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Key Takeaways from Ad-Tech San Francisco (part one)

Posted on 4.23.2009

Attending tradeshows is always an enlightening and often motivating experience. Those that were fortunate enough to attend Ad-Tech in San Francisco this week saw a lot activity in and excitement about the state of the search marketing and Internet advertising industries. Here are a few first-hand takeaways on what impressed Website Magazine as well as some interesting companies to watch starting today.

This is part one of our three-part series (the second and third parts will be published early next week) on Key Takeaways from Ad-Tech San Francisco.

Surprise; there are alternatives to Adsense
I was fortunate enough to speak on a panel about alternatives to contextual advertising programs for affiliates/publishers at AdSpace. The consensus of the panel (Amazon, Ebay and Vibrant Media and of course Website Magazine) was that affiliates had options and should use them and as creatively as possible. As we mentioned this morning, Microsoft announced its PubCenter solution. Ebay is pushing their referral network (ahem, with 50$ payouts) and offering a deep integration of product listings through XML for example. Amazon and its over 100K active associates have endless ways of generating revenue. Even Vibrant Media's InText solution is a contender for publishers looking to monetize on large volumes of page impressions. As you can see, the point is that there are many opportunities available but publishers must partner with programs which add value to their community and offer competitive payouts. Fortunately, there are alternatives - you're only limited by your creativity and ambition.

Video will soon find its place thanks to simplified creative
There have been so many barriers to entry for video that despite all the "it's going to be big" chatter, it remains out of touch for many advertisers. There were two solution providers in attendance at Ad-Tech that were impressive to me - AditAll and CometAds. Both services enable advertisers to create their own video ads. Demos of both platforms revealed their ease of use in creating video and value proposition to merchants. With so many ad servers working with multimedia creative like video these days, and with so much inventory liquid currently on so many quality networks, a genuine opportunity to brand a business is available and should be seriously considered.   

The value of social is deeper than you think
There are fewer social app solutions being offered than you might think at a show like Ad-Tech, but those that are there are innovative, practical and getting lots of attention. SocialTwist is one of them, a tell-a-friend solution which lets Web publishers tap into the social graph by leveraging social channels like instant messages, email and blog posts. Consider it a much enhanced version of products like ShareThis. Widgets aside (Social Twist actually has a solution which offers deeper integration for larger enterprises too), social applications are also gaining in adopters and there are many forward-thinking companies making it possible. Facebookster, a provider of social branding applications, is one that caught the attention of many in attendance.  

Targeted, specialized lead generation is where marketing is headed
Co-registration used to be where a lot of interest was at shows like this, but pure lead generation networks have taken their place (or rebranded themselves entirely). What is unique about lead generation networks these days is their increase in specialization. For example, I spoke with InnovationAds CIO Jason Scott at length about his company's focus on the education niche - right now a very hot market as professionals look to extend their value through education. InnovationAds' challenges are no different than others in the lead generation space in that they still must drive qualified leads to those using their service, but a focus on doing so by being more of a holistic lead generation provider (by establishing call centers for example) is where the industry is heading. 

Display is making a resurgence (through technology)
While many advertising networks were in attendance at the show, those which focused on display alone were few and far between. One reason might be (again) the cost of entry for small and mid-size advertisers and agencies - those without dedicated design staff. Companies like AdReady are aiming to ease the transition to display advertising a reality. With a whole new suite of tools (covered at Website Magazine last week), both publishers and advertisers might (considering all the open inventory) want to reconsider display as a means to generate exposure and leads.

Email is alive and well
There remains, despite the often loud voices of SEO and paid search proponents, no better way to connect with users than email. Of course, the quality of the list being used and the efficiency of deliverability of messages remains of paramount importance to advertisers and marketers. Many of the big names in email were in attendance including Lyris, ExactTarget and even some niche providers such as StrongMail (transactional email). By all accounts, email (or at least those that rely on it for consumer engagement) is maturing. 

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