When 212 Means Sustainable

A few years ago, I would join any number of you dear readers at elaborate, loud, boisterous parties that were a hallmark of the Internet boom that became the Internet bubble. I remember one particular party that accompanied a Streaming Media show in San Jose, maybe in 1999. Such was its over-the-top budget, that it made me think I was in Mandalay Bay's Rum Jungle, in Las Vegas. The hosts must have spent $100,000 on it. Can you imagine that?

Of course, the company that threw that party never did show any revenue. But, that wasn't the point then, was it?

I was reminded of this last night when I told Brian Quinn, President of the 212 Interactive Advertising Club, that today's column was going to be devoted to the rowdy party that 212 had thrown downtown last night.

For those of you not reading this in the New York area through bloodshot eyes, brought on by the aforementioned proceedings, 212 hosted a networking party last night to which more than 500 people RSVP'd, and seemingly 700 showed up. It was jammed - kind of like the old days.



Brian's first response was to ask me to mention 212's educational mission, and to make sure that readers knew that 212 did more than throw parties that feature sponsoring companies. 212 also provides forums, outlets and influential positions to young people in the business. The idea, it seems to me, is that 212 wants to provide fun outlets, but primarily, it wants to make sure that we get it right this time through education and opportunity. Membership is inexpensive (Free for agency employees, $50 for non-agency employees), and educational forums and opportunities far outweigh parties like last night's.

As I looked around the (too) packed room last night, I remarked to someone that the big difference is that everyone there worked for a company that was making money. Now that many more of us can all laugh as we look back to 1999, I thought about what's different, and what the creation of an organization like 212 implies about this difference.

As far as I'm concerned, the difference is about sustainability. While plenty of attendees last night were partying like it was 1999, so to speak, most people I spoke to were working the room, recognizing company names and asking questions - using the time, not wasting it.

Not wasting it is key. We're in a different ad market now, and there are many more opportunities. Today, when VCs visit companies in our space, they're looking to make investments in entities that are already profitable, not in companies that may drive their first revenue in a quarter or two. This opportunity is only going to grow, if you can believe analysts like the prolific Safa Rashtchy of US Bancorp Piper Jaffray. Most of the people I talk to in our business today aren't looking for a quick buck or a clear exit strategy. They're looking for careers and they want to learn more. Mostly, they want to learn more about Search and ways they can get closer to Search models. But, I digress.

This is the posture that 212 wants to encourage. More training, more experience, more opportunity - building a sustainable model for an interactive advertising industry, which has finally convinced its many critics that its here to stay.

212 uses the word "fun" on its website many times. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing more fun than sustainability. I'm sure that 212's Board of Directors, as well as all of us who have survived and begun to thrive, would agree.

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