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ad:tech San Francisco 2014 Key Takeaways

ad:tech San Francisco 2014 is now history. But there are many memories we’re going to take away from the conference and expo. But first, let’s mention the tipsy elephant in the room: Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs. Has there ever been a keynote speaker at ad:tech who took shots on stage as part of their address? I’ve never been to one. While it was entertaining, it probably wasn’t one of the best ideas that this seasoned conference producer has ever had.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at a couple of the highlights.

Content Distribution – Does Your Content Make a Sound?

“Content is king” has not only become one of the most overused catch phrases in the last many years, it also continues to be the mantra of marketers, and for good reason: it still works.

So you’ve created some great content, now what? Distribution has become just as important – and perhaps even more so. Think of it this way, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Marketers need to ask themselves, “Where will my content live? How will it be shared? By whom? How will people interact with it?”

Alex Jacobs, Group Director of Social at Digitas, shared a fantastic and fun case study in the session, “Spreading the Word: Advanced Strategies for Content Distribution.” Our story opens with Digitas’ launch of Taco Bell’s Cool Ranch Dorito Taco. Through a series of content distribution coups including email teasers to brand advocates, PR in key publications, native advertising, a pre-release of the taco at secret storefronts around the country one day before the formal launch, and powerful viral word of mouth via social, the public was treated to a full frontal assault of the Cool Ranch Doritos Taco that whipped them into a frenzy.

Notice that Digitas used every distribution channel in their arsenal: PR, brick & mortar storefronts, social, viral, advertising, and email. The result was the most successful launch in the history of the Taco Bell brand.

The key takeaway? Don’t let all that strategizing, hard work, time, and energy in producing great content go to waste. Use powerful technology tools and creative distribution channels to deliver your content, get your message across loud and clear, and drive engagement, interest, and revenue.

Intellectual Honesty and Creative Intelligence

One of ReTargeter’s leading Account Managers attended “The Myth of Big Data,” delivered by Dan Greenberg, CEO of native advertising platform, Sharethrough. In this session, Greenberg’s emphasis was on a powerful concept – intellectual honesty.

As marketers, we know that good, or even great, creative isn’t enough to deliver the best results. Advertisers also need to pay acute attention to being intellectually honest about how their users will actually interact with their ads in the digital setting.

What does intellectual honesty look like? Greenberg shared an example in which a client that produced movie trailers for Blockbuster created a YouTube trailer for a feature film that Sharethrough would then serve. The trailer for this movie opened with a black screen and muted music and then built over the course of a full minute. From a creative standpoint, the trailer achieved the desired result of building anticipation and tension, but from an intellectually honest standpoint, it failed.

As advertisers, we know that we have about one half second to capture our target audience’s attention. With this in mind, Greenberg pointed out to the Creative Director that the person watching the ad trailer was forced to see it prior to the video for which they actually searched. With the option to skip the trailer in five seconds, the viewer would only see a blank screen and hear about one second of the muted music before they had the opportunity to skip the trailer. If you were this person, what would you do? I thought so.

High concept creativity can be interesting and has its place, but not at the cost of the user experience and your precious ad dollars. While this is something that comes up often with ReTargeter clients, Greenberg’s session will help us really drive this point home in the future. And as digital advertising becomes increasingly specialized, it will become even more important to consider the user experience. Know how your audience is consuming your content – whether that’s via mobile, video, or otherwise – and generate your creative from there.

See you at ad:tech New York in November!

For best practices on ad creative, see our collection of articles on the subject here.

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