Ad:tech Becomes 'Behemoth' in Industry

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Ad:tech New York starts this week as the biggest edition in the conference's 10-year history: more than 60 sessions and 230 speakers discussing issues facing marketers and their agencies, 250-plus exhibitors and a projected 6,000 attendees.


And to think that only three years ago, most sellers of online marketing technology and services were circling the drain.


"The No. 1 initiative in the marketing realm today is integration of digital marketing opportunities into the traditional marketing mix," said Don Knox, vice president of ad:tech, San Francisco. "Leveraging the capabilities of the Internet to drive revenue is of paramount importance to today's marketer."


Knox is building ad:tech's agenda around several trends. They include managing customer touch points across all marketing tactics, handling a brand's reputation online, determining the media mix, and leveraging mobile marketing, RSS, rich media and branded entertainment. Here's what Knox said about ad:tech, the Nov. 7-9 event and its place in the market.


How are you positioning ad:tech in this environment?


Ad:tech is a 2 1/2-day deep immersion into all things digital. There is exposure to the latest suppliers in our exhibit hall; networking at our ad:tech Connect Live event and the myriad industry parties; an eyeful of the best creative in the business at the ad:tech awards program and our 60-plus sessions devoted to the strategy and tactics of growing revenue by leveraging digital marketing.


How does ad:tech differ from other trade shows in the direct and interactive space?


Ad:tech is unique in its sheer size as the behemoth of the industry with nearly 20,000 attendees at our five global events. Ad:tech has over 200 exhibitors in a single location. Ad:tech covers more breadth with more speakers than any other conference, and the keynotes are exclusive, unique and more high level than at any other show.


What makes ad:tech New York different from the ones in San Francisco and Chicago?


Every ad:tech is crafted to be unique for its market. In San Francisco you'll find a focus on technology marketing, venture funding and performance marketing. In Chicago, we have a slant toward marketing mass brands digitally and the intersection of traditional and digital marketing as well as a focus on consumer goods and automotive marketing.


In Shanghai we cover the entire Asian market, its players and the best practices coming from that market as we do for our London show with its focus on both pan-European and British marketing. In New York, our biggest event, we cover everything. Each show is also temporal, covering the latest trends.


Traffic in the ad:tech shows across the country is up. But so is the number of exhibitors, which can work against those companies. How can an advertiser stand out in the clutter?


This issue affects all exhibitors of large industry conferences. One way we've addressed it is by inviting our exhibitors to collaborate with us on the development of innovative sponsorship programs.


Now let's hear from a few ad:tech exhibitors, speakers and attendees.


Sara Holoubek is chief strategy officer at search marketing agency icrossing Inc., New York. Exhibitor and cruise party host.


Anytime the industry comes together, icrossing will be present. Is ad:tech too big? Is it too hard to stand out? From an ROI perspective, we definitely see a return from clients, prospects and general industry awareness.


One thing to keep in mind is that the return we receive is not predicated upon presence alone, but on ongoing efforts to build a positive brand over time. We ensure that our audience knows where to find us at ad:tech, that we set up meetings in advance and that we take time out of the schedule to break bread with our valued clients and prospects.


Why is New York any more exciting than San Francisco or Chicago? New York is the media capital of the world, and we like to do things in style. One can always expect the New York leg of a show to deliver a great return. On the other hand, we look to connect with brand marketers in Chicago and with technology players in San Francisco.


I expect ad:tech to be a hotbed for recruiting. Our sector continues to grow at a healthy rate, and we have many new positions to fill. We will be on the lookout for top talent.


Fredrick Marckini is CEO of search marketing firm iProspect, Watertown, MA. Exhibitor.


What are your feelings on ad:tech?


Ad:tech is one of several must-participate shows in our industry. If you're a player in search marketing, ad:tech is one of those shows you need to be at to be considered a leader.


How has it evolved?


Over the years the range of topics and technologies covered within sessions has broadened and become more diverse, and the growth of the diversity of the exhibitors has mirrored that trend.


The last year has seen an increase in sessions about search marketing, which we've been happy to see as those sessions attract attendees who would be prospects for our services and who may swing by our booth or attend a session at which one of our executives, or one of our clients, is speaking.


Is ad:tech good for iProspect's business?


We've closed business as a result of participating in ad:tech as well as established and built upon relationships with prospects during the shows.


How is it different from other shows?


Ad:tech appeals to a broader audience than some of the more specialized shows: from ad agency folks to media buyers, from client-side firms to search marketers to e-mail marketers -- everyone who has an interest in learning how the latest technologies can enable their marketing efforts.


