AdobeSymp: The Future of Marketing belongs to the Experience Makers

Reflections from the Adobe Symposium, August 2018

Reflections from the Adobe Symposium, August 2018

I’m not a marketer. I’m not a millennial. I’m not even from Sydney. So, it’s very likely that if you are a marketer, or a millennial, or a Sydney-native, your experience at Adobe Symposium was different to mine.



@scrunchdotcom representing at the @adobe symposium in #sydney today 👊🏼❤️

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 At face value, we engaged with the same product: two days of a well curated, rockstar worthy production hosted at the ICC in Sydney on the 14th & 15th August, 2018. Like you, I attended presentations, and walked around the crowded exhibition room, picked up a rectangular recycled lunchbox, and ordered a coffee. We may even have smiled at the same strangers in the crowd of 4,000 beautiful faces in bespoke navy blazers and Gorman statement pieces. But the sessions I attended, and the notes I scribbled in my notebook were probably different to the notes you took, and the ideas that you collected. Each of us moulded the #AdobeSymp experience to suit our own needs.


Each of us was our own Experience Maker in Sydney during the event.

Scaling personalised experiences

One of the key themes that I took away from the two days at the Adobe Symposium was the inkling that the future of the industry was headed towards the creation of personalised experiences at scale. The Adobe suite presented a powerful toolkit in this regard - a full end-to-end suite of tools, enhanced by targeted AI to help content creators deliver fresh, bespoke content to specific target segments. With a strategic play in the data aggregation space, Adobe tools close the loop with the DMP and the Sensei AI, providing integrated access to both the research and reporting bookends of the content production workflow. Quite frankly, what I saw was magic - except that it was real.

Brad Rencher, Executive VP and General Manager of Digital Experience at Adobe, gave a fantastic talk on the elements that make up the Experience System - the bits and pieces that an Experience Maker needs to deliver on the promise of large-scale, individualised content to an insatiable global audience of 7 billion eyeballs.

 Fresh Content. The Crack of a new generation

According to Rencher, the future of marketing - ie delivering personalised, always-fresh content at scale - calls for the creation of an end-to-end Experience System. An Experience System is a set of tools and workflows that consists of three key components:


1. Data. Big hairy data from disparate data sources that needs to be cleaned and primped and squeezed and prodded for prime time use. 


2. Intelligence. Leveraging our AI brethren to learn from the past in order to predict the future. Intelligence consumes the data, and outputs actions that marketers can take. 


3. Content. The consumables. Forget sugar, or cocaine. The new addiction of the masses is bespoke, always-fresh content.


"Spray and pray does not cut it anymore as a strategy for marketing" -

Jude Leon, Head of Integrated Marketing and Communications at Red Cross


The demos and presentations by Carla Cook  and Mark Schulz gave us a glimpse into how the Adobe suite allows content creators to deploy content to the right audiences seamlessly from within the Adobe ecosystem. Target audiences can be built right inside the suite, leveraging data from the DMP and personalising content using Sensel AI.


"Your goal… exit the Sea of Sames" -

John O’Sullivan, Tourism Australia



 John O’Sullivan, Managing Director of Tourism Australia, delivered an entertaining and insightful talk about the journey that led to the creation of one of the most successful marketing campaigns of recent times. Two key things resonated with me: firstly, that in order to be noticed, and have impact, you need to exit the “Sea of Sames”. In the case of Tourism Australia’s campaign, this exit strategy was based on two important elements:


1. Trusted partnerships. The epic movie that was actually an advertisement came to life as a collaborative effort by 19 partners. For anyone that has ever tried to manage a creative project with more than one stakeholder, you’ll notice that pulling this off strategically is pure brilliance. Bringing in the right people at the right time is crucial - the world is too complex to try to do everything in a solo silo. 


2. Being brave. Stepping out of familiar waters is not that easy. It’s easy to let fear of the unknown keep us treading in that Sea of Sames. Brave leadership, and trusted partnerships, are foundational to creating truly unique experiences.


"A billion marketers have graduated from the university of Instagram" -

Jules Lund, TRIBE


Jules Lund, Founder of TRIBE, shared his vision for the future of advertising. In Lund’s vision, the future of creative content can be generated by the very people who consume it. In a highly engaging presentation, the audience was asked to email in a photo of a product that they had on their camera roll, illustrating that in a very natural way, we are all carrying around dormant repositories of high quality, genuine and engaging content in our pockets. Lara Thom, Guzman y Gomez CMO, talked to how her brand is successfully leveraging their customers to create contextualised, individualised pieces of content which are being re-purposed not only on social media, but on digital billboards, display ads and other channels. According to Thom, they do this for one reason only - it works. Influencer marketing sells more burritos. But, as Lund and Thom pointed out, these strategies work only as the underlying product are good, and the brands have a strong sense of identity.


