Digital Media, All Grown Up - Recapping the ClickZ Live NYC Conference

April 24, 2015

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The Maturation of Digital Media

A few weeks ago I attended the ClickZ Live digital marketing conference in New York. While I had been to the formerly-named Search Engine Strategies conference years before, this iteration of the event felt different from the outset. Gone were the days of SEO-dominated tracks, paid search basics and introductions to analytics. This year’s conference was catered to seasoned digital media professionals; professionals who have earned a spot at the big table. In a way the industry itself appears to have matured and diversified.

Media, like everything else, is more integrated, blurring lines between specialties, channels and devices. ClickZ Live reflected this evolution, offering a variety of tracks not just on search but on things like content marketing, social media, data, mobile, email and more.

Finding Value

When you visit an industry event it’s always difficult to know what, if anything, you’re going to get from going. Did you pick the right sessions and speakers? Will this be too remedial or too advanced? Will you be able to take these learnings and apply them to your work?

At the end of the day the question becomes: is it worth it?

What you look for is a handful of valuable information nuggets – things that strike you as new and important that you can take back and incorporate to help improve and grow your work.

I walked away from ClickZ with more than just a handful.

Below are my key takeaways from the conference regarding digital media.

All about that content

Content marketing dominated the conversation and presentations at this year’s conference, and not just as a buzzword. Sessions dedicated to content marketing focused on things like integrating with other media channels, using analytics to build more effective content plans and leveraging the customer journey for content marketing. Highlights included:

  1. Microburst content: quick turnaround on valuable online content that is distributed via social and brand channels
  2. Meet, strategize, and plan for new content more often than you think. Meetings should occur frequently, e.g. every two weeks, to develop new online content ideas.
  3. Content doesn’t mean just one thing, it is an opportunity to create experiences. Bring mediums together to make it rich and interactive. Don’t get stuck with just one format or channel.
  4. Not everyone wants to consume the same content, people want individual experiences catered to them (more on this later).
  5. Mobile-specific content experiences are important (more on this later).
  6. Total volume of content is increasing, but engagement and consumption is decreasing. However, the problem isn’t about the distribution, it’s about the content itself. Make content more valuable by using leading analytics in strategy, even if it means less frequent content production.
  7. Engage, don’t advertise.

Video rocks

Although content itself should be diverse, it was clear that video is the current golden-child of digital media. Any why not? Online video consumption continues to grow, especially for the valuable millennial audiences and younger, and video allows brands to tell stories in more interesting and creative ways.

Video can be a true asset for any brand when married with the content marketing guidelines listed above. Video platforms (starting with Youtube) leverage powerful targeting and work alongside robust attribution and integrated media campaigns meaning brand advertisers have the opportunity to reach audiences in new and exciting ways.

Micro-Everything

As data and programmatic targeting becomes more ever-present, audience targeting has gone from “demographics” to “personas” and now to individuals. People want experiences, even advertising experiences, catered specifically to their interests and desires. This may mean a dynamic creative execution based on search behaviors, using near-field communication to match to audience data for custom messaging, or capturing the “micromoments” when a user needs a product or information the most.

How are we leveraging the tools at our disposal to create these unique experiences for our audiences? How do we create “snackable” content suited for today’s hummingbird audiences?

Paid social is for real

When Facebook and Twitter first launched their paid ad platforms the general consensus was something along the lines of “well this will ruin everything” (the fact that Facebook is losing younger audiences has less to do with ads and more to do with the platform). Now we are finally seeing other social networks finding their own ways to monetize their audiences, to the point where is has become an accepted norm. Paid social will soon be a necessity for any online campaign, and digital media buying is fast becoming less about whether to advertise on social media, but more about determining which social platforms make the most sense to advertise on.

Search is standard

For a conference that has roots in search marketing, ClickZ Live had little to do with search itself. There was Google who had its very own track with dedicated sessions for novices, but it appeared that the more advanced sessions dealt with integrated digital media where search was a given. In other words, search is now traditional.

As a search marketer with 8+ years of experience, I’m happy to see search accepted as the norm for any competent digital campaign. While new features and smart strategies will always make search specialists valuable, we are now understanding the fact that search is a tool that fits into a larger digital media ecosystem, driven by other media channels and formats.

Mobile-First

Industry-folk like to wonder which year will finally be “The Year of Mobile”, but I’d like to suggest that it has come and gone. Mobile is here, and it’s becoming more important each day. Users now spend more time on mobile devices than with any other device, and they rely on mobile devices as utilities for information gathering, augmented reality, entertainment, and more. In short, mobile devices are now part of us. So why do advertisers still act like mobile is an add-on?

Brands and marketers need to think about mobile as a priority.

Attribution is still a question mark

When I last attended a Search Engine Strategies conference, multi-channel attribution was an oft-discussed topic that didn’t seem to have a clear solution. Five years later, it seems that not much has changed. Although tools and tactics have become slightly more successful at measuring things like phone calls and cross-device activity, the question still remains: How do brands measure success for their integrated campaigns? There’s no clear answer yet, maybe in five more years we’ll have a better idea.

How will wearables factor?

“Wearables” has the potential to be industry buzzword of the year. With health tracking bands reaching critical mass and the Apple iWatch pre-orders shattering expectations, it’s important to think about how we incorporate wearables into marketing campaigns.

As advertising becomes more about experiences, wearables provide yet another opportunity to customize messaging to users based on behavior, community, and custom user-data. Testing new message tactics with wearables will drive this new channel into the forefront.

-Phil Decoteau, Senior Manager, Search Marketing

What are your thoughts on the ever-changing digital media landscape? Tweet us @Norbella to share!