The Microsoft SAS 2007 event in Seattle brought together three of the world's leading agency professionals, Maurice Levy, chairman & CEO, Publicis Groupe, David Droga, founder of Droga5, and David Kenny, CEO of Digitas, a Publicis Groupe company.
Here are some exerpts from their on-stage conversation on the future of digital advertising.
Droga: If I may start first, Maurice? We're launching this website we call HoneyShed which is built on the idea of a transparent brand. It is a place where brands people love just come together and celebrate the sell. There's no advertising on it, it is meant to complement other media, and it features branded content. If the content is not strong enough, everything falls away.
I am inspired by the power of an idea. The digital space is so liberating - the consumer is first now and the brand is second.
A gentleman from the audience asked Levy if interactive or media should lead in creating advertising, to which the answer evoked knowing chuckles from the crowd.
Levy: It should be media but in many areas it should be advertising. I don't believe in one straight answer, it is a very difficult question.
The three then attemped to answer a question on the challenges in digital advertising.
Kenny: Most importantly, people in the company need to agree on a game plan - how we're going to make money, how we're going to make things work.
Droga: The biggest challenge I think is realigning your brand's reach, power and relationships with consumers.
Levy: We're not ready. The human capital issue is huge. Training up people to cope with new challenges takes a lot of time.
Kenny: Another challenge is getting comfortable living in both online and offline worlds at the same time. Traditional media owners are now part of the creative process when it comes to their web presence and they can't just take content and digitise it.
Levy: There is a serious revolution media owners have to face. Youngsters or people will not expect to pay for newspapers in the future so media owners should use the digital possibilities and change the way they bond with people.
On the topic of engagement, the trio also had some imteresting thoughts to share.
Kenny: Engagement is being able to change more for less and today's audience is too ambiguous to measure. I think sales is a better measurement.
Droga: Engagement is a subjective thing. Like Ecko, you can't live and die on the edge of controversy. It won't work for some brands. (Droga was referring to the first client Droga5 took - Marc Ecko - for whom the agency created a viral campaign showing what looked like vandals 'tagging' Air Force One)
Levy: Advertising works in different ways. You can't limit a level of engagement. Think holistically about the aspects of the relationship between brand and consumer and engagement, though you can't measure that well. You want to build loyalty beyond reason which gives the brand space to make mistakes.