iMedia Agency Summit: Takeaways

Back a few days now from the iMedia Agency Summit. Numero uno bit of news is that I've been asked to do an occasional article and write a blog on iMediaConnection.com. My first blog post was on my impressions from the Summit. I'm going to double post most of what I write on iMedia here, but in the meantime you can check out my iMedia blog here.

Without further ado, reposted here for your reading pleasure:

Impressions from my first iMedia Agency Summit

Posted by Adam Kleinberg on December 13, 2008 at 01:00 AM PDT

A few months ago, Dave Smith from Mediasmith and I were talking and he told me I “had to” check out the iMedia Agency Summit coming up in Palm Springs. I went. It was the most valuable conference I’ve ever been to—made great connections, learned a lot, even had fun.

Here’s my top five takeaways from the Summit.

1. Optimism.
People were surprisingly optimistic about the economic downturn was going to be a boon to the online marketing industry (to the extent that one morning the event planners put up a slide joking that “Dow up 267 points based on optimism at iMedia Agency Summit”).

Not across the board, of course. One-on-one, I definitely talked to people who’ve been feeling the squeeze. However, as a group we are either incredibly lucky to be in this industry or a bunch of naïve fools.

2. The lines between media and creative are blurring.
There’s so many ways to reach an audience, so many opportunities to make a unique (and measureable) connection that creative and media simply cannot take place in a vacuum.

Publishers and Networks (NBC Universal, for example, showed work for Nissan that included a content integration with the show Heros that spanned) are developing creative on their own in many instances and in some cases, agencies with digital capabilities are starting to act like networks. In his keynote, the CEO of Havas Digital showed how they are developing their own ad targeting technology based on unique user-cookies. So, even the players are blurring.

3. There is a conflict between the need for measurable ROI and the need for big ideas. (Don Draper is not irrelevant, I tell you!)
As the head of a creative-driven agency at a conference primarily focused on media, I found that our approach was very different from others I spoke to. We start with an idea and then think about the best way to deliver (and measure) it. In a world where people see a zillion messages a day (that is an actual statistic), reaching your audience creatively becomes incredibly important.

Media targeting and optimization is tantalizing. Even delicious. But it’s easy to lost site of the facts that people have dreams and fears, aspirations and frustrations. When we lift our heads from our databases, these are the things that make for great advertising.

But no standard metrics apply to reaching your audience in creative ways. This is a challenge in an environment where measurability has become the litmus test for success. (Reminds me of testing in schools being necessary, but being applied so stringently it takes the creativity and adaptability to kids’ needs out of teaching.)

Of course, the agencies that figure out how to bridge this conflict will be the winners when the dust settles.

4. This industry has issues.
I spoke to one peer who told me how great she thought it was to be able to collaborate at this conference with people who are normally her competitors and what a relief it was to see others facing the same challenges. For instance, at a metrics roundtable discussion I was in, everyone was in agreement that 15-20% variances in measurement technologies were the norm. One ad network rep told of a campaign where PointRoll and DART had a 300% difference in reporting!

I’m going to be part of a Client Value team that will be doing research and developing a report this year on how agencies can ensure they maintain client value in a rapidly changing world. (I’ll blog about it here as we make progress, but if you’re a brand marketer and are interested in being part of our survey, email me and I’ll make sure you’re on the list.)

5.This business is still about people.
The people at the Agency Summit all seem to know it. That’s why they come. But this runs deeper than networking.

When Gordon Padisson, the former head of marketing at New Line Cinema, spoke about his experience with agencies, he spoke of frustrations regarding turnover, over-promising resource bandwidth and the bait-and-switch of principles that disappear once they get the account. People, people, people. When he talked about agencies were great, he referenced energy, perspective and publisher relationships. People, people, people. Not a whisper about behavioral targeting or integrated cross-media reporting technologies.

So, remember what’s important folks.

Thanks, iMedia (and Dave) for the invite. I’ll be seeing you next time.

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