The end of Victimhood and The Beginning of Leadership

“We’re at a wonderful place and a terrible place,” said David Bell, Chairman Emeritus of the Interpublic Group of Companies, looking ahead to next year’s challenges and opportunities for publishers. 

 “It’s terrible because publishers have been on their heels for too long, but it’s also wonderful because of conversations about sustainability and cookies,” he told Beeler.Tech CEO and founder Rob Beeler at Beeler’s Navigator event Thursday. 

With conversations around sustainability and cookies forcing organizational change, publishers will have the opportunity to advocate for what they really need — if they raise their voices and take advantage of the disruption as a chance to rewrite the industry-wide agenda, Bell said.

 As one of the morning’s first speakers, Bell was not shy in issuing a call to action to the auditorium full of media professionals, particularly publishers. 

“Publishers need a loud voice, and we need to do it together. And the reason we can do it is because we’re the backbone of the industry,” he said. “If the leaders in publishing come together, they will have the opportunity to reclaim the definition of quality and quality environments.” 

The core objective of these efforts should be grounded in bringing publishers and advertisers closer together, Bell said. “Everyone in between is shaping the industry, but the principals are the publisher and the advertiser,” he said. “It’s time for us to come together, not just to discuss but to lead.” 

To ensure that publisher stakes are considered at the highest levels of the advertising industry, Bell advocated for the creation of a new governing body. “Right now, the single most powerful group is the ANA [Association of National Advertisers]. But it’s time for the publishers’ association, whatever it will be called, to become the second most powerful and the greatest partner with the ANA.”  

 Bell specifically called on Beeler.Tech to take up this mantle — uniting publishers to empower them in an industry where they’ve too often played second fiddle to advertisers and the ad tech companies that connect the two groups. That change will be critical to providing publishers more control over their inventory, prices, and audience relationships. Beeler asked Bell whether he would help form such a group, to which Bell issued a resounding yes.

Leaders in the publishing space must forge a path toward publisher-focused technology solutions as opposed to legacy tech that tends to diminish publisher control, Bell said. In addition to ushering in new tools, publishers should also leverage current industry trends in their favor to seize the moment. 

 “The recognition of waste that exists between advertisers and publishers represents the opportunity to create a dialogue that has not existed before,” Bell said. “And as advertiser awareness of MFAs increases and we recognize the iniquity of that problem, that also brings publishers and advertisers closer together.”

Bell, an advertising hall of famer, is able to see the industry’s current pain points with perspective gained from decades of experience, including stints at AOL, Google, and True North, among others. “I’ve been on the boards of SSPs, DSPs, DMPs, and publishers,” he said. “I was there for the birth of the cookie, and I hope to be around for the death of the cookie,” he added, eliciting laughter from the audience. 

Sending the event’s attendees off on a day full of provocative panels and discussions, Bell imparted words of hope. “There’s never been a better time for publishers to change the game,” he said.