Ad:tech Sydney. Very mysterious.

Liam Walsh writes: There is a big healthy disclaimer that belongs here and it reads “I am presently running a large performance network”. Done.
Now in the spirit of a jolly good whinge, what on earth is going on with the Ad:tech conference in Sydney this march?

Bunch of very interesting topics are being covered but the weighting seems entirely random.

There are three sessions specifically on mobile, while the last estimate of mobile advertising revenue I saw was $5million for the year.

Social media has five sessions. Five. In addition, there is one on twitter (which as mentioned in previous posts does not have one dollar of revenue).

The two smallest segments of digital media get the most coverage in the schedule.

Contrast this with search which gets 1.5 sessions and commands over 40% of the local industry revenue. Very odd.

And now for the point of the bias disclosure, the performance sector is not being covered at all.

The performance area is particularly important in a recession affected global economy for obvious reasons. It is impacting the structure of the entire online display pricing systems.

More importantly the revenue it attracts is expected to grow at over 40% this year. It will be no less than 15% of the sector.

How performance cannot be included when it is so clearly a major part of 2009 is a mystery.

According the schedule posted online there is also absolutely no coverage of behavioural targeting. And nothing on Ad exchanges.

The intent here is not to throw rocks, as running conferences is hard work. People are hard to please.

Further, there is a balance to strike between covering what is already established and finding room for emerging opportunities within a limited time frame.

But the balance here just isn’t right. It is skewing too much into areas which are not commercially relevant to the attendees.

Ben Shepherd writes: I agree with Liam on most things aside mobile, I think that needs the cover it is getting.

Social media is getting too much time on the schedule … what’s more is most talk about social media is just that, talk … not a whole lot of real insight just a lot of talking. Nothing wrong with that – but when you pay $1600 to go to a conference you don’t want a bunch of bloggers talking about themselves and their mates.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the art of conference scheduling is understanding your audience. I do not believe the local audience that will attend ad-tech are going to to have an interest in a lot of the social media discussion … in fact, I would argue that most of the social media crew won’t even attend.

I think there could be a nice little session on in game (Brian from Massive could speak here) and a great session on Branded content online (get Kate Richardson or Renee Bilston from ninepixels) … some more insight into true incremental benefits of search (touched on with the last click attribution session). The dark marketing debate sounds interesting but I question its real value and positive contribution to the wider digital advertising world. (cash for comment in this market online is very rare).

The rest looks great.




15 responses to “Ad:tech Sydney. Very mysterious.

  1. Pingback: Ad:tech Sydney. Very mysterious. « talking digital: liam walsh/ben … : resources

  2. Hey Ben, I hope the Dark Marketing Debate will be interesting as I will be on the panel. I think this ground will only get more murky as more companies play within online communities.

    I think it will stretch further than just cash for comment. Just look at the latest debacle over the fake videos for Tourism Queensland –

    I would imagine topics like this will be covered in the session as well. Are you coming up?

  3. talkingdigital

    not sure mate.

    i actually submitted a topic for their consideration for a panel about content and the importance of context – where i was going to get tony faure, eric beecher, katie may etc to talk around this issue … no one ever got back to me.

  4. Thanks for your comments on the content for the Ad:tech program. As I am sure you know, following feedback from last year, we have made a significant effort to get the digital and marketing communities to participate in actively defining the content that they would like to see at this years event,. We have done this through the ad:tech brain ( Specifically, calls to comment where made here and here and overall we have had some very helpful and constructive input which we have built into the program and moderator briefs.

    Given that not everyone may see or want to comment on the brain, we have also emailed all our contacts and past attendees asking for proposals, twittered these requests, posted the question several times on linkedin forums and digital media groups and created a facebook group asking the same question. Again, we got numerous valuable suggestions, though sadly, not enough to devote a full session to performance media.

    That being said, you do raise some very valid points regarding revenue and the impact this could have on program content weightings. For this reason I am simultaneously posting this comment to the brain, to see if others agree.

    Lets start with the facts we know about the conference:
    • Historically, attendance is split equally between Agencies/suppliers, Marketers (or clients ) and publishers.
    • There are a total of 30 sessions (3 keynotes)
    • Primary feedback from last year was a) more case studies and b) more cutting edge stuff (less digital 101)
    • Based on session tracking from last year, social media sessions outranked any other content

    So, taking this on board, lets look at the revenue argument as a rational for content allocation:
    if we take the IAB revenue splits as a guide ( to programming then we would have 47% of the 30 conference topics (roughly 16 panels) should be devoted to the topic of search, 28% (roughly 14 panels) to General display advertising (and I am assuming this includes performance networks) and 25% (lets say 10) devoted to classifieds. Now this all sounds a bit dry and we all know that if money and expenditure are divided more broadly than this.

