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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

ad:tech San Francisco 2013 Key Learnings

Pandora's Keynote

Technology is changing the way that people behave and at the same time, forcing a change in how brands try to distinguish themselves from the herd. Think about this: When was the last time you clicked on an online banner or even remember what banner was shown? I think I intentionally click on one banner a month and I probably views thousands of web pages. I sat through a few sessions and keynotes and I've highlighted the most interesting parts below.

The recurring themes that were communicated by various panelists were as follows:
·         Old school online advertising, like banners ads, have lost much of its effectiveness
·         Brands must be experts at storytelling
·         Marketers must learn to tap into advocates or influencers (not the same thing) when trying to build their communities

Online Advertising
With an average CTR (click-through-rates) of about 0.02% (that’s one click per 5,000 impressions), people have mentally blocked out banners when visiting a website. You could spend a ton of money on banners ads, even on highly targeted ones like on Facebook, and never see a lift in your brand awareness or sales.

This isn't something revolutionary but somewhere along the way when Marketers thought, “hey I can make an instant sale online by linking a banner to an e-commerce site”, the art of seducing the customer was lost. What reason does someone who has never heard of your thingamajigger have to click your ad and buy something? Sure there are outliers but for the most part, you want to create a relationship with your customers and have them visit you because they like your brand and offering. Storytelling can be linked to…

Content Marketing
Along came content marketing and Qualcomm was one of the panelists at this session. They spoke about taking a journalistic approach on how to reach out to people. Work hard on providing relevant content for people that doesn't directly plug in a sales push for your brand. Infographics and videos are always things that can go “viral”. Seeding content outside of your site on discovery platforms (YouTube, Stumble Upon, etc) is crucial in spreading the word. Just remember that the type of content that people like to share are rarely traditional ads. This isn't easy because it takes a full-time team to really go out there and create content to rival what a newspaper would release. 

Another interesting point was to use hash tags on Twitter as breadcrumbs to lead to your site. It shapes the right mind set of people who are brought to your page as opposed to bringing them in prematurely and turning them off. This links up to the customer journey bit that a few panelists like @gregshove and @Rfradin spoke about. The whole idea about the customer journey is that you want to talk to customers differently depending on what stage they are at and not just have them click to your shopping cart.  If you skip stages you risk alienating customers.

Advocates vs. Influencers
Advocates are people who love your product or service and will tell others about it. This is great but advocates are often not influencers as they do not reach out to large masses of people. Influencers may not be as involved with your product/service but are people who are interested in the space you are in. One interesting comment made by @rustinb at the Influencers Summit discussion was that if you are using spreadsheets and email to manage your influencers list, it takes one full-time employee’s entire focus to reach out to five influencers and maintain the relationship. Five. The reason is that these influencers are receiving about 100 requests per day to become involved with various brands and initiatives.

Pandora Keynote
There wasn't anything ground breaking about what Pandora did in terms of digital marketing but their story is one that we can relate to. In 2006, Apple wanted to buy all of Pandora’s ad inventory for November and December to promote the iPod. The team at Pandora had no idea what to charge and did not even have an inventory of ads (they have no ad server) but they played along and made a deal worth $20k for those two months. Apple, being obsessed with detail, changed creative every few days and Pandora had to release a modified version of their site for every ad change! The inefficiencies of a start up become great stories once you make it. J

They also had an example of a successful ad campaign with Gatorade. Gatorade was launching three new brands aimed at teens (something like “Prime”, “Perform” and “Recover”) and used their new brand names as the title a sponsored playlists. Apparently 485k teens added the playlist that resulted in over 519k listening hours. As for as how well Gatordae did, Pandora did not know  so we were missing one of the most important parts of the story.

Shout Out
In one of the panels, Seth Combs from Sol Republic gave out free Sol Republic earphones to people who tweeted whenever a panelist said an advertising buzz words from a list he had. Yup, I got sweet pair!

Overall Impressions
I think the biggest takeaway from the show was how brands have to really change the way they communicate with consumers. Consumers don’t and can’t be friends with ALL the brands they like or use. The brands they will be friends with are the brands that offer solutions and advice beyond the scope of their product offering. Check out the upcoming New York ad:tech show, November 6-7, 2013 here.

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