Last night at The Microsoft Auditorium in London, The Marketing Society hosted a lively debate about the future of digital with thought leaders from Facebook, Microsoft, ITV and Wired on the panel.

Those who were expecting the digital equivalent of a futuristic house that cleaned itself or a robot personal assistant were to be disappointed, but it was enlightening in many ways.

In a refreshingly brisk program, each of the speakers had just 10 minutes to define their vision, a room full of 100+ marketers then asked them questions and we all voted for our favourite vision.

First up was Stephen Haines, UK Commercial Director at Facebook. Stephen’s vision was summed up by the word “change”. He said that Facebook future strategy was wrapped around identity, connection and engagement and mirroring “user requirements”. So no robotic PAs there then, but you can’t knock a Sky Sports campaign on Facebook that generated 300m impressions from friend-to-friend Word of Mouth alone.

Mike Fischer is the CMO at Microsoft Advertising. Mike talked about barriers being broken down, about advertisers’ needing to buy audiences not media and about the need to match advertisers more effectively with receptive consumers using data about their preferences and behaviour.

Mike predicted the Mascara Moment. The day from which point on, he would never again see an advert for ladies’ make up. A time when the technology was such that we would only see marketing messages that were relevant to us.

My favourite concept here though was the reference to time and how marketers should offer queue-jumping vouchers to people to save them time as a reward. Nice.

David Pemsel is Group Marketing Director at ITV and a more passionate advocate of the industrial, one-to-many communication channel that is mainstream television, you are not likely to find. It goes with the territory I guess but it’s convincing nonetheless.

David focused on the importance of content and likened Susan Boyle to a ‘rock’ of content that could be dropped into a lake. The emanating ripples representing the spread of that content and the monetizing opportunities that go with it.

David showed us how the combination of TV and digital was much more effective and that TV should work more closely with ‘online’ rather than try to compete. He told us about Project Canvas, the initiative around the production of an internet connected box to replace the TV set.

David Rowan is the Editor of Wired and perhaps the only panelist not obliged to toe the line in any way. So David’s suggestion that the future of digital was about data storage came as a surprise.

The cost of digital data storage capacity has plummeted over the last 10 years. It has become so inexpensive that lifebloggers now record and store every waking moment and experience. We don’t need a delete button any more. This personal data is of potential value to marketers as it will help identify those most likely to respond favourably to advertising. David predicted that we could perhaps sacrifice some of our privacy in return for some reward.

The vote was a tight one but was won by David Rowan and data storage. Hmmm.

So what were my thoughts as I listened? What did I bring away? What would I have proposed had I been on the panel.

Next time.

Mark

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