MiC Blog: Surviving the ‘Media Bermuda Triangle’

In this two-part blog, Starcom Canadian digital group head Robin Hassan shares her experiences at the iMedia Connection Agency Summit this week in Phoenix, Arizona.

This year’s iMedia Agency Summit (Dec. 12 to 15) offered a great combination of speakers, and attendees and break-out sessions made for compelling dialogue around the hot topics that were being addressed. Even sponsored sessions were intriguing with new product and research announcements versus the typical ‘media kit’ presentations.

The sessions carried the over arching theme of ‘Surviving the Media Bermuda Triangle’ and kicked off with one full day dedicated to the 75 Digital Media Agency leads. During this one day closed door session, agency executives deep dived on key 2011 issues and media landscape trends.

Here are the top five themes that resonated for me as a Canadian digital media strategy director:

Creativity: As the digital media planning business continues to deliver more innovative targeting and buying technologies, it’s vital that media planners remember to be creative – the best ideas don’t just come from the creative teams. We had a creative brainstorming hour where we tested out some key techniques including brainstorm-meeting management tactics, mind mapping and brain writing.

Privacy: A recent WSJ investigative report on ad targeting found that after a visit to one site, 234 cookies were added to a user’s computer. This, combined with Washington’s displeasure over Wikileaks, has resulted in a firmer stance from DC on internet regulation. The most immediate concern about this is how it will affect ‘behavioural’ and ‘re-targeting’ online media strategies (valued at close to $1 billion US), which are the backbone of many ad networks and ad technology firms. While US litigation will not have a direct impact in Canada, the latent effect is inherent in impact to types of ad technologies that we will access and is likely to affect Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s reaction. The industry is expected to self-regulate before the feds step in this spring.

Innovation crisis: This was a phrase coined by Starcom USA CEO Lisa Donohue at the last Agency Summit (May 2010) and was revisited again during this summit. The core of the issue is managing the complexity of our industry and the breadth of digital solutions available to planners every day. It’s certainly an exciting time of growth and innovation for the industry, but it also means that being highly focused to help clients navigate the complexity will be critical.

Talent: The issue here is twofold: scarcity (something we live and breathe every day north of the border) but also flexibility. Attempts to integrate digital talent into larger teams have seen varying levels of success. Media-agnostic connections planning is a must for the success of agencies and their clients in the new consumer media landscape, so the issue is more of change management. How do we help traditional and digital planners successfully transition to 360 media planners? By providing a blend of coaching and training as well as offering a solid explanation as to why this is ultimately good for their careers – which it undoubtedly is.

Evolving reporting to insights: Somewhere along the line, digital’s strength as an awareness and consideration-building medium was lost. There was a lot of dialogue during and after sessions that this was directly correlated to our over-attachment to reporting and lower-purchase-funnel tracking technologies. It’s not that no one sees the value of analytics and tracking; it’s critical to many client businesses. But the reality is that it has increasingly become the yardstick by which we measure all client initiatives. One key idea that was discussed was the need for more data visualization analysts and post-campaign storytellers. By focusing on click tracking alone, we have been ignoring the 99.8% of consumers who see but choose not to click on an ad.

In part two, tomorrow, I’ll cover some of the key topics that were raised over the course of this three-day conference.

Robin Hassan is the Canadian digital group head for Starcom. An avid tweeter, you can find her Twitter feed here.