February 2008 Archives

Ecosystem 2.0 Live Blog - Tuesday Morning

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Tuesday Noon
THAT’S A WRAP! What an amazing three days in Phoenix.  Before I sign off and close this blog, I wanted to remind everyone to check iab.net in the coming days for in-depth analysis, videos, photos and more as part of our Ecosystem 2.0 Recap.  I hope everyone enjoyed this blog and enjoyed the conference.  I know I did.  Now, it’s time to sneak one more In-N-Out Burger in before flying back to New York.  See you next time!

Mmmm, time for another Double Double Animal Style

Tuesday 11:55am
What a way to close what has been an an amazing conference by all accounts!  We were just treated to a frank an insightful interview of new AOL Chairman & CEO Randy Falco performed by Randall Rothenberg as he once again dusted off his journalist’s cap.

If there is one key point to take away from this interview, it’s that Falco strongly feels this business needs to be about the customer, not the technology. He expressed that we are still in the media and marketing business.  People and creativity still matter.  We are still very early in the game and the people who will win this game are the ones that go out there and think about solutions for their partners. Another key differentiation between Falco and his peers is his belief that he is not in this business to own insights and data.  He wants the marketers and agencies to be as smart as possible as it all comes back to relationships and customers.

Randy Falco says, “Microsoft and Google can leave us off the charts but they do so at their own peril.”

Rothenberg talks about people and relationships with Randy Falco.

Tuesday 11:00am
Our last panel of the conference did not disappoint.  It was The Great Debate - two branded publishers and two ad exchange leaders going head to head on the future of online advertising. The panel featured the following:

Moderator: Michael Wolf, Partner, Farallon Point Inc.
Patrick Keane, Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer, CBS Interactive
Jim Spanfeller, President and CEO, Forbes.com
Michael Rubenstein, Vice President and General Manager, DoubleClick Advertising Exchange
Bill Wise, General Manger, Global Exchange, Yahoo!

By all accounts, this was the most lively panel of the three days.  Each side raised insightful points. Exchanges reduce friction points and can help sell remnant inventory. They help figure our the value based on market demand.  At the same time, publishers need control and the relationships and understanding of inventory is still very important as consumers come to the web for content, not advertising.  Exchanges want to reduce friction,  Publishers want to maintain control of their customer interactions.  Based on what we saw today, this debate is far from over.

Michael Wolf had his hands full with this panel!

IMG_8119.JPGJim Spanfeller says exchanges disassociate the content provider from the advertiser.

IMG_8085.JPGBill Wise feels the exchange is a platform that allows the combination of art and science.

IMG_8150.JPGPatrick Keane wants transparency and visibility as a publisher.

IMG_8065.JPGMichael Rubenstein expresses that buyers are looking to have access to inventory
and they want the controls in their hands.

Next up is our last session of the day - a chat with AOL CEO Randy Falco.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday 10:00am
Rob Norman, CEO, GroupM Interaction, just delivered and exciting and energetic opening keynote.  Mr. Norman joked that he was a downgrade in keynote speaker from the previous days, but I doubt a single person in the highly engaged and entertained crowd would agree.

Entitled “Holy Crap!! What Now?” the presentation took a dive into the world of GroupM (the largest company nobody has ever heard of per Norman) and then proceeded to take a look at the past, present and future of the media agency.  One of the key themes is that today’s media agency is a dual agency, where tomorrow’s needs to be one.  And not only does the agency need to be integrated - so does the thinking. For Mr. Norman feels that interactive is not a media or a channel, rather it is a parallel universe. The new media agency needs to be a major data center, an arbitrageur of value and a significant component of the distribution chain.

Rob Norman looks at today’s media agencies and says “Holy crap!! What now?”

Next up is the highly anticipated “Great Debate.” Stay tuned for more!

Tuesday 9:15am
Randall Rothenberg just gave his thoughts on the key themes of the conference so far -

  • Platforms are competing for your attention.
  • Media is not a commodity if you don’t want it to be.
  • You can surmount commoditization with insights and a great user experience.
  • We must pursue the digital immigrants.
  • Agencies need the help f the media and the platforms.
Up next is Rob Norman - more to come!

