A rookie’s experience of the Adobe Summit

No one has it easy visiting the US, think of all the Visa hassles. I had some, but after a somewhat rocky start, I reached Utah to attend my first Adobe Summit this year.

After almost 24 hours of travel, I landed in Salt Lake City in Utah on a Sunday night, two days ahead of Adobe’s annual conference. While on board the long haul flight from Singapore to San Francisco, before transiting to Utah, I’m certain I saw some of our lovely marketing friends and readers.

But both sides quickly averted prying looks and understandably so given the “sleep face” mask we all had on. I understand, guys. No hard feelings.

Pre-conference day:

The day before the conference, the Adobe team took us down to the Lehi campus. The lucky (#blessed) folks based at the Adobe Lehi Campus at Salt Lake City gave us a tour of their 280,000 square foot property. The open concept facility, made primarily of wood and concrete, hosts about 1000 staff members and was equipped with an indoor basketball court, an outdoor basketball court, a soccer field, gym facilities, a gaming room and a store filled with Adobe goodies.

Not only that, the campus also had beautiful modern art in the form of installations and other quirky facets (check out the wall decorated with just an old computer mouse). All this while looking over the beautiful snow-capped mountains of Salt Lake City.

And this one is for my shopaholic friends, guys and girls included. Just a few steps from the venue of the conference was Utah’s outlet malls parading brands such as Michael Kors, Coach, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and so many, many more. (Now, you know why I’m, going on and on about the trip, don’t you?)

Here’s what it looks like:

(Disclaimer: The pictures of me with my shopping bags have not made it to this album. There were far too many!)

Retiring to our hotel rooms at about four in the afternoon, completely jet-lagged, the APAC press members all had time for a quick catnap while the Adobe team worked tirelessly through to ensure a smooth experience for us. We then congregated again at 7pm for an amazing steak dinner with the rest of the international press from Asia and Japan.

Day 1:

Kicking off the annual summit with a rock and roll concert feel (check out the pics) was Adobe’s Brad Rencher, SVP and GM of digital marketing. He talked about the various innovations and partnerships the organisation had formed in recent times – the most recent being it joining hands with SAP.

Also taking the stage was Shantanu Narayen, president and CEO of Adobe; Jeff Titus, GM of digital technology solutions and strategy at Audi of America; Julie Bornstein, global CMO of Sephora, and various other keynote speakers.

Following a three-hour session, we were shuffled to a press room to have our luxurious buffet-style lunch before heading out to breakout sessions of our interest. The enormous convention hall, which was swarming with marketers, analysts, press and tech vendors and providers, saw a steady stream of people walking in and out to attend sessions they were interested in.

At the end of the productive afternoon, the press and analysts were invited for a quick bite and drinks and to do what we do best – network.

Here’s a quick round up of day one:

Day 2:

The second day of the conference was the most exciting day of my life … OK I’m kidding.

The keynote session, which kicked off at 9am, drew about 7000 people. Adobe’s John Mellor, VP of strategy and digital marketing, took to the stage and delved into the changes marketers needed to make to reinvent themselves for the digital stage.

Also on stage was Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman and actor/director and Sundance founder Robert Redford. The entire two hours blazed past as these inspiring individuals completely out of our industry gave us valuable life lessons which I’m quite sure every marketer in the room related to.

Zen and sophisticated, Redford spoke about how it’s not success which propels us forward, but failure from the risks we take, and how his life revolving around the Sundance Institute has been all about risk and reward. Meanwhile, the 26-year-old Seahawks football star Sherman (who is a charming handsome lad with a vibrant personality – yes I am swooning) also shared his insights into planned calculated risk.

Swoon-worthy pictures below (and you’d know why I was so excited):

The rest of the day was spent attending various talks held by marketers, tech gurus and business leaders. What many of us were eagerly waiting for was what was known as “The Sneaks”. This was a session where the best and brightest products were put on display before hitting the markets. Last year seven out of the 10 sneaks presented made it to the market. This year we saw the following:

This product is said to give insight into real-time customer behaviour on your website and marketers can use the tool to look at their customers behaviour and decide on the next move based on this – all in real time.

A real-time event trigger which allows marketers to offer a shopper who has abandoned his online shopping cart to be re-targeted via push notification to a person’s mobile phone when they enter a retail store location. This will be signalled by Adobe’s iBeacon utility.

Uber Segments allows analytics administrators to create new segments by combining existing ones without having to go through the set-up process all over again.

Through this feature, marketers can publish reports to the marketing cloud so others can access them and update the data as and when more information comes in. It is aimed to help marketers by saving them time from doing repetitive tasks to update reports.

This feature lets marketers dig into their products and see what big events are impacting sales.

Basically, Eric Stonestreet’s iPhone was sent a push notification with information about various products and items as he made his way around the stage. This was done using Adobe’s iBeacon that generally uses Bluetooth wireless to detect nearby smartphones.

This session was hosted by Stonestreet. In case you don’t know who he is, he is Cam from Modern Family. And if you are not sure what Modern Family is, you my friend, are missing out on one of TV’s greatest pleasures!

The star-studded Wednesday did not just end there.

We were soon ushered down to the end of the hall where Adobe created its very own music festival/carnival feel. The Adobe Bash was sponsored by McCann, and held indoors. Playing on stage were indie bands such as Walk the Moon and Fictionists. They were the opening acts for the Grammy winning band Vampire Weekend. While not familiar to the indie music scene, Vampire Weekend quickly won my heart and my fan girl ways, minutes into playing its first song.

Here are some pictures from the bash.

Day 3:

Day three was relatively laid back and to be honest, that was exactly what many of us in the press room needed after the night-long partying and, of course, soaking in all the content from the conference.

While we relaxed and caught up with some 200 emails we left behind in Singapore, the Adobe team was busy setting up for another fun-filled night to keep our summit experience going.

The last night was, my friends, the epic karaoke night where many busted a move and a tune in the hope of becoming the champions in the eyes of their digital marketing peers. American Idol, had nothing on this!

Here are some of the things I took from the conference:

– Technology and creativity are not in a battle
Technology undoubtedly drives change, but it can only do so when it goes hand-in-hand with creativity. There’s infinite possibilities and technology aids in helping that imagination become a reality.

– The marketing role is not what it used be
Traditionally, those who went into the marketing field did so as a means to express creativity. But today, top brands are fast realising the marketing field is now a numbers game. Data scientists are the support system to every marketer’s evolutionary process. While marketers are in the driving seats, it’s the data scientists who now hold the roadmap to future destinations.

According to Adobe’s Rencher, today the CMO and CIO have had a shotgun marriage and the fruit of this marriage is what will be the driving force of change in marketing.

And lastly, tech geeks know how to party. Don’t doubt the techie next to you. A couple of shots and a good round of music, and they will be busting a move or a tune. The entire conference proved digital marketers work hard and play hard.

Until next time, thanks Adobe for a great trip!

Adobe paid for this journalist’s trip to Adobe Summit 2014, held in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Rezwana Manjur
Southeast Asia Editor
Marketing Magazine Singapore
Rezwana Manjur, a true blue city girl and complete social animal, spends half her time sifting through advertising scandals, and the other half testing out brands' retail marketing strategies at the mall. She enjoys traveling and fantasising over the charming lads on hit TV show Mad Men. Most weekends, she turns nocturnal, except when brunch comes into play.

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