Marketing Festival @ Ostrava: world-class boredom

Elvinas Karalis
Oct 25, 2016 · 6 min read

I decided to write this this post in English for a reason — I really hope that someone from Marketing Festival team would stumble on it one day and maybe there is a small chance they will learn something.

I’m going to be straight forward here — the Marketing Festival had a massive potential, but was busted by poor management, careless content pre-selection and awful communication.

As it was already mentioned on the Medium, the festival had ups and downs, hitting new lows on each descent. But let’s walk through this journey of mine, step by step.

For me it all started with arriving at Ostrava in advance, where I had booked two Marketing Festival’s workshops that were conducted a day before the main event.

UP: 1st workshop “LinkedIn on Steroids: A masterclass on searching, engaging, and overcoming limitations” by Josef Kadlec was amazing. Actually, I was really sorry that Josef ran out of time during those three hours that were allocated for the morning workshop. He explained everything breaking it down to the granular level, we did exercises, he presented real business cases and results, all the questions were answered and even more were asked. Simply put — this was a real workshop, exactly what one could expect.

DOWN: For the afternoon workshop session I selected “Online Marketing Competitive Intelligence Analysis” and that was a huge mistake. I think we all have seen those “29 awesome tools for your blog you must get right now” type of articles and during the session I had this feeling where someone was reading one of those articles aloud. No real business cases, no success (or fail) stories, no exercises. 50% of session time was dedicated to the overview of SimilarWeb as a key application in getting competitive intelligence… The only positive note was that so called “workshop” finished soon after the break.

Next day there was a main event starting at the Gong Hall in Ostrava.

UP: I’m a big fan of science fiction literature, cyber-punk in particular, and this venue was something out of this world for me. Brilliant choice, standing ovations.

DOWN: Wi-Fi down 99.9% of the time. Imagine 1 500 digital marketers shut for two days in a venue with malfunctioning Wi-Fi. Maybe not a big deal for local people since they were able to use mobile data, but for foreign guests that was a major issue with data roaming costs still being pretty significant. Being that unlucky foreigner, I was unable to send questions to speakers, post on social networks and virtually participate in a life of the event. As I understand, the organizers never seen this picture:

Not cool. Not cool at all.

DOWN once again: When I was considering getting myself to Marketing Festival, I found out that there were planned up to 6 networking events, broken down into categories:

And this was a decisive factor for me to travel to Marketing Festival. Guess what? It was impossible to get any information about the meet-ups and I’ve never had a chance to participate in one. I’ve heard rumours that maybe I had to download official festival app (download with non-existent Wi-Fi, right…) or maybe those events are limited to the local people only… So I decided to ask the support:

And here is the answer I got…

The link was leading to the information about the parties (I don’t have a clue why they put a link to LinkedIn, while telling to join FB event, though), and there were no information about the networking meet-ups. So, once again — I heard a voice saying “You bloody foreigner, stop asking stupid questions and go sit there in the corner, and no Wi-Fi for you today!”.

Now let’s move to the most important part — the content of the Markegin Festival.

UP: Luckily, there were some decent speakers in the event, and those are worth a special note:

  1. Data Science: For Fun And For Profit by Lukas Vermeer. I guess the only speaker who didn’t overuse buzz word “Machine learning” and visually demonstrated the randomness factor of experiments. I haven’t seen so much common sense in a data science from marketing perspective for some time.
  2. How I learned about effective marketing from Bugs Bunny, Pixar and a cat from Japan by Michal Pastier. A headline that actually sounded like a click-bait, turned out to be a real story of a man, who managed to build a team that creates content which really works. Decent presentations skills, interesting stories and clearly explained content impact on business goals with very well documented case study. Michal is the person with whom I’d like to have a beer or two someday.
  3. You’re Making My Brain Hurt! The Psychology Behind Terrible Conversion Experiences by Michael Lykke Aagaard. Honestly, this was more of the show, but people from Unbounce.com are always worth seeing and listening to. Michael smoothly breezed through some hilarious examples, explained the difference between good and bad UX, and provided scientific explanation of user behaviour. Coolest Viking in the festival, hands down.
  4. Will Robots Take Over PPC? What the Future of the Industry Looks Like by Frederick Vallaeys. Frederick’s presentation was rich in details, with lots of statistical figures and practical advice, and at the same time it produced a feeling like you’re listening to well written story which went from levels of the automation to the question about budget where data driven automation makes statistical sense. I can’t wait to get the recording of this one.
  5. Speaking Up for Experiences by Stephen P. Anderson. Stephan told the audience about bringing board games making ideas into marketing and this was a brilliant approach — he explained MDA model and how to adapt it in basically any UX process. A real surprise for me was, that he didn’t hesitate speaking about the topic which is a taboo in UX world — a measurement of UX impact on the business If I would have to single-out a quote from his presentation, this would be it: “If you deliver experience, then why do you want to measure behaviour? Measure experience!”

DOWN: I don’t know what to say about the other presentations and case studies… But I have a bad feeling that event organizers had no clue about half of content that was going to be presented there. Let those tweets of other people speak for me:

This actually sums it all pretty well.

I wonder, how did event organizers decide on the speakers and do they have any digital marketing background?

DOWN again… The event organizers didn’t even ask for feedback. The no1 rule (and common sense) for any massive public event — you run it, you ask for a feedback immediately, while people are still “hot” and not influenced by opinions from the outside world. Well, maybe they don’t really care.

Would I consider going here next year? Nope, not a chance. This is not a world-class event by miles. Those bits and pieces of marvelous content drowned in the sea of mediocrity, poor management, and shabby communication.

And broken WiFi. What were you thinking?

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