SES San Francisco 2011: View from the Top Keynote

Here we are wrapping up SES 2011. It’s been a great time, lots of hard work and a fair amount of fun to go along with it. Here, we have a panel of peeps in the online advertising sector who will assess the current state of play and how the possibility of convergence may be closer than we think.

Matt McGowan, Managing Director, Americas, Incisive Media
Mike Grehan, Chair SES Advisory Board, Global VP Content, SES/Search Engine Watch/ClickZ

Seth Berman, Director, Global Marketing, BabyCenter
June Bower, VP Online Business, Cisco Systems
Chris Copeland, CEO, GroupM Search – The Americas
Daina Middleton, CEO, Performics
Giovanni Rodriguez, Digital and Social Strategy, Deloitte Consulting LLP

To start, they are debuting a video from our friends at Pixelsilk on its offering on multisite management. Awesome video!

Grehan says he feels like the stage is setup like a firing squad, and he’s also worried that everyone will be looking at his odd socks. We just found out

McGowan’s brother was the voice over for the introduction and will be on a TV show soon called Shameless.

McGowan: Let’s talk the year of convergence. What does that mean to you?

Copeland: It doesn’t matter where the user is in the day and what kind of device they are on, there’s a convergence. When we think about convergence, it’s how do we have a singular conversation with a potential customer or existing consumer with9ut walking in and out of their conversations. In TV, we are assuming we know where they are – we’re just now starting to get to the edge where brands can have one conversation with consumers on their terms and not just jumping in and out of the conversation. How do we align all of these media conversations and synchronize them?

Bower: If you think about what Apple has with the iPhone, they have considered your experience as the first thing. It’s about the experience. Convergence is really about the experience. One is the experience of the customer, and the other is about the experience of the marketing person. What’s the experience you can create across the board to make your brand compelling? At the core of it is understanding the customer and marketing person’s needs.

Berman: It is all about a mass personalization experience. It’s apps, mobile Web, Facebook, Twitter. Customers want different things from the different channels.

SES 2011 Afternoon Keynote

Middleton: Convergence means participation. We used to think of one-way dialogue. We’ve spent a lot of time on messaging, hoping someone will take it in and act on it. The world has dramatically shifted. The technology enables them to connect with brands in new ways. Mobile has taken it a step further. It’s really about relationships. At Performics, we think about how to develop a relationship between a brand and a person. Performance is important. How do we keep the relationship steady and deliver results?

Rodriguez: There’s four things to look at: Mobile, the cloud, analytics, offline stuff – social. We tend to use the word “social” in the context of media, but more and more, we are looking for ways to engage directly. Convergence to me is those four competencies to provide a complete experience.

Grehan: If we do get convergence, do we stop putting the “e” in front of things and just say “marketing”? Marketing has been fragmented between offline and online. Does convergence mean that we just have one agency that does everything?

Middleton: Agencies split around 1995 or do to be more efficient. You can look at executions and ask if it’s media, technology, etc. — and you would answer “yes” to all of those. Today you see media agencies being separated but they are being brought in at the front because it’s very important. Agencies moving forward, you will see stronger partners.

Copeland: The data that exists 10 years ago that exists today drives more intelligent decisions. You pick partners based on their perspective.

McGowan: Sounds like there are changes, from a client perspective, what do you expect an agency to do today?

Berman: We used to have one agency of record. When I left my past role, we had six different agencies. We have to find the right specialists to find what we can’t do. The marketers have to have a lot more skills and be more quantitative. The convergence is driving more fragmentation. One agency may not have expertise in every area.

Bower: Think about what motivates the people you work with. Money is a big motivator. When people are being paid to do search, they will tell you it’s the most important thing. But, who is advocating for your customer? It’s not about the media choice, but how the experience is going to touch your customers.

McGowan: Are we ever going to go back to the Mad Men days or make the process more and more complicated? Is there an end to this? Are we going to continue to fragment until we aren’t marketers anymore?

Grehan: I think the campaigns we need to create it’s not just 1:1 – it’s many: many. It’s difficult for someone to have all those skills.

