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Blurred Lines: The Fine Line between Ads and Editorial at Advertising Week Europe

As part of DGC’s annual exchange program with Eulogy! – in which one DGC’er and one Eulogite have the opportunity to work from each other’s offices for a full week – I’ve been lucky enough to not only be in London, but also attend Advertising Week Europe.

I am less than 48 hours into being in London and have already experienced a couple of sessions with the likes of News Corp and Mashable execs. Here is a brief snapshot:

The Future of News & Advertising

This unique fireside chat between Robert Thomson, CEO of News Corporation, and Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP Global, brought two luminaries to the stage. They spoke to numerous pressing topics today from the future of traditional media, to who’s to blame for failing with digital advertising.

Native advertising was definitely one of the hot topics of discussion. Sorrell explained how the boundaries between the editorial and business sides are breaking down and that it’s fine as long as there is transparency along the way. In fact, both executives agreed that, in an ideal world, consumers would prefer to opt-out rather than opt-in, and people will pay for content if it is good. Thomson also admitted that quality content can be expensive, so it’s critical to identify more ways to increase the monetization of such content. He further explained that the value of content creation proves more than ever that distribution is important.
The session wrapped up with Thomson and Sorrell debating over whether numerous industries, including that of public relations and public affairs, have been creatively or destructively disrupted by digital. Only time will tell…

Fast Company Founder’s Conversation 

This much anticipated session shed a new light on the editorial direction of Mashable. The fireside chat featured Bob Safian, Editor of Fast Company, casually asking questions of Pete Cashmore, the very well-known CEO and Founder of Mashable. And once again, native advertising was a hot topic. Pete agreed that it’s a good thing as long as it’s a win-win for all involved, and that a reader’s best interest is always kept in mind.

The message Pete drove home throughout the session was Mashable’s seemingly transformed focus on its editorial content – no longer restricting its walls to social media and other such related topics. His vision is to bring forth what the world cares about across the board on various topics – even weather.

Pete called out that journalism is a part of Mashable’s DNA. It was evident that the outlet wants to shift its perception of being more like a New York Times than that of say a BuzzFeed or The Huffington Post. That said, Pete still feels strongly that Mashable will always target its core audience of early adopters as they are “likely at the cutting edge of everything – not just technology.”

Something Pete Cashmore mentioned in his session was proven true today: the proliferation of technology has changed the playing field, with anyone and everyone having the ability to be successful from anywhere – not just Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley. It’s safe to say that Advertising Week Europe will continue to grow in its presence over the coming years.

It was a whirlwind of a first day! I’m looking forward to attending additional sessions during my trip and will be back at week’s end with more key takeaways and learnings. In the meantime, follow the conversation @digennaro and check out some pics here to get a snapshot of my week in London and Advertising Week Europe.

SXSW 2013: Day 2 — Brand Fans, Yammer + Matthew McConaughey

DGC reporting live from day 2 at SXSWi 2013! The festival is in full gear, with early to mid-morning panels so packed lines were snaked around buildings and one-in, one-out policies were being enforced. We did manage to make a few sessions that boosted big names and big brands. Among them:

Brand Fans, the New Brand MarketersModerated by Mashable’s Todd Wasserman and featuring Facebook Creative Strategist Kevin Knight, PepsiCo’s Global Head of Digital Shiv Singh, and Frito-Lay’s Sr. Director of Brand Marketing Jen Saenz, this panel covered the rise of crowdsourcing, its merits, and how it’s disrupting traditional marketer/agency relationships.

PepsiCo has crowdsourced a number of brand initiatives, including Do Us A Flavor, a flavor naming and defining contest for Lay’s, and Crash the Super Bowl, a contest for user-generated commercials for Doritos.

Why crowdsource?  It’s a way to engage consumers with a brand in a personal matter on their own terms, Saenz said. What’s more, at a time when consumers have their own media channels in Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, it’s a natural way to extend reach and drive the all-powerful personal stamp of approval for a brand, Singh said. Wasserman asked if crowdsourcing – with its focus on the wisdom of crowds — lessens the need for ad agencies and marketing skills. Knight replied that great creative agencies makes strong emotional connections between consumers and brands, so the best ones will be able to use crowsourcing as a tool to make even better marketing.

