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AOP event proves B2B publishing is alive and kicking

The AOP’s first B2B conference yesterday was proof positive of the health and vitality of the B2B publishing industry – which, by definition is good news for marketers. This was the first time that the AOP had run a specific B2B event, the idea emerging – so the organiser’s claimed - from a suitably jolly lunch at Soho House of the B2B committee… how very appropriate.

But to look at attendance levels, interest in the sessions, networking and general buzz, you’d never know this was a brand new event – it had all the hallmarks of a perennial must-attend diary date.

Former New Media Age Editor Michael Nutley did a grand job as conference chair, but the stage was stolen (as ever) by the self-styled Green Goddess (her twitter handle, chosen because she’s “great at putting out fires”), otherwise known as Caroline Taylor, VP of marketing & communications at IBM.

Caroline’s presentation managed to combine warmth and wit with some fascinating insights into IBM’s view of and use of media, not to mention some praise for the audience. The boundaries between B2B and B2C publishers are blurring, she claimed, but only because B2C are catching up!

As regards marketing more generally, she also reopened the whole B2B/B2C debate with her contention that there’s no such thing as B2B any more – we’re all people, so it should be B2P. There’s more than an element of truth in this argument, and new technologies like mobile and social media are enabling new levels of granularity in terms of targeting. But for my money,  business brands will still want to do different things in different ways to consumer brands, due to the fundamentally diverse things they are offering.

Perhaps more interesting for marketers was the discussion amongst agencies and media buyers around current trends and drivers in the market. Interestingly, there was general consensus that the obsession with leads that has characterised the last few years has died down somewhat – although often because brands weren’t really able to deal adequately with the leads they were getting (Eloqua, Marketo etc. where were you?!), and they stopped short of saying there was actually a spending shift back toward brand. As Michael Wrigley of Banner put it, the phrase ‘brand-gen’ (combining brand with demand-gen) is cropping up a lot… in other words, exactly what people used to do before demand gen was first touted. What goes around, comes around, or so it seems.

The best question of the day was posed to Joshua Graff of LinkedIn, who was effectively asked why he was there, seeing as LinkedIn is a direct competitor to most B2B publishers, and therefore by implication, the enemy. Despite the success of our own LinkedIn group – or perhaps because of it – I’m inclined to think the questioner had a fair point. I wanted pursue this topic later with Joshua, for our video report, but he seemed to have slipped away… perhaps fearing for his own safety… 

All in all, a great event – the first of many, I hope from the AOP. My one criticism would be that, instead of just looking inward at other publishers, and outward at advertisers, they should also seek to include and focus on the reader communities – in other words, business people. They are, after all, the reason all us publishers exist in the first place.