iMedia Agency Summit: Day One

Simon Kemp


It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it…

I’m back in Bali with the DMG Events team  for the iMedia Agency Summit this week, exploring the future of technology and social media from an agency perspective.

Things kicked off today with a keynote fireside chat between DWA’s John Massey, and Neil Gardner, CMO of insurance giant AIG.

Gardner shared some frank insights into the challenges modern CMOs face when it comes to digital, setting the tone for the next 3 days – his key themes were:

The Evolution of Tech Outpaces Evolution of Marketers’ Skills 
For many ‘traditional’ businesses, the skills needed to manage digital marketing are evolving at a pace that many senior marketers struggle to keep up with. Gardner indicated that this was a frustration for many CMOs, citing the perils of the marketer’s ‘ivory tower’ and the distance between CMOs and the front-line of digital marketing. However, he also indicated that this is an area where agencies can add meaningful value. The challenge many senior marketers face, though, is finding agencies that understand the client’s business as well as they understand digital; CMOs ultimately need partners who can offer both.

Engagement Isn’t A Metric
Gardner made the acute point that brands’ metrics and measures must be more closely aligned to the ways they add value to their customers. In its truest form, he said, ‘engagement’ has huge value for brands, but many marketers and agencies are making the mistake of defining engagement in terms of clicks and shares, rather than in terms of the value they’re adding (or trying to add) to their audiences. Ultimately, Gardner asserted, engagement must be more customer-centric – it should be about “keeping promises, not selling products.”

Agencies As Partners
Gardner alluded to some frustration in the current agency business model, making a great point:

However, he went on to say that he doesn’t believe in paying agencies pitch fees, which caused a few intakes of breath from the agency-dominated audience. This is certainly an issue that merits further investigation, so we’d love to hear your thoughts on this too – feel free to share your ideas via @iMediaSummit or the #imasummit hashtag.

Social Media Is ‘The Ultimate Comms Channel’
Gardner left the audience in no doubt as to his belief that social media is a massive opportunity for brands, but that many brands are missing out by “choosing not to listen.” He highlighted that audiences and consumers all over the world have embraced social media, and are using these channels every day to find their own value. However, brands have been slower to find their place in this social world. Gardner is confident this will change though, and asserted that AIG needs to find ways to offer “end-to-end value” through social media, ultimately allowing customers to achieve their needs through the channels they choose. For AIG, this “probably means allowing people to initiate their claims process through social media if they choose to.”

Brand As Champion
Gardner suggested that one reason why companies continue to struggle with digital and social media is that ‘traditional’ marketers are still too product focused. He pointed out that it’s easier for marketers to focus on the specifics of the things they make and sell, but that people connect at a more holistic level, and building a strong brand is crucial to enduring success. To get past this, Gardner says, we need to find more relevant ways to track and measure ‘brand’, especially in terms of the contribution that digital and social media offer to the broader business.

We’ll be back with more insights from Day 2 tomorrow. Stay up to date during the event by following my tweets via @iMediaSummit or the #imasummit hashtag.