@d:Tech World-San Francisco: Wrap-Up

If my marriage were 20 years younger I could get in a lot of trouble at a show like @d:Tech. As it was, I felt after a time like the assistant principal at a junior high dance. Never had I seen so many bright, gorgeous and charming young women, women who honestly seemed to like me.

I had to remind myself that it was just my writing, and that this was work. I’ve got a face for radio and a voice for print. It was a teacher-student thing, totally asexual in nature. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

But these were women (men, too, by the way, but I was around in the ’80s when women were tolerated on tech floors only as props) who barely remember Iran-Contra, who look at “That 70s Show” the way I looked at “Happy Days.” No offense, but to me they were children who came to @d:Tech to learn and sell and network.

Teaching these children to go beyond their buzzwords and ambitions, so they can be the wise ones when I’m retired, was the @d:Tech mission. So @d:Tech Chair Kate Maddox deserved praise for her choice of faculty, keynoters who taught hard lessons and inspired, who got beyond the script and into attendees’ hearts.

But I’ve covered that already. Today I want to take you onto the @d:Tech show floor, a Comdex-like expanse of carpet (covering two ballrooms) filled (mostly) not with booths but with what the British call stands. Only CMGI’s Engage had a space as large as 60×10. Even IBM held itself to 300 square feet, and Microsoft had just 200.

If the sessions were classrooms, the show floor was a lab. The students’ job was to cut through the haze and the tchotchkes, the buzzwords and the hype, and find something they could make money on. (Yes, Virginia, there is a profit out there.)

While the New York show mainly plays to agencies, the San Francisco show mainly plays to clients, dot-coms with money to burn (Digital Impact’s CEO told CNBC during the show, “We only burned $5 million in the last quarter,” expecting applause. None was forthcoming.) and little time to hit their market targets. One exhibitor allowed that 60 percent of the people he saw were decision makers, and another 20 percent were their assistants, meaning little effort was wasted.

I’d heard most of the pitches before. There were scalable solutions with targeted rich media, permission-based trafficking and management services, leading-edge reporting capabilities from trusted infomediaries and full service that leverages the Internet’s capabilities for strengthening and maximizing customer relationships. (They really talked like that I got all that from the show guide.)

If you tried to cut through the buzzwords, in other words, you were lost. There would be no help from the booth signage (is that an email list or a campaign management tool?) and unless you happened upon a corporate principal (fat chance of that with the larger booths) you were lost.

“Are you from the press?” one booth creature asked, giving my notepad that deer-in-the-headlights look. (It’s not a gun, I reassured him, it’s a camera, and he bounded back into the booth’s undergrowth.) Think you’ll get past what’s in the hand-outs from that one? I folded the notepad and offered to pet his muzzle, then walked on.

Several times I asked, “Are you announcing anything here?” Startled, a few blurted out, “We haven’t announced yet” or “We’re still in beta test.” If they didn’t shy then from my press badge, fedora and notepad, I stayed at these booths to take a few notes.

USA Technologies Inc. of Wayne, Pa., will begin delivering its “e-port,” first announced in December, this summer. (The unit in their booth was a prototype.)

Director of Interactive Marketing Fran Young explained how the small color touchscreen and mag-stripe reader link to the Internet using IBM technology. “It can do branding, impulse buys, take email addresses, do coupons, and sell tickets.

“We’re targeting retail point of sale [the counter at the convenience store], vending machines [it goes inside the machine] and business machines [the Xerox machine down the hall].” The system handles purchases to $10 instantly (through a batch upload to the credit card processor) but can connect in real time for larger purchases.

Since the network knows where the devices are, the network can do geographic or psychographic targeting. “It’s e-commerce everywhere.” And if you can’t figure out a half-dozen possible applications for that in 30 seconds, become a salesman because you’ve just flunked marketing.

Adwise of Fredericksburg, Va., was pushing a scaled system on ISPs for targeting users based on their behavior to get the highest possible CPMs and conversion rates. Executive Sales Consultant Jim Fischer said he’d announce a deal with a big free ISP within two weeks.

Fischer said the system was made to meet European privacy standards (the parent company is in Israel). “We don’t require a user ID,” he said. “It resides on the network.” As free ISPs like FreeI.net (which had a booth at the show) add features to become more like paid ISPs, Fischer said, he expects more paid ISPs to add banner windows.

