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Trust, Transparency and Authenticity: Review of 4As Transformation Conference

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"Self expression is the new entertainment," commented Arianna Huffington in her opening keynote address at the American Association of Advertising Agencies Transformation Conference last week in San Francisco. In her well-received talk, Huffington set a theme of "trust," "transparency" and "authenticity" that was reiterated by several speakers throughout the three-day event. Pointing out that many in the marketing, advertising and media businesses are viewing media "through an obsolete prism," the founder of The Huffington Post argued that while professionals may deride people who engage and participate for free, the future is opt-in and "we cannot use an analog map to find our way in a digital world." With a great deal of industry focus on the paywall experiments being conducted by media companies, Huffington suggested "paywall discussions miss the point. Those who believe the content provider is at the center of the world are the equivalent of 'flat-earthers.'"

The 4As event was just one of several last week and was preceded a week earlier by the Interactive Advertising Bureau conference, which emphasized the priority issues for accelerated growth of the online advertising business. At the forefront of these priorities is the need for leadership and guidance in a complex and challenging environment. Unfortunately, Yahoo! CEO Carole Bartz, seemingly tongue-tied after advising the audience she could not and would not curse in response to California's strange No-Curse Week, blew her opportunity to display such leadership at the 4As event, where she was roundly criticized for her rambling, ineffective and generally misguided talk to more than 1,000 attendees from the advertising community. In my subscriber-only report this week, I share insights on Bartz' presentation as well as on the comments of Arcature's Larry Light, McCann Worldgroup's Nick Brien, Comcast's Steve Burke, Unilever's Kathy O'Brien and three magazine industry senior executives.

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