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State of the Media - Chris Edwards - ad:tech


State of the Media offers a range of articles, opinions & profiles with some of the most senior people in our industry.

ad:tech Australia - Sydney March 18 & 19Here we feature Chris Edwards - Content & Program Director for dmg :: events (organisers of the annual ad:tech conference) - and ask him to offer his views on digital media and an update on the new and improved ad:tech Australia conference to be held in Sydney - March 18 & 19.  See conference agenda, speaker line-up and buy tickets here. 

  • Name: Chris Edwardsad:tech Australia - Chris Edwards
  • Works:  dmg :: events
  • Job Title & Role Description: Content & Program Director ANZ for dmg :: events - My role is focused on creating compelling event programs featuring thought leaders and subject matter experts from around Australia and around the globe for ad:tech Australia, the ad:tech Data Summit and the iMedia Summit series of events.

Please highlight your industry experience and your career path to your dmg :: events role?

I began my working life in a very different world – I spent a decade in the army as a Combat Engineer. I’d never touched a computer, had a mobile phone or email address prior to 1998. After shedding the uniform I took a year off to unwind, managed a bar in Brisbane, and took some time to think about what my next challenge would be. The answer arrived over beers (as it tends to do).

I had a mildly inebriated and impassioned conversation with a patron who was extoling the many virtues of working for Sensis selling online advertising and I was hooked. So I moved to Sydney, applied for a role, got it, and haven’t looked back since. That was 2001. Over the years to come I eventually outgrew sales roles to take on product focused roles where I developed new products and business units for companies like Derwent Howard, Gallery De Pasquale and News Digital Media.

Some of my career highlights to date include relaunching Blockbusters website back in the mid 2000’s, launching the Your Money product for News Corp, participating as an AIMIA judge in two different states, taking two years off to do a Creative Writing PostGrad back home in Brisbane, then returning to Sydney and landing my current dream role. Today, I spend my days bouncing between meetings and coffee cliques with ridiculously smart people and I couldn’t be happier!

What is the objective of the ad:tech conferences both here and overseas?

Irrespective of which market it’s in, ad:tech has always sought to be at the forefront of keeping the market up to date on the very latest in media advertising technology. This is something we will continue to do as there will always be a steady stream of new ad tech, however we’ve also recognised that simply showcasing the latest digital marketing technologies isn’t enough anymore.

Digital has become ubiquitous (and nebulous), meaning every marketer now has some form of digital remit. As such, ad:tech has to evolve to talk to the needs and interests of mainstream marketers, not just us propeller heads who live and breathe digital. So from March 18th ad:tech is an event designed specifically for smart marketers across the media and brand advertiser community. 


ad:tech Australia - March 18 & 19 Sydneyad:tech Australia - Sydney March 18 & 19.  Conference and exhibition for smart marketers across the media and brand advertiser community. See conference agenda, speaker line-up and buy tickets here.


You've announced several changes to ad:tech this year - what can we expect and who should get involved?

As mentioned earlier, the first big change is that we’ve taken a step back with the event to make it more relevant to ALL marketers, rather than just digital marketers. The second change is that for the first time ever the event program has been 100% crowdsourced by the industry for the industry.

My first sixty days in this role were predominantly spent meeting with people at all levels of the industry to get a sense of what people thought of the event and what they wanted to see in 2014. What we heard is what I already knew to be true – ad:tech was no longer the event it once was. This was partly because in recent years nobody took the time to engage with industry, and partly because the event didn’t keep pace with the normalisation of digital into the marketing sphere.
I’ve been going to ad:tech since 2007, and whilst there have always been great speakers sharing great stories on stage, there was also a lot of ‘pay to play’ going on in recent years (whereby commercial partners could buy their way on stage). The one thing we consistently heard when engaging with industry was that nobody minds hearing how great a tech vendor or agency is, as long as it’s in context of how a brand marketer is leveraging said vendor or agency to do great work.

So as a completely new team, we started from scratch. We reassembled an advisory board of industry heavyweights and emerging thought leaders with over 250 years of combined experience, we asked brands, publishers and agencies to share their success stories, and at the same time we ran an industry survey to understand what people wanted to know more about and see on stage.

