I spent the day downstairs at the InfoPresse Integrated Marketing Conference (the events are sometimes held at ex-centris where Twist Image is headquartered). It was a very remarkable day - mostly because it seems like all of the major advertising agencies are singing from the same prayer book. They are all praising the power of Social Media, Consumer Generated Content (which, for the record, it would seem is now officially recognized as User Generated Content - sorry Joseph Jaffe), and the need to speak in an honest way through advertising (even if that means questioning the industry that you represent). It would seem that sarcasm and being snarky is now the equivalent of truth in advertising.
The main rub for me was when the time came to showcase their own agencies' work. The closest most of the speakers had come to Social Media or User Generated Content is, perhaps, a little jab at themselves in their traditional advertising messages.
The conference closed with a keynote from Jon Raj, Vice President of Advertising and New Media Platforms for Visa USA. Raj is responsible for the launch of the "Life Takes Visa" campaign and is recognized for his new marketing insights. He's co-hosted on Across The Sound with Joseph Jaffe and is also a Podcaster here: BIG Sessions - Bay Area Interactive Group. Raj was direct with how Visa has integrated the "Life Takes Visa" campaign online (I have to admit, some of the banner executions were excellent), but more importantly he acknowledged how difficult it would be for a company like Visa to truly embrace User Generated Content or Blogs. It takes honesty to say something like: "we still want to have a certain level of control over the brand." Interestingly, they did scour sites like Flickr (and others) to get the photos which are being used in the campaign.
So ultimately, at the end of the InfoPresse Integrated Marketing Conference, it's clear that we're further ahead because the people in advertising, marketing and communications know and are talking about the importance of Social Media, but we're not that far ahead, because as Raj so brilliantly explained, it's like throwing a baseball with your other arm: you know how to do it, you know what it takes to do it, but we just can't seem to do it.
Sounds to me like we have to get used to being ambidextrous.
Raj will soon be a guest on Six Pixels Of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast.