On May 14-15, I helped my employer Avenue A | Razorfish organize its 8th annual Client Summit in New York. Each year at this event, company executives, guest speakers, and clients discuss the state of the art in digital marketing. The theme of the 2008 event was “Rock the Digital World” (an homage to guest keynote speaker Sir George Martin, the fifth Beatle, who gave the audience an inside glimpse at the making of the seminal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band). At this year’s Client Summit, Avenue A | Razorfish wanted to challenge the audience of digital marketing executives to think of their roles differently — more as leaders, not just developers of successful digital marketing programs. Here are two take-aways for me now that I’ve had a moment to reflect on those hectic two days:
1. Social media hits the mainstream. More than once, our guests noticed the number of times our agenda speakers discussed social media. I was asked whether Avenue A | Razorfish was trying to make a statement about its importance. Well, yes and no. On the surface, there certainly was an impressive line-up from the social media realm: Charlene Li of Forrester Research drew upon her book The Groundswell to deliver an insightful keynote about the ways social media are changing the conversation between the consumer and marketer. My colleague Shiv Singh hosted a panel on applying social media as part of Social Influence Marketing. Megan O’Connor of Levi’s demonstrated how the Levi’s 501 Design Challenge used a social community to build brand with female consumers. Ted Cannis and Olivier Pierini of Ford Motor Company showed how Ford embraces social media inside and outside the company through efforts like the Ford blikinet and the Ford Global Auto Shows blog. And Andy England, CMO of Coors, touched upon social media several times (e.g., the Coors Light MySpace page) as he described the ways that Coors has embraced digital in its marketing. But here’s the thing: we did not deliberately set out to pack the agenda with social media. All we wanted to do was find some cutting-edge content to make marketers think of new ways of embracing the digital world, and the social media examples like Levi’s and Ford bubbled to the surface organically. This story just goes to show how social media is becoming a natural part of our lives, regardless of our intentions.
2. The importance of marketing as an experience. Avenue A | Razorfish CEO Clark Kokich discussed how the future of marketing is creating experiences that engage the consumer, not plastering marketing messages across the digital world. (Example: the Post Cereals Postopia website doesn’t push messages about Post Cereal; it’s an immersive world, hosted by Post Cereals, that families can enjoy.) Two Client Summit speakers showed what Clark meant. John McVay, the Avenue A | Razorfish client partner for AT&T, performed a live demonstration of how Microsoft Surface table technology can make the purchase of mobile devices fun through a touch-screen experience. (By the way, to pull off the demo, our production team needed to mount a camera in the ceiling of the ballroom of the Sheraton New York.) Then Terri Walter, Avenue A | Razorfish vice president of Emerging Media, and David Polinchock of the Brand Experience Lab performed an audience participation game that’s best described through this blog post by my colleague Iain McDonald of our Sydney office (which operates locally under the name Amnesia). Basically Terri and David made us think about how an an advertiser can create a branded game experience for any large gathering people — say a theater full movie goers waiting for a movie to start. Why sit around watching cheesy ads in a theater when we can interact with the movie screen and each other through a game that employs a webcam? I would happily do that if an advertiser will participate.
So, to summarize both ideas from the 2008 Client Summit in one sentence: the future of marketing is tapping into the social and immersive nature of the digital world to create engaging experiences, not to push messages.
By the way, many thanks to Deidre Everdij and the team at Highlight Event Design for producing our most demanding Client Summit ever. Deidre and her team saved our butts many times throughout the show. Talk about rocking the digital world! You can read more about the Client Summit here and here.