At this year’s AdExchanger Industry Preview, hundreds of digital folks gathered together at the Grand Hyatt in New York City to predict the future of marketing and advertising in a world where the human attention span is now eight seconds. A presentation from Sharethrough noted that 46% of millennials would rather lose a finger than their phone. The future is mobile and fleeting.

Here are five takeaways from the keynotes and breakouts at the event:

1. We have to create better ads.

eMarketer predicts that 28% of 2017 internet uses will use an ad blocker (up from 21% in 2015). Gary Vaynerchuck opened the conference with a bold session, recommending:

“Try to reverse what brings value to a customer. By nature, advertising doesn’t do that.”

Vaynerchuck also advocated for video, stating it’s the best for storytelling. Marketers want to tell stories, and consumers like to watch them on social platforms. The data supports the improved effectiveness of video-based ads, but will it be too much work to create this amount of content?

2 80% of budgets are tied up in walled gardens.

Google and Facebook account for 80% of today’s ad spend, and marketers never truly learn what works. Many presenters urged the marketers in the room to expand spend and experimentation beyond these platforms to evolve, innovate, and experiment. While presenter Gary Vaynerchuck opened Day 1 with the proclamation that Facebook Ads are the “best deal” out there, he also acknowledged that what’s around now isn’t going to be here in year, or five years, saying “This is one big game of cat and mouse.”

3. Conversion is the most important metric.

CPM, CPC, etc. are fine, but they can be manipulated by changing the denominator. As an industry, how will marketers, advertisers, and platforms drive to results — conversions — that actually matter? Instead, marketers need to focus on business results: Customer Acquisition Cost, Cost Per Acquisition, ROI, ROAS. The right metric will be different for every business, but it must be tied to business, not old school advertising measures.

4. Transparency

50% of ads that brands paid for are never seen, according to Google data. But advertisers don’t have any idea whether they are/aren’t. Integral Ad Science, MOAT, Nielsen, DoubleVerify, WhiteOps are all delivering analytic transparency. Brad Smallwood, a VP at Facebook, acknowledged the importance of the ecosystem to help fill some of the gaps, saying “People don’t want Facebook measuring themselves. We believe in, and want to help power, that ecosystem.”

5. Let’s get buzzy.

AI, VR, AR, chatbots — almost every presentation talked about the coming innovation in 2017. But will these new technologies change the way we advertise? We’ll see!


The beginning of Q1 is the time for looking forward into the year and predicting what’s to come in the world of marketing and advertising. As the year continues, we’ll see if these five takeaways turn into reality or will be held off until 2018.

Image: Industry Preview

R. J. Talyor
Editor-in-Chief | The New New Thing
R. J. is a founder-in-residence at SaaS Venture Studio High Alpha and working on the launch of a marketing R&D platform for digital ads. He has 15 years of SaaS experience, formerly working for ExactTarget, Salesforce, and Geofeedia. He thrives on new technologies and innovations, which is why he launched The New New Thing as a resource for digital marketers to find inspiration and unleash new levels of creativity in their work.
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