CMDC 2010: Media wizards, digital dragons

Capped with a Dragons' Den-style pitch session, this year's Canadian Media Directors Conference featured weighty insight, celebrity media icons and big-picture food for thought.

You have to hand it to the mediacos that got up and pitched their businesses to the blue-chip panel of agency big-wigs at yesterday’s CMDC 2010 conference: that’s one intimidating elevator in which to make your pitch.

In front of an estimated 800 industry professionals, the seven teams or individuals with a media idea to sell showed their stuff to a panel of experts modelled on CBC hit series Dragons’ Den that included M2 Universal president Sara Hill, Starcom MediaVest Group Canada CEO Lauren Richards, 58Ninety CEO/partner Ted Boyd and Molson Coors VP marketing assets Judy Davey. Most were greeted with applause, but Nova Scotia-based Ad-Dispatch literally wowed the crowd with its augmented reality technology, which activated via any printed material (even without a glyph). Their demo elicited a roomful of oohs, ahhs and applause, but earned only an honourable mention in the end, with the winning pitch going to Cellflare’s Kelvin Edmonson, who impressed the judges with his location-based mobile social network and marketing service.

The Media Dragons capped a day of insight and conversation that ranged from the harbinger of OOH to come in Vienna’s subway system to the need for data-driven media agency models in the future. Data, argued Mindshare Worldwide president and CEO Dominic Proctor, will be the foundation on which agencies of the future build their success, a sentiment soundly supported by the next speaker, Google VP of global agency and industry development Penry Price.

‘Massive computing power’ will be required in the digital-led future of media planning, Price said, echoing Proctor’s earlier sentiment that data will be the gateway through which innovation and efficiency in online strategies are reached. ‘There is a perfect ad for everyone,’ Price said, and through data and research, those ads can be delivered so effectively to consumers that they may ultimately pay to see them. Both men argued the pace of change is both overwhelming and unforeseen, and that agencies will have to rely more heavily on collaboration in order to succeed.

Collaboration was the spirit guiding the format – if not the day-to-day business dealings – of the sports-media panel that followed, featuring Scott Moore, GM/executive director, CBC; TSN president Phil King; Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment EVP/COO Tom Anselmi; and Rogers Sportsnet president Doug Beeforth. The stage was set up to look like a NFL-style pundit panel, and the mood quickly matched the format as the panellists bantered back and forth, arguing for the merits of cross-platform (‘there’s no going back’ was universally agreed upon), the power of the live sports experience (even when you can get it in 3D at home) and whether consumers will pony up for premium content like HD or 3D as the costs of production skyrocket. It was the 3D conversation that led to the best quote of the day, in MiC‘s humble opinion, from the CBC’s Moore, who pointed out that if 3D sports programming is not shot and cut differently than SD: ‘You make the wrong camera cut and people will be throwing up all over the country!’ he quipped.

The beefy morning of media talk was topped off with an insightful presentation by Jonah Bloom, former editor of Advertising Age and current CEO and editor-in-chief of B2B blog network Breaking Media. ‘Media companies of the future,’ he said, ‘are going to have to evolve to be more like marketing companies and marketing solutions providers.’ Brands want to be media owners, he said, and media companies are well poised to help them reach those goals, citing examples such as Kraft and Johnson & Johnson, both of which have launched successful media properties to support their brands. To assuage the media-agency heavy audience, he assured the crowd that ‘this doesn’t mean media agencies are irrelevant,’ just that their role in the relationship between media companies and marketers will have to evolve.

The lunch break brought The Daily Beast founder and EIC Tina Brown to centre stage in a sitdown with Rogers Publishing’s Ken Whyte. Fresh off her pending-Prince-William-engagement scoop, Brown waxed about the thrilling highs of traffic spikes when you get such a scoop and creating an ad model for the site based not on display, but integrated and sponsored content.

MiC sat with Vizeum Canada COO Annette Warring during the lunch presentation, who later commented that the conference achieved a topical lineup that was particularly relevant to today’s media landscape. ‘Perhaps where the 2010 CMDC conference had greater success than previous years is that it took a much more honest and harder look at those issues facing us today versus looking to the future,’ she said. ‘The need to invest in better research and data, along with the need to invest in traditional non-media expertise such as technology, production and content creation, has become mandatory versus ‘nice to have.”

After the presentations wrapped – and the Convention Centre’s fire alarm blared overhead, calling conference-goers sadly away from the free drinks – other CMDC members shared similar reactions on how the conference played out.

‘Everyone stuck to the theme: content, congestion,’ Sunni Boot, president and CEO at ZenithOptimedia and CMDC board member, told MiC. ‘And I thought they did an amazing job of bringing that out in multi-platform media in a very unique way. I thought Jonah did a good job of talking about media companies and some of the things they could do that we haven’t really thought of before, I think he’s really pushed the envelope there. The sports panel and the culture panel showed that not everything is digital – that you have to live some things.’

‘It was very uplifting, and I hope inspiring for people, especially those new to the business. I think above all, we’ve broadened people’s perception of what is possible and what could be done,’ Hugh Dow, chair of Mediabrands Canada, told MiC, adding that he thought the insights on the pace of technological change were some of the most profound.

Lorraine Hughes, president and CEO, OMD Canada and past-president of the CMDC, said that she was particularly happy with the Dragons’ Den sessions since it was a new, untested format for the conference. The augmented reality presentation particularly captivated her attention, she said. ‘I think that’s really where the future is: that level of interactivity and engagement. While some may view it as a creative application, from the media side, we’re the ones that can drive that type of technology with the media owners and some of the more traditional media formats. The possibilities with that are just amazing.’