Tag Archive: iMedia

What I Look For In A Conference

There’s no shortage of conferences you can attend. Some are mammoth in scale and complexity, like SXSW and CES. Others are more intimate in nature, generally covering a very specific topic. I love a great conference. Unfortunately, not all conferences are great. Most, are good and some are bad; but, few are great.

Time away from the office is priceless. When you attend a summit/conference, you’re giving up face time, meeting time and time to work on critical initiatives. That an organization wants you to attend a summit is a privilege. Beyond the time investment there are also financial investments being made. For example, attending SXSW Interactive can easily run north of $5,000 for the conference pass, hotel, airfare, food, drinks, etc. This isn’t to say that SXSW doesn’t deliver a return on that $5,000, it’s more to provide context, that knowledge isn’t free.

Having attended as both a participant and presenter at several conferences across the globe, I’ve developed a set of filters to determine if a conference is worth the investment:

  1. Commitment to Quality: This starts at the top. Conference circuits are a business and the leaders who run that business, have hard decisions to make. For example, how many sponsored presentations are part of the day’s agenda? But, it takes really solid leadership to say no to something that could generate revenue while infringing on the overall conference experience. A commitment to quality is reflected not only in those decisions, but in the editorial staff that’s putting together the day’s sessions. It’s not easy to get A level talent out of the office for an hour or two, to get on a stage and share their knowledge. However, a savvy editorial team coupled with strong leadership and great attendees, makes for a heck of a carrot when recruiting speakers. Many conferences claim to be high quality, few are high quality across every dimension.
  2. Vendor to Buyer Ratio: To run a conference, money has to come from somewhere. You either need attendees to form over anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for a “pass” or you need vendors to help fund the operation via advertising, speaking opportunities or the chance to connect with attendees that are “buyers.” Granted, this isn’t 100% black and white, as many conferences apply a combination of the two approaches. To my knowledge, I’ve never seen a formula that outlines the right ratio, but in my experience, when you get exceed 2 sellers for every 1 buyer, you cross a threshold that stunts innovation, learning and sharing, while casting a cloud over the entire summit experience. While 2:1 looks scientific, the reality is, this is equal parts art and science. It’s not just how many, but the quality and seniority level of the vendors. Again, this goes back to an overall commitment to quality. If you value the overall quality of experience, above all, you tend to end up with not only the right ratio, but also the right vendors.
  3. Content and Speakers: Again, no magic formula here and believe me, 10 attendees can listen to the same session and walk away with 10 different points of view regarding the quality of said session. That said, I try to keep this simple. I want 2 things from the content and speakers. First, I need a mix of inspirational and practical sessions. This isn’t easy. The practical ones, while not often fun can be the most valuable. And the inspirational ones, while having high talk value, can leave you struggling for how to apply the concept to your business. Too much of one and you have either a boring conference or a pointless one. Second, I want speakers from varying walks of life. Their backgrounds should be diverse, as should their roles, seniority and business verticals. This variety often creates compelling dialogue and enriches the overall conference experience.

There are only 2 conferences / summits that consistently hit the mark across my 3 pieces of criteria: iMedia and Brand Innovators. In full disclosure, I’ve had the opportunity to attend their summits, sit on advisory boards that guide programming and have become friends with several members of the summit staff. I think it’s important you know that, but I think it’s also important that you know, that level of investment and connection to these summits wouldn’t happen, if I didn’t find them both to offer incomparable value.

iMedia and Brand Innovators are similar in their approach. First and foremost, they realize, the goal of a great summit experience, is to inspire, connect and enable its attendees. The value they both place on quality is unmatched. From the speakers to the location to the vendors and everything else in between, they deliver a nearly flawless experience. But, what separates iMedia and Brand Innovators from so many other conferences, goes well beyond that aspect. They both have, in my opinion, the right approach to a summit size. They’re small enough to be manageable and provoke honest, real dialogue, but large enough to learn from a diverse wealth of knowledge. It’s similar to having a great party. You need the right mix of personalities and number of people.

