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adam broitman circ.us

Adam Broitman will deliver one of the two keynotes at Econsultancy's upcoming Peer Summit in New York. We asked for a sneak peek at what he'll address in his talk, entitled "Beyond Digital Innovation: The Sedative Nature of Counting Screens." Following, his views on Internet Everywhere, why it's never going to be the Year of Mobile and the blurring lines between technology and humanity.

Who’s Adam Broitman and what does he do?
Well, I’m partner and ringleader of Circ.us. I used to say, "we're a digital agency," but we’re moving away from that. Sometimes I say we’re an imaginative tech company, or a creative communications firm that helps brands and their agencies tell stories in innovative and participatory culture.

Always in a digital fashion?
Actually — and this will be part of my talk — we’re getting to a point where the nature of digital marketing, or the nature of marketing in general, is becoming so digital that what isn’t digital marketing? People are asking us to do highly digital deployments that involve a print piece. We have great designers and producers. Why not handle those elements?

Digital is obviously bridging with offline more than ever. What are some of the other major trends you’ll talk about?
One thesis I’m getting at, and I won't claim to be completely unique with this, but to continually reinforce and provide examples for notion of Internet Everywhere. It’s something people have talked about for a long time, but we’re getting to a point where it's a reality; the Internet is embedded in everything. It's far beyond the reach of screens. It’s not just the laptop, the desktop or even the mobile phone. The internet is embedded in our everyday lives. The space between technology and humanity are becoming obscured to some degree.

The way marketers think about marketing in general, whether they’re traditional or digital, needs to shift. We’re a ways off from where I could say all marketing is internet marketing. But not that far off. We’re five years away from where the need to say “internet marketing” becomes a non-issue.

When you say "internet," does it encompass other channels such as mobile?

Yes. That’s another point I absolutely want to touch on. When we spoke about the sedative nature of counting screens — you know, you hear people talking about the fourth screen and I guess maybe we’re up to the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, who-knows-what-screen? I refuse to say “mobile marketing.” It’s probably overly pedantic and a matter of semantics. But at this point, what is mobile marketing? Where does internet marketing end and mobile marketing begin? Sometimes we need to start with the words.

I will talk about mobility. I will talk about marketing that's relevant to a time and place. But not “mobile marketing” because I want to help shift marketers' mindset to a place where they’re considering not the device, but the relevance and the implications of mobility: ubiquitous access and Internet Everywhere.

What are some campaigns or business models in the vanguard?

One technology is on my radar this week because of the innovative use of location-base services. It’s an app called ShopKick, and I by no means am an endorser of it. But the technology is kind of exciting.

Check-ins are all the rage; Foursquare, Gowalla. Everyone's checking in to everywhere. Location-based services are somehow going to save marketing and are the best thing since sliced bread. But there are a number of problems. They’re not that accurate because they’re based on GPS. You could be in the parking lot. They don’t know whether or not you’re actually in the store or not. Rewarding people for being in the vicinity will get to the point where it won’t be effective. It’s also getting very saturated.

ShopKick outfits stores, say Best Buy. They'll actually put what they call a deducer in the ceiling, which emits a sound that’s inaudible to the human ear but is audible to the microphone in your phone. When you go into a store, it checks you in by virtue of the fact that you opened the app and it hears this tone. It’s accurate within a few feet. It can check you into a department so you can get deals. You can get KickBucks, as they call them, but you actually need to be there, and it’s not just relying on the handset. It’s relying on the entire body of the web. It’s using sound. It’s using your mobile phone. It’s connecting to the Internet, and it’s a location-based service, all at the same time.

Applications like that are really exciting because they’re blurring the lines between the physical and the digital in a way that's accurate and actionable. You need to be in that store to reap the benefits.

Obviously being in a store is more valuable to a marketer than being near a store. We still have, and always have had that cohort of people who will take advantage of offers, because they’re offers.

Absolutely. There are always going to be the professional sweepstake enterers. You know, there are those people who just…

 …go to Starbucks the day they’re giving out free coffee because you voted.
Right. It may not be great, but I imagine it's a small percent of the population. The owners probably don’t mind much. With an application like ShopKick where we’re headed — and I don’t think that Apple actually allows this right now — is passive connectivity. When you walk in, it’s not necessarily about going to the store to get deals. You’re going anyway. Your mobile device hears this tone. If there’s something relevant for you, it turns your device on. It alerts you in a passive way. You don’t have to take an action. When it becomes commonplace, you’ll have less “cheaters.” You’ll just have people going everywhere, and when there’s something relevant for them, they'll be alerted.

We’ve heard this before with Bluetooth, Kiosk, and RFID. I know people who follow the space may say, “I’ve heard that before.” I may have the benefit of being less jaded. Just because it failed before doesn’t mean you should be dismissive.

