10 Lessons From the Ad Age Digital Marketing Conference

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1) Offline and online are inextricable
"This could not possibly have survived on its own," said Liz Vanzura, Cadillac's director-global advertising, of MyCadillacStory.com. "It needed to be pushed offline." Two TV commercials to promoted the site, and she said she checks the metrics daily. "We look at them, check them and optimize. What's working? What's not?"

2) Service marketing has never been more important
Matt Freeman, worldwide CEO of Tribal DDB, argued for a service role for marketing communications. "Branded service," he calls it, or a message that provides value to consumers. "The era of bombarding consumers with messages is over." Stefan Olander, global director-digital media for the Nike + iPod partnership, said, "The whole approach to this wasn't a technological or a digital approach. It was started by looking at 'What do runners do? What can we do to make their experience better?"'

3) Small content can be big
The mentality of "Build it and they will come" is over, said Steve Rubel, senior VP at Edelman's Me2Revolution. "It's not about big content, but fits into small places that are relevant."

4) Clicks aren't the measurement key
"If you think click tracking is telling you what's going on, you're wrong," said Jeffrey Glueck, chief marketing officer at Travelocity. To help solve the measurement issue, Travelocity has done three years of tracking brand metrics. Figure out which brand metrics relate to sales, and do lots of multivariate and regression analysis.

5) Don't make people leave their digital environment
"When youth are in the Facebook environment, the last thing they want to do is leave that environment," said Manning Field, senior VP-branding and advertising at Chase Card Services, sharing his experience advertising on the social network. Shane Steele, director-emerging media and online advertising, Coca-Cola Co., described how Coke put sponsored videos of Jay-Z and R-&-B singer Ne-Yo into the peer-to-peer space: "We were trying to walk a fine line between advertising and getting in the way and bringing value to the consumer. Peer-to-peer users are very advertising-averse."

6) Shut up and listen
So said Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace. Nike's Mr. Olander put it into practical context when he talked of how Nike uses feedback from its Nikeplus.com forum. "We've made lots of improvements. Users said, 'I should be able to name my run, because that's how I sort them.' So, fine, we let them name their runs. ... It helps on a development side. We've never had that opportunity to have that one-on-one dialogue with our consumers."

7) Challenge the idea of "The Big Idea"
Nick Law, R/GA North America's chief creative: "The digital space covers a lot of ground. I don't think one big idea is going to cover it all." Too often the big idea is a story with a punch line, he said. With digital, ideas can be utilities or informational.

8) Connect people with other people
"You should be measuring connections, bringing like-minded people together," Mr. Rubel said. Mr. Olander added: "It's not just the dialogue with Nike; it's the dialogue created between users. ... We've moved from the product, which is the area we've been in, we added in the service of Nikeplus.com that I've just shared. But then you look at the content we've delivered in the music space and, really importantly, the notion of community."

9) Remove the filter
Cadillac's Ms. Vanzura knew that an authentic repository for customers' stories couldn't have a PR filter. So she launched an unfiltered channel on YouTube for all submitted content, and made MyCadillacStory.com the "brand-safe" repository. She said she couldn't open up MyCadillacStory.com because "every corporate organization is full of corporate lawyers."

10) Be a technophile
Unilever, said Babs Rangaiah, director-media and entertainment at Unilever USA, is loaded with M.B.A.s from top schools, yet it still administers digital IQ tests "to make sure people understand the space."

-- Abbey Klaassen, Matthew Creamer, Andrew Hampp and Emily Tan

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