The Ad Age Digital Conference in San Francisco is a good place to evaluate how marketing and communication professionals feel about digital.
On the brand side
If there’s only one take away from this conference, it would have to be how keen everyone is on the importance of digital in the media mix. This is even more evident when examining the effectiveness of traditional media (a participant demonstrated that in real terms, it is now two to three times more expensive in the United States to buy television advertisements and press exposure than it was in the 1970s). This attitude can be expressed in numbers: Heineken invested 12% of its advertising budget in digital last year, which will increase to 16% this year and 20% next year.
For the most part, ‘campaign logic’ drives the strategies of most brands in an effort to optimize the visibility of a great story across social media. Clearly we are at Ad Age and not Fast Company…
To show how quickly their computers boot up, Lenovo concocted a scenario where a computer is thrown from an airplane and a parachutist jumps after it and turns it on. Upon computer start up, the CD reader opens, which pulls the computer’s parachute just in the nick of time. The digital strategy included a “making of” film to show that nothing was doctored during production. Entertaining, for sure, but quite frankly, digital should do more for the brand, especially when it has digital in its DNA, as Lenovo does.
Here are a few interesting insights from the conference:
Participating brands are stuck on the idea that images and content with high viral potential should be drawn from the real world. When Newcastle beer makes fun of its competitor with a poster that asks, “Who uses the word ‘Chalice’?” beside a poster sporting a glass of beer and the caption, “This isn’t a glass, it’s a Chalice,” it does so with a viral objective and only needs one poster to do the trick.
Twitter validates this approach by showing several examples of opportunistic campaigns based on an event or a tweet and orchestrated on the fly. For example, the Audi R8 campaign took off from a client’s tweet that said that she would really like to own one. Audi’s response was to deliver one to her door the next day and invite anyone else who would like to get their hands on an R8 to tweet the hashtag #WantAnR8.
British Airways delivered a convincing demonstration of their advanced thinking by eliminating client data silos. A great example: to offer special treatment to a frequent traveller (loyalty data) who usually flies in business (transaction data), but who is flying in economy this time – seat 44C (check-in data) – with his family on vacation. The device that makes this special in-flight treatment possible is none other than the iPad, which provides the cabin crew with personalized details and instructions to enhance the frequent flyer’s experience.
A remarkable start-up and some useful ideas
Endorse is a start-up that developed an application with big players such as Kraft and Pepsi to bypass coupon distribution hurdles. The premise is simple and seems to work: the consumer takes a photo of their receipt with the app which then serves as a coupon. Simple and irrefutable. Of course, it’s in the interest of big brands to sponsor initiatives that will provide them with direct access to the consumer… here’s a bit of info that leaked out at the conference – Procter & Gamble is only interested in a mobile/social app when it reaches 10 million users, which, for the moment, puts it in an extremely exclusive club.
Here’s a fun idea from Heineken: a plug-in that hides all references to a particular soccer game (including team names and players) in the browser. The viewer can surf the web without the risk of finding out the score of the game before they are ready to watch it.
Google is interested in the moments leading up to a transaction. Already, the most used and most pertinent mobile scenario is Google Search functioning as a telephone book, linking results to a direct call button. But they also see great potential in using telephones like consumer payment terminals. For example, rather than waiting in line at the movie theatre or at the museum, why not produce a ticket on the spot, or better yet, in transit, with the telephone acting as a receipt to show or to scan?
Ben Fox is a media consultant who projected an old-fashioned and impossible world where the consumer will be bombarded by contextual ads in their Google glasses. It’s not likely, as no one could handle this advertiser’s dream; real, quality good Google Glass applications have yet to be developed.
And finally, a wonderful presentation by Drew Breuning, Senior Director of Product at PlaceIQ, highlighted mobile opportunities that will, in his opinion, multiply as localization usage matures. Much more than just maps, localization allows for three things that will become a recurring theme in mobile applications:
In conclusion, it was a somewhat paradoxical conference in that it showed a true acknowledgement of digital (especially viral/social) by advertisers, but leaves the ‘real’ innovations to the entrepreneurs. An exception: PepsiCo is trying to bring the best of both worlds together by developing start-ups in a lab opportunely located in Silicon Alley.
Read more from Jean Pascal at A Nos Vies Numériques.