Analysis & Opinion, Awards

Pearls gathered at MITX and on the Edge

November 18, 2009 David Swaebe

Mullen's Kristin Patterson and Michael Bourne @ MITX Awards

In a stroke of scheduling genius, Boston’s Ad Club and the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX) held two of their signature events on the same day and several fortunate people got the privilege to attend both. Following is one guy’s take on highlights from the day.

In reverse chronological order, the 14th Annual MITX Interactive Awards for creative excellence in digital media were held last night. Comedian Jeff Caldwell hosted in his wry and colorful style. Congratulations to all of the winners including Sapient (Best of Show for Coca-Cola), Zip Car with their agency ISITE (Best User Experience) and Dunkin’ Donuts (Interactive Marketer of the Year).

Stanley iPhone App

Of course, I’m most proud of my Mullen colleagues for winning five awards including Best Use of Technology and Best Mobile for the Stanley iPhone App, Best Non-Profit for the Grain Foods Foundation’s Bread Art Project and Best Social Influence Application for Olympus Will It Blend? In an interesting sub-plot to the evening, we did a rapid-fire get out the vote effort to win the text-message voting for “People’s Choice Interactive Agency of the Year.” We heard cat-calls from the Arnold table and “F-Mullen” comments in the restrooms, but all’s fair in digital agency warfare. Mass High Tech has a complete report on the event.

Earlier in the day it was the Ad Club Edge Conference, a surprisingly edgy event given the decidedly aristocratic venue of the Harvard Club.

Bob Davis, who once ran Lycos, kicked the day off saying that the digital revolution is really just in its infancy and that “other things” we haven’t imagined will be bigger than the changes we’ve seen in the last decade. He pointed to companies like Vistaprint (asking rhetorically “What could be a more boring business than printing?”), OpenSky, Paragon Lake and Rue La La as leaders in disruptive commerce. He said there is no doubt that Twitter will be able to monetize itself and he predicted that book publishers, unlike their music counterparts, will come-up with data standards to control content in the Kindle/E-Reader era.

There was a panel on Agency Labs and my favorite comment was from Ben Malbon at BBH who said “The more you say you don’t know, the more clients will trust you.” Clear proof that agencies and clients are learning together in the digital age.

Gary Stein from Isobar told a great story about using Twitter to crowdsource material for a presentation. He asked marketers for names of companies that excelled at customer service with a note adding that he considered Zappos (a Mullen client) an old example. Within three minutes, Zappos replied back on Twitter suggesting New Balance, Apple and North Face as companies that fit the bill. Truly amazing. They are the masters!

Edge Conference 2009 009_sm

The big draw for me, as a former TV and radio reporter, was a panel on the “Future of Journalism” with Tom Ashbrook from WBUR’s On Point, Charlie Sennott from GlobalPost and formerly with The Boston Globe, Zach Seward from Harvard and Gina Garrubbo from Blogher. Sennott likened Twitter to the “telephone line 25-years ago” as a source of news leads and bemoaned the non-sustainability of a newspaper media that “slaughters trees” to deliver its product. He also joked that he was “tired of listening to international news reported with a British accent.”  Seward talked about the consumer desire for “hyper-personalized news streams” and encouraged newspaper sites like Boston.com to adopt more of a Gawker style and attitude toward reporting in order to appeal to next-gen news consumers.

Finally, the main event of the Edge conference was Crispin Porter’s Alex Bogusky, author of the recently published Baked In (not named after the excellent weed in Boulder where the agency is based he said), who charmed the audience with a glimpse into his self-described beleaguered and aging soul. He said most of the business books he’s read would make “great pamphlets”; that during ad-wars between parity products the winner is usually the “best liar” and that CP-B’s best work is the products it makes for clients (VW’s Fast, Domino’s Pizza Tracker, BK’s Chicken Fries), not the ads.

Alex Bogusky @ Edge Conference

Congratulations to the Ad Club and MITX for hosting two world-class, amazing events and efficiently packing them into one stimulating day.