While the title of his presentation was that "the future does not fit into the containers of the past," Tobaccowala talked about his personal distaste for change, but the necessity of making it work. After all, there's little choice.
"Automation is not bad," he said, speaking about the fears of programmatic tools undermining the traditional media negotiation and creative processes. The companies who some expected would "replace carbon with silicon" will not come into this business, primarily because advertising at its heart will always be about storytelling. Storytellers can use technology to build out their stories and make them more effective. The technology providers can't employ storytellers as well as the storytellers can employ suppliers of tech.
Though he studied advanced mathematics and eventually got his degree in it, he was particularly impressed with a book called The Principles of Marketing, which covered the basics of understanding and meeting customer requirements. "At some point, I realized we as an industry weren't doing that at all," Tobaccowala said. "The consumer wasn't empowered. We were making money through logistics and ancillary things like that. Then, the connection engine entered the process – the Internet happened."
And with it came greater tools for automating the ad buying, planning and placement processes.
"So the core of our business is storytelling and the five elements are: words, pictures, video, audio and place," he said. "Now we have mobility, which will prove that where someone is is more important than who they are. We have participation -- and I'm not talking about social media. I'm talking APIs, which gives all of us the ability to plug into what other people and companies are doing in real-time. We are being given more colors to play with. Why would we be scared?"
Tobaccowala then went about rehabilitating the profile of the lowly and loathed cockroach. "People could crush us, make fun of us, but we scurry around," he said. "But we're not dinosaurs. When I look at all the companies that were going to crush us 10 years ago, all but two are owned by Publicis. So what does that tell you?"