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2008 Digital Conference, Opening Remarks by Nancy Hill 

Good morning and welcome.

Last week I was fortunate to be invited to moderate a panel discussion at Microsoft’s advance08 Advertising Leadership Conference in Seattle, so much of what we’ll be discussing today has been very much top of mind for me.

As the head of the AAAA, I have the great privilege of hosting about a half dozen national conferences each year.

But I have to admit that the subject of today’s event—our Digital Conference—holds a special place in my heart.

Like for many of you—technology has played an important and fundamental role in shaping my personal and professional life. It has transformed—and continues to transform—the way that I live and work, in ways big and small, in ways expected and unexpected.

If you’re anything like me—and I suspect many of you are—your desk is filled with a surprising number of tech gadgets that just a few years ago didn’t even exist.

And yet despite their relative newness, these innovations have dramatically and permanently influenced the way that we conduct our lives each and every day.

I can imagine that if someone told me 25 years ago when I started in this business—working on an Apple IIe, no less—that one day I would:

  • check my e-mail
  • update the status on my Facebook page
  • Twitter my every move
  • and oh by the way make a few phone calls

all on a single handheld device, I probably would have thought that person was either a visionary or a lunatic.

Perhaps a bit of both.

But it’s unconventional thinking of “lunatic” visionaries and “crazy” technologists that has captured our imaginations and allowed for the innovations that have fueled the incredible progress in business and culture that we’ve seen over the past generation … affecting us across generations to come.

Much of this progress falls under the rubric of “digital,” which has become a kind of catchall term for anything that’s not, well, analog. But what do we really mean when we talk about digital?

I’ve thought a lot about this question, as I prepared for this conference, particularly in the context of what the digital revolution means to AAAA members—which are represented by a wide range of marketing communications companies.

From this perspective, digital has frequently been assigned to media: whether it’s Web sites, digital signage, mobile, or gaming.

But over the course of today’s program, I think you’ll discover that our definition of digital should—and does—encompass much more than media alone. It includes data analytics, user experience, and talent recruitment and retention.

This past March, the AAAA held our annual Media Conference in Orlando with the theme “Digital Changes Everything.” During my presentation there, I suggested that the conference theme should be reversed to be “Everything Changes Digital.”

Today, I could easily remix the idea once again, and recommend a theme for this conference: For marketing communications companies “Everything Is Digital.” From back-office business processes to creative execution to—of course—media, everything that our members do today is done digitally.

So in a way, this conference doesn’t really need a theme. In fact, that’s why we don’t have one.

And the truth is, I’m not sure that we really even need to have something called the “Digital Conference.”

Because Everything Is Digital nowadays, and isolating digital from the larger conversation that’s happening within in our business is like isolating media or creative or direct marketing or public relations—you name it—from the total communications planning that’s occurring today.

It simply doesn’t make sense anymore.

I believe that calling this event the Digital Conference is a bit of a misnomer, since we’re talking about what’s happening today—right now—in all facets of our business, not just in digital silos.

We’re not here to forecast the future—although we will hear from a leading futurist later this morning.

What we are trying to do is to take a look at the digital universe as it exists today, see how far the boundaries extend, and talk about the opportunities that are present for agencies of all kinds in this brave new, exciting, and very complicated digital world.

In a recent white paper from IDC, the digital universe was defined as “the pile of digital information that includes everything from e-mail to YouTube videos,” not to mention all of the ambient digital information that surrounds us—our digital shadows—which include electronic trails of credit card purchases, mailing lists, Web histories—and dare I say it—surveillance images from public spaces and much, much more…

The digital universe is growing much faster than previously thought or expected, and IDC estimates that it now measures a staggering 281 exabytes.

By 2011 the world’s assemblage of all things digital will grow—at a compound yearly rate of 59 percent—to 1,800 exabytes, 10 times the size it was in 2006.

As a point of reference, one exabyte is equal to one billion gigabytes. So imagine, if you will, one billion, one-gigabyte flash drives. Then multiply that by 1,800. That’s what the digital universe will be in three short years.

There’s a lot of ground to cover today, so let just get started.

It’s my pleasure to introduce to you our conference presider, Jerry McGee. Jerry serves as executive vice president of the AAAA’s Western Region.

You can read his complete biography in the program book, but what his official bio won’t tell you is that Jerry is a longtime Mac Addict, closet gamer and student of all things digital.

Jerry, take it away.

Nancy Hill 

Nancy Hill

2008 Digital Conference

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