In this peaceful, almost bucolic setting some of the best and brightest thinkers and doers (those are not always the same) in the advertising industry were gathered to talk about the latest and greatest developments in online advertising as well as look at the state of marketing in a larger context.
Conversation was interesting, insightful, passionate, and humorous. But there was something that was emphasized during one of the few panels held during this event that reminded me of something some in the industry have addressed before, but as an issue tends to sink beneath the dark waters of more immediate concerns and distractions.
The panelists were Sean Finnegan of Tribal DDB; Rishad Tobaccowala of Starcom IP; Sarah Fay of Carat Interactive; and Alan Schanzer of The Digital Edge. Among the many interesting things they talked about, one point was made that stands above all else and gets at the heart of what is holding online advertising back (if it can be said to really be being held back) more than anything else: attitudinal maturity.
Mr. Tobaccowala, quite possibly the wisest man in media next to Mike Drexler, CEO of Optimedia, scolded the crowd with an imperative, "Grow up!"
The business has spent more time whining about its relationship with the rest of the media business - and its superiority to television in particular -- than it has on appropriately articulating its value. Repeatedly the voices that are heard most often in this industry are the same voices and they are often saying the same things. Mr. Tobaccowala bemoaned the fact that though this was the first iMedia conference he has been to, the things being discussed were the same things that the industry has been talking about for five years. It is time to stop complaining, stop talking to ourselves, and get to the business of helping our clients' businesses, which means using whatever means are available that best achieve the objectives.
I've said before that we spend too much time talking to ourselves and not enough talking to the rest of the world. Like St. Simeon, we keep climbing atop pillars higher and higher into the air until the only voices we hear are our own.
A lot of good information, research, anecdotes, and other rationale for online exist. But all of it is being exchanged among one another, with little of it making it to the outside world. As I said to someone at the conference, we are like an island full of cats - you keep isolated long enough and you end up with just one species of ür-cat, all making the same growl.
Online is being considered more and more often by general market advertisers as an important part of their advertising efforts. Its application is inconsistent, but its consideration has become more regular. If those whose focus is exclusively online media want to see it at the adult table more often, we need to talk to the rest of the world and not snivel when we do it. We need to understand that we are not at the center of the universe. We need to pay less attention to our inner child and more attention to our outer adult.