Last week we brought the Kenshoo Future of Digital series to Chicago’s Trump International Hotel & Tower.

With 40+ senior agency reps in the audience and a killer view of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, the scene was set for an epic debate.

Sure enough, our speakers came ready to deliver and dressed the part too….

Left to right:

  • Paul Apodaca, Principle PM Manager, Microsoft
  • Blagica Bottigliero, VP, Digital Media, Metaverse Mod Squad
  • Aaron Goldman, CMO, Kenshoo
  • Jen Brady, CEO, FRED & Associates
  • Sachin Gadhvi, VP Marketing, Ticketmaster
  • Bryan Benavides, Director of Digital Marketing, Abt Electronics

We started with a blank slate…

…but a heady agenda, including these intentionally provocative topics:

  • Predictive Intelligence. How do you make accurate projections with imperfect information?
  • Goals and Objectives. Are marketers too fixated on acquisition or will this remain the most common use of digital budgets in the next few years?
  • Search. Will there come a day when marketers will be less reliant on SEM?
  • The Big G. What will it take to unseat Google?
  • Social Media. Can brands survive on organic content alone?
  • Mobile. Everyone has a mobile strategy now but is it time for marketers to be thinking mobile first?
  • Audience Buying. How can marketers make their audiences truly portable across channels?
  • Programmatic. How soon will brands be able to bid on individual household TV spots at scale?
  • Agencies. As marketing and media becomes more automated, how do agencies continue to add value?
  • Retail. With Amazon opening brick and mortar stores, is it wrong to declare digital the future of retail?
  • Beacons/Proximity Marketing. Will consumers ever be comfortable with brands making offers in-store based on online behavior and vice versa?
  • Email. Is it dead or stronger than ever?
  • Personalization. Will consumers reject algorithmic intimacy as fake and intrusive?
  • Display. Is there any good, viewable inventory out there?
  • The Street. Are we experiencing a tech bubble or is the current market sustainable?
  • The Internet of Things. How will brands be able to market within this world and where will privacy lines be drawn?
  • Attribution. Are we finally past last click? How do we move past static models?
  • Cross-Device. Will we ever be able to seamlessly track users across devices?
  • Enterprise Software. Will marketers use one technology platform to manage all of their marketing or stitch together point solutions?
  • Independence. Should marketers trust ad servers and bidding platforms owned by media companies?

Throughout the session, we had a graphic recorder illustrating the, er, finer points of the debate…

As anticipated, the panelists dropped quite a bit of knowledge…

Jen advocated for free love when it came to open sharing of data between advertisers, agencies, publishers, and third-party platforms.

Sachin touched on the power of cross-channel integration and turning data into action, e.g. leveraging search queries to inform social targeting and projecting performance as far into the future as possible.

Bryan focused on lifetime value as a key metric reminding us that not all customers are created equal.

Blagica shined a light on community and content as part of a blended model that triangulates with ads to create a sweet spot for all constituents on the interwebs.

Unsurprisingly, Paul pointed to Bing as a largely untapped source of premium inventory for advertisers and their agencies. In his defense, Kenshoo data supports the thesis that Bing is under-funded. We ran forecasts for more than 20 advertiser keyword portfolios and found that almost half of them could increase spend on Bing by 50% without sacrificing more than 5% in ROI.

And it wasn’t only the panelists who spoke lucidly elucidated. We had heavy audience engagement…

#BigKahuna Michael Kahn, Global CEO of Performics, shared his POV on how agencies must adapt to a word of always-on consumers to deliver immersive brand experiences across all channels. In his case, Performics has transformed from a search marketing shop to an omni-channel performance marketing powerhouse.

Congressman David N. Gould, EVP Global Digital Managing Director at Starcom MediaVest Group, explained how his firm came from the other end of the spectrum with traditional expertise to embrace new media and embed it into each account that the agency services. The value prop is no longer centered on buying clout as it was in an era of controlled supply but rather predicated upon agile marketing to capture opportunity across an ever-increasing array of channels and devices. He referred to this as the #democracizing of media before dropping the mic and exiting stage right.

We wrapped the event by asking each panelist to complete the following sentence in one word:

The future of digital is…

Despite the prominent nameplate, none of the panelists said TRUMP.

Paul said audience.

Jen said not-programmatic.

Bryan said evolving.

Sachin said YOU.

And Blagica said old-school.

Indeed, a recurring theme was “What’s old is new again!” and it’s clear we can draw on tried-and-true marketing principles to frame ongoing strategies and tactics.


From the head table to the back of the room, the ideas and insights seemed as infinite as the inventory and impressions…

Event attendees represented a wide swath of the agency ecosystem including iCrossing, Resolution Media, Kelly Scott & Madison, Rise Interactive, Performics, FRED & Associates, GroupM, Geary LSF, Centro, Havas Media and Starcom MediaVest Group.

As the session drew to a close, Donald Trump did not emerge to fire anyone from the boardroom and, to the contrary, there was a strong vote of confidence that the Chicago agency community is on the cutting-edge of digital and well-prepared to steward brands into the future.

Check out the full infographic for a summary of all the key takeaways…

Click to enlarge.