Digital Conference

Ad Age Digital Conference: Top Marketing and Creative Execs on Why Consumer Experiences Are Key

Consumers Don't Want to be Sold Things; They Want to Enjoy Content

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(From l.) Jeremy Jones, executive creative director at JWT Atlanta; Jill Cress, exec VP-global consumer marketing at MasterCard; and Ad Age reporter Adrianne Pasquarelli
(From l.) Jeremy Jones, executive creative director at JWT Atlanta; Jill Cress, exec VP-global consumer marketing at MasterCard; and Ad Age reporter Adrianne Pasquarelli Credit: Rob Tannenbaum
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During the "From Ads to Experiences" discussion at Ad Age's Digital Conference Tuesday, panelists made it clear that today's consumers are drawn more to experiences and immersive content than traditional ads.

"Experiences matter," said Jill Cress, exec VP-global consumer marketing at MasterCard. "We might buy things or tickets to go somewhere, but it's about those experiences that you have, so we really try to tap into those moments that matter to consumers and why, and create content that is relevant to them."

She added that MasterCard's "Priceless" campaign, which has been around for more than 20 years, used to focus on "observing priceless moments and telling stories," and has since shifted to creating digital, experiential-led platforms around consumers' passions. For example, the company taps into the fact that music is a universal passion for people by creating content with singers, like Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani, and then brings consumers into the conversation during major events, such as the Grammys or Brit Awards.

Jeremy Jones, executive creative director at J. Walter Thompson Atlanta, said he recently shifted Pennzoil's marketing strategy so that it "stopped interrupting the content people were interested in and became the content people were interested in."

JWT worked with the oil brand to develop car films that were so entertaining, consumers didn't realize the content was from a brand. "Consumers are very smart," said Mr. Jones, "They don't want to be sold something; they want to enjoy something with you."

At AOL, Chief Marketing Officer Allie Kline said: "The consumer is at the center of everything we do." She said the company's content brands and advertising partners work together to find ways to shorten the distance that exists between consumers and the brands in which they want to engage. They do this by leveraging video, data, mobile, live experiences and social platforms.

Ms. Kline added that data is driving a lot of the company's decisions around how it writes content and what it builds from a product standpoint. AOL's newest MapQuest version was designed and built by female engineers to help embed a multitasked experience.

Hyatt incorporates its own brand purpose into its consumer insights, data and global segmentation studies to better engage target audiences, according to Sandra Micek, senior VP-global brands at Hyatt.

"Hyatt has been on a journey for awhile now to be more brand-led and put the target customer at the center of every decision -- not every marketing decision -- every decision," said Ms. Micek.

One insight the company learned was that "sometimes it's actually good not to be home," so Hyatt decided to leverage this idea by creating content in partnership with Comedy Central last fall, she added. The brand's purpose is around caring for people so they can be their best, and you can do that by making them laugh, said Ms. Micek.