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Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space
Tom DenfordFeb 02, 20233 min read

"Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay."

Brands Deserve Better Media

A weekly column from @tomjdenford



I've shared in this column previously what I think is a need for a better collective understanding across the many divisions we face in the media industry.


"To be better we will need collective action, but the industry is currently divided: We have grown used to being entrenched in our domains; the marketer, the agency, the publisher, the tech, and the data. What we are missing is a binding narrative and common agenda.

For collective action, first we need collective understanding. Whether we are a marketer, a consultant, an agency, a publisher, or a vendor. From the biggest brand to the smallest content owner, I encourage us all to be more mindful of each other's needs and ambitions. We are all ultimately serving the same objective here, so better empathy and understanding is a strong starting point. From that, we can build."


Then right on cue, one example of this division filled all our news and social feeds this week.


It was unsettling and disturbing for many of us to hear the opening remarks of David Cohen, the CEO of the IAB at their recent leadership conference in Florida. Allowing David the benefit of the doubt, I think he intended to use his platform to provide a helpful rallying cry for a fearful adtech industry, but by the end, the speech descended into what some see as a divisive and fear-mongering rant. Dangerous stuff. 


"Extremists are trying to set the agenda. We must decide what we want this industry to be, lest it become decided for us", he goes on "Only IAB has the size, scale, expertise, and scope of solutions to tackle it....IAB has an initiative to tell that story, and it’s called Internet for Growth.... We have to take on The Extremists if we want to survive." 

- David Cohen, CEO, IAB at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, Jan 2023


Cohen urges his audience to continue to fund the IAB as the only way to protect them from the extremists coming to take away their right to thrive. It was a worrying tone, unnecessary and unhelpful. 


In an unusual move, the leading trade associations the ANA and 4As, representing advertisers and their agencies respectively, issued a joint statement saying they "take issue" with David Cohen's remarks and "reject the acerbic tone, texture and prescriptions offered by the IAB....alienating the very parties that we need to work with to achieve balanced consensus is not the path to take....Instead, let's focus on cultivating real solutions and meaningful allies"


Well said. 


Whilst his energy for collective action is appreciated, this must come with collective understanding and collective responsibility. We can all find a way forward together.


I expect that Cohen will roll back some of his language. What the advertising trade associations (IAB included) should give us all is inspiration and hope. Fear and division only comes from those with slipping power or weak ideas. 


A better use of our platforms is to remind ourselves that we are all in service of the brands we love.


When brands flourish, we all win.




Credit: The line "Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay" is by Maya Angelou


This post was featured in ID Comms’ weekly column, Brands Deserve Better Media. Each week, CEO Tom Denford shares insights on media and advertising and inspires us to work together to build a better future for the industry.

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