Tuesday 9:00am
Good morning and welcome back to the Ecosystem 2.0 Live Blog.  It’s our last day here in Phoenix after what has been a news shattering conference.  You can check out a partial list of coverage here - IAB Annual Meeting Press Coverage So Far

On tap today are addresses from Rob Norman and Randy Falco, as well as an exciting debate on Ad Networks, Exchanges and the commoditization of media.  While you’re waiting for the program to start, I recommend you check out this morning’s “3 Minute Ad Age” featuring an interview with Randall Rothenberg on this event.


Ecosystem 2.0 Live Blog - Monday Afternoon

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Monday 5:30pm
Last but not least, it was time for Kimberly Kadlec, Chief Media Officer, Johnson & Johnson and Tina Sharkey, Chairman, BabyCenter to take the stage.  This was another highly anticipated panel and it did not disappoint.  Kadlec led off and it was clear this session would be all about insights. Per Ms. Kadlec, “Media companies are the most underleveraged resources for insights that exist.” She expressed her desire to not have media companies also serve as agencies.  “We need media companies to do what they do best and create great content and drive insight through that,” said Kadlec.  She added, “BabyCenter has taught us that media companies don’t just sell pork bellies, they sell much more.”  And with that barb aimed firmly towards the commoditization of media, she introduced Tina Sharkey.

Ms. Sharkey took us through a deep dive into the world of BabyCenter.  Throughout her presentation, we observed a new type of media company - the insights engine.  And within this insights engine is an ecosystem of engagement or as Ms. Sharkey preferred to call it, an egosystem.  It’s made up of the ways moms interact - from the Web to blogs, email, IM, Facebook and more.  The bottom line of this presentation is that there is more to advertising and marketing on the Web than impressions and ad serving.

Kimberly Kadlec talks about how we need to go beyond the consumer and look at things differently.

IMG_7415.JPGTina Sharkey illuminates the audience on the wonders of BabyCenter and the valuable insights it brings to marketers.

With that, it is time for me to say goodbye for today.  I’m off to enjoy some cocktails and dinner (and maybe a post dinner In-N-Out Burger).  Come back tomorrow for more live coverage of the IAB Annual Meeting!

Monday 4:30pm
It was now time to give branded media a place at the podium and first up was Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu.  For those who are unaware, Hulu is a new digital video distribution service focusing on premium content.  It’s actually in private beta at this time, soon to take the Internet by storm. Jason explained that Hulu’s mission is to help the world find the world’s premium content when, where and how they want to. Before you confuse Hulu with YouTube, keep in mind that “premium content” is key to Hulu’s strategy and this is an area of the market that is not yet well served. In the demonstration, we saw countless seasons of television shows ranging from current hits like 30 Rock, Simpsons and Heroes to classics like A-Team, Mary Tyler Moore and Hill Street Blues. It’s an endless supply of premium media on your terms. It’s important to note that everything is monetized, but it is done so in the most elegant way possible in order to keep the focus on the user experience.  Also included in Hulu are self-service social networking tools for blogging, sharing and more!

A photo of Jason is below.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to search for some episodes of Knight Rider.  After all, you can never get too much of “The Hoff.”

This is not Jason Kilar, but I’ll be seeing plenty of this man and his talking car once I get my Hulu password.

And this is Jason Kilar, happily showing off Hulu to an engaged crowd.

Monday 3:15pm

Our next panel was all about behavioral targeting. The member of the panel were:

Moderator: Matthew Wise, President and CEO, Q Interactive
Heidi Browning, Senior Vice President, Client Solutions, FOX Interactive Media
Bill Gossman, President and CEO, Revenue Science
Jay Krihak, Mediaedge:cia Sr Partner, Group Media Director, MEC Interaction
Joe Kyriakoza, Vice President, Product Strategy, Jumpstart Automotive Media

Each person brought his or her own expert perspective on the possibilities on behavioral targeting and where the industry needs to go to embrace and maximize value. Behavioral targeting is here and it is only going to become stronger and more embraced.