"I want you to know me" - 

Cindy Gallop


Any conversation about personalisation strays into the grey areas of what is legal, what is not, and what complies with GDPR. I think that Angelo Sinibaldi, Head of Data Products at Nine summed it up well “If you are thinking about data, and data sharing, think about what the impact to your brand would be if your data partner was to be compromised.” Would a potential data breach create an Ashley Madison situation, or would some lucky hacker stumbleupon a million meaningless hash values?


When it comes to questions of data collection, the enigmatic Cindy Gallop hit the nail on the head. Her advice? Don’t focus on what data you can covertly collect from your customers. Make your products and services so good, that your customers will want to share their data with you. Tap into that most primitive human desire we all share: that is, even though each of our lives are represented by less than one Times New Roman 10pt characters’ worth of space (according to the epic history of the universe Tim Urban shared with us on day one), ultimately, we all want to be known.

Create experiences that inspire your customers to tell you about them. Get them to “I want you to know me”.


"Coca-Cola interacts with 18% of humanity each week. [Our best content] looks like consumers created the content. That’s really important to us" -

David Godsman, Coca-Cola


Looking at larger trends in human behaviour, the desire for purpose, a purposeful life, a meaningful life is an increasing trend. If people are searching for meaning, it’s to be expected that they will be attracted to products and experiences that contribute meaning, depth and purpose to their lives. According to David Godsman, CDO of The Coca-Cola Company, authenticity and meaning are reflected in community created content. Echoing the sentiments of Gallop, Godman’s message was very much that the key to creating engaging experiences at scale is about having the courage to reflect the world as it really is, not to create disconnected, stylised versions of what we think our consumers want.


While the conversations were centred about Adobe products, and how they empower the Experience Makers of tomorrow, one can’t help but notice the emerging trend towards influencer style marketing as becoming the channel to keep an eye on.

Making metrics more meaningful

The challenges that we face as an industry of marketers (and similarly, creators of tech based products and services) are super complex. It’s no longer possible to solve many of these challenges individually - I talk a lot about the need to break down silos between development, design and marketing to create effective SaaS products, and how common metrics are one of the obstacles that prevent multi-disciplinary teams from aligning and working together towards a common goal.

Michaela Aguilar, Head of Solutions at Havas Helia, shared her thoughts about the need to create more meaningful metrics to assess value in marketing and media campaigns. At the heart of her message was the observation that meaning and value are best served by trusted relationships. Citing her partnership with Peugeot, Michaela talked to the benefits of data integration between agency and client to track the one thing that matters the most - uplift in sales. In order to do this, there comes a point where a technology and data integration solution is needed. Adobe’s DMP is one of the ecosystems that make this relatively seamless.

Creating trusted partnerships

There has definitely been a shift in the way that we are all approaching business relationships and partnerships. I know for myself, I really felt that in speaking with the Adobe crew about specific solutions that we are exploring at Scrunch (a big shout out to James, Erik, Laura and Jon from Adobe for getting us started on this journey!).


Adobe Symposium was a refreshing break from the everyday hustle of getting products out the door. I left Sydney having created a unique experience from what was on offer, and know that you did too. Reflecting the sentiments of Ronni Kahn, CEO of ozHarvest, I left with the feeling that everywhere around me, there is a strong desire to make the most of now. The way that you interact with brands is different to the way that I do, and the way you spend your financial resources is different to the way I do, and different to the way our kids will do.


The one thing that binds us all is time. For each of us, the clock of life ticks at the same pace. How we choose to spend each year, each day, each minute is up to us. Having epic experiences, personalised and delivered to each of us at the right time, in the right way will be, commercially speaking, the holy grail of tomorrow.


Thanks for the philosophy… but where should I start when I get back to the office? I’m sure that’s what you are all thinking.

Key takeaways from Adobe Symposium 2018:

  • Invest in creating transparent, collaborative, trusted relationships with partners who can help you deliver the right experiences to the right audiences at the right time
  • Invest in getting Experience Makers into your talent pool
  • You will need data. Big hairy data to help you figure out who your best target audiences are, and what your best marketing strategy should be
  • Data is not enough. Cookies don’t buy cars, people do
  • Don’t rush off and buy all the data tomorrow. Solve the data + intelligence + content problem for n=1
  • Scale only when n=1 is proven out
  • Go deep. Focus on creating quality, meaningful experiences. Brand loyalty is not what it was in the 1990’s. Product loyalties are won and lost at the click of a download button
  • Be yourself. Necessarily, as a brand, as a human, as a business that means you won’t be for everyone. But the ones you are meaningful for, will love you as they will connect and understand you. They will want you to know them