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Digitas Unites Stars and Brands at Annual NewFront Conference

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"I want you to know that you are one tweet away from ruining your career at all times," said Bravo's Andy Cohen.

An intervention took place at yesterday's Digitas NewFront conference, although one with a foregone conclusion. Cohen and Pete Cashmore, founder of Mashable, joined actress Rashida Jones on stage to convince her that she needed to get with social media.

While Jones seems refreshingly private for a Hollywood star, in the end she relented. Of course she did: her new Twitter account had already been created. She wrote her first tweet on stage, then was delighted at how quickly she had hundreds of followers. As of this writing, less than a day later, she has over 28,000 followers and growing.

Cohen's acid advice was funny and accurate. He told Jones how to ignore or block the haters. He said that when he gets a really hateful comment, he retweets it to his followers and lets them attack the offender. 

"Don't delete your tweets because that makes you more guilty," he advised.

Rather than calming Jones's fears, Cohen let her know just how toxic Twitter can be: "Oh, look, someone tweeted that they think you look fat."

The Anti-Conference

The Digitas NewFront, now in its fifth year, is the event that started the current newfront season, and is the biggest show of the bunch. Unlike the others, from creators such as AOL and Hulu, the Digitas event takes a wider view than simply presenting shows looking for branding (although it certainly does that, too).

Heidi KlumMark Beeching, Digitas's worldwide chief creative officer, began the day by trying to whip up the crowd's energy: "There's no reason to not leave the show punching the air with excitement," he enthused. Beeching referred to the event as an "anti-conference." It looked a lot like a conference though, albeit one with multiple meeting rooms for deals to take place and four huge video screens for constant sensory overload.

When not tweeting about what they were seeing, attendees caught some interesting conversations. A panel on social media brought together Michelle Phan, Felicia Day, Kristin Chenoweth, and moderator Piers Morgan.

"You're vying for attention, and attention is people's investment in you," said Day.

A session called "DCNF: Why Now?" brought together representatives from the founding companies of the newfront season: AOL, Microsoft, YouTube, Hulu, Digitas, and Yahoo.

"We're seeing massive investments in digital content in the past 12 months like we've never seen before," said John McCarus, senior vice president of brand content at Digitas. "All boats are lifting."

"This is not TV. This is what I've called before ‘TV on steroids,'" offered Erin McPherson, head of originals and video programming for Yahoo.

For Jamie Byrne, YouTube's global head of content strategy, the current shift to IP-delivered content is similar to the shift toward cable in the 1980s. In both cases, the economics of distribution changed, resulting in more niche programming.

"We're transitioning from the cable delivery of video content to the Internet delivery of video content," said Byrne.

Other highlights of the day included a brief pitch by Heidi Klum, high-energy moderation by JB Smoove, and a "digital rant" about the importance of content creators by Damian Kulash of the band OK Go. Attendees also saw clips from several online series looking for advertising partners.

The day wrapped with the announcement that several deals had taken place and with the feeling of an industry in the right place at the right time. Attendees caught cabs for dinners and after-parties, but no one was spotted punching the air with excitement.

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