Everybody wants their 15 minutes of fame, and tech marketers are no different. That’s why they’ll get the chance to prove to their peers just what sets them head and shoulders above the rest, at an event that capitalizes on the reality TV craze for all things that eliminate others.

Pipeline spoke to the Canadian Marketing Association’s Carlos Fallico, who represents the association’s direct marketing council, about the upcoming “Tech Idol” competition to be held at the CMA’s annual direct marketing conference Oct.27.

Pipeline: Tell me a bit about the genesis of this event.

Carlos Fallico: The Canadian Marketing Association does a huge national convention annually and it has five different councils within it that put on their own events. They’re responsible for two to three events a year — their own one day and either a breakfast or evening event. So the council this year decided to investigate three different areas. The area I’m working on is new technology for marketing. You’re allowed to bring that out in any form you want, so it can be a white paper, a case study — it’s up to you. So we’re combining two things: we’re fulfilling our requirement to do something on new technology, and also filling a slot in the overall council’s one-day event. The biggest thing is the one-day conference on Oct. 27 – there are usually two or three sessions in the morning, the afternoon, lunch and a speaker, and we’ve got a one-hour slot. We decided we didn’t have enough time to pull it off as a standalone event, so we decided to put it into our conference instead.

Pipeline: So are you choosing participants or can anybody apply to this?

CF: Anybody can apply. The concept is modelled on this reality TV buzz; we figured we’d look for participants and narrow it down to three and give them 15 minutes each to speak about their technology and have panel of judges, but really, it’s the audience that is going to vote on the winner and we haven’t decided what the winner gets.

All three participants probably get equal benefit  —to be in front of that type of audience and get 15 minutes to speak about their technology. Typically at these conferences we’re very careful about selling; they’re not for companies to sell their wares. We have had trade show table-top displays, but if they’re going to do a session, we have to police them that they speak generically about the topic and they’re not out promoting their company. This is the one exception, so it’s a good opportunity for companies volunteering as presenters to say, “I can go in a do a bit of selling.”

Pipeline: What kind of technology companies do you expect will apply?

CF: So far most have been in the area of database, CRM, and, in particular, dashboard technology. I think people have spoken enough about how to datamine to do customization and lists and all that kind of stuff, but now people are overwhelmed with all this information they have from their customers and all the different channels they’re using for marketing and all the responses they’re getting, (so the issue is) how do you piece it all together? Now there’s a whole other category out there: now we’re going to take all the bits and pieces of the technology invented for each channel and pull it all together and give marketers this dashboard or single view of how their market is doing, and it allows them to do real-time changes and adjustments to their marketing campaigns.

I have a feeling that’s where most of the new technology is going to be used. The other area is in technology for marketing as a channel on its own. That’s probably the next big buzz. In Europe they’re doing it already with mobile marketing. They’re seeing how cell phones and mobile cell technology can be used effectively by marketers.

That has been tested in certain parking lots, or vending machines where you can pay using your cell phone or if you see an ad you can respond by punching in a special code. Marketers are saying people are not home and answering their home phone, they’re not watching TV, they’re  immune to all the subway advertising, and they’re not listening to radio advertising, but wow, everybody has a cell phone, so if we want to track down consumers regardless of where they are, how can we take advantage of the cell phone, especially with the youth market, where kids 10, 12, 13 and  14 are getting cell phones.

Pipeline: So will you get to make cutting, nasty remarks to the losers like they do on the American Idol?

CF: That sort of stuff we’re going to work on later. We’ll have three judges, so we’ll have to simulate the roles of each one of the (American Idol) judges. One has to be more antagonistic, like (judge Simon Cowell), and that might be me, because I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to new technology. I’m more of a diehard traditional marketer. A lot of this stuff is new to me so I bring a  good balance, whereas a lot of other guys are more techie themselves so they are into this stuff. So I have a feeling I’m going to be the biggest critic and say, “This is great, but where’s the ROI?” That sort of stuff.

Pipeline: So you plan to have the audience vote on winners using SMS?

CF: We’re not sure. We’re just figuring that out. We have to find a low-cost option or someone who wants to donate their services to pull that off. We’ re trying to have a little fun, so it’s not as daunting, but participants will be hard-pressed to get their message across concisely in 15 minutes, and that will be part of the challenge.

Comment: pipeline@itbusiness.ca

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