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If anyone has deep thoughts about the future of advertising, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen would be among them.
Today at the IAB MIXX conference in New York City, the pair sat down with veteran interviewer Charlie Rose to discuss just where the ad industry is headed, as well as where technology is taking us in general. The conference is just one of several events happening in NYC as part of Advertising Week (think of it like a Comic-Con for Mad Men types).
Rose kicked off the conversation by asking Sandberg how advertising will evolve as we move to new digital platforms, and she was quick to point out the trouble with existing markets: “Most of the marketing is to large anonymous groups of people, it is a relationship which is one business to many consumers all at once … those advertisements are one time and one way.”
And how will Facebook offer a better alternative? “Rather than just talk at large anonymous groups of people, businesses can relate to a consumer and establish an ongoing relationship,” Sandberg said. “And importantly, that consumer has an average of 130 friends, so when they’re talking to that consumer that person brings their friends along.”
Rose later tried to pry additional details about Facebook’s tumultuous IPO from Sandberg, but she deftly avoided commenting. Sandberg pointed back to Facebook’s missteps with HTML 5 in its mobile apps, which chief executive Mark Zuckerberg called the company’s biggest mistake, in response to Rose’s question about one area where Facebook’s assumptions didn’t pan out.
But Sandberg was clear to point out that she didn’t see the HTML5 situation as a major setback. “We are more afraid of losing by standing still than by not changing,” she said.
Andreessen, who’s also a Facebook board member, backed her up, saying, “you want these companies taking risks.”
Later on in the conversation, Andreessen geeked out about his vision of the future. “these [smartphones] are going to be the essential devices in our lives,” he told Rose. “These are going to become the control devices for a lot of things in our life.”
He pointed to Apple’s Airplay functionality as one example. Not only can it control what we’re watching on our TVs, it can also be the source of media. “I think all of the big screens in our lives are going to be controlled through these devices,” he added.
Beyond mobile, Andreessen also pointed out his fascination with wearable computing, which he believes will be controlled by smartphones. That’s not too surprising, considering his firm, Andreessen Horowitz, poured a whopping $49 million in Jawbone last year, creator of popular Bluetooth headsets (and a failed health tracking device).
Andreessen also said he believes the PC is still a very useful device for people who actually do work. He said he was impressed by Ultrabook laptops and that he also still sees a place for big screens for desk work. Eventually, he said, screens will cover entire walls.
Check out the full interview here.