Thursday, March 5, 2009

2009 IAB Canada's MIXX Canada Conference - Overview & Reflections

It was a stimulating day here in Toronto at the 2009 "IAB Canada's MIXX Canada Conference" which took place downtown at the Carlu. This year's event drew in hundreds of keen online marketers to hear some inspiring presentations on recent developments in online media.

I was fortunate enough to catch up one-on-one with all the presenters and will spend the next couple of days sharing some forward thinking from these individuals and the companies they represent.

Here's an overview of the day's agenda...

Inside the Obama Social Media Marketing Juggernaut

The event kicked off with Jascha Franklin-Hodge, the CFO and Co-Founder at Blue State Digital. Blue State Digital was responsible for Barack Obama’s online social media strategy. Jascha shared incredible insight into tools that were created and gave a good presentation of how tactics were tried, tested and optimized. It was a great overview of the fluidity of the social space and clearly demonstrated how influencers can be motivated to become not only supporters, but active advocates focused on a cause.

Adnetik – Havas Digital’s Trading Network – The Next Sea Change in Digital Marketing

Nathan Woodman, Global Managing Director at Adnetik talked to the crowd about a potential paradigm shift in the way we buy online media. Nathan discussed the value of users vs. the value of placements and how publishers and media strategists could re-evaluate their media buys. Following the behavioral trend, Nathan proposed a compelling argument for creating higher value media campaigns that are based on cost per acquisitions. The devil is in the details though and I’ll delve into this topic on a separate post.

Display Fights Back – ComScore’s Take on the Latency Issue

How refreshing to see a presentation that supported the Latency Issue (one of my all time favourite digital issues). Gian Fulgoni, Executive Chairman and Founder of ComScore delivered a rock solid case to re-consider the cost per click dilemma that has wreaked havoc on publisher inventory levels and has caused a clear devaluation of their media space. Gian’s presentation included the following fabulous diagram depicting the bulk (84%!) of the media exposure value as latent.


How else can we say "step away from the click"???

Slow Dancin’ with Doritos: BBDO’s Stufy in Brand Hijacking – Gone Right

Fernando Barbella, BBDO Argentina’s Interactive Creative Director delivered a fabulous presentation and case study. Fernando took us behind the scenes on a “movement” that was conceptualized for the Doritos brand. The golden nugget of the case study was how PepsiCo. allowed the movement to “high jack” its Doritos brand with great results. The slow Dancin’ case study deserves its own blog post and I’ll be elaborating on some really neat concepts I discussed with Fernando after the show.

Canadian Interactive Futures Roundtable

This was one of the more interesting roundtables I’ve watched here in Canada. The main discussion revolved around the economy. All panelists seemed bullish on the online media expenditures in Canada citing that they are either stable or not decreasing at the same rate or degree as was feared...yet.

Some highlights included:


Maura Hanley, Managing Director of Mediacom, one of the largest media buying agencies in Canada, commented on overall media budgets remaining relatively flat but shifting to online. Later in the discussion Maura talked about the huge amount of unpaid media that is starting to appear on the scene. I didn’t get the sense that she felt threatened by this but I did wonder about how this non-monetized media translates into a media planners margins and how it might effect the ways in which the clients compensate the agencies.

Dawna Henderson, President and CEO at Henderson Bas, pointed out that larger consulting firms (McKinseys of the world) are slowly starting to appear in the online space as high-level strategy competitors. I thought this was interesting as it somehow reflected the level of complexity that is required to develop effective online strategies. Award winning agencies can take pride in the fact that a lot of what they do is rocket science - (ok - that's a bit of a self indulgant stretch).

When the panel was asked about the apparently sparse start-up scene in Canada, Jason Sikora, Vice President, Web at Lavalife Corp. named a couple of great home grown brands like eye-return and points.com as real success stories that have a lot more exposure in the US than they do in Canada. Other panelists commented on the migration of Canadian talent to Silicon Valley as it has historically been easier to secure venture capital there.

I think I pushed a button when I asked about whether the publishers were starting to feel a shift in onus to provide bigger picture strategy to advertisers. I have personally reflected on this question for a while as I hear more and more publishers and ad networks going directly to the clients with offerings.

Dominique-S├ębastien Forest, General Manager Digital Media and E-Commerce at Canoe Inc - Quebecor Media very passionately answered this question. According to Domenique-Sebastien, some of the best case studies he’s seen, have come out of publisher-developed strategies. He seemed to feel strongly that agencies have become a little complacent about doing the heavy lifting and that the publishers need to step in more and more these days.

Taking the discussion to a higher level, Tomer Strolight, President at Torstar Digital and Chairman at IAB Canada, commented on how publishers are charged with the task to innovate highly scalable product offerings that operate within the new eco-system (social networks etc.). He talked about the importance of creating repeatable, high value propositions to advertisers and suggested that this strategic challenge may be one of the factors that are driving higher level consulting firms to join the landscape.

In summary, here is my humble list of the day’s take-aways:

1. Metrics have reached a new level of sophistication – we are on the verge of buying on a qualitative level. If publishers and advertisers buy into the new generation of media valuation, it may save a lot of inventory headaches and drive revenue. Think "bidding on the user - not the media space".
2. Agencies are going to start feeling more pressure from new competitors and a growing trend from publisher mandates to innovate and sell directly to the advertisers.
3. The concept of “letting go” is starting to evolve into hi-jacking scenarios like the one presented by Fernando for Doritos. Many case studies are starting to pop-up on this. Skittles' recent flirtation with Twitter is another example of brands attempting to let go (some more successfully than others).
4. Giving influencers tools to advocate your brand appropriately like the Obama campaign is hot.

I'm sure that I'll think of many more as I process the information from the day's event.

Stay tuned.

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