To distill the key learnings, we asked our two attendees for their take on the highlights from each day of the conference.

The below is the first in a three-part series in which our attendees – Jared Orth and Mary Tyrrell – share their most valuable insights from the conference.

Day 1: Welcome to Transformation 2015

4A's President-CEO Nancy Hill kicked off Transformation with a solid focus on the reason some 800 leading industry executives gathered in Austin—to highlight the people who are reshaping the advertising industry, creating new standards, and promoting innovation by way of unprecedented collaboration and partnerships. The day’s agenda started strong, with celebrated film director, screenwriter, producer and Founder and Chairman of El Rey Network, Robert Rodriguez, speaking about Living a Creative Life. There were many other highlights throughout the day’s programming.

He Said…

  • Brands have to be comfortable not having control – Approximately 43% of the world’s population is under the age of 25, which equals around 7,000,000,000 people, and these people have voices and will use them how they see fit. These are the Millennials who have grown up never knowing what it was like to not be connected. Also, brands are at the mercy of news outlets. News outlets at times can “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” Between more and more voices being heard and many more outlets of news sources, brands will need to adapt to losing control to the consumer.
  • A media company’s core asset is its access to, relationship with and, ultimately, influence over its audience – Customers are at a point where they are used to consuming content and commerce; it is not new to them. They are not surprised by ad content when they are going about their daily lives, and have come to expect it. In fact, screen time has doubled in the past two years and with that comes twice as much advertising to which consumers are exposed in that space. In the end, it is about how a brand interacts with consumers, and the message they take away.
  • Shorter is not always better – Content that consumers are seeking out is not getting shorter; much of it is getting longer. For example, feature films are getting longer; novels such as Fire & Ice from Game of Thrones are getting longer. Consumers do not have a problem with length, and things do not necessarily need to be faster. This is because to a consumer, things need to be chosen. Advertisers look for “the moment” with consumers when, in actuality, “the moment is the message” at that very second. A speaker from Google presented data showing how typically there is a 10x search lift in the first 10 minutes of exposure….and then it drops off significantly. A brand’s real time moment is the most important one—that initial contact with the consumer.
  • Chipotle is a prime example of an advertiser using multiple agencies in various fashions with the success of the brand being the ultimate goal – Through multiple agency partners, Chipotle has ingrained itself in cultivating food & music festivals, creating a game and short film that live online (The Scarecrow), and an original online series (“Farmed and Dangerous”). Chipotle has a marketing equation that the company finds successful: 1/3 Storytelling, 1/3 Traditional Media (OOH, Print, Radio), 1/3 Local Marketing. Each agency has a pivotal role in each segment, without being provided any sales data in the end to use as a benchmark. Chipotle breaks category trends with originality in content creation, % of sales added back to marketing dollars, and what the company is actually talking about in its ads….and along the way, every agency partner has to be on board in order to make the machine successfully function.

She Said…

  • Millennials are a force like no other – Millennials were a common theme throughout the day, not in terms of marketing to them, but rather their impact on the advertising industry. One session exclusively featured a panel of Millennials, all on the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 List, talking about the marketing and technology companies they founded. Growing up in the digital age has wired the younger generations to succeed, and quite frankly, they won’t be satisfied until their impact on the world is known. Ponder this: 43% of the world’s population is currently under the age of 25. Are you ready for them to become your customer, your employee, or even your boss?
  • Being relevant in the moment has become more important than ever before – In a world where attention times are shrinking and devices, apps, sites, and content channels are exploding, the ability to capture attention is increasingly important. People are choosing what interests them and immersing themselves deeply into those things, tuning everything else out. In this regard, the moment becomes the message. A TV spot in a high-profile event like the Super Bowl or the Emmys will yield a 10x search lift that lasts 10 minutes. That’s the moment. The challenge for advertisers is how to provide an experience choreographed into context.
  • Pinterest should be viewed as a predictor of purchase intent – Pinterest is growing in leaps and bounds with more than 70 million active users and 30 billion pins on 750 million boards. Behind each and every pin is intent. Pinterest is about planning for the future, and users are primed for purchase. Pinterest can also be used as an informal focus group. Where people are posting a brand’s pins can help determine how people are interpreting its content. This consumer perspective offers valuable insights with regard to how products should be marketed.
  • The ability to bridge content and commerce should be at the forefront of advertising – The destination website or shopping experience is going away in favor of consuming content in feeds. As such, the goal becomes disruption – not in a bad way, but as a way to surprise and delight. The definition of disruption in this context is to radically change an industry or business strategy. Providing appealing content or an offer that has the ability to stop consumers from swiping past a brand message is paramount to successful commerce in today’s media landscape.