Blog: Where was Ad Week’s controversy?

David Jowett, president of Cossette Media, on why there was a missed opportunity among all the talk of content and discipline-merging.

By David Jowett, president of Cossette Media

It has been an odd Ad Week.

As you would expect, there has been some unveiling of fantastic new products, such as NBC Universal’s private exchange NBCUx, Facebook’s re-write of its Atlas Advertising suite and Verizon’s new data-driven ad platform. There have also been many superstar leaders such as WPP Group CEO Sir Martin Sorrell, Publicis CEO Maurice Levy, Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer providing their insights into the future of our industry.

Of course, there have also been the inevitable headlines about the “tech takeover” of Ad Week with an agenda stacked with AOL, Microsoft, Google, Criterio and AppNexus, plus the microscopic dissection of the programmatic space in session after session. But surely, this shouldn’t surprise us. We are in the digital and tech business. That’s now a fact.

For me, however, there were two themes that stood out.┬áThe first is “content.”

There were sessions on branded content, video content, long form and short form content, how to engage with it, how to sell with it, how to measure it. How does tech play with and enhance content? How do we create and execute real time content? How and why do we use Superbowl content? Doritos CMO Ann Mukherjee stated that they have measurements showing user-generated content delivers a better return than ad agency-created content!

This content theme was delivered by many of the usual agency suspects but also from those in the very “new” world. Check out the Janoskians. They are not everyone’s cup of tea, but the prank-happy teenage YouTube comedy group has 1.7 million subscribers to their channel and is at the forefront of the content disruption scene that consumers are embracing with bewildering speed, as clients try to figure out how to use it to their advantage.

The second theme was the merging of marketing disciplines. It was nearly impossible to tell (in a good way) which session was aimed at media agencies versus creative versus PR (and so on) as the inter-connected consumer world demands and drives the integration of marketing solutions.

As a media specialist, I found this collision inspiring and I firmly believe that media agencies are in the best position to take advantage of this landscape to the benefit of our clients. We are channel- and content-neutral, we deeply understand the consumer, we have always had analytics at the heart of our business and we are embracing technology with open arms.

So, with all of that amazing stuff, I have one small moan.

There was a lot of talk about authenticity, but the walk didn’t always match the talk. Many sessions ended being little more than polite and gentle discussions, when what I was really hoping to experience were true forums for debate, with each party standing up for their deeply held views, accompanied by a lively back-and-forth where important issues get provocatively and constructively explored.

I guess it is not entirely surprising, but most people seemed more concerned with not standing out from the crowd, when – for a group of people in the attention-getting business – exactly the opposite should be true.