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Managing Marketing: Interactive Advertising Last Year and Next

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Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Gai Le Roy is the CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB Australia) and she shares some of the many challenges they faced in 2020, not just due to the pandemic, but with the heightened level of government scrutiny on the category. Gai talks about the way they responded, and the lessons learned and the opportunities that arose, from an industry, organisational and personal perspective. Plus she looks to the year ahead and the plans to continue to address the issues of privacy, sustainability and diversity.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing, a weekly podcast where we discuss the issues and opportunities facing marketing, media, and advertising with industry thought leaders and practitioners.

Today, I’m sitting down with Gai Le Roy, CEO of the IAB in Australia. Welcome, Gai.

Gai:

Hi Darren, thanks for having me.

Darren:

Well, look, thanks for making time, because I can imagine like many people in the industry, 2020 was one of those challenging years and I’m imagining it’s straight back into it in 2021.

Gai:

Absolutely. So, 2020 taught me a lot of things. Particularly the volume that we could get through in terms of work just we can get through – it went up I think four-fold. And it was exhausting for everyone in the industry, I think for the whole year.

But I think we’ve got a bit of a rhythm around it and after a little bit of break over Christmas and now, we’re straight back into it.

Darren:

It’s also interesting because 2020 with the pandemic and having to work from home, the huge amounts of uncertainty for the IAB in Australia, I imagine there was also the whole challenge of the government’s focus on this category, and all of that uncertainty and carry on.

Gai:

Absolutely. Lots of scrutinies and the government didn’t really give the industry. Their work went ahead as it needed to. So, we had to do a lot of work with the ACCC on the ad services inquiry, a lot of scrutiny over the new privacy review.

And then the amount of global scrutiny from different governments and reports coming out. I think I’ve spent more time reading long detailed government reports in language that’s not particularly easy to read over the last year than I ever have in my whole life. So it’s been a busy one.

Darren:

Let’s just step back a minute; for people that may have heard of the IAB or may not have heard of it at all, what is the IAB, and what’s the role and why does it exist?

Gai:

So we’re the Interactive Advertising Bureau, it’s a not-for-profit industry membership association set up about 21 years ago, actually in the US. Our brand is licensed in different markets, which means we’re in the lovely position where we can take the best from what’s happening around the world, but also tailor our offerings and support for the industry to suit each market.

In this market originally, the IAB was probably what you call a boys’ club of large publishers, large digital publishers in the early days when digital was really about encouraging investment. That’s not so much the job that we need to do anymore. The value of digital investment’s sort of proven and quite healthy.

So, we’re now a broader association of about 140 different member organisations across publishing ad tech, agencies, marketers. And our role includes a lot of governance from a standards and guidelines point of view, particularly a lot of work in the ad tech and programmatic side of things. Making sure things operate as efficiently and effectively as possible.

And I know that’s it’s hard in a world in media where things are changing constantly and everyone wants to make new things all the time.

Darren:

Well, it’s also even the most cursory observation of that category of digital media, it is incredibly complex. I mean, famously, the LUMAscape shows 5,000 plus players in this area. It must be incredibly challenging because your membership also in many ways, reflects that, doesn’t it?

Gai:

Yeah, it’s broad. And I guess, there’s sort of that balance between diversity and too much noise. And I think the industry constantly corrects itself, but then as new things evolve, new channels, digital-out-of-home is huge at the moment — audio, new pieces of tech, new initiatives come through.

So, you’ve got that constant need to create more efficiency and then the innovators and the entrepreneurs creating new things. So, we’re there to try to have some consistency and some assistance for agencies and marketers, in particular, to know that someone’s really looking at how everything operates.

Darren:

And as you said earlier, setting some standards and setting some guidelines, I guess, so that helps people navigate this.

Gai:

Yes and over the years the role and the types of standards or guidelines have become more applicable for people across the market. So, early on, they’d be very standard specs for banners and buttons that publishers would need to know and the creative agency.

But when we’re looking at things like cookies and Safari tracking and identifies across the web and attribution, that’s something that all sides need to know about and have a clear understanding.

Darren:

And also podcasting. I only became aware in the last couple of months that the IAB has set some global listening metrics to get some consistency of what actually represents someone listening and engaging, is that right?

Gai:

Yeah, absolutely. So, we had to define what a download is. It’s the same sort of work we’ve been doing for 20 years when we needed to know what a download of a banner was,  or viewability. So, again, each time a new area evolves and marketers want to jump on board, which is awesome, but they also want a certain amount of understanding of how it all works.

