Call it foresight, luck or a combination both.
Earlier this year, when Jay Baage secured Jonathan Murtaugh, Facebook’s U.S. head of industry for film and television, to be a keynote speaker at the [a]list Mobile + Social Video Summit, scheduled for Aug. 19 at the W Hollywood Hotel, it was already clear that the social network was shaping up to be a serious challenger to YouTube as the dominant online video platform.
But Baage — executive director of the Ayzenberg Group, the ad agency behind the summit and the insider news and insights web site [a]listdaily — couldn’t have anticipated that the buzz surrounding Facebook’s video moves would be building to a crescendo on the eve of the event, with mid-roll ads ramping up, celebrity live-streams debuting and VidCon co-founder Hank Green stoking the fires of controversy with a blog post claiming that Facebook’s skyrocketing stats (including a self-reported 4 billion daily video views) are “based on cheating, lies, and theft.”
The controversy will likely inspire some tough, uncomfortable questions for Murtaugh, who also works with Facebook-owned Instagram. But, for the [a]list summit, it’s all good.
“What I really try to make happen at these events is to have different opinions and topics to talk about, so you’re not just going down the line on a panel and everyone is going, ‘Yeah, I agree on that,’” Baage told VideoInk. “When we have some hot topics to talk about, it makes for an interesting discussion, and it also creates a good position for [a]list Daily, where we’re trying to help marketers by guiding them through what’s happening in the space.”
Immersed in Immersive Video
The [a]list summit will also be hitting the industry’s other hottest of hot button topics, virtual reality and augmented reality (where virtual reality elements superimposed upon the real world), with a keynote interview with Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville (“20 Feet from Stardom”), who is currently working with Ayzenberg on a documentary series on Microsoft HoloLens.
Baage said that VR and AR are “a big topic we could have a whole conference on. Before it was more a prototype. Now you see some of the biggest tech players in the world making moves in this area, with Microsoft and HoloLens, Facebook and Oculus, and Google and Glass, which I guess is still alive and they’re going to launch a new version of it.”
Exploring the Phan Empire
Baage feels that one topic that isn’t getting enough attention is beauty vlogger Michelle Phan’s Ipsy, a service that sends out monthly “glam bags” of cosmetics to its subscribers. Phan will be on hand at the summit to do a keynote interview alongside Ipsy co-founder and CEO Marcelo Camberos.
“Everyone talks about PewDiePie having the most subscribers and how he made $7 million last year,” Baage said. “But Ipsy, which she co-founded just a few years ago, is now doing $150 million annually in revenue, and that’s just from that curated beauty box subscription service. She also started Ipsy Open Studios for her community of content creators and experts, and she has all these joint ventures and interesting brand deals and stuff like that.”
Hitting the Moving Targets
This month’s [a]list Summit will be the eleventh in the past seven years, and the events have grown dramatically in that time. What started as an agency-client gathering focusing on companies the Ayzenberg Group worked with in the video game space has grown into an open conference featuring 85 different brands and 30-plus speakers.
During that time, the social media space has exploded with an ever-growing field of players that now includes streaming video platforms such as Vine, Meerkat and Periscope, offering brands a variety data-rich venues to precision target consumers.
“I really think like we’re starting to see a storm now, where the winds blowing in different directions and much stronger then they have in the online video space before,” Baage said.
The [a]list summit will try to hit as many of the important topics swirling around the digital video ecosystem as it can within the confines of a single-day event. There will be presentations by Twitch VP of eSports Andy Swanson, Defy Media EVP of marketing Andy Tu and SVP of branded content Zack Smith, and Ayzenberg director of strategy Chris Younger.
It will also feature a fireside chat with Dan Altman, co-founder and CEO of Naritiv, a start-up that helps brands utilize Snapchat, as well as one with New Form Digital SVP of business development J.C. Cangilla and Tubular Labs founder Allison Stern, exploring how the studio uses the latter’s data insights to identify rising stars, develop scripted content and grow engaged digital audiences.
While the prospect of data-driven creative is scary to some, Baage said, “it’s awesome, too, because it represents a new model. We used to have the top-down approach where the editor, the taste makers and the studios were deciding what was good content to put out. Whereas now, at least in theory, if you follow the data about what people like to watch, then create content based on that, you get a more democratic selection.”