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Shortcomings at ad:tech

Monday at ad:tech, I attended a panel called "Why You Should Create a Corporate Social Media Platform" and today I found myself at "The Intricacies of a Great Viral or Word-of-Mouth Marketing Program." What do these two events have in common, besides long titles? Neither provided any real strategies or methods for the crowded room of marketers to use.

There were some interesting people on both panels. And there were some interesting stories (or videos) shared with the audience. But mostly, people gave obvious answers and discussed their past success.

Did you know Frito-Lay has an online-community of 100 moms with two or more children that they use to test new products with? According to Michelle Adams at Frito Lay, "You have to engage and interact with consumers on their terms." And yet she explained those 100 moms were invited to this limited community and made to feel special, yet chosen randomly—"But don't tell them that."

And did you know that Philips DAP used a humorous video to get consumers to visit the site of a new product. As Philips' Brand Manager Zdenek C. Kratky said, "Use good creative insights." He cited that the humorous video had been viewed over 1 million times in the first month because people were sharing it.

Later, fellow panelist Jason Woodmansee, a VP at Digitaria, said, "If you just think, 'I will make a funny video and millions will see it,' it won't necessarily work." Many of the stories of what worked just didn't jive with the suggestions the panels made and mostly came down to, 'We tried some things and one of them worked.'

Both panels drew large crowds, starting with people standing because all of the seats were filled. By the end of the hour, for each panel, no one was standing — and there were empty seats. Marketers even left during the panel. Can you blame them? Do they need to hear insights like, "Blogs can be good," or "Good messages will propagate themselves?"

One could argue that you can learn from the success of others. One could also argue that a brief description of success without scratching below the surface as to how it came about or why it worked is just unfair.

Should panels at these events be more than talking heads patting themselves on the back and offering trite statements about the power of various froms of marketing? Or should attendees get more for their time and money?