Thoughts on ad:tech London 2011
I spent the last two days at ad:tech London, and I have to say, I had a great time. I met a lot of cool people, saw a lot of awesome technologies and ideas on the exhibition floor, and I have to say I learnt quite a bit from some of the seminars I went to. But before I get into the details of what I enjoyed and what I learnt, I should probably give a bit of time to what I didn’t’ enjoy so much.
Firstly, the theatres/seminar areas were far, far too small. Almost every single seminar was full to bursting, with more people standing around outside trying to get a look at the talk going on. These theatres were just too small to contain all the people that wanted to go to them. What was worse, the most popular one, the IDM Academy/Create and Innovate seminar room was enclosed on all four sides, so if you didn’t get in, you had to huddle around the entrance, and could barely see anything. A lot of the people I met there were, understandably, really annoyed by this. After all, we went there to learn and pick up some new ideas, but we just got frustrated by the poor planning of the organisers. Next year, bigger rooms that can take more people, and make them open at the sides so we can at least see the seminar if we can’t get in please ad:tech!
But anyway, that complaint aside, it was great. I didn’t get to see all the seminars I wanted, but I did see a few, which were really good, so never mind. Some of them got a bit sales-y at times, but it is a free conference, so I’m fine with that.
If I could summarise ad:tech this year in just two words, they would be Mobile & Social. These were the two big “hot trends” of the conference. Every seminar was either about, or mentioned extensively either or both of these things. Clearly, this is the way the industry is heading, or at least, they are what the industry itself thinks are the most important trends right now. As an SEO agency, we’re already aware of the importance of social networks/social media, and it’s generally accepted knowledge that if no online strategy is really complete without a social angle. But I really had my eyes opened by quite how important it is becoming to the advertising industry at large. I think that going forward, any SEO or digital agency is going to have to have a strong social media offering to their services if they want to really compete. And so I’m definitely going to start trying to increase my own knowledge of it, and try to increase the amount of attention it gets in our strategies. As for mobile, which was the other “hot topic”, it’s less relevant from an SEO point of view, but it is exciting to see just what is available and possible on mobile platforms. I was especially excited by Aurasma, a new kind of AR app for mobile devices, which turned ordinary print media into rich video content. The power of mobile devices as an advertising platform was constantly reiterated at the conference, and the fact that so many people now use mobile devices to access content is something that all digital advertising professionals need to be aware of, and need to keep in mind when developing strategies and campaigns.
Another trend that I, as a bit of a game geek myself, was excited about was that of gaming as an advertising strategy. While the idea itself isn’t really new, I saw quite a few companies offering quite exciting, comprehensive solutions for brands to offer games to their visitors, and in a seminar titled “Gamify!” given by Exent, the fact that one campaign using games generated over 800,000 visits to a client site in 3 months really blew me away. This was a huge campaign tied to a big movie launch, but all the same, it’s mind boggling (at least to me) to think how powerful gaming can be as a digital advertising strategy. But I think I’ll cover that and my thoughts on it in a separate blog post.
While not really a trend, as such, I was quite excited to see that there were lots of companies offering some really great social media tools, whether they were social intelligence systems like Webfluenz or ad buying tools like Alchemy. I’m really excited to see platforms like these gain traction, because at the moment, getting really useful, actionable data and actually implementing and managing campaigns based on that data can be a nightmare. So anything to make that easier, especially given that I think we all need to increase our work with social, is a godsend.
It’s actually really hard to capture all the amazing products, stands, and people that made this year’s ad:tech so much fun, but some of my other favourite bits were the Yahoo academy that gave talks throughout the whole conference in the middle of the exhibition floor, the Infosys magician who totally blew my mind (no really, there was a magician doing card tricks), the great party vibe at the Orville Media stand where the guys and girls were giving away free cocktails, the random dance show that the girls of White Label Dating put on during day two, and last, but by no means least, the mountains of free goodies being given away by everyone.