My morning at AD:TECH

(click on any picture to enlarge it)

Today I spent a little bit of time at AD:TECH. To set the frame of reference here – this (interactive technology for advertising) isn’t my field; I went out of curiosity and a chance to meet a friend for lunch. I attended the opening keynote and looked around the exhibit hall. There are several days of presentations and seminars that I didn’t experience.

The opening keynote featured John Costello, Executive Vice President, Merchandising & Marketing, The Home Depot, and Mary Meeker, who watches Internet and advertising for Morgan Stanley (I seem to remember a detailed New Yorker profile of her a few years back; perhaps before the bubble burst).

John Costello (all quotes approximate): “I am often asked how many brand managers do we have? The answer is 325,000 – the number of associates we have.” He went on to stress how all the touchpoints for the customer need to work together. You may see a great ad on TV but if you go to the website and it’s difficult to use, it’s no good. This isn’t so trite because as much as it’s a good idea, it’s just not practiced that way. Home Depot certainly isn’t living up to Costello’s idea. My bad experience with their “clinics” here and see here for their non-response when I tried to resolve it.

Mary gave a really dense presentation, but reassured us that the slides were online. They are, and for now you can read ’em here. I’ll excerpt a few slides that I really liked; I’m not sure what to make out of any of it, just a bunch of factoids that seem provocative and worthy of filing.

Here’s the top five Internet companies (I didn’t know that was the list; interesting) – this slide shows what they were worth before 2000, before they went public, what they were worth at the highest point in the market, what they were worth at the lowest point (and kinda interesting to be reminded of those dates; 3/10/00 and 10/9/02) and here’s what they are worth now – so there is more worth there now than before the crash. It’s one of many angles on ‘recovery’ in the tech sector (hey it feels cool to say “the tech sector”).

These two slides are just some data points to consider when thinking about the various online, mobile, phone, data, wireless, etc. markets around the world. Here’s who the analysts are watching and what they are thinking about…

You’ll need to click on this one to make it bigger in order to see the details; the point here is looking at the number of different services or products (depending on your perspective) that Yahoo has launched in 2003, 2004, and so far in 2005. You can see just by the shape that this year already is as many products as in 2004. This was all under the category of User Experience, but she used that phrase interchangably with other phrases like User Interface, so it wasn’t always clear what exactly she meant. But the slide seemed interesting anyway.

This took a bit of thinking about, looking at different countries, how many PCs do they have and how many mobile phones, and the ratio of the two. The U.S. has the lowest ratio, China has the higest. So the relative prominence of phone vs. PC as platforms for daily info-living, and as opportunities for innovation, etc. are extremely different in these different markets.

Mary, an avid golfer, recounted the recent Tiger Woods dramatic shot at the 16th hole in Augusta, and considered a scenario where someone missed it and wanted to watch it – they’d willingly watch an ad for it, or pay to see it (she suggested $1.00 is what people would pay to see it, but that’s ridiculous). But if you go into Google and Yahoo, you can’t find it. Even if you look in their video search, you can’t find it. You can find it on a blog, where it was turned it into a hypothetical Nike ad. Somehow in this story Mary seemed to imply that it wasn’t really available in that case. She seems to deny blogs (or anything that comes from the consumer side of the equation) as an invalid source of content not to be taken seriously. Yes, there were no rights clearances, but of course, the information gets out anyway. Hello, BitTorrent?! The fact that the only way she could show us this clip was to use the file she found on this blog (and then put into her presentation) seemed to be ignored, since the real problem was that Google and Yahoo didn’t have the clip in their systems. I don’t get that.

In the Q&A there was some emphasis on the future successful companies being those that place the premium on customer service – citing Amazon Prime as an example, but then both speakers seemed to flip between customer service and customer experience. She cited, but couldn’t remember the specifics, a recent book by a professor (Jeff?) in Pennsylvania? who makes the case for the last great competitive advantage being user interface, and she went on to suggest the web is the best user interface, better than an in-store Starbucks experience. Clearly we see why Mary is an online person because her contention, if I understood it, is just silly. I’d be interested in finding out what book she’s referring to, so if you have any ideas, let me know.

The trade show itself was the usual – booths with people in matching t-shirts being extremely extroverted. But it was working – the place was noisy and jam-packed and people were shaking hands and swapping business cards and just being business people in deal-making mode, I guess. There were the usual trinkets – things that flashed, bent, bounced, squeezed, etc. and lots of iPod giveaways. It wasn’t very intersting to me; it was companies with names like AdBrite, AdDrive, AdDynamix, adInterax, Adknowledge, adMarketplace, Adteractive or AdTools; and Eyeblaster; Search Engine Optimization, Search For It, SearchAdNetwork,,, SearchIgnite, SearchRev, and; as well as companies that I recognized because they serve the annoying pop-up ads on websites I visit: ZEDO and Undertone.

There were a few of the usual booth babes, and all you really see in this picture is some nice blonde hair, but some women manning booths were obviously models, at least one wore a t-shirt with a slogan across her chest that was something about looking up top. Hmm.

I found this variation quite unusual

A gymnast? Or, a slinky woman in skintight lyrca, twisting her body in interesting ways. Oh, and how’d you like to buy some advertising services?

Looks like she’s in need of some advertising services herself. Cheese!

Attendees engaged in some sort of SMS swordfight.

Google’s booth. Is that a real George Nelson Marshmallow Sofa?


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