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2008 Media Conference & Tradeshow, Opening Remarks by Nancy Hill 

Good morning and welcome to the AAAA's 15th annual Media Conference & Tradeshow. It's an honor for me to address this audience for the first time as president and CEO of the AAAA.

When I started in the business, media departments were in the basement of the agency. And the only time that anyone went to see someone in the media department was when the creatives wanted tickets to something. You could always identify the media guy because he had a calculator in front of him.

Media departments were lucky if they had the last five minutes of a presentation—if at all. And look at where we are today.

So, I’m thrilled to be here, and happy to get started…

We have a lot of ground to cover over the next two days, so I will keep my remarks brief.

As the theme of this conference suggests, I think we can all agree that digital changes everything, particularly when viewed through the lens of the rapidly and continually changing media landscape. Consider  for a moment our lives before the widespread adoption and use of hand-held gaming and music players. Before cell phones, Treos or Blackberries. Before e-mail, Internet search or Wikipedia. Consider this, and realize that the world I’m taking about isn’t in some distant past, but has resulted  in only the last generation or so.

I doubt many of you would give up the now indispensable digital technologies that fuel your everyday professional and personals lives. But I also doubt that many would claim to be missing much in the way of technology or “connectedness” if I asked you the same question in 1994, when this conference was first held. Or for that matter, an audience in 1926, at the invention of television; or 1959, the invention of the microchip; or 1975, the invention of the personal computer…

So while it’s true that digital—or really, technology in general—has had a dramatic  impact on our lives and how we consume media, I’d like to suggest that we—as consumers and professionals—have had just as dramatic an impact on the ways that digital technologies have evolved. It is the consumer—the choices that we make, the ideas that we embrace or reject —who drive change and adoption of media technology.

Remember the betamax? Or the Apple Newton?

In  fact, I could easily suggest an alternative theme for this conference: Everything changes digital. Everything—from consumer behavior and market forces to transformations in communications and communities—has continued to change, in part, because  of digital, and in part, despite of it.

Certainly, digital innovations in media have driven much of what changes our society, but it’s the friction that exists between the ahead-of-their-time technologists and the visionaries who can see through the zeros and the ones, and see a future for a given technology in the present, that’s what transforms—and continues to transform—the world.

I was fortunate—or unfortunate, depending on your perspective—to have worked in San Francisco during the dot-com boom—and the dot-com bust of the 1990s. Imagine my good fortune to have counted among my clients leading technology companies such as Motorola, Sybase and Cisco Systems. At the time, some naysayers wondered why a hardcore, B2B company like Cisco  Systems needed to do any consumer-facing advertising. However, backed by CEO John Chambers, Cisco Systems pressed forward with a consumer advertising strategy. Chambers believed that engaging with the next generation of tech savvy consumers was vital for Cisco’s success. As a result of his vision and leadership, Cisco’s annual  revenue grew from $1.2 billion in 1995—when people still thought it was a restaurant supply company—to $35 billion today.

I  recently saw the play, “The Farnsworth Invention,” written by Aaron Sorkin, and currently playing on Broadway. The play tells the story of Philo T. Farnsworth, the first person to broadcast a moving image over the airwaves, and David Sarnoff, the broadcasting tycoon who took these moving images to the masses. Either man could arguably be called the father of television. And yet, it’s likely that many of you may recognize the name Sarnoff but not Farnsworth.

What the dual and parallel stories of Farnsworth and Sarnoff illustrate so eloquently in Sorkin’s play are the competing worlds and ideals of the technologist (Farnsworth) versus the visionary (Sarnoff).

In many ways, the marketing communications business is in a similar position right  now. We know what technologies we have in hand. And some of you—many, in fact—can see through the zeros and the ones, and imagine a future in our present, how to harness this “digital” for the sake of moving our society forward, for commerce and culture, and of course, for  media and advertising…

“I’m going to assume that most of you know that agencies are neutral among media—and that means all media. The agency seeks to develop advertisers—not newspaper advertisers, nor magazine advertisers nor radio advertisers nor even television advertisers, but simply advertisers.”

