Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the ad-tech NY conference with a couple of my colleagues.  It was the 20th anniversary of the vanguard digital conference and I have been thinking about the significance of that milestone; of all that has changed and all that has stayed the same.  Just for a point of context, there were approximately 10 million users on the net in 1996.  The internet was mostly a strange thing referred to in media and movies, like the 1995 thriller, The Net.

Let’s fast forward to 2016 and, while the conference is much more mainstream than when it premiered, it is still very much future focused. It gave marketers and techies from all persuasions the opportunity to present, discuss and vision what future opportunities may look like in a very erratic, disruptive, seemingly more technological world.  With panel topics like addressable television, augmented reality and artificial intelligence, discussions and keynotes focused on the fact that we are cruising at Mach speed with no roadmap.

Change is here to stay so every great marketer must disrupt themselves, get out of their comfort zone and devote time in their lives each week to learning. There are no right answers, however applying old solutions to new challenges just makes us irrelevant and ineffective.  The recent robust US Television Upfronts is an indication that advertisers are still spending disproportionately on TV advertising despite the migration of audiences.   While there is no doubt that digital (particularly mobile) is winning the lions share of consumers’ attention, the lack of industry leadership with respect to developing a consolidated and trusted digital measurement model effectively has marketers illogically resorting to what has worked in the past and still does – at least to some extent.

While much is changing, human behaviour remains pretty consistent.  In other words, we continue to make decisions based on emotions and rationalize them after the fact.  So, until we start selling to robots, the importance of storytelling and creating amazing content to engage your consumers with your brand has never been more important.  Technology provides the opportunity to have a one to one dialogue with your consumer, but advertisers are being sent a strong message with the increasing adoption of ad blocking technologies and over the top content. Consumers today are demanding that advertisers earn the right to engage with them by bringing something of value to the table. That something must enhance their experience and/or provide a benefit for their time. Until then, we as marketers do not have the relationship to continue the conversation.  To me, a digital transaction can be a little like stalking someone in a bar at the end of the night with the explicit intent of going home with them.  It’s creepy, awkward and probably not the best foundation for a long-lasting relationship.

We cannot predict the future or in many ways prepare for it.  And yet, common sense still prevails during all this change.  A great content strategy must now be at the heart of a marketing plan if brands want to remain in the heart of their consumers.