Most of us know that digital advertising and the social media space are evolving with incredible speed and it can be difficult to stay abreast of the latest marketing opportunities. This is especially true in automotive – a vertical overwhelmed with vendors, each offering the “latest” and “most effective” way to generate more leads and improve sales. I was fortunate to travel to Digital Dealer 13 in Las Vegas to learn about new strategies and gather insights from industry leaders.
I traveled to the conference with Casey Moss, a colleague who happened to be seven months pregnant. Despite the obvious limitation this placed on her Vegas-standard activities (sitting in smokey casinos, imbibing large quantities of alcohol, etc.) we both enjoyed the trip and her pregnancy spawned some great conversations.
Unfortunately, we missed the first conference activity I wanted to attend: the Peer Networking Roundtables. But we took a less frantic pace as a result and had some time to unwind from our early morning travels aboard Southwest Airlines. We were staying at the hotel in which the conference was being held –The Mirage Hotel and Casino– and that was very convenient.
First Speaker at Digital Dealer
In my opinion, Digital Dealer was fortunate to kick off with Tori Morandi from AutoTrader.com. She’s an experienced public speaker who offered excellent information to a temporarily standing-room-only crowd. (The back wall had to be removed to fit everyone!)
From there, Casey and I separated and mostly enjoyed the remaining sessions of the day. In the evening, I ventured to the penthouse suites and had a meeting with the great team at String Automotive. I’ve known their Regional Vice President, Steve Botello, for a few years. We had some great discussions along with the company CEO about their product offerings, future development, and the unique competitive advantages they have in a saturated automotive marketplace. The guys were great hosts. On a related note, if you’re ever in Vegas looking for a spectacular steak or seafood meal, enjoy kokomo’s inside The Mirage. Far from inexpensive but it served one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.
Speakers Had Too Much to Cover
I spoke with many of my fellow attendees at various lunches and after breakout sessions. One thing we all seemed to agree on was that most of the speakers seemed incredibly rushed. The quality presentations from experienced speakers could have easily stretched beyond an hour but many speakers seemed to be cramming material into the allotted 50 minutes. One example was Ali Amirrezvani, CEO of DealerOn. He was supposed to get into “Advanced SEO for Dealers” but he must have earned frequent flyer miles because he flew through his presentation. Honestly, I don’t see how he could have done anything else in 50 minutes. Google’s recent algorithmic changes alone could fill an hour and this was intended to be an “advanced” discussion of such things.
Another example was Vickie Gibbs, General Manager of Albright Digital. Her session topic was “The Metrics That Matter”. She began with blatant honesty: Her full presentation was substantially larger but she had to cut it down to fit in 50-minute time limit. Thanks for the warning. She was kind enough to offer the full presentation deck to anyone who asked after the session.
Sadly, there were more than a couple of presenters who were so poorly prepared that 50 minutes were impossible to fill. One such session I attended actually ended in 15 minutes. He was done. No one had questions. No one cared.
Keynotes from Facebook and Google
I may have been too optimistic. Perhaps I was just plain jaded. Ultimately, I think I was hoping for more than they actually promised and I was misleading myself.
The first keynote presentation was from Google and given by Peter Leto and Marianna Kerppola. The topic was “Fine-Tuning Your Online Marketing” and it did offer some useful tips as well as resources to assist. When it was all said and done, I didn’t walk away feeling like I got my deepest questions answered. As I discovered through most of the conference, I would leave with a few helpful nuggets of information, but no major breakthroughs. I’m okay with that. If I leave with actionable ideas, the conference is a success in my eyes.
Wednesday evening offered the Facebook keynote from Patrick Workman. Patrick and I had met briefly earlier in the day while one of his colleagues was attempting to answer some questions I had about a recent advertising experiment I conducted on Facebook. I’ll be doing a separate blog post about this experiment and why I’m still not comfortable with Facebook’s advertising assumptions and metrics. (This is separate from my recent “unlike” of their Chairs commercial.) Like Google’s, the Facebook keynote didn’t go as deep as I would have liked, but the presentation was helpful and I formulated some new ideas for our dealerships as a result.
Lack of Social Media
One of the most surprising aspects to the entire conference was a low usage of social media. I’m speaking of both attendees and speakers. Something in the area of 90% of the speakers I saw failed to promote their own social media channels at the conclusion of their presentations. Only one showed a Twitter handle. No one (including the Google keynote speakers) showed a Google+ URL. (Hey Google – maybe you ought to roll out those vanity URLs a little faster!) A couple had their Facebook profiles. I was one of a small handful of attendees who were live Tweeting throughout the days using the #DD13 hashtag. QR codes were moderately used but only by exhibitors. I expected a heck of a lot more from an event called DIGITAL DEALER. C’mon team – there are some basics!
The Digital Dealer Experience
Overall, the conference was well done and I would like to attend next year if the classes are a bit more in-depth and covering a new set of topics. Because they break sessions into levels of experience (fundamental, intermediate, and advanced) I think they should offer longer amounts of time for those intermediate and advanced sessions that warrant it. The catered food during the day was okay and the vendors who threw evening parties did a great job. I especially enjoyed the more intimate setting of the Albright Digital Scotch Tasting. They had a nice stream of guests with varied backgrounds and the Albright team were great hosts.
To see more of my day-to-day activities during the conference, check out my posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I enjoyed my trip and hope to attend next year. If you have any questions about Digital Dealer or want to share your own stories, please do so in the comments.