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Conference attendeesAttending conferences is the best way I know of to stay on the edge of what is happening in the world. Reading content on the Web and exchanging messages is vital but there is no substitute for attending a few conferences per year where you can talk to people at meals and breaks plus interact with sponsors and speakers. This was my second year to attend the CM Summit, a conference run by John Battelle. John has a long history in journalism and the media industry and is founder and chairman of Federated Media, an Internet advertising company which appears to be prospering. John brought together a good set of sponsors and 32 excellent speakers.  The conference included news and views from some of the industry leaders in digital marketing. The two days included thought provoking case studies, insights, and conversations with major brand advertisers, agencies, and digital media companies.
The conference started bright and early Monday morning in the Hudson Theatre at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in Manhattan.  A full stream of the confeence is available here, but I will touch on a few highlights — mostly things I tweeted about (@johnrpatrick) from the iPad during the conference. Conversational marketing is all about a dialog between consumer, marketer, and publisher.  You could also say it is the new advertising model.  Major brands like American Express, P&G, Sony, Visa, and General Motors all talked about how they are morphing from traditional advertising to developing digital conversations between their brands and consumers via the social media. You could say it is a matter of survival. Laura Desmond, CEO of Starcom Mediavest, a multi-billion agency summed it up by saying that “business is not what it was”. She talked about how advertisers are more willing to consider new channels such as content, conversations, and real-time communications between a consumer and a brand. “Everyone will have an IP address”, is the advertiser’s way of saying that they want to connect directly with individual consumers. A lot of the presentations had to do with targetting. Advertisers really want to send a custom advertisement directly to our mobile phones based on the then circumstances of you and their products. I did not hear one of the presenters question whether consumers are happy about that. The privacy issue is getting a lot of attention, as it should. The new phrase is online behavioral advertising (OBA), and a new icon to signify OBA on compliant web sites will provide a link to a page to learn who is targeting you and where data about you is collected. It will also show your cookies and what they contain and enable you to opt out. People want transparent brands that reveal their intentions and actions. OBA will help make that happen.
Rob Cicone from AMEX said that 44% of small businesses use Facebook and 15% use LinkedIn. Your Buzz is a new Amex tool to help small biz manage their presence across all the major social networking tools. Their goal with the free service is to build a relationship with the small business that will eventually lead to the business accepting the Amex card. David Karp, Founder of tumblr, talked about how they have built a place to post things, customize your web page, and build a community. They claim to be the 26th largest web site with 7 billion pageviews per month, 80 million unique visitors per month, and 45,000 new users per day. Facebook has no guarantee to be the biggest and best social media in perpetuity.
A Finnish company called GetJar has an app store for mobile. They said the app industry is $30-50 billion with 50 billion app downloads projected for 2012 and said apps are media, not content. Not sure that is a significant distinction. I do agree with them that apps are in the early stage; like websites 15 years ago. With Apple’s new Lion and iOS 5, they are sure to get the Lion’s share. Adam Bain from Twitter discussed the new deep integration of Twitter with iOS 5, which means you can tweet from within an app. Could be profound. Hope it is not an exclusive arrangement. I have always thought of Twitter as a protocol for the Internet.
Pepsi talked about real-time marketing. Lady gaga walking down street with a Pepsi. Someone at Pepsi notices and minutes later, tens of millns of people see an ad based on a Pepsi tweet. I thought most significant was that Pepsi and GM and the other big brands were represented by young “with it” marketing execs. I am sure they are not the “chief” marketing officers. Some had weird titles like global director of brand awareness and innovation. A mouthful but important that the major companies are trying hard to figure out how to capitalize on the new social media, because it is really big. Guy from Yahoo! wav very bullish. Head of sales for Facebook said that they reach more people everyday than American Idol. They are running 30 billion status updates per year.
The highlight of the conference was William James Adams, Jr.,  better known by his stage name will.i.am or as  a member of the hip hop group The Black Eyed Peas. He had an uncanny saavy about marketing and innovation. I was greatly impressed with his focus on philanthropy and helping inner city kids with education and housing.