Overheard at IAB ALM 2024

The IAB’s flagship Annual Leadership Meeting is typically where the trade body outlines its key priorities for the year ahead; a reflection of the challenges unsettling the constituents of the $600 billion online advertising industry.  

In what is likely to be a portentous year, 2024 is set to pose unrivaled trials and opportunities as the biggest company in the sector (that’s Google, BTW) prepares to pull the plug on the industry’s connective tissue (third-party cookies) in its market-leading web browser Chrome. 

Digiday scoured the conference venue to bring you an insight into the proceedings. 

From the conference stage 

“We have to take it head-on that 2024 is the year that we’ll see the end of the cookie.”

– Google vp and global product lead Jason Spero

“I think it’s safe to say that 2023 was kinda challenging.”

– Dotdash Meredith chief business officer and president of lifestyle and outgoing IAB chair Alysia Borsa

“The Privacy Sandbox represents an inventive way to deliver audiences through cohorting. It sounds like a really great idea. The reality is that there are some real challenges with this approach. Tony Katsur, who runs IAB Tech Lab, outlined a few of these reasons: competitive separation doesn’t work, frequency management and optimization are challenges, so is brand safety. So protection is achieved, but the basic advertising product is compromised.”

– Paramount Global president of advertising and incoming IAB chair John Halley

Related Insights
Photograph of IAB Tech Lab's Anthony Katsur.

“We think of AI not as artificial intelligence but augmented intelligence.”

– Unilever chief growth and marketing officer Esi Eggleston Bracey

“We are using a lot of AI and other technologies in our claims processing and handling, just to speed the claims up and ensure accuracy. But if I look at just marketing, of course we’re using it: content creation, paid search copy, email subject lines, imagery resizing – things that folks just don’t enjoy doing and take time.”

– Liberty Mutual Insurance CMO Jenna Lebel

“In 2017, scientists from Harvard Medical School encoded a movie in the DNA of living cells. So in the future, you’re going to be able to have all of your favorite movies and songs encoded in your DNA, available to use at any time, without the need for external storage devices.”

– JP Morgan executive director, futurist, strategic foresight & future studies lead Debora Kantt

“So I want to know what they’re doing to actually take steps to put things in place that are going to protect children… and they’ve chosen not to take a step. Because when children are online, they’re the product. “

– Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN.) gave attendees an insight into the kind of grilling social media CEOs, including Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Linda Yaccarino from X (formerly Twitter), can expect at this week’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, scheduled to take place on January 31.   

“Don’t be afraid to educate the FTC… it’s really important for us to understand the unintended consequences of a proposed requirement in a rulemaking.” 

 – Michelle Rosenthal, senior attorney, division of advertising, Federal Trade Commission, counsels a collaborative approach between the online ad industry and rule-makers as various branches of the U.S. government lean into the public’s concerns over online privacy. 

Whispers on the sidelines 

“Anyone without deep pockets or some degree of differentiation will have a tough time between now and 2025.” 

– One unnamed source, who requested anonymity due to their employer’s PR policies, predicted the volume of ad tech companies could become a lot less over the next 12 months. 

“I suspect that between the existence of contextual targeting, alternative identifiers and deals between trusted partners, open auction trading will still take place… higher value trading will likely shift to the Protected Audiences API over time, but it [Privacy Sandbox] won’t completely kill Open RTB.” 

– Another source, who requested anonymity given their employers’ sensitivities, gave an insight into the opinions of those shaping the conversations in the IAB’s key working groups.  

“Nobody’s ready. If I were still a buyer, I’d be focusing on gen AI, contextual — anything else.”

— ALM attendee

“To be frank, there isn’t right now [a streamlined way to reconcile various cookieless identifiers].”

— ALM attendee

“Before, someone would test us with an RFI or RFP just on performance and price. A lot of factors now are efficiency…. They’re measuring us on how much efficiency are we giving for time to market, trafficking, human errors.”

– Clinch CEO Oz Etzioni

“Everybody has been testing whether these things are technically possible, whether [Privacy] Sandbox can be used, but not whether they work for the needs of buyers or sellers. There’s a pipeline of new tech, but none of the testing has been done yet. So we could easily find ourselves in a world where the tech works, but it doesn’t work throughout the marketplace.”

– Publisher

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