Should your next hire be a theater major? Maybe.

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This issue contains a special report on how to cherry pick events (“Meeting expectations,” page 20), a NetMarketing section on the brave new world of Web 2.0 “engagement” metrics (“What to measure?” page 13) and an advertising section story on a breakthrough campaign by Motorola for its emergency network technologies that uses an immersive virtual city (“For Motorola, it takes a city,” page 10). The thread tying these stories together is this idea: Media that provide compelling and rich experiences—and, yes, even entertainment—have become the new battlegrounds. In his oft-cited 1994 Wired essay “It's the context, stupid,” futurist Paul Saffo noted that in a world of what he aptly called “hyperabundant content,” point of view would become a sought-after commodity, “the scarcest of resources.” But if done ineptly, point of view results in nothing more than a dreary polemic. What makes point of view succeed is showmanship, that extra and sometimes daring ingredient—of language, design or execution—that keeps the audiences coming back to the theater, night after night. Consider this: While it's socially awkward to stand up and walk out of a boring keynote at an in-person event, people don't hesitate to close the window on a boring webinar or virtual spaces presenter. It turns out old-fashioned theatrical skills are even more important online. Sometimes the experience is not about the people but the place. Motorola's Cityscape, which uses gamelike computer-generated imagery, allows users to interact with the company's products and see how they function across multiple networks. “We tried to make it as entertaining as possible,” said Mike Boulia, senior VP-creative director at BBDO New York. “People want to be entertained, as well as learn about products and features.” This phenomenon is especially pronounced online, where the old model (one-directional messaging in the form of text, maybe accompanied by some images) is rapidly being supplanted by multimedia (read “video”), dynamic content and, most important of all, an expectation that the audience will participate, in real time, in creating and shaping the content. “Purchasing decisions in b-to-b are going to be more and more based on social media,” said Pam Evans, senior Web marketing manager for IBM Software Group at last week's Direct Marketing Association's B-to-B Marketing Conference in Orlando, Fla. Not that embracing this new model is easy. “We're really lucky to have executive leadership that encourages us to take a risk,” said Paul Martson, senior manager of corporate marketing at Cisco Systems about the company's Web site, which includes blogs, podcasts, live chat and links to YouTube videos. Martson made his comment during a session at last month's Online Marketing Summit in San Diego, which attracted an audience of 450 and focused on Web 2.0 technologies (“Online Marketing Summit explores social media,” page 3.) Ellis Booker is edtor of BtoB and BtoB's Media Business. He can be reached at [email protected]
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