ad:tech London 2009 – ‘think strategy, not just technology’


On Wednesday, I spent the morning at ad:tech London, the show that bills itself as being “all about interactive marketing”. For those who didn’t make it and are interested in what they might have missed, here’s a quick run through of this first-timer’s observations.

Footfall indicates a flourishing industry

Unsurprisingly, the exhibition floor at Olympia was packed from the moment I got there until the moment I left. Forrester Research recently predicted a further 15% growth for search marketing between 2009 and 2014, so it’s no surprise that so many people want a slice of the action. Don’t underestimate the increasing importance of social media though (also discussed in detail at ad:tech), for which Forrester is predicting a 34% expansion.

I took a sneaky peek at other visitors’ badges and found a healthy mix of marketers and small business owners. Exhibitors and speakers alike therefore needed to adjust their pitches if they were to address the many different levels of understanding possessed by this mix of visitors.

Seminars cover the basics – in a good way

I attended a range of seminars throughout the day – alternating between the analytics/affiliates and search/ad networks theatres. The first seminar was pitched at a relatively basic level, but the speaker made some good points. This is my summary of the most interesting ones.

  • Web marketing activity should be integrated with offline marketing activity. A good point and one that too many people overlook. If your online marketing agency is aware of offline campaigns that might be driving additional traffic to the website, it will be able to track success with analytics and ensure that those visitors are driven to relevant landing pages that meet their expectations, rather than just a generic homepage.
  • Pay per click results should inform natural search campaigns, and vice versa. This is often one of the primary benefits of working with an agency that manages both. PPC data can tell you which keywords are resulting in the best conversions, allowing you to be more targeted with natural search efforts
  • Many people who manage their own online marketing campaigns fail to set up analytics accounts properly – and some don’t have any monitoring in place at all. This concern was echoed by Microsoft’s Group Search Manager whose lasting message was “Know your searcher”. Analytics data can be used to help you plan more efficient campaigns. Microsoft also argued that you not only need to track everything, but you also need to be able to respond…
  • Be flexible with your online marketing budget. This by no means implies that you need to be prepared to plough more money into the campaign at any given time, but simply that you need to take advantage of seasonality and ROI trends. You can achieve this by reallocating budget if there is a surprising upturn in search volumes earlier – or later – than you expected.
  • Invest in your brand as well as your keywords. This message resonated well with me, particuarly as I’m someone who has come to the online arena with a background in more traditional forms of marketing. It is an irrefutable fact that people still click on the brands that they recognise ahead of those that they don’t – even if the known brands are further down the SERPs (search engine results pages).

This links back to my very first point – get your PR agency talking to your online marketing agency and make sure that your various campaigns support and strengthen one another. According to Microsoft, 54% of people are more likely to search on a brand term (company name, tagline, key phrase from adverts, etc.) once they’ve seen a display ad. And, of course, this can all be tracked online.

Why should you go to ad:tech 2010?

Overall, it was a good day and I’d recommend the seminar programme to anyone who is interested in increasing their basic understanding online marketing. The main seminars were completely free (you can pay to attend the Google University if you so wish), so they’re a good option if you want to learn whilst avoiding the persistent sales pitches from the exhibitors with stands.

If you’re a seasoned online marketing professional, I couldn’t say with confidence that you’re likely to get a lot out of a visit to this exhibition – unless it’s a bit of competitor analysis that you’re after, of course.

If you didn’t make it to ad:tech this year and would like to talk to someone about online marketing – or if you did go, but were disappointed by the companies you spoke to – give Coast Digital a call. We’ll be happy to help you with any aspect of digital marketing that interests you.


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