Lots of folks at Ad Tech were completely surprised by the exceptional turnout. But when you cruised the exhibit hall floor and looked at the attendees at the after-hours events, it became clear that the booming interactive ad industry is once again attracting the sort of folks it attracted during the dot-com bubble. Did everyone else notice the proliferation of search companies? Most attendees that I spoke to did. Many of these search companies seemed to have a great deal of difficulty explaining what they do and how they do it. And they really don't seem to want to talk to you if your company already knows what it's doing with respect to search. Tell them you use a bid management tool, that you track ROI, that you handle organic search optimization yourself and that you've got a handle on search strategy with respect to affiliate marketing and all of a sudden, they don't want to talk to you. Ask them how they do what they claim to do and you get the standard "It's proprietary" line.
A couple of us joked on the trade show floor about the notion of constructing a "Scuzzbucket Pavilion" next year. Booths at the Pavilion would be half-price, but we could put all the spammers and search optimization companies under 5 years old in the Pavilion. The real marketers could then avoid them and leave them to the task of shuttling money back and forth between one another's companies. Which is, of course, what they do best.
Steve Hall had a great observation when Jim Meskauskas, Jason Oates and I met up with him in the hotel bar. He said you could spot the bottom-feeders pretty easily because the first question out of their mouths when you approached their booths was "Got traffic?"
At the Tribal Fusion party on Monday night, I was hanging out with Joe Apprendi and Thomas Falk from Falk AdSolution, Eric Porres (from my company) Jason Baadsgaard from Claria and a bunch of other folks when a sea of people flooded into the party from the 212 event. Seems like everyone was really, really young, so I made a comment to Eric: "Since when did everyone in this industry turn, like, 24?" Of course, a young lady passing by heard me and corrected me - "22," she said.
Not that I'm biased against young people, mind you, but it seems like this huge influx of young, unexperienced companies with tons of style but little substance have shown up on the scene lately. Whereas two years ago, I was praising the notion that the interactive industry had shrugged off most of the get rich quick crowd when the market tanked, it seems those kinds of folks are now eager to get back in.
A thinning of the herd is in order.