Tech Madison Avenue: A Meeting of the Marketing and Startup Minds



There’s a new buzz making its way through the streets of New York. The advertising world is beginning to turn its attention to the tech startup scene, especially in this city where ad agencies and marketing headquarters abound in the soaring skyscrapers citywide. One such spotlight event where these two worlds came together was at ‘Tech Madison Avenue,’ hosted by TalkNYC.

“The magic happens when Madison Avenue and Silicon Alley come together to iterate on use cases,” said Deborah Estrin, Professor of Computer Science at Cornell Tech, setting the tone for the day. Panel topics focused on what it takes for a brand to activate a partnership with a startup, and what that process looks like.

A panel discussion with Gerardo Garcia, Global Design Director of Coca-Cola, Michelle Klein, VP of Content and Digital Communication for Smirnoff and Adam Kmiec, Global Head of Digital & Social for The Campbell Soup Company provided insight to the brands’ visions of ‘digital fitness,’ as Kmiec called it. A startup’s offering has to be a logical fit for the brand, helping to tell the brand’s story in a consistent manner.

Christy Liu, Co-Founder of Wanderfly (acquired by TripAdvisor) spoke from the startup perspective, touching on a few points where brand/startup relationships can be strengthened. “Startups speak a different language, and sometimes will approach brands as developers, rather than thinking of the needs of marketers and brand-building. Strategic advisors can help to navigate on behalf of the technology.”

Bottom line: the best way for a brand/startup partnership to operate is to simply work together towards the same goal. When this happens, both sides benefit. Todd Drake, CTO of Organic, commented on what he sees as being the secret to a successful partnership: sharing. “Chemistry is the lasting legacy,” he said. Creating a positive experience will build the bridge between these communities, one use case at a time.

Bridges were most certainly being built on this particular day. There was a palpable energy in the room, with brands and startups genuinely interested in learning from each other. Huge Inc. CEO, Aaron Shapiro, explained, “Two years ago, brands were not as receptive to working with startups as they are today.”

As Founder of mkThinkTank, a consulting agency that advises brands on navigating the emerging technology/startup landscape, I have seen this trend as well. Brands are beginning to look to startups for innovation beyond their usual scope, to add more value to their audiences. Digital marketing is enjoying a renaissance, and we have only begun to scratch the surface of startup technology merging with the commercial marketing world. And the word is getting around.

For full coverage of tech events in New York, visit The Watch.

About the author: Marley Kaplan

As Head of Innovation at Kinetic, Marley Kaplan is responsible for activating audiences on-the-move. Marley keeps brands ahead of the curve by leveraging her experience with media agencies, global startups and accelerator programs, including 500 Startups and DreamIt Ventures. She resides on the Lower East Side in New York City.

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