Around 93,000 tech, marketing and other digital industry professionals are in Barcelona this week for the 28th annual Mobile World Congress. It's not as ridiculously big as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which saw 170,000 attendees, but it's about twice the size of South By Southwest Interactive held yearly in Austin, Texas.
While the touristy location on Spain's eastern Mediterranean coast is certainly an attraction, we asked marketers about the real reasons for being here—their business objectives. This is the first Mobile World Congress for Brian Yamada, chief innovation officer at VML. He traveled more than 4,000 miles from his digital ad agency in Kansas City, Mo., drawn by the event's all-mobile focus.
"At the end of 2014, there were over 12 billion connected devices," he said. "That number will continue to grow, so regardless of the industry of our clients, the ongoing evolution of mobility will impact them."
Matt Mulderink is svp, director of mobile and social, product and partnerships at Starcom MediaVest Group. He punched a ticket to the show so he could get a sneak peek at new devices and ways for consumers to communicate in the near future.
"We're really trying to lean into industry events where we feel the people attending and the content served up are on the mark as to where things are going," he said. "It's time for marketers to answer—without flinching—'what is their global mobility strategy?' With each device that rolls out, people's expectations are raised for what technology can do. There's an urgency to bone up. This is the show for that."
Stuart Revell, CTO of techUK, agreed with Mulderink, and said he's looking forward to milling around the conference's endless stream of vendor exhibits to unearth consumer and business trends. "These companies represent some of the most innovative technologies," he said.
New York company xAd, which specializes in location-based mobile advertising technology, sent a team to get feedback on its products from marketers. "We're using this year's event to showcase our beta tool, Footprints, which allows marketers to visualize mobile activity in stores and ultimately drive sales," said Katy Zack, a rep for xAd. "We're building functionality now, and use [Mobile World Congress] to talk to leading mobile experts from around the world about what features they'd like to see included in the road map."
Speaking of road maps: Parknav, which offers real-time street parking visualizations in numerous markets, is one of the digital startups at the conference. The Chicago-based company is sharing a booth with fellow Windy City tech hopeful, Georama, which is an international travel app. Their booth is marked with a big sign that reads: The State of Illinois.
In the Instagram video below, they briefly tell us what the deal is with the sign.
And lastly, Yamada from VML comments on how Mobile World Congress is similar to the Consumer Electronics Show in this clip.