Sausage With the Marketing Bigwigs

economist_rocket_man.jpgWe caught all the media marketing action at The Economist‘s Media Convergence Forum, held across the street from their offices at the tony LeParker Meridien hotel. We munched on egg and sausage wraps, lukewarm coffee, and listened to media mavens discuss the perils of marketing in the MySpace age — for which goers paid the tidy sum of $3,000 or so (we’d check, but that would just make us swoon).

First up was Sir Martin Sorrell, head man of advertising behemoth WPP. He smartly addressed the obvious, describing the radically changing media landscape for marketers, and some key developments in technology, which gave the room something to chew on besides their croissants.

Some of the notable presentations throughout the day included Andreas Ostermayr (SVP Marketing of Dannon), who took the contrarian view that marketing should be used to build and maintain a predictable business model (“after all, who wants to ‘start a dialogue’ with a cup of yogurt?”). Don’t look for any Activa ads on your handheld anytime soon, media buyers! With him on the panel was Robbyn Tangney from Bank of America, who wondered if “360 degree marketing programs” weren’t “just feel good tools for senior management” (although she is trying some our herself — and the very new media-savvy Andrea Fant-Hobbs from Verizon, who claimed to be spending nearly 40% of her dough on everything from Lost websites to mobile.

One of the best panels of the day was on “Evolving demographics and channels” and other panelists — including the very savvy, smart and attractive Ann Sarnoff (Dow Jones Ventures, and no we’re not sucking up) who gave a fascinating exposition on marketing to Generation Y — were overshadowed by Ross Levinson (president, Fox Interactive) who talked about MySpace.

Apparently, MySpace is no fad. Levinson warned competitors against running me-too sites (“I think we have almost every 18-34 year old in the world”) and mentioned that Rupert Murdoch and the lads were already well on their way to developing Web 3.0 stuff. Don’t look in the rear view mirror, media. The social networking play is done, and even your grandmother has a MySpace page and watches Leno snippets on YouTube. As Ross said, “It’s not about copying MySpace or YouTube, it’s about what’s next.” He didn’t say what it was, though.

A somewhat dry presentation came next, as McDonald’s marketing guru Dean Barrett took the podium. The key takeaway? A quote from Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me, and I’ll forget. Show me, and I’ll remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.” Wow. That was a good one to dig up for the new media world, and McDonald’s has seemed to embrace some of the newer forms of interactive marketing.

Another fun moment came as moderator Matthew Bishop of The Economist tried to coax some information out of embattled marketing execs Mike DeGiovanni (GM) and Andrew House (CMO, Sony). After a stunning presentation on Hummer, Bishop wondered whether, with global terrorism and $2.50 gas, things we’re really as rosy at GM as the PowerPoint would have us believe. Look for a mid-sized flex-fuel Hummer H3 in your local dealer soon. For Sony’s House, the recent battery recall and Playstation3 launch were mere challenges to overcome, as the company is working on tying together its disparate brand portfolio. They are enjoying leaked YouTube trailers of the new James Bond film, in which Sony’s products are shamelessly pitched to the global Bond audience — a marketer’s wet dream! Also interesting was his estimate that “over 40% of the content on YouTube is produced with a Sony digital camcorder.” (Does that mean Sony will also be sued, soon, too?)