Ad:tech Tales from the Bleeding Edge

Before heading down to ad:tech yesterday, I paused to wonder if it was worth it. All the conferences tend to look and sound the same. Rarely does a panel ever live up to the ‘tell me something I don’t know’ request that so many writers seek. Tales from the Bleeding Edge was different. It was the best panel I’ve been to in ages and Lori H. Schwartz, SVP and Director of Emerging Media at IPG Media Lab deserves kudos for putting together such a panel. The write-up alluded to all kinds of cool technologies, many of which were not touched upon, but the ones that were, were wonderful.

Bill Capodanno, Director of Digital Marcom Planning and Effectiveness, Microsoft led off with a brief discussion of Microsoft Surface. He asked how many people in the audience had heard of it and a majority had. He spoke about a brief video they did about Microsoft Surface as well as the parody that was produced. It is a very funny parody, well worth the watch.

I think it was Bill who used the phrase, ‘Conversational Marketing’. I think this is an important concept to unpack, so I’ll save that for a more meta-post about ad:tech. After Bill spoke, Marc Ruxin, SVP and Director of Digital Strategy at MCCANN Worldgroup spoke. At least I think he was the next speaker. Whoever it was didn’t show any neat technology. Instead they spoke about the importance of following "not yet ready to scale" technologies and the importance of failing as often as you succeed, because often the real discoveries are in the failures.

This was followed by Patrick Ream, VP of Marketing at Next IT Corporation. They produced the ‘avatar’ Sgt. Star for the U.S. Army recruiting effort. As a Second Life aficionado, I thought it was a bit of a stretch to call Sgt. Star an avatar. Sure, some of the natural language processing and the data gathered was interesting, but the panel was starting to lose my interest.

Next up was Larry Harris, President of Ansible Mobile. He spoke about mobile bar codes. The idea is that you take a picture of a mobile bar code with the camera that is part of your cell phone. The information gathered is then used in the cell phone for various purposes. As an example, you could have your contact information in a mobile bar code. When the bar code is scanned by the cell phone’s camera, the contact information could be stored in the cell phones address book. At a party, could wear name tags with their barcode on them and when the bar code is scanned, the persons website is displayed on the cell phone. The bar code could be an invisible water mark in a poster, and when the poster is photographed, a trailer for a movie or a track from a band could be downloaded. In addition options to buy tickets to special sneak previews and so on could be presented to the consumer.

Apparently, this technology is already available in 70% of the cell phones in Japan and is widely used. It seems to be used mostly in ‘smartphones’. I wondered what it would take to read mobile bar codes from my Motorola Razr. Has someone created an app that I can download and test things out? The Razr supports Java. What would it take to build a Java app like that? If it isn’t possible on the Razr, and for people with less powerful cell phones, would it be possible to set up a mobile bar code gateway. Take a picture of a mobile bar code. Send it to the gateway and get a text message back pointing to whatever information is sought.

It was a very interesting presentation and one that deserves a follow up post of its own, if I can find the time.

This presentation was followed by Karen Rostmeyer, Co-Founder of Dutch Umbrella. Dutch Umbrella is a very simple idea. In Holland, there are places where you can borrow a bicycle at specified locations, and drop it off at other specified locations. What if you made umbrellas available that way in shops in the United States. If it starts to rain, you simply duck into a local shop and borrow an umbrella from a ‘raindrop’ stand. You use it as you go about your day, and drop it off at some other ‘raindrop’ when you are done. The umbrella would feature logos of the various shops participating.

It is a brilliant idea. It gets people into the shops, which is always a big hurdle. It gets people to carry around advertisements for you. The question is, where is the bleeding edge technology in this. Well, marketing people want to track things and gather data. So, add an RFID tag. Dutch Umbrella is using a small RFID tag on the umbrellas, that has additional information directing people to their website and ‘pseudoblog’. Karen demonstrated the sort of data that they were gathering. It was what you expected about number of umbrellas picked up and dropped off. The business could then tell where its customers where coming from based on the information from the dropped off umbrellas. The RFID reader could scan a full umbrella stand in about 15 seconds. Future versions may include RFID readers in the stand to provide real time updates.

