offline to online spend has seen a need to combine the traditional, creative side of the discipline – using powerful narratives to tap into people’s wishes and aspirations – with the technical side of data, digital engineering and analytics.

The two areas do not always sit easily together but navigating the choppy waters and educating people about doing so has become Advertising Week’s Raison D’être.

To illustrate the scale of change, look back to 2009, $117B was spent on all U.S. advertising according to Nielsen. 57% of all ad spending in 2009 went into Television, making it the largest medium for advertisers. Print media earned approximately 28% of ad dollars, while Internet earned just 7%.

Fast forward to 2018 and we have a very different story. Facebook and Google have emerged as kings of a category as ad dollars rapidly shift away from TV to mobile.

The duopoly was able to offer both unimaginable scale, speed and (for the most part) control. In 2016 Google and Facebook combined to comprise 72% of new digital advertisement expenditure in the US. It used to be that advertisers and marketers would launch campaigns one at a time, sit back and re-evaluate sometime down the road. Not in this new digital world. Instantaneous analytics dashboards meant constant monitoring and optimization.

Each year Advertising Week’s programming reflects the market changes. Of course, this presented a tough, but an advantageous challenge: constant re-invention.

To the misery of attendees, the Icons Parade waved a final goodbye in 2007. Justin Timberlake spoke of his Myspace investment in 2011. Mobile Marketing was top of mind in 2012. Programmatic bashing was 2013. The Duopoly has seemingly dominated discussions since.

Advertising Week has had the unique opportunity to position itself as a forum to hold discussions about the rapidly changing state of play in advertising and marketing.

Technology may have revolutionized the advertising industry. But as Advertising Week gears up for its 15th anniversary there’s a feeling that once again we stand at an important precipice.

Trust and brand safety issues are very much still top of mind. Platforms grapple with the scope of malicious actors meddling with elections and such. Established brands continue to hold an edge in content, technology and global vision.

How this plays out over the next 15 years is difficult to predict. Voice will continue blazing a path, OTT streaming platforms will continue challenging traditional broadcasters, platforms will likely continue their domination, and question marks will remain around privacy. That said, storytelling will continue to be the most important part of all.

Advertising Week plans on being there every step of the way to helping the industry navigate its way forwards. Here’s to another 15 years.

Advertising Week New York 2018 will be at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square theatre for a four-day event that starts Oct. 1. Passes can be purchased here.

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