CLICK- by Paul DeBraccio

It seems that the uptick in the market has spawned many shovels. If you recall the old adage that the only people who made money during the gold rush of 1848 were the shovel salespeople.

Look around and you will see many many shovel companies out there. Every day I receive 5-10 invites to the latest conference on Wifi in bathrooms, to a meeting at a beautiful resort that does not have a real agenda other than tennis or cocktails.

Being CEO of a sales and consulting company, I should be overjoyed about all these opportunities to present my wares to major advertisers and agencies. However, this is déjà vu all over again. In 1998 there were conferences just like today, and most of them were just platforms for people to stand up and extol the virtues of their newest shovels.

I am wondering how much is really accomplished at these meetings. Do media buyers find them useful, or do they find them wasteful? I like it when publishers conduct meetings, as they tend to have a good sense of what is newsy and what is not. But how many other conference companies have a clue? Do the shovel salespeople provide a service--or just add to the blur of sales pitches that media buyers already must endure?

Maybe the industry needs to create one or two big annual events that encompass everything from wireless shovels to rich media shovels, IAB standards, and even wireless video games.

The consumer electronics, TV, radio, cable, and even the auto industry do that--and they all appear to be thriving.

COUNTER-CLICK- by Jason Heller

Media buyers do have a few "main" conferences that have become the "unofficial-official events" of the industry. The iMedia Summits would probably be the best examples. Most of the larger industry conferences do touch on a wide range of key digital media topics, but are not intended to provide a deeper understanding of any one particular channel or tactic. Unfortunately, in the reality of busy schedules and constant deadlines, conferences must justify the time sacrificed from day-to-day work. Deciding which conferences to attend has recently become a frequent topic of conversation at our agency. I can imagine the same is true at most shops these days.

Our industry is constantly evolving, and the increase in specialized conferences is indicative of what is happening in the marketplace. Clutter, chaos, and organized confusion. As digital media channels expand their boundaries and distribution techniques, we as a community need to share key elements of what we have learned in order to validate findings and understand how to better use each new digital channel or tactic to engage with consumers. Some of the specialized conferences have proven to provide invaluable information and networking opportunities, while others are a complete waste of time and a sales pitch for each of the sponsors. Caveat emptor.

In the end, it is all about the consumer. The media landscape is changing before our eyes, and consumers have more control than ever. The only way to harness this trend is to let your media live life at the edge--go with the flow. become one with your digitally minded consumers. The best media plans answer the question: "How do we leverage a deeper understanding of how to effectively communicate with consumer target XYZ?".

Paul compared the barrage of conferences to the gold rush of 1848, and indeed there are a lot of shovel salesmen out there. Although no shovel company can help you find the gold mine, some of them might just lead you to a few valuable nuggets.

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