David Spencer of General Motors Discusses the Metaverse | Industry Insights | All MKC Content | ANA

David Spencer of General Motors Discusses the Metaverse


Ahead of next month's ANA Media Conference, ANA group EVP Bill Duggan spoke with one of the event's speakers, General Motors manager of emerging media and partnerships, David Spencer. The following Q&A covers the burgeoning CTV marketplace, the troublesome MFA supply chain, and why GM is keen on the emergence of the metaverse.

Your title at GM is manager of emerging media and partnerships. Tell us a bit about your role and responsibilities.

My team works across brands (Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC) and global markets and I specialize in the areas of digital, advanced TV, and emerging media. I manage the strategy, ad technology, and publisher partnerships and coordinate tests to advance GM capabilities in these areas from a paid media perspective.

Give us an example of an "emerging media" that particularly interests you.

Metaverse, metaverse, metaverse. Yes, I know, more hype than reality right now, but I sincerely believe in the future possibilities of this ecosystem to positively impact our lives. The metaverse will create greater access to companies, content, and people worldwide. We are simply waiting on our "iPhone moment" to truly make an exponential leap in progress.

Pick one – CTV, retail media networks, gaming, diverse owned media. What is it that excites you about the opportunity in that space and what are some challenges to address?

Connected TV (CTV) is my advertising passion point. It is still very much in its awkward teenage phase because standardization and measurement are absent, authentication is miserable, data is not properly leveraged, fraud is a challenge, content is loosely controlled, and valuable ad opportunities are missed. That being said, the sky is the limit with this medium. CTV is the future of TV and every challenge is solvable, but it will take unprecedented industry collaboration, technology advancements, and time to be successful. If I had a dollar to bet on what will provide the greatest impact to advancement in CTV, I'd put it on standardization of voice recognition and voice control.

In December, ANA released its Programmatic Media Transparency Report. What are one or two key insights from that report that advertisers should be paying attention to?

The identification and classification of Made for Advertising (MFA) sites. These sites are poisoning the industry by destroying the consumer experience, saturating ad exposures, and taking advantage of a digital ecosystem with automation at its base. It's a shame that these have existed for almost as long as the internet has been around, but fantastic that this study is raising awareness of them so advertisers can collectively root the problem out of the system. MFA sites increase advertiser costs and significantly decrease the value of a true impression.

If you as an advertiser are not paying attention, you can lose 64 percent of your media investment before the ad is exposed to the consumer. And that does not even account for additional variables such as banner blindness or reach of those outside your target audience. These are alarming percentages that make it near impossible to prove the value of advertising to a CFO. As advertisers, we need to not only take back control of this ecosystem through collaborative efforts, but also apply these same lessons learned to younger ecosystems like CTV (i.e., required transparency, direct SSP deals, fraud management, use of inclusion lists, and all the recommended questions to ask of our agencies).

ANA will soon be releasing its annual diversity report, which benchmarks gender and ethnic diversity for the advertising/marketing industry among client-side marketers. Spoiler alert – ethnic diversity is still lacking. Do you have any suggestions for the industry to help improve that?

First, it is integral for companies to define their position on inclusivity. In 2020, Mary Barra announced her aspiration for GM to become the most inclusive company in the world. That rallying cry both challenged and gave permission to employees and agency teams to foster an environment of inclusivity in our day-to-day with each other, our dealers, our partners, and our consumers.

However, for the industry to truly change, it's imperative that both the company's and the employee's commitment to diversity and fair representation extends beyond the walls of the office. When we started embodying this comment to inclusion outwardly, we saw an immediate impact within two areas of our business: the talent pipeline and our supplier community. Our most inclusive company in the world aspiration gave us permission to reevaluate how we recruit talent and how we work with diverse suppliers to identify opportunities where we can be more flexible to achieve mutual success. The ANA and 4A's have authored guidelines for getting started when investing with diverse media companies that can help serve as a reference along the way.

What are you driving these days and why?

What I currently drive is a Chevrolet Colorado because I love having a pickup bed for my 15 trips to the hardware store on every project. It is a fantastic and useful ride that I am extremely grateful to drive. I adore Chevrolet and it's the only brand in my driveway. What I want to drive is any Cadillac. If you've never driven a Cadillac, take one test drive and you'll be hooked for life. It's more than just a car, it's an experience. Check out the LYRIQ and CELESTIQ (the new Cadillac electric vehicles). They are gorgeous, fast, comfortable, and smooth. Some day...

You will be speaking at the 2024 ANA Media Conference. What are you looking forward to about the conference?

Where do I begin?

  • The People: So many smart people to meet and learn from that attend this conference. I try to soak in as much knowledge from our peer advertisers in the industry as well as publishers and technology companies that attend. It's important to understand both the similar challenges and different challenges each advertiser faces.
  • The Topics: The ANA is excellent at identifying the key issues that challenge our daily jobs including cookieless prep, consumer privacy, media innovation, experiential, and how artificial intelligence will impact our industry.
  • The Atomsphere: The ANA does everything possible to make the experience seamless and maximize the relationship building of attendees. It's easy to meet new people and connect with old colleagues and friends.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA. A version of this was originally published at MediaPost.

Bill Duggan is group EVP at ANA.