And if there happened to be Cowboys in the industry marketers can go, “Okay,  are you using these standards? Give us the sort of reporting that we need to feel comfortable with our investment.”

Darren:

There is a sort of a limitation, isn’t there? Because you’re an association which can make guidelines and publish those and promote them. But you raised the issue of Cowboys. There’s always people that could choose to operate outside of that. So, I guess, it’s really important to educate the marketplace about what those standards mean.

Gai:

Yeah, absolutely. Things like brand safety, understanding block lists; how at the end of the day, it’s often the agencies and marketers who have to put those parameters in terms of what they buy. And we’re there to try and inform them as much as possible.

People can buy dodgy, fake watches if they want to, or they can buy the real stuff. So, having that information in the market is important. And I guess there are good and bad sides to this, but the digital advertising market is more and more global. So, those standards going across different markets, having consistency for advertisers with a little bit of a nuance and local flavour for each market as well.

Darren:

Yeah, I did find it interesting especially in Australia where the government has taken a real interest — that most governments are obviously for their market. The Australian government is looking at the Australia market, the US government, the EU for Europe; and yet, they’re dealing with global media owners.

And some of your members are not global. You’ve got media owners that are very much in the Australian market and then you’ve got others like the major platforms; Google and Facebook and the like that are global.

It must be quite interesting seeing all the different perspectives coming together because some are operating on a global basis and needing to comply in various markets in different ways. And others, are very much homegrown.

Gai:

Yeah, it’s been tricky the last few years, I think for everyone trying to understand where things are going and make sure they can plan for the future. And there’s really no way to really know what you’re going to need in a few years.

And we’ve seen with GDPR, so people think that, okay, there’s one consistent European standard for data protection, but then each country within Europe has their own data protection agency that interprets the law in a different way.

So, Darren, as always lots and lots of work for lawyers and the rest of us have to scramble and make sure from a commercial point of view that the industry can support the development of content services and keep the confidence up in the market.

Darren:

Now, also, in your membership, is a lot of the media agencies or at least the holding companies. So, you’ve not only got the proprietors, but you’ve also got the agents or agencies that act on their behalf. Where do the buyers come into this? Or do you see that as the buyers are the agency because they’re acting on behalf of the advertisers?

Gai:

A little bit of both. So, we do have some of the advertisers, particularly those who have in-housed media. If we think about our strength, it’s a lot on the technology and standards angle. So, if someone is running their own trading desk in-house, they’ll normally have a fairly good relationship with us. But day-to-day, it’s the agencies who are often building the deep tech.

And we do a lot of work with marketers in a lighter way through conferences. And then there’s the AANA and ADMA who have sort of another type of relationship with marketers. But they are (and I hate the phrase “leaning in”) — but they are getting more involved, understanding, I guess, the technology. Things like the Digital Advertising Practices that we put out with the AANA and MFA help that type of understanding as well.

Darren:

And now, on the agency side, we’ve got the IMAA, which is the Independent Media Agencies and I’m sure that they are also playing in this space.

Gai:

Yeah, they’re an interesting one and we do briefings for them. The IAB, I like to think (and maybe people differ) as we’re not-for-profit the main thing for us is making sure there’s confidence in markets.

So, I’ve worked with the MFA, AANA, IMAA, every other acronym you can think of (CRA, OMA) just to make sure we’re giving them the support, particularly for ad tech and policy sort of guidelines and also a measurement point of view. So, we’re all mostly friends, Darren.

Darren:

Could I stretch that to frenemies on some issues and friends on others?

Gai:

Absolutely. And I think that’s a healthy thing for the market, right?

Darren:

It must be fascinating though in your role as the CEO because even on your board and in your membership, you have got people that will often have very different motivations; buy, sell, intermediaries of all different sorts.

While they may want to say, “Yes, we’re here for the good of the industry,” there are also financial, personal financial implications as well, aren’t there?

Gai:

Absolutely. And, I mean, we’ve got to always come back to our purpose and why we’re here to help grow the industry and try and take things back to that. We won’t always agree with all our members, they won’t always agree with us. So, there’s a lot of healthy debate and there are some areas that we’ll just stay out of if people can’t agree and it’s not healthy to have constant debates that are going nowhere. And we’ll focus on more productive areas.

