The Necessary Frontier: Digital Content

ADC hits up the DigitasLBi NewFront 2014

If you work in digital media, advertising, marketing or pretty much any industry that’s focusing on online content (that’s all of them at this point, right?), you’ve probably heard of or even attended some of the Digital Content NewFronts, taking place this week and next in New York.

Modeled after the long-standing upfronts of the television industry, the NewFronts are an opportunity for digital companies such as BuzzFeed, Aol, hulu, Crackle and DigitasLBi, the creator of the first NewFront in 2008, to strut their stuff for marketers and advertisers. It’s also a chance to have a “gut check,” as DigitasLBi suggested with their 2014 NewFront, whose theme was “FEARLESS.” The global marketing and technology agency presented an afternoon of high-energy speeches and lessons in success aimed not only at the marketers they are hoping to entice, but also at innovators within the industry who might need an extra dose of motivation. ADC checked in on the DigitasLBi NewFront so you can keep up with how this kind of event is changing the advertising industry while it’s still new.

Tony Weisman, CEO of DigitasLBi North America started things off by declaring the “intimate relationship between failure and success” and the importance of recognizing failure as a necessary part of realizing the potential in any business strategy. “Today is not about fear. Today is about being fearless. Today is about being bold and decisive,” he told the audience. “Sticky ideas that are flanked with courage and strategy will continue to win.”

The first conversation featured Meredith Vieira and Helena Foulkes, the EVP of CVS Caremark and President of CVS/Pharmacy, talking about CVS’ decision to take tobacco of its store shelves and how the company was able to turn a risky business decision into a viral marketing campaign. “The thing we really underestimated is that everyone has a story, everyone has a friend or family member that’s been touched by smoking and the damage it can cause. So this announcement unleashed a real emotional feeling about CVS,” Foulkes pointed out. The company is planning the largest smoking cessation campaign ever launched for this fall, expanding their MinuteClinics nationwide and offering counseling from nurse practitioners in addition to prescriptions. Foulkes believes that this move, while not a directly targeted advertisement in itself, will position CVS well as they continue to align with health care providers in the future.

“If you want to stand out, you have to stand for something.”

Other highlights included a talk by Jason Silva, Host of National Geographic’s Brain Games; a conversation about corporate morals between Remi Carlioz, Global Head of Consumer Communications for PUMA and Adam Ostrow, Chief Strategy Officer for Mashable; and a presentation from Eli Pariser, Co-Founder of Upworthy, the fastest-growing media site of all time. Posing the question, “If every second is incredibly precious, how do we measure and make sure people are getting the content they want?” Pariser offered a unique, comprehensive analytics strategy that focuses on attention minutes and shares in order to better account for how consumers are engaging with content as opposed to simply clicking it. Pariser explained why Upworthy videos about child abuse, foreign films, and speeches about disability have gone viral despite their nuanced messages and otherwise completely un-viral characteristics: “If you want to stand out, you have to stand for something.”

DigitasLBi announced several new partnerships at the NewFront, including the BuzzFeed In Residence Program which will see BuzzFeed brand team members setting up shop in Digitas offices to help respond to real-time developments and pop culture events, and a first-look deal with Epic Digital, the hotbed of editorial content and journalism that spawned the Academy Award winning film Argo and continues to make Hollywood deals with the likes of 20th Century Fox.

The final presentation of the NewFront was a look at “Brand Bravery on Pennsylvania Avenue,” delving into the marketing decisions behind President Obama’s recent appearance on the Funny or Die original series Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis and the video’s subsequent impact on registration for the federal healthcare program. Mike Farrah, President of Production at Funny or Die, stressed that the creators of the project wanted it to be funny first, informative second, and that that was the key to its success.

Through these and many other examples of brand “fearlessness,” Digitas made a strong case for the necessity of digital content in the current and future marketing landscape. Has the week of NewFronts so far left you inspired to move onward into the abyss of new media, or are you worn out from all the “buzzword bingo” (as Digitas labeled it)? Tell us what you think @ADCGlobal

Photos courtesy of Pablo Corradi/DigitasLBi