CODA breakfast serves up content experts

June 6, 2008 by Dave Haynes

The Canadian Out-of-Home Digital Association held its second breakfast meeting this morning, this one hosted by Ari Blau of Bell, in one of the big event rooms at the company’s Bay Street building.

I wasn’t counting, but I would guess maybe 50 people elbowed their way in to get at the coffee and danishes, and after that sat down to hear from three very different presenters on the matter of content.

Denys Lavigne, president of Arsenal Media, was down from Montreal to talk about what he’s learned are the things to remember in producing content.

“Even though everybody says content is very important, it’s the last thing on our minds,” he said, suggesting he is coaching his clients more and more to develop content that is exclusive to that medium and not crossing over from broadcast or print.

He also suggested the customer needs to be respected and rewarded with good content, or they won’t be engaged.

Lavigne, whose content shop puts on the JADN conference and cocktail networking series up in Montreal, is working to establish a CODA presence in that city.

Neil Sweeney started his life in this business almost 10 years ago selling ads for what was then Elevator News Network. He got out of the digital signage side of life, but now finds himself with a foot back in it as director of Business Development and Strategy for CanWest Media, which owns among other things Global TV and the National Post newspaper.

He is regularly chatted up by networks involved in this space and looking for content, with seven networks already getting RSS and video feeds from CanWest. He said it is in no way as simple as signing up and buying their material.

The network has to be big enough for them to invest the time. It has to be established, not a start-up. “And you have to be a network that our marketing guys would want to advertise on.”

CanWest charges for its feeds, competing with entities like Canadian Press, but manages (surprisingly, to me) to exert tight control over the look and feel of the screens and any content they present, always retaining the CanWest brands.

If I had my old network operator hat on, I’m likely thinking if I am buying this from you guys, I use it how I want as long as I don’t change the material or context. I understand why CanWest does this, but am just surprised the networks roll over and do it.

Paul Leblanc was last up, and talked about how things look from the point of view of a guy running a top 10 ad agency, Halifax-based Extreme Group.

Funny and engaging, Leblanc rattled off much of what we hear from other agency people (we’re hard to buy, we lack consistency, we’re just barely on the radar screen) — though he has the somewhat unique perspective of having sugar-daddied the Volt Media screen network that is in more than a dozen universities in the Maritimes. So he knows what it is like from both sides of the table.

He noted how even though his Volt guys are embedded in Extreme’s offices, most people don’t really know what they’re up to.

Leblanc described how 10 years ago, when he started Extreme, the media landscape was pretty much TV, radio, print and outdoor, and a teeny bit of experimental Web stuff. Now the budgets are smaller and the menu for ad buyers ranges from conventional TV to Internet radio and video game ads. AND digital screens.

“That’s what a marketer is being faced with now,” said Leblanc. “That’s what the day to day is like.”

His advice: stop getting excited about the technology, and develop media that talks with and not at consumers.

CODA is planning another session soon, but no details as yet.

Thanks to Kelly McCluskey of Fourth Wall Media for sending me a pic!

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