But yeah, for someone who loves politics and is a bit of a voyeur, it’s my perfect job.

Darren:

I was going to say, I think it’s probably one of the most challenging jobs in the industry because it is at that nexus, isn’t it? You’ve got different sides that you need to balance.

Gai:

Yeah, but look, digital represents 65% of the market now. As you said, there are so many players. So, in a way, that’s slightly liberating because we are a big industry rather than a few people just having a go at each other.

Darren:

So, just to pull back from sort of an industry and an IAB perspective, to some of the personal challenges as a leader and manager … because you’ve got a small, but very productive team there; what were some of the challenges for you managing that during the pandemic last year?

Gai:

Yeah, well, I was actually — as everything broke, I was doing a midlife crisis walk, in WA, because I turned 50 and I wanted my phone off for five days. And then my team sort of subtly started sending me texts, going, “Actually you might need to know what is happening.” So, when I landed back in Sydney, I spent half a day in the office and then we shut down.

But one of the really interesting things was … not necessarily just my team, but overall, in the industry; was people were looking to leaders for more direction than they would normally. So, I think we have a pretty interesting industry where people of all levels are willing to have a say, have a lot of freedom and want a lot of autonomy.

And you suddenly had people who normally run their own show going, “I actually want you just to say yes or no.” So, I think the leaders had to step up and really be clear on what was happening, what they expected of their teams, and a little bit more black and white than we normally are. So, that was an interesting development. And in a way, it forced you to make quick and clear decisions.

Darren:

Yeah, it is interesting, isn’t it? Because there’s a sort of paternal, maternal part to that, that we try to avoid because we want people to really step up and make these decisions for themselves.

But in the face of such uncertainty, you’re right. You know, sometimes it just needs someone to be able to articulate, well, this … remind everyone, “This is what we need to achieve. These are the constraints that we’re going to operate in, let’s try this.”

Gai:

Yeah, less of a coaching role and more back to that sort of boss role. As you’d remember, there was a lot of restructuring and redundancies, which feels like a long time ago now. But our whole team just made sure we called as many members each day, the people who are losing their jobs and supported them however we could.

I think that one thing that was different last year (and the market’s back, so we’ll come to a happier story in a minute) but people who were losing their jobs, you would normally say to people who are great, you’d go, “Okay, I’ll put you in contact with these 10 people, these roles going.”

But this time around, it felt after, I guess, a couple of years of the ad market being down, a lot of restructuring particularly in traditional media companies, having to have conversations with good friends saying, “Do you actually want to stay in media? Would you like to think about another industry of work? What are your skills, where are they applicable?”

So, those were a tough couple of months.

Darren:

Still good to almost give people permission to say maybe it is time to transition to something that’ll give you more happiness or more fulfilment.

Gai:

Yeah, and look, at that time, we also had e-commerce booming, the whole direct to the consumer market. So, a lot of the skills our industry people have, which is marketing and data and understanding that consumer experience is particularly applicable for the small direct to consumer brands. We had quite a lot of … and I won’t name them but I’ll call them daggy brands, traditional brands who hadn’t quite moved into the digital world quickly enough, who really needed to jump on and change the way that they dealt with customers quite quickly.

Darren:

Yeah, it was phenomenal, wasn’t it? How quickly, especially retail brands; how quickly retail brains needed to move (and did move) from things like having virtually no e-commerce presence to at least being able to pick, pay and collect. Suddenly, almost every retailer was offering it.

So, when the necessity is there, it’s amazing how quickly these businesses can move, isn’t it?

Gai:

Yeah, catalogues, all of it. It just had to change quite quickly. And it was actually a lovely thing to see. And different brands — Bunnings and the brands that had a huge surge in demand. Bunnings is this really interesting brand that has media offerings and in-store, click and collect, and really innovative ways of dealing with their customers.

Darren:

So, as a team, what’s been the result of having worked through that together? You’ve come through the other side?

Gai:

We have, and we made a really big call with the support of the board in March and April to go … we’re actually going to drop our paywall. We’re going to make everything open for everyone, do the right thing morally, which as a CEO who actually has to pay everyone at some point, I was a little bit nervous about what would happen on the other side; “Are members actually still gonna come back and pay and support us?”

But luckily we broadened our reach, we had weekly webinars and membership’s gone up and all the people who we helped through that period have come back in. So, the team has, I guess, learned that marketing slogan around investing in your brand while the market’s down really does work.

