I’m at ad:tech this week. I just spent the last 10+ hours in a booth talking to people about online advertising. All the big online agencies are here, WPP, Digitas, TribalDDB, etc. etc. The big online players are here too, Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, etc. etc. And I’m here. A couple of weeks off of my trip to BlogWorld and New Media Expo. And to be honest, I might as well be on another planet. If BlogWorld represents the latest in social media and where the internet is going, ad:tech represents Web 1.0 and its desire to cling on to its cash cow with white knuckles.
The event is so amazingly different that I wanted to share with you some of the drastic differences that I noticed while grinding out a day at the booth.
Foursquare: When I checked in on Foursquare at BlogWorld there were nearly 50 people checked in, and it remained that way over the course of 2+ days. Fatburger had a special offer running on the service for free burger samples. When I checked in at ad:tech there were a whopping 7 people checked in and none of the exhibitors were running any type of Foursquare promotion. Since ad:tech is at least 4 or 5 times the size of BlogWorld I’d call that a vote of no confidence for the hottest location-based social network.
Twitter: I was very conscious of the stream at #bwe09 and have been monitoring #adtechny and #adtech in the stream to see if I could glean anything off of what is happening here at ad:tech. The streams are completely different. BlogWorld was a river of quotes, nuggets of information from panels, information and feedback from sessions and crowd feedback as they interacted with panels. People using it to connect and meet up. ad:tech? None of that. Just promotional tweets from companies trying to drive traffic to their booths. (Disclosure, we did it too.) Sessions weren’t tweeted, no one was quoted in the tweets. No one challenged speakers and ideas via the Twitter feed. Nothing. It was simply a bullhorn for brands looking for foot traffic.
The Schedule: Social media is not the core of the agenda. It’s a tangential. It’s a channel to push advertising through. It’s all about how to monetize eyeballs. Nothing about conversation, nothing about connecting as people – all about how to spend ad dollars there effectively as a brand. Even Facebook is here with the tag line “reach people before they start searching” [for the competition on Google]. Social isn’t about a new way of connecting with a community here – it’s another arm on the wheel of digital strategy where people are trying to find a way to throw dollars at it while justifying it to their clients.
The Money: The one thing that is here that wasn’t necessarily at Blogworld is the money. The money is definitely here. The ad buyers, the strategists, the big agencies that represent the Fortune 10 brands with multi-million dollar online budgets are here. You don’t see them at Blogworld. We started to see some more big brands at Blogworld with Ford and Bud Light; but those two sponsors are just two of a constellation of hundreds here.
What this means?
The people that control the money have yet to make the leap. They’re still 1.0. I’d argue that most of the industry is still 1.0. It’s all ad networks, pay-per-something-or-other business models all about driving traffic, reach and views. Things like loyalty, engagement and reaching a passionate community are all secondary to the traditional metrics, and social is just another channel to throw ad dollars at to maximize impressions and reach of traditional media campaigns.
It’s eye-opening to me, as someone who embraces the new media and social marketing community to the fullest to see how far behind the money and the people really are. The people talking here aren’t talking about human connections and building lasting relationships between companies and people, they’re talking about how to extend banner networks to socnets.
It’s a different mind set. It’s an old mind set. It’s a scary mind set when you consider how many millions of dollars are managed by these people.
My Challenge to ad:tech
It’s time to start listening. It’s time to bring in some of the social media people who are on the bleeding edge and really learn. Stop thinking of social media as just another avenue for your media buyer/traffic department to spend ad dollars at and start thinking about what it means for your clients, what it means to how your brand interacts with real people online.
There are real people out there, who given the chance and a good reason will do the work of your ad dollars. Tell your clients to spend their money differently, to think about their customers differently, and to figure out ways to delight their customers rather than simply finding the next sucker.