This past week we ran our digital thought leadership conference, Verge, and I hosted the third section of the day, Engage.
It was a great full day and amazing how a little controversy and case studies go together well. Bob Garfield appropriately stressed the degree of change happening in the industry and credit to Ogilvy and particularly Ogilvy Advertising for asking him to speak.
We say all the time that if you want to get someone's attention, host a debate. It is good to see we are walking the talk.
At anyrate, here's my opening remarks which were slightly less inspired but fun to give.
INTRODUCTION – VERGE ENGAGE SECTION – 13 September 2007
Listen, Experiment and Engage.
As the anchor team of the day we're going to now shift our focus to Engage. How to take seriously engaging with our customers using digital channels. How to embrace the new world of Interactive Marketing. How to stop worrying about the potential impacts the Internet MAY have on our business, and instead talk about some companies that have made real decisions that change how they DO business.
It is interesting; having worked in interactive since 1995, there has been an expression that has been bandied around since the early days: "Do they get it?" I've never really liked the expression because it reminds me of a teenager talking about a complex social situation. "She just doesn't get it." Or it sounds as if understanding the impact of digital media were like understanding some of the more esoteric Turner Prize entries. It's a white room with a light turning on and off. "Don't you get it?"
"Getting digital" actually comes from the early days when the basics — using the Yahoo directory, buying a book online, having a digital camera — represented bizaar evangelical activity. The thought that someone would prefer to check their bank balance online or would prefer to learn about a new business application through e-mail was shocking. People would say "oh, those people. They're geeks."
Today we are all "geeks" — and it's a very real compliment. It is the reason we are here today. The question is no longer "if" digital channels will impact our business, it is "how" and what we should we do about it.
We are here because real businesses are making real profits through digital channels and real businesses are using interactive marketing to influence their customers.
In the US, retail web sales were $136 billion in 2006. What is interesting is that 41% of this is done by traditional retail chains. (Internet Retailer, Top 500 e-Retailers, 2007). Back in 1997 we did some work for the Gap and we had a big celebration when the ecommerce site did as much sales as one Manhatten store. Today The Gap does 5% of all its sales online – and that represents about 300 stores. Traditional retailers are engaged.
Here in the UK, Alliance & Lester has reported in its annual report that over 38% of their new sales on its 4 core retail banking products come over the Internet (2006, Annual report). It isn't a surprise that in 2004 they were spending over £10m on internet advertising and nearly half of all online advertising is for financial services. These are very direct marketing organisations. They measure and evaluate. They are working online because it works.
At Lego, they recognised the internet is a good way to reach its customers and has encouraged its best customers to participate in product development because they can do that cost effectively now. They run the LEGO Factory which allows customers to design, share and buy their own models. They've created product community sites where people can show off ideas and participate in promotions. They even have Lego Engineering, an online community dedicated solely to educators teaching engineering through Lego. Over 1.2 million people visit this site monthly and spend on average 18 minutes. Lego sees the benefits.
Without giving away what our speakers will be covering, I can say the simple theme that drives good interactive marketing is quite simple. It is commitment.
Having a digital agenda doesn't mean you personally understand the difference between java and .Net — it is simply that you recognise digital channels are important, and you don't let them drop off the agenda.
Our first speaker is from a company that has proven again and again how much they understand digital marketing. The BBC. Unless you've had the bad luck to have been living under a small rock in rural France, you've seen what the BBC has done leveraging their content on digital channels. They have embraced the web, mobile, iTV and Freeview, as well as YouTube, MySpace, MySpace News, MySpace TV, and the list goes on. Sam Smith is Head of Future Media Audiences and, amongst other things, has been nominated for an award from the Marketing Research Society for her paper on "Fragvergence."
Making up our panel we have 3 additonal speakers that will take you through a quick 10 minute case study. To start we have Rufus Olins, Managing Director of Haymarket Brand Media. Haymarket is of course best known for its wonderful online site, Brand Republic, but also for a stable of top quality industry magazines such as Campaign, Revolution, Marketing and Marketing Direct. Rufus knows publishing — he has been at Haymarket for over 8 years, at one time he was a senior journalist at The Sunday Times and was voted best business magazine editor of the year by two of his industry's associations.
Our next speaker is Clive Peoples Head of Customer Communications for Expedia.co.uk. Clive has been a speaker at numerous industry events and recently was quoted for the correlation of the impact our mixed summer weather has had on airline sales. He will be speaking on the importance of user-generated content in his business.
Finally Aaron Coldiron the Senior Marketing Manager for Microsoft Vista is dedicated to managing Vista's early adopters — a critical segment for a software product. He has worked at Disney and studied in the UK as a University student. He will speak on a why Microsoft committed to an online / offline 360 campaign, Vanishing Point, as a central part of the launch of Windows Vista.
–The BBC has clearly committed to delivering great content even if the distribution is fragmented. The same challenge exists for 360 advertising campaigns. Do your production meetings address the different channels up front, or do you find you are editing and reformationg existing content for different channels?
–Given all of the media choices, how do you decide where to focus?
–Shifting your business from one of primarily weekly publications to constant publishing and community management is a significant shift. What prompted you and Haymarket to make the investment and commit to digital channels?
–Back in the early days of ecommerce, we used to talk about having as simple a shopping process as possible to keep down the customers time on site. Do you find you have to make a case for User Generated Content internally? How do you measure the business impact?
–I understand as part of the campaign you gave away Ferrari's to your top technology bloggers. Is this a good representation how seriously Microsoft takes its digital customers?
–As a complex, multi-channel project, Vanish Point could not have been measured on reach and frequency. How did you measure the impact of the campaign?