OTA Sessions 2012 – Takeaways

In addition to an Augie tote bag, a few books and some OTA garb, there were many takeaways from the excellent speakers at this year’s 3rd annual OTA Sessions, which were held Friday, March 23. In a short, rapid-fire format, here are some of the main things we ADwërkers learned from the sessions.


  • The web is being rebuilt around people!
  • Consumers don’t experience “average” service; the curve has big peaks on both ends – very happy, and pissed.
  • Work in low-fidelity first.
  • Curiosity and luck are closely related.
  • When I grow up I want to be able to tell stories like Jay O’Callahan.


  • The most important things to people are their interests, their friends and their friends’ interests. We are not influenced by society; we are influenced by the people we are emotionally closest to. As advertisers, we can’t shout at consumers, we have to develop relationships with them over time with lightweight interactions like their friends did at the beginning of their friendships.
  • There is a lot of similar content in your inner circle of friends, but there is a vast amount of new content all around the circumference of your circle of friends. The circumference is where new content can get exposed and enter into a person’s circle. That’s where our clients can start their lightweight interactions that build into a brand that will eventually matter inside a person’s inner circle of friends.
  • Start with something you know. Then, take it to a new place. Satisfaction comes from being taken to an unfamiliar place.


  • We need to stop attempting to apply the TV and print mediums to the web; the internet is an entirely different medium. It would be like reading a radio script in front of a camera, then broadcasting it on television.
  • If you want to move people, there is perhaps nothing more powerful than the original medium of face-to-face storytelling. That was made evident by the master storyteller Jay O’Callahan, who I think moved every single person in the audience that day with his story titled “Forged in the Stars.”
  • Ideas are like buying stock – the lower the risk, the lower the pay off, the higher the risk, the higher the payoff. Be willing to take risks with your ideas.


  • Today in marketing and advertising, the words “story” or “storytelling” have become so watered down. When Jay O’Callahan told us his story, he wasn’t trying to increase brand awareness, or he wasn’t trying to sell us something, he showed us how powerful authentic storytelling can be.
  • My hunch has always been that big creative ideas rarely come from people who have a narrow focus; they come from those that are open to learning; and it was nice to have that validated by some of the speakers.
  • My favorite form of communication is still the first form of communication – verbal.


  • It was encouraging to see so many attendees came from outside the Sioux Falls area. I saw people from Pierre and Rapid City and while I didn’t recognize anyone from the other OTA’s (ND and MN), I wouldn’t be surprised to know they were represented. The caliber of speakers was impressive and I was really amped when I walked out the door. We’re extremely fortunate to have this event held right here in “fly-over country.”

Thanks to Hugh Weber, Mike Billeter and Andrew Brynjulson for all of your efforts in putting together this event. We can’t wait for next year!

– ADwërks

The Impact of OTA

The Impact of OTA Apr 08, 2011

OTA phota 2Conferences happen across American on a regular basis. Covering hundreds of industries and thousands of attendees, these conferences create, share and spread millions of ideas every year. The problem is that many of these conferences are held in “big cities”—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin—and they cost thousands of dollars.

So when given the chance to attend a big city-caliber conference for a fraction of the cost right here in Sioux Falls, I was obviously excited. About 350 other folks were too.

All in all, I can say that the OTA Sessions—founded and hosted by Hugh Weber (also the founder and president of Storyline)—turned my typical Friday into a day of introspection, inspiration and invigoration. More importantly, the event helped me understand the importance of DOING big things, not just thinking big things.

Whether it was Sally Hogshead making me realize that even my “everyday” tasks could be infused with elements of fascination to get better results orDusty Davidson and Jeff Slobotski showing how being passionate about a mission or goal can turn that mission into something amazing, each presenter managed to get my brain juices flowing in his or her own unique way.

OTA phota 3Add that to the WIDE array of attendees who shared their wisdom, spoke their minds, and represented the OTA region with originality and action, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a memorable conference and a powerful push to accomplish something meaningful over the next 12 months.

I’m already excited for next year’s OTA, and I’m pretty sure that excitement will only continue to bubble and build over the upcoming year. I look forward to seeing you there.

-Mike B.

Disclaimer: As someone involved with the planning and execution of the OTA Sessions, it would be impossible for me to keep my review totally unbiased. That said, this entire post is sincere and true, both from a co-planner’s perspective and from an attendee’s perspective. One love.

Photo c/o The OTA Sessions. Thanks OTA!

OTA Sessions: Vanilla Ice, Boats, Spinal Tap and Mythology

Many of Social Media’s mantras were started by Julien Smith and Chris Broganin their book Trust Agents as well as Mitch Joel in Six Pixels of Separation. Often when an author speaks, they just rehash what they wrote. Thankfully, these guys don’t. What the audience heard in the OTA morning session were thoughts and ideas that will likely be the building blocks of the author’s next books.

Most of what they spoke about can be summed up by themes.

  • You’ve made it to the new world. Now, burn the boats. Consider how people communicate online when planning strategies and channels. There is no going back to a world without Social Media.
  • Feel the burner. You will get burned from time to time, but it is the only way to see what works and what doesn’t. Heather Solberg expounds on this idea here. Or see it straight from Julien Smith.
  • Stop, collaborate and listen. Prescient advice from Vanilla Ice. Do something many marketers have trouble with; Listen. Take what you hear into a means of getting people to work together. Thereby building a channel and eventually a community.
  • Hype dies, but channels live forever. When you make a channel, build it to be sustainable so it can become a community.
  • Turn it up to 11. The ghost of Spinal Tap was invoked to remind us to work our asses off and always be innovating.

Battle for the Arts provided lunch time entertainment. Two artists scrapping it out with Sharpies. Both pieces were later sold and proceeds donated to charity.

