This year, the iMedia Breakthrough Summit held in Santa Barbara focused on the future of content, publishing and media buying. With over 160 attendees from brands, agencies and various ad tech businesses there should be no surprise that it was a melting pot of debate, discussion and idea sharing.  It was my first time attending the event – and it did not disappoint.  Below are four key themes which resonated most with me:

  1. iMediaBranded Content and Influencer Marketing seemed to be the hottest topic of all. More specifically, how to create relevant engaging branded content which is contextual and with which consumers will interact.  Using vertically engaged category specialist Influencers to co-create content with brands and seed this to their followers is happening more and more. However, the challenge of scaling these campaigns was a talking point. While I was duly impressed with the “new kid on the block” Social Native – a user-generated creative content platform, I would be remiss to not mention our own programmatic RhythmInfluence presentation which took a deep dive into not only how to expertly co-create and seed content, but how we overcome the barriers of scale programmatically across the RhythmMax Exchange.  The positive feedback we heard from attendees was overwhelming. Perhaps it was the idea of fusing the ‘art and science’ of engaging creative content and programmatic tools such as look-a-like targeting and retargeting users to scale the communication in real-time. The audience became energized with the possibilities of using content in various ad formats from video to native and buying those audiences across geographies impression by impression.
  2. We were reminded how the world is rapidly moving and the challenges of engaging with GenZ and Millennials.  Three university students provided insights into their daily lives and interactions with their devices and brands. Their world is mobile. They don’t watch – yet alone own a TV – they are content to watch Netflix on tablets, laptops or smartphones. They are happy to share their lives and data, as they believe this will be useful to get more relevant content and advertising. While they don’t seem to interact with conventional ads directly, they do spend all their time viewing native ads on SnapChat, Instagram and Facebook. They watch a lot of videos, share them and recognize they are influenced by them too. My takeaway from this session is that targeting this audience on mobile is critical and the rise of native and Influencer Marketing seems to be the key to accessing this generation and audience.
  3. How can media agencies better align with creative agencies to build more relevant creative? Regardless of the depth of insights, targeting capabilities to the individual with the right message, at the right time in the right place, on the right device is critical – an ad falls flat if the creative is generic. This is the biggest challenge of all, especially where media agencies and agency trading desks plan and buy in silos separate from the creative agency creating the content. These groups rarely seem to be able to converge. As an ex-agency guy myself, while running P&G across Europe at Saatchi & Saatchi, we were one of the last agency groups to still have media – Zenith Media – in house.  They were physically part of our team – living, breathing and sharing data – and executing seamlessly. Although 18 years ago, if I were Martin Sorrell or Maurice Levy, I would go full circle and embed media agencies and trading teams together with the creative agencies. Wouldn’t that be a novel way to add value to clients? A genuine real-time approach to delivering the goals that technology and programmatic now gives us all and more importantly for the consumer, with the right message on which ever device he / she is using with engaging contextual relevance. Exciting stuff!
  4. Last but certainly not least… The programmatic knowledge base and application of platforms is now mature, with most brands and agencies actively trading in some shape or form in various digital ad formats via either managed or self-serve platforms. This is great since it validates the programmatic growth graphs we see daily!

In closing, I enjoyed all the conversations I had at the event and already look forward to iMedia’s Breakthrough Summit 2017. See you there!