When Digitas helped launch the Digital Content NewFronts 11 years ago, the message to advertisers was simple: pay more attention to what’s happening in digital. In keeping with the turbulent times, the agency’s 2018 NewFronts event is titled The #Boycott NewFront.

“At the end of the day, we’re not saying to brands ‘you have to jump in and pick sides in the culture wars necessarily.’ But we are saying ‘you have to stand for something these days.’ People want to deal with brands whose values align with theirs,” says Scott Donaton, Chief Content Officer, Digitas US.

On Thursday, Digitas executives will share a stage with a range of figures who have made headlines associated with all manner of controversies and protest movements. “We try to be very provocative and to bring forward themes and topics that we think our audience needs to care about,” Donaton explains in this interview with Beet.TV.

Not that long ago, the age of “interruptive advertising,” brands could say whatever they pleased without having to worry about being “timely or topical,” Donaton says. “When you want people to interact with stories, which is something they can choose to spend time with or not, you have to be relevant to them. There’s this idea that brands are becoming activists and almost have to. This doesn’t always mean controversy.”

The agency’s featured guests will include:

• Scott Hudler, SVP & CMO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, who will explain how the company has changed the way it sells guns.

• Jodi Kantor of The New York Times, who with Megan Twohey just won a Pulitizer Prize for their reporting on the Harvey Weinstein saga.

• New York Times CEO Mark Thompson, who will discuss the publisher’s Truth Matters campaign.

• Nola Weinstein, Global Head of Culture and Experiential at Twitter, to reflect on the We Are Here Movement.

• Awesomness CEO Jordan Levin on the company’s coverage of the March for Our Lives student anti-gun violence movement.

“We like to bring in speakers who are outside of the ad business per se,” says Donaton. “For this year, a lot of it is not just how are brands reacting to all the social, cultural political upheaval out there but how’s it going to change storytelling of all kinds.”

This video is part of a series titled The Road to the Digital Content NewFronts. It is a preview of topics to be explored at IAB’s NewFronts, which begin on April 30. This series is presented by Meredith Corporation. For more videos from the series, please visit this page.