On Wednesday, June 12, the event space just off the lobby at the New York City headquarters of advertising and marketing giant Ogilvy was transformed into a boxing arena. But there wouldn’t be actual fisticuffs breaking out in the ring, which was surrounded by 250 seats. Instead, attendees would take in a series of panel discussions and one-on-one debates as part of the second annual all-day conference hosted by ad-industry media outlet The Drum.
With an event name like Programmatic Punch, The Drum’s planning team decided a few years ago that a themed set was not just clever but would also lay the groundwork for spirited sessions. But first, The Drum connected attendees’ jobs to the sport in the event’s marketing pitch: “As a famous boxer once said: ‘Everyone has a plan until they get a punch in the face.’ And programmatic gurus like yourself know that a perfect combination of innovation and regulation in adtech could add up to such a punch.”
Ginger Conlon, The Drum’s U.S. editor and event-content coordinator, then designed each content segment like a boxing round—complete with music, bombastic participant introductions by a ring announcer, a man in a gold-glitter jacket holding up a card with the round number, and a few instances where judges made a decision on a debate winner.
There were 10 sessions across the day that lasted 30-40 minutes each, with a break coming after each set of back-to-back sessions. In total, 240 people attended, with roles ranging from vice president of programmatic advertising to chief marketing officer to president. “All the feedback I received in person was positive,” Conlon says, as The Drum considers whether to use the themed set for the third consecutive year in 2020.