"This is the eleventh AD:TECH," said show Chair Susan Bratton just before Tuesday morning's keynote.
You'd think that any industry after 11 conferences would have stabilized. That there would be at least a handful of massive booths (aka "pavilions") on the show floor from the biggest vendors. That the majority of attendees would be experienced in the field.
Instead it was the opposite.
Yes, everyone was celebrating the fact that the industry has stabilized in terms of forward growth and respect. One speaker said, "Last year we were all just glad to be here; this year Internet's back big-time. We're walking with a collective swagger."
However, the industry has yet to truly coalesce.
- There were absolutely no big booths. Even big-name companies had booths that in any other industry's tradeshow would be for small-fry only.
- I hadn't even heard of roughly 25% of the folks exhibiting. They were either new, or newly renamed, or flying real low under the radar before this. Established industries don't have so many unknown players.
- Aside from the huge number of vendor sales reps, the almost 4,000 attendees couldn't be grouped into any one heading. I've never seen such an odd mixture of utter newbies, old-timers, low-level people and C-level people at any comparable show in another industry.
- The topics everyone was talking about in the hallways were contextual advertising (ie Google Adsense and its competitors), search marketing, and rich media. Hardly anyone talked about email (aside from fear, fear, fear) when a year or two ago, it's all anyone talked about. Topical whiplash.
So, yes the show was big, attendees were in an upbeat mood, and there were some pretty good speeches (links below), but my overwhelming feeling was … as an industry we have a long way to go.
And I'm looking forward to AD:TECH 2013. It's gonna be really different.
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