ME* Conference 2010

10 Lessons From the ME Conference: Media Evolved

Mobile Is About Proximity, Being Big Is No Excuse and Other Takeaways From the Event

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Nick Brien at the Media Evolved Conference
Nick Brien at the Media Evolved Conference Credit: Pete Kolonia

NEW YORK ( -- Ad Age held its first conference devoted to the changing definition of media last week in New York, followed by a presentation of the first Media Vanguard Awards. Speakers from the media, agency and marketing worlds talked about how their perspectives and plans were shifting; here are 10 lessons from our reporters' notebooks.

Be in the 'community management' business
Brands can't just spray crowds with messages the way they used to, said Nick Brien, chairman-CEO of McCann Worldgroup. "We aren't just in the storytelling business, we are in the community-management business," he said. "If we are not participating and if the brand is not at the center of the stage, there is no way it is going to be embraced or build an organic business relationship."

Know your limits, especially with Twitter
It's neat when senior execs or celebs "join the conversation," but it can be a time suck. Martha Stewart, who accepted a Media Vanguard Award for Lifetime Achievement, said she doesn't answer direct messages on Twitter and "slaps herself" if she tweets for more than five minutes a day.

Online audience measurement still needs fixing
Publishers still take issue with established web-metrics providers. Bob Bowman, CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, spoke of one service that reported had 5 million unique video users in October, he said, when the real figure was 70 million. Mr. Bowman also pointed out that mobile can drive traffic to a company's websites but not drive comparable revenue. One third of's visitors came via a mobile device but those visitors generated only 3% of overall revenue.

Machines can make you more interesting
A company called SocialFlow is using math to figure out when you can get the most traction for your tweet. For clients like The Economist, an algorithm looks at potential tweets queued up by a human and compares them to current conversations on Twitter. If talk about the Irish bank bailout suddenly explodes, SocialFlow can pull the trigger on an Economist tweet linking to an article on the subject.

'Reality' breeds a need for reality
Millennials have grown up with reality programming, but the genre has blurred the lines between actual reality, hyper-reality and other, more scripted kinds of content. As a result, there's an untapped need for something absolute, according to MTV research head Nick Shore.

Keep it simple
In an app, "too many buttons adds frustration, which has a negative cognitive effect," said Betsy Frank, chief research and insights officer at Time Inc.

Being big is no excuse
"I refuse to allow people to use 'We're big' as an excuse for anything," ESPN President George Bodenheimer said during the conference's opening session. The company is a goliath, but that just means competition is coming from all sides.

Marketers can make their own media
Digital media and technology is making it easier for marketers to create their own content instead of always buying ad space or time from traditional media companies.

Mobile is about proximity, not device
Whether you reach them watching a TV show on a TV, a computer or a smartphone, people are still people, marketers and media buyers said during a midday panel. "But at what point are they a consumer?" asked Matt Seiler, global CEO at Universal McCann. "Close to point of purchase. The moment of interaction is a much more interesting way of thinking about the cycle of entertained person to engaged shopper."

Lighten up
Marketers may hesitate to address serious topics in a lighthearted manner, but GE found that a humorous approach to health care was one that consumers really embraced. Judy Hu, senior global executive director of advertising and branding at GE, said the company earned millions of YouTube views with cheeky videos such as "How to Party Your Way to Health."

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