A year after adding an exhibit hall-based showcase featuring disruptive media and advertising technologies, the organizers of Advertising Week have scrapped its original pay model in favor of a free, open-source approach that yielded hundreds of applicants, 140 of which will be on hand next week. The 140, er, characters, were culled from a list of more than 600 by Bob Greenberg, executive director of the exhibition, dubbed AWE, for Advertising Week Experience.
“What I tried to do was curate everything from the point of view of a CMO who doesn’t have a lot of time and can’t do the deep dive into the various technologies that are coming at us like a freight train all the time,” says Greenberg -- who as the former CMO of Panasonic, knows something about both technology and being a CMO.
Greenberg said he approached the process like a “spoiled brat,” picking and choosing his favorite disruptive players based on his one expert background and interests, including road trips to major media technology hubs such as CES and SXSW.
“Everything was curated through a lens of, basically, what’s keeping [CMOs] up at night,” says Greenberg, adding that the biggest issue that comes up when AWE asks marketing executives how they are being impacted by the rapidly changing pace of technology, is that “it’s making us irrelevant.
“Their 14-year-old daughter knows more about some of these emerging technologies than they do. Just when you feel like you’re getting an understanding of Twitter, along comes Pinterest, so it’s hard for them to keep up. So we designed AWE as a way for them to stay on top of the technologies that are most relevant to marketers in some of the big emerging trends: mobile, social, content, data, analytics, privacy conformance, and various areas of innovation.”
Importantly, Greenberg says it was crucial that the technology start-ups all had some immediate application and implications for marketers. “They couldn’t be too far out,” he explains, “because if it’s not going to impact my plan in the next six months, it’s not really relevant to me.”
Another important criterion, he says, was that the companies exhibiting next week, “had to be willing to teach, not sell, meaning, it’s not a trade show. It’s an intelligence exchange of new and exciting information.”
That’s a big departure from last year, says Advertising Week Executive Director Matt Scheckner, when it tried to launch AWE as a conventional trade show, charging companies to exhibit. As a result, Scheckner says it didn’t generate the best and most representative selection of exhibitors, and therefore wasn’t that attractive to attendees. That, in turn, generated poor foot traffic to AWE, so he says the organizers went back to the drawing board and decided to scrap the pay model in lieu of making it a richer experience for attendees.
“Frankly, this represents an area of investment for us,” Scheckner admits, adding, “Not all of the parts of Advertising Week are financially sane. This one is an investment.”
It’s one he hopes will grow enough that the Advertising Week organizers can come back and figure out a way to monetize. Meanwhile, he says, Advertising Week’s main focus will continue to be on the culture and business practices of Madison Avenue, or what he calls “business issues by day, and show business at night.”
To make AWE more attractive, Scheckner says the exhibition space in the bottom floor of the Times Center was also redesigned to make it more appealing and more efficient for traffic flow, with new exhibitors showcasing each day of the week.
Asked what his favorite newbie is, AWE’s Greenberg singles out Augment, a French company I found in Austin at SXSW. They have a new take on [augmented reality], which was very close to my heart. When I was at Panasonic, I had this ridiculous goal of putting a television in someone’s home before they even bought it, just so they could see what it’s like. That’s what Augment does. It’s the next level of online shopping.”