Blog: Media inspiration at Ad:tech San Francisco

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

Robin Hassan is the Canadian digital group head for Starcom and a regular contributor to MiC. You can follow her on twitter @robinkayh

In a departure from past formats, Ad:tech San Francisco kicked off this year’s conference with an inspiration track that included unique points of view from an eclectic mix of speakers: a CTO, several startup CEOs, an equity analyst, a philanthropist, a design guru and a country band from California (yes, really!). Most had little to nothing to do with the digital marketing industry, but they all discussed how changes in consumer digital behaviour have had an impact on their business approach. It was a great start to what has been an interesting conference.

There’s a lot to absorb in the famous Ad:tech Expo, but from the brilliant keynotes (if you haven’t seen Guy Kawasaki’s ‘enchantment‘ speech yet, I highly recommend you do) to the individual sessions, it’s always a high-value event. In this two-part series, I’ve compiled my top five takeaways.

Here are the first three:

Beware technology hype: Be it location-based marketing or augmented reality, the question is always whether or not there is a big enough payoff for marketers to participate in bleeding edge technology. This was debated at length in one AR panel (in disclosure, I was a presenter/panellist); I maintain that while the earned media from being truly innovative is a nice add-on, the driver has to be business strategy.

What’s your tablet strategy? With the evolution of the tablet market (80-plus tablets were released at CES 2011) these sessions were understandably standing-room only. The big sound bites: you don’t always need an app to play; if you do decide an app is right for you, make sure you implement proper analytics tagging before launch, and make sure to start small. The loudest debate was on why a tablet strategy is even necessary – since tablets are more of a platform/tactic, isn’t that a bit of the tail wagging the dog? The resounding answer is, in this case, yes. However, the combined impact that this platform is having on the publishing industry and its high level of technical complexity, having a strategy on this particular ‘tail’ is a must.

New players: Out of the dozens of start-up launches and new product introductions at this year’s Ad:tech, here are some that really stood out:

1) an eight-month-old mobile in-game promotions company that works with brands to reward consumers as they achieve milestones in popular gaming applications, such as Angry Birds.

2) Get Glue: Dubbed in the past as ‘Foursquare for entertainment brands,’ the company announced that they are now allowing users to check in using QR codes embedded in brand advertisements.

3) Loyalize: A ‘real-time participation platform’ that allows event organizers and advertisers to engage consumers with live content via applications like: ‘mood-o-meters,’ live polling, and real-time audience insights. The hook for consumers is a points program for participation that translates into real rewards.

4) A couple of research applications that have some great potential (but US only for now): Gutcheck and AYTM (Ask Your Target Market).

5) Modapt: a new mobile firm that allows for easy adaptation of existing web properties to display on any mobile phone that supports web browsing.

In part two, tomorrow, I’ll cover some final key takeaways from this three-day conference and expo.

Part two of Robin’s blog will appear on Monday, April 18. Read Robin’s previous conference blog series from the iMedia Agency Summit in December.