Cognitive Dissonance? Not This Time

On the heels of OMMA West, I find myself thinking far more about what attendees told me after panels than about anything else from the event. Part of this stems from the usual desire to learn and improve, and part of it probably results from what one attendee really took me to task over.

The good news is that what people told me was overwhelmingly favorable. By and large, folks liked the energy and content of the panels, and while turnout for this first show may not have been what was expected, the silver lining was that those in attendance seemed far more engaged than at many larger events. Part of that may have been a function of the more intimate size of this one itself, but I digress.

The one dissenting view among all those I spoke to after OMMA came from a veteran marketer who's been to many such events. She said that she was a bit disappointed in just one item--not that panels or the show weren't run well, but that when we gather, we need to cover new ground on old issues and be unafraid of upsetting people.



That's been on my mind because I was operating under the impression that OMMA West really was noticeably more daring than most other shows. Panels I attended or participated in all introduced at least one or two new perspectives, and everyone who attended the last "Town Hall" panel seemed to really enjoy it. This panel featured all the Spin Columnists joined by Search Guru John Battelle and moderated by Geofff Ramsey (channeling Phil Donahue).

I think that the theme of OMMA West was perhaps best expressed by Bob Garfield, whose remarks have been covered by others here before me. While he talked about the "Tsunami" of business that may be coming to interactive in the next few years, he also provided a serious warning--that our industry is not really ready for the opportunity that awaits, and that we'd better get our act together or else we might really blow it.

He was talking, of course, about our industry's acne that is pop-ups, our bad hair that is sketchy content, and our halitosis that's spam. He didn't even really focus on our stigmata of Spyware, which has probably gone farther than any of our industry's other ills to erode consumer trust.

But he didn't really have to, did he? If the dissenting attendee had heard what I heard at OMMA West, she'd have learned that major interactive publishers, major online marketers, and consumer advocates all think that it's up to the Fortune 500 brands that are buying campaigns through third parties that utilize these scurrilous tactics to own up--and stop. It's come to that, hasn't it? The recently revealed Deep Throat taught us to "follow the money." I heard multiple panelists from multiple perspectives within and outside of our industry say the same thing at OMMA West--and that's not something I think I'd ever heard at an industry event.

She'd have heard that major SEMs don't really care if VCs discount the valuations of their companies because they rely on good people as much as proprietary technology--because all they really care about is providing value for their clients. So maybe we can all agree that there's good news in the fact that not all players in our largest industry segment are focused on their exit strategies.

She'd have learned that the rush to blog is an important one--but not as important to serious journalists as some bloggers may have us believe.

Why cognitive dissonance? It's only thus if her dissenting view is the correct one, and if everyone who expressed the views mentioned above is either lying or wrong. That would mean we were not--as an industry--willing to live by what we're saying; that we're not willing to walk the talk, as it were.

Anyone who's read this space regularly can guess that I disagree heartily with that view. Let's at least get this much straight--after yet another quarter of serious industry growth, and with more job openings than I can recall, we'd better walk the talk. Otherwise, we'll have no excuse whatsoever for a repeat of anything along the lines of the spring of 2000.

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