WebbyConnect 2009, The Puck Building, New York
November 11, 2009
I think my toes have formed into one giant toe, squashed together from wearing stupid boots yesterday while I hoofed it from the East Village to Grand Central to SoHo to SoHo-er -- and back to the East Village again. Yesterday was definitely a clichéd NYC workin' gal day, where between events I managed to squeeze in an eyebrow threading, and in transit I spotted bygone celebrities (or maybe not bygone, but definitely soap stars). The air was crisp, my nose was clogged, and I felt like going Mary Tyler Moore on this city. This post is sponsored by the good people at DayQuil, TheraFlu, and Jimmy Dean D-Lights. (the previous statement mentioned in jest. Ha-ha. Ha?)
My first stop was to check out Persia Tatar, founder of the Social Media Society, and Ben Weismann, Vice President, Creative Director, MRM, as they conducted their seminar "Facebook 101," one of many educational sessions in the theme of social media. Before you go all "everyone should already know this crap" on it, as I have done in the past when scoffing at Twitter classes (though I still 100% hold on to my opinion that if you're a journalism major, you should have investigated the comms channels available before your first class for your major), let me assure you I thought the same thing.
But let's be honest; unless you spend every day investigating Facebook under a trusting employer who hasn't blocked company access to social networking sites, you probably only nick the surface. Not everyone instinctively grasps/uses Facebook as brand builder/engager or knows when NOT to use it. Most importantly (and not just specific to Facebook), in social media there just isn't one right answer, one right benchmark. That has to frustrate the hell out of old-school marketers.
I left the Yale Club and headed to SoHo for WebbyConnect. Via Twitter Ari Greenberg, founder of Baveo.com, outed himself as an attendee as well. Neither of us knew what to expect. When I arrived, the welcome table was littered with nametags calling out the who's who of the Internet world. "I'm never invited to these things," joked Ari, mowing through Kozy Shack chocolate pudding and poking fun at himself for being on the Plan B list of invitees when Plan A was less than responsive.
The Puck Building is a quirky spot, and the organizers arranged the Ballroom like a P.Diddy Sean Combs Puffy Puff White Party. The stage played host to a huge white sofa with a giant yellow rubber chicken displayed on the screen behind it. I smiled. Truly, there can't be anything wrong with an event whose logo is a rubber chicken.
The topic? Branded comedy. The panel? Douglas Scott, President of OgilvyEntertainment; Jennifer Kavanagh, VP Digital & New Media at Oxygen; and Steve Wax, Managing Partner at Campfire Media, moderated by New York Observer reporter Gillian Reagan. From the faces I saw in the audience like Adam Rich from Thrillist and Michele DeForest of Next New Networks (who shares my car rentals in NYC pain), I wasn't expecting a "preaching to the choir" situation, but it sort of was. Some fun tidbits:
When asked if there has ever been a problem when creatives butt heads with brands, Steve Wax uttered, "endlessly, endlessly."
Jennifer Kavanagh: "When you get a brand to actually care about the integrity of the content at the end of the day, you've come a long way."
"In my view, media is disposable" - Doug Scott.
Everyone agreed that passion, engagement, and conversation are powerful.
The second panel, or keynote interview, really, was with Lloyd "Serenity Now" Braun, Co-founder of BermanBraun and former Chairman of ABC Entertainment Television Network and Head of Yahoo Media Group, and David-Michel Davies, Executive Director of the Webby Awards. Lloyd is an energetic talker and his personality bounced along with DMD's, perking up the audience that had more than halved after the first panel. For you "Seinfeld" fanatics, the character of Lloyd Braun was born of a lost golf bet. Take that to Teen Jeopardy, why don't you?
So let's see, Lloyd and his partner in crime at BermanBraun, Gail Berman (whom Lloyd displayed genuine respect for) are "in the business of reaching mass audiences" while the rest of you are hammering away at hyperlocal, no? He also has an affinity for newspapers -- getting five every morning, and getting bent out of shape should anyone nab them before him. "The aesthetics for me, of buying the book, feeling, and reading it, is terrific. We for the most part have not done anything yet on the Internet that... touches you that way," gushed Braun, comfortably concluding that he believes this is what he's done with Wonderwall, a glitzy, mouse-over-madness-inducing celebrity gossip site. Now if only someone could help him out with Twitter.
The day concluded with a cocktail reception where I weaved through Neil Vogel of the Webby Awards; Comedian Catie Lazarus, Lou Wallach of Wallach Media; LLC, Jared Neumark of LandlineTV; Photographer Stephen Kosloff; Christopher Barnes of The Observer; Rick Webb of The Barbarian Group; Steve Marchese of The Webby Awards; Christopher Greene of The Webby Awards; and a huge dish of cheese cubes, which were extremely friendly.
I'm still sort of confused about the whole thing. Also, after catching up with Michelle DeForest, I still really want crawfish or a lobster roll.
Send invitations to firstname.lastname@example.org!