This is the branded coffee cup compliments of TiVo on the first day of this week’s Advertising Age Digital Conference, 2012.

The irony made me laugh.   My peers were checking their Smart Phones as they filled their cups under the spigot of their brew of choice.  (Sidebar:  What’s the point of drinking decaffeinated coffee, really?)  Picture hundreds of agency owners, account managers, buyers, brand managers, producers and techies under the same roof at the Metropolitan Pavilion – calling it Wi-Fi overload would be an understatement.  Very little digital pausing going on.

Here are a few of the quick highlights from some of my favorite speakers/presentations:

Seth Farbman, Global CMO, The Gap: 

  • Make it easy and follow your heart when developing your brand.  Adjust but never stray from your mission.
  • Be reliable and create solutions for your customers.
  • Customer expectations are changing daily. They’re elevated and you have to meet them.

John Harrobin, VP Digital Media and Marketing, Verizon

  • There’s an algorithm that makes a human-generated text message (which performed at .2%  response) perform at 1% when computer-generated.  Copywriters of the world:  keep your egos in check.

Mark Mahaney, Managing Director, Internet Research, Citigroup Investment Research

  • I’ll tell you what his stock tips were later – I’m buying them right now.
  • In 2011, Internet usage grew 21%.  Estimates put Internet usage at 3 billion by 2016.
  • Once traditional media (print, yellow pages, direct mail) has been devalued and slowly replaced by lower cost internet options.

Cheryl Guerin, Senior Vice President and Group Head of U.S. Marketing, MasterCard

  • 50% of all phones are Smart Phones.   (This was a recurring theme throughout both days.)
  • We check our phones an average of 40 times a day.  More Americans would rather give up coffee than their phones.  I need both.
  • Mobile devices and tablet usage are expected to quintuple in the next 4 years (again, recurring theme.)
  • Get creative.  The cross-platform video on the “Yankees/Priceless” campaign showed great creativity and emotion – very well done.
  • Yes, your phone will soon be your credit card.  (Watch for the Google Wallet launch.)

Randall Brown, Global Director of Digital Strategy, Gatorade

Created and runs “Gatorade Mission Control.”  A platform for real-time social media monitoring and engagement, analytics and insights.

  • The wall between the consumer and the brand has been taken down.  It’s now two way communication.
  • Social has created a new place for the consumer to express.  Human needs, wants and behaviors haven’t changed – just a new forum.

Other bits I walked away with:

  • Mobile, Mobile, Mobile.  Phones, tablets and apps are the new king.
  • Reinforcement that information exchange is now immediate and we’re all publishers.
  • Product placement is still hot and the more creative and unexpected the better.  Midstream during a panel discussion, David Packman and Rob Norman exchanged shot-sized bottles of Tanqueray.  Very funny.
  • Look around you for unexpected creatives.  Enjoyed watching a team led by a young Cal Poly, SLO student pitch a new app concept to Anheuser-Busch. Who better to ‘tap’ than a team of college kids for new beer app ideas.  They represented California (and beer drinking college kids) well.

I’m sure everyone walked away from this conference with a little something different.  Some benefitted from the exposure and networking, others from what they learned about brands pushing the limits of advertising beyond what they had ever imagined, and some simply from two days of pure forward- thinking energy.

There are three other fascinating presentations/projects that changed the way I think and that I want to share in greater detail – stay tuned, each is a blog in itself.

Nice job, Ad Age.  The conference was well planned, organized and ran right on schedule.  Each presentation was brief (under 30 minutes) and perfect for the short attention span of the new generation (and me!)

I hope you printed this and sat outside to read it with a favorite drink.  And that you enjoyed a digital pause.