Crenshaw Communications Adds Adweek and Agency Talent

Crenshaw Communications, an award-winning B2B PR firm representing high-growth technology companies and leading ad tech brands, recently welcomed former ad tech journalist Mez Ambachew and PR agency professional Elana Warshavsky to the team. The agency also welcomed back returning team member Colleen O’Connor. 

Mez steps into the role of account executive at Crenshaw Communications, working on the agency’s ad tech clients. Before her role at Crenshaw, Mez covered diverse aspects of the digital economy, programmatic ad buying, media, and tech as an ad tech reporter at Adweek. Before Adweek, she served as a media technology analyst at Digitas North America.

PR and communications professional Elana brings her background in handling national and global consumer and B2B tech brands to the team as an account executive. Her industry experience spans the wellness, enterprise, cybersecurity, and advertising production sectors. Before joining Crenshaw Communications, Elana held a position at Hotwire Global, where she excelled in creating and maintaining editorial databases, crafting pitches and bylines, and participating in media campaigns for B2B tech companies.

Returning to Crenshaw Communications as a senior account executive, Colleen is a seasoned PR professional with a proven track record in developing and executing PR campaigns for a broad spectrum of clients in the technology industry. Colleen’s passion for staying ahead of industry trends and harnessing emerging media platforms has enabled her to secure high-profile media placements, amplifying brand awareness for clients such as AOL, Greenhouse Software, and MediaRadar.

The new inclusions to the Crenshaw Communications team are a direct response to the growth experienced in the first half of 2023. This period saw the addition of new clients, notably A Million Ads (AMA), a dynamic creative audio leader, and Panorays, an IT Risk Management firm. The team was also strengthened with the addition of experienced B2B PR leaders Patrice Gamble as PR account director and Anna Julow Roolf as chief of staff.

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Five Ways AI Is Transforming Ad Tech

It seems that you can’t go a day without seeing a news headline that references Artificial Intelligence. With the rise in popularity of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools, there is debate about the use of AI in public relations, journalism, and everyday life.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been transforming industries and businesses, and ad tech, a specialist sector where we do a lot of work, is no exception. Already, AI is emerging as a game-changer for ad tech, with a variety of uses that are solving problems and driving efficiencies.

Generative AI jumpstarts creative

If you google “Generative AI” you’re likely to see at least five news stories about tech companies using it for search, products and tools. Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence technology that can produce various types of content, including text, imagery, audio and synthetic data, so it makes sense that so many companies are jumping on the generative AI train. Meta, Google, and Snap are using generative AI to power augmented reality features, to create images and videos, and helping to jumpstart their marketing campaign plans. Brands can use generative AI to create new images and videos that are unique and personalized to users.

AI powers audience targeting and personalization

As a personalizable technology, AI can help advertisers identify ultra-specific niches in order to get the right ads in front of the largest number of desirable people. Personalized ads have a higher conversion rate as they are more relevant to the user’s interests and needs. AI-powered personalization also enhances the user experience since users see ads that are tailored to their preferences.

Cooler Screens, the world’s largest in-store digital media and merchandising platform for retail, turns refrigerated doors into interactive advertising displays using AI. The smart screens inform, entertain and inspire shoppers to take action through tailored content driven by contextual signals like store profile, occasion, geography, seasonality, or time of day. Customers are empowered to make choices that best fit their budgets, diets, preferences, and unique health conditions.

Fraud detection and prevention is easier

Ad fraud wastes or steals ad budgets by inflating clicks, impressions, faking app installs, or otherwise defrauding ad networks.It’s a significant challenge in ad tech, and AI can help detect and prevent it. Fraud costs advertisers billions of dollars each year. There are AI algorithms that can detect fraud by analyzing data such as user behavior, IP addresses, and device types. AI can identify suspicious patterns and quickly alert brands of the suspicious activity for review. Ad tech companies also use AI-powered fraud detection tools to identify and prevent fraudulent ads.