Darren:

And so, that’s obviously an achievement in the face of the adversity that the industry was facing. You’ve built membership. What would you say are some of the other achievements that looking back on 2020, you would have pride in?

Gai:

I think, working quicker. So, just making sure … I know it’s a cliche to say I’m a perfectionist. We would normally do events that would take six weeks to bring to market. We suddenly moved to weekly webinars. Obviously, you can’t have the amount of-

Darren:

Preparation.

Gai:

Preparation, and understanding the market was like, yes, that’s the sort of information that we need. So, moving quicker. Seeing the market support each other was a huge lesson and something that we feel like we had a big role in continuing to expand the channels that we were supporting. So, as digital keeps growing, we set up a digital-out-of-home group particularly focused on programmatic digital-out-of-home.

So, making sure that while we’re trying to keep everything running as per normal, we were still extending our offerings and meeting the new needs of the market.

Darren:

And what would you say would be on your top three then? What were the top three achievements?

Gai:

Top three achievements; firstly I guess, revenue growth, which was amazing, being able to keep the whole team. Then those multiple workstreams, being able to do those multiple flows of work; government work and responses, having market challenges and making sure that we’re keeping everyone up-to-date with revenue reporting. That was a big role with everyone sort of not understanding what’s happening next.

And it might seem little, but it was really important to us. And I think a lot of other companies I’ve spoken to, have the same thing. Actually, connecting more with overseas markets. I think as everyone got used to doing everything by video conference and sort of wanting to find out  “How’s it going over there, what’s happening there?”

So, doing a lot more work with international markets— we’ve got 47 IABs around the world. So, for example, checking in withwhat IAB Russia was up to … so, that’s been really good, I think for the team and our members more broadly.

Darren:

And as you said before, the Australian government in their view and review of the marketplace, it must’ve made IAB Australia sort of the centre of interest for a lot of people, because what has been happening here is world-leading in some ways.

Gai:

Absolutely. I mean the UK government were doing some similar things in relation to ad tech; the US, whether it’s privacy or the competition side of things. Yes, and a million other markets looking at things in different ways.

Darren:

It’s nice to think of down under being on top for a change.

Gai:

For some of those things, yes!

Darren:

Rather than just following what’s happening in the rest of the world, you have a bit of leadership.

Gai:

I’ve realised, I guess, over the last couple of years that government and public servants are no different to the rest of us and they all like to have their equivalent of a media fuss. So, there’s a lot of competition between actual bureaucrats to go bigger and better.

Darren:

Yeah. Now, one of the things that you mentioned earlier, and I just want to pick up on, is this building confidence in the supply chain. Because we have heard … and stretching all the way back to 2014, 2015, where 2014 was where MediaCom, at the end of the year, it suddenly blew up about reporting which wasn’t directly related necessarily to the digital media space, but it seemed to be the starting point of people talking about how accountable is this ecosystem. I’ll use the term “ecosystem” but how accountable is it?

Then the following year there was in the US, it blew up. We’ve had all the ongoing issues around ad fraud. There seems in many ways so many different fronts that you need to be educating, informing, and addressing. What’s the process? How do you go about building confidence when there seem to be so many issues to be addressed?

Gai:

Yeah, look, it’s tricky, I guess, having a robust infrastructure for programmatic trading, which is where a lot of the focus is making sure there are standards in place and education. But you’re right, different issues crop up all the time. It feels a bit whack-a-mole.

That’s why we love it when particularly marketers get involved and improve their understanding. Because if they’re asking the questions and putting, I guess, a little bit more direction in terms of what they want, in terms of reporting, what sort of inventory they want to buy, how they want to assess it upfront — it does help the whole system work really well.

And it is frustrating at times when people buy really cheap stuff that they know it is probably too good to be true and then there are problems. The responsibility is on both sides. But education, continuing to work with all the tech companies. We have a sort of adjunct to the IAB in the US called IAB Tech Lab, which is another not-for-profit association and they’re a whole bunch of super-smart geeks who constantly try and build and break things to make sure that things operate correctly and put standards in place. But it’s a huge market, Darren, so it’s going to attract people who want to do the wrong thing.

Darren:

And a variable market. I mean, as you said, 60%, 65%, we’re talking billions of dollars in one day, it’ll be trillions of dollars.

Gai:

The thing that frustrates me though, sometimes that story turns into “media doesn’t work” or “it’s not effective” … so we always try to come back to the work that we do on ad effectiveness. When you buy what you want to buy in the right way, as for a billion years, marketing messages still have a return.

