My circadian rhythms are still lost somewhere off the coast of California, but the rest of me is back in New York after a fantastic week in Australia, where I attended Digital Cream Sydney and visited with marketers around the city.

It was a pleasure and inspiration to meet so many smart, creative people and to hear what they’re excited about (and frustrated by) in digital marketing.

Digital Cream Sydney came on the heels of the same event in Melbourne, where eight key takeaways were revealed. It won’t make up for the outcome of Swans – Hawthorne, but thanks to the innovators in the crowd, we’ll do them one better and offer nine lessons of the day.

We already have most of the data we need

Everyone knows that volume isn’t the problem with our marketing data. Rather, it’s that we don’t or can’t make it useful. The search marketing experts at our DC roundtable on integrated search and advertising ably made the point that most of the time, marketers already have the data to answer their most important questions.

The issue is more often tying data sources together in a way to get answers. For example, how do we measure real impact of digital marketing on the whole business? How does offline discovery affect online purchasing? How do we identify current customers who are in danger of becoming former customers? 

It takes data from multiple databases and marketing applications to get these answers. Our recent report The Path to Unified Marketing examines this question and offers insight into how companies are taking on this challenge.

Retargeting works

Brands looking for an edge came to the event to ask about tactics that work, and don’t. And while retargeting may seem creepy and clumsy at times, those using it reported significant, profitable results. The return on retargeted ads was described as five to ten times higher than that of standard display. 

You can find a useful primer on retargeting here.

A related tactic that got high marks is extending audiences by taking advantage of the massive scale of major publishers. For example, Facebook’s Audience Network allows marketers to target ads to audiences that are similar to those responding to that brand’s ads.

So does video

Video is the star of digital advertising.  Despite waste in the system, inefficiency and fraud, video ads still vastly outperform other formats. For those marketers experimenting heavily in mobile display, the difference is even starker.

One ongoing issue is that the economics of online don’t often allow for native video ads, so most brands are still repurposing their television ads. The issue is timing, with many standard commercials still setting the scene long after online watchers have clicked away. 

For those venturing into video or seeking to up their game can find insight and inspiration in Econsultancy’s Online Video Best Practice Guide.

You don’t have to stop at 10%…

70%/20%/10%…that’s the ratio that Coca-Cola famously allocates to standard activities, incremental improvement and wild experimentation, respectively. That ten percent is especially important these days, as brands struggle to innovate and learn by exploring emerging fields within digital marketing. 

Is 10% enough? It’s going to depend on the organization of course, but one attendee spoke eloquently of the effect on her marketing organization of devoting fully 20% to experiments.

Not only were they clearly on the leading edges of customer experience and marketing, but the room to innovate clearly encourages enthusiasm, creativity and ambition.

Attribution for offline and online…is extra hard 

Very few companies are extending their attribution models from digital to offline, or vice versa. This isn’t just a problem in Oz, but everywhere. 

Issues abound, from identifying meaningful cross channel data to gathering it and reconciling its meaning.

Those that are tackling the problem suggest that mobile will increasingly offer methods and insights for bring online measurement to offline environments. A recent brief on the topic is a must-read for those pursuing these questions.

The demand for content is outpacing our ability to create and manage it

Resourcing content was a big topic in Sydney, as it is in budget meetings around the globe. With multiple stakeholders and goals, content often gets stuck between channels at the same time that its role in the marketing mix grows.

The answer for many is outsourcing. The costs are lower than dedicated staff, and agencies are in a better position to produce quantity on a schedule. The issue is that no one understands the market and products like marketers themselves, so the quality of outsourced content isn’t always high.

Some businesses run on quantity, while others depend on the performance of select pieces. In fact, studies suggest that content follows the 80/20 rule, with a small share of content producing the vast majority of returns.

If that’s the case, brands may do well to reevaluate how their budgets are spent, with a new emphasis on a few, higher quality content projects. 

Content strategists and producers will find food for thought in our recently published 100 Practical Content Marketing Tips.

If you’re global, think local

Every visit with local marketers who are part of global companies will include a discussion of what it’s like to be far from where some of the marketing decisions are made. Usually, there are significant frustrations that come from trying to make overarching programs apply in specific settings.

The advantage for some is keeping a steady convection current of talent moving between offices and making sure that key players like digital evangelists and strategists get firsthand knowledge of local realities.

Time is the killer app

The discussion of technology was far ranging, but one theme was clear; the practical benefit of newer systems is in ease of use.

Marketers are increasingly able to take on tasks that used to require technical assistance, which reduces time to market while freeing up valuable technical resources.

Marketing leaders do their best to balance expense with the return on new technology. Often that calculation centers on new capabilities, but it’s important to remember that simply improving existing workflows can have far ranging positive effects.

Management needs to catch up with mobile

Recently, Econsultancy completed the data gathering for a study of Mobile in Australia and we took a peek at the early results in Sydney. One interesting tension is between the opportunity of mobile and a lack of awareness in management.

Only 28% of client-side marketers and 16% of agency respondents described senior staff as “good” or “very good” at understanding the potential of mobile channels. In part that’s because mobile is still perceived as a channel, instead of the vast platform it is.

It also reflects a lag between reality (74% of Australian companies get between 26% and 75% of their traffic from mobile devices) and corporate strategy. It’s challenging and expensive to become a leader in mobile customer experience, analytics and marketing, but companies that don’t make these moves will soon find their customers have gone on without them. 

Those fighting for more attention and budget can find advice in Econsultancy’s best practice guide Securing Board Buy-in for Digital Transformation

Want to attend the next Digital Cream in Asia-Pacific?

Join us in Singapore on 20th November 2014 – register for the event today!