“LEVERAGING CLASSIFIED SYNERGIES” CONFERENCE REPORT (all the presentations are available for download)
Following in Lucie’s footsteps, I feel it appropriate to start the Brussels GM report with “The sun shone,” as it really was shining, giving us a warm glow and both Nadine (our temporary Events Assistant) and I commented that it felt like we had just arrived in Mexico or a Caribbean island more than Brussels, Belgium, with it staying warm late into the evening, as we settled into the Radisson SAS Royal hotel a few blocks away from Grand Place on that Monday evening. The sun continued to shine as we set up the office, shopped for chocolates (only for speakers gifts, of course), welcomed Florentine (our new Membership and Marketing Manager) to Brussels on Tuesday and enjoyed a delicious dinner with Nick Sertis of Quokka. On Wednesday the weather continued to hold as we welcomed all those who arrived just in time to kick off the GM with the Welcome Reception and Dinner.
The Welcome Reception welcomed 120 delegates from 29 different countries. Rob Paterson, Group Managing Director of Friday Ad and Chairperson of ICMA introduced new members, first time attendees and thanked the exhibitors and sponsors for their attendance (ISV, Joshua, Performance Media, Sensi Soft, Calligram by X-Media, Spotzer, Mobiya). Dinner was held in the Pebble Wood Corner of the Radisson SAS hotel which made it easy for the late comers to join us upon arrival.
With the change of format this time around, Thursday morning had a few people wandering the halls and having more time with the exhibitors and sponsors in the lounge, although the majority took advantage of the late start and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before Rob formally opened the conference sessions, As an added bonus we had a quick introduction from the exhibitors and sponsors before the Keynote Speaker Peter Krasilovsky, Program Director – Marketplaces, Kelsey Group, started the first session at 11:00 am. Peter gave us a wide-ranging overview of the U.S. marketplaces transition from the simplicity of a single analogue channel to the multiple options offered via online that must be implemented to stay alive in this ever growing competitive classified media market.
We broke for lunch and than it was straight into the workshops for the afternoon sessions. Monetizing Search, Moving pictures – the possibilities of video advertising; Do-It-Yourself- how to leverage self service interfaces; The power of community; On the move – what’s new in mobile space; and Marketing online – the latest innovations were all well attended. We listened to the feedback from Amsterdam and increased the workshop sessions to 45 minutes which everyone agreed was a better, although after trying to do two workshops in one room, we are clear going forward this does not work and we will make sure all workshop sessions are given their own rooms from here on out!
And it was only on Thursday evening that the heavens opened and decided within the maximum 8 minutes walking distance from the Radisson to the Drug Opera – this was a good time to have a monsoon! Naturally, this occurred on the only evening we needed to walk a few blocks to the dinner venue of the Drug Opera. Yes, much to my chagrin, the streets were flooded and while half of the attendees were enjoying their first beer the other half of us were hiding under covered awnings (the few that were available) as Shay went back and forth with one umbrella (thanks to Sue and Tavishi) to rescue the ICMA delegates two by two. I have a whole new respect for Noah and his ark – I wish I could have borrowed it! Once wrung out – and I believe anyone who was caught in the rain could have filled a full cup or two with their shirts/hair/pants- we enjoyed the traditional Belgium Beer-tasting dinner with a couple of musicians making their way around to keep the spirit festive. I think it will be one of the ICMA survival stories for years to come “Do you remember the night at the Drug Opera?! – I was there and survived – maybe an idea for T-shirts at the 40 year reunion!
Friday morning we were back on track with our 9:00 am start – and we were delighted to welcome Dorian Selz, Co-Founder and CEO, Local.ch with his presentation of Two plus two doesn’t always equal four. Dorian demonstrated a very good Swiss example of how Yellow Pages business can be combined with the classified sites. He also informed us of some of the hurdles he had to overcome on the way to that realization. Our second speaker arrived right as the first speaker was getting started but in plenty of time before true panic mode hit in. Jan-Pieter Oosting’s , Managing Director, WorldYacht BV/Yachtfocus, key message can be summed up in just one sentence “Internet is where content is, print is where money is”. He explained how to use the existing content to produce optimized print products with very low cost. The final presentation before the coffee break was by Erol Demirtas, General Manager, Hurriyet Emlak, who presented Mining the Verticals. The focus of his presentation was how to become the market leader by content and traffic in the real estate market within a very short time by having a very competitive application and using the marketing power of the biggest media group in Turkey.
