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Generations and Demographics: We're all the Same. We're all Different.

Two of the panels I enjoyed the most at SXSWi - The Twenty Something Time Machine and Death by Demographics: Killing off your Ad Budget - shared a similar focus (technology's role in changing the way we define consumer targets). However, the sessions had very different takeaways: We're all the same. We're all different. Full disclosure: those takeaways greatly over-simplify very complex marketplace shifts. But, the takeaways highlight that global access to the web, a sharp increase  in ownership/use of connected devices, greater access to robust behavioral data, the rise of sophisticated digital targeting capabilities and the rise of socially-connected, empowered consumers have simultaneously produced the most assimilated generation in history while presenting the opportunity/need for the most individualized advertising targeting ever. We're All The Same. (Well, at least affluent Gen Y'ers.) Speaking about Generation Y (aka Millennials), Jason Dorsey of The Center For Generational Kinetics and Lisa Pearson of Bazaarvoice asserted that technology has created the most globally similar generation of all time. Core to this is the access to shared culture that technology, connectivity and social media have facilitated. While interpretation/application of this shared culture may differ by region (prime example: the politics of the Harlem Shake in Tunisia), generational truths have homogenized across distinct geographies and cultures especially among the affluent. So, what does that mean and why is it important? As brands continue to expand into new markets, this generational blending will allow for the development of truly global campaigns centralized around generational truths. While local preferences will always persist in the media world, digital consumption behaviors will allow brands to drive efficiency by targeting their audience across shared platforms. Facebook is already providing this platform via their Global Brand Pages. Look for other media properties to incorporate localization (translation, commerce, etc.) into their back-end systems to seamlessly support generational campaigns across borders. We're All Different. (Well, at least Suri Cruise and Honey Boo Boo.) While in aggregate Gen Y may be the most similar generation of all time, technology is driving the desire for, and capability to, personalize advertising in ways that were unimaginable ten years ago. Historical media buying was built around the idea that people who fit into the same audience categories ' age, gender, ethnicity ' were most likely to consume the same content and be interested in the same products / messaging. But with the rise of digital and the wealth of information now available to advertisers across devices, we can much more efficiently target campaigns and effectively target individual consumers. A great example of this that we've witnessed first-hand at AMP is the tremendous success in using approaches like look-alike modeling. By building a profile of our target based off of those individuals who complete a desired action (most often purchase), we're able to  examine their broader online behaviors - how they surf the web, where they go, what they engage with, when they access - and target others who behave the same. Two individuals who share the same age, gender and ethnicity (Suri and Honey Boo Boo were used as an example in the panel) may share very little else in common. So, rather than buying against the demo, buy against the behavior So, we're the Same? Or, we're Different? I'm Confused.  One of the key sound bites from the Death by Demographics panel was "culture over clusters," meaning focus your targeting over shared culture and behaviors as opposed to audience segments. That marries well with the belief that generations are becoming more homogeneous. Brands who have a clear definition of their audience should be able to create centralized creative messages that highlight core brand benefits and reasons to believe that span across traditional demographic labels. Through culture/behavior-first media targeting, those messages can better reach the right potential customers regardless of their audience category. In short, target the culture. And, when creating the message / examining the channels, start by exploring generational truths.  

Wheels up to Austin'?¦ as Soon as the Plane is De-iced

I'll be honest. Any illusions of my first trip to SXSW did not start off with battling through a blizzard and the associated travel delays. But if there was one constant piece of advice / forewarning I did unilaterally receive from colleagues in the industry, it was that my experience at SXSW would absolutely not go as expected. I was told that the unplanned meet-ups, the casual conversations over beers and the 'damn, the session I wanted to go to is full'?¦ I guess I'll go here instead'? moments would prove to be the most valuable. So consider that a caveat as I share a quick overview of what I'm most looking forward to over these next few days. And I'll caveat now that my recap blog posts throughout the course of SXSWi will inevitably cover much different material and venture into much different themes. Social and Mobile ' They're No Longer Buzz Words, They're Business Plans I'll admit it. I've been suffering a little bit of 'hashtag fatigue'? lately (a term coined by AMP's own Colin Booth). While I'm as big of a social media nerd as the next SXSW attendee, I'm ready to get past the idea that social is the 'new, shiny toy'? to add to the marketing mix. Looking over the sessions included in this year's agenda, I am really excited about engaging in conversations about the business impact of social and mobile. Panels like Mobile Saturday: Loyalty in the Pocket and Social Circles vs. Social Media promise to discuss the role of mobile and social behavior across online and offline consumer experiences, and I'm hoping throughout the weekend that those conversations snowball into discussions around the business implications and ROI across these two exploding channels. We all know how important mobile and social are based on the latest stats about time spent and growing penetration. Over these next few days, I'm hoping we can all talk about successful strategies and new ideas to further integrate brands across those channels to connect with consumers in meaningful ways. Data is a Four Letter Word'?¦ the Good Kind I recently attended an event where the CMO of E*Trade, Nick Utton, stated his belief that marketing is now 75% science and 25% art. His point being that access to more data and an increased focus on testing throughout all stages of campaign development have resulted in more efficient and effective marketing. With that theme in mind, one of the sessions I'm most looking forward to is Saturday's 'Is Intuitive Marketing Dead?'? (analyzing data and predictive modeling) with Nate Silver. While there is still a lot we don't know when we put a campaign in market, we certainly know a lot more today than we did 10 years ago about our target audiences' preferences and media behavior. Ever-evolving research techniques (including sophisticated A/B testing matrices) combined with growing databases of historical performance data are resulting in powerful modeling tools that make us much smarter on day one of concepting. I'm excited to hear what Nate predicts for marketing's future and to hear this theme explored across other sessions and sidebar conversations over the course of SXSWi. Fastening My Seatbelt for a 24/7 Marketing Blitz The other thing I'm excited about is the palpable 'Disneyland for Marketers'? buzz. SXSW is where people/brands go to launch new products, share new thinking, play with the latest app/tools/approaches. And it's already begun'?¦ in-air. A few hours into my flight, JetBlue's marketing team held an in-flight promotion asking us over the PA, 'How many people does Austin's airport estimate will pass through Austin on their way to SXSW?'? One-by-one they collected answers from each flyer with the three closest guesses each receiving a pair of ticket vouchers to anywhere JetBlue flies. And while I was sitting there thinking, 'this is a smart promotion to run with a plane full of marketers, but you've got  glaring problem ' no WIFI for me to live tweet/blog/post about it,'? they concluded their contest by announcing 'and by next year's SXSW, we'll have the nation's fastest, free wifi'?¦ so we'll play this game over Twitter.'? Be on the lookout for wifi roll-out in June with up to ten planes equipped by the end of the year.  Well done JetBlue ' there's your plug. And feel free to play along ' share your best guess in the comments section below and I'll reveal the answer on my flight home'?¦ or maybe just before takeoff.

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