Advertising Week Briefing: ‘Please don’t bring up Facebook’

Advertising Week is no longer about navigating the hellscape of Times Square. Now, advertising and media industry has been forced to navigate an Upper West Side movie theater, where panels were inside actual theaters. For the creatives in the room, dreaming of being Scorcese, it was probably nice to see their expensive work on gigantic screens. For everyone else, the day was walking through dark hallways, sitting in carpeted chairs and thinking about the minimal amount of popcorn.

Facebook swoops in to talk security
Facebook’s vp of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson kicked off that day as a last-minute addition to the schedule. But Facebook didn’t tout a new ad format. There was a lot of other issues to talk about, obviously last week’s massive security breach that gave hackers access to about 50 million Facebook accounts along with the departures of Instagram cofounders and a Forbes profile of WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton that included damning comments about Zuckerberg. Oh and don’t forget about the saga of Cambridge Analytica and ongoing election interference. Everson, a familiar presence to the ad world, addressed each of those scandals.

“I was hoping to hear more about what this means for marketers,” Joseph Kozak, the founder of KTK Design, said after the 50-minute panel. To Kozak, even the latest security scandal didn’t seem like that big of deal overall, “50 million is bad. But if you look at how big they are, 50 million out of 2.5 billion is a percentage I can live with.” Meanwhile, the agency partners Facebook spoke with were saying, “I’m not worried. I’m more empathetic,” Everson said on the panel. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As to what really matters to marketers, Oct. 1 was a pretty big day: Farewell to partner categories. Everson assured attendees that advertising isn’t going anywhere on Facebook despite calls for a subscription model, like WhatsApp’s Acton. Everson repeatedly used the example of a farmer in Kenya shouldn’t have to make a choice between feeding his family and paying for Facebook. (Let’s hope this mythical farmer would choose A.) As for Acton, Everson wants to hear for about the billionaire’s philanthropic efforts. (Zing.) Instagram is still going strong and won’t completely become Facebook 2.0, despite the founders leaving. Everson preached that Instagram is for following hobbies (For her: bulldogs) while Facebook is more about family and friends. Advertising, apparently, can work well with each. Marketers should be watching the Stories format — copied from Snapchat — due to its growth in usage by consumers, Everson said.

— Kerry Flynn & Max Willens

“It’s too hot. There are no snacks. The coffee is terrible, and they’ve already run out of water.” — Ad tech delegate

“Please don’t bring up Facebook.” — Agency CEO before a panel

“Marketers are people, too.” — Carolyn Everson

“AI is still in the hype phase. There was a line out the door for the AI and data session this morning.” — Data marketer

“Wow, this must be important. They even have the windows covered.” — Student walking by

Not enough bite, but real dogs
Monday panels were overall quite dull, other than some superfans gushing over Emma Stone or simply enjoying the plush seats within the IMAX theater, home to the Target Media Network stage. But at least outside of that stage on the third floor, attendees could admire a live dog. Yes, Target brought their mascot, Bullseye. We heard there are four dogs, one of which is named Jack. Otherwise, Hulu’s booth, on the first floor, provided a bunch of phone chargers and mini water bottles. On the second floor, Captify had an all-day bar with booze flowing at 4 p.m. (Digiday’s Advertising Week team was in darkened theaters until the very end.)

Cannabis fights for legitimacy
Brand safety has touched mainstream brands, news publishers and platforms. Cannabis is having its own brand safety problem. While it’s gaining mainstream acceptance and making its way into more industries (CBD pet food and face cream, anyone?), its players still battle a negative stigma and misperceptions. Branding is its own issue; there are no big established cannabis brands yet (though just give the big CPG companies time, they’ll get there), and the varying legality from state to state makes it hard to create a consistent, nationwide experience. Some companies have to start up new companies or strike licensing agreements to expand to other states.

“It’s going to be a war of brands,” said Drake Sutton-Shearer, founder and CEO of Prohbtd, a cannabis-focused online media company, one of a handful of speakers at a cannabis-themed afternoon. And if other industries are awash in data, cannabis is just figuring out who is buying the product and what they’re using it for. (In a survey by one vendor of attendees at an event, 68 percent said they used cannabis to get a good night’s sleep.) Companies also talked about the need to educate people who still think weed is for stoners, and the role branded content can play. Publishers, are you listening?

— Lucia Moses

Brands do it themselves
For years, brands have talked about needing more content, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more work for agencies.

Namaste Technologies co-founder Sean Dollinger mentioned that his company, which sells vaporizers and other cannabis-centric products, has a 30-person content team cranking out content specifically designed to attract specific customer segments.

“If you have back pain from golf, we should be creating content for you that’s different from somebody else,” Dollinger said.

Others see content as something that must be considered at the earliest stages. Before Hatch Collective, a fashion brand focused on maternity-wear, decided to open its first store, it saw both an opportunity to drive sales and earned media. At its New York location, it throws 10 to 12 events every month, not just for their core customers but their partners too. At one recent event, it held a class for expecting fathers.

“We gave them beer and showed them how to change a diaper,” said Lindsey Bressler, Hatch Collective’s vp of strategy.

— Hilary Milnes & Max Willens

3 Questions with David Galinsky, director of customer data science at McDonald’s
If you thought the term big data was over, think again. McDonald’s hosted a panel titled “Bringing Big Data to Big Macs,” highlighting their work with Civis Analytics. We caught up with panelist Galinsky to learn more.

Why are you here now?
“We’ve really gone through digital transformations, installing kiosks and booting up a mobile app. That alone got us a ton of customer level data. We need to get more. [Civis] led the charge to help the company understand we have all this data we’ve never had before so we can start using it to make better decisions, understand what they purchase rather than third-party data attributed.”

What have you learned now that you’ve collected more data?
“Some deemed conventional wisdom turned out to be false. What we started uncovering is various campaigns we were running resonated with different types of customers than what we thought. We learned McDonalds is truly a family-focused, family-centered business. You got convenience, value.”

Should everyone in the quick service industry make an app?
“It’s one thing to have an app. It’s one thing to properly collect and use the data.”

Coming Up
9 a.m.: “Advertising won’t work without engagement” with Publishers Clearing House, Viacom, Tastemade and more
10:30 a.m.: “The Rebound: Recovering from Failure” with Sundance, Equinox, Getty and GE
11 a.m.: NPR, Stitcher and Pandora discuss scaling podcasts.
3:15 p.m.: Uber’s programmatic display lead chats about the ride-hailing app’s media buying strategy.
3:30 p.m.: NBC’s Linda Yaccarino discusses the transformation of TV with Target.
4 p.m.: BuzzFeed’s Ze Frank and Omnicom chat about “supercharging influencers”
4:30 p.m.: Digiday’s Sahil Patel interviews Hulu’s head of advertising platforms and Blue Apron’s CMO about the future of advertising in OTT

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