At Transformation 2010, its combined Leadership and Media Conference, which starts on Sunday, the American Association of Advertising Agencies is aiming for as diverse an agenda as possible.
Mike Donahue, 4A's evp, said, "Agency people don't want to come here just to talk to other agency people."
He noted that keynoters include Steve Burke of Comcast, Carol Bartz of Yahoo and Chris Anderson or Wired and points out that a little more than a third of the 50 speakers at the conference this year are women, far more than any previous 4A's event.
But attendees will also hear from top agency executives including Nick Brien, newly appointed CEO of McCann Erickson, and Chuck Porter, co-chairman, Crispin Porter + Bogusky and incoming 4A's chairman. Marketers such as Kodak and Unilever will offer case studies.
Pre-registration for next week's event is "well over" 900 attendees, according to Donahue. About 50 percent more members have signed up compared with the combined total from last year's separate leadership and media confabs, when the industry was reeling from the full force of the recession.
The number for last year does not include about 250 non-member registrants who participated in the trade show at the 4A's Media Conference, where some 70 companies exhibited products and services.
This year, the 4A's has combined the Leadership and Media Conferences under the banner Transformation 2010 and the trade expo has been discontinued.
Donahue, point man on the staging of the conference, said he was surprised at the turnout so far. "I would have been happy with 700 or 750," he said, given the still somewhat shaky status of the economy. But the industry is "looking for answers" about how to proceed in the recovery and post-recessionary climate, he said, noting that the conference's theme this year is "transformation."
Based on the numbers so far, said Donahue, "we think we made a good decision to put the two shows together."
While the trade show, in place for more than a decade, is gone, the conference has attracted a smaller group of corporate sponsors, including Yahoo and Donovan Data Systems. Donahue acknowledged that in the past some trade show exhibitors, particularly smaller ones, indicated that they didn't feel they were getting appropriate value from the expo.
There will be a so-called "Transformation Lounge," where some but not all of the sponsors have reserved space to meet and greet attendees, said Donahue. Revenue from the sponsors, he said, exceeded the revenues generated by the trade show. Some sponsors are represented on the speakers list; others are not. He stressed, however, that sponsorship was not required to get a slot on the speakers' list. "It's not pay for play," he said.
Several new pieces of research will be presented at the conference, including one sponsored by Univision on Latino media habits. The University of Southern California Center for the Digital Future will offer insights on purchasing and media habits of 12- to 24-year-olds. Ball State University research looking at consumer touch points and insights from the new Disney Media Lab in Austin, Texas, will be presented as well. Jane Clarke, head of the new Coalition for Innovation of Media Measurement, will outline the group's effort to develop set-top box and cross-platform measurement tools.