Mathew Wise was passionate when he expressed, “The Web hates protection.”

IMG_7087.JPGBill Gossman believes, the companies that are going to be good at this are the
ones who can pull out the ideal candidates for advertisers.


Joe Kyriakoza told us how the automotive space is one of the key drivers of behavioral
targeting because of the highly coveted audience.


Jay Krihak states, “you cannot look at behavior targeting as the end all be all for direct response and branding. You must identify the individual elements.”


Heidi Browning is proud that, “you can do a focus group every day for every demographic across the country and
not get a fraction of the insights that we get each day from our users.”

Up next - Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu.  Stay tuned!

Monday 2:30pm
Next up was Brian McAndrews, Microsoft’s new digital advertising chief. Given the current situation between Microsoft and Yahoo!, it was quite interesting to hear what McAndrews had to say in contrast to Jerry Yang and Susan Decker this morning.  He went into great detail on the work Microsoft is doing on their ad network and where they see the future heading.  One item that he placed a great deal of focus on is the data warehouse.  In order to do the kind of targeting that there is the potential to do, a massive data warehouse will be required in order to analyze, aggregate, predict and target.  He also expressed that you invent in the platform to innovate.  The digital ecosystem is all about change, innovation and opportunity.  He also stated that a comprehensive digital platform requires tremendous investment and scale, and by using that platform, publishers can invest in content and audience building.  Finally, we were treated to an overview of Microsoft’s Engagement ROI, a new system for analyzing the action driven by ads.


McAndrews says, “We’ve seen phenomenal change and it’s not ending anytime soon.”

Monday 1:45pm
Randall Rothenberg took the stage to give all in the house a brief update on IAB activities, letting us know what the IAB is doing as part of its three strategic pillars - engagement, accountability and operational effectiveness.  For more information, visit “Updates on 2008 IAB Initiatives” off the homepage of Iab.net.  He also announced that interactive advertising revenues for 2007 are expected to surpass $21 billion, per PricewaterhouseCoopers.  Congrats to all the interactive publishers in attendance and those reading from home!

Monday 1:30pm
Ok, we’re back.  During lunch, Jack Myers presented the first annual IAB Sales Awards to a packed house.  We’ll have a full gallery of winners on IAB.net in the next couple days so stay tuned.  Now, it’s time to get ready for a jam-packed afternoon agenda kicked off by Microsoft’s new digital advertising chief, Brian McAndrews.  Stay tuned for more updates!

ps - No In-N-Out Burgers for lunch as I predicted.  Maybe next year if I have anything to say about it (which I won’t but one can always dream ;>)


Ecosystem 2.0 Live Blog - Monday Morning

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Monday Noon
We just finished our first panel discussion of the day. One of these strongest themes of Ecosystem 2.0 has been the idea of competition leading to cooperation leading back to competition and so on.  Gathered onstage were an agency leader, a branded publisher, a vertical network founder, and a platform executive. What makes this special is that each has partnered outside of their core business in order to drive growth. Taking part in this panel were:

Moderator: John Battelle, Founder and Chairman, Federated Media Publishing
Matt Freeman, CEO, Tribal DDB
Don Friedman, EVP and CMO, Computer Associates
Lauren Wiener, Senior Vice President, Meredith Interactive Media
Peter Horan, CEO, IAC Media and Advertising

Check out some photos below -


The panel speaks of the new platforms that are based on conversation and how they are monetized.


Matt Freeman believes that in today’s ecosystem, whoever gets to the senior decision maker with good ideas essentially takes money from everyone else.


Don Friedman has a simply principle – anything published must be of value to the customer


Lauren Wiener uses her insights on the CRM side to bring great ideas to Digitas and then go back to the brands.


Peter Horan talks about how were are transitioning away from the high buy-in broadcast model into a conversational model.

