I think Tuesday was a better day for conversational marketing. I got to ask the first question of the morning panel, which featured several friends - Jamie Welsh from Hilton, Shawn Gold from MySpace, Babs Rangaiah from Unilever and Chris Schroeder from Choice Media. After hearing about a number of marketing tactics and vehicles that involved everything from social networking to blogs to viral marketing, I asked a question about participation in conversations. It was a fairly lengthy two-parter, and I asked the panel to tell me about how their companies were handling things like responding to blog posts and comments, or to relevant threads on message boards. I also asked them to tell me, if they weren't doing this themselves, which companies they thought were doing a good job of it. Doug Neil from Universal Pictures fielded the question first. IMHO, he gave an example that really didn't address the query. Then Jamie stepped in. I think she gave a good answer. In fact, she said she didn't know of anyone who really was doing a good job responding and participating.
Later on, I attended a presentation by Jay Weintraub on business blogging. I think he gave a nice overview and left the audience, a mix of veteran bloggers and noobs alike, with a sense of where business blogging has been and what the principles are that are guiding it. And he didn't even go ballistic when somebody asked the obvious marketing wonk question - whether he had any citeable statistics about whether blogs boost sales. (I would have been much less kind.)
I also caught all of Eric Hirshberg's speech about creative. I think he's an interesting guy and he can certainly carry a room, but I disagreed intensely with his assertion that good ad creative can somehow transcend the rules concerning engagement. He used a couple examples, including Madonna's sex book, claiming that people paid $40 for what was essentially an ad. While it might be true that people paid money for it, it's a poor example. People choose to buy books. They don't choose to be barraged with broadcast-model ads every few seconds. And when was the last time we saw someone pay money for ads? (They tried that on iTunes. It resulted in a revolt.)
Tuesday's mood, by my determination, was a better day for conversational marketing. Blogging, podcasting and interactivity-related topics dominated the show's agenda. Monday sort of put me in a foul mood, in part because Geoff Ramsey was citing every statistic he could to show that blogs aren't as big as people might think. But there's something he missed. Conversations don't happen only on blogs. What about on message boards, on personal pages, in chat and in every interactive forum within the medium? He didn't exactly talk about that. I think people need to concentrate less on the blog phenomenon and more on the overarching conversational theme that permeates almost everything that's compelling about emerging media these days. Don't try to force everything into the blog box. There's a lot more to it than that.
Anyway, I enjoyed the show and thought it a significant improvement over last year's show in SF. I'm just back in the office after an overnight flight and I haven't slept much, so it's about time I attacked the pile of stuff that's built up on my desk before I pass out.