Magazine article Marketing

US Marketing Forum Is All at Sea

Magazine article Marketing

US Marketing Forum Is All at Sea

Article excerpt

Jane Bainbridge joined the US Marketing Forum event on the QEII, expecting to find the cutting edge of marketing. But somehow it didn't quite work out like that[ldots]

It all started so promisingly. Around 500 marketers, plus assorted exhibitors, ready to indulge in the best the QEII has to offer, as we sailed out of Manhattan past a spectacularly illuminated skyline.

This was the first night of Richmond Event's US Marketing Forum 2000. It may be younger than its UK counterpart -- this is only its third year -- but the format would be familiar to any Oriana veteran. As Marketing's features editor I've attended the UK version several times and had headed off to New York with the highest expectations.

The dotcom frenzy dominated the Marketing Forum in the UK last year and I thought the US version would be a great chance to see how our US counterparts are coping in the digital age. While there was no specific theme to this US Forum, there was a good weighting toward internet issues.

Surely with the US so far ahead in the dotcom age, this would be an agenda-setting event that would raise tough and demanding questions for marketers. But I was to be disappointed. The US may have started the internet ball rolling, but if the level of discussion taking place at this conference was anything to go by, they have not maintained that lead. If anything, there's a more sophisticated level of debate taking place in the UK nowadays with regards to the net than there appears to be in the US.

But as I said, it did start promisingly. The opening address is always key. When it is inspiring, everybody starts on a high and it provides valuable common ground for conversation in those initial meetings.

At this event Jay Walker, founder and vice-chairman of priceline.com, the retail site where visitors specify how much they're willing to pay for a product or service, was definitely inspiring and thought-provoking. He gave a rousing speech, almost entirely without notes, putting the internet hype in context, not least for his comment that "the internet is only 1000 days old".

He spoke of the new revolution which was dramatically transforming communication and marketing models, and compared the internet to the human brain in the way it grows. "We're watching the wiring of the cerebral cortex of society," he claimed. It is providing marketers with a new set of capabilities, and Walker detailed what he considers to be its values: convenience; information; entertainment and savings.

Advertising is dead

However, his most contentious point was that advertising will disappear on the net. "It may take two or ten years, but it will disappear," he said. Bad news for all the sites with a business model based on ad revenue. So, stirring stuff; thought provoking, challenging, contentious. Just the right tone to get the event off to a flying start and fuel debate about marketing's future. Unfortunately, from here the US Marketing Forum sailed into choppy waters in more ways than one. At about 3am the next morning the ship hit rough seas, waking everyone as doors banged and belongings fell to the floor. Still, it provided a topic for the communal conversation the next day. That was quickly followed by the ship-wide death of everyone's mobile phone, and the consensus of the US citizens that being stuck on a boat for two days with no means of escape or outside communication was somehow an infringement of their Constitutional rights. …

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