That’s it for the morning session.  I’m off to lunch (unfortunately the events staff did not take my advice and cater from In-N-Out Burger) and then we’ll have more live from Ecosystem 2.0 this afternoon!

Monday 11:15am
Chris Vollmer, Media Practices Leader from Booz Allen Hamilton, just finished his presentation on the second half of the Marketing & Media Ecosystem 2010 study. This may have been the most informative hour of the conference so far.  There really is no way for me to address the depth and grasp of this groundbreaking study in this tiny bit of cyberspace I have here for the Ecosystem 2.0 Live Blog.  In a nutshell, online activity is on a tear.  However, there are still tremendous growth opportunities and this study outlined many of those.  We’ll have the full presentation on IAB.net in the coming days if not sooner.  Please remember to come back and download it.


Chris Vollmer tells us how marketers want advertising that provides a service – that consumers find valuable.

Monday 10:15am
Jerry Yang and Susan Decker just left the stage and it was quite an eventful hour.  Yang opened up with some reflection, remembering the days before the dot.com bust – when all knew that a more sustainable model had to be built.  And over the last five years, we’ve seen that. He spoke of Yahoo!’s strength in being part of our ecosystem as well as Yahoo! being an ecosystem in itself. Most importantly, he spoke of personalization and openness.  How do we drive a better experience for users and advertisers? Yang expressed that it’s about creating an advertiser and user experience that is flawless and creative.

Susan Decker then spoke about Yahoo!’s focus on making the process simpler for everyone engaging with each other in the advertising process.  She spoke of Yahoo!’s ad network, Panama, and their hope of revolutionizing the advertising industry by removing the headaches. Yahoo! hopes to leverage the power of all the users in the industry – and wants to do for the advertising industry what the DVR did for VCR users – revolutionize with simplicity in ways not thought possible.  Ultimately the goal is to allow publishers and advertisers to focus on creating and getting to the right audience at the right time.

Last but not least was a spirited Q&A with Randall Rothenberg.  Rothenberg put on his reporter’s cap and wasted no time in raising the elephant in the room of Microsoft’s attempted purchase.  This issue is so public that there was not much Yang could say that we have not already read.  However, he did speak of the galvanizing affect it has had within Yahoo!.  Susan added that this combined with the fact that more R&D dollars than ever are going towards new products, both on the consumer and advertiser side, makes this one of the most exciting first quarters ever at Yahoo!.

Randall spoke of branded publishers being fearful of platform consolidation and potential commoditization. Yang feels that rather than commoditizing, platforms are building the tools to enable more creativity. The tools that are shown to publishers are garnering the reactions of “wow, I can do so much more.”

Another interesting response came when Susan Decker was asked what today’s sales force needs to do differently than 10 years ago. She stated that what is happening now allows them to focus less on ad operations and more on sales channels. They can think of how to optimize the marketing funnel – how to increase awareness and branding. They can now use any product online to achieve a goal – search, video, mobile – it’s not just about display.

Overall, a very special session to watch, especially given how busy the folks at Yahoo! must be these days.  Chris Vollmer from Booz Allen is up next to talk about the second half of Marketing & Media Ecosystem 2010.  Stay tuned for more!


Jerry Yang asks “how do we drive a better experience for our users and our advertisers?”


Susan Decker is all smiles as she speaks about Yahoo!’s new ad network.


In response to the ownership of data,Yang expresses, “The consumer is still the king and they ultimately decide how they want to respond in this medium. We know there is an ecosystem developing.  Now we have to figure out the rules.”

Monday 8:55am
Good morning and welcome back to the Ecosystem 2.0 Live Blog from the IAB Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ.  We will once again be covering all the action as it happens.  Last night ended on a very fun note with a wonderful outdoor networking reception.  All in attendance looked to have a great time and we’ll have a gallery of photos up soon on IAB.net. Right now, the general session room is filling up as everyone in attendance is waiting to hear what Jerry Yang and Susan Decker of Yahoo! will have to say.  Stay tuned for more!


