To my surprise, there were a good fifty or so people in each session I attended. Typically, there were 3 to 4 sessions at a time. This remained consistent both Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday was the last day. The conference only ran sessions for a few hours. I went to "Clicks, Ticks, and the Destiny of Pop-Ups" session. The room had about 50 or so people in it.
However, I was a little bummed out to hear the audience still beating a dead horse when asking panelists if rich ads online were dubbed intrusive.
To no surprise, Rich LeFurgy, president of Archer Advisors, addressed this head-on by saying, "There needs to be a balance between best practices and advertiser demand. I don't think we are in danger of being regulated (as spam) but I could be wrong. However, we must implement session capping on both a site and user basis. No one would watch television if they were forced to view an ad every minute. Content and advertising need to be balanced."
Barbara Bacci Mirque, a senior vice president at the Association of National Advertisers, chest-beat about the viability of rich media in the online advertising space. She said, "Two years ago people were ready to write off online advertising completely." Being an agency buyer two years ago, I tend to disagree. But I did agree with her sentiment when she echoed Rich's comments, saying, "We must understand what resonates with our target audience."
Avi Nader, CEO of WhenU strongly stated that he thinks all rich media units should be labeled: "We should let the user choose." He went on to comment about the emergence of PVRs and the threat to advertisers as a result of ad skipping technology. It's true; advertisers of all kinds are trying to come up with new innovative ways to cut through the clutter.
The panel discussed online travel site Orbitz. Its head of interactive said almost all the ads are rich media formats. They have run users studies and found that most people expect to get some sort of rich media unit when shopping around for airline tickets. He went on to say pop-ups don't have either a negative or positive effect on their users. However, when coupled with television, they experience a significant lift.
Many talked about the basics: Advertise to the right audience at the right time in the right place (and format). For instance, many large advertisers make the mistake of inserting Flash intros on their homepage when their target is a B2B audience. Why? These are the folks that get most annoyed? Why not give them the information they want, and make it clear and concise?
The bottom line is that conversations on this topic are still behind the times. As responsible advertisers and publishers, we need to kick this up a notch. Let's standardize units, push the envelope on creativity within such units, and think about what clicks with our target audiences - and more importantly, what's ticking them off.