Despite Volcano, Attendees Make Best Efforts to Get to Valencia

Firsthand Reports From Those Who Did -- and Didn't -- Make It to the Media Festival

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VALENCIA, SPAIN (AdAge.com) -- Attendees struggled valiantly but not always successfully to reach the annual Festival of Media in Valencia, Spain, after clouds of ash from an Icelandic volcano grounded air travel in much of Europe and overburdened other transit options.

"Truly heroic efforts from your side," one planned attendee told organizers in a post on the festival's site. "Fantastic. Your spirit is infectious and I am in contact with about six other U.S.-based friends on how to make it happen to come over," he added. "We do want to follow your leads. ... But so far it doesn't look too promising."

Another promised attendee reported elaborate efforts but, ultimately, failure. "Well, I tried ... I really did," the scheduled attendee wrote. "My Virgin Atlantic flight was the last flight to land in London on Thursdy, right before noon. I took the train to Paris yesterday ... ran/took the subway to another train station. I had only 45 mins to connect ... made it onboard ... arrived at midnight in a small town in France were I drank coffee and rested on my bags outside from midnight to now (yes seriously, slept outside of a train station -- my mother would be ever so proud of me) and just found out the train to take me to Barcelona has been cancelled until tomorrow -- there is a 'hit and miss train strike' going on as i was told and/or understood -- my French is not so great these days. I have been advised to go back to Paris and pick up another train -- it is like i am backpacking across Europe -- but instead of a backpack and rolled up T-shirts, I have nicer luggage and a designer 'oh look at me I am in advertising and I spent too much on this T-shirt' T-shirt."

Keynote speaker Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, got to Valencia by riding conference organizers' chartered bus for a roughly 24-hour coach trip from England. When Charlie Crowe, CEO of conference organizer C Squared, asked Mr. Wales for a comment on volcanoes, Mr. Wales offered a verdict a little more personal than Wikipedia strives for in its entries: "They're bad," he said. "Very, very bad."

Later, their bus somehow found the one rest stop in France missing a key provision for daylong bus rides: wine.

International ad festivals haven't gotten off to a good start this year. Last month, Asia's regional festival AdFest, held every year at Thai beach resort Pattaya, was postponed due to political unrest and demonstrations in Thailand. The show has since been re-scheduled for late May, although the country's turmoil continues.

Organizers had expected more than 700 attendees and presenters at this year's media conference, for which Advertising Age is again a media sponsor, but it still was not clear by Sunday night's opening reception how many would actually make it. Everyone who does make it, however, was promised access to an area originally designated for VIPs only.

Confirmed guests at that point included Maarten L. Albarda, Anheuser-Busch InBev; Enrique Ruiz de Lera, Turespana; Luis Fernando Samper, Juan Valdez Cafe; Marc Bresseel, Microsoft Advertising; Mike Cooper, PHD; Jack Klues, VivaKi; Sanchez Neira, Havas Media Inelligence; Doug Scott, Ogilvy Entertainment; Patience Wheatcroft, The Wall Street Journal; Alisa Bowen, Thomson Reuters; Gian Fulgoni, ComScore; Quentin George, Mediabrands; and Huw Griffiths, Universal McCann.

Follow tweets from conventioneers and would-be conventioneers by searching Twitter for the hashtag #FOM2010.

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