The next session started with Cathy Neal, Group Ad Director, IPC Magazines, Through the looking glass stressing that magazines are as important as TV for driving online purchase decisions. Magazines are in great shape and classifieds are working brilliantly together with online but selling it successfully needs lots of creative ideas. Next up was Michael Brands CEO, i.Know, You say tomayto I say tomarto who spoke about the futures of search after the Web 2.0 integration. Speaking more from the technical viewpoint, he informed us what search quality and advanced search engines will be able to deliver in the near future and what the new concept is, the approach and the know how behind it. The last speaker of the session was Sabine Müller, Managing Director, Interbrand, Different channel same brand. Sabine explained that there is no certain recipe for using the same or different brands in different channels (Print and online) but there are 5 criteria and decision rules which helps you to make the right decision.
We broke for lunch and then returned for the Panel session: Leveraging and enhancing your advertising content (the best solution for the post-lunch dip).The panel was chaired by Peter Rees, Managing Director, PR Strategic Marketing Ltd who kept the questions flowing. The panelists included Claus Andersen, CEO, Bilbasen Aps; Duncan Dunlop, General Manager, Oodle UK Ltd and Christophe Glorieux, CEO, Vacature who all contributed excellent insight in how to continue to drive traffic to your site by using added functionalities and partnerships, as providing only ads is starting to become a thing of the past.
After a much needed coffee break we did a quick room turnover dividing the rooms back into two separate rooms – where we held two different sessions. Sharing Best Practice in which 20 some hard working publishers gathered to candidly discuss a series of pre-submitted metrics. This session was unveiled at the Amsterdam GM to a 98.5% approval rating and that rating has remained high as we have been taking the comments to heart and this is truly a session in which all the participants are extremely open and forthcoming about their numbers and the reasons behind them. Sharing Best Practice is a definite staple in the ICMA GM programme.
For those who did not attend the SBP session the other option available was the “Speed Dating” which was very well received with 22 participants sharing their best business idea and a proven result in a 3 minute time period – (intentionally short leaving you wanting more and encouraging further networking) and being scored. All scores tallied we felt it only fitting that we give a prize to the best male “date” and the best “female” date as it was a “dating game.” The best male date was awarded to Sahin Tulga, from HP– who ironically is new in the industry and was unsure about the relevance of his best business idea- just goes to show there is always something new to bring to the industry and sometimes fresh ideas and a new look can make all the difference, and Marianela Chevalier from Spotzer. Congratulations again to our two best dates!
Friday night was a free night although I can attest that most delegates began their evening in the lobby bar before heading out to the local hot spots for dinner and I believe I heard mention of a Brazilian bar which provided some warm up for the Gala Party…
Saturday was another 9:00 am start (and for those who were at the Brazilian bar – suffice to say 9:00 am came all too quickly!). The Publishers’ Meeting was chaired by Rob Paterson, Friday Ad and Josef Kogler, Inform Media with Peter Lamb, Marketing Classics stepping in at the last minute to moderate. (Thanks again Peter!) The session asked a series of pointed questions which opened up some excellent honest discussion and the red and green hats will be tallied next time to give some concrete percentages. The Sales Managers’ Workshop chaired by Sally Winfield also had some excellent discussions really driving the participants to give relevant examples and open their minds to new ideas that they can take back and start implementing straight away.
The Business Meeting was one of the shortest in ICMA history – primarily due to the fact that Lucie wasn’t there to thoroughly take us through everything! Rob stepped up to the plate and walked us through the agenda and voting. All votes passed unanimously. The Committee elections were held to fill the vacant seat of David Waghorne, in which Ciler Yildiz Vice President Trader Media East Russia was nominated, seconded and unanimously voted in. Welcome aboard Ciler!
The formal sessions of the conference over, Head Office quickly packed up the ICMA office and we all had a few hours to rest up before leaving for the Gala Party. We thankfully had buses this time around dropping us at the gates of Parc Leopold in which we walked up a cobblestone pathway to La Bibliothèque Solvay. We enjoyed cocktails looking over the beautifully restored library and later moved down into the library itself where we were served a delicious meal in a truly unique atmosphere. After dinner we descended one more level for the dessert and dancing and the last bus (on which there wasn’t a spare seat left) headed back to the hotel around 12:45 pm. Upon return to the hotel I was told the Radisson kept the bar open an extra hour or so for the ICMA crowd (3:00 am?!)….
All and all another amazing GM, which could not have happened without the wonderful speakers, facilitators and chairs – thank you! As well – a huge thank you to the exhibitors and sponsors for their commitment and the Committee for all of their support, and of course all the delegates who make these events what they are!
See you in M I A M I!