ENGAGE: The LA Digital Storytelling Conference (Recap)

It’s fitting that TalkNYC decided to bring their ENGAGE Storytelling event series to Los Angeles, home of the film industry, a booming advertising industry and the largest growth of technology startups after Silicon Valley. Hosting this event at the Sony Studios backlot is just another example of why events like this belong in L.A.

ENGAGE: LA Digital Storytelling Conference was indeed worth the hype. The roster of talent at the event was very strong, including Wunderman LA’s own VP Director of Digital Strategy Mindy Chase, who was invited to speak on a panel for a session titled “Marketing Agency Rules of Engagement,” along with Mark Cibort, President of Digital at Trailer Park; Todd LeFelt, Managing Director of User Experience at HUGE; and moderator Vin Farrell, Global Chief Content Officer at HAVAS Worldwide. The panel discussion was rich in digital strategy and best practices: “Watch what the little kids are doing. Kids are swiping TVs like tablets. We have to think ahead,” said Todd LeFelt of HUGE. Mindy Chase added: “Building engagement goes beyond just thinking ahead, there’s a symbiotic relationship between strategy and data that can produce highly informative briefs and from that really creative ideas.” Before you knew it, the panel was over. Yes, the conversation was riveting, but the sessions at ENGAGE: LA are short, about 25 minutes per session, so essentially 20 minutes after introductions.

Other topics that day included “Engagement Metrics That Matter” with a frank and tell-it-how-it-is Mark Anderson, Chief Experiential Officer for Omelet; Steve Cho, COO of Lootsie; Jackie Turnure, VP of Thnk Jam; and Managing Director of Disney Accelerator Cody Simms as moderator. The best line from that session came from Mark Anderson: “It’s not enough to pull numbers and throw them at the client. It’s about understanding why the numbers are what they are.” You could hear a few chuckles and the clamoring of approval.

We also got the reintroduction of the once-lost buzz word “Transmedia(Once used back in the 90's when creators began telling the same story on multiple palforms) with the session “Mastering Transmedia Storytelling,” led by the panel of Joe LeFavi, Creative Director of Psyop; Bonnie Pan, EVP of Programming at Maker Studios; and the large and booming presence of Billy Parks of Fullscreen. If you’re wondering why Transmedia, you probably aren’t aware of the boom of virtual reality and 3-D production that’s hitting the market right now. Despite all the talk of the new technologies, the conversation always goes back to fundamentals. “Listening to your audience is what drives your strategy and content…so the audience is the curator of their own content,” said Bonnie Pan.

As somewhat expected, a lot of the sessions had an entertainment tilt. We were at Sony Studios, after all. But I think most advertising agencies are usually playing catch-up with the marketing gusto that entertainment studios typically employ with little fear of falling short and big budgets to try multiple campaigns. The day ended with “A Conversation with Michael Shamberg,” the award-winning film producer whose credits include Erin Brockovich and The Big Chill. He’s currently leading the way for a new type of content production model with Buzzfeed: “We’re producing films/TV shows in short-form and then looking at how the audience engages before we produce a larger feature or series,” said Michael. Can’t argue with that idea, considering the risk most studios take to make films and TV shows these days.

Overall it was a short and informative day that can be summed up by a quote from Mindy Chase: “Storytelling is truly about the customer journey. It needs to have great content combined with data and analytics to be as engaging as it possibly can.” Don’t think anyone leaving the Sony backlot that day would argue with that.

If you want to look back at some of the best moments from ENGAGE: LA, you can search on Twitter for #ENGAGELA @WundermanWest or click here. Also the below video is a nice recap of the event.


By @drewlewis— New Media Director-Creative-Nerd-Wizard for @WundermanWest