Some of these pictures below represent the lighter side of ad:tech, but please do not get the impression its been only fun and game! Our blogger team has been pressed to keep up with the event's energy, content and exhibitors. Keeping it light has been the best way to keep up. Ryan Barrett gives us here, some of the unusually interesting elements which have made this ad:tech (the largest one ever attended) a truly memorable show.
One way we've been doing it is like acting as if we were the characters in the film, Oceans 11!. Some of our friends have been like, Huh? I don't get it. Then we're like, It's the ultimate (con)ference job! Then they're like, "Oh, cool!" One double secret probation fun fact. Julia Roberts keeps everyone guessing by switching between a Boston and Aussie (or more specifically New Zealand) accent!
Forgive us. Alas, we digress.
Our five Ocean 11ers have been generating hundreds of twitter posts, to marketers literally around the world who have been able to keep up in real time with what's going on here. Our Twitterer's are tweeting this ad:tech conference out to global twitterers all round the world. Is ad:tech SF now a global event? We'll tweet you later.
For "soon to be" twitterers, (which means "almost" everyone at some point) the term "tweets" has replaced "text" message. Someone tell Wikipedia. It's still an insider term, even though it's been covered well over a year ago in NYTimes as early as a year ago.
By: Ryan Barrett
April 17, 2008: Oh, the gimmicks at the show
One of the best things about a conference is the ways in which a company will try to lure attendees into its booth. Of course, there's the depressingly obvious and narrow-minded use of the "booth babe" (see Valleywag's round up for more on that), but it's inspiring when companies get a little creative. Yesterday afternoon, Paul McEnany from HeeHaw Marketing and I took to the ad:tech Exhibition Hall in search of free stuff and craptacular gimmicks.
AdShuffle and Adify were both giving away a free Wii. AdShuffle handed out tote bags with little scratch tickets attached. Paul apparently "won" and he was psyched, until he realized he was only a runner up when he was handed a bright orange AdShuffle-branded Rubik's Cube.
Vegas time over at the Adify booth - my bet via business card placement almost won me a Wii. So close, and yet so far away.
Then there was eBuddy.
Yep. There we are. Inappropriately hype.
And of course, we can't forget the Cashinator. Paul and I wandered over to this booth and Paul asked if he could try. Of course, they let him in (why wouldn't they, right?) and he grabbed 10 bucks out of the air.
(Click on video)
But then when I asked to go in, the Cashinator Guardian wouldn't let me play! He said I wasn't currently working with them or something... even before he asked where I worked or what I did. And when he finally inquired, he had no idea what my company was or what we did (for the record, I work for a global digital ad agency - he would have had to be living in a subway tunnel not to have heard of us in this industry). Shocking. Pretty offensive stuff, especially considering he had been flirting with a booth babe before he turned to me and denied me entrance. But at least this little incident made me remember the company name - it's Market Leverage in case you were wondering. So nice work Cashinator Guardian. Kudos to you and your magical box of $2 bills.
April 16, 2008: Wednesday morning at ad:tech - NBC's Chief Digital Officer on iTunes, YouTube and piracy
Lots of juicy stuff here from this yesterday's ad:tech keynote interview concerning NBC's digital strategy with respect to YouTube and iTunes (brought to you by my trusty little Flip Camera). I think that, all in all, CDO (Chief Digital Officer--yeah, that's C-level position) George Kliavkoff has a healthy perspective on the situation. In his view, it's much more beneficial for NBC to take an offensive approach by creating a place - Hulu.com - where users can gain access to high quality NBC content free, on demand, and before it hits YouTube. Gaining friends instead of skewering enemies (aka the VIACOM way)... very wise approach, in my opinion.
But there was something else that came out of the conversation that really threw me off. It has to do with iTunes.
NBC has a film distribution deal with iTunes, but no distribution deal for their television content. George K says that he'd love to distribute NBC TV programming on iTunes--that iTunes provides a great customer experience--but then in the same breath says that another one of NBC's primary concerns is piracy. Fighting piracy.
So, umm, what does iTunes have to do with piracy? In George K's words:
"Without talking about any particular partner, I would say if you looked at some of the studies about mp3 players - especially the leading mp3 players - and what portion of that content is pirated content as opposed to legitimate content and then you think about how that content gets on those devices, it really has to go through a gatekeeping piece of software, which would be a pretty convenient place to have some anti-piracy measures that would give someone the opportunity to buy the legitimate copy if they're trying to upload the illegitimate copy."
Translation: iTunes will not adequately protect our television content from piracy. Wow.
I know that most, if not all, pirated content on people's mp3 players comes from old downloads off of Kazaa a million years ago. NOT iTunes. In fact, peeps found iTunes' anti-piracy measures to be a major bummer. I for one have never downloaded anything for free of off iTunes, TV shows included. So why does NBC have a movie distribution deal with iTunes and not one for TV? What exactly is George K trying to say about iTunes with respect to piracy?