How are the prospect inquiries in Chicago or San Francisco different from those in New York?


There are typically a higher percentage of ad agency folks at the New York show.


What do you hope to get from ad:tech?


We'd love to get in front of senior decision makers from large companies we haven't yet been able to talk to as well as meet up with prospects who we already have in the pipeline to continue our discussions with them.


Ad:tech shows serve as rallying points throughout the year around which people plan meetings, lunches, dinners, etc., when everyone in the industry is planning to be at one place at one time for two to three days. For weeks ahead of the events it's "See you at ad:tech ..." in every e-mail.


What's the biggest challenge about ad:tech?


The show is becoming very big, and its growth has made it more expensive to stand out from the hundreds -- once dozens -- of exhibitors and sponsors who are trying to stand out.


Ad:tech in New York in 2006 is going to have three floors of exhibits. Such a show will undoubtedly attract more attendees but the competition for eyeballs and face time will be higher, as the stakes are higher. Landing speaking slots is increasingly difficult, too. Companies have to be creative and make compelling cases to net a spot.


Dana Benton Russell is media strategist at Verizon SuperPages.com, a Dallas-based provider of yellow pages. Exhibitor.


The businesses and representatives that attend ad:tech are prime candidates for SuperPages.com. We usually get 20 to 50 qualified leads when we participate and have actually closed sales at the show. We plan to continue attending ad:tech in 2006, adding new customers and visiting with many of our existing advertisers.


Philippe Suchet is CEO of Kefta Inc., a San Francisco provider of site and marketing optimization tools. Exhibitor.


We find exhibiting at ad:tech and other trade shows interesting in terms of creating awareness about the company. That being said, there is a tremendous noise there, especially at ad:tech, and it's sometimes hard to generate a large number of highly qualified leads. It's often more helpful from a business development standpoint and to cultivate existing relationships.


Len Ostroff is CEO of Rovion Inc., a creator of online video spokespeople in Owings Mills, MD. Delegate.


As an attendee, we expect to meet many of our current and prospective clients on the show floor and to discuss partnership opportunities with other attendees and exhibitors. We're also interested in seeing and hearing new ideas and industry trends and discovering opportunities for the use of our BlueStream technology across new markets.


Gurbaksh Chahal is CEO of BlueLithium, a direct response and brand marketing ad network based in San Jose, CA. Exhibitor and party thrower on Nov. 7.


What does BlueLithium expect to get out of ad:tech New York?


This is our second time in New York and our seventh ad:tech overall. We're looking to gain exposure with new advertisers and hope to further develop our current relationships. We hope to gain exposure to advertisers and educate the industry on how BlueLithium has positioned itself as the next generation ad network.


You're showcasing your behavioral optimization tool, AdVelocity, through a demo. Do you get the appropriate interest at shows like ad:tech?


It's tough to get attention for a demo -- but ad:tech is a great venue for garnering the audience we're looking for, and people are always looking for the next big thing or the newest technology. BlueLithium shows that to them. About 75 percent of our business is from ad agencies. It's difficult to demo how behavioral optimization technology works, but we can discuss our case studies to illustrate our success.


This party you're having -- how do you benefit?


The party is a great branding tool. It's a way to say thanks and to celebrate with our customers, and we hope that by inviting the industry to our party, it's a thank-you and a way to ... reach out to the entire industry.


Cliff Kurtzman is Houston-based CEO of Adastro Inc., a corporate value enhancement consultancy, and executive director of MyCityRocks, a community of people who combine a love of their city with music. Speaker.


What type of questions do ad:tech session attendees typically ask?


The main questions are several. First, what companies in the industry can help sell, market or promote my brand, product or service, and what business models do they use to do it? Second, what and who is interesting in the industry from an investment perspective? Third, where is it all heading? What are the trends and what is going to be hot?


Does speaking help you gain leads?


I find that speaking seldom brings in direct leads, in the sense of someone hearing the presentation and then directly becoming a client. In my consulting practice, I'm looking to connect with CEOs who are interested in dramatically increasing the value of their business and in potentially having a spectacular exit for their company.


Building a relationship with an industry CEO that enables them to recognize the value we bring to the table takes a lot more than just giving a presentation at a conference. My purpose in presenting at ad:tech is to educate and share my expertise, not to sell. When I do that, the entire industry benefits. And as a practitioner within the industry, that in turn accrues to my benefit as well.


While it doesn't usually bring direct leads, I do find that speaking does often help me expand my network and make new connections in unanticipated ways. For example, someone who heard my presentation at ad:tech Chicago this past July gave me an introduction to a company in Los Angeles that may prove to be very valuable in helping my business.


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