Media Buying Summit Day 1: Harnessing tech to better reach a changed consumer

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Programmatic buyers are always balancing a lot on the job, which is why there’s so much to talk about every year.

Digiday’s annual fall Media Buying Summit kicked off on Wednesday, gathering media agency professionals with marketers and tech firms leaders in Palm Springs, Calif. The three-day conference is covering themes from across the industry, from sustainability standards and economic uncertainty to automation and new forms of measurement, such as attention.

The summit started off with a discussion on how the global pandemic has shaped our attitudes and behaviors with Brent Poer, global client lead and president of Publicis Imagine. In a conversation with Digiday Editor-in-Chief Jim Cooper, Poer presented research from his group entitled The Great Re-Evaluation: How the Pandemic Era Has Impacted American Attitudes, Values, and Behaviors that focused on post-pandemic behaviors and explored changes in our spending, personal lives and forms of entertainment.

Publicis Imagine ultimately concluded that the majority of people have gone through significant life changes since the pandemic started. Poer noted that 77% of people said they achieved a life milestone, like starting a family or buying homes, over the last two years. This translates into shifting choices in the way consumers shop, live and connect — and some of those choices may be here to stay.

“Are these things going to stick?” Poer said. “I think generationally there are things that are going to stick… There’s a lot of change in your life, but there’s also a lot of how brand relationships are a reflection of my life and the things that I believe makes consumers tick.”

Poer believes this means brand marketing is coming back in a big way. The pandemic period gave many consumers the time to reflect and refine on the products and people in their reality, and creating meaning by “slapping a logo” on a cause or idea is no longer enough to show purpose or political intent. “Take a stand on it. Brands are going to have to drive longer-term relationships,” Poer added.

Adam Simon, svp and executive director of strategy at IPG Media Lab, had similar thoughts in looking beyond 2022 at consumer loyalty and engagement in another session. Simon identified the four major trends IPG Media Lab has been studying, from the metaverse for brands to the longer life cycle of products.

One point Simon mentioned was seeing consumers’ great desire to escape from real life, partly driven by legalization of cannabis or psychedelics, as well as the growing interest in a metaverse platform and even interest in commercial space. These are all becoming ways for people to cope and find new forms of entertainment and engage in social activities.

Simon also touched on the importance of having young talent that are in tune with the new media investments that are emerging for agencies that have been buying television for the past few decades. Although young talent is feeling especially uncertain about the economy, he believes their “fresh blood” and creativity will be vital as we embrace social and gaming investments.

Some changes they have made in the workplace have helped with retaining their talent. In interviews with candidates and existing employees, flexibility was one big common denominator in what people want at work.

“A lot of it is about flexibility,” Simon said. “It’s about more asynchronous ways of working to combat things like burnout.”

Rounding out the day, Sargi Mann, global activation practices leader at GroupM Nexus, spoke about how agencies can invest more wisely and strategically at a time of disruption, especially as clients’ expectations shift. Data and technology, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, have become central in those discussions with their partners.

As Mann told Michael Bürgi, senior editor of media buying and planning at Digiday, data collection is not just about getting as much as you can – but about how much “value you can provide.”

For instance, while the majority of consumers do want personalization, they want the data gatherers to do it respectfully and to provide value in return. Mann encouraged marketers to think as people, rather than just as practitioners, when serving both clients and consumers. 

“Making sure before the dollars are going out into the media environments that we have the ability to showcase value and prove the results from the get-go,” she said.

And ad tech was certainly an ongoing theme throughout the day. Asked what her tips are on not getting distracted by the new shiny objects, Mann told the audience to “look for the longevity, not the shiny thing.”

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