Blog: Media Inspiration at Ad:tech San Francisco, part two

Starcom's Canadian digital group head Robin Hassan reports on media-centric highlights from the final day of the technology conference.

The final day of the Ad:tech conference in San Francisco marked a deeper focus on how social media has continued to fuel the evolution of media consumption patterns and turned the traditional ‘push’ marcom model on its head.

From navigating the overpopulated social media monitoring landscape (there are over 145 tools out there) to social gaming and insightful case studies, it was a packed agenda.

Here are the final two takeaways:

Social media evolution leading to brand hacking: Listening to dozens of speakers from varying companies including Groupon, Living Social, Klout and Zynga over the course of the day made me recall the words of Renny Gleason, strategy director, W+K, from the first day.

Gleason had talked at length about the concept of brand hacking, which is the opportunity to create unexpected value by using brands in unexpected ways. There is a big opportunity for brands to think about how they can evolve the emotional connection in this new space, which used to be guaranteed through a beautiful 30-second spot. As the technologies around social media evolve at a dizzying speed, I would say the successful brands are the ones who step back and really consider how they can engage their consumers to deliver unexpected value to their lives (and possibly the world).

ROI-driven experimentation: Bonin Bough, global director, digital and social media, PepsiCo, revealed how his company has been applying a methodical ROI-driven experimentation approach in the digital space. He warned marketers of the ROI dilemma, specifically not getting bogged down with metrics and focusing instead on the bigger picture, particularly in relation to understanding performance and ROI over time.

Citing examples of how PepsiCo is approaching the issue, he talked about challenging one of the paradigms of the CPG category – that it is not possible to have a loyalty relationship with consumers at point of sale. He said the brand’s partnership with Foursquare has shown that it is indeed possible, especially through ensuring rewards are tied to endemic use behaviour (for example, checking into the gym earns a Gatorade) The second example was around PepsiCo’s open call to start ups to partner with the company to keep pushing the boundaries of their marketing programs.

To summarize, this year’s Ad:tech San Francisco delivered its usual dose of intriguing start ups but also lots of deep conversation around the real value of hype, importance of a tablet strategy, translating social media evolution to business strategy and re-thinking traditional approaches to ROI to drive experimentation. If you were in San Francisco for Ad:tech this year, I would love to hear your takeaways.

Robin Hassan is the Canadian digital group head for Starcom, you can follow her on twitter @robinkayh.

Read part one of the series here.