Rick Brunner does some entertaining for Rich LeFurgy and the rest of the welcome reception last night.


Ecosystem 2.0 Live Blog - Sunday Evening

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Sunday 7:00pm
That’s it for tonight.  I’ve off to the welcome reception to enjoy some cocktails, meet some old friends, make some new ones and maybe even slip away for an In-N-Out Burger (which as a New Yorker, might be one of the finest treats of taking a trip out to the Southwest).

Tune in tomorrow for complete coverage of the day’s events. And don’t forget to come back to IAB.net after the conference for a full gallery of photos, video, presentations and more.  It’s going to be an exciting couple of days in Phoenix!

Sunday Evening 6:50pm
Another surprise this evening - the debut of the IAB Service Excellence Awards.  Randall Rothenberg is on stage giving some well deserved recognition to the IAB members who have gone above and beyond in contributing over the years.  Here’s a list of the winners and check back on in the coming days to IAB.net for a full gallery of those who have contributed so much to the industry.

Chairperson Appreciation Awards
Adrian D’Souza of CNET and Dan Murphy of Univision Online, Ad Operations Council
Bruce Rogers of the Walt Disney Internet Group, CFO Council
Mike Hurt of Microsoft, Digital Video Committee
Craig Swerdloff of Return Path, eEmail Committee
Dave Madden of Wild Tangent, Games Committee
Peter Blacker of Telemundo, Hispanic Committee
Gayle Guzzardo of Q Interactive, Lead Generation Committee
Andy Jedynak of WeatherBug and Gary Schwartz of Impact Mobile, Mobile Committee
Dave Morgan, formerly of AOL, Public Policy Council
Stephen Kim of Microsoft, Research Council
Michael Rosen of WeatherBug and Brian Quinn of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, Sales Executive Council
Tim Armstrong of Google and David Karnstedt of Yahoo, Search Committee
Heidi Browning of FOX Interactive Media, User Generated Content Committee

Outstanding Achievement Awards
Adrian D’Souza and Dan Murphy
Trish Lemley
Gayle Guzzardo
David Sturman
Josh Baer
Stephen Kim

Sunday Evening 6:45pm
Wenda Harris Millard just left the stage and as your intrepid live blogger, I don’t know where to begin as the smoke pours out of my keyboard. If there was ever a way to kick off Ecosystem 2.0, this was it.  Ms. Millard focussed on change, the powerful change that has been sweeping through the marketing and advertising industry and will continue to do so at an even more rapid pace. She spoke of the consumer and how many years ago we knew the consumer would become the programmer of their own media.  However, we never anticipated that the consumer would also end up as the producer and the distributor. She spoke of the marketing process being in a strange, stagnant state in a dynamic world as the consumer is now ahead of the marketer. Research used to be all about input.  Now, it’s about output. We need to take responsibility for educating ourselves, marketers and agencies.  And we must help distinguish between quality and commodity.

Copy of IMG_5789.JPG

Wenda Harris Millard believes the coming year in media will be more volitile and hair-raising than the one that just passed.

Sunday Evening 6:15pm
Jim Spanfeller just left the stage after a brief reflection on this two-year tenure as Chairman of the IAB Board.  He pointed out three key items on his agenda when he took the position two years ago.  The first is making metrics more transparent as well as referenceable between online and offline media - something that the IAB has put a tremendous amount of diligence and effort into. Second was giving the IAB a seat in Washington, something achieved just over a year ago when the IAB opened its Washington, DC office.  And finally, he talked about content and how people go to the internet for great content - both editorial and services and we need to recognize that more than ever.


Spanfeller states, “We need to acknowledge, nourish and recognize great content.”

Sunday Evening 6:00pm
A pleasant and well deserved surprise as Randall Rothenberg givens Jim Spanfeller an award for his contributions to the IAB and the industry.


