2020 IAB ALM Conference: An evolving report in an industry of unpredictability.

By Charlie Hackley, DesCK Programmatic Manager

Earlier this month I attended the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, CA. I’ve outlined some key learnings regarding the current and future state of our interactive advertising world, beyond just my programmatic lens.

The Future of Data

“Data is only as powerful as you make it easily accessible” – Todd Haskell, SVP, CMO Hearst Magazines

In recent news, Google Chrome has stated they will eliminate the 3rd party cookie by 2022. The “death of the cookie” – as many are calling it – has shaken up the future of data accessibility in the online-advertising world. Talks of narrowing ad investment to walled gardens and dominance of contextual targeting seem like a plausible remedy for now, but long-term optimism for a replacement solution remains high.

Consumers continually expect free content. In the presence of the cookie, the exchange of personal data has always been the cost for “free” content.

This migration away from the cookie presents an opportunity to make the value exchange clearer and to build greater trust with the consumer. We already trust the walled gardens because you know what you get—on a social platform, it’s access to friends, photos, news, etc. Trust on the open web is much harder to build. The inflection point will be when we start to lay a new foundation for the future data exchange.

Whether consumers are aware or not, they demand personalized data. Without data, consumers will notice a certain decrease in the quality of their internet experience. A replacement for the cookie has not been conceived yet, but every CMO, data officer, business professor and trader present at IAB agreed that the only solution is in the form of a standardized unified ID.

The Future of Regulation:

Governmental regulations such as GDPR and, as of January 1, CCPA in California have begun to reconstitute how society defines consumer privacy. Attendees at IAB agreed that these regulations are steps in the right direction. They also agreed that more collaboration is needed between ad-tech leaders and lawmakers because imprecise legislative language can lead to unintended consequences.

New York, Illinois and other states are following CCPA’s lead, drafting their own statewide privacy laws. Soon, companies looking to activate a national ad campaign will need to comply with 10, 15 or 30 different privacy laws across the U.S., creating an ecosystem that is seemingly impossible to navigate.

Over my three days at IAB, it became clear that a comprehensive federal policy bill is necessary.

The collaboration has already begun at privacyforamerica.com. Committee members from the 4A’s, ANA, IAB, NAI and DAA (pretty much every important advertising entity) are on a mission to clearly define prohibited data practices that make personal data vulnerable to breach or misuse, while preserving the benefits that come from responsible data use.

Harmonizing Personalization and Privacy

Collaboration will set the tone for any unified solution. Ad-tech, walled gardens and legislative policy need to agree and harmonize across their siloed ecosystems. Randall Rothenberg, CEO/President of IAB said it best “Technology and practice must be joined at the hip.”

In Rothenberg’s remarks, he referred to this necessary harmonization as “The Great Collab” and stated that, “Together, we will collaborate to create standards of behavior, codes of conduct, legal agreements, and enabling technologies to assure that the values of personalization, privacy and community can be meshed.”

Important collaborations take time and, over the next few years, our industry will certainly experience change. We may see newer walled gardens such as Verizon and AT&T rise to power with the evolution of 5G. For agencies, site analytics will need to prove quick ROI wins, while mass reach tactics will become less of the norm. The CMO of General Motors, Deborah Wahl, and Nada Stirratt, VP of Facebook, North America, emphasized that building first-party data and frequently reaching that audience will be key.

Solutions for a unified ID set and an overarching federal bill are still in the works. With CCPA and the Google Chrome announcement happening just weeks before I arrived in Palm Desert, next year’s IAB conference will shed a whole new light on the present uncertainty and it will be up to those of us in the industry to build a future where personalization and privacy harmonize by design.