By Conor Hogan. Last week, the 4th annual Digital Marketing Conference was hosted by the Marketing Institute of Ireland in the Aviva Stadium. See our coverage of the 2015 event here.

The program for the day was put together by Tom Trainor, Marketing Institute’s Chief Executive, and similarly to last year was split into a number of different streams:

– Innovation: how to practically activate fresh ideas and processes for business growth.
– Integration: how to most effectively bring together the business elements required for success.
– Inspiration: providing the spark that makes you reach out and grasp new brilliant and timely ideas to drive you forward.
– Imagination: how to illuminate the vast array of new possibilities for your business.
– Start-Ups: showcasing some of the hottest new marketing and advertising technology players.

With 5 talks occurring simultaneously, this obviously left attendees with the headache of choosing which talk would be of most benefit to them, while sacrificing an almost equally brilliant lecture. Here are my highlights of the day:

The morning began with a plenary session and talk from Pete Blackshaw of Nestlé, who discussed leadership and digital brand building, referencing a number of best practices employed by Nestlé as he went. Regarding leadership in the digital space, Pete highlighted the benefits of having an internal social media system. He said this is huge for gaining feedback and creating a strong company culture. He left the audience with some advice that “simplicity conquers technology”; the fundamentals of marketing have not changed so massively that they have become outdated or irrelevant. The benefits are huge for doing these fundamentals well.

After this talk, the issues began: how do I choose from all these great speakers?

My first good choice was to see an inspirational 17-year-old (no that is not a typo!), who gave a 29 slide presentation to his parents near the end of 2015 on why he should be allowed drop out of school and focus on his young start-up company, Pursue. Conor O’Flaherty, a Galway native, is Ireland’s youngest CEO and he gave an excellent, often humorous, talk on influencer marketing. He stressed the importance of not talking at your audience, with the rise of AdBlockers being evidence to back up this argument. Instead of interrupting your audience, get your message in front of them via a voice that they trust. O’Flaherty’s company helps to match your product with the right vlogger, i.e. someone who is already using your products in their videos, instead of getting any vlogger on YouTube to promote your brand. “Someone is always in your space so it’s just about finding them”, he says.

Matt Candy of IBM discussed “Designing for Differentiation”, emphasising that human problems cannot be solved by data alone. However, our jobs as marketers are not so straight forward. “The era of obvious is over,” says Candy. “Differentiation needs to help create solutions to lusted for and unrecognised needs and wants”. We need to grab attention and drive intentions. With the above concepts in mind, IBM have previously developed the IBM Watson technology; “if Sherlock is all the data, Watson makes the data relevant to human problems.” Looking forward Candy suggests that embracing customer disruption will be key, and openness will become the theme of the day.

My biggest highlight of the day was Unruly’s Nicky Spooner giving a fascinating talk on “7 Steps to Surviving the Adpocalypse”. Spooner opened with some shocking statistics about the advertising industry:

  • In 2002, the average click-through rate for ads was 2.4%
  • In 2015, the average click-through rate for ads was 0.2%
  • You are 475 times less likely to click on a banner ad than you are to survive a plane crash

One of the issues that we as marketers are encountering is that there is so much content for our audience to view but not enough time to view it. The production of branded content is up, but the share rate is down. Spooner then outlined her 7 steps to surviving this grim picture:

  1. Clarity of purpose is key – Set your goals
  2. Authenticity is the key to Credibility
  3. Make Emotional connection with your audience
  4. Keep it personal and relatable
  5. Mobile is a must – Full stop.
  6. Don’t be anti-social – Empower Customers
  7. Test and Learn – Stay agile and own the moment


Spooner concluded her talk by taking a question about AdBlockers and her opinion on their role in the Adpocalypse to which she responded that we could be moving to an internet which is split in two; on one side there is great content, but it’s probably hidden behind a paywall and it contains ads, on the other side there is great content hidden somewhere in between weaker content, but it’s free to view and free of ads. A scary thought in some respects!

After two plenary sessions and seven expert talks later, the day was done. I gained a great deal of perspective on the digital marketing environment, learning a lot about the industry as well as identifying some indicators on where I want my own career to start when I finish my Masters in August. For me, the Dublin Marketing Conference was a huge success and I hope to attend again next year!

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