This week is Advertising Week, the five day-long period when Madison Avenue executives gather with industry experts and innovators to discuss the state of the industry.
With the financial markets in chaos, fears about marketers pulling back their spend were in the forefront. The big topics of discussion: where's the opportunity in this economic environment? And what's the future of advertising?
The week kicked off with a "Future of Media" panel hosted by the New York Times' Ken Auletta including Randy Falco, CEO of AOL, Joe Uva, CEO of Univision Communications, and Michael Wolff, Vanity Fair columnist and frequent CNBC contributor. Auletta started out with a question about the struggling old media format. Newspapers? Billionaire Mark Cuban says "Give up" and "file for bankruptcy."
His take on magazines was less grim, saying that their targeted and audience and targeted publication schedule allows them to be more successful in this fragmented, competitive Internet age. Cuban was incredibly optimistic not about the Internet, but about Interactive TV, which will allow advertisers to directly target viewers through cable and satellite TV. His skepticism regarding the Internet comes from the fact that there are just so many options online, and traffic to a web site doesn't necessarily guarantee ad revenue.
So what are the concerns and challenges? First of course is generating page views, then turning those page views into ad revenue. And this economic environment adds additional pressure to deliver measurable and accountable return on investment. Randy Falco, AOL's chief says they're making additional effort to work with advertisers to make sure their brand isn't just getting out there, but that it's relevant to fast- changing consumers.
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What about ad agencies; are they unnecessary middle men? Hardly, says Univision's Uva. He argues--and Susan Whiting, Chairman of Nielsen Media Research concurred--that data measuring how, when, and where people consume content and accompanying ads is increasingly important. Agencies act as translators, helping marketers figure out how and when to spend their money.
So what of the future of media? There was lots of talk of mobile devices, and how people will be able to consume whatever they want, whenever they want it on their big screened iPhone liked mobile phones, which should provide a strong new platform for advertisers.
Cuban was a big proponent of Television being the next generation digital device. Cuban insists that everything you now do on your computer you'll be able to do on your fancy flat screen TV.
Falco was pretty outspoken when it comes to government regulations and media. Falco said "you don't want the government involved in any of this stuff." Falco says in his 30 years he spent plenty of time dealing with D.C. where he was struck by the "remarkable lack of sophistication." On a day when government regulation of the finance industry was in the forefront, that certainly stuck out as a concern.
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