AI supports ad optimization

The ad optimization process, which tracks and adjusts campaign elements to improve performance, used to be tedious and time-consuming. With AI, brands can optimize for attention metrics in real time by analyzing data such as ad performance, user engagement, and conversion rates. If brands see that an ad campaign is performing well, they can use the algorithm to increase the ad spend to maximize reach. On the other hand, the AI algorithm can show when an ad is not performing well and the brand can use that information to either reduce their ad spend, change their targeting strategy, or even stop the ad entirely. AI makes it easier for brands to optimize their ad campaigns, giving them the ability to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

Data analytics is an AI superpower

Analytics is at the heart of ad tech. Not only can AI tools track and synthesize data, but they digest vast amounts of it much faster than a human. AI can analyze and share data that has been collected in real time and use it to drive better results. Its superpower gives AI a pivotal role in redefining data collection, analysis, and usage.

2023 PR Opportunities For Ad Tech Brands

As 2022 winds down, PR teams are looking and trends and opportunities in their most relevant categories. One of ours is ad tech. Despite economic headwinds, the global advertising industry has been robust and seems poised for more growth. Post-Covid, brands are spending on connected TV (CTV) ad platforms and the industry is abuzz about retail media. Yet, uncertainty is the new normal.

Ad tech is always on the move and changes in the space invite new opportunities and challenges. Heading into 2023, here are some developments we should expect:

CTV advertising pie getting bigger – will it overtake mobile?

CTV has been a huge trend, and 2022 has been a banner year for it. With advertisers ramping up their spending, it’s not unreasonable to think that the “year of CTV” will continue for over a decade just as the “year of mobile” dominated the ad industry for a decade or more. In fact, per this report, 98% of brand advertisers believe CTV will exceed mobile ad budgets. As CTV gains steam among both viewers and advertisers – with nearly 95% of US households reachable via CTV programmatic media and ad dollars flowing from linear to streaming – the opportunities are abundant.

Still, according to industry experts, the era of CTV expansion and fragmentation is coming to a close. Evolution – and maybe even consolidation – are expected in 2023. With Disney+, Netflix and other streaming platforms embracing ads, the CTV landscape is becoming more advertiser-friendly. As more services offer ad-supported options, advertisers will have more opportunities to engage with audiences through ads relevant to their tastes and lives.  CTV and the streaming landscape are poised to evolve constantly and advertisers should be ready for the next chapter. To thrive in 2023 and beyond, advertisers will need to win over audiences who have lots of content choices. They’ll succeed by choosing performance-driven partners who deliver brand-safe, premium content, precision audience targeting at scale, personalization and proven measurability.

Retail media network – no longer just a buzzword but a market reality

Demand for first-party shopper data, coupled with the looming disappearance of third-party cookies, has created a moment of opportunity for innovative multi-location brands and retailers. Retail media (explainer here) is more than one of this year’s hottest buzzwords: it’s the next big advertising channel. Retail networks are growing exponentially and per GroupM, retail media already represents 11% of global ad spending and will grow 60% by 2027.

For multi-location retailers, it’s an opportunity to diversify revenue streams and target consumers with highly personalized ads. Many retailers are following the footsteps of giants like Amazon, Walmart, Target and Kroger by launching their own retail media networks (RMNs). Dollar General, Ulta Beauty, HomeDepot, and CVS, among others, have launched ad-sales businesses to diversify their revenue streams, taking advantage of foot traffic in stores and visits to their e-commerce sites.

What does the next phase of retail media look like? Experts say it’s very promising. The ability for brands to reach a retailer’s audience at various points in the buying journey remains attractive for advertisers. As more businesses hop onto the lucrative RMN bandwagon, we can expect to see a growing number of retailers competing for a finite number of advertising dollars.

Cookie-less era – the industry is buckling up, finally!

For digital media, this year has been another time of significant change. Google again announced a delay in third-party cookie deprecation on Chrome and privacy regulations have tightened. These moves have only raised the stakes for advertisers and media companies of all kinds.

Google’s delay gives the industry more time to test, plan and integrate the cookieless solutions available today and prepare for an identity-constrained future. Publishers should therefore continue adopting and testing identity solutions to maintain today’s robust advertising ecosystem and future-proof their business. The good news is that the urgency to test and select identity solutions has doubled YoY among marketers and publishers (this commissioned study from our client, Lotame confirms the urgency as the industry is finally feeling the heat of a cookieless world’s approach).

