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Attendance down 32% at online advertising show

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The tribal council has spoken: Only the fittest survivors were left at @d:tech to continue the hunt for online advertising business.

Attendance at @d:tech’s spring show, held May 2-4 in Los Angeles, was down 32% from last year’s event (2,500 people, compared with 3,700 last year); exhibitors were down 26% (102, compared with 137 last year).

But despite a noticeably smaller audience wandering the exhibit floor, sessions were full, as attendees sought advice about advertising, marketing, technology and e-commerce strategies from their peers. Indeed, some attendees said the smaller show gave them a chance to focus on the business at hand.

“Only the grizzled, steely-eyed veterans are left,” Rod Rakic, account director at FCBi, the interactive group of FCB Worldwide, told BtoB on the show floor. “The weak have been culled from the herd.”

Rakic said he was looking for platform partners and tools, such as rich media, e-mail software, streaming media and viral marketing services, to “put more arrows in our quiver.” He declined to name specific vendors whose products he liked.

Tony Winders, president-CEO of independent agency InterActive Agency Inc., Santa Monica, Calif., said he was looking for new technologies to help his agency deliver more targeted advertising and online promotions to clients, including Sony Corp., LATimes.com, and Para-mount Pictures.

“I’m just looking for a glimmer of hope,” he said. “I’m trying to look for the opportunities.”

Winders liked the new ad formats from Eyeblaster.com, a new ad serving company that provides rich-media out-of-banner ads that “float” around the screen.

“To me, they are indicative of what this whole industry needs to do,” Winders said. “We’ve been given our wake-up call. We need to keep innovating. We got comfortable in our 468 x 60 banner world.”

A call to action

Innovation was a central theme of this season’s @d:tech show. Keynote speaker Richy Glassberg, chairman-CEO of Phase2Media and vice chairman of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, issued a call to action. Among other changes, he said the industry must:

• Develop more effective media plans, tying specific objectives to each media buy.

• Demand better creative. “Online creative … isn’t,” Glassberg said.

• Adopt the IAB’s new interactive marketing units, or IMU. The recently proposed ad formats include larger ads and vertical banners.

• Make audience measurement meaningful for advertisers. Glassberg suggested third-party traffic measurement companies also report page views and more traditional marketing measures, such as gross ratings points (a unit to measure the size of an audience) and frequency.

• Support a mandatory disclosure log file audit project. Glassberg said the industry must acknowledge that it is unable to get reliable metrics from panel-based surveys or unaudited, non-standardized log files.

• Sell with “day parts” and define Web prime time.

Glassberg challenged the industry to start talking more like traditional marketers and avoid Net jargon—a move, he said, that would raise the bar for measuring return on investment across all media.

“The Net will force all advertising to be more accountable,” Glassberg said. “TV, print and radio have to start talking about ROI.”

“There is tremendous value in using traditional metrics like GRPs [gross ratings points] and brand recall,” said John Bohan, CEO of interactive marketing company L90 Inc., Marina Del Ray, Calif., which developed the AdMonitor online serving and tracking system.

“I’m hoping Internet companies will get a better understanding of traditional marketing metrics and adopt those metrics. That’s when this industry will take off.”

Barbara Bacci Mirque, senior VP of the Association of National Advertisers Inc., which had far fewer members at @d:tech this year, said the inability to measure overall online ad effectiveness is the No. 1 issue keeping more traditional advertisers from spending more online. “Show me that I can use [online] for something that does not have an immediate purchase incentive,” she said.

Growth among traditionals

Tracking an interesting trend, Nielsen//NetRatings released new data, generated by its AdSpectrum service, that showed traditional advertisers made up more than half of the top 100 online advertisers in March. Traditional advertisers, including Visa International Service Association and Chevron Corp., accounted for 56% of the top 100 online advertisers. Digital economy companies made up 34%, and high-tech companies accounted for 10%.

The new research also indicated that high-tech companies have been more successful than either traditional advertisers or digital economy companies in their online ad efforts. High-tech companies have achieved higher click-through rates by combining lower ad exposure with higher reach (the percentage of active Web users who saw an ad).

The new AdSpectrum service allows users to search data—gleaned from more than 26,000 domains—about top online advertising sellers and spenders by industry category and subcategory.

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