The advertising cockroach

Brian Morrissey, The Rebooting


Always under threat, advertising keeps going

Longtime Publicis ad executive and newsletterer Rishad Tobaccowala has a go-to line about ad agencies: “They say we’re like dinosaurs. But we’re like cockroaches. We are cockroaches. Everybody hates us. Nobody likes to see us. But cockroaches have outlived everyone. We scurry out of corners.”

Over my 20 years covering this business, I have seen several supposed existential threats to advertising come and go. The TiVo “nightmare” didn’t lead to the “death of the 30-second spot.” Don’t forget how cord cutting was going to do the same. No, wait, Netflix was making TV ad breaks a thing of the past – until it started an ad business. GDPR turned out to be an expensive hassle, not much more, and gave birth to a cadre of “privacy consultants.” And ad blocking – described as a threat to freedom and democracy by the IAB – became a manageable, chronic condition. 

Advertising adapts and survives. It just keeps going. AI is the latest in a long line of challenges. The use of large language models to deliver information directly to people through chat and other tools augur a major change to the digital economy. These tools are not explicitly anti-advertising but they emerge from a tech culture that has long abhorred advertising, perhaps some lingering counterculture vibes, even while many made riches off it. The human mind is capable of amazing inconsistencies that give no quarter to AI’s hallucinations.

I was struck by an interview Semafor published with AI search engine Perplexity AI’s CEO, Aravind Srinivas, who was asked about search ads, the most successful digital advertising product of all time and arguably its least disruptive.

“People should just put more effort into having well-documented information about them on the internet and an LLM can parse it on the fly. I feel like this might make the world better in some sense. Why do you need to advertise if an LLM can just go read about you and what you’re saying?”

Oh, never thought of that. Let’s leave aside that just two years ago, Srinivas was a research intern at Google. Ad dollars bought that fancy cafeteria food. Being anti-advertising is like being libertarian: It’s something you should grow out of because life is messier and full of compromises.

Expect to see ad blocking come back as a threat. The Arc browser allows people to customize their internet experience at the foundational level of the browser. Don’t want to see those annoying blue check marks next to thirsty hustle bros on Twitter? Easy. Oh, and this what people get during setup.

This is a pox on all houses situation, since digital advertising has tended to gravitate to an adversarial approach that at its best sees how much mayo it can put on the sandwich before it becomes inedible but at worst is dehumanizing, treating humans as “receptacles of data,” Meghan O’Gieblyn writes in God, Human, Animal, Machine. She cites computer scientist Jaron Lanier decrying an “antihuman approach to computation” in which “bits are presented as if they were alive, while humans are transient fragments.”

The digital advertising ecosystem is in the midst of structural change as the era of rampant (and often wanton) data collection falls away. It is also a matured industry whose days of hypergrowth are likely behind it. People are going to have more control over what data is collected about them. The rough reception of ChatGPT in Europe is a sign that the tenor has changed when it comes to Big Tech. GDPR was obviously flawed, yet it set the regulatory standard for much of the world. 

In a few weeks, the media, tech and advertising worlds will mix in the French Riviera for the annual Cannes Lions boondoggle Festival of Creativity. Apple, whose CEO has criticized “surveillance” advertising and a “data industrial complex,” will have a major presence. People who hate advertising tend to just hate a particular type of advertising. I suppose it’s not dissimilar to railing against “tech” or “the media” as monoliths. 

I can understand the argument that ad targeting is a harmless tradeoff for broad access to information, entertainment and services like social networks. Subscriptions are growing again, and they will be needed to fund much of the content being produced. There will be messy legal fights ahead as major media companies like News Corp “go regulatory.” But subscriptions alone cannot be the answer. I’m surprised how many people are willing to throw away the open web because of some auto-play video ads. Creative destruction is fine and dandy, but good to have a better alternative lined up.

In the end, advertising will soldier on. WPP has inked a deal with Nvidia to make ads “more efficiently and at scale” and “more tailored and immersive.” The announcement was typically vague, but it was enough to boost WPP’s stock price 2.5%. Expect more of this. Let’s not forget that it was then-WPP CEO Martin Sorrell who remarked in 2006, “How much easier would this business be to run without the creatives?”