Following Karen, Oliver Barth, Pre Sales Director of Total Immersion spoke. He started off with a brief discussion of Augmented Reality. Essentially, augmented reality is capturing real life images and then augmenting them with three-dimensional models. As an example, he took a Lego box and placed it under the camera, on the monitors a three-dimensional model of the Lego when it was put together then appeared. He used a game controller to move the three dimensional model around the screen, during which time it interacted with objects on the table as viewed by the camera. It was very impressive.

These are tails from the bleeding edge, so it may be a while before I get a chance to work with some of these technologies, but I look forward to exploring these further as soon as possible. It will be especially interesting to see how data from some of these technologies can be used with the complex event processing technologies that we at Toomre Capital Markets are so interested in.

(Cross posted at Toomre Capital Markets)

Technorati Tag: Technorati tag adtech

Social networks and Consumer-Generated Media

On of the 12:15 sessions at ad:tech was Social Media and Consumer-Generated Media: Has a Value Proposition Emerged? Heidi Browning, SVP of Client Solutions at Fox Interactive gave a wonderful presentation exploring the "Momentum Effect", part of the never ending friending a journey into social networking report. In essence, it is the same old discussion that Elihu Katz covered in his seminal work, "Personal Influence" transposed to the world of Social Media.

Her discussion was focused around a quote from a 27 year old from LA. He said, "I don't want companies to advertise to me. I want them to be my friend." She unpacked this by trying to understand what it means for a company to be a friend. Many people add companies as friends because they want special acces, notice of events, sales, exclusive offers, etc. Others added companies because friends recommended it, something that particularly argues for the idea of personal influence and gets a lot of peoples attention. Some people wanted to associate with the brand as part of their identity creation. Others wanted discounts, and around 11% simply wanted to be friends because they believed in the brand.

As I listened to this, I saw a message on Twitter. Steve Rubel was pointing out that The New York Times now has a Facebook page. I added myself as a fan of The New York Times, for several of the reasons listed above. It will be interesting to see how The New York Times makes use of Facebook. They are typically cited as an example of the old professional generated media company most threatened by social media and consumer generated media.

A later speaker made a wonderful comment about a company that after the success of one social media campaign discovered that "listening to consumers pays off". It is amazing the discoveries that this new media has spawned. I'm sure that this sort of idea never occured to people in before computers. He went on to say that in response to this great discovery, they set up a blog. I could not help but wonder if they allow comments.

The key message was that companies need to be authentic online, that they need to be thinking about long term dialogs with their customers, instead of a brief 30 second interruption as part of a short media campaign.

There are a lot of interesting places to go with this.

(Technorati tag adtech)

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ad:tech Initial notes

I am at ad:tech today to blog their conference. It is going on all week. The exhibition hall was open Monday and Tuesday, and I didn't make it to that. The conference started yesterday and runs through tomorrow. I can only take so much of these conferences, so I chose today as the day to come.

Today started off with a keynote, The State of the Industry presented by Randall Rothenburg President and CEO of Interacive Advertising Bureau. The panel included Suzie Reider, head of advertising sales for, Michale Barret, EVP and Chief Revenue Officer, Fox Interactive Media, Arianna Huffington, Co-founder and editor in chief of Huffington Post and Matt Freeman, CEO Tribal DDB Worldwide.

Randall started off with some great questions and admonitions. He noted the phenomenal growth of online content and talked about the importance of advertising in funding this environment. Then he warned about 'anti-consumer' groups seeking regulation of online conent, and particularly online advertising. He used this to encourage people to respect the user with as much transparency as possible, as well as to key a close eye on what is going on in Washington and in the state capitals.

... A couple hours later...

I've been busy taking notes... There has been a lot of good content at ad:tech. As such, I may not get a chance to combine it all as nicely and quickly as possible, so, I'll put up this post as is, and hope to have more to come.

Quick side notes... The traffic patterns here are horrible. It took forever to get out of one session and into the next. One of the panelists commented about how great it was to have to wait in line to get into their own panel.

I've found a good corner to sit in where there was an outlet. I've plugged in my power strip and there are now five people plugged in. There are a lot of laptops and a lot of people looking for connections. Related to this, the WiFi is up and down, perhaps as it gets overloaded.