I have a high bar for attending summits. You should too. Your time is valuable. Make sure when you attend a summit that you’re time is well spent. If you attend an upcoming iMedia or Brand Innovators event, you’ll be increasing your odds of making that happen.

At iMedia Summit Old Challenges Become New For Marketers

I love iMedia Summit. It’s on my must attend list, every year. Great locations, great content and great people, make for a valuable experience.

At this year’s summit, it was clear we’re getting closer and closer to dropping “digital” from titles and org structures. We are on the precipice of people across all industries accepting, it’s less about digital marketing and more about marketing in a digital world.

As I connected with marketers across a wide range of industries, there were 3 familiar themes that could not be ignored.

Talent: The conversation about digital talent has evolved. At one of my 1st summits, nearly 10 years ago, the conversation was about getting funding to hire someone…anyone…who could be that digital subject matter expert. While we’re definitely past those days, talent remains a thorn. Today though, it’s a thorn because we need new recruitment models to find the right talent, we need a better talent investment plan to retain talent and we need a better plan for creating leaders in organizations who have a deep and wide grasp of digital.

Content: It’s king, right? Every marketer I talked with identified different challenges in dealing with content. The most consistent pain points were how to produce enough content in a financially viable way, how to safely source and share content (legal and Pinterest apparently are still not good friends) and how to distribute content the right way. With respect to distribution, this is a battle waiting of happen in a very epic way. The old model that classical marketers still adopt where your cost to create content should not be greater than 15% of the media but, is dead and doesn’t apply to digital and social content. You will spend more than $100k to create enough quality content to support a $1M ad but across twitter and facebook. In digital, unlike TV, distribution is cheap, but the content is expensive.

New Operating Models: What should you be doing internally? What should your agency’s role be? When do you bring social in-house…and do you bring it all in-house? We need new models and approaches to building internal capabilities and for setting our partners up for success. This will require our partners to pivot quicker than they ever have before. They will need new offerings, new types of talent and different pricing approaches. We are in a sea of disruption that’s not going to calm down any time soon.

This year’s iMedia summit reaffirmed some thoughts I had and offered new perspective to think about as I lead our Social Media and Content efforts for Walgreens. It’s also fair to say, iMedia once again reminds me of why I’ve stayed in digital for 16 years…the pace of change isn’t for the weak and it’s bloody good fun to try and keep up.

The First Real-Time Super Bowl

Tonight, I watched the Super Bowl in Florida, during the iMedia Brand Summit. That basically means, I got to watch the Super Bowl with 200+ marketers. It’s a very different viewing experience than watching with your friends and family who aren’t involved in marketing, advertising, technology, digital or social media. I’ll let Mashable and every other major publication cover the lessons learned, best ads vs worst ads, winners vs losers, etc. They’re much better at it than I am. That said, I wanted to touch on 3 very quick observations.

