AdTech Keynote: What The Past Five Years Can Teach Us
Hi, friends. Yes, we really are doing this again. I have 17 sessions to cover over the next three days (assuming I hit all the keynotes). My eyes are already welling up with tears. And even worse, the closest Starbucks is still too far to walk to in heels. Somebody hates me and I’m pretty sure it’s Susan.
Despite my non-caffeinatedness, it’s time for this morning’s keynote. On stage, Lynne Johnson (FastCompany.com) is set to interview keynote speaker Brian McAndrews (aQuantive, Inc) on one of the coolest navy blue couches I’ve ever seen. That’s how you know this is an advertising conference – the sets totally rock. I wonder if that blue couch and the accompanying orange chairs would fit in our rental car? They’d look wicked sweet in my apartment.
Drew Ianni starts with some opening remarks and making San Jose vs. San Francisco jokes that I don’t understand. Drew says he’s from the 408. Or something. Other people laughed so I did too (I already feel inferior because I don’t have a blackberry. I don’t want to feel totally out of the loop). Thankfully, he moves on to some Ad:Tech housekeeping and says Ad:Tech is about how digital is transforming marketing communications. It’s given me a job for one thing. He also talks about the upcoming Ad:Tech awards and how there will be free booze. People laugh again and this time I can comfortably join in. I, too, understand the humor in free booze.
Drew welcomes the marketing maelstrom. Luckily, Drew defined "maelstrom" before my brain had a chance to explode. A maelstrom is a powerful, often violent whirlpool sucking in objects within a given radius. That sounds disgusting.
From there, Drew offers a State of the Industry and talks about things like DoubleClick, YouTube, how content is king, the rich getting richer (99 percent of online revenue is going to the Top 10 sites), and the importance of measurement. All good stuff.
And with that, it’s time for this morning’s keynote. Yay.
Lynne says welcome (Welcome, everyone!) and asks Brian, whose been in the game for a long time, how he came out of the "bust" five years ago.
The key for Brian was that his company was founded on the idea that digital was going to be valuable, and that over time everything would become digital. He says that even during the downturn he knew his company was going to be worthwhile and that marketers were going to pay for that. His company had a lot of people who continued to believe in the direction they were headed.
Brian says that behind the scenes they stayed afloat by trying to bring traditional companies into the digital space. They didn’t just focus on those "hot companies" with unsustainable business model. They diversified revenue streams. Perhaps most importantly, they had a relative mature management team comprised of people from different experiences who had already been through the down times and knew how to handle it. I think that’s pretty important. You want people who know how to handle disaster and find their way out of it.
Lynne questions Brian on what’s different from the last boom to today’s boom. Brain says there’s a more stable foundation of marketers in the industry. The reality is there are so many companies now who are firmly footed in this industry. Back in 2000, a lot of the high flyers were unprofitable. Today that isn’t the case. The companies that are footed in this place are valuable and marketers themselves are very strategic. They’re not getting into digital because they "have to". They’re getting involved because they recognize that it’s good business and that’s where customers and viewers are going. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction, which is very different from years past.
Lynne asks: Where do you think we’re going in the next five years? Will we still be looking to integrate traditional and digital, or will be all digital?
We’re going to be closer to all digital, states Brian. Ultimately all media will become digital. In the next five years, you’ll see significant shift. A key development will be with television. By 2008, 43 percent of all households will have video on demand in some form and we’re already seeing that with devices like TiVo. (I wish I had TiVo. I’m missing some quality cheese programming this week.) [I love my TiVo. –Susan]
Brian’s company is taking their learned lessons from the Internet (technology, analytics, etc.) and repurposing it for the other mediums. Brian also talks about inserting dynamic ads into television (Google? Are you listening?). There will be more fragmentation. The Web site is replacing the :30 commercial in terms of defining the brand of a company. The ability to interact deeply with a Web site and have an immersive interactive experience is where marketers are going today.
Brain says the reason dynamic ads and on-demand programming is important is because consumers want it. Also, cable companies recognize this is an opportunity to respond to the desire for consumer control and make their product more readily available to them. This gives them an economic model to do that. This is where the world is going.
Lynne says: Lots of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) going on lately. Why do you think this trend is coming about?
According to Brian, the trend of M&A has been there off and on all along. It was on the "off" during the burst because companies didn’t want to bet on companies. This is a very dynamic industry with lots of innovations. One of the similarities between now and five years ago are that companies you’ve never heard of 5 years ago are now at the top of their game. Think Facebook (hi, girls!), YouTube, etc.
Brian’s strategy is that they’re not a roll-up. It’s not about growth. It’s about understanding what their customers need and then deciding if it’s better to build it or to buy it. Brian said his company’s acquisitions are driven by what the customers want, especially geographically. Brian says global expansion is both an offensive move and a defensive move. To Brain it makes more sense for companies to grow organically than through acquisitions.
Lynne: Often we’re hearing a lot about integration, social media, video, etc. It’s really changing the way the business is developing. What really is integration?
Brian says what marketers ultimately want is one view of their customers. They want to interact with them through various channels and learn more about them and what they’re interested in. Consumer A is interested in X and we’ve reached them through Y and Z. You can use this information to target them later on. Traditional agencies used to come up with a big idea for TV and then try and repurpose it through radio, print and billboards. This is not the model of the future.
The model of the future is that we have to think about all the channels upfront. When we think about messaging a consumer, we need to find an approach that is relevant to all mediums. You have to think upfront about the creative message and what the interactive is that your consumers will have with that message. Where do you want to be seen? Where do you not want to be seen? It’s more work, but you get a lot more data too. Brian’s belief is that digital becomes the center where marketers are left much better informed about how users are going to interact.
Lynne says mobile is a totally different beast with no advertising standard. How should marketers be creative?
Brian says when he thinks about mobile he fears that trying to standardize it too quickly will kill it. Mobile is different, he says. There’s a certain utility and value to mobile that’s very quick. Users are looking for things to "snack on", not necessarily to watch an entire full length movie. His feeling is people will be creative but he says let’s learn and take the time to make some mistakes and experiment before creating standards that everyone has to adapt to. Amen, my friend!
Lynne asks about social media and questions Brian about his company is working with clients.
Brian calls social media an interesting change in the landscape. There are constantly things coming out and consumers are defining the marketplace. In turn, this advertising is content they’re deciding how they want to receive that and how they want to avoid it. It’s another part of the media fragmentation. Social media is here to stay. People want to have the opportunity to interact, to make their opinions known, to share content with their peers, etc. Viral may become the new broadcast.
Marketers need to listen to those consumers – go to blogs and see what’s being said about you. Use that big focus group to see how people are naturally reacting to your message. Also, recognize that "interactive" means two-way. You can have a really long interactive with consumers that you could never have before. You can see when they left your page, what you asked for that turned them away, how long do they spend on our page? In return for that learning you have to take some risks. You need to be willing to listen, to be open and figure out a way to measure it.