I did about a dozen meetings during the course of Day One of the Consumer Forum, most of them about social computing strategies for marketing. Some quick pattern-matching across the conversations produces the following trends:

  • Social marketing budgets are safer than mobile initiatives in the current climate
  • That said, social marketing measurement and ROI are sketchy at best. So marketing leaders continue to earmark for experiments more than full-blown campaigns
  • CPGs are keen to participate
  • It’s way easier to prove ROI for social marketing for customer service cost-savings than for branding objectives or customer acquisition. That said, it felt like initiatives were equally distributed
  • Social marketing doesn’t exclusively equate to youth marketing — no, not at all. And it piques a lot of interest for business to business marketing, not just consumer

Some highlights from the keynote executive presentations:

Since I’m a media analyst, I’ll give more than equal time to NBC. NBC’s digital content VP, Cameron Death, illustrated the Big Change Agents NBC was facing: continued TV fragmentation and audience niche tastes, DVRs, broadband as a viable video distribution channel, an increasing pace of consumer technology adoption, and a new environment where viewers are way more likely to "lean forward" and actively engage with multiple screens. No surprises, but a good, broad perception of the state of the art.

NBC’s responses are on the money and appear effective, if not lucrative. NBC’s attempt to scope audience size of the various new channels for, say, the premiere of "Heroes" shows TV with a 4:1 lead (24.5 million viewers to 8 million) over video streams, while a combo of downloads, VOD, and mobile added an underwhelming 130,000 viewers. Death promoted NBC’s embrace of branded entertainment — in this case, on-air commercials where a show’s actors hawk goods — but conceded that he worried that viewers could end up equating with these ads with spam. And, in a very big admission from a big network, he said that hyper syndication was alive and well while destination viewing was dead.

I’ve always said a broadcast network’s core skills were acquiring (not creating) shows, selling ads, and cross-promotion on-air. Death is a content guy, so it’s natural he’s all about content, but NBC will have to prove consumer and advertiser value in promotion and ad targeting across the new media.

Acxiom SVP Tim Suther estimated $112 billion in advertising is wasted, and pushed 21st centruy behavioral targeting by what he called "confluence" and aligned measurement and incentives, and quick wins. Blockbuster CEO James Keyes says Blockbuster can’t mean "video" but must be "media." Twitter commentators remained unconvinced. Consultant Patricia Seybold re-introduced marketing leaders to consumer ecosystems, and opined that empowering kids today will help you figure out the future.