April 14, 2008: Next gen print advertising, for all you naysayers
So you say print advertising is dead? Well think again, my friend. Just came from the Tales from the Bleeding Edge ad:tech panel, which was pretty awesome (especially the part when the moderator projected that the audience would be "jumping and bleeding" by the end of it... :/ )
Don't believe me? Check the video above.
But Total Immersion Augmented Reality blew everyone away - like, to the point of a bleeding windburn. (ew). When they were first introduced, I couldn't really get beyond the name - it's a little hokey for my taste (the founder is Parisian though, so I let it slide). But that's neither here nor there, because the service is awesome.
Hold up a package or a print ad or a brochure to a Total Immersion "magical screen" and the picture comes to life. And you can interact with it. It's like entering the childhood fairytale land of your dreams.
April 14, 2008: bCODE's Michael Mak and me: Follow the Escalades and the pink pulsing screen!
Here's a funny story.
So I arrived in San Francisco around 9pm last night (April 14th) and immediately began aimlessly wandering around trying to figure out the best way to get into the city. For anyone who doesn't know me, sometimes I can look a little... young (over Christmas, I got carded at an R rated movie). Especially when I'm wearing some busted jeans and my "conductor" cap (which was my brother's, when he was 4).
Anyway, a man approaches me and asks if I'm looking for a cab, saying he'll charge me less than the taxis for a lift into the city. He just needs to find one other person for the ride. So he asks a tall, well-dressed gentleman, who says sure (as I breath a sigh of relief--the gentleman could TOTALLY take the driver in a fight). Then the driver leads us down all these shady walkways and stairways until we arrive at his car, parked in the airport's parking lot.
And it's this crazy-@ss tricked out Escalade.
The man and me hop into the SUV and get to talking. His name is Michael Mak and turns out he's working on an awesome mobile phone coupon project. And he's presenting at one of the panels that I've been psyched about since I signed up: Tales from the Bleeding Edge.
Just my luck! I told him a little bit about what I do, and then we agreed to meet after we'd checked in to our hotels for dinner and discussion.
So here's the inside, impromptu, 10:30pm-after-a-long-plane-ride scoop on Michael Mak and his company, bCODE.
Basically, bCODE is an ingenious solution for bringing coupons away from the cut out fraying slips stored in a coffee-stained envelope and straight to your mobile phone. But what's always been the problem with mobile coupons? The damn barcodes. Either a carrier won't allow graphics to display on the phone (Verizon), or the screen on the phone doesn't display the barcode correctly, or you've got an old phone with a screen held together by tape and the barcode just won't scan. Barcodes are only successful about 60-70% of the time, which is really an unacceptable percentage for an emerging technology. Michael learned this the hard way, after spending 4 years and countless dollars trying to get the damn barcodes to prove successful.
BUT THEN, when all seemed lost and Michael was in his office tinkering with his company's hundreds of old crappy cell phones (alone, at dusk, with a tear in his eye), it came to him. What's the lowest common denominator when it comes to phones? What will work on any phone, with any carrier? What's easy to type out if your phone's screen is too old to scan? Text messages, of course. Short text messages displaying actual numbers and letters. Instead of sending barcodes, bCODE texts a 13 X 3 text message algorithm to your phone. And using bCODE hardware, these text messages are actually scan-able.
And the hardware... um, hello awesome. I'm a creative, and so obviously athletics are important to me. But I had no idea they were important to CEOs as well. Or maybe Michael's just a special CEO. His scanning screen is slick and sleek and glass and thin - just like we like our technology to be these days. The best part - it displays a pulsing pink light as an indicator and a branding attribute. Oooo, pink! Coupons meet Times Square.
The hurdle, naturally, is getting the bCODE infrastructure out there. But Michael Mak's got plenty of phase two ideas bubbling over that'll take care of that ☺
Everyone's trying to get a handle on mobile. Companies want to use it, but they have no idea how or why - they just need it as part of their media mix. The thing about mobile - your phone is always in your pocket, and so has the power to influence you while you're on the go. And what better influencer than a coupon... not for $1 off toilet paper, but for free drinks all night at the New Orleans Jazz Festival or free décor at IKEA. Let me ask this: If you received an IKEA coupon, while you were waiting in one of their ridiculous lines, and then got to scan said coupon on a pretty glass screen blinking pink, would you use it?
My answer? An emphatic yes.
So the shady Escalade ride actually turned out to be a great turn of events. I got a ride in a souped up... truck, really... and a couple hours alone with the CEO of a company that represents the next generation of mobile marketing.
This just in... "Come Sigh With Me"
One friend who insisted on anonymity was quite disappointed that NBC's George K took the 5th more than 6 times during the session, with... "I'm not at liberty to discuss that". One ad:techer tweeted us asking us why he even agreed to be interviewed. She then followed up with the following art. It made us wonder, "What kind of sound does a Peacock make? Tweet tweet??