DIGICON 2019: People Management, Leadership and the End of the Digital Era — Exploring the Truth About Digital Transformation at DIGICON

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Dedicating three days to unlock digital marketing excellence in the local marketing community, the Internet and Mobile Marketing Association of the Philippines’ (IMMAP) Digicon 2019 gathered thousands of digital marketers at the PICC for a series of in-depth talks, workshops and panel discussions covering everything about the transformative journey the industry is currently on. From October 16-18, several big names from the top companies all over the world shared their insights to the crowd in the plenary hall, and in the breakout sessions in-between. 

The first day was opened by none other than IMMAP President Dennis Perez who talked about what it takes for the industry to survive the transformation, urging marketers to scrap “doing digital” from their strategy and focus more on “being digital”. He also mentioned that a people-first approachis neededin driving the industry forward, emphasizing that “People (not machines) will continue to drive businesses.” Perez also concluded his opening remarks by announcing the first 100 tickets for Digicon 2020 at a 50% discount. By the middle of the next speaker’s session, the first round of tickets have already sold out, proving the anticipation the community has for each year’s Digicon event. 

Digicon LEAP Co-Chair and IMMAP Vice President Leigh Reyes then set the stage for the three-day conference with a side-by-side comparison between the learning model of years past and how it looks now: from Learn-Do-Retire” to Learn-Do-Learn-Do-Learn-Do-Learn…highlighting the need for digital marketing practitioners to constantly be curious and open their minds to learning more. Lastly, she explained the meaning behind the theme for this year’s conference, LEAD, which isLead,Explore, Apply and Practice.


Day 1’s keynote presentation was led by the brilliant Patty McCord, former Chief of Talent at Netflix, who gave a fresh take to people management, or HR. McCordsaid it herself — her thoughts on HR are a bit radical. We saw this in multiple occasions throughout her spiel, from the very start where she proclaimed that “We keep managing people like we’re in 1971. It’s nuts!” She was pertaining to corporations generally not being able to adapt fast enough to the new digital era, and the changing cultures it develops. 

McCord also talked about her least favorite word which is “empowerment” a word that is so often used in human relations and even marketing. “We only use that word because power was taken away from people”, she explained. 

McCord’s new insights to cultivating corporate cultures generally revolve around caring for its employees, sharing how excited she always feels when someone comes up to her with a resignation letter and a story about how he/she was offered a higher salary in another corporation because of the Netflix name, or whichever company she was working for. It was a testament to how much she truly cared for the employees under her wing, even telling the crowd that “You can’t have the opportunity you have before you be thwarted by team you have.”

Wrapping up her presentation, she shared the key factors to her methodology to reinvent HR (TEAM,TALENT, and TRANSFORMATION), and her algorithm for success: “Is what you love to do, that you are extraordinarily good at doing, something we need someone to be good at?”

On Day 2, we were introduced to Wendy Clark, DDB Worldwide Global CEO, who talked about the value of “Bravery, Belief, and Being Underestimated” in her keynote presentation. The adobo team was able to personally discuss this with her and how she believes these factor into creating impactful content.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview: 

“Wendy Clark opened her presentation by comparing advertising agencies to an oak tree, urging the industry to move towards a bamboo tree model — the latter pertaining to agencies’ sturdy, reliable, and“rightwhere you expect it to be” nature;and the former being an aspirational destination for agencies to be more resilient, flexible,and quick on their feet.”

Read the full Wendy Clark article here

Last of the 3 keynote presenters and closing the conference was Tom Goodwin, Zenith / Publicis Groupe EVP, Head of Innovation, who opened his talk by discussing the end of the digital era. As the whole program was dedicated to exploring this new era and equipping marketers to fully face it, Goodwin’s presentation was a breath of fresh and untouched air, to say the least. He introduced the idea of mankind entering the “Post Digital Age”, as he called it, where man is growing more accustomed to technology in every aspect of his/her life. 

He shared the 2 stages of the post-digital age:

  1. Where we add technology to what we’ve made before.
  2. Where we build what we should have from scratch. 

He also compared the commonly interchanged concepts of “Digitalization” and “Digital Transformation”, explaining that the former connotes a surface-level and generally quick solution to a “digital” problem, while the latter is a total re-imagination and reinvention of a firm where solutions are slower, deep, and politically hard. Corporations should strive towards digital transformation, instead of mere digitalization, he shared, emphasizing the reinvention factor. 

To wrap up, he left the conference with some very important nuggets to get on the “Road Ahead”:

  • Rethink around people in a world of tech.
  • Bring diverse teams together.
  • It’s easier to build than change or destroy.
  • Look to Asia (and not to the West!)
  • Work around possibilities, not memories.
  • Change now! And remember..
  • It is the best ever time to work in business.

His presentation served as a fine conclusion to the three-day conference, going full circle where Patty McCord’s HR techniques are met with Wendy Clark’s leadership insights, wrapping it all up with a new challenge presented by Tom Goodwin: the post-digital era. With keynote presenters already at this scale, the delegates’ minds were pried open further when the crowd was not gathered in the Plenary Hall for the keynote presentations, and they were given free rein to pop into any breakout session they wanted to attend with topics ranging from app development, strategy building, design, travel, and messenger bots to K-Drama. 

Digicon 2019 was then officially celebrated and concluded with the Boomerang Awards in the evening. Check out all the digital marketing campaigns that were recognized at BOOMS 2019 here

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