Ad:tech NYC: Another Huge Showing

This week’s 2006 ad:tech in New York had the highest-ever number of pre-registered attendees. Discussion in the packed sessions and exhibit halls touched on video, social media, engagement and measurement.

Before the show opened on Monday, close to 13,000 attendees had pre-registered. “That represents the largest show in the history of ad:tech,” ad:tech Chair Drew Ianni told ClickZ. “From an attendance point of view, we were thrilled.”

Many attendees complained of overcrowded exhibits hall and panel sessions so packed audience members had to stand or sit on the floor. “It’s safe to say we were at capacity from a conference side, the rooms were full,” Ianni commented. “On the exhibitor side, we used every square foot; we filled out the exhibit space several months in advance and we know there’s more demand.”

The mood of the conference, according to Ianni, was jubilant. “It certainly feels like 1999 all over again, with a lot more legitimacy attached to it.” By contrast, an attendee agreed the conference had the excitement of 1999, but felt many companies lacked basic knowledge behind what they were pitching.

In panels discussing Web 2.0, consumer-generated media, video games, mobile, PPC, e-mail and metrics, the take-away messages were as fragmented as online audiences. Some longed for common measurement standards applicable across the Web and offline channels. Others discussed how to push online ad spending beyond the 4 to 6 percent of overall ad budgets it constitutes today. Partly to spur such growth, the ARF issued an Online Advertising Playbook during the conference.

The exhibit hall floor was the usual madhouse of tchochkes, wannabes, booth babes and recruiters. “Because people out here are representing the company they work for, everyone is a bit careful,” said Ianni of the poaching phenomenon. “I certainly know there were a lot of recruiters walking the floor, it happens in a subtle fashion behind the scenes. It’s part of the whole ad:tech ecosystem, I think.”

The conference ended Wednesday, and neither heavy rain nor the closing of the exhibit hall kept attendees away. The morning keynote, given by ShopWiki Co-Founder and former DoubleClick CEO Kevin Ryan, was at least three-quarters full. Ryan compared and contrasted the Web in 1996 with its current incarnation. He noted some disappointments, such as the failure of mobile marketing to materialize as forcefully or as quickly as many expected. But he focused mainly on the array of upbeat developments in an industry that, only four years ago, was in terrible shape.

“The ecosystem of the Internet is in perfect health. We have years of steady growth ahead of us in e-commerce, advertising and subscription services. It’s the right place to be,” he said.

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