Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ad:Tech SF - Day 2 - Update 1

Whoa - a jam packed morning at Ad:Tech with 4 sessions back to back from 9 to 1:15 ... no breaks and no breakfast :( (those who know me will know I need my morning muesli.)

ANYWAY - on to the recaps.

9am: Keynote: Content and Control; Big Media in the Digital Age

The room was packed for this and rightly so as it saw George Kliavkoff (from hereon referred to as George K) being interviewed by Adam Lashinksy from Fortune. George K is the Chief Digital Officer for NBC Universal - this means he is the main man when it comes to the groups digital plays, and believe me there are a load of them. He was also interim CEO of (which is being talked up a lot over here and is ridiculously cool) and has worked previously at MLB and also Real. NBC's digital plays include Hulu, ivillage,, nbc direct, cnbc, Inside Hollywood and more. George K is responsible for over $1bn USD in revenue

First of all hats off to Lashinksy - he was a great interviewer and asked the right questions ... I think at times George K was trying a little too hard to be diplomatic but I think Lashinksy pushed him as much as he possibly could in such a public forum.

The session was introduced with a quick sizzle reel of NBCs plans for the Olympics. For them they want it to be largest digital media event of all time and the positioning was around 'Your Olympics.' For them it's not all about broadcast anymore - it is for them a 3 screen play - TV, mobile device and Internet. Get this - NBC are offering 2200 hours of LIVE footage online plus 3600 hours of on demand content. This is just staggering and something I haven't heard of being done in Australia. For NBC they sold packages across the 3 screens from the beginning for the Summer Games ... and try and utilise this across their key TV - with the sales team for a show such as 30 Rock or The Office, selling both TVCs, online and mobile packages. "NBC is a 3 screen experience." We have seen this done in Au through ventures such as Yahoo!7 with Kath and Kim ... however in my opinion the online component has been significantly weaker than the TV. Mobile doesn't appear to be a thought in AU for these assets.

I really like George K's comment about competitors. "They are anyone who is going to take the consumers attention." I think this is really apt and something often forgotten when people start focusing too much on their immediate competitors. A movie distributor needs to be as aware of what digital media plays are doing to engage eyeballs as they are of other movie distributors. Are they? Unlikely ... Same with AU's big 5 media players - stop always trying to compare your efforts with your large scale immediate competitors - these ARE NOT your competition ... the rest of the wide world of the web is and they are beating you.

K talked about the rollout of Hulu and commented on its softly softly approach. They realised that resolving potential internal issues was as important if not more than purely logistical ones and they spent time ensuring that Fox and NBCU management were aligned with a single agreed vision for the service. Hulu has distro deals with MSN, AOL, FIM, Comcast and yahoo! - combined these reach 97% of the US Internet population. They also have 50 content deals ... so they are doing a solid job of pushing out their content to external sources, but also using external content providers to create a more robust offering.

Hulu has a strong focus on targeting - demo, psychographic and contextual - as a way of increasing yield moving forward. They also give the user (who is watching a 21m EP of, lets say, The Office, the choice of watching a longer TVC pre the show beginning, or having 5 x 15 sec TVCs sprinkled throughout the episode. I felt this user choice was a smart move - however, who would choose to watch 5 TVCs instead of 1?

K talked about NBCs decision to take their paid TV downloads off iTunes ... claiming the decision was based around Apple's reluctance to allow NBC to set the wholesale price. Lashinsky asked "How did it feel to give Steve Jobs the finger" ... K didn't really respond aside commenting that "everyone platform in the world allows you to set your wholesale price aside one."

There was talk about how NBC content now fits into YouTube. K commented it is a "great promotional vehicle" and it was the "amateur content" market leader. I noticed that the larger scale broadcast guys are very pointed in pigeonholing YouTube as "amateur content" ... and the general consensus amongst this group is that the core demand is for premium content. K mentioned the piracy issue with YouTube had improved and gave credit to YouTube for "significantly" reducing the amount of pirated material. He felt with YouTube the reason the situation had improved was due to collaboration between NBCU and YouTube - "The threat of a lawsuit won't motivate people to do the right thing."

I liked how K acknowledged that "the best defence is a good offence" and mentioned that one of the reason YouTube worked so well was that it could offer an experience quicker and better with NBCU content than NBCU was ... now this has changed with Hulu and NBCU have a much more robust format in terms of player, duration and speed.

