PRNewser Interview: Drew Ianni, Global Programming Chair, ad:tech

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As PRNewser readers know, we were on hand at last week’s ad:tech conference in New York. While this is obviously a PR blog, not an advertising blog (we leave that to Agency Spy) there is always many a PR angle to cover with any trade show. Also, many of the vendors and agencies at ad:tech are competing with PR for a larger share of corporation’s marketing budgets, so we felt it would be worth our time to stop by and skope things out.

After the conference, we caught up via email with Global Programming Chair Drew Ianni, to get a deeper perspective on this year’s New York conference, what tactics they used to promote the show, and specifically his work with the Edelman team who runs PR for the conference. If you’re pitching a client to speak or present at ad:tech, Drew is the person to know.

Did the team see any difference in attendance and/or sponsorships due to the current economic climate?


Despite the tough economy, we’re encouraged by the turnout: the expo floor was very busy, and the attendance stayed strong. It seems 2009 will provide the real test. Traditionally, the conference industry is impacted by economic downturns. ad:tech is the leading event in the digital media and marketing space: if people have to cut on conferences, we believe they’ll keep us on the list. In fact, industry decision-makers predict digital media will grow at the expense of traditional media, and spending on digital marketing in 2009 will increase

What are some essential “dos and don’ts” when promoting a large conference like ad:tech?

The key is to set expectations with media, bloggers and analysts by clearly defining the trends and topics we will cover at the show. At this year’s New York ad:tech, the economy and the election served as obvious themes. We also look at news our exhibitors will announce as well as our keynotes and power panels to highlight the trends. For example, we created a power panel to explore the industry’s need to create a universal new media currency, which will maximize the growth of a new non-search online advertising market.

We value longevity. Therefore, a “don’t” for us is giving the registered media list to companies other than speakers and exhibitors–whom we want to share the list with their PR firm. Based on feedback from media, we know it can be overwhelming if they are approached by hundreds of companies, so we aim to prevent that.

What are some specific things the Edelman did in terms of social media outreach and promotion?

We’ve been welcoming bloggers to the event for several years and encourage them to cover the show. We keep media and bloggers as well as speakers, exhibitors and attendees updated on what’s going on at the show through the ad:tech blog.

[We created] a global ad:tech Facebook group that features more than 1,200 members, and attendees share links, photos and comments there. This year, ad:tech added Twitter to the mix, and many joined us in conversations there. A Flickr group includes photos from the show. Edelman worked with us on developing this strategy, while ad:tech employees run the various social media accounts.

What were some of the most well attended sessions? What topics seem to be resonating most with the audience?

Attendees told us they appreciated the quality of our opening keynotes: we began ad:tech NY with Jonathan Klein, president, CNN/U.S. on Election Day. He said CNN, since 2004 when he joined the cable network, has embraced digital technology, especially during Election 2008-everything from iReports filed by citizens at the scene of breaking news, to questions posed by YouTube users during the presidential debates; also, CNN expanded the number of experts invited onto the set, and added touch-sensitive maps of the states.

On Nov. 5, the day after President-elect Barack Obama became the first African-American to capture the presidency, advertising pioneer Shelly Lazarus delivered the opening keynote. She praised his campaign’s brilliant use of all the digital tools, where he connected personally with people and empowered them to serve as his fundraisers and ambassadors. She noted that she and all his other supporters received a text message from Obama 10 minutes before he made his victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park. Lazarus embraced this new exciting digital world and encouraged attendees to be creative, take risks and think in new ways.

eMarketer CEO Geoff Ramsey delivered favorable news to digital marketers at ad:tech: he said although spending in traditional media may shrink in the midst of the global economic downturn, online ad spending is likely to grow in double digits; he forecast online advertising will grow next year at 14.5%.

How many staff does Edelman have on site? What are their roles?

We work with Edelman to position ad:tech as the premier marketing show, where we address how digital is changing media and marketing for brand marketers and digerati alike. Edelman has three to five staffers working on site–in the press room, the hallways and the meeting rooms–to ensure the media and bloggers connect with speakers and attend sessions. Edelman team members also attend panels to identify stories for specific reporters and bloggers, and may add to conversations on blogs, Twitter or Facebook. One of my goals for ad:tech is to attract top media, many whom I invite to moderate panels and cover the show every year.