Thoughts on the >play Conference at Berkeley

I spent a good chunk of my last Saturday at the >play conference at Berkeley. Overall, I thought it was a well-produced show and the team behind it should be proud of what they pulled together.

Mobile Advertising is Neither Well-Defined nor Understood. The conference session I attended called “The Co-Evolution of Marketing and New Media” touched on the whole subject of new media advertising. Based on what I heard on the panel, from Niren Hiro in particular, the mobile advertising and marketing market is still not well-understood by folks who are not intimately involved in the space. Even among this panel of experienced ad folks, there were a lot of questions about how best to address the mobile opportunity and where the actual opportunity lies.

New Media Advertising – You Can’t Just Blame the Brand Advertisers. Perhaps the most interesting thing I heard on the ads side was that there are a lot of folks in the video space who have not figured out how best to integrate advertising into video. This was not surprising – what was surprising, however, was the admission that it has as much to do with video service providers not having the answers/solutions as it does with brand advertisers not being willing to put their brands next to potentially objectionable content. Most of the commentary I tend to hear focuses on what brand advertisers won’t do with their brands as opposed to the open questions new media companies haven’t solved.
Video Games are Media Businesses, not Technology Businesses. The CEO of EA made a presentation on the video games business. I’m sure it’s available online somewhere. The most telling portion about “betting on people” was one of the clearest articulations I’ve seen as to why video games are much closer to media and entertainment driven businesses than technology businesses, even though technology is a major input for them.
Casual Games are the most misunderstood part of the games industry. My favorite panel of the day was the one on casual games. The more I read about casual games, the more I become convinced that one of the big things holding back casual games is the perception that they’re only relevant to “older” women in a download-for-purchase model. Nothing could be further from the truth and I think the definition of what constitutes a “game” will continue to evolve in the very near future.