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This morning I spent some time at the ad:tech online advertising conference in NYC at the Javits Center. Thank goodness they finally moved out of the Hilton. I will have a post later about my thoughts from the expo floor.
Judging from the length of the line, as shown in the video below, the online advertising industry must be out of the recession and ready for major growth. Either that or there was no plan for how to handle that most conference attendees would want to, you know, actually enter the conference. Now that I think about it and listening to people on the line, it is definitely the latter. There are actually two lines like the one in the video below. As of Noon today, the line appeared to be at least 75 minutes long. Lots of people seemed pissed that they paid anywhere from $35-$1,800 and had to wait for their badge. I assume by this afternoon they will have this registration issue resolved. Let’s hope that the Web 2.0 check-in process will be smoother later this month.
If you decide to watch the video, please note that there is a lot of camera shake.
Continue reading “Ad-Tech NYC Must Be Hot (video)” »
Today I spent several hours walking up and down the halls of the ad:tech NYC expo. I am going to have more information on what I found/saw/experienced tomorrow but I thought I would leave you tonight with what was the most exciting booth on the expo floor. The woman in the video, walked over, entered the vault, grabbed about $20, and left. Others seemed to grab between $2-5.
We originally profiled Keibi back in September 2007 at their offices in San Francisco. Keibi has created a way to help social networks find and remove objectionable content quickly and easily. Keibi uses their matching technology in their "Keibi Moderation Suite" to find images (and text, video and/or animations) that might be objectionable and automatically can either flag for follow-up or delete.
Last year they spoke about Piczo, now they are working with corporate clients including Nokia, Coke and ESPN along with social networking provider Bebo. I caught up with Corporate Marketing Director Shannon Titus at ad:tech NY for an update.
Multiplatform marketing is about saturating the consumer’s world with the brand’s message.
As noted by GM’s Jaime de Valle, the old advertising adage “Fish where the fish are” has been flipped 180 degrees. Consumers are now the fishers, casting hooks to find the products, services, and brands they need, when and where they need them.
It is the marketer’s prerogative to swim where consumers are fishing, to be present and relevant at every touch point and tipping point in the decision-making process.
This is where the multiplatform approach becomes necessary.
In a world replete with marketing messages, the most competitive brands must use traditional media to place themselves before consumers before the decision becomes a priority. They must be present and relevant when research begins online. They must provide channels for response, interaction, and dialogue through nascent but omnipresent platforms such as mobile and social media. And they must send a consistent, persuasive message all the way to the point of sale.
Ok, I really only chose to cover the multiplatform sessions because I knew there’d be some talk of mobile, my one true love.
And talk there was. Carnival’s Jordan Corredera (with Susan Kidwell of Avenue A | Razorfish) and GM opened up the conversation Wednesday afternoon, echoing the industry-wide sentiment that mobile testing (WAP sites, search, etc.) is important but that the U.S. is too far behind other territories and right now is not the time for venturing beyond SMS text marketing. The good thing is, they’re testing.
Carnival’s case study on their Avenue A | Razorfish-created Funship Island campaign highlighted the mobile downloads they offered, including wallpaper and ringtones. GM’s mobile concentration seemed to revolve more around search.
Mobile, because of its everywhere-all-the-time nature, is the best medium for achieving the goal of any multiplatform campaign, as stated by de Valle: Being everywhere, all the time, at every tipping point for consumers in the decision-making process. Increasingly, he said, that process is being conducted almost entirely online, particularly for the automotive vertical.
Mobile aside, Carnival’s highly (read: insanely, borderline overwhelmingly) interactive microsite allowed users to virtually romp around an SL-like cruise ship. Their goal was to dispel common myths held to be true by cruise skeptics. Highly lauded by the digital ad community and cruise enthusiast community alike, the site was a hit.
Not only did they achieve critical success; by tracking user behavior on the site, they were able to optimize their other marketing channels. For example, they found that the section at which users spent the greatest amount of time was the stateroom page. As a result, they beefed up their coverage of stateroom features/benefits on the main Carnival page.
Most impressively, Carnival displayed a deep understanding of their brand ambassadors and partners using existing online communities. They used their advocates on cruise-related social nets to promote the new microsite, and they created a special subsection for travel agents to make sharing the Carnival Fun Ship experience easier.
They clearly understood that these days, consumers begin and end their buying decision on the Internet.
GM’s Andreas Huettner made that statement very clearly when he said that consumers are buying cars online.
He clarified that by the time consumers walk into a dealership, they, inmost cases, already know the exact make and model of the car they want, the price they want to pay, the kind of financing they expect and probably even the kind of warranty and insurance coverage they want. All the decisions have been preordained through hours of intense online work; they truly come to dealers to sign the papers and pick up the keys.
