I had the pleasure of attending the Ad Age Digital Conference at Pier 36 in New York City on April 2nd. This is one of my favorite industry conferences as it brings together 500 CMOs, agency leaders, media executives, venture capitalists, and startup founders with one agenda in mind: pushing the art and science of advertising and marketing into the future. It’s inspiring, informative and a great networking event to boot.
My key takeaways from the Ad Age Digital Conference:
1. Market like it’s 2014, People!
I will spare you from the actual verbatim language used by the very charismatic Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of digital shop VaynerMedia, but essentially it’s time we all start thinking and marketing in the year we live in. Gary shared a great anecdotal story about a recent meeting he had with a CMO to illustrate the hesitation from brands to fully accept these new marketing platforms that emerge every day. The mysterious CMO in his story was in his late 50’s and said to Gary when discussing his marketing budget/plan, “But….I just don’t get Instagram.” News Flash. Your millennial target audience DOES. It doesn’t matter what we “get” or “don’t get” as marketers. We need to embrace new platforms in order to reach the younger generation if we want to be successful. More importantly, we need to be willing to adapt and change with the times. “No marketing plan you hatched 12 months ago is the right plan,” said Peter DeLuca, SVP brand advertising at TMobile. We should all be willing to take risks and throw out the old for the new. I promise it will pay off.
2. Instagram is KING
For the longest time marketers have relied on the old adage, CONTENT is KING. But I started thinking, what is actually considered good content these days? Gone are the days of copy heavy print ads. Images are where it’s at. The fact of the matter is visuals are processed 60K times faster in the brain than text. Scott Galloway from the think tank L2 predicted that Instagram will become the most powerful social media platform in the world. The visual revolution is here! We should all be thinking of ways to market effectively on Instagram. Well, at least those who can afford the hefty $1MM a month campaign price tag.
3. Understand your audience, but more importantly their CULTURE.
Carolyn Feinstein, Senior Vice President of Global Consumer Marketing, from EA Sports gave a great presentation on how truly understanding your target audience comes down to understanding their culture and even more so, living and sharing in that culture. As brands, if we can fully immerse ourselves in our target audience’s lives to better understand their needs, we can then bring something to that culture that enhances their experience in a truly authentic way. After all, utility is what sells. And when it’s authentic, you hit the jackpot.
4. Use Data Wisely
If I go to a conference and hear the words “Big Data” one more time, I swear I’m going to scream. We all know that the sheer volume of data we now have access to has been transformative for brands. However, are we relying on data a little too much these days? Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media said we should all “be data informed, not data driven.” What ever happened to trusting your intuition? Going with your gut? Wasn’t that what made Steve Jobs a marketing genius? All this data is fantastic, but marketers should use it to help inform the story, not tell the story.
5. Keep it Simple
Mario Batali, the last person I was expecting to see on stage at the Ad Age Digital Conference, had one of my favorite quotes of the day, “It’s not what you put in, it’s what you DON’T put in.” Whether it’s cooking a gourmet meal or marketing a new product, I think this quote can (and should) drive all that we do as marketers. Consumers aren’t looking for convoluted, fancy, hard to decipher messages. They are looking for someone to understand their basic human needs, be honest with them and sell them a great product. It’s simple, really. Yet, we often get caught up in all the hype trying to understand and market in a very fragmented media landscape. We need to stop watering down our campaigns with unnecessary “ingredients” and let the message do its job.