Iceland – Rimc Conference 2011

Coming back from Iceland, I am thanking Kristjan Mar Hauksson for an amazing RIMC11 conference, I wanted to sum up the key things I took away from the conference. I skipped to link everyone and everything but if you go to www.rimc.is you find most links. If not, please let me know or the guys from Nordic eMarketing.

The venue was set in a shopping mall (how convenient) and the sessions where in a cinema. So it was a great surrounding for the sessions with very comfy seats which took its toll in the “after lunch” sessions. For 2012 I would hope for some pop corn and maybe some ice cream in the breaks? Maybe we can sponsor that?

After a keynote from Ingvar Hjalmarsson who proclaimed the first RIMC Internet Personality of the Year award, Rick Kelley started off the conference. Being from Facebook, which now takes over the world with 600m users. Rick gave a good overview on how social media really works. It is all about the product finding the right user, and products evolving depending on the likes and shares of their target audience. Nothing new for us but I think marketers still think about this concept and need a while to grasp it.

I am not sure whether the 600m users are all active, however Rick did encourage Icelanders to have more babies in order for Facebook to have more users 🙂 He also mentioned an interesting fact that the CTO of mexad surely loves: the first ever banner ad from AT&T in the US had a CTR (click through rate) of 76%. Wow.

The power of Facebook of course comes through very targeted ads and apps, as the information available to Facebook are amazing. Trust us 😉

The Search and Display panel kicked off nicely. SAP, hotels.com and The Wall Street Journal. A great line up for SEO. Alex Bennert works in house SEO, so does Oscar Carreras. The latter is my SEO god for anything to do with European and multilingual SEO, he probably is one of the best SEOs I have ever met who also shared some of his knowledge with myself. I admire those in house SEOs who work their butts off all day to make their company website rank highest. Well done. It is a split between the techie IT guys and the marketing guys. Difficult. I like Alex’s advice: don’t try to do everything yourself, and learn about mobile, PPC, display – get specialists or external consultants. Oscar added that the use of agencies is unavoidable as they bring (in his case) language skills, knowledge and time/resources to in house SEO teams. So the more specialised an agency is, the better it works in conjunction with in house teams or broader focused agencies.

I missed the Social Media track although I was supposed to speak about social media originally. Reputation management is what I know most about. However, if you look at the line up, people like Li Evans, Gudmundur from Icelandair, Facebook and Anne Kennedy or SEOmoz really show the special attraction Rimc has around the world. No surprise there were so many nationals at the conference to discuss the hot topics of search, social and display.

Crispin Sheridan, SAP, who alongside mexad sponsored the pre-event evening drinks, discussed further SEO in house techniques and strategies. A challenging job for a company like SAP, internationally and vertically present almost everywhere.

Next up was myself speaking about mexad’s proposition. There were less take aways for search people but that they should look into ad exchange optimisation. The in house and the agency teams, the media planners of this world, need to understand that the traditional non premium ad network model is coming to an end, and that the technologies, e.g. DSPs, are not yet as good as the search tools for PPC. You cannot replicate technology in 2 years that took search 6 years to develop. But, specialised companies, display engine marketing (DEM) agency mexad is an agency to the agency and the in house marketing teams. So we can help you to leverage synchronised bid management across 6 platforms: NOW….not in 3 years. But hey, I might be a bit biased on this one and don’t want to pitch too much 😉

I spoke alongside YouTube, Peter Nordlov, who showed some impressive examples on how to leverage YouTube and what ad formats can be booked. The formats are very specialised but work very well. Most interesting will be the buying model “cost per view”, e.g. only if a pre-roll has been viewed, the advertiser pays. Also, David Szetela from Clix Marketing spoke about display, search, mobile and the overall digital approach where channels need to work together. Unfortunately, the venue had problems with the internet, so some good videos were lost – David promised to send them across, so I am confident he will. I will keep you posted. But some really cool, innovative stuff is happening.

Main take away: last click win attribution models need revisiting 🙂

Unfortunately, due to late running and a subsequent late lunch I didn’t make it back to the session until just before 2. So I missed Alain Heureux’s presentation. I caught up with him later as we shared the early morning flight out of Iceland. The presentation I didn’t miss was Cedric’s from Microsoft/bing. He gave a great presentation on bing, the 2nd if not 3rd largest search engine……YouTube is almost bigger than Google if I understood Petr correctly. Mikkel then gave a great overview of what and how to optimise for users rather than search engines.