Picking up where morning speakers left off, Spike Jones dove into the nuts and bolts of community building through variety of methods, not just social media. Heather Solbergcovered this better than I could inher post. Spike’s time at the mic brought out more laptops and notebooks from the audience than any other speaker.

Tim Brunelle shared the history of marketing firm Hello Viking and likened the successful, modern creative business to a boat on the ocean. If you’re going on a long voyage, make sure you have a great crew who are skilled in multiple disciplines.

Then, Jonathan Harris took the stage. Jonathan is like some sort of shaman/guide character that you read about in Joseph Campbell Mythology books. Except he is possibly from the future. His ideas and creations dig down through technology so deeply that he finds what is really at the heart of it. The human collective consciousness. Through his lens, we see that people are just as fragile, resilient, mad, sensitive and unknowingly tied to symbolism as anytime before the web. Maybe more so because of it.

For no reason I can think of, I drew owl masks for about a week or so. The end of that week brought Harris, a wild haired mystic telling a room full of people to believe in signs. His sign being….the owl. How is that for signs?

– Michael S. Hay


OTA Sessions: My Takeaways from OTA

I have to be honest—I didn’t know what to expect when I first signed up to attend the OTA Sessions. I was hoping to get some good pointers and hear a few fun stories along the way. Well, it blew away my expectations. I can honestly say this was one of the more powerful events I’ve attended in recent years.

I learned a lot at OTA but I wanted to bring up the points that have resonated with me over the past few days.

Create a movement not a campaign

As Spike Jones told us, movements continue for forever and campaigns have an end date. The movements should propel the brand forward while getting your strongest advocates to be influencers of the movement. We all want to feel like we have a voice—what is more powerful than being a brand champion for the companies you believe in? Or in terms of marketing a company or product—what is more powerful than having passionate influencers out there talking about how much they love your brand? I work as a media buyer so it is easy to think of things in terms of a beginning and end date for each campaign. One of my personal goals is to think of things in terms of a movement as I plan the media buying instead of just focusing on a message for a finite amount of time.

90% of Word of Mouth Marketing is offline

And just when we thought that divulging our every thought and opinion online was the answer. This was the one thing Spike Jones encouraged us to remember even if we forgot everything else he said. It is easy to get caught up in the hype of the latest and greatest
social media tool but we can’t forget the people continue to talk about a brand/company offline.

Feel the Burner

Julien Smith delivered some great advice—feel the burner. It was meant to encourage you to experience what might scare you. He challenged us to take a minute and feel the burner. Sure, you might get burned, but you also might discover something you would’ve missed out on if you just stuck to your safe and predictable path.

Change on a daily basis

As Mitch Joel mentioned in his presentation, 20% of Google searches each day are searches that have never been done before. This is a great illustration of how fast things are changing. It also reinforces how important it is for online content to continually evolve to embrace the constant changes.

Using photos to tell the story

I don’t know about you, but I’m filing away everything I’ve been taught about bullet pointing my presentations. The presentation styles were as captivating as the message each speaker delivered. I will remember the photos that helped tell the story much longer than I will ever remember a bullet point. I can tell you the identity of Spike Jones, see the burner image from Julien Smith, and recall the sculpture Tim Brunelle used to illustrate his journey message. The photos were a powerful reinforcement of what they wanted me to take away from their talk.

Thanks to everyone who put on OTA sessions! I enjoyed the day and am looking forward to seeing what OTA brings in the future.

– Heather Solberg

OTA Sessions: Sure, I’ll Go.

Anytime we get an e-mail from our Certified Advertologist with the phrase “and the company will pay for it”, it gets my attention. This time the offer was for an all day OTA session at $150 a head so I was all for it. Plus, what I knew about social media and a connected world was that I didn’t know enough.

My personal experience on the subject began about a year ago at the request of a few of the Corazón soccer players who suggested that I join facebook. I did and soon had about 20 friends. The frightening part was that most of them were 14-year old girls. I was expecting a call from the authorities at any moment.

Soon after that, (to the chagrin of the facebook youth of America) the baby boomers
signed on. I’m up to 98 friends, most are adults, and we are all social networking away in a world that is changing by the minute.

At the OTA the first change I noted was the wardrobe of our industry prophets. Not that long ago, experts in our field would have been in a suit and tie, speaking to an audience clad in dark suits looking like they were at secret service convention. Today’s visionaries need only Levis, t-shirts, hoodies and sneakers to deliver compelling information about an environment where the opportunities to deliver one-to-many messages are quickly fading.

A more meaningful change is one that Julien Smith discussed. He talked about the new channels that don’t require transmitters or printing presses. The next night while discussing the day’s soccer games and other high level subject matter, one of the soccer moms shared a perfect example of what Smith was speaking about. When the O’Gorman Knights won the state boys basketball championship in Rapid City while she was at an event in Sioux Falls, the news came instantly via a text message. She didn’t have to wait to find out during a sportscast “right after these messages”. Instead, her husband became the media channel and there wasn’t a 2,000-foot tower or a gross rating point involved. What we take for granted is amazing when you think about it.

Who would ever have thought that our mission would turn to building tribes? Or that a group of people, the size of South Dakota, would join facebook every day? Or that someone would actually take the time to document how the country is feeling based on comments that we post on the web? It was an eye-opening day.

And who would have thought that we could have such a great line-up of industry leaders on stage right here at the Orpheum? It was a great OTA. Kudos, and thank you, to Hugh Weber for his courage and energy to bring this day together. Thank you to all of the guest presenters for bringing their stories to South Dakota in an enlightening and interesting way. And thank you Sioux Falls for turning out and supporting an event like this with your attendance.

I’m looking forward to next year…and you know what? Sure, I’ll be thrilled to go.

– Leigh Anglin