  1. It’s 2012 and not much as changed when it comes to “TV” and digital calls to action. Since circa 1997 digital folks have been begging their clients and traditional creative teams to include a URL in the ad. The traditional thinkers obliged around 2000 by putting the URL in the last frame and in 2 pt font (something a bit larger than legal lines in ads). The argument for not including it throughout the entire commercial or in a larger font is generally something esoteric like, “we don’t want to interrupt the viewing experience” or “adding the URL at the very end is the perfect bookend to the commercial; they’ll be more apt to take action when it’s the last thing they see.” Both are hogwash. It’s 2013 and URLs, when they’re included, are still on the last frame and are still barely above a 2 pt font size. When they weren’t included, hashtags were. Roughly 50% of marketers chose a hashtag to be included in their ads. Awesome. Makes sense, given all the 2nd screen usage during the game. But, 2013 is just like 2000. Yes, hashtags were included, but they were included in the very last frame and in small font sizes. Sigh. As an industry, we still haven’t evolved.
  2. Including paid search to surround your Super Bowl marketing efforts, was something overlooked by many advertisers, 10 years ago. In my favorite example of how much of a mistake it was to forget about pad search during the Super Bowl, check out this post from AdAge about Ford and GM, from 2006. Yes, even 7 years ago, we were still making the same mistakes. This year, I’d say most marketers had paid search accounted for. But, they traded their former misses in SEM with not being tuned in to the real-time needs in social. Here’s a great example of what Oreo, Walgreens and Audi (in my opinion the best presence during the Super Bowl across all touch-points) did during the Super Bowl…when the lights went out. It’s impressive for a multitude of reasons, but to me, what impresses the most, is how well there organizations must be wired to move that quickly. Speed, in social, wins. It always has. But, today, it’s not just speed, in social. It’s speed in everything you do in marketing.
  3. Marketers get more amped about the intricacies of what a brand did or didn’t do during the Super Bowl. The average consumer, in my humble opinion, doesn’t seem to care. When I looked at my own person social feeds on twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. it was clear that those talking about the ads the most were marketers, not “regular” people. The regular people were talking about the game, the half-time show and occasionally talked about the ads. When they did talk about the ads, it was generally a simple statement that made it clear they either liked or didn’t like the ad. It makes you think for a second, why do we listen to the arm-chair advice from other marketers, when it’s our consumers who we’re trying to connect with?

I think this was the first real-time and multi-screen Super Bowl. We saw it in the ads, the calls to action, the speed in brand responses and how consumers voiced their thoughts. The bar is higher than it’s ever been. If you’re going to spend roughly $4 million dollars on a Super Bowl ad, you need to think about the real total cost to cover social media monitoring, real-time content, the supporting digital elements, etc. Stepping on to the biggest stage isn’t just the media cost and the cost to produce the spot. There’s so much more. Consider that fact when you plan out, not just next year’s Super Bowl campaign, but frankly, every campaign you do.

November Update Number 3

This is the last of 3 posts covering updates, thoughts and ramblings from the past 3 weeks.  The first update can be found here the second one can be seen here.

  1. I’ve had 7 conversations in the last 3 months, with large brands, all around 1 topic no one seems to want to talk about: Facebook is a “frienemy” and they’re driving many organizations to rethink how close they want to partner with Facebook. For example a few weeks ago many companies realized that their 3rd party (e.g. Hootsuite) published posts were performing horribly all of a sudden. Facebook and Hootsuite denied the situation existed. To compensate for the reduced reach, companies were investing more in Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories” advertising platform. The folks at Read Write Web did some digging, gave the situation more attention and then all of a sudden Facebook released an announcement indicating they were fixing their platform to send more “signals” to 3rd part publishing tools. Sounds shady to me. In 2012, the question I’ll be asking my team, my agency partners and any new potential partners is “help me create a 3 year exit strategy for Facebook.” More to come on this topic.
  2. Here’s 3 iOS apps to check out: Oink, Ness and Super Retro.
  3. I’ve been investing more time of late, into tumblr. Though it often gets lumped together with other blogging platforms I see it a little differently. Tumblr is for the “lazy” blogger. It’s great for bite size content. I think that’s why it excels for companies that are heavily dependent on photos. I’m going to give it a serious whirl for the next 45 days and then come up with a more formal POV.
  4. A piece of advice to folks in “sales”…especially for social software and services: please do your homework. It’s not hard to Google, “head of social media walgreens” and find out who to contact. Spamming 50 people at my organization is the quickest way to get de-prioritized. It’s lazy, unprofessional, annoying and creates a lot of extra unnecessary work for me.
  5. I’ve been attending iMedia summits for years. They’re the best conference for interactive/digital marketing and media professionals. I’ve attended the summits as a client and as an agency representative. I’m excited to announce that I’ve been asked to facilitate the Marketers Only Sessions at the iMedia Brand Summit February 5th – 8th in Coconut Point Florida. If you’ve attended a previous summit and have thoughts or recommendations, please send them my way.