Whilst I tried to juggle some important phone calls, I missed the sessions on Social Media tactics, particularly Sante’s approach which I am familiar with for a few years. Reputation management and how to make yourself heard and known within social media is still very interesting for me. I managed to get a glimpse of the Mobile Marketing session, David speaking about the Boats.com mobile strategy and Cindy’s new tool for mobile marketing sounded very interesting. However, bing again was the most interesting presentation for me, and with Windows Mobile 7 plus the Nokia joint venture we shall see where else we see bing/Microsoft in the future.

The Online Crisis Management session would have been interested, but the problem as with so many conferences is that you cannot split yourself between two sessions. So looking at the available powerpoints and presentation print outs, I missed a few good pointers there. Back at the Search and Display track, I found one more very interesting talk: Neil from Just Search spoke about attribution model and ROI forecasting in SEO based around keywords. We are moving clearly in a ROI/CPA driven environment, across the board! I haven’t come across many forecast tools for SEO yet, particularly if it comes to CTR, ranking etc. Very interesting and for all you search monkeys 🙂 out there, have a chat with Neil!

The day closed not only with a great networking event in the expo hall but also with a insider party in the middle of nowhere. Watching the Northern lights, singing songs, having visions and drinking Opal 🙂

Note: this video I believe needs turning 90 degrees 🙂 and was supposed to show Northern Lights.

Let me sum up the day and share some thoughts (my personal opinion).

For me, having a strong search background, both in PPC and SEO, but also an in depths knowledge of Social Media (I am really an all rounder, no?), now working in display with a search effectiveness angle on it, find it interesting that….

– Microsoft/bing, Google and Yahoo! fight for the market share in search, and do the same in display with AppNexus, doubleclick and Right Media. It seems to me as if Yahoo! has the best technology to start with but somehow manages to stop developing it, and ultimately loses market share. So I am not sure where it all ends, particularly as we all want more competition in the industry.

– I mentioned the analogy of Microsoft and the tank – slow in turning around but once it has, it is unstoppable. So fingers crossed Microsoft will turn all the way!

– Of all big players, Microsoft seems to have the most interesting position, the underdog, as it cannot lose. However, as Mikkel said, there are wishes for Microsoft to be more bold and risk a bit more.

– That not too much has changed in search in the last 2 years, and that people still think the “mobile year” will happen next year. Let me tell you, it already happened. We just never noticed.

So looking at the main things I took away from Rimc 2011. Everyone was telling the search guys for many years to not work in display but it is changing and display is coming back. More and more search agencies looking into display and the attribution display brings into the conversion funnel. Why is that? Because a) we can measure the contribution much easier by implementing pixel and b) we can optimise display similar to search. So instead of “spray and pray” we can now be more targeted with display and make it more of a pull channel than it used to be. Whilst display might never be a 100% pull channel, the lines are becoming more blurred. We hence see more search agencies moving into the display space.

Looking further into the future….

Hence, if you look at the environment of agencies, then you will see that search agencies doing SEO and PPC, then did Social and now doing display are developing more and more into a full service digital agency. Is that the way forward? Is the full service agency dying and are the more technical search agencies moving into the space? Are the “geeks” now finally recognised for their knowledge and are capable of taking things over?

The industry has moved away from pre-bubble to post bubble “media is cool” into a more technical oriented, hard ROI based industry. If you don’t know how to implement a pixel, run a ROI driven search/social media campaign and mix display and potentially email, mobile or offline into the greater things to be considered, then you are “not cool anymore”. The ones being able to analyse the excel sheet and translate it to the marketing manager into a strategy is now the most sought after person in agency land.

Don’t get me wrong, I would even consider myself as a geek. However, it will be interesting to see how the whole space is evolving. I believe that the bigger agencies will end up breaking their operations down and give more power to the ad ops guys, as they are the ones seeming to bring the true value to the client. Or don’t they?

At last, Rimc triggered me to put a whole think piece on our industry together. Am I right? Please comment and let me know what you think. And, please post comments with links to pictures and all 🙂

Thanks again to Kristjan and his team!

May I hopefully see you in 2012.

All the best, Volker