What other innovative campaigns or applications or new technologies will you talk about?
I’ll touch on something a little less sexy, but probably more impactful than all the things people deem sexy, which is HTML5. I know Steve Jobs has told the world about the wonders of HTML5 video, and that Flash is evil and we need to adhere to web standards. HTML5, the spec and what it allows for, is our Internet Everywhere world within a standards-based browser. The most exciting element is the geo-location tag.

Within HTML, basic web coding, a browser can pull in your location data, which wasn't possible before. The second thing is client-side or local database caching; the ability to connect to the Internet like Google Gears, pull down information, store it locally, then connect or synch the next time you connect. These things allow for ease of integration between being “online” and “offline,” as well as pre-caching information to make web experiences faster.

I’ll get into the implications of what that means and show some of the sexier examples of this in action, because this probably sounds like a lot of geek-speak. The implications will, in fact, be sexy. Marketers will love this. We’re all kind of sick of having to build for the iPhone in Objective-C, and Android using Java, and Blackberry and Symbian. It’s going to get more fragmented, and it gets very expensive. You need specialists, and it’s a lot of work.

As an aside, I wrote about HTML5 the other day and was quite viciously attacked by the tech community.
Yes, they get like that. A lot of them just hate marketers in general. I’ve had similar things happen. So in addition to taking numerous classes on CSS and things, I went and actually looked at the code.

At Circ.us there are really only two marketers: me, and our creative strategist. We’re mostly technologists. I know the animosity and I’ve seen it firsthand. To a degree, I understand where it comes from, because a lack of understanding in the marketing community of certain technologies can make it difficult for technologists to operate because they’re being asked to do things that either don’t make sense or aren't possible.

But the fact of the matter is marketers are the gateway to funding that can see very large projects through that wouldn’t otherwise be done, like what we did with Ben & Jerry’s. There are two ways to handle it. You could either attack marketers or educate us. I don’t understand why it has to be contentious. Marketers understanding these things make the technologies better for everyone, right?

There's always has been a terrific rift between the left brain/right brain sides of interactive marketing. When I was a traditional marketer you just told the photographer what to do.
Right. In my talk about Internet Everywhere and the specific technologies and things I’ve been seeing — HTML5 being one of them — my goal is to inspire marketers to spend more time with the technology itself. You don’t see people at ad agencies who write Objective-C. Large agencies will not have that type of person, or only one of them who's in a corner somewhere. How we understand the world around us and the technologies that make it possible directly impact how agencies must staff.

We’ve discussed mobile and technology. We haven’t mentioned social media marketing. Is it still cutting edge? Will it remain as center stage as it’s been?
Yes, it will remain important. Center stage? Probably not, in the same way search is just as important, but not center stage. Every project has the ability to be social. Last week, we had a call where they said, “Is this going to be integrated with Facebook and Twitter?” We didn’t include it in the statement of work because we just assume of course it will be. Why wouldn’t it be?

Some of these things will become implicit and won’t need the same level of conversation, much like search marketing and much like the fact we may not sit around and have a conversation on how to build the best SEM campaign like we would five to seven years ago. It’s just as important.

Email has somewhat melted into the woodwork.

Yes. There needs to be a resurgence of email optimization strategy that includes social media, because it's a doorway into a conversation. The social media zealots will say, “Well, it’s not social media. It’s conversational marketing.” Email is conversational. It’s all CRM. Forget the buzzwords. It’s been CRM since the term was coined in the '70s. It’s an imperative for every campaign. But we won't talk about it as much as we did three years ago.

What do you want the principal take-away to be from Peer Summit keynote?
We're living in a time where the Internet is so different than it was five years ago, the meaning of it is different. We still need mobile specialists. You still need area specialists. But in most conversations, what people are talking about is so siloed. The conversation about mobile marketing is ultimately the same conversation about Internet marketing. There’s no difference. It should be closely tied to the same conversation as out-of-home, that’s a very important growth area, as shown by ad spending numbers.

I really want to do two things: a) reinforce the fact we’re living in a world of Internet Everywhere, and it’s not divided between internet and mobile and digital out-of-home, then provide some practical ways people can frame their thinking and some definite takeaways.

Then, of course, examples of how campaigns have taken advantage of this, knowingly or unknowingly, and things people could emulate when planning their own marketing initiatives.

We look forward to hearing it. Readers who can’t attend will eventually be able to watch a video of it online. In closing, is there anything I didn’t ask you that I should have?

You didn’t ask me which year was the Year of Mobile. [Laughter] My team is putting together a video for the event based on that. I'd like to dispel that conversation forever.

How about the Era of Mobile?
I like that. Or the Era of Mobility. Hopefully we can convince people that conversation never needs to happen again.

Rebecca Lieb

Published 16 September, 2010 by Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb oversees Econsultancy's North American operations.

Follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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