Very exciting was to hear that they are working on global expansion for Hulu. Now - what will this mean for NBCU assets in Australia - will we see 30 Rock, Law & order, The office, ER, Heroes, Las Vegas, Medium etc available on-demand with full episodes in Oz? And how will this affect the local carriers?

On mobile K stated that video on mobile hadn't taken off due a lack of marketing and also technical issues, but the idea was "compelling."

"We deliver content to screens, and that is the screen that is always with you."

They spoke briefly about - which is NBCU's digital (online and VOD) TV Auto channel. K called it "car porn" and spoke briefly about the business model behind it. Auto in the US is the number one advertising category and for NBCU it made sense to pursue this model due to car enthusiasts being underserved for high end video content online.

When asked whether tools such as Hulu and NBC Direct would affect live TV viewership, K stated that people are using services like Hulu as a personal DVR ... it's catch up TV as opposed to cannibalisation. He mentioned that it was yet to be determined whether having such a huge amount of TV readily available in strong quality would affect syndication/repeat models moving forward.

I really enjoyed this session.

10: Keynote Roundtable: State of the Industry presented by IAB

It's refreshing to see the IAB are visible and active in the US - they really do take a leadership role (generally) in setting standards for most (not all) digital formats. Michael Theodore from the IAb chaired this with Todd Teresi from Yahoo, Jeremy Wright from Nokia, Jennifer Moyer from Newsweek/Washington Post and a guy from Starcom MediaVest who for some reason isn't in the infobook. Anyway - we had agency guy, publisher girl, mobile guy and ad network guy ... a good balance for talking macro/micro trends.

Areas discussed were

Economic Downturn (US). This is web 2.0's first economic downturn, however it was acknowledged that the economic factors now are different to those in 99/00 when the tech crash happened. It was commented that in tough times finance/travel and classifieds revenue will suffer ... and Auto may also suffer in the future. This would have sounded some warning bells in the audience as Auto is biiiig over here. It was also commented that Ad networks/Affiliates offering direct response/CPA type campaigns will benefit as they can show instance ROI on cost ... and that premium areas (ie high CPM) may suffer. Todd from Yahoo! felt the industry was robust in terms of usage which was a positive entering uncertain times. Jeremy from Nokia felt recession could expeidate the shift to digital and felt that once dollars are shifted they won't go back to traditional broadcast. The guy from Starcom made a valid point - broadcast and digital need to work hand in hand - both need eachother to work ... now the key in these times is understanding how to set the balance. He felt an economic downturn would see significant changes in agency structure - data being critical.

Measurement - Do we need to find move definite numbers to encourage CPG/FMCG advertisers to use online more? Do we need more measurement around attitudinal shifts and the longer term affects (positive or negative) of consistent web presence - as opposed to campaign by campaign isolated analysis. There was discussion of a need for everyone to work at more concrete social media analysis. Starcom guy: "So I had 1000 friends and 500 comments. What does that even mean?"

Mobile - Is 2008 the year of the mobile? Jeffrey from Nokia spoke about the 3bn mobile phones globally. He asked for a show of hands of people using mobile tools such as short code etc for their clients - very few hands went up. He also commented that he felt some of the issues with mobile not tipping is due to agencies not spending enough time and money understanding the area ... it's not solely the carriers faults for data charges. It was commented by the guy from Starcom that mobile is a focal point in 08 - clients want to know about the area and ways it can be used. He cited a few areas such as utility and local search, commenting it wasn't about 'banner ads'.

Video - The IAB's Theodore commented that video hadn't really exploded like everyone had thought. Some impediments to this happening were raised - lack of standisation across platforms, the TVC approach doesn't really utilise the medium as well as it could be. "Advertisers need a clear reason to move dollars into this area." I think the fact that people are using it and the inventory is there is not at all a compelling reason to move TV budget to digital ... the creative execution needs to offer something on digital it can't offer on broadcast. It was raised by the Starcom rep that traditional broadcast brands have a clear advantage in this area as they already have built up trust with advertisers they can leverage onto this platform - the content and delivery is deemed trustworthy. He said amateur video such as YouTube had huge potential due to the numbers, but that model was yet to be figured out. He also commented that potentially the way brands and advertisers are going to use online video is become broadcasters of their own. "Why just limit your use of this channel to a pre-roll, some brands have some amazing content they could use themselves in their own experience."

