@d:tech New York Reflects an Industry Growing Up

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NEW YORK -- If suits, gray hair and earnest conversation are indicators of maturity, then @d:tech New York passed that test in these straightened economic times.

While an exact head count was not available, attendance at the Dec. 4-6 conference was thin in sessions and brisk on the trade show floor.

An @d:tech spokesman said registration was about 2,400, down from 3,817 at the spring show in Los Angeles.

"A lot of them are media and direct marketing professionals that the Internet industry has absorbed," said Rich Baumer, president/CEO of New York-based VentureDirect Worldwide.

Seventy companies exhibited in four short aisles tucked into the corner of the sprawling Jacob K. Javits Center, down from 102 in the spring.

Among the exhibitors were stalwarts such as Naviant, ClickAction, DoubleClick, Yesmail.com, the U.S. Postal Service, Click2Boost, 24/7 Media and Accucast. Adding weight were America Online Inc., Nielsen//NetRatings and MSN.

And the mood around booths, hallways and session rooms was serious.

"The fish have stopped jumping in the boat," Gregory Coleman, executive vice president of North American operations at Yahoo Inc., told an audience of interactive advertising and marketing executives in his keynote speech.

Coleman admitted that the Internet industry had "got ahead of itself." But "the original promise [of the Internet] is still unchanged," he said.

And in what has become de rigueur for all Internet industry executives, Coleman reeled off a list of the Internet's desirable marketing qualities: cost-effectiveness, personalization, one-to-one marketing, and behavioral and database targeting.

Fellow keynote speaker DoubleClick CEO Kevin Ryan agreed with Coleman, acknowledging the direct response characteristic of online marketing, particularly as a tool for conversion and retention.

But Ryan felt online marketing's accountability was a double-edged sword.

"The fact that we have direct response has clearly penalized the industry," Ryan said on day two to an audience of more than 200 executives. "The single most [thing that] the Internet industry needs to do is see what the click rate is in other industries."

It would be interesting, he said, to see the correlation between an advertisement in The Wall Street Journal and the resultant traffic to the store.

That is where he trotted out a familiar refrain: Online marketing is an effective marketing medium. Not only does it affect awareness or positioning, it also shapes brand messages in the consumer's mind, he said.

Still, Ryan had a lament.

"To date, we've done a terrible job," he said, castigating the Internet advertising world. "We should all take a wet noodle and slash ourselves on the back."

One of the points he raised was the current lack of an average measurable and quantifiable response across various ad units. But that has not stopped experimentation with different ad formats.

As expected, Ryan had a few tips to offer.

First, size matters. A large 336-by-280 rectangle led to an average 86 percent increase over DoubleClick's brand index. Next, technology like Flash ads improved brand performance an average 71 percent. Finally, proper implementation delivers impact: Interstitials drove branding 194 percent greater than the control, Ryan said.

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