    Another approach is to take the AIMIA digital services index ( Here, the picture gets a lot more diverse. Suddenly online ad spend drops to 21% (down to maybe 9 topics) and things like Digital Direct and Email start to take on more of the lions share. But of course neither of these statistical analysis’s even count social media or mobile because, as you rightly point out, no publisher, performance network or media company have figured out how to make money on it.

    Perhaps the other part of this statistical equation that the revenue focus does not account for is what the audience is doing. Whether any of the publishers or media companies are making money or not, according to a recent report from Steven Noble from Forrester (,7211,46786,00.html), Three-Quarters Of Australian Online Adults Use Social Technologies. According to Hitwise, 8% of all visits to internet
    Sites in Australia were to social networks and forums with an average time spent of over 12 minutes. And Twitter last year had usage growth statistics of over 500%..

    While it is fair to say, these guys may not have figured how to make real money yet, this is clearly another trend that marketers need to understand even if only so they can make an intelligent decision not to participate. Fi Bendall of Bendalls group wrote an interesting article recently (
    ) that explores this very point.

    So…I pose the question again. If there is a burning issue that needs to be covered, please elaborate on it and help us debate the case for it’s inclusion.

  5. iamcontrarian

    Thanks Jenny for your comment. It is very thorough.

    It is impressive that you have sought so many opinions via different methods.

    Interesting social media is so popular with respondents. I wonder if it is indicative of the view of the digital evangelists and less representative of the more mainstream digital participants. That may be a conversation for a beer.

    With regard to specific topics, I would like to see what is driving the growth of performance and what marketers should be doing to embrace or reject it.

    At the recent OPA conference nearly every session was hi-jacked by discussions on this subject so I am confident it is relevant.

    Regards a session on twitter, I assume the position of pedant here and anything that is called ad-tech should not be covering businesses which have no advertising.

  6. Liam and Ian, you could not be seriously questioning why there is a Twitter session?

    Just because Twitter doesn’t have an advertising model does not mean other companies cannot use it as part of their marketing, in particular their customer service. Look at the customer service that @bigpondteam is now offering through Twitter.

  7. Hi. Yes I seriously am challenging that.

    Twitter is no doubt valuable to many people and it is genuinely impressive when businesses like Telstra find ways to utilise these platforms to help their business.

    But this is a historic moment and an important one. This is not a small blip, this is a major and dramatic collapse in our real economy.

    Conference fees get cut even before advertiing so when we have them they have to help the industry be profitable and employ people.

    Twitter is very interesting to explore. It’s growth, much like facebook has been explosive but this is not the place for it. This is the place for commercial and scaleable industry advancement.

  8. Pingback: Adtech accused of getting its priorities wrong « mUmBRELLA

  9. MONEY MADE FROM ADVERTISING ON TWITTER InternetNews via Venturebeat reports that Dell has made US$1 Million in revenue in the past 12 months. This was via discount alerts (tweets) sent from the Dell twitter account to its followers. The tweets went out to notify potential customers of time limited discounts (which Dell runs across many media channels.)
    If you come to Ad:Tech, you’ll know about low cost/free Twitter tools and ROI, and much much more 🙂

  10. “Regards a session on twitter, I assume the position of pedant here and anything that is called ad-tech should not be covering businesses which have no advertising.”

    Perhaps the underlying issue is around the definition of the term advertising.

    I seem to remember Saatchi & Saatchi ditching the word advertising from their name many years ago. This debate shows they made the right decision.

    One man’s social media is another’s word of mouth campaign. It’s all about communication. Not advertising.

  11. Why would you want to go to a conference that exactly matched what is currently the “run of the mill”? You go to a conference to hear what’s new and what you might use in the future.

    So is it any wonder why performance ads aren’t a hot topic at Ad:tech? (let’s not even start with whether they’re effective)

  12. Fionn wrote a similar thought on the Ad:tech brain site about too much focus on funky stuff.

  13. Bugger – wrong link pasted. Fionn doesn’t write for TechCrunch (that I know of). Correct link below.

  14. Pingback: Should money drive ad:tech content? « The Ideagarden Blog

  15. Pingback: Ad:Tech Sydney starts tomorrow … « talking digital - Ben Shepherd

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