5 Lessons from Ad Tech New York

I traveled to New York on Nov. 7th to attend Ad: Tech. a conference billed as the “largest digital marketing event worldwide.” Since I’m in technology and marketing, I decided to see what I could learn.

Well, that’s not entirely true. The main reason I attended Ad:Tech was to network and build business leads from the advertising agencies attending—our core clients. Ad:Tech was huge, more than 400 business booths and 10,000 attendees. With that volume I was sure I’d meet many NYC ad agencies…so I thought.

I soon realized there were only 12 “creative/ad agencies” and only 3 were actual full-service agencies. Not the large group I expected. Long story short, for business prospecting, I was in the wrong place. I had to formulate a new strategy on the go or assume a time and money loss, tuck my tail in, and fly back to Miami with nothing to show for the effort.

Once I realized this, I decided I was going to focus on talking to as many people as possible to learn what they did and see what I could learn. I would also go to all the keynotes and presentations. Instead of business development, I worked on strategic research.

Five Things I learned at Ad:Tech New York 2013

1. Why doesn’t the ultra premium Cristal Champagne (or other luxury brands) advertise to the hip-hop loving minority market? Hip-hop loves luxury items; they mention them in their lyrics and show them on their videos. One reason why large luxury brands don’t invest a lot of ad capital on marketing to minorities is because they represent a very small portion of the overall market. If brands are going to pay for ads, they may as well aim for the lion’s share of the market. The other reason I learned is that large luxury brands don’t want their products associated with minorities. Their belief is that if you associate your brand with one group, you will disassociate your brand from another group. But what I found more interesting is that none of these luxury brands have a problem accepting minority dollars for their products.

2. Translating a commercial into Spanish so it can “target” Hispanics is not Hispanic marketing. Brands that target minorities should ensure their message has an authentic feel that resonates with the minority target. This is key to engaging the minority customer (or any customer). The point is, don’t just translate your ads to the language the minority target speaks, this feels disingenuous and fabricated. Create ads that truly “speak” to them. Ads that acknowledge the cultural differences and reflect the current realities of their day-to-day lives. This will increase the odds that the target audience will relate to your message and the benefit of the product.

3. “We know who you are, where you shop, what you like and we’ll suggest what you should buy next.” Ad network technologies responsible for placing the ads you see online are far more advanced, intelligent and hyper targeting capable than most marketers realize, understand or invest their budgets on. For now, the advertising technology meal feels like a buffet for one. The benefits will get clearer for marketers as time passes and these new benefits are adopted.

4. According to Kevin Jonas, ex-member of the Jonas Brothers band turned marketer, Millennials only care about three things:

  • a. Looking good. Does your brand or product make me look cool? Does it improve what I think of myself or what others think of me? Think of brands like Oakley, American Apparel or Lrg.
  • b. Feeling good. Does your product or service make me feel good about my purchase? Does it improve my health or appearance? Think of brands like Kashi or Bolthouse Farms.
  • c. Doing good. Does your product support the causes I care about? Is it environmentally friendly? Does it support my local community? Think Toms, Patagonia or Warby Parker.

Mr. Kevin Jonas directed the marketing strategy for the Jonas Brothers band and he said Millennials did not like getting advertising pushed on them. They like to “discover” products and services. If they liked your product, the reward was that they would share it with their friends on their social networks. Powerful reward!

5. Orange pants. I wore a pair of orange slacks to Ad:Tech and thought nothing of it. It turns out that in a networking setting they became a great conversation starter. People just approached me and commented on the orange pants and that got us talking about business. If you can wear something that stands out like handkerchief, a pin, a hat or a parrot on your shoulder, people will approach you to talk about it and they will remember you for it.

Bottom line, what I think was the most important lesson here is that in business, as in life, the best-laid plans can go astray. What you do from that point on can turn an apparent failure into an opportunity.


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