4 Key Takeaways from IAB ALM 2021

March 15, 2021



By Kari Kirschenbaum, VP, Marketing



“The Great Reset” was the theme at last week’s IAB Annual Leadership Meeting (ALM), which serves as a central thought leadership venue for senior voices across the marketing and advertising ecosystems. This year’s virtual event was jam-packed with general sessions, town halls, interactive roundtables, and topic-specific content blocks featuring nearly two-hundred speakers. It was an impressive lineup, boasting a slew of high-profile industry executives, along with exciting new speakers including Stacy Abrams, US Senator Ron Wyden, and Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

With a plethora of sessions to choose from, attendees were privy to valuable insights and varied perspectives on the next era of digital advertising. Here are some of the key insights and trends that stood out to us throughout the week.

The Path to Privacy-Centered Advertising

This year, the shifting privacy landscape took center stage and dominated much of the conversation. 

Coming on the heels of Google’s announcement confirming cookie deprecation, along with no plans to build alternative identifiers, Jerry Dischler (VP/GM, Ads at Google) was one of the first to speak. In a session entitled, “The Path to Privacy-Centered Advertising,” he reiterated that Google doesn’t believe tracking individuals is sustainable. Instead, they’re going all-in with systems built on privacy-preserving technologies and first-party data, through a project called The Privacy Sandbox. To learn more about it, read the session recap from IAB’s Tech Lab

While certainly big news, in a subsequent session, Tom Kershaw (CTO at Magnite) urged the industry to “calm down.” And while voices from both the buy and sell side seemed to agree that there is no magic bullet to replace the cookie, they do see a layer cake of viable solutions including cohorts, addressable data via user authentication, and contextual. All of which are vital to digital advertising’s future.  


“Context and content is so relevant in order for consumers to really think that the brand has it right…60% of consumers are saying if the brand doesn’t have the same beliefs that we do and they’re not showing up in the right ways then we’re not buying their products.”

- Catherine Sullivan, CEO, PHD US


An Emphasis on Content and Context

US Senator Ron Wyden made a pre-recorded appearance to discuss the intersection of government and digital advertising. Senator Wyden discussed how politics will play into not only privacy changes, but also safety measures.  One noteworthy topic was potential reforms to Section 230, addressing the fact that “we all don’t want to see the slime online.” While details were murky, the message was clear—change is likely.

Overall, the importance of context and content was a hot topic, especially for marketers. In one particular session, Catherine Sullivan (CEO at PHD US) emphasized this by saying, 

“Context and content is so relevant in order for consumers to really think that the brand has it right…60% of consumers are saying if the brand doesn’t have the same beliefs that we do and they’re not showing up in the right ways then we’re not buying their products.” 

Video Will Continue to Lead the Charge

Neil Mohan, Chief Product Officer at YouTube, gave an inspiring talk about continued momentum within the digital video landscape, and how advertisers must position themselves if they are going to effectively leverage this emerging environment. He referenced the connective role creators play in driving audience loyalty and engagement. “Creators are the reason why  consumers come to the platform. It’s not about the video per se, it’s about that connection with the creators, the content that you love, and the people behind that content.” 

Short-form video opportunities on the platform will continue to evolve, as evidenced by the introduction of  “YouTube Shorts,” a new product currently available in India. YouTube plans to roll this product out to other markets including the US over the course of the next few weeks and months. 

In addition, CTV will be an increasingly important environment for advertisers. The platform  touted tremendous growth in CTV consumption, claiming that 25% of logged-in users now consume content almost exclusively on CTV (90%). 

One more exciting piece of news, the 2021-2022 upfront will be the first-time ever that brands will be able to use Nielsen to measure what they want to measure on YouTube. 


"Creators are the reason why consumers come to the platform. It’s not about the video per se, it's about that connection with the creators, the content that you love, and the people behind that content."

- Neal Mohan, Chief Product Officer at YouTube


The Road to Cross-Platform Measurement and Attribution

Speaking of Nielsen, Karthick Rao (Chief Operating Officer at Nielsen Global Media) led a session focused on the increasingly urgent need to evolve current metrics that fuel the media industry. As he candidly put it, “We’ve made progress but it’s not enough.” 

Driven by continuous growth in digital video and CTV, Nielsen is striving to provide integrated metrics that allow advertisers to accurately measure reach and frequency across platforms through Nielsen ONE.

All-in-all, we found the event to be extremely informative and thought-provoking. There is no doubt that we’ve experienced unprecedented challenges and uncertainty during the past year, as an industry and as individuals. IAB’s ALM conference delivered on its much-needed promise — a great reset — with insights and ideas to reshape current challenges into future opportunities, and look towards a hopeful future.  




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