IAB MIXX Conference & Expo 2011:
Day One Highlights
IAB’s largest event of the year, the sold-out MIXX Conference and Expo Marketplace, commenced Advertising Week with an unlikely breaking news announcement from Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB. “The innovations that will change your world as marketing, advertising and media professionals over the next 18 to 24 months will have nothing to do with technology. Technology is irrelevant to the future of marketing and advertising,” he said. What matters is storytelling. That’s what will differentiate brands from one another. “In this technology infused age, in this technology confused industry the story is the story.”
Jonathan Mildenhall, Vice President, Global Advertising Strategy and Content Excellence, The Coca-Cola Company, delivered on Rothenberg’s demand by energetically and inspirationally revealing how The Coca-Cola Company is getting ahead in the world of storytelling. By studying different legendary content creators spanning Steve Jobs, Madonna, and Martin Luther King, Jr., The Coca-Cola Company looks for new ways to reconsider its lasting, consistent product and brand. One key secret: Keep creativity brutally simple. Then to ground this and other concepts in action, he discussed the strategy at The Coca-Cola Company for composing the right creative brief—big ideas based on powerful insights from data; new models of content creation—working directly with talent and brand fans; investing in the content—70% in tried and true, 20% in innovative, and 10% in experimental; and pushing the production dollar to its fullest without repurposing content to all screens. The goal is for content to be liquid, meaning to flow through any medium and through consumers’ connections, and to be linked directly to brand objectives.
We live in a world of connections just like we have since the dawn of mankind, said Carolyn Everson, Vice President, Global Marketing Solutions, Facebook. The difference today is that technology is allowing us to live our genuine offline experience in an online environment—we no longer interact through fake screen names and avatars online, but we represent our real selves and our real relationships with friends, families, and brands. “We focus our mission on connecting the people on Facebook to the things they care about,” she said. Brands have always mattered in our lives, and businesses are better in a connected world. The first step to grabbing hold of this value is knowing why you want someone to be a fan. It’s about asking: What unique value position am I offering? How can I be the most engaging storyteller? The key is for advertising content to be as useful as the content consumers see from their friends, she says.
Consumers also like to choose the content they consume. That’s the strategy for increased effectiveness behind Hulu Ad Swap, the new product announced onstage by Jean-Paul Colaco, Senior Vice President, Advertising, Hulu. The new tool enables users to instantly swap out of an ad they are watching for one that is more relevant to them. The more choices consumers make in their advertising preferences through this and other ad-choice mechanisms, the more relevant the swap-options are likely to be. Initial testing showed that the swapped out ads were twice as effective as a standard pre-roll. “The power of choice is important story for online video advertising,” he said.
After a networking refreshment break at the MIXX Expo Marketplace, Mike Hughes President at The Martin Agency illuminated the concepts of storytelling and storybuilding in the digital age through his own personal story. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, he had to decide how to communicate the news to the people who relied on him. But he realized he could only control how his story would be told at the outset. Once the news was out, he had no idea how his story would build and change. Hughes’s story turned into a website full of well-wishes, a book, and respectful coverage from local news and the ad trades. That’s the difference between storytelling and storybuilding. He started the story. Others built on it. Storybuilding is about constant creation; storybuilding is a discussion; story-builders share control of the story; story-builders routinely break the rules. Storytellers lay the groundwork for story-builders, but storytellers have an end-point while story-builders have a goal.
Now imagine if you could turn into the Geico Gecko and do a dance. Instead of looking at the Gecko, be the Gecko. That’s the bar of consumer-brand interaction that Jaron Lanier, Partner Architect, Microsoft Research would like advertisers to take advantage of. The virtual reality technology is here, he said, and the connections with consumers would be deep. It would bring romanticism back to the advertising. It would allow advertisers to tap into new areas of the human brain. “There’s no such thing as passive perception. It’s always interactive,” he said. Traditional media got us used to the idea of taking things in, but that’s going to be remembered as an anomaly.
Big ideas remained center stage as Chris Anderson, Curator, TED announced the second year of “Ads Worth Spreading”—TED’s challenge to the global advertising industry to raise the bar of online advertising and advertising in general. “Why is it we don’t see more amazing ideas in advertising?” he asked. No longer are advertisers confined by the 30-second spot. They can produce video that’s as long as the story can hold viewer interest. Today brands have the tools to craft stories with big ideas that change the perceptions and behaviors for years to come.
Kathy Eldon, Founder and President, Creative Visions Foundation reinforced the power of storytellers, particularly digital storytellers by saying, “If you want to take out the future of America, you just take out this room, because you’re it.” Her son Dan was a storyteller who lost his life at 22 years old fighting to tell the true stories of conflict and poverty in Africa. His ambition and drive, his story and those that he told have inspired a film, a book, the increased support of journalists in risky environments, and even the social entrepreneurship venture TOMS shoes. His was the story of a kid who didn’t live very long, but it rippled around the world because it’s raw, it’s authentic, it’s funny, it’s sad and it’s real. She ended with inspiration from Geothe: “Whatever you can do or believe you can do, begin it now. Genius has boldness, power, and magic, begin it now.”
After breaking up for the workshops and reassembling for a networking luncheon, John Norman, Executive Vice President, Chief Creative Officer, The Martin Agency, explored the relationship between technology and storytelling. “I always thought there was no possible way technology could duplicate the passion I felt about telling stories. I was really naïve,” he said. “Technology has opened up new ways to express brand impressions on emotional levels we never knew possible.” But over-reliance on technology can cost you. “There’s no guarantee technology will make our stories any better…Technology can’t run us.” Then he introduced a new term: advertaining. It’s the product of technology and advertising combining to do something no one’s ever seen before.
The grand finale of the main stage presentations for Day 1 was a fascinating conversation between Iain Tait, Global Interactive Executive Creative Director, Wieden+Kennedy, and Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO, IAB. The pair discussed some of the barriers between the will to create great work and the way to make it happen. “If you’re playing around with new media or new forms of technology, you don’t know if it’s going to work until you try,” Tait said. “We’re often asking [clients] to buy things when there’s no precedent that’s been set.” What is the role of the easily understood product like the TV script in the digital age? he asked. Talent is another big issue for the industry. Tait looks for creatives with the ability to take a complicated campaign with multiple executions across various platforms and media and put them together into a whole—someone who is not just checking boxes, but really bringing pieces of the idea together.
Attendees headed to the networking cocktail reception with breakthrough research and thought-provoking case studies to discuss from the track sessions. A chock-full day indeed of inspirational ideas and actionable insights.
Industry Announcements at MIXX
IAB News Released at MIXX
IAB MIXX Press Coverage