Sunday Evening 5:30pm
Let’s get the show on the road!  Randall Rothenberg, IAB President and CEO just opened up with some powerful remarks. He emphasized that this conference is about coming together to respond to industry demands.  It is incumbent on us to know and write the rules that will guide interactive moving forward.  Everyone is this room works hard to compete against each other and that drives tremendous growth.  But at the same time, we must also be willing to work together.  This is crucial as we work to drive ownership of the consumer.  He stated it best when he said “Ecosystem 2.0 is all of us working together to build businesses and improve lives.”


Rothenberg draws smiles from the rooms when he says “We must be willing to beat each others brains out and we must be willing to work together.”

Sunday Evening 5:00pm
Hello and welcome to the Ecosystem 2.0 live blog from the IAB Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. Right now there’s a great buzz in the room. The general session is slowly filling up in anticipation of Randall Rothenberg, Jim Spanfeller and Wenda Harris Millard taking the stage to open the meeting. Stay tuned for photos, updates and commentary as the evening continues. And, please post your comments, questions and observations below. Remember to hit refresh throughout the next two days to keep up with all the action.

phoenix AZ.jpg

blog-header-rr.gifPerhaps the signal moment at Hubert Burda Media’s wonderful DLD Conference in Munich, Germany last week occurred on the morning of the second day. DLD — it stands for “Digital, Life, Design,” and the conclave is modeled in part on the venerable TED Conference, albeit with a distinctly European flair — has grown in only three short years into the premier event for all-things-interactive in Europe. It sports an eclectic mix of speakers and attendees (members of the European Parliament, fashion models who blog, famous architects, unknown Israeli physicists, et al) and is, truth be told, kind of wacky. Its diversity and centerlessness fits the culture of DLD’s sponsoring company: Burda is an extremely successful German periodicals publisher, among whose 260 properties are some of the largest news, womens’, and lifestyle magazines in Europe, yet whose attitude is less businesslike than familial. One of Burda’s core competencies is networking, and the annual DLD meeting networks together a curious and intriguing group, one absolutely devoted to touting the digital future. Needless to say, all speakers project that future to be quite rosy.

Which leads me to the moment in question. It occurred immediately after a swarm of speakers had completed their presentations to a packed house on, as the session titled it, “TV Reloaded.” The presenters were a gallery of latter-day interactive video stars: Dina Kaplan, co-founder and COO of Blip.tv; Suranga Chandratillake, CEO of Blinkx; Niklas Zennstrom, co-founder of Joost; and Patrick Walker, head of content strategy and partnerships for YouTube in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

The panelists were fulsome about the imminence of traditional television’s defeat. “What we’re doing is very threatening to traditional TV networks,” declared Ms. Kaplan, whose company specializes in episodic online video programming. “Too much is exploding,” said Mr. Zennstrom (who, having helped to launch Skype, knows from explosive technologies). All this revolution needs to ignite it, Mr. Chandratillake suggested, is a way of navigating the new televisual cornucopia, and his company, a search engine with 18 million hours of video spidered and index, is that “next- generation remote control.”

At which point the moderator handed the microphone to a gentleman in the front row. His name is Martin Sorrell, and he is the chief executive of the WPP Group, one of the world’s largest marketing communications companies, and an engineer of the megamerger phenomenon that transformed and globalized the advertising industry in the 1980’s.

“If there’s a phrase I loathe, it’s ‘business model,’” Sir Martin said. “In my company, we have 102,000 people working in 106 countries. Our world is made up of revenues, costs, profits, and cash flow. I’ve heard a lot from this panel on what will be. But we do an enormous amount of business, much of it growing, with broadcast and cable television networks around the world. Can each panelist precisely say what their revenues, profits, and cash flows are today, and what they will be in a few years?

“Please,” Sir Martin added, “be precise.”

Unfortunately, almost no one was.

To be fair, Mr. Chandratillake, whose Blinkx is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, did say that he expected the company to achieve revenues of some $4 million in its current fiscal year, with costs running at twice that — although, with IPO costs factored out, it would be close to break-even. But each of the others ducked. “In our first year, we came close to breaking even, mostly on software licensing,” Ms. Kaplan said. “We will be profitable this year.” Mr. Walker would say only that YouTube was rising “from low CPM’s to $10, $20 CPM’s,” but would not go further.

