Marketers vying to balance power between user and brand: ad:tech speakers

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SAN FRANCISCO - The art of conversation is a key theme resonating through this year's busy ad:tech San Francisco conference, with marketers deliberating the nuances of allowing user-generated control while still retaining a brand's vision.

As marketers bend over backwards to give consumers the tools for content creation that they demand, they are also working to make communications a two-way street. That sentiment was clear at this gathering of the nation's leading interactive marketers and service providers.

"You don't want to go overboard and give the consumers too much control, but you don't want to have the brand be too controlled and alienate users," said Drew Ianni, chairman of programming at ad:tech Expositions. "It is about creating a dialog and having a conversation with your customers."

And while big brands struggle to create the right balance with customers, the rise of user-generated media is leading to the creation of small businesses. Ad:tech speakers agreed this is an opportunity for advertisers, too.

Brent Hill, vice president of advertising services at FeedBurner, Chicago, was in attendance to promote his company's updates to its AdClimate platform, an ad server for RSS and blog feeds. Mr. Hill sees an opportunity for advertisers to partner with smaller content partners.

"A MySpace blog is different from a really good content-driven blog," Mr. Hill said. "Independent publishers that have an audience and an appeal will have to align themselves with a network to create aggregation. This is an opportunity for advertisers."

Another hot topic that has come up in many sessions is the idea of short-form content. The term of the moment is video snacking, which refers to the consumption of small bits of content, be it audio, video or text in an online or mobile environment. This buzzword was repeated in a number of different sessions, as discussions ebbed towards the blurring between professional and user-generated content, so long as it's small and consumable.

"Users don't care as much about professionally-created video or user-generated video as long as it is good and entertaining content," said Jason Hirschhorn, president of Sling Media Entertainment Group, in yesterday's keynote "Content is King! (again?)."

Interestingly, a theme discussed at this ad:tech in various sessions and on the show floor is the end of Web 2.0 and the beginning of Web 3.0. Mr. Ianni challenged attendees to come up with a better moniker.

"Web 2.0 seems to be so 2006, but is the next thing really Web 3.0?" he asked the audience. "I challenge you to come up with the next definition."

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