Relatively tame afternoon at Ad:Tech - which was good considering the whirlwind that was this morning. The exhibition packed up at 5 today but the conference continues all day tomorrow with 7 must-see events. I attended 2 panels.
2:45: Consumer Insights: Leading Marketers Share Their Vision
I felt, to be honest, there wasn't a whole lot of vision sharing if we really break down what this means. A lot of ambiguous marketing macro stuff was tossed around but in essence it really didn't amount to too much. I really enjoyed Zdenek Kratky from Philips - he was pretty frank and discussed the way he likes to leverage digital media. He talked about:
- knowing your audience
- entertaining your audience
- inviting dialogue
- activating further communication
Pretty basic framework - but one that I think gives some structure to the way he approached marketing on digital platforms. He stated that it's important to remember that marketing is storytelling and the medium used is the one that best allows you to tell that story. If digital isn't as well suited to doing this in an instance that TV there's no point trying to make it fit.
Mel Clements from Nike was asked whether the spectrum of digital options available was overwhelming ... "I think they're underwhelming" he replied, saying that there were so many ways and none of them really stood out as being any better than the rest. In this case they go back to the basics - content, creative and storytelling.
Kratky made a great observation: "We can't allow technology to substitute for content" he said, "Walking around here I see a lot of great technology but what does it really do?"
I think, as an agency person, it was helpful to get some candid insights from high level marketers on how they view digital. It's often something we don't really know - is it an after thought, do they understand? Am I getting through? One thing I took away is one of the keys is to make things easy ... cost, time, approval, agency touchpoints - these are all areas I think digital often convolutes what could be relatively simple processes. In hindsight, just that take out alone probably made the session useful.
4: Gamer Nation: Exploring Advertising Effectiveness in the Gaming Eco-System.
We have at Mindshare recently executed some in-game campaigns and have been using virtual worlds like Habbo and Neopets for the past 3 years ... so it was great to have access to some learnings and insight from the US market as to where gaming is heading and the best way to activate it for clients.
The turn out was slim compared to some of the other keynotes - I get the feeling that in some ways in-game isn't viewed in as high esteem as display/mobile/search - however the panelists seemed enthused. I was speaking to Christopher Thomas of Massive in the US after and I got the sense from speaking to him that some of the same frustrations are felt in the US as in Australia for the in-game players and agencies looking to use the platform. What are those frustrations - creative adaption and the value advertisers can bring to the player.
Panel wise it was moderated by Mark Friedler ... with Adam Naide from Gametap/Turner, Chuck Frizelle from Microsoft/Xbox New Media, Julie Schmacher from Doublefusion and Dave Williams from MTVN.
'So why are games valuable?' was the first topic. Generally it was accepted that games had, indeed, become 'media' ... no longer just a packaged good. They had crossed out of the 20-something male pigeonhole and become almost universal (they quoted the fact that The Sims franchise has sold over 100m units, with the majority of players young females).
Julie from Doublefusion said games were 'the first digital communities' ... saying games had always been about community and citing LAN parties during the 90's as examples of shared networking in an entertainment sense. Friedler interestingly said that you could even look at ebay as the worlds largest online game - given it's a dynamic, multiplayer strategic play ... which is kinda correct when you think about how some people transact!
Similar to the earlier session with the Marketers - strong game advertising/integration came back to storytelling - giving the gamers relevant currency. The notion of gaming being a muliple touchpoint one was discussed - with T-Mobile for NBA 2k08 having hard coded in game product, dynamic in-game display advertising, sponsorship of a NBA 2k07 tournament on XBox 07 and live event activation.
Chuck from Massive talked about an anonymous agency wanting to incorporate their roll-on deodorant product into Halo ... they literally wanted the lead character to apply the roll-on in game ... "They had a straight face the whole time" said Chuck ... the audience had a chortle as I think most of us in agency land have had a least someone want us to pursue something as interruptive on a digital channel, be it client or colleague. His answer, "Agencies have a responsibility to ask themselves - 'would I want this?' If you do this and you are truly honest with yourself than you will sort through the 95% rubbish ... the other 5% we can evolve together."
In terms of innovations moving forward, xbox has just integrated the MSN Ad Expert platform into in-game ... the exact same system you see across MSn and Messenger etc ... I asked whether this meant consolidated reporting in the future across all MS platforms and Frizelle said yes ... it just may take a while as they have 6 platforms to integrate.
There was also talk of Massive and Doublefusion working closer together with the IAB to come up with a standard for in-game placement ... right now it's not consistent. "We are doing the industry a disservice" - Schumacher.
Friedler touched on Virtual Worlds - he asked whether they were really "3D Web Environments" ... which is a great descriptor. I look at things like Habbo and Neopets as primarly communication tools with some dynamic graphic elements ... but if you look at the core motivator it's about communication ... Schumacher said these areas are "The Web meeting games halfway" and said they are a great first path for advertisers to look at activity in games. First hand I would agree, we have had some outstanding campaigns on Habbo and Neopets that have placed traditionally conservative brands into fresh environments.
So two days in, what are the 5 main take outs from Ad:Tech thus far? Well ...
1. The US is primed for agency integration and publisher integration
What does this mean? Well ... it means no more [publisher or agency name] Digital ... digital departments will cease to exist and the term 'digitally led' or 'digitally equipped' will become the norm. My gut feeling is over here, if you don't understand the new digital platforms and how these are being weaved into broadcast then it will be touch to continue to work in media. Publisher wise, cross platform selling makes total sense ... the only thing that will stop it in AU is skilling up sales teams ... ditto for agencies. As for agencies, a digital specialist is essentially redundant if all media is digital, right? And creative agencies here that make their name on f*ck off 30 second TVCs have already been made extinct. Agencies like AKQA in SF are winning business of established, big name, 'traditional' agencies ... why? Because clients are demanding competence across all channels. Will this happen in AU - lets hope so!
2. Broadcast and traditional media is more important than ever
By no means is TV or print dying (well newspapers may be struggling but that is another story) ... what is needed is uniform measurement across ALL channels. The notion of isolated reporting channel by channel is antiquated ... we need to quantify HOW all media works together to influence consumption and generate a solution to an objective. We know broadcast activates online ... and we know online can activate broadcast. How can we measure how all these media work together? And who is going to create the software that makes it all make sense?
3. Mobile has a cheer squad in 08
I think there is a strong will for mobile to tip in 08 ... from carriers to manufacturers to agencies to advertisers. There is also better understanding of the user and what will motivate them. I think we'll see some great, VALUABLE mobile campaigns ... which will spur more innovation and more trial. Personally I think it's ready to go in AU.
4. The US publishers are more open to collaboration than their Australian counterparts
From seeing how the big publishers speak, and most importantly, act over here ... they realise the user is in control and have adapted to this. They are pushing content out to alternative channels and realising it's not all about bringing people to your destination. They have relinquished some of the controls around their content and are finding more people are becoming engaged and advocates. An example of this is Hulu on Yahoo! ... would we ever see Network 7 extend their programs onto youtube - doubtful ... I realise AU is a little different given a small amount of people own most media sources, but we don't see much sharing of content. I think this is to the detriment of users, and most importantly the publishers. It's an ego play that clouds what needs to happen.
5. Social Networking has a long way to go to win over marketers
I think over here the jury is still out on the advertising value of Social Networks. I think from the panels where Social Networking advocates have spoken the responses have been extremely lukewarm when it comes to hard metrics and measureability. It is acknowledged users are there and they are engaged ... what is unknown is can brands play a valuable role in this space?