We listened. We learned. The resultant event program is one that addresses real interests and issues. For example, we have an industry panel on ‘How Brands Can Make The Most of Their Agency Partnerships’. We added a NextGen stream focused on educating the next generation of digital superstars. We’ve brought ‘Design Thinking’ into ad:tech for the first time, and we’re genuinely excited to have IDEO - the world’s most innovative design agency – as the opening keynote. On top of this we’ve looked to bring fresh, new voices to the stage, like Hill Song Church who will be talking about their recent rebrand, and Professor John Galloway - the man who used forensic data to discover backpacker murderer Ivan Milat and the Bali Bombers. It’s a very difference event to 2013!


ad:tech Australia - March 18 & 19 Sydneyad:tech Australia - Sydney March 18 & 19.  Conference and exhibition for smart marketers across the media and brand advertiser community. See conference agenda, speaker line-up and buy tickets here.


Please share your views on the digital media market - what state is it in?

2013 seemed to be a year of too much noise and too little context; we shouldn’t repeat that mistake in 2014. ‘Digital’ – whatever you may take that word to mean – finally earned its seat at the big boys table in 2013 when online revenues overtook TV revenues for the first time in Australia. That’s great news. It’s a sort of validation that digital is here to stay and needs to be on every marketers mind.
The bad news is that our sector is so wide, deep and noisy - with everyone busily yelling to be heard and spruik their wares - that marketers can be forgiven for putting in ear plugs and falling back to doing what they know. We’re our own worst enemies - we’re creating noise rather than context.

We’ve been hearing for years that it’s the year of the mobile, in 2013 everyone was talking about programmatic and Big Data, but we forget that these sub-segments are just slices of a very large digital pie, which is in turn just a slice of a marketer’s total marketing activity. What will make 2014 a year that’s significant for the digital sector (and consumers) is if marketers find the time to take a step back to have a strategic view to consider what their Return on Objective - rather than ROI - is.

Feedback seems to be that many marketers are bogged down ‘in the trenches’, focused on achieving the best ROI from ‘channel focused’ campaigns whilst a war for attention wages on around them. This leaves little time for them to stop and think. But if marketers can take the time to put their ROO first, and then adopt digital channels that achieve this ROO – whilst ignoring the noise that doesn’t fit their goal - then the digital sector could grow and evolve dramatically this year.
2014 will undoubtedly be another year full of jargon and conversations about everything from wearable tech, The Internet of Things, Big Data, analytics, privacy, native ads, responsive design - and yes even more rehashing of the oft wielded sound bite ‘year of the mobile’ - but my three hopes are that the noise dies down a bit, that the conversations with marketers shifts from ‘look at the cool stuff we can do’ to ‘what are you trying to achieve’, and that somewhere in all the noise we hear the term ‘channel and device agnosticism’ surface more often.

What do you see as the key challenges and opportunities in the digital media market in the coming 12 months?

As above. I see the opportunities coming out of the abovementioned challenges. Those who can help marketers to take a step back and make better ‘channel agnostic’ decisions, will win.

What does the digital/interactive media industry need to do better right now?

As an industry we need to make time to source, train and do our best to retain the next generation of digital superstars. The short supply of skilled bums to fill seats was the most consistently mentioned issue we heard in 2013 from clients, agencies and publishers alike.

Where do you get your industry information from?

There’s this thing called ‘Google’ I use a few times a day. I also read the trade mags, industry blogs, get loads of useful info via my network on LinkedIn plus attend industry and networking events to stay current with the gossip and goings on.

What industry groups or networks are you part of?

Being part of the dmg :: events global network is incredible when it comes to finding speakers or thought leaders to engage with. I’m also a member of several industry groups on LinkedIn, plus I try to get to every AIMIA and IAB event I can.


ad:tech Australia - Sydney March 18 & 19ad:tech Australia - Sydney March 18 & 19.  Conference and exhibition for smart marketers across the media and brand advertiser community. See conference agenda, speaker line-up and buy tickets here.


Further Resources

  • State of the Media - follow on from The State of the Media research (co-produced by TrinityP3 & MediaScope & presented at Mumbrella360 in June) this new series aims to continue to raise awareness of the challenges facing the media industry...
  • MarketPlace - a growing range of selected products & services to help streamline & improve all aspects of the media trading process.
  • Women in Media Profiles - the most senior and experienced women in the media, marketing, publishing and advertising industry highlight their careers and what our industry can do better to support women and families.
  • Media Owner Profiles - we ask some of Australia's most successful media owners about running their business and ask them to offer advice to other media owners


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