Will Google sunset third-party cookies eventually, whether it’s in 2024 or beyond? Who knows? But, at this point, the industry should have a clear understanding of where they stand on identity in light of cookie complexities today and in the future.

Overall, 2023 is shaping up to be yet another exciting year for ad tech and ad tech PR. The rise of privacy-focused solutions, growth of programmatic advertising, increasing use of AI and machine learning and brands leaping into the metaverse are just some of the trends we’ll ride to meet the demands of the future.


A Cheat Sheet For Ad Tech PR

For anyone new to ad tech PR, it can be overwhelming to learn and understand. The acronyms alone are daunting. Of course, ad tech PR teams don’t need to be experts in every new platform or tech tool, but we need to understand industry trends, issues, and key players.

At Crenshaw, we have worked with many ad tech companies across different verticals, so we appreciate how fast the category has changed, and how it touches so many different industries, from marketing to data security. For those wanting to dive in, here are some relevant posts that might serve as an ad tech PR primer.  

Cutting The Jargon In Ad Tech PR  

Even ad tech veterans can be stymied by the industry’s jargon. And acronyms like DMP, CDP,  FLoC, and GDPR are impossible to avoid. Understanding key terms can help ease the transition for those new to the category. And don’t miss Digiday’s “WTF” archives to keep up with hot topics. 

Ad Tech Pubs Every PR Pro Should Be Reading 

The only way to stay current is to keep up with the trades. Add Adweek, AdAge, AdExchanger and Digiday into your daily rotation for a better understanding of the industry to start.

25 Ad Tech Journalists To Follow On Twitter

Obviously it’s important to know who is writing about ad tech and identify the different beats – from social media marketing to streaming to data privacy or brand safety. Twitter is an excellent way to build a list of go-to journalists. Often they will tweet looking for sources for a story and social media is the best way to track any changes in publication or beat. 

Top Ad Tech Conferences For PR Exposure

Many of our ad tech programs revolve around executive thought leadership content and speaking opportunities. Bylined content, white papers, awards and conferences are essential tools and platforms for positioning executives as leaders. Conferences and speaking engagements on panels get executives in front of a room of peers and positions them as a credible resource for both media and analysts. Events like Advertising Week, AdExchanger Programmatic I/O, to Cannes are all great opportunities for PR to gain extra exposure for executives.   

Imposter Syndrome – An Ad Tech PR Love Story (Ending With A Breakup) 

Need moral support? Check out this post from our own Hannah Kasoff, who moved over from the ad tech client side.   

Imposter Syndrome – An Ad Tech PR Love Story (Ending With A Breakup)

Let’s be honest – those that say they’ve never known “Imposter Syndrome” are lying. Whether you experience these feelings regularly or not, we’ve all been there. Yet for me, “Imposter Syndrome” has contributed to my professional success in tech PR. At the same time, I think the term should disappear entirely. Post-blog, I will remove this word from my vocabulary, and passionately challenge those who say it exists.  

Defining Imposter Syndrome 

To understand “Imposter Syndrome,” we must first identify its general meaning and impact. According to Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey at Harvard Business Review, “‘Imposter Syndrome’ is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.” For more context and insight into the term and its flawed foundation, see their piece. 

Imposter Syndrome in Practice 

I’ve held “Imposter Syndrome” closely throughout my entire professional career – from when I was proofreading newsletters, to managing email campaigns, to communicating with clients, to managing a team. It’s always been there. It also reared its head as I settled into my new role in ad tech PR. Because of my client-side background and dedication to my work, I’ve moved up quickly in a high-growth environment. It’s a new and ever-changing role, and I find myself occasionally not accepting how far I’ve come in such a short period of time. And – for those wondering –  specializing in a male-dominated field like ad tech does not help.

Let yourself feel things in the workplace. Don’t lump them into a diagnosis. 

