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Simulmedia Panelists Examine Changes From 'Social to Mechanical Engineering'

Evidently not content with NewFronts, AllFronts and old-fashioned upfronts, ad data firm Simulmedia held a "PeopleFront" on Tuesday, aiming to assess the sea change in consumer data collection, targeting and ad delivery.

“We’re going from social engineering to mechanical engineering," noted the company's chief revenue officer, John Piccone. "And that’s not an overnight change.”

Execs from Discovery, Turner, Nielsen, Campbell Soup and a former higher-up at Kimberly-Clark touched on an array of tactics, including the buzziest one lately, programmatic buying.

There was no single vision that dominated the hour-long conversation at the New York headquarters of Scholastic Media, which was introduced by Simulmedia CEO and founder Dave Morgan. But all agreed that it's the central mission for the entire ad business, especially in regard to television.

Howard Shimmel, chief research officer at Turner, noted that TV nets are moving too slowly after decades of dominance but they still have the power to shape the narrative. "When we’re changing the currency, we’re slow and diligent about it because there’s so much at risk," he said. "The fact of the matter is, we should do a better job of recasting history against these targets, so a soup CPM is not 10 bucks on women but 50 bucks on heavy soup buyers. And then if you’re able to look at a couple of years of history and plan off of that base, it will help make the procurement guys a little less scared in the future."

Sharon O’Sullivan, EVP of ad sales at Discovery, said data-driven partnerships (such as the one announced Tuesday morning by Simulmedia and Nielsen) should be the focus, rather than simply hitting a target number.

“When you’re in the upfront market, it’s so publicized and it comes down to one number," she said. "We really need to rethink that going into it. The innovation is exciting. I don’t think we feel fear on our side. We hope we can bring the conversation around to partnerships as opposed to what’s the percentage and what’s the front page in the Wall Street Journal.”