I Want You to Talk About Me

Two weeks ago, New York was a mad house with five interactive and traditional advertising events during Advertising Week, including the OMMA Expo, Forrester’s Consumer Forum, the IAB and Adweek’s MIXX Expo, and the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s (WOMMA’s) Word of Mouth vs. Advertising conference.

It was a crazy week. Here are a few interesting themes the events shared.

Senior Executives Were Out in Force

This confirms the Internet and integrated communications are top of mind in the C-suite. A partial attendee list for WOMMA includes Pepsi-Cola, AOL, Microsoft, General Mills, and Walt Disney. Organic sponsored Forrester’s Consumer Forum. The attendee list was almost exclusively VP and C-level executives in Fortune 1000 companies.

Usually at industry conferences, brand executives are very difficult to find and tend to shy away from conversations with agencies or technology companies. During Ad Week, impressive name tags were everywhere. Attendees were actively listening, taking notes, and asking a lot of questions. Conference attendance, particularly at this level, is a clear, quantifiable indicator the Internet is a real, important part of the Fortune 1000 marketing mix.

The Internet Is the Emerging Hub of the Multichannel World

Increasingly, the Internet experience is the hub of both branding and direct response campaigns. We see this in our client work, and we hear it at every event we attended. All offline media — print, TV, outdoor, and so forth — point to the Web as the center of interaction and experience that encourages consumers to participate with the brand in new, exciting ways. This bodes well for us all. As the inevitable screen convergence continues, media will look a lot more like the Internet (participatory) rather than TV and print (passive). We’ve known this for a long time, but it’s interesting to learn how different companies are taking this to heart, particularly in the automotive space with the Dodge Charger and Audi A3 campaigns.

Word of Mouth Has Come Into Its Own

I had the opportunity to attend the WOMMA conference briefly to hear our Chief Experience Architect Troy Young speak on a panel about how to create content that’s word-of-mouth worthy. There was a remarkable moment of disclosure during the session that made people gasp, laugh, and think hard.

In an effort to not just talk about word-of-mouth tactics, Young decided to employ one himself by way of example. His fifth slide stated starkly, “I want you to talk about me.” After all, that’s why speakers speak: to create buzz for their personal brands, for their companies, and for the interactive industry in general. So he resorted to an age-old tactic: sex sells. After reminding the audience of the Paris Hilton/Carl’s Jr. ads, Young flipped to the next slide. It was an enormous picture of his belly, complete with belly button and plaid shorts. After the initial shock, everyone laughed a bit nervously and exchanged glances. This was quite unusual. Young made his point.

The best word of mouth is unpredictable. It tests comfort zones. And, Young got his wish. The blogosphere is buzzing with comments about his speech, including an interesting post on The Basement.

I congratulated Andy Sernovitz, WOMMA’s CEO, on the conference. He was very pleased. He’d put the event together in four weeks, and 250 people were in the standing-room-only space.

He said, “I have a simple metric to determine whether an event is a good one. First, how many people are still there at the end of the day? We kept everyone. And second, what percentage of attendees are hanging out in the hall answering email and making phone calls? Our entry room was empty during the sessions because everyone was inside, listening. That’s how I rate a good conference.”

Word of mouth is real. Normal. And here to stay.

I want you to talk about me. Isn’t that really the heart of effective advertising?

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