Ad:tech NY 2007 Perspective

With the official tally in yesterday, the ad:tech folks report this year’s New York event drew an audience of 10,276, an increase of 13.7 percent over last year. That means this year’s ad:tech New York was “the largest in the event history.” If you’ve ever attended an ad:tech NY show before and were jostled this time by the maddening crowds on Monday or Tuesday (at times it felt like riding a New York subway at rush hour), you’d have no doubt this was the largest ad:tech by far.

You kind of have to appreciate it. The conference’s attendance is certainly a testament to our industry’s resurgence. I’ll take that any day after the rather depressing conferences following the dot-com bust.

Still, ad:tech NY has gotten to the point where it’s qualifiedly overwhelming. The expo has reached maximum capacity: now three full floors (including within the registration area) with over 350 exhibitors, many with hawkish attractions to woo attendees who then struggle to understand what the companies’ real services and distinctions are.

Everyone, it seemed, wanted in on ad:tech NY this year. Investors and venture capitalists (VCs) roamed the show floors looking for the next best thing into which to sink their money. In fact, I felt more than a few exhibitors came to be in the eleventh hour just to attract a VC. (“We’re still in beta” was a common response to my probing questions about their site traffic.) From the proliferation of new ad networks and targeting solutions, you’d think no one was the least bit worried about the FTC and regulation cookies. And at least two legal firms exhibited at the show. I felt sorry for the poor saps who had to man those booths; they’re clearly not ad people. At Tuesday’s keynote, ad:tech chairman Drew Ianni asked the audience, “For how many of you is this your first ad:tech?” Many raised their hands.

Interestingly, after the exhibits closed Tuesday evening, the conference seemed almost dead in comparison. Wednesday and Thursday featured sessions only, and the crowd’s profile had changed too. It was older, more serious…and wearing more suits. I don’t know if I liked the format this way, but it certainly eliminated the conflict between choosing a keynote or speaking to a new vendor.

I was curious to learn what kinds of questions attendees — agencies and advertisers alike — regularly asked outside session halls. For example, I heard repeated questions about ad exchanges: “What are these? I just don’t get it.” Ask for a simple answer, and it might be hard to find one. Attempts Yael Yekutiel, marketing director for Traffiq: “The ad exchange proposition allows [publishers] to list their inventory for sale, along with a description of its attributes, the number of impressions or clicks available, and the minimum CPM or CPC rates. It provides buyers with immediate access to a wide net of publishers and clear visibility into their available inventory, allowing them to bid on and secure media for their campaigns with speed and accuracy that were previously unavailable.” Good thing these guys had a panel, but I still think a lot of agency education work will be needed.

Some other agency hot topics, as shared by Eyeblaster CEO Gal Trifon:

  • Media fragmentation and lack of standardization…which leads to greater campaign costs and complexity…which leads to a decreased size of the experienced talent pool…which means the agency ends up focused on non-key issues. Oh, and it also reduces a campaign’s scalability.

  • Integration, i.e., video and mobile. How do you combine and compare data in a meaningful way?
  • Social networks. How do you deploy a campaign that actual leverages all the traffic these sites receive? Scalability and standardization issues here, too.
  • Search versus display. How do you maximize the spend? Agencies in general need better help in understanding and executing search.
  • Branding versus ROI. Lines are blurring more every day, and clients aren’t any less interested in measurements, particularly because with interactive they can get them.
  • On the client side, still not enough confidence in interactive.

Lastly, props to InSkin for the regularly replenished Godiva chocolates and chair massages in the press room. I think we were less clear on what the company really does, but the company’s public relations person deserves some credit for creativity.

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