And although Internet is topping every other purchase-influencing medium, including word-of-mouth, the growth of mobile usage outstrips the growth of Internet usage. Hence, multiplatform advertisers need to very quickly figure out how to increase their presence and relevance in that medium.
A couple hours after the Carnival/GM awesomeness, Latin American portal Terra took the stage to talk about their approach to online marketing of music. Their presentation left me tweeting, “Where is the English-language version of Terra Musica?!?”
With artist sites constructed with building blocks of videos, blog feeds, UCG, photos, and every imaginable kind of social-media-friendly content acting as portals to more content and interactivity than was previously imaginable, one pities the technologically impoverished musicians stuck with MySpace Music.
Realizing that the best distribution is wide distribution, the folks at Terra have made most of the widgets portable across most social networks. They’ve also allowed for a great deal of user interaction and even submission to artists’ content.
And they understand that the best part of a content-rich site is incredible SEO, which is very likely where the user experience and direct artist-consumer interaction begin.
All these factors are what forward-thinking U.S. musicians have been struggling to define and realize. All in all, if there’s one thing I wanted to take away from ad:tech Miami and the world of Hispanic and Latin American marketing, it was to find one standout use of technology that marketers were getting right and from which the rest of us could learn and benefit.
Terra Musica may or may not get it entirely right, but it gives us some amazing clues as to the direction we should take for using rich, social media to market music directly to consumers.
Jolie O’Dell blogs, vlogs, tweets, and runs RAMPAGE, a new media ad agency. Jolie covered ad:tech Miami and you can read all of her conference posts on the ad:tech blog.
Around the Moscone Center in San Francisco where the Web 2.0 Expo is being held are numerous great spots to help the conference attendee. However there are also even more spots which cater to tourists and convention attendees, that alas do not have great food or service.
So a few suggestions and a local, foodies, guide to SOMA near the Moscone Center.
Spots for Coffee or Tea (not Starbucks)
Samovar Tea – located above the Moscone North is a spot most convention attendees miss. Somovar is a serious tea shop offering a peaceful (if slow – in a good way) alternative to Starbucks. A great place to meet someone for a light, flavorful lunch or an afternoon meeting over tea. The foods and teas are first rate. Food and a pot of tea will run you about $20 a person and is well worth it.
Blue Bottle Cafe – my personal vote for quite possibly the best coffee in the country, not just in San Francisco. Located at 66 Mint St which is just two blocks from the Moscone West, Blue Bottle Cafe offers more than six different ways to have coffee, all amazing and flavorful. From some of the best espresso drinks anywhere (including single origin coffee) to an imported from Japan Siphon Bar the coffee, all of which they roast themselves in Oakland, are prepared with great care and attention to detail. To compliment the coffee they serve a small selection of great foods and desserts and also have a small selection of fine wines and beers. They close relatively early in the evening, but for coffee either in the morning or the afternoon they can’t be beat. I suggest that everyone in town for Web 2.0 Expo get at least one coffee from Blue Bottle while they are here, walk over with a new business contact and impress them with your local knowledge (and if they are not a coffee drinker they have many great alternatives to choose from). One note, taste you drinks before you assume you need either milk or sugar in them – the coffee here is not like anything you have likely had before, the cappuccinos and lattes in particular don’t need anything)
Great places for working dinners
Canton Seafood and Dim Sum – located at the corner of Folsom and Hawthorne, just a few blocks from the Moscone, Canton is one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in San Francisco. I had a great dinner there last night in fact, and while there another group of Web 2.0 Expo attendees came in and following my advice had a fantastic 7+ course feast for $22.50 a person complete with salt & pepper crab, Peking Duck and many other dishes. This is Chinese food prepared with great care and attention, with friendly service and great flavors. As usefully for conference attendees Canton is a venue where any size group (and I do mean any size – up to a few hundred though I’d call ahead in that case) can be handled with aplomb and ease. For any group larger than 5 I would suggest getting a fixed price meal which would result in likely more food than you need for a price anyone’s budget (even a bootstrapping entrepreneur) can handle.
Tara – located on 2nd St just below Market Tara is the less well known Thai restaurant on the same block as the more well known Osha (which is also a good option but likely crowded and for San Francisco tech folks a place we end up eating at a bit too often). The food at Tara is good and most of the time it is a bit less crowded and less noisy than the more well known Osha just down the street. If you want to do Osha I suggest their second downtown location on the Embarcadero (4 Embarcadero Center) which is a bit longer of a walk from the Moscone Center but I think offers a slightly nicer space and slightly better food than their 2nd street location.
