ONWARD17: Day 1 Recap

As AI, voice search, and machine learning reframe how we search and communicate with one another, new demands are being placed on brands — and new skills are now expected of marketers.


More than 700 attendees from across the globe came together this afternoon to hear from some of the brightest minds in marketing and technology.


The stunning entrance to ONWARD 17.

ONWARD kicked off with a keynote from Yext Founder and CEO Howard Lerman, and Chief Strategy Officer Marc Ferrentino. Together, the two discussed how brands are undergoing an intelligent transformation. Ferrentino also debuted three new updates to the Yext Knowledge Engine: Yext for Events, Yext Knowledge Assistant, and WeChat Mini-Programs integration.


“You can’t control their UI … You can’t control their AI, but you can control what they know about you.”


Ferrentino also touched upon our recent launch of Yext for Food.

During the keynote, we welcomed DonorsChoose.org Chief Marketing Officer, Katie Bisbee, to the stage, where we announced an exciting initiative with the education nonprofit — every ONWARD attendee received $25 to donate to a classroom project of their choosing. DonorsChoose.org allows people to donate directly to public school classroom projects of their choice through their digital platform. Ranging from butterfly cocoons to robotics kits, ONWARD guests have their pick of funding projects that help children embrace the Intelligent Future.

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DonorsChoose.org CMO Katie Bisbee joins Ferrentino on stage to demo Yext for Events.

Following the opening keynote, Bloomberg Tech Reporter, Jing Cao, sat down with Ed Doran, Co-Founder of Cortana, and Director Program Management, MSR Artificial Intelligence at Microsoft, and Wally Brill, Senior Persona Designer, Adecco at Google, to discuss how voice search will impact businesses’ local search engine marketing strategies, as well as the importance of Digital Knowledge Managment when it comes to adapting to these shifts in consumer search habits.


The search and technology experts discuss how voice search and conversational AI are changing everything.

“Data isn’t static, said Doran. “The song you loved a few months ago isn’t the song you love today. Let the customer own their data — let them change it.”

In the wake of intelligent services and the coming intelligent transformation, the letters ‘CMO’ could just as easily stand for Change Management Officer as they do Chief Marketing Officer. Our own Wendi Sturgis, Chief Customer Officer at Yext, sat down with Farmers Insurance CMO, Mike Linton, to discuss how he is helping his organization not only adapt to change but also seize the opportunities created by it.


Michael Linton shares how Farmers is reaching customers through innovative marketing tactics with Yext Chief Customer Officer, Wendi Sturgis

Immediately following Sturgis’s and Linton’s discussion, we welcomed UM Worldwide’s U.S. CEO, Kasha Cacy and USPS’s Executive Director, Brand Marketing, Chris Karpenko to the stage, where they discussed how the brands work together to keep USPS more relevant than ever in an age of mobile and intelligent devices.


USPS Chris Karpenko and UM’s Kasha Cacy discuss how USPS has driven innovation in today’s age of intelligence.

The day culminated with a keynote from former Chief Technology Officer of the United States, Megan Smith. As the third U.S. CTO, Smith helped President Obama and his teams harness the power of technology, data, and innovation to tackle some of the nation’s most pressing issues, from data science, AI and open source, to inclusive economic growth, and criminal justice reform. During her keynote, Smith sat down with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Co-Anchor to share her perspective on how technological advances will create opportunities — and challenges — for all sectors, including policymakers, and will continue to change our daily lives.

“We’re training AI,” said Smith. “Let’s train it on our values and our goals — and not necessarily on our behaviors.”



Smith sat down with CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” Co-Anchor, Carl Quintanilla during the keynote.


NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01:  Former Chief Technology Officer of the United States Megan Smith speaks onstage at the ONWARD17 Conference- Day 1 on November 1, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for ONWARD17)

After the keynote ended, guests took to the bar where they mingled over cocktails, shared key insights from the day, and discussed the Intelligent Future.

Check out the agenda to see what breakout sessions and keynotes we have coming up during day 2 of ONWARD tomorrow.

Feel like you’re missing out? Tune in to ONWARD to hear what experts from today’s leading brands and tech companies have to say about the Intelligent Future. Join the stream for several of tomorrow’s sessions at Yext.com/Onward.


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