Upon further reflection (and after reading Ruchika and Jodi-Ann’s piece) I realized how demeaning the term is. It not only implies a disorder, but also a fraudulent act, and I treated it as such. I was giving it the power to take over my thoughts rather than allowing myself the joy of just doing a good job. But, while recognizing the impact of the term itself, I can’t help but notice the positives. Uncertainty offers the motivation to exceed the expectations I’ve set for myself, cultivate supportive environments for others, and develop a managerial style that is open and transparent. 

Yes – people have feelings of insecurity, vulnerability, and self-doubt in the workplace as well as in social situations. But, rather than trying to coin a term for these feelings of insecurity, let’s advocate for discussion about them. Ask your employees how they’re feeling, what areas they’re not as confident in, and share your own uncertainties. In turn, managers will better understand the needs of their employees, employees will feel heard and supported, and everyone will recognize the value of vulnerability. 

Addressing The “Scaries” In Ad Tech

It’s the spooky season, which to me, as director of ad tech here at Crenshaw, is the perfect time to address some of the scariest business and PR issues looming in the ad tech space today. It can be challenging to address some of the highly sensitive issues in the media, but there is usually a way to do so that benefits the company and industry at large. Here is my list of ad tech “scaries” and how ad tech providers can manage these issues with the press. 

Privacy laws spook marketers

GDPR was the slow-moving zombie that eventually arrived at our doorsteps in 2019. Now the privacy zombies are coming faster and more frequently. In reality the privacy regulations are well-intended and will protect consumers. The best way to address privacy in the press is to talk about how the company has invested in privacy, and how privacy has been folded into the product roadmap. Have you hired a Chief Privacy Officer? How are you getting consent from consumers? How have you adjusted your partnerships to account for privacy? However, beware! You must be careful to not to BS reporters about privacy policies, they can smell it a mile away. It’s essential to offer proof points that support all protocols.

Apple’s changes threaten doom

The loss of IDFA was the jump-scare that none of us were prepared for. And, just last week we saw Snap Inc.’s stock tumble after it forecast slower growth this quarter due to recent changes in Apple App Store privacy rules. The changes have marketers scrambling, which gives ad tech the opportunity to be Ellen Ripley, the hero of this horror story. Marketers need guidance, and these changes are the perfect way for ad tech companies to use thought leadership to assure brands that they are not alone. All players are working on solutions to keep advertising effective. 

Behemoths build ‘walled gardens’

After years in the industry it’s hard not to think of Facebook and Google as the Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kruger of ad tech. They take most of the money in advertising, play by their own rules, and face few consequences. It’s frustrating. However, PR gives ad tech companies the chance to have a voice as well. If you aren’t partnered with these godzillas, go ahead and speak out against them–reporters LOVE it. Comment on bad news, discuss why marketers and publishers get screwed, or better yet, conduct research about the impact on marketers and publishers. There are endless opportunities in PR to challenge the giants. 

Third-party cookies disappear

Meanwhile, cookies are going poof! This news has been known for a while, but like Michael Myers, the news and its consequences keep rearing their ugly heads. We see new reports and studies highlighting the money at risk when this frankly outdated technology disappears. Marketers and publishers are right to fear the decline of cookies, but again, it’s another opportunity to shine. Everyone has been testing solutions, and it’s time to talk about them. Promote case studies of the incredible work you’ve done with your identifier or new contextual solutions. Media want to see what is getting results, and who offers innovative solutions.

A dreaded result of change: layoffs

As a serious consequence of changes in the ecosystem, some companies will face layoffs. From a communications perspective, it is vital to prepare clear reasoning and outline support steps for both the impacts and the press, addressing why staff reductions happen and what the future looks like as a result. Companies that don’t adequately prepare for an unpleasant communication like this are my idea of a true horror story.

If you’re an ad tech company struggling to handle these “scary” topics from a comms perspective, please reach out. We’d love to help you navigate your way through this haunted house. 

Happy Halloween! 

5 Ad Tech PR Predictions For 2020

Not every tech PR agency is familiar with the ad tech category, but it keeps growing in size and significance. The boom comes thanks to data privacy concerns and the call from major advertisers for greater transparency and control over their digital advertising.

To some, ad tech is a baffling alphabet soup of acronyms, like DMP, DSP, SSP, and CCPA. For us, it’s a huge and growing part of our business and an exciting category. The opportunities are expanding.

