Where to begin to describe the excitement, the exhilaration and most significantly, the sheer inspiration of our first MediaCom Beyond Advertising global client event? It was pretty awesome. Does that cover it? No? Ok, here goes.
‘The next five years will hold more change for the advertising industry than the previous fifty did’. James Morris, Head of Mediacom Beyond Advertising EMEA began. ‘It’s no longer enough to bombard our way into culture; we must become a part of it’. The purpose of our day was to dig into these words and present insight.
Everyone enjoyed our first guest. It wasn’t just that we had a recording star in our midst. Alongside Marc Robinson of Globe, Professor Green is an engaging man. The record industry as we still quaintly refer to it doesn’t exist in quite the same way that it used to. Marc dropped some thought provoking stats. There were 4.4 billion music streams in the UK in 2012. 60% of itunes content is downloaded straight to mobile. Artists and brands are forming partnerships to leverage this change and build careers. As an ambassador for Puma, Professor Green is emblematic of this movement. But he quickly touched on what would become one of the big themes of the day: authenticity. There needs to be a heart in brand collaborations for them to succeed. ‘It can’t be about money’, he says here. ‘It has to be something that fits with you and is honest and believable because if it isn’t, people will see it a mile off.’
We couldn’t get him to do an impromptu performance but he did stick around long enough to conduct an interview with the Mediacom Beyond Advertising social media team….entirely by twitter.
Our next guest Nick D’Aliosio bought the house down simply by virtue of being himself. Nick sold his app, Summly to Yahoo! for $30m earlier this year. He is 17 years old. But that’s not what took the audience’s breath away. As James Morris pointed out during the Q&A, technology was seen as an engineering skill in the past. Now it’s a creative skill. Nick is a combination of both. And more. Not only has he had the idea, executed it and sold it, he can communicate it to you in a frighteningly impressive – and natural – manner. One sensed the audience mentally auditing their life’s work and throwing their throwing their hands up on the spot.
Nick’s message to brands who are developing apps? Make them multifaceted. An app needs to work hard. People don’t have time for anything less, much less room on their phones. In answer to the question we all wanted to ask about his age, ‘It’s been an advantage’ he answered. ‘I’ve had no formal training. I didn’t know the constraints of technology. I had nothing to lose but trying it and having a go.’
Not the easiest of acts to follow, Jefferson Hack, stepped up to the plate and showed the audience why, 22 years after its launch, independent style magazine Dazed & Confused is still influencing upcoming generations of young people. Dazed & Confused have a long history of collaborations with brands and world class creative talent alike. He showcased several here and here and built on a theme that we hear time and again: storytelling. ‘It’s integral to human existence. A genuine story within a new format is the killer proposition’. But once again, the clue is in the word genuine and he followed it up with a cautionary statement. ‘Don’t just feed the machine. We enter the danger zone when we create content just to feed the machine’. Content creation needs to spring from a genuine desire for knowledge and the desire to entertain. ‘Brands shouldn’t be competing for attention’, he continued, ‘they should be participating’.
The funny thing about our last guest before lunch, Patricia Bright, aka ‘Brit Pop Princess’ is that she figured out how to create her own YouTube channel…by watching YouTube videos. Inspired by what her peers were doing, Patricia started creating her own videos about style, make up and fashion. She now has 231,851 on-line subscribers. It was little surprise to hear what pushed her stats up. ‘It’s about connecting the emotion’, she said. ‘They want to know more about the person’. When she let her viewers further into her life, they got more involved with the content, thus illustrating a defining feature of upcoming generations: the line between real and virtual friends is thin, therefore, ‘why should I not share my life with my friends?’
It’s not entirely true to say that Patricia was the last guest before lunch. One of the best speakers of the day, Sir Martin Sorrell, dropped in, pulled up a chair and told us some stories. ‘The message used to be more important than the medium’, he said. ‘Not any more. They are equal, if not the other way around’. In addition, you need the right kind of people to leverage your brand communications. ‘Talent is very different now’, he continued, backing up the words of James Morris earlier. ‘The digital age has bought the link between creativity and technical development closer’.
Sir Martin was quoted widely and you can read more here.
Post lunch, You Tube’s Derek Scobie talked us through the YouTube platform. ‘Success is understanding what people are passionate about’. For many of us, this appears to be skateboarding cats and talking dogs but as he quickly pointed out, ‘when your brands got 22 million hits, come and see me’.
‘The YouTube that you need to engage with is original, consistent and collaborative’, he continued. ‘And it works best when partnered with people who have already had success’. Jamie Oliver partnered with Sorted Food who had 30,000 existing subscribers to launch Food Tube. The rest is history.
Having arrived on a flight from the States on the morning of our event and departing straight after for a pitch in New York, we think it’s fair to say that AOL’s awesome Digital Evangelist David Shing won the prize for squeezing the most amount of information into the shortest amount of time. He was also the most Tweeted person of the day. This is what got replicated the most:
‘Personal expression is the new entertainment’
‘Curation is now of conversations rather than content’ (much as we are doing right now)
‘Attention is the KPI we will all be measured by as marketers in the future’
‘Mobile is the primary screen, not TV. How many of you walked into this room with a TV screen?’
And on our two phones – one for business and one for pleasure – ‘Rubber band that shit together. That’s called LIFE!’
As our final speaker of the day, VP & Head of Video Programming and Originals at Yahoo!, Erin McPherson was a great example of an online entity that has developed the agility to flex and change to meet the demands of its audience. She ‘hated’ the idea of chopping up TV programmes into ten minute episodes but data, and a shift towards the use of smart phones and tablets proved this to be what their audience required. ‘We’ve had to put our egos aside and rethink our own ‘wisdom’, she said. ‘We embrace failure but we change and adjust our model constantly to allow for that. All of our autumn content is going to be loaded up at the same time. It’s risky, but it’s what people want’.
She finished up with a challenging but inspiring thought. ‘This truly is the wild west – which makes it amazing’.
Ten years ago, digital communications were considered an add-on. Today, 50% of the population has no understanding of a life without the internet. As a result, brands need to tell their stories across a complex cultural landscape, and in a variety of ways. ‘Content and its distribution is the future of our business’ said Nick Lawson, Mediacom’s EMEA CEO as we wrapped up. ‘How we work in the future needs to be radically different. We need to re-invent the advertising model’. We hope we’ve given our clients lots of ideas, insight and confidence about this future – and in keeping with the qualities of the best content, entertained them at the same time.
But the fun wasn’t over quite yet. Oh no. We still had our party to go at Abbey Road Studios. Guess how many of us dropped all pretence of coolness and photographed each other walking Beatles style across the Zebra crossing….
With many thanks to: Be-On, YouTube, AOL, Universal, Dazed, Ciroc Vodka and Spotify