After lunch (well, a trip back to the hotel room - no lunch involved unfortunately as the area was packed with Ad:Techians) I returned to Moscone North for an afternoon packed with some great sessions.
Here's a rundown of what I found interesting from each.
2:15: Media and Entertainment - Programming, Distribution and Advertising in a Multi-Platform World.
Moderated by Shelley Palmer from Advanced Media Ventures (and a great moderator - take note AU Ad:Tech mods) this session was a bit of a let down overall. Firstly, 3 of the billed speakers didn't actually speak and secondly a lot of the sentiment was a little vanilla. Shelley was trying his heart out to get some animation from the panel but everyone aside Julie Roehm was pretty flat.
By default this session turned into more of a video-centric session ... Palmer identified 3 core areas of online video - snacking, download to own and Internet TV (ie long form). He also identified 3 core areas of advertising - transactional, call to action and brand ... unfortunately nothing was really done to marry the two into some sort of pointed dialogue.
Palmer raised the question 'Does Advertising Suck' ... it was commented on by Roehm than advertising for some generations 'sucks' becuase their exposure to advertising in past has been all about interruption ... not about value ... and that the next generation won't have the same strong blanket opinion of advertising as it will become more relevant and targeted, hence valuable.
Roehm also touched on the issue of publishers claiming that they have strict quality control whem it comes to advertiser integration, but in the harsh reality of a soft market these restrictions become a little easier to avoid ... the Sales Director of Martha Stewart said this wasn't the case with her network but I thought the wider concept was an interesting one and one we should feel confident bringing up with our publisher partners.
Shelly also (moreso to be controversial) asked whether advertisers should pay a premium for bad creative ... reason being bad creative makes people tune out hence impacts ratings and impacts results for other advertisers.
3:30: Power Panel: The Modern Agency
Obviously being an agency guy this was of huge interest to me - they had assembled a really strong panel with senior management from AKQA, Carat, Neo@Ogilvy and Organic ... and all had solid opinions. Grant McDougal - VP of Carat - was an Aussie too ... so was good to hear an Aussie accent.
This notion of the 'modern agency' is one being thrown around a lot now and the panel acknowledged that the session would probably spark more questions than answers ... but they did identify 3 key trends impacting on the role of 'the agency'
- consumers changing media consumption and how they connect with brands
- average CMO/Marketing Director tenure is 26 months
- Clients are often in the middle of agency partners trying to wrangle control - hence the client becomes more a referee.
Greg Smith from Neo@Ogilvy said that 'Clients get the Agencies they deserve' which was pretty apt. He felt the agency had almost become a chameleon and was guilty of sometimes keeping clients happy rather than challenging them.
Asked their opinion of key attributes in a 'modern agency' some of the responses were
- ability to really adapt/change across the board ... not selective change.
- Data literacy across all staff
- True creative - creative that can work across platforms
- consumer centricity
- improved tools - data, aggregation - making things less labour intensive
The question was asked if clients have given away too much of their strategic thinking - and whether the example of a 'lead agency' that acts as the brand cop is detrimental. Most agreed the client essentially needs to be the brand cop - and bring to the table the overriding vision that their agency partners execute.
Grant from Carat commented that agencies such as naked are becoming more popular as they are media neutral and take a communications and problem solving lead. 'You can't mark your own homework' he said.
Consensus was reached that the modern agency will be ideas led and will craft media around what needs to be delivered to solve a problem. The idea of 'clout' or buying size/scale will become irrelevant as bid management and algorhythms and data become king.
Greg from Neo commented on agencies using antiquated data to make decisions on digital media ... I felt the example of Roy Morgan in Oz was relevant as Morgan's measurement of digital is embarassing however the agency environment has done a great job of making clients feel consumer insights need to be based on a framework of Morgan data ... despite the fact it's sketchy at best. This moved onto the agencies with the strongest propietary data sources having a strong advantage moving forward as they can use this to craft campaigns and also develop real metrics. Perhaps moving forward Media Agencies and Data Analysis type agencies (such as Wunderman) would work closer together or even as one?
A question was asked from an audience member re the fee structure for this new, expanded service offering ... which was greeted with mininal response. Tom Bedecarre from AKQA went as far as to say that media agencies and large scale advertising holding companies are solely to blame for the commoditised nature of service pricing particularly in media - that they had commoditised the industry. Greg from Neo added that client procurement approach is often misguided as some view marketing and comms services just like they view purchasing raw materials like metal or sugar ... there's a strong lack of understanding of value as the procurement people don't look beyond the raw costs.
Tom from AKQA asked whether we are asking too much of digital media practitioners in an agency structure - expecting the one staff member to be great at client facing, able to formulate strategy, buy media, optimise and analyse as well as manage the business ... and whether agencies have done enough to train their digital and, in fact, all staff to make them digital literate. The consensus was no.
The final takeout was an apt one. 'Don't drive the channel, drive the ultimate result.'
4:45: Power Panel: Social Network Marketing - Exploring the value proposition
This panel saw speakers from AKQA, Myspace, Target and EA - so it was a good mix of client, creative and publisher. The only missing element was a media person .... and the session needed it as we saw some pretty ambiguous metrics thrown around!
Initially some topline stats were gone through - usage across demo's, revenue increases and the inability of the main publishers to crack the killer ad model. Nothing really new.
Myspace and the EA client went through a case study for their Burnout game. The EA guy acknowledged straight away that he has an immediate advantage in this sort of space having a 'high involvement' product ... and the Myspace guy chimed in with 'research' that showed that users want to be friends with brands. I'm not that sure what 'friends' means exactly.
The EA campaign was case studied by Isobar, Carat, FIM and also Marketing Evolution ... some interesting results but nothing that definitive. The main takeout is that passalong advocacy (ie word of mouth) is a lot more powerful than b2c comms ... which I am sure no one disputes.
The digital guy from Target presented the Brand New Dorm campaign on Facebook with their creative agency AKQA ... a campaign aimed at college students (hence FB was a no brainer). The numbers to me didn't seem that 'wow' ... but one thing I have noticed today is the emphasis in the US with brand marketers is all about quality not quantity - I would argue that in AU this isn't the case. The US marketers (even those from mammoth FMCG and retail brands) talk about quality dialogue with 7,000 people as a win ... whereas in AU the emphasis is always on mass reach and often interruption. I think in these areas we have a long way to go.
Ross from AKQA likened 'traditional media' to a theatre show. It's rehearsed and controlled - it's a 1 way dialogue with the focus on the audience accepting the message and content. Social Media is like a house party ... the participants become the content and the excitement comes from the guests.
Great points but it fell down when measurement was discussed. The guy from Target claimed that the Facebook campaign was a big success despite the metrics being ambiguous at best. They quoted friends and comments as metrics - which I find odd as these aren't forms of measurement ... he then also claimed he had a sales uplift directly accountable to Facebook ... but then retracted this when pushed saying 'I think it helped sales, we can't directly account sales to that channel.'
Fox Interactive Media/myspace claim that in 09 they will have measurement that fills the gap between media activity and sales activity - which is a helluva gap at the moment and in my opinion the one issue that is going to see Social Network spend flatten unless rectified.
So - Day 1 down ... some great sessions. Only real downside was a reasonable percentage of billed speakers did not attend - which is pretty lame. I didn't get much of a chance to check out the exhibitors hall but from my quick look there are a shedload of remnant and behavioural targeting suppliers - more than anyone could ever entertain seeing!