Ad Tech Industry Changes Drive PR Opportunities

As an industry, ad tech saw considerable change in 2019. A patchwork of privacy regulations has challenged all the major players. At the same time, browser companies like Apple, Mozilla and Google have taken aim at cookie-based tracking. These changes set up occasions for lively public discussions for clients. As channels, Connected TV (CTV) and streaming media (over-the-top, or OTT) surged this year, with more advertisers investing in these platforms than ever before.  CTV ad spend alone will rise to $7 billion by year’s end.

Media covered these areas accordingly. Compliance, privacy and ITP/cookie-tracking weren’t just the domain of marketing and ad tech trade press. The issues drove headlines more broadly, across business and top-tier technology media. The power of CTV and OTT advertising was also covered as consumer adoption has grown. Savvy PR pros took advantage of the storytelling opportunities, inserting a client point of view on large issues and building thought capital to distinguish them from competitors.
But what can we expect in 2020? What industry changes will drive the news cycle and create ad tech PR opportunities for companies in the category? Here are four predictions based on conversations I’ve had with clients, colleagues, journalists, and analysts.

CCPA is the latest privacy regulation

The California Consumer Privacy Act or “CCPA,” finally takes effect on January 1, 2020. Like GDPR, it will dominate the news cycle for months, with media wondering about enforcement, who’s compliant (or not) and overall industry impact. In fact, a quick scan of Google Trends shows us that consumer interest in CCPA is rising as we approach January — so media will follow.
Ad Tech PR Predictions For 2020It’s a fertile newsjacking opportunity for ad tech companies who want to present themselves as good corporate citizens, or to downplay the business effect of CCPA, or simply to show leadership on the issue of privacy. My recommendation: rather than conduct phone interviews around a topic this sensitive, develop prepared content in the form of a whitepaper or blog to share with media contacts.

DOOH is hot

Digital Out of Home (DOOH), ads on digital signs in subways, airports, shopping centers, and more, will step into the spotlight in 2020. It’s taking a bigger chunk of Out of Home (OOH) ad spending as more inventory becomes available. Buyers are also ramping up their DOOH investments as the targeting and buying options become more programmatic and data-driven. Ad tech players who offer capabilities and solutions in this emerging channel will be in demand in 2020 and should take advantage.

SPO is the new ad tech buzzword

Supply path optimization or “SPO” might be the buzziest ad tech acronym of 2019. SPO refers to DSPs and ad buyers being choosy about specific content. In doing so, they get more efficient and transparent routes to media. This cuts down on the volume of queries for buy-side vendors while lowering prices for potential inventory. It boils down to streamlining how the demand side and supply side interact.

As the ad tech landscape has become more convoluted, SPO will be a top ad tech PR trend in the New Year. However, ad tech PR pros should keep in mind that it’s a fairly technical topic and not likely to drive interest among mainstream business publications — at least for now. Alternatively, ad trade media have been all over it with great explainer articles. In 2020, I expect media to seek out companies claiming to “clean the supply path.” Adtech companies can make use of this trend.

ACR data will be a key focus

The beauty of ad tech and digital advertising in general is in its targeting. But what happens when consumers migrate from traditional TV to smarter devices? In 2020, everyone will be talking about ACR data. ACR data allows marketers to understand viewership behavior across CTV inventory and devices, so it’s core to targeting ads on CTV. Yet ACR data currently faces several challenges. It’s hard to scale, although that will change quickly as CTV grows. Other issues, like device fragmentation, are more entrenched. Different CTV product manufacturers have different ACR guidelines in place. End-user privacy is also an issue, given new regulations.

This is an obvious PR opportunity for ad tech companies in the CTV space. Most advertising reporters, especially on the trade side, know about ACR data. But they may need more background on ACR challenges, particularly as new privacy regulations go into effect. There’s also an opportunity to brief ad tech reporters at business publications, because they might not yet be focused on ACR data.

As we head into 2020, these are some of the top ad tech PR trends to watch out for. What am I missing? Let me know on Twitter at @chrisharihar.