I didn’t write these words. In fact, they were written by former AAAA president , Frederic Gamble, in a speech that he made to the American Television Society—in  1947.

There’s something prescient and appropriate about what Mr. Gamble said more than sixty  years ago: “Agencies are neutral among media—and that means all media.” In 1947, “all media” included print, radio and the early days of television .

Today, media has proliferated to include much more: from online gaming and communities, to iPods/iPhones/iWhatever, to time-shifting, location-shifting, near reality-shifting options. All of this fueled by digital technologies…

Indeed, digital changes everything, including the AAAA. As  an organization that represents marketing communications companies at the leading-edge of digital technologies and innovation—whether you want to call them advertising agencies, content creation companies, experiential marketing experts, digital specialists, media investment agencies—we have a unique front-row view of our changing, digital world. At this conference and in the months ahead, keep  an eye on how the AAAA embraces new and different digital communications channels, offering better ways for our members to connect and engage with each other and with us …

So  rather than viewing all of this change as a revolution—it’s really more like an ongoing evolution, albeit at a rate of change that would make any Darwinian theorist’s head spin. Yes , the media revolution will be televised, but it will also be Twittered and Flickrd, streamed via Webcast and podcast, downloaded onto your hand-held device, and spoken and text messaged by avatars on Nintendo Wii and in World of Warcraft.

At the 2006 Media Conference, Jason Hirschhorn, then the head of digital at MTV Networks, asked this audience if anybody had ever  heard of YouTube.

Out of the 1,000 attendees in the audience that morning, perhaps a dozen or so people raised their hands. Hirschhorn remarked that these digitally savvy audience members were likely parents of ’tweens and teens, the consumers who were already posting their homemade video clips on the then-growing but not-yet-exploded video Web site.

Today, YouTube is a given, a brand name in the ranks of Google, now its parent company. And now with premium online  video destinations such as Hulu and Joost, consumers aren’t just watching video clips of bulldogs that skateboard. They’re watching premium content online. And consumers, advertisers, and traditional media companies are taking notice.

In fact, according to a recent report from comScore  Video Metrix, U.S. Internet users watched more than 10  billion videos in the month of December 2007 alone.

In just two years … from essentially zero to 10  billion in a single month … just a small slice of the (r)evolution in digital and media that we’re living through right now ...

So what does this all mean ?

“There is no doubt that television is far and away the most controversial medium in our business today. It is also the most frightening, time- and personnel-consuming, and the most expensive. As a result of this combination of impediments, many of us are prone to look solely at the problems of the medium and thus to overlook its values.”

Again, not my words. These words are from notes taken from the AAAA Annual Meeting—held  in 1952. Fast  forward to 2008, and we could easily replace the word “television” with  Internet, mobile, digital outdoor … The list goes on and on, and will continue to build  and change, as long as technologists and visionaries exist.

I want to conclude with a snapshot of a scene from “The Farnsworth Invention.” Toward  the end of the play, the technologist, Farnsworth, asks the visionary, Sarnoff, why he went against his publicly stated principles and allowed advertising on the radio. The visionary, Sarnoff, who had by this time become the head of NBC, says, “I had no idea it would be such a success at connecting consumers to advertisers. Once that happens, it changes everything.”

And  so, television changes everything.

Internet  changes everything.

Mobile  changes everything.

Digital  changes everything.

And who knows what  else in the future will change everything.

But this much we  know for sure: everyone and everything changes digital.

Now on to the program .

I’m pleased to introduce our conference presider, Marc Goldstein. In addition to serving as the CEO at GroupM North America, Marc also serves as chair of the AAAA Media Policy Committee, which helps the AAAA to identify and wrestle with the critical media issues that our members face today, and under his leadership, is responsible for programming this conference. His complete biography is in your program, as are biographies of all of today’s speakers.

Take it away, Marc.

Nancy Hill 

Nancy Hill
President and CEO

2008 Media Conference & Tradeshow

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