There’s a reason marketers call making the ads “non-working” media. Some of the early examples of AI ads are, well, I guess creativity is subjective. That said, these tools always improve. My friend Noah has a fun ad Turing test project going. The reality of advertising, like much of the content industrial complex, is that it is often derivative and mostly versioning. In an upcoming podcast I did with Kerv CEO Gary Mittman, he remarked that AI will end up “fixing” ads that aren’t performing without waiting for the human.

There’s little choice here but to adapt. Advertising will bifurcate even further between the AI-fueled performance end of the spectrum and the more human side, which will itself use AI tools like the apparent attempt by Spotify to use AI-created host-read podcast ads. No matter the fever dreams of the D&D-on-ketamine set, advertising will not go away. It is like Kendall described himself as a cog that fits in only one machine. Advertising’s machine is capitalism; you cannot have one without the other. And like advertising, capitalism has proven itself relentlessly adaptable. 

Read the original article here.

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Rich Kentopp
VP, Product Management

After his career of being a pastor and touring musician, Rich started his technology career almost a decade ago with many of the KERV leadership at Lin Digital. Since then he has been a Product leader at three different scaling startups, learning how to build valuable products with teams who love to work together.

Devin Monds
Head of EMEA Sales

Devin is a dedicated and experienced media sales professional with over 15 years in the digital media space in both North America and EMEA. He most recently headed up the International Team at Adludio, the premier advertising platform for delivering strong creative on mobile devices. Prior to his role at Adludio, Devin worked on the Global Brand Partnerships team at CAA Sports in London, and was International Sales Director at LoopMe where he built out the US West Coast Sales Team from Los Angeles. With a proven track record of new business development and revenue generation, Devin has a multitude of solid relationships with brands and agencies, globally.

He relishes the opportunity to engage with new clients on a daily basis, in order to identify tailored solutions that can drive their desired outcomes. Furthermore, he takes pride in his culinary skills, often experimenting with new recipes and delivering delectable results.

    Brad Quinn
    SVP, Enterprise & Publisher Partnerships

    Brad Quinn is the SVP, Enterprise & Publisher Partnerships based out of our NYC office. He has over 15 years of experience across Agencies, Publishers and Tech. At KERV, Brad leads the Partnerships team focused on content providers and distributors. He integrates KERV’s tech capabilities across ads and content to create a real‑time interactive/shoppable experience.

    David Knight
    VP, Engineering

    Before joining KERV in 2018, David Knight spent over 31 years building software products for large corporations like IBM and Schlumberger, 3-person “garage” startups and everything in between. He’s spent the last 15 years discovering and refining the tools, development process, and necessary culture that create great Engineering teams capable of meeting the special demands of technology driven startups.

    Dan Bloomfield
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    After spending time living in New York and working for NBC Universal’s first digital operations team Daniel moved to Austin in 2009 to further pursue ad tech. During the next decade, he built a career working on interactive video first for Sizmek and then Nexstar. He immediately jumped at the idea to work for KERV and was one of the first to join the company in 2017.

    Creed Pettit
    SVP, Head of Partnerships

    Creed Pettit is an entrepreneurial sales executive offering experience in all aspects of solutions selling, team management, negotiation, organizational leadership, go-to-market strategies and momentum driven models. Prior to joining KERV, Creed served as Media & Entertainment Vertical Sales Leader, Global Business Solutions at TikTok.

    Karen Germ
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    Karen Germ is a seasoned marketing and communications professional with a nearly 15‑year history serving in leadership roles across the advertising and technology landscape. Most recently, Karen served as OAAA’s VP of Marketing where she implemented industry leading initiatives to elevate and promote the power of OOH for advertisers, agencies, partners and consumers. 

    Ryan Schoenfeld
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    Ryan Schoenfeld’s career started as an intern at a smaller digital media agency while attending the University of Texas. Since then, he has spent over 15 years working in the programmatic advertising/video space.

    Bill Roberson
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    Grant Gorton
    VP, UX & Design

    Grant has been with KERV as VP of Creative for over 5 years, and has worked as a designer and creative director at agencies and media companies for the last 17 years.

    Michael Fleischman
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    Michael Fleischman serves as the Chief Financial Officer at KERV Interactive in addition to being an Executive Residence at Progress Partners, a Merchant Investment Bank and Venture Fund. Prior to KERV Interactive, Michael was the CFO and current Board Member at Digital Remedy, a privately-held media execution company supporting agencies, publishers, and brands in navigating the complex adtech landscape of digital success.

