Captiva eve: Three more sneak previews of the Search Insider Summit

One week from today, the formal part of the Search Insider Summit will be kicking off on Captiva. Here are three more of the presentations you’ll be catching if you’re lucky enough to be joining us in Florida.

Reinventing the agency

Yesterday I received an email from Advertising Age asking whether we should consider nixing the term “ad agency” all together. The “ad” part of that label, once a badge of honor held aloft along with a martini glass and a Gucci watch, has been pretty much stricken from the marketing vocabulary. But the email, which was an invitation to take part in a poll, was suggesting that we may want to consider throwing “agency” into the dustbin along with it. It brings home non-flattering images of a Don Draper gone to seed.

Three different presenters will be tackling the question of what an agency might look like in the future. Dave Tan from Google, Lucinda Holt from Click Equations and fellow Search Insider Rob Griffin from Havas Digital will each peer forward into the not so far off future to see how agencies, or marketing firms, or whatever we’re called, can add true value to the market in the future. Accountability, transparency, micro-measures of performance and the forging of a new type of relationship with clients are all sure to be factors of the equations being explored on stage.

Moving beyond “What” to “Why”

Anyone who has ever heard me speak, read my writing, bumped into me in a Starbuck’s line or come within my 50 yard “bubble zone” knows I’m a huge fan of qualitative research. It’s not that I don’t think quantitative research is important – crunching numbers is an essential part of marketing. It’s just that I find our industry hugely biased towards spreadsheet jockeying. We spend so much time with data; we often forget to speak to the people on the other side of the data. Data can help us identify “what’s” happening but we have to actually spend some time with real living humans to understand “why” it’s happening.

Michael Holmes, the Director of Insight and Research at Ball State University will join us on stage to help put a little more balance into how we approach research, explaining the role qualitative methodologies could and should play.

Is IBM’s Watson the future of search?

Several weeks back, we reached out to our Insider roster of past presenters and explained what we had in mind for this year’s Summit. Many rose to the challenge of RE:Invention by suggesting provocative and intriguing topics, but one of my favorites came from Josh Dreller, Vice President of Media Technology at Fuor Digital.

On February 16th, IBM’s Watson eventually triumphed over human challengers Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter to become the all time Jeopardy champ. This may seem like a throw away story on Entertainment Tonight, but Josh found something much more intriguing in the story. Jeopardy was purposely chosen as a type of Turing test for IBM’s DeepQA technology – which combines a computer’s ability to index vast reams of information with a way of navigating the vagaries of human language. The linguistic twists presented by Jeopardy’s way of framing questions proves to be a daunting challenge for the rigid structures of digital processing. Although some of the rounds proved too much for Watson, it eventually emerged victorious by amassing over three times the winnings of it’s human competitors.

Is DeepQA the future of Search? Josh Dreller thinks so, and he’ll explain why next week in Captiva.

See ya in a week!

Originally published in Mediapost’s Search Insider May 5. 2011