What did I learn from ad:tech India?

This post is intentionally delayed. Intentionally delayed so that I could spend some time analyzing and thinking over what exactly did I learn from ad:tech India. While I was attending the conference, I was very keenly observing my twitter timeline. With all due respect to this great medium of exchanging thoughts in 140 characters – it slowly occurred to me that – maybe we react a tad too quickly to situations in front of us. Especially in a conference like ad:tech where multiple speakers and panel discussions are taking place; insights, numbers, challenges and case studies are constantly being thrown at you; networking & business opportunities are discussed – needless to say empathy is short circuited & immediate expression of whatever is in our minds should not be taken as the last word.

So what did I learn?

Lesson 1: Conferences are like MBA programs. It is up to us to make the most of it.

Before attending ad:tech, we should have asked ourselves 2 questions. One, does India deserve an ad:tech? Two, why does it deserve an ad:tech? If you answered in affirmative to the first question and can come up with reasons for the second too – then you have the right mindset to attend a conference of this scale. Yes, it is important to develop the right mind set for everything. Even for conferences! Its easy to sit back and criticize – from food to speakers, from the quality of content presented to the quantity of jargon thrown at us. The expectations some folks have for conferences (including myself) reminds me of how Moses met The Lord at Mount Sinai. Thunder, lightning, voice from the cloud, bushes burning, kaboom! Moses has become a new person and he has changed. Certainly conferences can’t change your understanding of an industry if you already have a good one! It reminds of instances where people think that an MBA program can help them become a better manager or a better business person. But that’s not the reality. Conferences are like MBA programs and can only do this much. It is up to us to make the most of it.

Lesson 2: Thanks for the best practices. It’s time for next practices.

Ad:tech India showcased the best practices. After all that’s what conferences are supposed to do. It is up to us to figure out the next practices. And this will only happen if we combine our understanding of best practices + the good old truth about consumer, brands, marketing, etc in our drawing boards / brainstorming sessions / client meetings. How can digital marketers make sure that every consumer touch points be converted into a great experience (business and marketing)? It seems that most of us are convinced about the role of integrated advertising. In a market like India – how can we make sure that integrated advertising plays a crucial role in the marketing mix?

Lesson 3: The golden rule of ‘whatever works’?

While the term ‘digital advertising’ may involve multiple partners with multiple roles to play in order to meet a broader marketing goal – the golden rule of ‘whatever works’ clearly rules. Digital evolves constantly. Benchmarks are challenged. New mediums and techniques evolve. And so does the pundits and gurus. In a scenario where marketers, agencies, publishers, product makers, developers and various solution providers have offerings and requirements of their own – everything revolves around the consumer. And marketing dollars will go to practices, trends and usage behaviours adopted by the consumers needless of the scale. Yes, ‘whatever works’ is the brutal truth. But it is here to stay in a constantly changing environment. Reminds me of what Elisa Steele (Chief Marketing Officer, Yahoo) said. She said, “Change is a source of fear, but you can also use change as a chance to lead.”

Lesson 4: “Look ma, I see the horizon!”

It is very important to catch a glimpse of the horizon. You know your limitations. You can set expectations accordingly. This applies to (a) creative thought process (b) ‘desirable promises’ made by brands within the context of digital advertising (c) the relationship between ‘brand’ and ‘business models’ (d) the issue of cost, scale & relevance when it comes to executing creative digital solutions in India

Lesson 5: About truths, statements and lies

As professionals who live, eat and sleep digital – we need not necessarily be taught the hows and whys of shifts in this space. Yes, we need to discuss and debate possibilities. In fact, we, the new breed of digital marketing / advertising professionals have grown up with more freedom and global awareness than any before. Digital is a lifestyle for us. Hence when information is presented to us – in the form of truths, statements and lies – we very well know how to take it with a pinch of salt. Aren’t we the same fire flies inside the same old big jar? Enough said.

Lesson 6: This is India. We are like this only. Kindly adjust.

In India things work in different ways – whether its business, politics and other happenings. Conferences too! So what if speakers indulged in sales pitches? So what if some rules were bent? So what if the same insights available online were presented to us again? We have to kindly adjust. Interestingly it applies to our consumers too. Will digital habits & consumption patterns evolve at the same pace in India as that of developed markets? Best practices of a developed market: will it work in a not-so-homogenous market like India? We must note that for every generalization there are notable exceptions. And exceptions are rare.

Lesson 7: The serious lesson

Let’s take ourselves less seriously. It’s perfectly fine if we admit that we do not have all the answers. Move on.

(Disclaimer: The views and concerns mentioned below are strictly personal.)


~ by rb on May 4, 2011.

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