So, it’s just having those controls around it. It’s not going as a marketer, “Oh, this is all too hard, it’s all too messy, I’m going to step away.” Because every marketer needs to reach new customers, get new messages out. So, it’s just that control factor they need to be across.

Darren:

So, I have a perception and I’ve seen various numbers, that the Australian market is not as supportive of open programmatic as other markets, such as the UK and the US. Is that a fair assumption or is that a fair perception or have I been misled by trade media headlines and things?

Gai:

God forbid. I think it depends on which part of the channel. So, obviously, video has been a huge growth area for the last couple of years. And particularly, the BVOD market. So, there’s a lot more control. It’s programmatic, but it’s not always an open exchange.

We are a smaller market and we do tend to know everyone a bit more. So, I would say, it’s slightly smaller than other markets, but it’s still really healthy. And even though there can be problems with open exchange, I still like the idea of marketers being able to get to diverse audiences in diverse environments. It’s just putting those guard rails on.

Because you do want to have from a consumer point of view, a rich sort of offering of different properties. Australians are looking at media and other markets. They’re not just looking at our domestic market.

So, I’d say there’s probably a little bit less particularly as different channels grow. So, digital-out-of-home at the moment, programmatic’s a tiny amount of digital-out-of-home at the moment, but that will grow rapidly. Audio is still quite small, though it’s growing. So, those new channels are slightly lower on that open exchange factor at the moment.

Darren:

Is one of the problems with educating the market? The fact that it is incredibly technical. I mean, you mentioned the lab, the IAB Lab, the tech lab, and incredibly smart people.

But what I find is when I’m talking to incredibly smart tech people, quickly the conversation will go down the technology rabbit warren of acronyms and things like that and you just glaze over. It must be — I think one of the barriers is how can you take something that’s incredibly technical, quite complicated or complex, and break it down into ways that people can have bite-sized pieces without simplifying it so much that it becomes pointless.

Gai:

Yeah, it’s a tricky balance. And we’re quite lucky. My tech lead actually does speak the human language as well as tech language. So, I think people like that who can communicate can help

Darren:

But they’re worth their weight in gold.

Gai:

Absolutely. It’s hard, but … if you’re a marketer and you’re investing heavily and you have a big digital budget, you do need a person who understands the technical side of things. There’s no getting around that. And then relying on them as your trusted person, as well as having a really good open relationship with an agency. I don’t think there’s any way of getting around being a little bit deeper in the technical side of things.

Darren:

Well, it is a technology ecosystem. But it’s also been one of the issues that a lot of marketers have said to us, that they have a media agency that they have daily conversations with, but when it gets to things like programmatic, it’ll often be a separate business unit within the agency. And in some ways, they use the comparison to creatives in the creative agency. They get wheeled out for a special occasion, but it’s not an ongoing conversation.

Gai:

I think and I hope that’s changing. Some of the teams are emerging a little bit more. And I think one of the things that are driving change as well, is identity and privacy. Because if you’re a marketer and you’ve got your own CRM, you’ve got your own data, working with Salesforce or Adobe etc., you’re dealing with the agency. And going forward, first-party data has to be the thing you keep across.

So, understanding from the client-side what they’re going to pump in from programmatic data and they’re going to have direct buys as well. Those teams are going to have to work as one team. So, I think that will change. And I think it is changing. I don’t think it’s quite as bad as it previously was.

Darren:

And I think that marketers as well, need to see that they’ve got a responsibility. This is not just handing it off and hoping for the best. But part of their role is to actually understand and make informed decisions about the media.

In trying to make it simpler, I guess, it’s been interesting because there’s been a few innovations. But one of them is the Think Premium Digital launched late last year with this idea of here’s premium content going into the marketplace. Do you think this helps or complicates?

Gai:

I think everyone tries to differentiate their own position in the market. And we do have some amazing domestic media companies that have incredibly rich offerings. So, the job of ThinkTV and Think Premium Digital, and Think news brands, they’ve got a job to do for their media. I don’t think it complicates, I think it makes clients ask different questions around brand safety, around different issues.

But as I said, as the market gets bigger and there are more and more offerings, you’re going to see, I guess, more and more groups of people trying to differentiate their type of inventory.

Darren:

I mean, it drives me crazy because as you know, I’m on the record of saying there are way too many industry bodies. But, you know.

