Sophomore year at SES Latino

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Last year, I made it no secret that the inaugural Search Engine Strategies Latino show was hot. The environment buzzed like any other freshman year: the attendees were eager to meet new faces, open the books and, of course, party. Now, in its sophomore year, SES Latino is showing signs of maturity and evolution.

Students who returned to the hallowed halls of the Miami InterContinental hotel greeted familiar faces and caught up over drinks. Some had joined extracurricular activities, such as SEMPO Latino. A year older and wiser, most attendees have learned to take it easy the first night. Indeed, there were significantly less hung-over students during Tuesday's 9 a.m. sessions.

While the parties were quieter, the cafeteria food improved significantly. SES Latino host Nacho Hernandez most certainly throws the best trades how cocktail I have attended. The spread included paella, cheese platters, roast pig and bolinhos de bacalau. As opposed to other SES shows, this cocktail was so enjoyable that it stretched longer than the planned hour.

The show experienced a 30 percent jump in attendance, as well as an increase in attendees from Latin America, according to Mr. Hernandez. There is now a roughly 55:45 break between U.S. Hispanic attendees and Latin American attendees, and programming was adjusted to meet the needs of this shift.

However, some attendees felt that they were repeating the previous year's 101 courses. Eduardo Castro, CEO of i-equities, was disappointed that some speakers simply presented a repeat of the year before.

On the other hand, Henry Hall, a search marketing supervisor at MediaContacts, suggested that the audience, the content and the questions had increased in sophistication.

"These are no longer people running their first campaign," Mr. Hall said.

Yahoo's Nicolas Scafuro agreed.

"These are people spending a bigger percentage of their budget on search," he said, adding that there is good networking and contacts.

He also suggested that SES Latino tends to attract more marketing and agency people, and less of the hands-on search managers.

Speaker Frank Watson was pleased to see the Yahoo booth return. He did express surprise that Google did not have a booth presence, given this growth market's potential in the near future.

Google did send a small delegation, including the fabulous Gonzalo Alonso, general manager for Spanish-speaking Latin America, as keynote speaker as well as the ever-knowledgeable Sarah Carberry to speak on day one.

MSN, a leader in some Latin American countries, was nowhere to be found. With significantly less booths than in the previous year, some questioned how well the show was publicized in Latin America.

Perhaps, some said, a foreign location might prompt more to attend in 2008. Rumors were intermingled with personal preference as to the location.

Tim Walsh of SES owner Incisive Media did not have a final answer, but did agree that locales such as Buenos Aires and Cancun had been discussed. Will it be tango or tequila for junior year? We will have to hold tight for the answer on that one.


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