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Speaking at different times today, executives including Interpublic Group of Cos. CEO Michael Roth; Microsoft President of Platforms and Services Kevin Johnson; Leo Burnett USA CEO Tom Bernardin; and Tribal DDB West President Elizabeth Ross all agreed that while new technologies will allow better tracking and better targeting, none of it matters if the creative content fails to generate consumer interest. They all also noted the growing digital convergence (such as GPS-equipped phones) that could offer a possibility for advertising.
"Technology has altered how we drive insights, how we provide a more relevant message, how we develop branded experiences and how music plays a role in people's lives," said Mr. Bernardin. "It's impossible for me to find an area of our business technology hasn't touched, and the rapid rate at which changes continue to take place is absolutely breathtaking."
Microsoft: Content is key
Mr. Johnson called Microsoft's advertising technology an "enabler" that gives ad agencies new possibilities for creating content and delivering it at times when consumers can react and use it, but he also said the Microsoft understands that the content is the key to how well it works.
"We understand our role," he said, adding that Microsoft wanted to provide the tools to let agencies be more creative and help with accountability. Microsoft demonstrated its MediaCart technology, which allows grocery shoppers to scan items as they shop and get messages on related products.
Mr. Roth pointed out Interpublic brought media planners back to its ad agencies to assure content reaches the user at the right place, but said digital expertise would be built into all elements of marketing. He said it has a role in loyalty programs, product awareness and other elements.
"What is happening today is digital has to go out and cross all the funnels," he said. "We no longer look at digital as a discreet driver. This is a technology-enabled marketing environment. All the marketing specialists need to be well-versed in digital."
Mr. Roth predicted creativity would thrive in the digital space.
"Technology isn't going to bury creativity. It is going to enhance creativity," he said, adding that the change is forcing Interpublic to change its mix of people at agencies.
Tribal DDB West's Ms. Ross said consumers are the center of the new digital universe and it requires a major change in marketing thinking.
"Consumers are the new media and they know it," she said. "You have to market with consumers, not at consumers. Ultimately it becomes a collaborative process. It's no longer linear."
She also warned about equating time spent online with selling ability. "As an industry we need to get smarter about what data sells the product. We can get really tied up on time spent."
Mr. Bernardin said Burnett urges clients to operate on a 70/20/10 rule where 70% of digital monies go toward creative and established areas of digital marketing including search engine, 20% goes to emerging areas and 10% goes to experimentation.
"You have to take some risks," he said.
He also said that in the digital world, success comes from providing brands more of a personal connection.
'Connecting to real people'
"A majority of brands' success comes from connecting to real people," he said. "Instead of broadcasting the brand, we need to give time to experience the brand. We need brands with a purpose."
Daina Middleton, director of imaging and printing group at Hewlett-Packard, said with 2.3 billion mobile phones out there, it is hard to ignore the impact of mobile devices, but that advertising on the mobile web is still in the pilot stage, with more being done oversees than in the U.S.
Joseph I. Rosenbaum, an attorney for Reed Smith who specializes in privacy issues with phones, said mobile devices are quickly starting to cannibalize other ways to access information, and he noted that while it took 100 years to get 800 million cars, the number of phones has grown far faster than the number of computers.