Berman: One of the biggest challenges is the costs associated with one channel. Something has to give at some point. It’s not scalable. Marketing organizations aren’t just going to keep growing to produce content for all the channels.

Rodriguez: Companies like Best Buy leverage their reach into marketing by using people beyond the marketing team.

Middleton: We can’t go back to the Mad Men days. Broadcast invented all the marketing tools we use today and we have to shift those to live in this new reality.

Bower: How can you harness the power of your constituency to help you do the marketing? And align this with your business objectives.

Grehan: The book “Brand Hijack” is all about that.

[McGowan tells us there’s a bar in the back of the room and audience members who ask questions get a drink on SES.]

Grehan: Are we all in danger of having no privacy?

Middleton: The definition of privacy is changing. The world that my kids are growing up in is different. It’s a larger societal question. How will we draw lines with our own privacy? Clients have to become more responsible for their own data.

Grehan: Is it an ethical thing for marketers or is it the consumer’s responsibility?

Rodriguez: I think we all know now that anything we say or search for can all be discovered. There may be a lot of tension around the subject for a while.

McGowan jokes that in the future, wealth will be determined by how long you can disconnect from the Internet.

Audience Q and A:

Q: How do we help our customers understand the need for convergence?

Middleton: One of the ways we do this is to talk about the environment and what’s changed regardless of them. Whether the client decides to engage or not, it’s happening. We have banned the word “consumer” from our vocabulary. We say “participants.” If you make a language change, you make a perception shift.

Grehan just outed Bryan Eisenberg In the front row with us and making him respond.

Eisenberg: As we see the way the younger generation approached it, it’s going to change the way we do things. I’m concerned about how businesses are going to survive this for the next few years.

Grehan: Thanks for that doom and gloom [everyone laughs].
Greg Jarboe has the mic [also in the front row with us] Q: Convergence and organizational structures seem to be more inflexible than rapidly moving threats and opps. How do we evolve as rapidly?

McGowan: Be careful evolving every time there is a change. There’s a lot of distractions.

Rodriguez: We need to be aware of the pressure companies get from their competitors.

Q: How do you face the fear in a big company around the team you are working with if you say we are making a change and we have to stick to that?

Copeland: You have to stand by your convictions. Have agents that can ID where changes are taking place that are worth betting on. Some organizations embrace that and some frown upon it. To have fear about doing the right thing could potentially mean you are in the wrong place.

Bower: You have to keep bringing people up to speed, especially with search. Come up with internal campaigns. It’s a lot of time and effort, but in the end, you will get support and budget. It really changes perceptions. Target employees and management the same way you target your clients.

Q: As convergence happens, how do you restructure internally?

Middleton: The reality is, a lot of big brands have this problem. Taking the time and energy to get the right people in the room to under=stand the overall ripple effect of marketing is a tough one.

Rodriguez: We talk a lot about collaboration in tools, but I don’t think we’ve really figured out how to collaborate.

Q: The more you have convergence across channels, the more you have to think about narratives. Do you find that to be the case?

Rodriguez: We don’t tend to think about multiple scenarios, we think about a lifetime engagement and look at it from a week, year, etc.

Grehan: Let’s get some final thoughts. Convergence – is it conversion or convolution?

Copeland: We are all story tellers, we need to tell it or be a part of it. How do we engage and connect and be part of these stories of life?

Bower: I see it as two lines running in parallel. The beauty of it is, we keep getting new ways to connect and new tools. It will always be a challenge but I am excited.

Berman: Convergence is understanding what a consumer wants, I don’t need to worry about what channels our users wants.

Middleton: That’s why I am here, love that it changes every day. Is it complicated and messy? Yes. But so is life. Know your participant and figure out how to keep them engaged on an ongoing basis. It’s going to get messier but it’s a good thing.

Rodriguez: What we desire is integrity in our approach to consumers so that all the channels come together. It’s what we want as customers and vendors.

McGowan: See you again next year!

Jessica Lee is the founder and chief creative for bizbuzzcontent Inc., a marketing boutique that focuses on digital content strategy and professional writing services for businesses.

See Jessica's author page for links to connect on social media.

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