11: Keynote: You Don't know Jack - Teens Speak Out

Moderated by Samantha Skey from Alloy Media and Marketing, this wasn't too bad. They wheeled out 5 'Millenials' on stage ... it's always weird how marketers view and explain kids ... they almost view them like another life form ... at the end of the day they're just people!

Skey touched briefly on the millenial - aged 12-24, there are 53.9m of them in the US. They have over 400bn combined discretionary income and 9 out of 10 are close to their parents. They are confident and have high aspirations. For them technology is a life enabler, not something that makes life more difficult or something 'to keep up with.'

The 5 panelists were a good mix. There was a precocious 14 yo girl who was sort of like a real life Lisa Simpson (without spikey hair), one 16 yo guy, one 16 yo girl and 2 freshman college students. It's important to acknowledge this probably wasn't an average mix of 12-24 Americans ... they were all very confident and very educated.

Asked what device they could not live without the two answers were Mobile (2) and Laptop (3).

4 areas were discussed

Convergence: Most of the Millenials agreed that if one device could do everything for them (ie music, phone, laptop, text) then they would embrace this. Most hardly watched TV on TV ... in fact, it seemed the notion of watching TV on TV was so far fetched for them that it was almost antiquated ... most were watching tv on their laptop or other devices ... TV for them was something they watched on their own time ... the notion of appointment viewing is gone. They understood the economic realities of advertising but also mentioned it was hard for advertising to catch their attention. They didn't mind ads IF they provided value. They touched briefly on social networks and most seemed to lean towards Facebook - cleaner interface and they felt it wasn't as interruptive with advertising.

Saving The world: 89% of millenials would switch brands if like for like the other brand is associated with a good cause. The website was discussed and all were fans ... it was also asked whether if they had the choice of being rewarded themselves for engaging with a brand online OR the brand donating something to a chartiable group they would choose charity over self-gain. Interesting, but I highly doubt that if you were in front of 2,000 people you would take the selfish option. One of the college students gave the example of brands offering lame merchandise in exchange for an action (like a t-shirt with a brand logo on it). "Why would I even want that" he asked ... "to me it's just them extending their advertisement onto me. It'd be better if they used the budget for this to do something good for others." whilst most were do-gooders ... it seemed pretty easy to influence their opinion of upstanding corporate behaviour - both Chevron and Starbucks were quoted as organisations they thought were doing good ... word of mouth is the key for credibility in the world of social good.

Virality: The Obama 'yes We Can' video was discussed - over 14m views ... it was mentioned that the star power definitely plays a roll in this being taken in. In terms of viral content the main triggers/impulse for forwarding were legitimacy (ie - it's not a link to a virus), Cause and Humour ("I want to share something that has made me happy"). A strong value proposition also encouraged people to forward (like a sale, something free) and the College student guy said for him he wasn't all about laughs. "I want something original")

Utility: The most important utilities were search (ie finding people on Facebook/myspace) and Photo's. "Photo's tell the story of who you are." It was discussed by the group that sponsors must offer a clear value proposition when using these social networks - something different, something new.

The highlight was right at the end, when the younger Lisa Simpson-esque girl addressed the room (2,000 marketers) and said "Don't try to be cool - you're just not. Don't use like crazy spelling in your ads like K-E-W-L ... what I am? Like 5??"

12:15: Emerging Platforms: TV 3.0

To be honest I sort of tuned out during this as it was recapping a lot of content from the earlier George K keynote. Daisy Whitney was a good moderator however.

Only real takeout was the VP of Ad Sales Research from Turner threw a cat amongst the pigeons when talking about TV.

"The sky isn't falling for TV" she muttered ... before rolling off some figures in regards to digital video use. NB - these figures were from Sept 07 but are still valid.

In Sept 07 there were 113m individuals in the US streaming video. These people watched 61bn videos which worked out around 54 videos per viewer. Per month they spent 2.3 hours watching online video. The average TV viewer spends 158 hours per month watching live TV (ie not including TiVo).

An interesting hypothetical was raised - could we see in future makegoods being made up across channels. Ie - if your TV weights are less than booked, could the network make up that audience online ... or vice versa ... or even across other media (Magazines/papers, outdoor). It was discussed that this may become common soon.

Ok so that's a wrap of the morning - back to it.

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