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Ad Age’s Digital Conference: CMOs, Content… Catvertising?

Ad Age Digital Conference 2014
Ad Age’s sold-out digital conference is garnering a lot of buzz. Running Tuesday, April 1 and Wednesday, April 2 in NYC, this event features CMOs from top performance marketing verticals like eCommerce, gaming, consumer products and electronics as well as experts on the topics of TV, social media and digital strategy. Notable speakers include EA’s Senior Vice President of Global Consumer Marketing Carolyn Feinstein, and Mark Addicks, CMO of General Mills. To add levity to the proceedings, last night former SNL cast member Rachel Dratch presented Viral Video Awards “to honor the very best branded storytelling in the world” for 2014. Categories included Funniest, Best Stunt, and Most Important.

Beyond networking opportunities, brand recognition and the chance to be in the same room as some of the world’s most influential people, these industry conferences offer an up-to-the-minute glimpse into the state of marketing — where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed. As a reflection of our most pressing concerns, Ad Age’s two-day event ranges in focus from TV advertising going digital, digital advertising going native, and content distribution going viral to debates about whether CMOs are becoming CEOs or if we can escape the curse of the ad-industrial complex. Whether real-time advertising is a realistic expectation also reared its head in discussion. As one tweeter put it, “Nestlé execs ask inventor of the marketer term ‘war room’ to please leave the room.” Nestlé also laid claim to catvertising as the purrfect way (sorry not sorry) to connect its Purina products with a niche audience of pet owners.

We’ve found that mobile is a hot topic on our blog, and it’s no less a hot topic at the conference. Yesterday, Walmart.com’s VP of Marketing Brian Monahan addressed the issue of multi-device use with an update to the traditional shape of a sales funnel, describing it as more of a pretzel between television, smartphones, tablets and PCs. CEO of Betaworks John Borthwick spoke about adapting PC content to a tech-savvy audience who is much more used to swiping and tapping than typing and right-clicking. And in the eCommerce space, American Express’s Leslie Berland explored the role of payment platforms, cross-device campaigns and syncing up consumer online/offline activity with her presentation “Bridging the Digital-Physical Divide in Retail.”

The rapid evolution of television marketing is also a major concern for advertisers as they plan their budgets for the last three quarters of 2014. The meteoric rise of mobile has led execs to become much more aware of the role social media plays in brand awareness and engagement, as well as question the effectiveness of traditional ad campaigns. Put bluntly by Kimberly-Clark CMO Clive Sirkin, “ROI of TV is lousy and we keep spending 80-90% of our budget there. Why?” Today Mike Hopkins, CEO of Hulu, weighs in on creating original video content and competing with digital distribution channels HBO and Netflix, while Global CEO of AOL Platforms Bob Lord will make some quick predictions about the transition of TV ad spend to digital.

You can play along on Twitter by following #aadigital.

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