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Smaller @d:tech still attracts believers

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Technology companies aren’t start-ups anymore—they’re restarts. And service companies aren’t hatched—they’re reborn. Welcome to the new Internet economy.

Similarly, one can still find buyers and sellers of online advertising who are passionate about the power of the medium, despite criticism from other quarters that the Internet has failed to deliver on its promises to marketers.

Optimism about online marketing and the technologies underlying it was on display last week at Imark Communications’ @d:tech conference in New York, which attracted some 3,000 conference attendees and 100 exhibitors to the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

"I’m pleased to see how busy the exhibit hall floor is," said Susan Goodman, chief corporate development officer at business consulting, systems integration and marketing firm AnswerThink Inc., New York. Although this year’s @d:tech was smaller than past shows, Goodman said that considering the economy, "It’s better than expected."

Nor has Goodman seen a retreat from online among her own firm’s clients, which include major packaged goods and technology companies. Instead, there is a commitment to the Internet as part of the overall marketing mix, she said.

Moreover, these clients are taking integration seriously, Goodman said, noting that when her clients are planning 2002 ad budgets, managers from brand planning, direct marketing, Internet and promotions all sit down in one room to plan the strategy.

"They can’t plan interactive in a vacuum," she said.

Other ad executives attending @d:tech said their clients are taking Internet advertising more seriously and are committed to increasing spending on it in the next year.

"More and more of our clients are becoming more comfortable investing in the Internet," said Tim McHale, chief media officer at Tribal DDB Worldwide, New York. He said clients will be spending more on Internet advertising in 2002 than they did in 2001.

Technology shopping

As expected, a number of @d:tech attendees were seeking technology solutions to make their online marketing, advertising and media planning more effective.

Kevin Arsham, media supervisor at BBDO Worldwide, New York, said he came to the show to find something similar to Standard Rate & Data Service (SRDS) in the online world. Ashram, who is a b-to-b specialist at BBDO, said he was looking for technology that would recommend sites within vertical markets, such as plastics. So far, he hasn’t found it.

"I’m not looking for management tools," he said. "I’m looking for something to give me sites in specific industries."

While he didn’t find what he was looking for at @d:tech, there were plenty of technology companies touting their wares, ranging from e-mail marketing to relationship marketing to content management systems.

One interesting newcomer, which launched Dec. 3, is True Audience, a company that offers a platform to collect information about Web site visitors, identify and report on audience segments and create audience-targeted ad campaigns.

Dave Morgan, founder and former co-chairman of Real Media and now president-CEO of True Audience, said his company was rolling out its first client implementations last week to provide detailed profiles of audience data that publishers can use to better position content and advertising.

The first clients are Advance Publications’ Advance Internet and The Weather Channel’s Weather.com, which will use True Audience to better target content and enhance reporting.

"We are part of the rebirth of Silicon Alley companies," Morgan said. New companies like his, which is privately funded, learned a lot from the dot-com days, he added. "Don’t get too big too quickly" is the first lesson. "Focus on one thing" is the second, he added.

A major trend spied at @d:tech this year were systems that manage customer relationships.

Barbara Bacci Mirque, executive director of the Association of National Advertisers, who was wandering the trade show floor with Mike Donahue, executive-VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said advertisers are spending more money on Web site development and e-mail marketing than advertising to better manage existing relationships.

Donahue agreed. "Agencies are much more focused on working with their clients to help them develop Web sites to establish relationship marketing. There is a higher ROI [return on investment] on the retention side than on the acquisition side," he said.

Respectable showing

Although @d:tech was a significantly smaller show, with approximately 2,800 attendees and 75 exhibitors, compared with last year’s 4,000 attendees and 150 exhibitors, conference organizers were pleased with the turnout.

As Imark VP-general manager Joel Davis put it: "On Sept. 12, we didn’t know if anyone would come," referring to the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and the short-term impact the disaster had on the travel industry and New York in particular. "Having a 100-booth show right now is amazing," he added.

Ad executives attending the conference agreed with this assessment and said that, given the state of the economy, the conference was a success.

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