I’ll be offering the keynote remarks at the IAB Networks & Exchanges Marketplace on May 16th, and I have to say I’m pretty jacked up about it.  But then, I’m also a guy who can obsess for 3 hours with a Friday New York Times crossword or sit and analyze an enigmatic film for way too long (just ask my wife).   For this event, the IAB is employing perhaps one of the best taglines in the history of conferences:  “It’s Time to Stop Digital-on-Digital Crime.”  Indeed.  The networks, exhchanges, trading desks, DSPs, optimizers and cast of a thousand other players have created a world that’s Byzantine in its complexity and impenetrable to civilians.  While most in the room will have forgotten more about technology than I’ll ever learn (disclosure:  I’m not completely sure what an algorithm is.  There.  I’ve said it), I’m hoping that I can at least let some light and air into a room that’s perhaps been breathing the same oxygen for too long.

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I’m still working on my remarks and I’d welcome comments and suggestions from Drift readers. But I think I’ll actually end up posing a bunch of provocative questions during my time on stage, as the right questions can be the best way to unravel a mystery.

How Do Ad Networks Now Define the High Ground? Marshall McLuhan said that each new technology turns its predecessor into an art form. As I said two weeks ago, the glut of exchange-based inventory and the emergence of DSPs amount to a new technology and a new world. What manner of art — what combination of creativity, service, strategy and innovation — will you bring into this next era?

Does the Marketer Care About the Same Things? I’ve written in this space before that I think there’s a gap between our obsessions and those of the brands that we ostensibly serve.  We obsess about process improvement and yield and shaving pennies off the cost of acquisition.  But are brands going to get worked up about all that?  Or are they perhaps waiting to hear what we’re going to add to the world of marketing, not just what we’re going to subtract and divide?

What Happens in a World of Modest, Controlled Growth? It seems to me (but, hey, I’m a civilian!) that an awful lot of businesses are built on the assumption that there will be a big bang at the end of this whole process:  a floodgate of spending will gush into our world and make everybody whole, revenue splits and all.  Truth is that there will be a shakeout — that was the whole point of Terry Kawaja’s chart which we can now all just refer to as “the slide.” I want to hear some of the long term plans that don’t end with a winning lottery number.

Are the Holding Companies Up to the Task? Through their installation of trading desks and importation of DSP technology, the holding companies are making a very public play to take back the margin that their agencies have been handing to networks over the past five years.  But is it in their DNA and can they get and retain the people to make it happen?  And perhaps even more crucially, will their clients be fully on board with them?  It’s one thing to compensate an agency for innovation and capabilities:  it’s quite another to finance their development.

It’s a huge topic and I’ve got 30 minutes.  What do you think the right questions are?