|Photo: Palace Hotel|
|More than 4,000 attendees piled through the front doors of the Palace Hotel to attend the 2004 Ad:Tech Conference and Expo this week.
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Even vendors who arrived expecting to do well at this expo, which caters to online marketing and advertising agency personnel from around North America, were surprised at both the crush of attendees who showed up and their high level of interest in specific categories of products.
The event was the most triumphant success in recent years for the show organizers, JDEvents, and was also an unequivocal sign of just how much vigor has returned to the business of Internet communications, entertainment and marketing.
On the expo floor, 100 exhibitors were busy and engaged all day, glad-handing and making deals with some 4,000 attendees. That same shoulder-to-shoulder floor scene also made clear that Ad:Tech has outgrown its space.
The subject matter of the event's conference sessions echoed the product lines being offered in the exhibit hall, with lots of search, e-mail delivery how-tos and a sprinkling of rich media and channel integration on the speakers' agendas.
The keynote that opened the conference, presented by Allison Johnson, senior vice president for global brand and communicates at Hewlett-Packard Co., was packed.
Ms. Johnson surprised the Internet-immersed audience by airing TV ads touting H-P's products, rather than the online advertising subjects that the conference is actually about.
Of all interactive businesses vying for attention around the expo floor, search engine ad technologies generated the highest level of buzz, said Kevin Amos, director of product development at search engine marketing firm Impaqt. He noted that this year's prospective clients are coming from much larger corporations than last year and are asking questions that show a higher degree of understanding about search-based marketing techniques.
But an even bigger indicator that search engine advertising is leading the charge of dot-com recovery, he said, is the fact that for the first time, "a lot of venture capital firms have been stopping by" his booth.
Surviving the bust stronger
Nearby, Phil Carpenter, vice president of corporate marketing at travel search engine SideStep, said the online advertising and marketing companies that survived the dot-com bust to show up to the latest Ad:Tech "have been through the crucible and come out the other side tougher, smarter and better." As a testimony to the strong attendee demand for his product information, he gleefully held up yards of sales lead printouts generated through his Leadpro machine.
Exhibiting for the first time at the conference, 4-year-old SideStep survived the Internet implosion, the 9/11 terror attacks and the economic downturn to emerge profitable in April 2003, Mr. Carpenter said. In January the firm raised $10 million in venture capital financing, he said. This is the first year the company could afford to exhibit.
Santa Clara, Calif.-based SideStep offers an application that consumers download onto their browser. The program performs travel searches among all airlines, including discounters, in real time while the consumer searches on traditional travel sites such as Orbitz. The SideStep search appears along the left-hand border of a computer screen.
Elswhere around the expo, booths of e-mail product and service vendors were also packed. "This is the best trade show I've been to all year," said Joy Wallace, account manager at Ironport, which prominently displayed news coverage of its "bonded sender" e-mail certification program that Microsoft recently signed to a deal.
E-mail marketing, which was about the only interactive channel to chug along during the downturn, has suffered greatly under a cloud of spam-related controversy. Cyan Callihan of Ironport said the company believes that people "are getting more optimistic about e-mail" because there are "a lot of technological solutions out there [to help marketing e-mail get through to customers.]"
Even Internet service areas that have undergone a good deal of negative publicity, such as pop-up vendors like WhenU and Claria, reported high-quality traffic at Ad:Tech. Elizabeth Wood, senior account manager at WhenU, complained cheerfully that New York headquarters had to FedEx sales materials because by 3 p.m. yesterday she was cleaned out.