I spent the last couple days at an advertising industry event here in New York. I'm not in advertising, but using the logic of "we work for people who advertise" and "it has 'tech' in it's title" we all hung name-tag lanyards around our necks and fought through the crowds at the Hilton to see what new and exciting ideas were bubbling to the surface of the advertising world.
I'm not used to these kinds of events. The "conventions" I've been to are generally attended by either old white men who are über-serious about profit margins and anxious to get to
the strip club their mistresses chewing the carcasses of the middle class a very important meeting, or geeky, pasty guys with "Oracle" or "Sun Microsystems" embroidered on their polo shirts and enough pagers, cellphones, and PDA's hanging from their belts to make Robin jealous.
Advertising conferences are apparently much different. See: lots of $300 jeans and overpriced shirts from LES boutiques. Hear: exuberant talk about "creating buzz" and "the wow-factor." Feel: massive denial that they're in this industry by choice, and not because they couldn't get good grades in jobs requiring math, science, or reading skills.
- If I hear one more person earnestly and ardently tell me "it's not about you, it's about the customer" I'm going to stab someone. Really? Did you figure that out on your own? Revolutionary! Only multi-cellular organisms with primitive consciousness can grasp that...thanks for sharing!
- My vote for word most-likely to be so overused it will have lost all meaning by Christmas: "engagement"
- Swag -- can't we do better than pens and squishy balls? I can now transcribe the complete works of Edward Gibbon and not run out of ink. (Although I probably dumped a box of business cards into the drawing for the Mac Mini.)
- By my calculation, there are 692 companies all doing the exact same thing who are "the industry leader" offering "best practices", and all completely indistinguishable from each other.
- This isn't a consumer electronics show...are the booth babes really necessary? (On the other hand, those booths had a LOT more traffic)
- You can tell the difference between people like me (who thought they might learn something) and the rest of the group (who were SO EXCITED to be in New York on an expense account) by watching their eyes. We were the ones walking straight forward, resisting eye-contact and sporting revealing a single thought: "please god, let me get through this"
- The line at Starbucks was longer than the women's bathroom line at Lilith Fair. Thank god there's another one across the street. And another a block away. And another....and another....
It wasn't terrible. It just wasn't really good. I did get to see the legendary Ze Frank speak (funny dude, but you probably already knew that) and the free internet access meant web-surfing during the most boring presentations. And taking a break from Powerpoint for any amount of time is a good thing.
We all know the best conferences are in Cancun. Are you listening, boss? Cancun...that's where ALL the best stuff happens. If you need me to check it out for you let me know. And I may need to bring my wife along, too.