Last week, I spent three extraordinary days presenting and participating in Cartagena at South America’s biggest marketing event: XVII Congreso de Publicidad. The congress was more like a rock concert than a business conference, and really reflected just how much money – and excitement – is being ploughed into the industry over there, particularly when it comes to digital and social media.
With speakers such as Sir Martin Sorrell, Head of WPP; Javier Sanchez Lamelas, VP Marketing Latin America, Coca-Cola; Amir Kassaei, DDB Worldwide Chief Creative Officer; Oliver Gray, Director General European Advertising Standards Alliance; and Caroline Little, President & CEO, Newspaper Association of America, I felt in very good company – and honoured to be the one focusing on social media in a schedule that ranged across the whole marketing spectrum.
Probably the main theme that appeared again and again in the presentations was a focus on brands’ own content and voice. Content was very much the congress fetish word. The future of marketing, several speakers suggested, lies in companies effectively becoming media and entertainment brands: diversifying to TV, merchandise and always-on streams of adrenaline-pumped creativity that will embed them in the hearts and pockets of fickle consumers.
There’s a lot of truth in that. It’s important to have a strong identity and value proposition across several channels. But I was very keen to emphasise that other peoples’ content and conversation are still where the magic happens for brands – and where it always will.
As a show of hands proved, most those in the audience are already involved in some way in deploying social strategies – and most of them were underwhelmed by the results they were getting. So in my keynote, ‘7 Uncomfortable Truths About Social Media’, I challenged a series of unhelpful assumptions (it is the main venue for word of mouth; it is quick and cheap; your existing business departments still work; and so on) which are preventing businesses from making the most of word of mouth behaviours and platforms. After each ‘uncomfortable truth’, I offered a case study or insight as to how facing that truth can bring hugely positive rewards.
I’m not going to recreate the whole thing here, but you can see me talking briefly about the content issue in the interview below (please ignore the manic hand-waving). Content from the conference is being brilliantly collated by the Periódico del Congreso de Publicidad site which pulls in all the commnuity’s blogs, videos, images and tweets from the event, and their YouTube page features is a must for short interviews with the speakers.
Everyone I met at the event was super-enthusiastic and full of their own stories and questions. They were also one of the most inherently social (generous, creative, open, warm, authentic) bunch of people I’ve ever encountered at a marketing gig. One thing is sure: Colombia is most definitely a place to watch.