First of all, I take the shuttle like it's a taxi to get from Boston to New York. Many flights were booked. Hotels, fuhgetaboutit. I didn't even have a room to stay in.
The Web sites and e-mails I received prior to leaving were chock-a-block full of hype. Within several blocks of each other were the events of Advertising Week, Internet Advertising World, MediaPost's Forecast 2005, and the OPA creative awards. I'm sure by now I'm forgetting some.
As I was walking around the exhibit floor as well as the sessions at IAW, I was overwhelmed at the amount of people there. The IAB told me more than 2,100 people registered. I'm not sure how many of those were paid registrants or freebies. The Hudson Theater was packed. The hallways seemed even more so.
For me, it's always great because I bump into so many friends and colleagues. What's hard is everything becomes a sound byte. It is too fast and too loud to catch up. I had several party invites slipped into my pocket. One was a small 30-person company renting out a floor and roofdeck of a hotel. They had open bar all night. As I stood there talking to some friends, we were amazed they could do this. Was it a sign of recovery or misuse of VC monies? We collectively ball parked a price tag of approximately $150K USD for the evening. We stood entertained yet saddened that we seemed to be the only folks over the age of 30 (and/or 40).
There was buzz around invites being sent out from someone named Mr. Rich Media. A week or two before the event everyone wanted to know who "he" was. Many (including me) complained we didn't get an invite and needed to know just who the heck this guy was anyway.
As I was at the show, Brian Quinn slipped me my invite. Turns out, the party was being thrown by the Online Publishers Association. Mr. Rich media wasn't really anyone. He was said to be a guy who lived in a phat brownstone who drove around in a sports car and threw crazy catered parties at his place. What an idea and where the heck did they get this money?
There were too many other parties and events to mention. It certainly painted a surreal picture of how the online media landscape looks today. Just think about it for a moment. NYC was laden with classic traditional advertising icons including Charlie the Tuna, Ronald McDonald, Tony the Tiger, and Mr. Peanut, to name a few. When you walked into Grand Central, alluring displays of such icons and campaigns through the years were there to view and vote on.
This created quite a juxtaposition for the online ad kids, like me. The only history we seemed to tout was survival skills and attention deficit disorder. Finally, our creative has the opportunity to shine with experience and technological advances. Mere pixel limitations are no longer such roadblocks that stifle creativity.
I couldn't help but think of the longevity of some of the "best" offline campaigns. Remembering the shelf life and success of such icons brought a smile to my face. Hearing about them was anthem-like to me. Will we have those icons or will speed and clutter erases the memories of such creative? I couldn't think of a single online icon other than the dancing baby. While it was a classic case of the power of viral marketing, it makes me cringe.
I was relieved to find that my friend Dave Smith (founder and CEO of Mediasmith) took home awards for bringing back our beloved Napster. This shows that not only do we have creative - we have conversions.
So all and all it was a bit nutty. I didn't get to see all that I wanted to see. However, it was good: The industry seemed healthy, money was being thrown around (although I'm skeptical), Online creative was recognized at it's own show, People were being entertained, and last but not least, I had two good friends that let me bunk with them.
So I'll leave you with a question on this already-exhausted Monday dear readers: Do you think we'll have creative and media icons like those of our beloved traditional world?