“Normal people don’t think about milliseconds,” Adobe VP of Business Development and Strategy John Mellor told the audience at the opening keynote session of Day 2 of the Adobe Summit digital marketing conference in Salt Lake City this morning. “But you’re not normal.”

This surprising introduction to the second day of Adobe’s digital marketing meetup actually set the tone for the rest of the keynote, which featured several guest speakers besides Mellor. Every speaker went into some aspect of thinking about and adapting to situations that the typical person would never think about. To illustrate his point, Mellor said it takes 2,000 milliseconds for a beam of light to travel from the Sun to the Earth but only 300 milliseconds for a marketing automation system to make a decision, meaning “you can make six highly optimized decisions while it’s still dark.”

Mellor also touched upon the need for marketers to move beyond the traditional silo mentality. “The industry has grown up in silos,” he said. “We are now groups of specialists who work together and need to break down silos and adapt new ways of thinking. These are not marketing decisions but business decisions and affect more than the marketing department, but whether the business succeeds or fails.”

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Guest speaker Felix Baumgartner, the man who dove 127,000 feet from the edge of outer space to Earth and broke the all-time skydiving distance record in the process, told the audience he sees himself as a risk manager rather than as an adrenaline junkie. “I had a vision and had to find a way to realize it with a team,” he said. “I listened and learned. Stepping out of a space capsule at 130,000 feet is dangerous, but I prepared myself and then just went for it.”

Baumgartner went through five painstaking years of preparation. “The main objective was to not go from zero to hero,” he said. To that end, Baumgartner brought in the US Air Force to help him in testing in a chamber that simulated the temperatures and altitudes he’d be facing. There were also unmanned tests of the capsule itself at altitude as well as test jumps at 70,000 and 100,000 feet.

Of course, not every risk could be fully managed. “We did not know what would happen if a human broke the speed of sound,” he said. “They told me at least if something went wrong it would only last about 15 seconds so I wouldn’t suffer long.”

Baumgartner and his team did prepare for events such as “flatspinning,” or violent head-over-head spinning that actually wound up occurring. “You always have to be one step ahead,” he advised.

Racing to Meet Fan Expectations

NASCAR VP of Digital Media Mark Jenkins explained how NASCAR is currently inventing its digital presence in response to changes in the demographics of its fan base and how fans are consuming media. “Fans are bringing technology with them as they consume our sport on TV,” he said. “The one question that drives everything we do is how can we help fans enjoy the races more.”

One area where NASCAR focuses its digital efforts is engaging in one-to-one interaction so each fan can focus on which if the 43 racecars featured in weekly national TV broadcasts they personally root for. “We focus on the second screen experience and use responsive design so fans on a PC, mobile phone or tablet can interact with a car in an infinite variety of ways.” This includes having digital access to data from individual cars such as GPS positioning, car pitch, angle and roll on the track, and fuel injection.

NBC Sports Takes Advantage of Billion Dollar Research Lab

Julie DeTraglia, SVP of Digital Media Research for NBC, said NBC Sports uses its Olympics coverage as a “billion dollar research lab” for digital media, although she clarified there is no actual lab and the research budget is nowhere near $1 billion – the figure is what NBC pays for the broadcast rights.
“People change their behavior during three weeks of watching the Olympics and try new technologies,” she said. Although TV is still the primary Olympic viewing platform, DeTraglia said digital device serve to amplify and enhance the TV viewing experience and digital device users actually watch more Olympic TV coverage on average. “There is no cannibalization,” she stated.

DeTraglia said digital media also provides users with unique viewing experiences not available on TV. The most watched video clip from the 2012 Summer Olympics in London was a clip of German diver Stefan Feck muffing his dive and landing on his back in the pool. “That clip was never shown on TV, but is the kind of thing that catches fire online,” she said. DeTraglia also said NBC Sports is examining new types of mobile-specific ad units, such as sponsored skins for mobile phones, for upcoming digital sports coverage.