So I made it to Palm Springs after some finagling of flights. (Despite leaving plenty of time for connecting flights, United took its dear sweet time and a bunch of us ended up having to switch flights and cram aboard an eensy puddle-jumper from LAX to Palm Springs Regional.) There are plenty of familiar faces here, but also many people I've never met before. Kyle Shannon from Beyond Interactive sat across the aisle from me on the flight, but there were a few folks headed to the conference that I've never met before. iMedia is no longer "the usual folks," which is nice.
I went to the cocktail party last night and hung out with some friends, including Masha and Kevin, Lori Goldberg from AvenueA/Razorfish, JB, Hope and Wendi from Horizon Interactive, and a few assorted others. After the cocktail party, we ended up going to a casino for a while, just for giggles.
It's no secret - many of us are here (in part) to scope out potential employees and do some poaching. Some people I talked to last night and I were laughing at how openly we all advertise the fact that finding fresh blood is a top objective here. There's some great talent walking around, but there's also plenty of folks to steer clear of, to be perfectly frank.
I found myself rolling my eyes skyward a few times last night, listening to a few media buyers and planners sizing themselves up against one another. In a few cases, this involved comparing notes regarding where reps have taken them out lately, what boondoggle trips they've been invited to, and how much free stuff they've been able to extort out of sales reps. Such conversations reminded me of a serious "Come to Jesus" talk I had several years ago with a former colleague to explain that sales reps weren't his personal valet service. It wasn't terribly widespread, but I mentally crossed off a few potentials last night after getting the sense they wouldn't fit in at Underscore.
I'd prefer not to dwell on the negative, though. Rick Parkhill and his crew once again chose a terrific resort, and you can tell they chose the location carefully. It's been designed to free us from distractions so we can get down to business. I'm looking forward to the Aspen Group meetings today and addressing some of the challenges the industry has been facing.