Straits – and more broadly the restaurants of the Westfield Center. Straits is located on the 4th floor of the Westfield center and is part of the "restaurant collection". The food at Straits is Singaporan which is one of the great, if not well known cuisines of the world. A combination of Asian flavors it has similarities and dishes in common with Indian, Indonesian, Thai, Chinese and many other cuisines of the Asian region. Straits is not a discount restaurant, expect to spend around $20-25 a person for lunch here and more for dinner, but the food is worth it and they can accommodate a large party with ease. For a fast meal, I suggest Out the Door in the basement of the Westfield center which offers Vietnamese food from the same folks who run the world famous Slanted Door restaurant (which I highly recommend but can have a many week wait for a reservation – though worth calling and checking especially for their private room if you have a group). For lunch or dinner however Out the Door offers a great alternative with great food served quickly. The other options at the food court in the basement of the Westfield Center are also great, not typical food court options in the least.
Last minute tech supplies
Apple Store – the San Francisco Apple store is just blocks from the Moscone Center at the corner of Stockton and Market. If you need a power adapter or your Macbook stops working this is where to go.
Central Computer – located at 837 Howard St, just down the block from the Moscone West Central Computer is a great place to know about for the non-Mac attendees. Not the cheapest spot, but if you need a last minute PC part they are just down the street and can solve nearly any PC related computer need.
Hope these help guide you to a few of my favorites in San Francisco. Please add your own suggestions in the comments. There are hundreds of other great options throughout San Francisco and nearby, if you see me at the show feel free to ask for additional suggestions. And watch for my twittered spur of the moment dinners or lunches and feel free to join me!
Shannon Clark is a founding partner at Nearness Function, a new ad network for the publishers of dynamic content which will launch in a few months.
Yesterday we took a look at why booth babes are a bad decision for technology companies at a trade show. So what advice would I give to a company which is considering having a booth at a trade show?
- Consider whether you really need a booth at all? Many leading firms in the ad industry did not have booths at ad:tech, instead they would send a large number of senior employees to the conference and proactively set up many meetings for their sales and business development staff. The cost of full conference badges, a meeting room or two (either from the conference or at a nearby hotel) and perhaps a small, private party, is likely in many cases less than the cost of a trade show booth and very likely the business value is as high or likely higher. However there may be other value from a booth, PR value for example.
- Know your message and target audience(s) cold. Everyone at your booth (whether an employee or hired for the occasion, though try to avoid that if possible) should know not just your key messages but who you are seeking to reach and for each type of person or business what you are hoping to leave them with. Have a clear message and goal for engaging with the press (perhaps further defined by the audience of a given press outlet). Know who your potential customers are. Know who you are looking for as partners. Know who else you hope to meet with and engage with over the course of the show. I think fewer than 10% (far fewer in fact) of the probably 100+ companies exhibiting at ad:tech San Francisco (or New York) presented a clear message about who they were hoping to meet while at the show. i.e. had a simple, clear answer to WHY they were exhibiting.
- Rotate your staff through the booth frequently. Ideally no one employee should be manning the trade show booth for more than four hours at a time (and even that may be a bit much). And yes, if you are a small company this may be very hard, may in fact suggest you should think twice about exhibiting. A booth without anyone in it gets very little traffic or value for your company. A booth with one staffer who can barely stay on her or his feet isn’t much better (may be worse in fact in many cases). Working a trade show booth is exhausting, but it can also be very beneficial, in a few hours you can have more conversations with people than in weeks of meetings. And all it takes is the right key conversations to justify the cost of the booth, from a training standpoint the direct feedback from customers (if they are among the attendees), partners, clients, and the press can be invaluable. But as an attendee I can tell when someone has been working the booth for 16 hours and no longer cares. Avoid that at all costs.
- Have great signage and displays but minimal yet thoughtful giveaways. The right balance here is tricky and is different for everyone. Personally I find glossy handouts or bulky brochures if I even take them more times than not end up recycled having never been looked at even once. Only about 1 in 100 pieces of schwag I receive do I keep and use on any regular basis, and it is the rare piece indeed that I both keep and remember or note the company from whom I got it. Typically when I do the item is very smartly linked to the company’s products (I got a flickr lens cleaning cloth I carried around with me for years for example). One exception here being high quality t-shirts which, when from brands I actually use and would endorse, I do indeed occasionally wear (brands I don’t endorse I might use as rags, for housecleaning, or donate).
- Be smart about how you capture leads while at the show. Sure, the temptation is to scan everyone’s badge with the bribe of a beer. But better, most likely, is a more filtered cause to capture information. But wherever possible do leverage the electronic tools provided by the conference. I was frankly shocked by how rarely (almost never) someone asked to scan my badge. Ideally at good conferences scanning a badge should generate all the information you need (however badge sharing, fake information for “free” expo passes and the like do lower the utility of scanning badges).