Well, folks, it’s finally here: The long-awaited first annual ClickZ MessageMedia Email Excellence Awards…open and ready for you to enter NOW.

If you and your company (or client) have been actively involved in the creation and execution of email marketing campaigns since January 1, 2000, then you can enter as many times through as many categories as you like. (Note: Entry fees WILL apply after June 15th, so hurry and enter now and beat the Early Entry Deadline!

It’s going to be quite an event. A real show-stopper, in fact. Both big and small companies alike have an equal shot at winning. And winners will receive national recognition and a handsome personalized trophy.

And that’s not all. Entries for the ClickZ MessageMedia Email Excellence Awards will be judged by a “Blue Ribbon” panel of independent judges — some of the most well-known experts in the industry — including author/speaker/consultant Jim Sterne; ClickZ columnists/Internet marketing pros Nick Usborne, Kim MacPherson, and Janet Ryan; AIM’s Executive Director Ben Isaacson; and IMT Strategies’ famous Rick Bruner.

Take a peek at the categories:

  • Best Email Marketer
  • Best Email driven community
  • Coolest Rich Media Application
  • Best Agency Award
  • Best Email Newsletter
  • Best Email Application Driving Commerce
  • Best Email Customer Service Award
  • Best Online/Offline Integrated Campaign
  • Best Online Survey Program

The actual awards ceremony will take place at the ClickZ Rich Email conference in Los Angeles in November, and finalists will be announced at the ClickZ Business-to-Business Email Strategies conference in September. BUT completed entries should be sent in by July 31st. (And, remember, you can save the entry fee if you submit by June 15th).

Hurry and submit your entries now and who knows? Come November, you AND your email campaigns could be famous! Entries are already coming in, so check out the details here: www.emailexcellence.com.

ePod.com of New York kidnapped me Tuesday morning (literally), luring me to breakfast at the St. Francis Yacht Club (great view of the Golden Gate Bridge) on a bus designed to look like a cable car. (I got back barely in time for my 10 a.m. speaking gig.)

During the show, eMarketer.com said they would implement ePods, which is why I’m still talking about them. An ePod distributes a mini-store that resides within a content web site. (NBCi has a minority stake in ePod and makes extensive use of the technology.) One of my “kidnappers” told me they’re getting five to eight times the click-through of banners (figure four percent), which, since they’re “considered clicks,” can be thought of as qualified leads.

In fact, with every move I made on that show floor someone was pushing something that, at least on the surface, sounded interesting and new to someone:

Impatica.com, based in Ottawa, offered tools for creating streaming media launched from emails.

InsightExpress.com of Greenwich, Conn., offered consumer surveys that can be designed and implemented in just minutes using templates, at about $1,000 per survey.

Engage of Cambridge, Mass., announced a B2B ad network that will compete with B2BWorks of Chicago, whose network uses AdForce technology.

eClassDirect, an email service bureau that competes with Digital Impact (“But we’re profitable,” said Account Director Greg Wall), MessageMedia, BigFoot Interactive and Exactis (among others) said it is being bought by E.piphany, a campaign management software outfit.

What the students found to be the best booths, however, depended entirely on their specific needs. (I was just looking for news.) If they were wise, they lugged home business cards and notes of conversations (perhaps taken on the reporter notebooks 24/7 sent to attendees’ rooms one evening).

Instead, I’ll bet some are sitting on a stash of tchotchkes, like Solbright’s extra-tall coffee mugs, paper holders from NetCreations, squishy balls from the MPlayer entertainment people, or the one-use cameras handed out at the MyFamily.com party.

Digital Impact offered a calculator whose sides are rubberized and whose branded door becomes a base for holding the thing upright. (Can you feel the cash burning from that?) Audiobase had bubbles and a working yoyo that fit inside a key chain. RadicalMail.com’s key chain doubled as a bottle opener, Myway.com’s as a night light, and Cheetahmail.com had cheetah dolls that felt a bit like Beanie Babies (but weren’t).

The award for the strangest tchotchke, however, must go to Marketingclick.com, which offered an Australian pine seedling in a little plastic tube, which the booth workers said will grow to six feet high. Since my old Norfolk pines outgrow my yard, and my Alberta spruces burn in the Atlanta sun, I’ll give it a try. Will the plant outlast the company? Stay tuned.

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