An Ever-Evolving Consumer Experience: AdAge Digital Conference 2016

Over the course of the past year, primary conversation around digital media has focused less on how the space can be used in innovative ways to reach consumers, and more so around the issues that exist when using the space. The 10th anniversary of Ad Age’s annual Digital Conference continued this trend by highlighting such concerns early, but segued into a forum discussing the consumer experience evolution and how brands can create better storytelling in order to connect with consumers in more effective ways. These three touchpoints came together to form a synergistic picture of where digital media stands today.
Mitigating  Digital Threats
‘There is a threat in every corner.’ These words kicked off the conference in emblematic fashion. Tech problems such as ad blocking, fraud, and viewability have led to extreme marketer frustration and despite wanting and needing to have a presence in the digital space, brands feel challenged trying to get their messages seen by humans. Brands are working to pinpoint solutions, but because complacency exists across the industry, these issues threaten to loom large for brands.
To combat such hurdles, brands need to look at the changing consumer experience – this was the message as the conversations morphed from being on the defense to how to advance as an offense. Due to the ever-growing number of new products, services, and experiences that are low-risk for consumers to try, this evolution called hyperadoption, is seeing consumers move from attention to intention to adoption faster than ever before. As a result, the balance of power in advertising and marketing is shifting from brands to consumers. In turn, brands must build digital relationships by turning marketing messages into marketing experiences.   To build these deeper experiences, brands must understand their consumers at more complex levels, using data to capture where and when to reach specified targets, and what content to use to establish deeper connections – all across a fragmented landscape. As stated by Marc Pritchard, P&G’s Chief Brand Officer, ‘from 20 years ago to today, the insights remain the same but the canvas has expanded.’
This point was used as a launching pad for deeper discussions around storytelling, content development, and new-media platform. Panel members spoke about the need to develop content that consumers want and a boomerang effect: how to then integrate the consumers into the content itself. Brands must build stories for specific platforms and have a contained vision, avoiding the common trap of trying to do too much. Spotify spoke about the ability to reach consumers through the conversation of music. GE shared the details behind its development of a podcast that became an outright hit for the brand; GE found partners with unique skills that fit the mold of GE and analyzed listening trends to create the right consumption pieces.
New Brand Technologies Engage Customers
Dominos and Royal Caribbean were two brands that showcased new usages of technology to generate results. Dominos focused the discussion on its ability to use technology to improve its relationships with consumers. Purchasing out-of-home billboards in Times Square, Dominos streamed a live Twitter feed and live in-store video to millions of people, unfiltered, improving trust levels through its nothing-to-hide approach. Capitalizing on the new levels of brand awareness, Dominos released a new version of its ordering experience, one that eliminated the need to click to place an order through the use of simple emoji selections across multiple devices. The brand used marketing tactics to drive usage of its new no-click UX.
Royal Caribbean also combined digital out-of-home distribution with live streaming to give consumers real-time looks at on-ship activities. Creating marketing that is as adventurous as the brand, RC partnered with Periscope to broadcast actual on-board footage across OOH billboard networks, displaying what consumers could be doing at that moment on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship. 
Finally, virtual reality was touched upon, as new technology available to the marketplace is just at its inception. The key for brands in their use of the platform is understanding that good content is essential. Content creation is full of obstacles and it is absolutely necessary to know what a brand’s partners are capable of creating, as one poor experience can lead to disastrous results. 
Ad Age’s 2016 Digital Conference did a great job conveying the overall viewpoint of current digital media happenings. The conference did not ignore the problems that marketers face when using the space, but used the hot topics to kick off conversations around how brands can adapt seamlessly with consumer changes and use means that they do trust to connect with consumers in new ways. 
By Media Value Digital Team
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Written by the Media Value Digital Team at Ebiquity,plc

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