Gai:

But there are different types. They’re a marketing arm and that’s what their job is. So, we all have a different place, Darren. And as I’ve said to you before, if people don’t want us, they won’t support us and we’ll go away.

Darren:

Well, and we’ve seen that, haven’t we? We’ve seen in the last five years, at least, a handful of industry bodies get absorbed or disappear. So, you’re right, there’s no need to drive the process, it happens automatically.

Gai:

Absolutely.

Darren:

Let’s look at the year ahead. I mean, hopefully, you had some time off over the Christmas-New Year break and time to regroup, and re-energise. What are the things that you’re really looking forward to with the IAB?

Gai:

I think from a market point of view, having the market come back so strongly in the last quarter of the calendar year, which was quite incredible. I’ve actually never seen it get so hot so quickly. And that’s flowing through to the beginning of this year, so I’m really excited to see a healthy market.

One of the things which I’m really interested to see particularly in December with so much inventory selling out and marketers actually having to try new types of inventory if there was none of the normal things that they would buy was available.

So, how marketers actually review some of the experiments that they did and how they assess if they’ve worked, and I guess, how the market lands after that. I am looking forward to revenue flowing through and being healthy.

Also, we’re launching an E-sports and gaming working group.

Darren:

Fantastic.

Gai:

Which is great. So, it’s one of those categories that sort of has had a run-up every few years that advertising and gaming is going to be the next big thing then dies down. But it feels like with particularly like the Twitches of the world and some big investments that the time is here, and as well as the sporting codes getting more involved.

So, that will be a fun one. And again, it’s where the boring people come in and say, “Okay, this is a growing market. Let’s think about how are we going to measure this, how we’re going to put a certain amount of guidelines in place that it does operate quite effectively.

Darren:

In some ways, Gai, though, you doing that makes it easier or more comfortable for marketers to invest in those areas. So, I get the sort of chicken neck here in that you need to look at it once it starts to grow, but also, the IAB setting guidelines and measurement criteria, that also gives certainty for other advertisers to actually play in those places, doesn’t it?

Gai:

I hope so. It’s interesting though, at the beginning of any new market, everyone wants to differentiate and be the first of the best. And we try and work with them, and still allow that colour to come through, but helping with some easier ways of buying things.

Other things that are exciting, we’re just launching the third wave of our mentorship program, which I know you have as well. So, I love supporting the industry in that way.

The taunt of a new privacy review has been around for a few years. That is now moving and I am excited that we can get involved. And I guess as an industry, make sure that we get the right balance somehow for consumers and industry at the same time, and I don’t think there’s necessarily been exactly the right model in other markets, but we’ve got a lot of markets we can look at and say, we’ll take a bit from here, a bit from there.

Darren:

Best practice.

Gai:

Absolutely.

Darren:

Sometimes you don’t want to be first, let everyone else make the mistakes and work out what works best.

Gai:

Absolutely. We’ve got a new rating system, Nielsen is completely upgrading their digital content ratings. As you know, with measurement, everyone has an opinion of their own numbers. A new methodology that’s very privacy-compliant and less relying on cookies and other identifiers. So, we’re building one that will be ready for all those signals to drop out. So, that launches early in the year.

A million other things, Darren.

Darren:

Well, cookies, you’ve brought that up a couple of times because it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because I think Google first announced this almost two years ago that they were looking at getting rid of the cookie — the cookie would crumble. It has been a very sort of not slow transition, but a sort of sporadic transition; what’s the latest status on it from your perspective?

Gai:

We’ve been working very closely with Tech Lab in particular who are looking at a whole lot of different industry solutions and proposals around replacements. Both consumer and privacy-compliant replacements for the cookie and they’ll all work quite differently. They’re under review at the moment and there’ll be further announcements.

And we’re all working really closely, which is so lovely to see; true collaboration in the industry with the marketers and the agencies over there. Of course, cookies go across everyone. But a lot of work’s been done by all the big global tech companies. And we’ll, I guess, kick the tires on all of those over the next six months.

Last year for me was very much around doing an assessment of the removal of cookies. And as importantly, particularly in this market, changes that Apple is making in terms of identifiers and click measurement, and working out what you’re going to lose. And this year is around the solutions and rebuilding and being ready for that 2022 turn off.

I think sometimes people downplay the changes but it is an exciting change, I’ll say it nervously. But it is a big one. It’s going to be a lot of work for everyone. I think there are little bits and pieces that people won’t quite realise that cookies were holding together.

