By Christian Smith

Companies need to take a stand on social issues if they're to remain relevant with their customers and have a place in the media landscape. That's the takeaway from this year's Digitas NewFront, where more than 200 marketing and branding executives met to discuss the issues facing their industries.

"It's no longer enough to just say 'Hey two pizzas $9.99.,'" said Scott Donaton, the chief content officer of Digitas, in an interview Thursday with Cheddar. "The brands that try to sit on the sidelines right now are are actually being dragged into these debates whether they want to or not."

Those debates include gun control, gender equality, and police brutality, topics that were on the agenda at the NewFront this week in New York.

You don't typically hear such discussions at most conferences like this, where content providers usually present new ideas for advertisers to decide where best to position their brands. But the Digitas NewFront is different. Each year organizers choose a theme affecting the marketing industry.

Michael Kahn, the global brand president at Digitas, said the company picked "The Boycott" as this year's theme because the internet "is no longer neutral."

"We are now in such a different world with digital communications and channels, and always being on," said Kahn. "People can't afford to sit on the sidelines anymore."

Digitas put on the first NewFront in 2008, when broadcast TV still reigned supreme and digital content was beginning to grow. Since then, Digitas has pulled in partners such as Hulu, Google, and OATH, which now hold their own NewFronts.