- Follow up almost immediately. At a multiday show you should try to even process the first day’s leads and send out some follow ups that evening. Done well you could take a lead and transform it into a meeting later that very week, instead of weeks later. A simple, short but relevent follow up email – such as “would you like to meet with our sales person at our private meeting space on …” could do wonders.
Trade shows are tricky things. At conferences which I organize I have avoided having any exhibit hall at all in most cases but my events are usually single track and focused on networking opportunities. As an entrepreneur while I anticipate needing to have select trade show booths in the future, I am also planning on putting off that day as long as possible, instead I plan on concentrating on supporting events in other ways and focusing my sales people’s time and efforts. The exception would be for a conference which was highly vetted where nearly every attendee was a real prospect and where the schedule was such that all the attendees would be spending a lot of time in the exhibit hall (a show with no competing sessions for example and with a membership or other fairly strong requirement on attendance. I could also see a trade show booth at a show geared more towards recruiting employees than on selling.
At ad:tech San Francisco many of the exhibitors hired "Booth Babes" to promote their products and services to attendees. In most cases these "booth babes" not only worked the booth but also walked the exhibit hall and outside of the hall to promote the company. And to watch the crowds to an extent this form of promotion did work on the largely – but not no means at all only – male crowd.
However I think in all cases the use of booth babes hurt the companies who used them more than it helped. Certainly in one high profile case at ad:tech I found the company’s use of booth babes (who were wearing very skimpy and quite tight fitting white dresses) to lower, considerably, my opinion of the company. A company, I should note, who launched their product and company at ad:tech and are taking on some very large, established companies with a product that could add value to the marketplace (but how well they can compete remains to be seen).
Now I am a straight, single, mid-30′s man. Certainly an attractive woman is not unpleasing to the eyes. But in a business context while "sex" does draw people it, it doesn’t add value, if anything it lowers it (unless you are, in fact, a company selling sex but that’s a different show than ad:tech – at least the public facing sides of the companies at ad:tech). I’m sure there are more than a few of the companies exhibiting at ad:tech who have portions (I’ve heard in a few cases the primarily profitable portions) of their business focused on "adult" products.
Here are my objections to the use of Booth Babes and related tactics on trade show floors. And more broadly to another all too common trend especially with any company with a larger booth.
- The need for booth babes or for that matter cash giveaways, expensive raffle prizes or high value tzotchkes demonstrates a lack in confidence about the interest in the product and company. Using sex combined with greed to attract people to your booth does very little to focus who views your product or takes the time to meet with your staff at the booth (see related points below) and if the takeaway is "was that woman wearing a bra?" many people are not likely to retain much about your company or product.
- At ad:tech San Francisco this year I counted multiple companies giving away a MacBook Air (2 or 3 on the floor, at least one at an afterparty), countless companies giving away some form of an iPod, one company giving away skateboard decks, another giving away $5 Starbucks cards for a survey, and at least one company literally giving away cash. I should note that even people who got the skateboard deck which was indeed really, really cool with an image of the San Francisco skyline, couldn’t tell me the name of the company giving the decks away – and I asked someone just hours after having won the deck. All of these draw people but rarely real prospects.
- In many cases to handle larger crowds non-employees are hired to man the booth. From people in latex gloves making cotton candy, to bartenders, to raffle entry takers, filling your booth with non-employees decreases the chance of identifying a real prospect when one walks past and stops. In my engagements with various companies I saw a very deep difference when I talked with a long time employee (or in a few great cases a founder) versus when I was talking with a hired temporary staffer simply manning the booth, or food giveaways.
- It is hard, perhaps nearly impossible, but to maximize the value of a trade show booth you should have staff who are as engaged and outgoing in the last hour as they were in the first. On Tuesday, the first day of ad:tech as I walked the trade show floor I was greeted by people at most booths, PR representatives and company employees in fact sought me out away from their booth and asked me to stop by their booth (noting that I was press and in many cases knowing about CenterNetworks). In contrast on Wednesday as I walked the exhibit hall in the late afternoon, a few hours before it was closing I was rarely, if ever, engaged with. Even when, in many cases, I stopped to take a further look at a given booth. My press badge was still easily visible, but in many cases it was very clear the people manning the booths were exhausted (and I think overwhelmed from various promotions/giveaways they had been running).
Stop back tomorrow for advice on what to consider with regards to purchasing a booth slot at a trade show.
Shannon Clark is a founding partner at Nearness Function, a new ad network for the publishers of dynamic content which will launch in a few months. He is the organizer of MeshForum – an annual conference on the study of networks and the one day MeshWalk series of walking conferences. He has been blogging for many years at Searching for the Moon where he covers technology, economics, food, and the life of an entrepreneur.