From more than 90,000 folks gathering in Spain to talk about mobile technology to a CMO-driven conference in Orlando, Fla., there’s a seemingly never-ending number of events for digital marketers these days.
While networking is a big reason why agencies, tech companies and brands attend conferences, Dee Salomon, marketing chief at MediaLink—a business advisory firm that has a presence at industry conferences—pointed out that the programming and content itself at these events is also key, covering everything from the so-called Internet of Things to sophisticated programmatic ad-buying.
“There’s layers to all of these [conferences],” Salomon said.
Here are 10 must-see shows for digital marketers each year in chronological order:
Dates: Sept. 16-17, 2015
Location: Cologne, Germany
Described as bringing together “the most important trends, innovations and thinkers of the global digital economy,” the two-day event features talks from marketing execs at Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Yahoo and Google.
WPP’s founder/CEO Martin Sorrell, Starcom Mediavest Group’s CEO Laura Desmond and Omnicom Digital CEO Jonathan Nelson will also speak this year.
2. Advertising Week
Photo: Advertising Week
Dates: Sept. 28-Oct. 5, 2015
Location: New York
Now in its 12th year, the week-long conference includes more than 290 events, 95,000 attendees and 900 speakers and brings together media, agency, brand and tech players.
This year’s seminars will include categories like video content, programmatic, innovation, mobile and talent. Speakers will include Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, BuzzFeed’s new CMO Frank Cooper and YouTube’s head exec Susan Wojcicki.
3. ANA Masters of Marketing
Photo: ANA via Facebook
Dates: Oct. 14-17, 2015
The Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Marketing conference is focused on CMOs from top brands and agencies that come to discuss advertising’s best work and biggest challenges.
Marketing chiefs from Harley-Davidson, Airbnb, Audi, Mayo Clinic and Calvin Klein are some of the attractions at this year’s show. To provide an idea of the content, here’s one panel on the agenda: Make Love, Not Ads: How New World Brand Connections Are Beating Old World Advertising.
4. Web Summit
Photo: Web Summit
Dates: Nov. 3-5, 2015
Location: Dublin, Ireland
The three-day conference is made up of attendees from global brands and tech companies that convene to address the newest trends in digital marketing.
Five-hundred speakers, 2,000 startups and 1,000 investors are expected to visit this year’s summit, which will highlight speakers like Pixar president Ed Catmull and Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey.
5. Ad Tech
Photo: Ad Tech
Dates: Nov. 4-5, 2015
Location: New York
Ad Tech has two U.S. events each year—one in San Francisco during the spring and a fall version in New York.
The upcoming East Coast event brings in a more diverse group of media and tech companies than its West Coast counterpart, which takes place in May. The New York gathering centers on other important issues in digital marketing like programmatic buying, viewability and measuring digital media.
Dates: January 6-9, 2016
Location: Las Vegas
Once mainly a conference for electronics geeks, the event now also draws in agencies, brands and tech companies to chat about futuristic ideas like holograms, robotics and wearables.
Additionally, reps from Snapchat, Pinterest, Google, Facebook and LinkedIn will meet up with huge marketing players like Starcom Mediavest and Omnicom Media Group.
7. Mobile World Congress
Photo: JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images
Dates: Feb. 22-25, 2016
Mobile is big, if you hadn’t heard. So big that it brought 93,000 marketing execs to Spain’s eastern Mediterranean coast in 2015, including agencies VML, R/GA and Starcom MediaVest Group, which were looking to better understand how people use smartphones and emerging technologies like virtual reality.
As opposed to other conferences, MWC specializes in showing attendees the nitty-gritty back end of how tech works, involving concepts like cellphone infrastructures and the wireless spectrum.
8. South by Southwest Interactive
Dates: March 11-15, 2016
Location: Austin, TX
After several years of complaints about too many brands and agencies taking over the five-day festival, the central Texas event got its star-making groove back this year with the breakout of livestreaming startup Meerkat.
9. 4A’s Transformation Conference
Dates: March 21-23, 2016
More than 800 attendees from Chipotle, Kraft, Bank of America and AOL attended the ’15 version of this industry shindig, which is organized by the American Association of Advertising Agencies. With next year’s event in South Florida, you’re likely to see even more name-brand players on the scene.
10. Cannes Lions
Photo: Cannes Lions
Dates: June 19-25, 2016
Location: Cannes, France
If 2015′s keynote addresses from Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel and Kim Kardashian—who isa mobile marketing exec, if you didn’t already know—were any indication, digital media has become a main draw for folks to visit advertising’s most-prestigious gathering.
Next year’s gala promises to feature more emerging tech. And if nothing else, Cannes has the possibility of launching international fame for its attendees—especially for couples who have sex on its red carpet. Seriously, though, it’s the crème de la crème of advertising conferences.
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