Great Product + Innovative Marketing = Success

This simple equation was a common theme throughout the second day of the Ad Age Digital Conference. Both and Jim Farley (Group Vice President of Global Marketing, Ford) and Brad Jakeman (Chief Creative Officer, Activision) emphasized how product quality and innovation are critical elements to a successful marketing strategy. Jim talked about how Ford is "democratizing technology" by bringing technology into cars that people already love (e.g., Twitter, iPods). This, among a handful of other things Jim outlined during his presentation, is a point of differentiation for Ford. This is an example of how Ford is improving the quality of their product through innovation.

Now let's switch gears to video games. A really bad-ass video game. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. Brad Jakeman was tasked with making Modern Warfare 2 the largest entertainment launch of all time. No big deal, right? Right. Brad took on this challenge as Chief Creative Officer and ran with it. Really fast. Within the first week of launch, Modern Warfare 2 was played by more people than those who live in the New York city tri-state area. By the end of the first week, Modern Warfare 2 hit $550 million in sales and shattered all previous records for a video game release. He made it the largest entertainment launch of all time. As he reflected on how he got there, he outlined his "5 Big Uh-Huhs" during his presentation. Not surprisingly, his number one uh-huh was that "it all comes down to the quality of the product (as always)." Here you see the common theme between Jim's perspective and Brad's take on how he was able to create such a successful marketing campaign for Modern Warfare 2.

Here's the list of Brad's 5 Uh-Huhs:

1. It comes down to the quality of the product (as always)

Activision partnered with only the best in order to deliver an awesome gaming experience. They worked with Infinity Ward, one of the leading development agencies in the world. They also partnered with the Department of Navy to keep the game honest and as real of an experience as possible for gamers. Jesse Stern helped write the storyline for the entire game. Legendary composer Hans Zimmer developed all of the music in the game. Activision sought out the <i>best</i> in each of these areas, driving up the quality of the product and delivering a gaming experience like no other.

2. Brand community (does not) equal database

Communities have existed a long time. Brad recognized this and referenced how Tupperware parties were/are a form of social (media) that have been in existence for a long time. He also talked about how technology today (e.g., social media, smart phones) helps foster social activity and makes it more convenient for people to create communities. Given the power of the collective hard-core gamer audience, this was a community Activision wanted to tap into via social media to help build anticipation for the game launch. Activision did this by posting the teaser video below to Twitter and it spread like crazy.

Once Activision tapped into this community, they were guided by the following principles: 1) respect their intelligence, 2) treat information and content as currency and 3) use every engagement to add value.

3. Relationship between content and media is dramatically changing.

Brad argued that technology devices (e.g., iPad) distract marketers and don't allow them to stay focused on what's really needed. Content. He recognized that marketers do need to stay in the know as it relates to how their customers are using technology, but tried to stay away from obsessing over it as he knew it would not allow his team to focus on delivering high quality content. <

4. Speaking of content ... content is king in the video game world. And it always has been.

Activision knew consumers chose their content not just on its delivery, but also in its form. They also knew they had to adapt to the ever-evolving "screenability" phenomenon - the idea of getting your content on as many screens as possible. Another key advantage to focusing on content was that it allowed Activision to develop the partnerships I mentioned previously.

5. What comes around goes around

Brad summed up this uh-huh nicely be stating that "doing good is the new cultural currency." To support this notion, Activision started the Call Of Duty Endowment (C.O.D.E.), an organization dedicated to ensuring that veterans are provided a clear path to new careers after their military service is complete. At the end of his presentation, Brad showed us the extended version of the Modern Warfare 2 TV spot. Heads up, there's some pretty suggestive content here.

For Ford and Activision, great product + innovation is definitely = success. Their relentless approaches on product development have resulted in amazing experiences in cars (democratizing technology) and in games (content is king). In my opinion, these were definitely the best presentations of the day and Advertising Age deserves a ton of credit for putting together an outstanding lineup of speakers.