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Dmexco 2015: An overview

This time last week, over 43,000 people were filing in and out of the famous Koelnmesse, in a very rainy Cologne to get the low-down on what’s hot in Digital Marketing right now. The theme was Bridging Worlds – bringing together digital and analogue media. Initiative UK’s Claire Elsworth, Digital Account Director, went along to see what people had to say. Here are a few highlights.

On data….

Big data. Small data. Good data. Bad data. Your data. My data. Turns out data is everywhere, fuelling everything, and it’s easy to get bogged down in the whole thing. How much data is too much data? When is it scary? When is it useful? How do we use it?

The main thing to remember, and it might seem like an obvious one, is that data is not the strategist. While we were all debating the role of data in the attention economy, Kevin Akeroyd of Oracle pointed out that “data is not even the strategy. Data is the enabler.”

If you ask our pals at UM to talk about their recent win at Cannes for their brilliant work on The Economist, you’d get a lot more than “data”. You’d get “smart use of data”, “relevancy in real time” – you’d get a lot of talk about how data facilitated the success of their campaign to talk to their audience about the things they wanted to hear about. Data didn’t create that campaign, but it sure did make it.

During a whirlwind keynote from AOL’s David Shing on innovation (by the way, if you’ve ever seen Shingy present anything, you’ll appreciate how impossible it is to take notes while he’s speaking) he reminded us that 75% of purchase decisions are made emotionally. At the end of the day, we still have humans at each end of the process. Humans are still the things we are marketing to, and it still takes humans to develop the marketing strategy to reach them.


On ad-blocking…

Ad-blocking. The most popular expletive in digital marketing right now. Such is the apparent abhorrence towards digital – particularly mobile – advertising, that upon the launch of iOS9, it was a flurry of ad-blocking apps which went straight in at number one on the App Store. So what do we do about it? Of course, for every action, there is a reaction, and there is already technology out there which “blocks the blockers”. But that could, in theory, go on and on ad-infinitum. Ad-blocking is a symptom, and ad-blocker-blockers are a band aid. If we could just understand why people block ads, we might be able to cure the disease lock, stock and barrel.

The thing is, if you want to consume content then that content has to come from somewhere. We’re used to getting everything for free online but content doesn’t just magically appear out of nowhere. It has to be produced by someone, and that someone must be being paid for doing so else they’ll stop and you won’t have any more content to consume. The publishing world collapses.

Ben Barokas of Sourcepoint (one of the ad-blocker-blockers) was in this year’s Hot Seat (literally a glowing red chair flanked by two actual live fire pits. He was visibly sweating). As he put it, “customers should choose how they compensate publishers”. So rather than shoving ads down the consumer throat, should publishers be looking at a Spotify-esque model where people must pay for content they really want? This works for the handful of publishers who we regularly use for our content fix, but what about the long-tail of digital platforms where we might find ourselves on occasion? Can we convince consumers to let a couple of ads slide on the one bit of content they’re interested in? Barokas thinks it’s acceptable for publishers to block content to those who block ads – on the understanding that publishers need to be paid for content creation in some form. So if you don’t want to subscribe, but also don’t want to see advertising… well, you’re not allowed to see the content. Fair?

The truth is, of course, that people actually just hate bad advertising. Promoted Tweets get retweeted all the time. Branded YouTube videos get millions of views. Some of them were originally TV ads. Rather than the advertiser saying whatever they wanted to say and hoping the audience would listen, they gave the audience something they wanted to hear. The value exchange worked.

On value exchange…

70% of consumers would rather read about a brand than be advertised to. And overwhelmingly, people claim not to trust “traditional” DR-style display advertising. Stan Sugarman from Gruner + Jahr went as far as to say that mobile display as we know it will not exist in 18 months. Bold claim. So surely that settles it? Let’s scrap the banners and just focus on content marketing campaigns. Here’s why that’s not a good idea:

#1: Content marketing is not a campaign. Yes, our audiences prefer to learn about brands via the medium of content, but it’s not about what we want to say, it’s about what they want to hear. So it’s great that we can shout about our new product / offer when we have something to say, but what about when we don’t? Content is always on, and as Dao Ngyuen of Buzzfeed pointed out, “content is a process, not the end result”. Content marketing is not just about saying whatever it is we’re saying, it’s a constant cycle of learning, refining and improving our communications to better suit the audience at whatever stage of the purchase funnel we might find them. And this goes for Earned as well as Owned content. If we have a positive review on a third party site, there’s no reason why we can’t support this content with our own paid distribution just because it’s a third party site – if it contributes to an overall business uplift, why not? We might find a consumer so warm to the brand having read the content that they’d even be happy to engage with one of those dreaded banner ads. Which leads us to…

#2: Content is not the opposite of display. There is such a thing as bad storytelling, and also such a thing as successful, results-driving display. Outbrain’s Alex Erlmeier suggests we let the consumer decide how they want to interact with us. Are they one of the 70% who prefer to read about a brand? Let’s make sure they can do that with some great article-style content. Will they then be receptive to a more salesy message now that they’re convinced of our offering? Let’s remind them we’re here with a DR ad. It sounds so obvious, but it’s not about favouring one channel over another, it’s about making sure it all works together to give the consumer the best brand experience for them.

On Brand experience, not Digital experience…

As an industry we can be guilty of artificially isolating digital from the rest of media. Artificially, that is, because consumers don’t do the same thing. Facebook’s Brian Boland had us all close our eyes and imagine our lives 10 years ago. What was the very first thing you’d do when you woke up in the morning? Now imagine what it is you do now? Is it the same thing? If you answered “check my smartphone” to the latter question, then it’s definitely not the same. The exponential growth of digital media consumption doesn’t represent a “shift” in behaviour – it’s a fundamental overhaul. What we define as digital channels in the industry are just part of the everyday to our audience, so we should treat them as such. Mediacom’s Deirdre McGlashan told us to think not about creating great Digital experiences, but creating great Brand experiences, because that’s what our consumers are after.

This year’s conference theme was “bringing together the digital and analogue worlds” – in fact, they never should have been separated in the first place.

Images : Dmexco 2015

Here also are a few highlights from the wider IPG Mediabrands team.