An Empty Pool

The Doral Hotel, by Marriot, does a great job of creating a wonderfully serene experience. The pool was in full use and often jam packed…except at 11:30 PM :)

New Business Cards

The big theme of the iMedia Breakthrough Summit was mobile. We covered everything from location based apps to augmented reality. Yet, we didn’t spend a lot of time on the one marketing tool that’s becoming more and more prevalent: QR Codes. At MARC USA, we started placing QR codes on all business cards months ago. I guess we were just ahead of the curve. That’s wezog thinking for you.

Why I Didn’t Go To SXSW

I’m off to my favorite exchange of knowledge, The iMedia Summit. There are several summits throughout the year, each with a different attendee list and content focus. There’s not a right or wrong conference to go to. Over the years’ I’ve elected to attend iMedia over SXSW (yes, I have been to a SXSW) for a few key reasons:

iMedia is invite only and at most there are 400 total people in attendance. Just like I think you get better quality out of a smaller social graph, I think the same holds true for a conference. SXSW is a free for all with so many people, that unless you know someone who knows someone who knows someone your chances for creating meaningful connections is tough.

You’ll find more diversity in gender, race, background and experience at an iMedia, especially on the presenter/panel side. I think diversity is important because it adds to the points of view. I talked to a friend who wen to this year’s SXSW and he was blown way with how similar the thinking was. I tend to agree.

There’s less ego at iMedia. There has to be. With less than 400 people, it’s tough to be a jerk and get away with it.

iMedia is less of a party. Don’t get me wrong; we know how to have fun. But, SXSW is just as much about the parties as it is about the content. No thanks. I’ll take less booze and more brains all the time.

The panels and presentations are much better. It seems like anyone can present sat a SXSW. I know that’s not true, but there’s a way to game the system to ensure you become a presenter. It’s substantially tougher at iMedia.

SXSW is a great conference. I’ll most likely be attending next year. But, there’s a reason I haven’t missed attending at least 1 iMedia event a year for the past 7 years and it’s been nearly 10 years since my last SXSW.

Looking Up

75 degrees. Check! Bright sun. Check! Blue skies. Check! Light wind. Check!Working on a weekend. Check!

The Value Of Time

I love the iMedia Summit.  It brings together the best and the brightest in the interactive marketing field to discuss timely and relevant topics impacting the industry at large.  Part of the the obligation we have as attendees of the summits is to listen to a few sponsored presentations.  Sometimes these are great presentations.  Other times, not so much.  The goal from the sponsor’s perspective is to ultimately get a formal audience with the people in the room.

Over the years, from talking to the “sellers” it’s clear they have a challenging and frustrating situation on their hands.  How do they break through the clutter and actually intrigue a “buyer” to schedule a 60 minute conversation.  These sales guys and gals spend an inordinate amount of time just to get a conversation and rarely do they make that connection.  Time is money. Yes, it’s an overused statement, but it’s true.  If you boil things down to simple dollars and cents, it’s costs an awful lot of money in time to get a meeting scheduled.  I asked one seller last night what their average cost per meeting was.  He said it was an interesting question, something they don’t normally track, but estimated it to be about $3,000.  That number was based on the average salary of the sales staff, the number of hours they work, the number of companies they contact and they number of successful meetings they setup.

That’s just staggering.  $3,000?  That doesn’t even include the travel costs for an in person meeting.  Wow.  Well, the folks at joost decided to rethink the model for securing in-person meetings.  At the end of their sponsored presentation they held up a Joost branded iPad cover and dropped a bomb on the audience.  They let us know that they would HAND DELIVER a brand new iPad to every person in the room in exchange for a 30 minute presentation.  We all thought they were joking.  But, when we realized they were serious, you should have seen the people scrambling to be the first to hand over a business card.

This is brilliant for so many reasons.  For starters, Joost was the talk of the summit.  Buyers were applauding Joost, while the sellers were cursing them.  The buzz effect alone was probably worth the investment.  But, beyond the buzz, they probably reduced their cost per meeting/lead tremendously.  Instead of having to chase down the 150 or so buyers in the room over the next 6 months for a meeting, they had the 150 buyers tracking them down…and it only cost them $600.00 per lead/meeting.

