First ad:tech session of the week: Media & Entertainment: Programming, Distribution and Advertising in a Multi-Platform World.
Moderator Ira Rubenstein kicked things off by cutting to the chase. Observing that the "old media model" revolved around scarcity, he asked how panelists make media buying and planning decisions for a show like Heroes when you can watch it on NBC, Hulu and Joost.
What followed were a bunch of really good-sounding quotes if you happen to be a fan of Seth Godin's literary masterpieces: Understand your audience! Follow the good content! What is your consumer looking for?
But then the wind changed. And the boys ran with it!
Drew Reifenberger, Senior VP and GM, Superdeluxe, Turner: "Generally consumers are OK with advertising and accept it as a reality. We should just try a lot of [different ad models]."
He emphasized sponsorship models versus CPM-based models. Good examples - in my opinion - include tasteful product placement, online web dramas (like what Tide did with Crescent Heights, only watchable), and maybe episode-spanning ad buys for feature shows on sites like NBC, ABC or Hulu.
I'm a big online TV watcher, and I don't generally mind repeated ad messages too much if they're good. (Strangely, Australia's tourism department does this quite well.)
What won me was when Ted McConnell, director of interactive relations for P&G, remarked, "Brand equity is expensive to build, and it builds over time. It's sacrosanct."
Sacrosanct. For six seconds, I believed again. But he went on!
"The content of your message reflects on your equity. It gets harder every day as content gets slung around -- who knows where it's going to land? That's an issue."
No, that's a takeaway if I ever heard one.
In every panel there's always one super-quotable person. In this case, that person was McConnell.
McConnell went on to say channels have different levels of intimacy. If you want to succeed in the digital era, you have to learn to balance the intrusiveness of your message against the intimacy of the channel.
He elaborated by observing you can say what you want in an outdoor ad without hurting a user's experience of "outside" (unless you live in Sao Paolo), but you oughtn't ruin a private dinner party by knocking on the host's door and trying to sell Tupperware.
A good illustration always wins the day.
Not to say McConnell was the only star. EVP and CDO Curt Hecht of GM Planworks/Starcom Mediavest Group had his moments in the sun, too.
"Don't get fooled by shiny, blinky things!" he admonished. "They're just tactics looking for a home that are not really being driven by the consumer at the end of the day."
But to save us all from the slippery slope of fundamentalism, he added, "It's really easy to get excited by half the stuff that comes across my desk in a given day."
How do you know when the hype train is going to conceive a super star? At ad:tech in particular, you hear a lot of noise. (Just ask Craig Peters.) But hey, you have to sympathize with the "shiny blinky things" vendors. It's tough to get even a winning product to a catalystic point.
McConnell sent us home happy with a little philosophy (always a great closer): "In a world of infinite niches, I think there's going to have to be something that's more structural that's introduced. One example of that is widgets. What's a widget, really?"
I held my breath. Was he going rhetorical on our asses? No. As we've learned to expect from our P&G homie, he kept right on going.
"[A widget's] just a container."
And before we could go flying into speculation, he rapidly illustrated his point with a FedEx comparison: FedEx has done an excellent job of taking the emphasis off the interior and placing it on the container itself.
But here's to hoping that whatever we use to stock our widgets, Facebook apps or direct mailing envelopes are just as compelling as the shiny blinky brands on the outside.