Ad-tech is Coming, Ad-tech is Coming! Should You Care? How Should You Handle it if You Go.

Okay its the major industry event of the year, Ad-tech NY.  Its the place to be, to be seen and to see what’s happening.  Or is it?  Is it worth the $1500 to sit in on the sessions or should you just go to the exhibit for free. 

It depends on what you are looking to find out, and on who is paying!

I’ve been doing the Ad-tech thing for a number of years.  I remember when it was the Jupiter Ad-tech Conference – hell I was even a speaker back then – and I’ve done the circuit in SF, Chicago and NY.  NY is the one.  You will find two entirely different experiences at this show – the sessions and the expo.  And depending on who you are will dictate which experience you should have.

The expo is the three-ringed circus of vendors and technology presentations.  Come-one come-all, see what I have to show you!  I know this because I’ve done it myself many times.  If you want to know what is out there, what technologies and who the players are then walk the expo.  Pick up all the crap they give out and weigh down your arms with bags of worthless goodies to later clutter up your desk.  But wear comfortable shoes because the hotel is disorganized maze, crowded and it will take you more than a day to walk it all.

Anyway, what you will get from the expo is a snapshot of technology.  Big booths don’t necessarily mean the biggest players, just big spenders.  Big players usually send insignificant people while the small players send their best people.  Sometimes their only people.  If you are interested in knowing more about a specific technology or space, and care less about which vendor you speak to, go to a smaller player as you will get better insight and information.  Don’t talk to DoubleClick about ad serving when they put kids in their booth who are there to have fun.  Don’t talk to Yahoo about search when the people there have been with the company for less than a year and don’t have industry expertise.  You will find they put “booth candy” in place and not knowledgeable, insightful people on the floor.  The smaller companies or the local companies will send their better people.  Anyone who thinks they might be able to do business at the show will send better people.  Better people means better information for you to gather.  If you are looking to learn about new technologies, go to the expo.  But be prepared for the pitch.  And you may want to have one yourself as they too are looking for something from you!

What you won’t get from the expo is insight into the industry.  You will notice which players are prevalent – more SEO, less email marketing, more mobile, less direct mail, more site optimization, less web site development, more gaming etc.  The expo will tell you which technologies are on the rise just by how many companies in each space chose to promote themselves at the show.  But it won’t tell you where the money will be going next year.  It will only tell you who you will be competing with for the money if you represent a technology or who will be calling you if you control the media spend.

The sessions lend insight into what will actually be big next year.  In the past I have found that, no matter how hard they try to diversify the content, Ad-tech always boils down to a few dominant topics.  Its hard to forecast it going in, but it becomes real obvious after the first day.  The session topics don’t discriminate the speakers, the speakers who control and who will guide the marketing spend for major organizations next year will provide insight into the 2007 plans that are already in place.  Where dollars will be allocated is already known.  If you want to find out where the major money will be headed, what rising technologies will be test next year, listen to these people as they have already decided.

In many of sessions there is a Proctor & Gamble, AOL, NBC, Circuit City, ConAgra, McDonalds, Sony, Hewlett-Packard, Coke, MTV speaker.  These are the drivers of what will become bigger.  Their agencies are speaking too.  They also know the plans for 2007.  Never mind what the technology vendors have to say in the sessions as they only know what technologies are becoming available and how it could change the industry in the future.  What you need know is how will things be changing now, and what you need to do to be ready and a part of that change.  Truth is, the technology vendors are reactionaries who try to drive market trends.  When they speak at trade shows they are trying to persuade marketers and agencies.  When marketers and agencies speak, they will share what they have already been persuaded about.

What if you don’t go to the sessions?  Everyday there are session briefs that talk about what is going inside those secretive little rooms.  Pick one up.  There are also several blogs online that will talk about what has been said.  I will do my best to find references for you on what has been happening in the sessions that I find relevant, however for me it will be about finding those big messages.  The trends that matter most. 

For me its about knowing what are the pain points that are really hitting the wallet?  What technologies are working the way we know – not think – they are working?  Where will spend increase?  Where will it decrease?  Where will the test dollars going in 2007?  What test dollars in 2006 will get more money and what test dollars in 2006 will not? 

Here are some forecasts that I think you will see …

  • Search is hitting a wall.  People have achieved what it is meant to do and they are looking for more out of it but, as I have said in previous posts, you just can’t get beyond a certain point of result without CPA creep.
  • Email Advertising is at a plateau, valuable and a mainstay, but not growing much.
  • Rich media has made its splash and will grow at a moderate rate
  • Video advertising will be a small piece of the pie with a very large voice.  Not even coming close to cracking the $1 Billion mark in 2007, video will be a test market for advertisers that can afford it and the lack of metrics will restrict it from being something that can justify it in any kind of direct response-driven test.
  • Mobile advertising will continue to be a small piece of the pie
  • Display advertising will grow modestly, with only a select number of large advertisers beginning to engage with the advanced technical applications that I have been blogging about
  • The convergence of ad serving and site optimization will open the door to a new series of analytics that will just begin to impact the industry towards the end of the year
  • Gaming will make its introduction into the market as a test medium, grabbing a small piece of the pie for the first year

I will probably have more for you as we get closer to and go through the crazy event but that’s enough for this early morning.  Hopefully you can make it as its worth the time.  If you can’t, blog it each day and find someone you know who can download with you about what they learn.  The themes are what you want if you are trying to stay ahead of this industry.  Like I said there will only be a few take aways from the sessions.  If you are someone that is looking for the next and newest technology to bring to your client, you need to know the expo – but you can also find that stuff out but reviewing the expo list on your own as well.

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