All of a sudden the Joost team can spend their time on the right things.  They can focus on understanding my business, customizing a program, bringing in the added value…instead of focusing on setting up a meeting.

That’s the value of time and the folks at Joost are brilliant.  The only real question is of course, will they actually deliver on their promise of an iPad and will the deliver the goods in the meeting.  Time will tell.

What I Learned At the iMedia 2009 Scottsdale Summit – Part II

Part I can be found here.

The format at this summit was a little different. Day 1 had a neat wrinkle. The summit attendees got to hear from and comments on 5 startup companies focused on real time information and data. It was kinda like a mini TechCrunch50. This was definitely a cool experience and something I hope they keep in the summit format. We heard from:

Bazaar Labs: They currently offer a product called flixup that’s basically twitter + Rotten Tomatoes. In near real time you can get the pulse of your friends/connections and the community at large regarding movies. It’s an interesting idea that’s ripe for contextual ads. They also offer a feature where you can predict the success of future movies based on the performance of previous movies. I have to imagine studios have something similar that goes like this: Michael Bay + Explosions + Save The World = X Million :) As cool as the product is, I think they’re missing the middle part of the business model. Predicting the future is neat, but how about being able to see other movies in theater and available for purchase (e.g. DVD)…then within the app being able to buy them. I’ll be watching this app and company closely.

Networked Insights: They offer a product called SocialSense that’s focused on making sense of all the crazy social media chatter that’s out there. They believe that social channels provide the best and largest real time group for research. In today’s business environment speed wins and frankly the old ways of doing research are very slow. He gave an example of two recent redesigns for recipe sites that were done by General Mills and Kraft. One of the sites (he wouldn’t say which) launched first and while not as pretty of well designed offered amazing utility. The other site was a high usability testing scorer. But, they were late to market because they focused on flawless and perfect execution. Guess what? Speed win. Site 1 has over a million users. Site two has less than 50,000. Ouch. Follow and connect with @dneely40 for more information about their company.

AdHatchery: AdHatchery.com hasn’t launched yet, but will be soon. The presenter was great and really highlighted the problems we have in the industry between publishers (sellers) and agencies (buyers). The sales process sucks. It’s riddled with phone calls, emails, and follow ups. It’s a waste of time frankly. AdHatchery is trying to make the process between buyers and sellers simpler, easier, faster, and more transparent. So imagine a concept like LinkedIn where you can post your client’s needs. Then publishers, any publishers, can bid and offer proposals specific to that RFP or business problem. The advertiser can easily evaluate the options, provide feedback, and then close a deal quickly. More importantly, there’s a community based feedback feature where you can rate/review the sales contact who provided the RFP. This is very cool. If implemented well, this could be the type of tool that can shine a light on crappy sales contacts and hopefully shun them into being better. We can only hope…

HitPost: They believe everyone is either an armchair spots announcer/pundit or can be one. Their platform (which works across all mediums and devices) Hitpost.com enables this to happen. The tool works similar to flixup, but it’s clearly designed around sports fans. People are already doing this. If you watch a live twitter feed of a sports game you’ll see exactly what I mean. HitPost ties it all together across all networks. I see a lot of promise in this one.

Track Simple: I honestly have no idea what these guys do, but I want to buy it. The presentation given was simply one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen. It was classic Obama. The presenter spoke so well you had no choice, but to say, “ummmm yeah I’ll take one.” I’m actually hoping to follow up with these guys tonight. If I learn more I’ll update this post.

In short, there’s no shortage of ideas and everyone is focusing on the real time web.

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Digital dad to Cora and John. Love ironing, bourbon and BBQ; no necessarily in that order. Living life, like I stole it. I'm always up for a

spirited conversation. These are my thoughts and ramblings, not those of my employer.
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