Engagement a dark horse topic at packed Advertising Week

The countdown clock on AdvertisingWeek.com finally stands at “O DAYS” on this eve of #AWXI.

The four-day happening draws 90,000 marketing and communications pros from all over the world to participate in 269 events. Whew!

It’s amazing, for sure, but staggering: At times there are NINE events competing for your attendance. It would be cool to hear what chefs Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud and Jamie Oliver have to say about building digital followings, but that would come at the expense of hearing Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and teams from Google and Microsoft. If you want to hear the insights of Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, you’d have to skip “Advertising’s Gold Mine: Online Video” and “Reinventing Local Marketing.”

Is bigger better?

The extensive programming of Advertising Week has pros and cons: The amount of speakers and topics are tremendous for the contacts you can make and the content you can receive. Great value.

However, the sessions run back-to-back so there’s little time to connect with speakers and fellow attendees without missing another session. Networking is a prime draw for such events. Everyone will be in “go” mode — business cards in hand — to follow up later if that hallway conversation doesn’t happen.

I’m going to do my best to hit the 24 sessions I’ve added to my Google calendar (props to the Advertising Week web team for adding that functionality). My picks center on storytelling and engagement across social media, and one-off topics like “What Keeps CMOs up at Night” and “Inspiration.Innovation.”

Engagement is still an emerging topic in the industry. As I’ve written here before, I believe advertising will switch to quality of exposure and interactions rather than the sheer quantity of those things to drive the price and the value. Until we can more closely attribute digital messaging to online and offline impact, we won’t be able to charge a premium for engagement. Everyone wants to know the ROI of their spend and right now programmatic advertising is the best method we have now to attribute a purchase or opt-in to an ad impression.

The fact that “innovation” is the leading tag applied to sessions (50) and “programmatic” (a super hot topic!) was tagged only 18 times is interesting. I saw “engagement” in only 11 session titles; I’m betting next year we’ll see it much more.

Technology has helped us get this far. I’m hoping this edition of Advertising Week will shed some light on how far it might take us — and if this ultimate engagement factor can be figured out.

Stay tuned here and to @LizaHoran for coverage.

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