    Previous to Digital Remedy, Michael spent 20 years at Cablevision and Rainbow Media Holdings during which he was instrumental in the launch and management of multiple regional sports networks and a number of national cable networks including American Movie Classics, Bravo, The Independent Film Channel as well as the structuring of partnerships with companies including Liberty Media, NBC, Fox/NewsCorp, and MGM. 

    A native of the New York City area, Michael resides with his wife where he enjoys biking, tennis  and spending time with his wife and three adult children.

    Taylor Pate
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    Taylor Pate serves as Chief Technology Officer at KERV Interactive. Taylor’s experiences in the advertising and creative industry spans 14. He began his career in 2008, working as a designer, animator and art director specializing in the design and production of interactive art. Early in his career, he created 3D character animations and tools for best-selling video game series The Sims while working at Edge of Reality, who developed video games for Nintendo 64, GameCube, PlayStation and Xbox.

    In 2012, Taylor made the shift to work in-house at an online advertising and media services agency, LIN Digital, where he was promoted multiple times in a four-year span. He worked on a variety of online, interactive projects for clients while also developing and automating internal tools and processes. Taylor then spent the next two years working as the director of engineering at multi-platform digital media company HYFN Local, a division of multi-billion-dollar corporation Nexstar Digital LLC.

    Jay Wolff
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    Jay Wolff serves as Chief Revenue Officer at KERV Interactive, leading global revenue and partnerships, in addition to being the Executive Vice President of 212 NYC, New York’s leading organization for the digital advertising industry. 

    Jay’s expertise in revenue and partner growth in the advertising industry spans 19 years. Most recently, Jay served as CRO of Varick Media, and Chief Growth Officer at Boostr, the first end-to-end SaaS revenue management system for media companies. Previously, as Regional Vice President of SambaTV, Wolff built the revenue organization and east coast market from the ground up. 

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    Jay holds a BS in Marketing from Syracuse University and a Certificate of Management from the University of Chicago. He resides in Rye Brook, NY with his wife and daughter, Olivia. 

    Dan Bienenfeld

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    Aside from bringing together ‘Rock Star Talent,’ his main focus has been raising over $50M, primarily for the startups identified above, as well as creating strategic partnerships. Currently he lives in Westlake Village, CA with his wife and two kids. In addition to his entrepreneurial journey, he also enjoys working out, traveling and an addiction to sushi.

    Gary Mittman
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    Gary Mittman brings more than 30 years of experience in technology and direct marketing, as well as substantial experience in building startups to exit with creativity and agile development. Before starting KERV, he held numerous top‑ranking leadership roles, including Founder & President of Nami Media (which was acquired by Lin Media/Nexstar Media Group), CEO & Founder of Marina Communications (also acquired), and Vice President of New Business Development, Direct Response at Western International Media (now Initiative Media).

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    Andi Fenster

    Andi Fenster went into the profession of Human Resources 30 years ago, because she believed from a young age that the way you treat your employees is what you get out of them. Her goal as an HR professional has been to help create the type of work environments that inspire folks to want to come to work. She is also a Management/Leadership/Career Coach and her focus is optimizing humans focusing on the mind‑body connection. 

    “We, each, have tremendous potential and the abilities to level‑up if we choose to understand how to get the support we need to get us there. Helping talent thrive and helping them create success is my reason for doing what I do.”

    Marika Roque
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    Marika Roque is a top expert in digital media, data and organizational infrastructures recognized with over 15 years of professional leadership experience. Previous to KERV, Marika worked as the vice president of digital operations for Mass2, a division of multi-billion-dollar corporation Nexstar Digital LLC. Prior to Mass2, Marika served as vice president of digital media activation at LIN Digital.

    Marika has held senior-level positions for leading advertising agencies in the Austin, Texas area including Sizmek and GSD&M. She also spent years in Chicago working for FCB Global and Starcom MediaVest Group. While at Starcom, Marika was recognized for her involvement in the creation of the first agency-side programmatic pipelines and what the industry now refers to as an agency trading desk.

    Marika holds a Bachelor’s in Advertising from The University of Texas at Austin, which she achieved while also participating as a former D1 collegiate athlete.