4A’s Second Annual CreateTech Conference Gets Underway in Santa Monica

Santa Monica, CA – September 19, 2012 – Technologists from the ad/marketing industry gathered for the first day of the 4A’s second annual CreateTech Conference, during which they were given a glimpse of “the possible” in consumer engagement. Paul Hernacki, Chief Technology Officer, Definition 6, kicked things off with opening remarks in which he said most agencies view technology, even today, as a printing press or production arm of client service.

Inside many agencies, the tech guys are thought of as “Dr. No,” because they’re often the ones who explain why something is not possible, Hernacki said. Instead, technologists must position themselves as the ones who can get the job done and make things happen. “We have to be more like this guy,” he said, flashing a photo of Steve Jobs on screen.

With that, he introduced the day’s first speaker, Andrea Harrison, Director, Digital Engagement, at PepsiCo, who encouraged attendees to help her identify the attributes of the truly collaborative client:

The collaborative client asks the agency for a viral video. Not so, said Harrison. A truly collaborative client would not ask for something so specific. The collaborative client communicates a vision via whiteboard. Not so, said Harrison, who described white-board sessions as a cop out, which are fine in a brainstorming environment “but not to brief the agency.” Clients must be more concrete in delivering their vision than just sketching on a whiteboard.

The following are summaries of the day’s remaining speakers:

Ed Brojerdi, President and Co-Chief Creative Officer, kbs+, presented with client Michael Jobst, National Marketing Manager. BMW North America.
KBS+ does not outsource its tech development, Brojerdi said. All tech production is done in-house because “without that, we are not a true modern, creative technology agency. He and Jobst presented five insights they’ve uncovered from their advertising collaboration:

  • Make complicated things. Collaboration is all about problem-solving.
  • Make the ugly stuff. Build back-end systems that track leads such as, the app process.
  • Failing fast is still failing. Not taking risks is risky but it has to be calculated. You can’t just rely on the fun, cool thing. It has to work with the whole ecosystem.
  • Make something if you can’t make everything. If it’s too long or complicated to get into the marketplace on time, scale back and at least get something out there.
  • Make together. Get in front of your clients, pitch things, work together in a constant, free-flowing system of ideas between client and agency. Agencies and clients must behave as if they both work for the same company.

Andrew Ianni, Founder and President, AppNation:

  • Downloads in the app space are not slowing but accelerating.
  • The tablet will take the app economy to another level by 2013.
  • Sony, Lenovo, HP, Acer, Microsoft all making big pushes into tablet market

The mobile web will not overtake the native app because Apple has a vested, long-term interest in the latter.

Todd Lefelt, Managing Director, User Experience, Huge L.A.
Mistakes, Myths and Solutions in mobile:

  • Mistake: Companies don’t fund solutions, they fund projects.
  • Mistake: Companies often design experiences that are hard to find.
  • Myth: Mobile is used only by people on the go. The truth is that mobile is actually the lazy man’s computer—89 percent of users use mobile devices at home.
  • Myth: People want less on their mobile phone and more on their desktop
  • Solution: Context is key. Marketers must know place, mindset and social considerations of their consumer targets.
  • Solution: Plan for findability by thinking about where the digital experience fits into the larger ecosystem of digital experiences.

Hank Leber, Founder and CEO, GonnaBe, who worked for many years on the agency side, compared agency life to the Olympic Games and start-up life to The Hunger Games.” Consumers say they hate ads but they want to be fed with deals and offers, he said, as long as those offers are relevant to their lives, adding that Facebook has been great at showing us what the next horizons are for social platforms.

CreateTech was the first time Lynn Teo has spoken publicly in her current capacity—Chief Experience Officer, McCann Erickson. User Experience design is shaking things up in the agency world to the extent that the “Don Draper” agency executive prototype has been replaced by a user experience designer. Good design is not just decoration but problem-solving-how do we get into the heads, live and psyches of our consumers? “We need to push harder in asking how does this app or digital experience get the consumer to buy another cup of coffee (or whatever product or service is being marketed).

Keeping and retaining young creative talent is becoming more difficult in the digital age, and BDW’s David Slayden and Bree Thomas gave pointers on how to keep the troops interested.”The creative economy is booming,” Thomas said. “It’s a great time to be in our business is you are a user-experience strategist or content developer.”

Slayden delivered the “bad” news: The problem of talent retention is continuing to grow as most creative technologists start at ad agencies then quickly move on to start ups or other opportunities. Retaining talent is a cultural challenge, he said. Creative tech types like to learn and like to solve problems. Agencies should create a culture of learning culture and create environments where today’s talent is constantly engaged in learning.

John Underkoffler, Chief Scientist, Oblong Industries, was on the team of technical advisors for the 2002 film “Minority Report,” produced by Steven Spielberg, who wanted digital and interactive technology depicted without showing any keyboards or a mouse.”No matter how hard you try, you can’t predict fast or far enough,” when trying to show the technology of the future, Underkoffler said, adding that Spielberg didn’t want the film to look like science fiction but like “the plausible future.”

Chris Mejia, Director, Digital Supply Chain Solutions, IAB, talked of the need and long-term importance of establishing spec standards in digital advertising. “Constraint is something that drives innovation,” he said. “Constraint is the mother of innovation.”

Do agency creatives kill collaboration? According to Tiffany Rolfe, Chief Content Officer at Co:collective, the answer is that they do a good part of the time. She said the label “creative” to describe only a portion of any agency’s staff is limiting because so many others contribute to the “creative” process by helping solve problems.

The last session was a panel moderated by Ashley Swartz, Founder & CEO, Furious Minds Inc., who interviewed Patrick Sarkissian, CEO, founder Sarkissian Mason and Candice Kersh of law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC.

Kersh said the biggest problem facing the ad-tech industries is that intellectual property laws and patent laws are not in step with technology itself. Sarkissian decried the practice of patent trolling, which greatly slows the implementation of new technologies.