NEW YORK–Ever see the lines at airports when they cancel all the flights? Well, play that scene at the Hilton in midtown New York, home to this week’s ad:tech conference.
The registration area, the hallways and the exhibit halls on two floors were mobbed yesterday as an estimated 8,300 interactive marketing executives gathered for the largest ad:tech in the conference’s 10-year history.
“I think this is the second wave of the Internet,” said Renee Edelman, ad:tech attendee and senior vice president of corporate and public affairs at public relations firm Edelman, New York. “The fervor is back, but people have to operate more responsibly — no hype.”
She should know. Her family owned company handled public relations for some of the leading dot-coms in the 1990s right through the high-tech meltdown. One major trend Edelman noticed at this show, and it’s reflected in the show agenda as well, is the buzz around blogs.
“The presence and talk about corporate blogs is making that much more of a reality,” she said. “People think of blogs as a new e-mail. Everybody has e-mail. Everybody has a blog. In this new era, blogs seem to be representative of consumers taking control.”
Here’s what others had to say about ad:tech New York and industry trends:
Sarah Fay, president of Isobar, a Boston-based digital marketing network that owns agencies like Carat Fusion, iProspect and Molecular. Speaker and ad:tech advisory board member: “The conundrum for marketers is, ‘I know blogs are important, but I don’t know what to do with them.’ Of course, you can advertise and you can be on the blog. But you have to be careful about giving the appearance of trying to manipulate blog topics as a marketer.”
What did Fay think of ad:tech? “This show is the biggest,” she said. “This is where the whole community is represented, from the most serious to the newbies. The attendance runs the gamut. It’s the year of engagement. Think about the consumer experiences. Consumers have been there for a long time. Finally the marketers have arrived.”
Michael Mayor, New York-based senior vice president of strategic business development at online ad network Aptimus. Exhibitor: “It’s great attendance,” Mayor said. “They definitely need to consider a bigger venue than the Hilton. It’s just packed in here. That’s great for the exhibitors. It’s just great energy. Everyone’s in high spirits, everyone’s in a great frame of mind. As an exhibitor, it’s the type of traffic you want — people in high spirits, with positive outlook and wanting to do business.”
Lou Severine, director of sales for the Northeast at online ad management firm Accipiter, Raleigh, NC. Exhibitor: “It was really a good idea they closed it off to two floors instead of three,” Severine said. “It’s condensed the traffic. Just more people coming to your booth, which means more leads and more opportunity.”
What sort of inquiries was he getting at the booth? “It’s product-specific,” Severine said. “It seems they are more educated at this show than I’ve seen in a long time. You don’t have to do that much selling.”
Bryan Wiener, president of search engine marketing agency 360i, New York. Exhibitor: “There definitely have been good leads at this show,” Wiener said. “[But] the exhibit hall’s not big enough for all the companies. [It] makes it difficult for customers to get a good feel of the different offerings.”
Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing and customer satisfaction officer at Intelliseek, a Cincinnati-based service that monitors buzz on blogs to shape strategy and tactics for marketers. Speaker: “My advice to companies is to listen before you blog,” Blackshaw said. “Before you blog, look in the mirror or call your 800 number. For blogging, you have to have the right DNA to have meaningful conversations. Half the buzz on blogs is BTB-oriented. A lot of the BTB bloggers are critical and harsh and reflective.”
What did he think of ad:tech New York’s focus? “I still think it’s very direct marketing-oriented, which often kind of focuses on the media ROI as opposed to the broader media issues,” Blackshaw said. “On the vendor side, it’s still very direct marketing. On the presentation side, that’s starting to reach into broader levels of consumer experiences on the Web. I think that with the advent of rich media [and] broadband, a whole new opportunity will emerge around Internet experiences that focus less on immediate transactions and more on broader branding experiences.”
Stowe Boyd, Reston, VA-based president of blog network Corante. Speaker: “Last year I gave a presentation to a group of 60 and it definitely went over their head,” Boyd said, “and I said today basically what I said [then], and this year people are actually nodding their head. Which means they’re wrestling with those problems.”
Rick Fernandes, CEO of post-transaction services webloyalty.com. Exhibitor: “We’ve been exhibiting at this show for years now, and it seems like it’s a big jump in the number of exhibitors,” Fernandes said. “[But] they’re not growing the venue. It’s a very difficult job to do on the floor.”
Julian Steinberg, project manager at online news aggregator Inform LLC, New York. Attendee: “What I’m looking to get out of this [show] as a startup company is you don’t even know half the services available, and this is a great opportunity to walk around and get a first impression of lots of different innovative companies,” Steinberg said.
JT Manning, sales director at pay-per-click GenieKnows.com, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Exhibitor: “Last year it was more exploratory where people are seeing what’s there. This year people are asking the right questions,” Manning said. “They know what they want and they’re just looking for the right avenue to get there.”
Why is a Canadian company interested in the U.S. market? “Canada is just our location,” Manning said. “We make U.S. dollars, and we have Canadian expenses. Ninety-five percent of our business is from the U.S., and the next biggest market is the UK.”
Jon Waterman, CEO of search engine Findology, Santa Monica, CA. Exhibitor: “Search has backed out of ad:tech recently and, in my opinion, prematurely, because of the influx of so many new advertising vehicles out there,” Waterman said.
How do Waterman and his staff pitch people who stop by the booth? “If things are working for you in first-tier search engines, you should look at second-tier engines,” Waterman said. “Search is still what brought back Internet advertising and a lot of the search companies are backing out a little bit prematurely because there’s still so much business out there. Maybe they’re getting a little cocky, taking things for granted.”
Melissa Burgess, director of business development at search engine marketing firm Impaqt, Pittsburgh. Exhibitor: “I think the New York shows bring out such a wealth of industry expertise and knowledge that’s not widely exhibited at other events,” Burgess said. “This is where people come to convene. I like to think of this as an incubator for the next up-and-coming tools, technology and solutions.”
Stacey Sicurella, marketing director at Inceptor, a Boston search engine marketing firm that recently allied with online marketing company Bluestreak and Web analytics provider Sane Solutions to use its BidCenter pay-per-click bid management system. Exhibitor: “Our experience so far has been great,” Sicurella said. “For the first time, we’re seeing more end users, marketers who might use the tool on their own versus agencies. The last few shows we did we had a huge turnout of agencies showing interest. And at this show we’re seeing a lot of marketers who want to expand their [search] campaigns.”
David Berkowitz, director of marketing at Superstitial creator Unicast, New York. Attendee: “In terms of the agenda, I keep wondering what’s the next theme going to be,” Berkowitz said. “I think because they’ve been riding this [art of] engagement theme all year, it’s hard to find anything new to say about it.”
Sara Holoubek, former chief strategy officer at search engine marketing agency icrossing, New York. Attendee: “It’s a great thing to see so many interested in interactive advertising,” Holoubek said. “However, I found the marketplace rather diluted, the ability for any one firm to really stand out and deliver. How’s anyone here to clearly demonstrate how they fill a market need in such a crowded place?”