Insights about InnovationA “Fireside chat” featuring CEO and Founder Jason Calacanis interviewing Yammer Founder and CEO David Sacks (also the former Chief Operating Officer of PayPal).  This wide-ranging discussion covered Sacks’ views on the four big players in tech and what he looks for when funding a startup.

Sacks said he only wants to invest in companies that will overhaul an industry – his latest investment, Houzz, is an app for remodeling homes – and that the first question he asks of new products is: does it promote a behavior I can see consumers engaging in?  When asked about copycat products and services in the tech world, he quoted the famous Picasso saying “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal,” and said that one of the greatest flaws in a product managers is excessive pride.

And lastly, a little Page Six-style gossip: SXSWi is teeming with celebrities.  So far, our team has spotted New Girl’s Jake Johannsen, Two and a Half Men’s Chuck Lorre, Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley, Matthew Just Keep Livin’ McConaughey and one of this DGC’ers personal heroes: David Carr of the New York Times. Signing off for now …

Nature Valley makes digital debut at SXSW Mashable party

Sunday night was the highly anticipated Mashable SXSW party at a giant pool hall/bar in downtown Austin called Buffalo Billiards. As throngs of party-goers waited outside, we crept in to check out the Nature Valley Trail View

display, say hi to the creative folks at McCann who came up with it, and enjoy some “Kow-a-bunga” (an energy tea that frankly, can stay in Texas).

Nature Valley, one of the main sponsors of the event, with their team at McCann recently launched “Trail View,” a website that allows you to explore some of America’s iconic natural parks from the comfort of your computer. Think Google street view, but over miles of hiking trails in Yellowstone, the Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. The display at the Mashable party featured interactive big screen TVs where guest could explore the trails, as well as watch some of the behind-the-scenes footage of the McCann teams hiking through the great outdoors with all their cameras and equipment. The whole project took almost three months to film—not a typical assignment for a bunch of ad folks!

Nature Valley’s first big foray into the digital space is true to the brand, focusing on preserving nature while using cutting-edge technology to capture it authentically. The display had many people taking a break from beers and billiards to wander over and see what the beautiful landscapes were all about.  Congrats McCann on a successful launch!


Tech-Talk: Pinterest and PR

If you haven’t heard of Pinterest yet, you need to get up to speed fast. The social network, termed “scrapbooking on the web” is sweeping the Internet and recently broke into the top 10 most popular social networks right behind Yelp, according to an Experian Hitwise report.

Pinterest is an online pinboard that allows users to cluster things they find on the web, be it pictures, articles, videos, websites, etc., into various categories and share them with others. You’re ultimately becoming a curator of information. The site says “you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.”

The site had over 11 million visits in December, illustrating that consumers are clearly taking to it. With so many consumers flocking to one place, Pinterest has created a new, innovative outlet for brands and companies to get involved in social media.

As PR professionals, it’s our job to be on top of what’s next in tech so that we can pass info on to our clients and, of course, consider it for planning purposes.  Pinterest opens up a whole new world of possibilities for PR and marketing.  Here’s DGC’s list of the top 4 ways to use Pinterest in PR.

  • Pinterest is the perfect avenue to illustrate a company’s culture by making a profile that highlights your brand’s personality. Maybe your CEO has a passion for knitting, he/she can pin interesting articles, tools, books and even post pictures of things they’re creating, to ultimately connect deeper with consumers.
  • High site traffic makes a Pinterest page great for product launches and announcements. And since it allows you to post and share images easily with real time comments, it’s the perfect place to showcase news. But, be creative in how you share. Pinterest has a rule against being too self-promotional.
  • Trying to get more interaction with consumers? Create contests. Whether you’re a beverage company asking clients to pin their favorite drink or a fashion designer asking followers to pin their own designs, Pinterest creates an easy, visually intriguing way for you to hold contests and learn more about your followers.
  • Why not provide a pin for your thoughts? Use your page to publicize your thought leadership initiatives, by pinning images that showcase links to your articles, coverage or video content.

For more information on how to get started on Pinterest, check out this how to guide on Mashable. Or for a more in-depth look at how other brands are using Pinterest, check out this great list on American Express Open Forum.

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