Advertising Week 2015: Our Highlights

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In our previous post from Advertising Week 2015 in NYC, we discussed the many ways in which brands, marketers, technology providers and various platforms are focused on both improving the customer experience and creating unique conversations with their target audience(s).

Over the past several days, we’ve seen a variety of conference sessions and unique content that dug deeper into just how brands are using both data and content to enhance the stories they develop with their audiences in mind. Here are some of our favorite moments and key takeaways from this year’s event:

Data, Data and More Data

A few years ago the buzzword “Big Data” popped up on the scene and was found thereafter in pretty much every major company message. Most of the major brands were suddenly waxing poetic about “how we use Big Data” to inform, enhance, mobilize, optimize, proselytize, blah, blah, blah.

All jokes aside, data is an incredibly powerful means to an end for virtually every brand marketer on the planet. We leverage data extensively at Location3 in nearly everything we do for our clients.

But as one of our favorite data geeks and founder of FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver, pointed out: “We have lots and lots of data in the world available at our fingertips, but not a lot of expertise in actually making sense of that same data or making it understandable for the masses.” 

As the original founder of Baseball Prospectus (the Statistics Bible for baseball nerds), Silver knows a thing or two about data and how to distill volumes of statistical information into something that actually has value. He first developed the PECOTA algorithm for forecasting baseball player performance over time, and the formula is now widely used by every major scout and organization involved with the game itself.

So what does this have to do with marketing? The conversation with Silver dovetailed into politics, at which point it was noted that there are approximately 154 million voters in the U.S. and approximately 132 million registered Facebook users in the country as well. 

As the 2016 presidential election cycle ramps up, candidates across the board are digesting the volumes of personal information people like you and I provide Facebook on a daily basis, and overlaying that info with other data sets to identify key demographics and regions for which they can position their own political brand/campaign in front of likely swing voters.

Selling a potential candidate  can be very similar to selling a product in many ways, and to market either one most effectively, it requires strategic decision-making that is informed by data at every step. While the messages may be a bit broad in context, there is no doubt that the data available to marketers results in extremely effective, localized micro-targeting of consumers.

Content Marketing in 2015 & Beyond

Outside of the overarching focus on the individual consumer, the most common thread running through this year’s conference involved the creation and use of quality content in today’s advertising, regardless of the medium in which that content is ultimately consumed.

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Famous ad executive and TV personality, Donny Deutsch, joined a panel that included horror-movie producer Jason Blum, among others, to discuss how important content is for brand marketers as the world of advertising continues to evolve. Deutsch made the comment that “the best advertising stimulates, engages, entertains and informs consumers.”

The panel noted that content marketing as it exists today is really a unique fusion of both entertainment AND advertising messaging. Blum added to this idea by noting that his production company does very low-budget films and, as a result, has to seed unique snippets and pieces of content from those films across different mediums to get quality exposure and promotion in advance of each film’s release.

Whether it was fortuitous timing or a well-played PR strategy (you decide), Blum’s production company announced today that they were kicking off a partnership with NBC Universal (represented by Linda Yaccarino, sitting next to Blum on today’s panel) to create branded video content aimed at fans of “all things scary”.

The biggest takeaway for the audience was that audiences now control the conversation – not brands. Consumers of today are informed, active participants in what content they choose to engage with (branded or not), and anything that smells inauthentic or cheap in advertising falls flat when it comes to performance.

Content Marketing & The Retail Experience

At the end of the day, all of these great ideas are wonderful to brand marketers but the reality is still as straightforward as ever: brands need to generate revenue, or they don’t survive.

The most literal example of this occurs in the retail space. We sat in on a session that took the idea of content marketing a step further and focused on “shoppable content”, or content that has a direct goal of driving a purchase or conversion by the user being engaged.

The first and most familiar iteration of this involves things like “Buy Now” buttons on Pinterest and Instagram, or links on YouTube videos that direct a user to a product page. While these can be effective for certain products or certain retail brands, they’re certainly not for everyone.

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As The Integer Group’s Morgan McAlenny noted, “Context is critical, and brand marketers need to be mindful of the relationship that exists with their target audience. Ubiquitous ‘Buy Now’ buttons are not the answer.”  McAlenny’s fellow panelist, Jennifer Wong, chief business officer at POPSUGAR & ShopStyle.com, took this concept a step further by discussing how ShopStyle leverages key influencers in the fashion industry to promote products and retail apparel via their own personal blogs and social channels.

These influencers are considered taste-makers with dedicated followings, so when they promote a particular item or product, the conversion rates are through the roof for the brand. At the end of the day, providing a valuable experience for your target customer often results in more ROI for your brand, and everyone remains happy.

Final Thoughts & Conference Favorites

Advertising Week 2015 provided many incredible and thought-provoking moments for all attendees.  Marketers from some of the most respected companies on the globe are creating unique experiences and ideas that all of us in the advertising industry can learn from as we try to improve the bottom line for each and every one of our clients.

While we did see one session on programmatic buying ultimately flop (which was disappointing, since it’s such a hot topic), overall this year’s conference was exceptional. While the world of advertising is constantly changing, all it took was our daily walk through the heart of Times Square to be reminded that advertising is certainly not going anywhere anytime soon:

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Favorite Ad of The Week (Source: Adobe)

Favorite Moment of The Week

We got invited to a private dinner and celebrity panel discussion (thanks, ESPN!) with Jemele Hill, Darrelle Revis and Victor Cruz.  All three panelists were great, but since we’re huge New York Jets fans, meeting Revis Island was our favorite moment!

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We can’t wait for Advertising Week 2016!

 

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