(Technorati tag adtech)

Writers, Advertisers, Media Moguls, and the rest of us

Next week, I will attend ad:tech, “an interactive advertising and technology conference dedicated to connecting all sides of today's brand marketing landscape” as a credentialed blogger. Since being added to the list, I’ve been getting emails and phone calls from all kinds of different people wanting me to write about their favorite companies. It provides a sharp contrast to OMMA, when I could barely find information about who was going to be at the show.

With OMMA, I only had the energy for one day of the conference and show. So, I’m trying to figure out how to make the best use of my time and energy for ad:tech. The list of major media speakers is staggering. Founders, Presidents, CEOs, Executive and Senior Vice Presidents of all kinds of major media corporations, from Sony BMG, NBC Universal, Fox Interactive Media, Google TV Ads, Youtube, and Huffington Post will be speaking about topics like Forging a Model of Interdependence, Global Perspectives on the Digital Revolution, Media and Entertainment: Programming, Distribution and Advertising in a Multi-Platform World and Innovate or Die! Thriving in the Age of Disruption.

Meanwhile, the model of interdependence will be tested as members of the Writers Guild of America strike to get their fair share of the revenues in the digital revolution and this multi-platform world. It will be another disruption for the major media corporations.

So, viewers are creating more media of their own, and trying to find less expensive means of accessing professionally created media. Professional writers are fighting to get a larger share of the revenues. All of this is bound to cut into the profits of the executives of these major media corporations. How can they deal with these issues?

The ad:tech special events calendar gives a clue:

MediaWhiz Annual ad:tech Poker Party

Open bar, Passed hors o'doeuvres, Go-Go Dancers, LIVE DJ(S), Dancing, Texas Hold 'Em Poker Tournament where you can win $10,000... ALWAYS THE #1 EVENT OF THE YEAR!!!

Personally, I’d rather see the price of digital media go down and more of the remaining revenues go to the writers and performers, but I guess in spite of my embracing of digital media, I’m just old fashioned in a few remaining ways.

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Getting people to pay attention

Depending on who you ask and how they are counting, the average American now sees more than 400 advertisements a day. It often seems like I get more than 400 email messages a day and as many instant messages as well. I often pay about as much attention to many of them as I do to advertisements, and while I may receive more emails or instant messages each day than the average American, I suspect my response isn't that far out of the norm.

This leads us to the question of how, in this world of constant partial attention, can you get anyone to pay attention and respond to your message. It seemed as if many of the advertising folks at OMMA focused on online advertising as just another place to put up an non-interactive billboard or thirty second spot and I wondered how different the banner ads or the search ads were really from those other advertisements.

This isn't to say that such advertising isn't effective. In fact, I believe it is fairly effective, not in a click through sort of way,but in terms of forming a digital palimpsest; shaping associations with products and norms of expected behavior. People sending emails might want to think about their emails in how they help form such associations or expected behaivors.

Yet, so many of the political emails I receive are aimed at eliciting a contribution. At OMMA, people spoke about email campaigns as needing to give as much to the email receipient as they expect to receive in return. Emails that provide useful information or a sense of community are much more effective than the simple asks. Yet it seems like, in the political sphere, so many of the emails don't really give me anything and as a result, I don't pay very close attention to them, let alone clickthrough to their signup, volunteer or donate pages.

This is perhaps even more notable in Twitter. As I write this, Barack Obama is following 5,199 people on Twitter. Somehow, I don't imagine he, or his staffers pay attention to that many twitters. In return, 4,910 people are following Barack Obama. I can easily imagine that many people wanting to get short quick updates from the Obama campaign. Yet it is worth noting that only 34 updates have been sent. It is similar with the Edwards campaign. Sen. Edwards is following 3,884 twitterers. In return, 3,574 are following him. He's posted 84 updates, although some of them start off with (from staff). Sen. Edwards has even favorited one Twitter message and has used twitter to encourage people to send in questions.

Neither have used Twitter in any conversational manner, the way many people start twitter messages with an at sign and a twitter id to indicate that the message is directed and, and usually in reply to a different twitter message.

So, in this world of excessive messages, in advertisements, emails, twitters, instant messages and so on, how do you get people to pay attention, to become engaged? A few people have sent me emails about projects they are working on that they think might help. I'll write up some of these a bit later, but if you have thoughts, please add them here, or send me an email, an instant message or a message via twitter. If you're lucky and I'm not overwhelmed by all the other messages, I just might see it and pay attention.

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