Darren:

The implications, yeah.

Gai:

But lots of really smart people are looking at different solutions and the tech people are working on those. The next side of things will be the business people, the privacy people, all of those testing those solutions because we don’t want a direct replacement for the cookies. Because if we think about the privacy situation that we’ve got into-

Darren:

And that’s really what’s driving it, isn’t it?

Gai:

Absolutely.

Darren:

How do we protect people’s privacy, but how do we put individuals into having more control over the information that they make available?

Gai:

As well as user experiences that aren’t horrific. So, a lot of the stuff that’s come out of the EU with constant consent flags, it’s not a great user experience and it’s not what you want.

Darren:

Yeah, I personally gave up 10 years ago and just said, “You know, take it all, if you can give me a better experience based on this.” And to this point, not necessarily a better experience, but I live and hope.

Gai:

Cookies and privacy, all of that is going to be a huge focus for this year and making sure that it is balanced and ensuring that marketers are getting more involved. Making sure that they’ve got confidence that the industry is building replacements — that they will still have access to those audiences in a new, exciting way.

Darren:

So, Gai, the other thing that was huge in 2020 was something that’s been simmering along for a long time, but really came to the fore; and that’s around gender and race or cultural inclusion, and diversity, and also the environment, and good corporate social responsibility — all of these things.

Things that often people talk about in relation to brand purpose, but really go much further than that, about really societies. How are we going to shape the future?

What, if any impact has that had in your considerations on the work that you’re planning to do with the IAB?

Gai:

Gender has been a huge focus for us for the last few years. In a tech-driven industry, you can imagine gender has been a huge topic of discussion. We’ve found a really elegant solution for one of our committees, our exec tech council, one day the group was sitting around and there were suddenly 20 men around the table and that, “Okay, this is a problem.”

So, we instituted a way of working where everyone, whatever gender they were, brought someone of the opposite gender to every meeting. So, it may make huge meetings, but it changed the feel and the tone and the ability for younger females in particular to get access to more senior people and promotions.

So, actually our mentorship program came off the back of that.

Darren:

That’s a brilliant solution.

Gai:

It was lovely and it really did change the discussion. It brought some great new ideas in.

Darren:

It’s also a direct demonstration of why we should be as a society and as businesses and organisations, proactively encouraging diversity because it does change the outputs.

Gai:

Absolutely. And the same thing, we put it in our charter on the board that we had to have a minimum of 40% of either gender. And then we need to broaden that out from a diversity from a job role point of view, we found it making sure that we have young engineers and people from different parts of the industry who wouldn’t normally put their hands up, we’re tapping them on the shoulder.

So, every young sales gun is the first to put their hand up for everything and finding ways to work around that. And we’ve been doing the same things in terms of business diversity. So, our board’s broadened out from the traditional people who have been on our board and we now, have a tech company present. So, at the moment, it’s Magnate representing the rest of our members, bringing in different voices, different points of view.

So, we’re working hard. I think we can do a lot more for our mentorship program to sort of stretch out. We’ve had discussions with first nation media organisations. It’s a never-ending area of, I guess, excitement because hearing different voices and different-

Darren:

Perspectives.

Gai:

Yes. I do a joke and it’s probably the wrong thing to say, but our industry is often full of a lot of chaps who went to the same university in another country. And often there’s more of those in the room than the mix of other people.

Darren:

The short cut is male, pale and stale, but we’ll leave it at that.

Gai:

Yeah. So yeah, wanting to do more in that space.

Darren:

Fascinating, because in this conversation, we’ve talked about the sort of diversity or the complexity of the ecosystem, the complexity of your membership, the diversity of the various players. And then I’ve just layered on top of that for you, all of the responsibility of dealing with gender, race, and the environment.

Because I think as now, with the changes in the US and a global alignment to really tackling climate change, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with technology because it is a huge contributor to carbon pollution.

Gai:

Absolutely. And our industry is huge. We have a huge responsibility, we have to take on these issues and yeah, I love that stuff. So, I’m all for it.

Darren:

Absolutely. Look, we’ve run out of time. I really appreciate you taking the time to drop by and have this conversation, Gai.

Gai:

Thanks, Darren.

Darren:

One question before you go, and that is; what do you think will be the final outcome of all of these government interventions? Or is it largely mute?

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media, and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley and special guests. Find all the episodes here

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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