Ad:tech, where everyone knows your name

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There is something very reassuring about a regular gathering of industry colleagues. Never mind the hot and stuffy tradeshow floor, the mind-boggling number of attendees, the long lines and the headache that normally ensues around noon. Ad:tech is a show I still look forward to. In fact, I will go as far as to say that the event is very much like the beloved '80s sitcom " Cheers."

Like most shows, ad:tech represents an opportunity to recreate community. Given that we spend more time texting, BlackBerrying and leaving voicemails than meeting in person, there is something very refreshing about renewed human contact. We all know a Norm, and happily acknowledge him as he walks in and claims his dedicated stool. The familiar faces are a reminder that we are all in this together.

And while Norm will never get a job and give up his stool, we also observe changes that prompt us to come back, year after year. The ever-changing cast is just the beginning. (What ever happened to that barfly Glen from season one? Or was it Gregg?) While some colleagues might have landed a spin-off of their own, we wonder if Sam will ever raise the capital to buy back the bar.

The diverse and continuous stream of characters was as much part of Cheers' success as it is for ad:tech. Drew Ianni, chair of ad:tech, discussed how diversity affects the ability to successfully intersect both marketing and technology.

"If anything, I'd like to see the show go broader," Mr. Ianni said. "This doesn't limit it to interactive."

He then commented that outdoor, television and direct marketing also play a role in the industry's evolution.

Yet, at the same time, there is a conscious effort to not "make this the next InternetWorld," the ill fated show at New York's Jacob Javits Convention Center that was cancelled when dot-bomb hit.

"We understand that it is an exciting time," Mr. Ianni said. "In a short amount of time we have gone from the dark ages to the light at the end of the tunnel where we are blinded. It is about managing growth."

It is also about learning.

"They come and they learn something," Mr. Ianni said. "I'm less interested in fanciful learning or entertaining for entertainment's sake. At the end of the day, the mission is that we create a learning environment."

He suggested that attendees ideally go home with action items based on what they heard.

And this is where the parallels between the two shows of different sorts end. We never really knew what happened to most of the Cheers characters when they headed home. Only by following the show will we know who will be the next "Frasier."

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