Get-Real Time

The reticence was, and is a shame. It is time to get real. The IAB’s Annual Meeting — which we are theming around the primary development of the past year, the emergence of new forms of competition and collaboration across the value chain, a phenomenon we term “Ecosystem 2.0” — is all about getting real, growing up… and grabbing share.

Make no mistake, we are entering into a reality-checking moment — the second in the 15 years since the Mosaic browser was launched, ushering in the modern Internet era. The first reality check was the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2001-2002. Now, as then, we face a recession and a slowdown in marketer spend. Likely, too, is a tightening in the availability of investment capital, as financial institutions retrench in the wake of the subprime mortgage debacle.

But other factors are quite different. The dotcom bubble was fueled by public equity financing, with individual and institutional investors accepting mad valuations and buying shares based on insane metrics. The 2003-2007 growth surge, by contrast, was financed with real cash looking for real revenues and returns. Whereas the recession of 2002 included a technology-market collapse (in no small part because IT spend had been boosted artificially for years by Y2K compliance considerations), tech companies (telecoms excepted) look to be weathering this downturn, as businesses embrace the productive and connective power of Web-based communications.

Finally, it appears now to be universally accepted by all segments of our ecosystem — media, agencies, and marketers alike — that marketing-communications is becoming a fundamentally digital enterprise.

For the past four months, I have informally been asking IAB member executives the single most insistent question on all our minds: In the event of a recession or significant economic downturn, what happens to interactive advertising spend? Almost universally, they believe a recession will not hinder the continuing growth of our industry.

$60 Billion Path

One week ago, queried thusly at the annual Bear Stearns Virtual Advertising Summit, I reported that finding to the analysts in attendance. They agreed that a recession will prompt a flight to accountability, and considered compound annual growth rates of 25% between now and 2011 entirely feasible — leading to an industry that will reach $60 billion in U.S. revenues over the next four years. At that point, interactive will have become the nation’s largest ad-supported medium.

Certainly, the bets have been large — grand, even. Microsoft closed its $6 billion acquisition of aQuantive in August; CEO Steve Ballmer has said he expects a quarter of Redmond’s revenues eventually to derive from advertising. Google anticipates closing its $1.6 billion of Doubleclick within the next few months; its CEO, Eric Schmidt, recently told The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta that he believes Google now is “in the advertising business.” Sir Martin last summer paid $649 million for 24/7 Real Media, an online ad-network pioneer; 20 years earlier, WPP had paid about $100 million less (unadjusted) to acquire the entire J. Walter Thompson global agency network.

But Sir Martin’s call for precision in projecting, calculating, building and delivering is timely and apt. As the money — not just investor money, but advertiser money — gets large, there is a hunger for understanding and communicating the new rules of the road. What are the success stories? What is a fair price for value delivered? How will the new partnerships among agencies and media companies on behalf of marketers shape up? How will the regulatory environment affect our operations now and in the future? The people paying the bills want to know, and it’s incumbent on the interactive industry to provide answers.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau’s “Ecosystem 2.0” conference is designed to provide those answers, in an intimate setting where giants and startups can mingle together, leader to leader and team to team. This is the first industry gathering since last spring’s and summer’s explosive M&A activity to bring together the architects of media and marketing’s dramatic reshaping. The focus will be on how the evolving relationship among platforms, publishers, agencies, and marketers is adding value to the value chain — upstream, to the agencies and clients, and downstream, to branded content creators, analysts and insights generators, and service providers.

Yang, Falco, McAndrews

CEO Jerry Yang will keynote on Yahoo’s evolution as a platform — including its acquisitions of online ad exchange Right Media and ad network Blue Lithium. AOL CEO Randy Falco will sit down with me to describe the reasoning behind his acquisitions of the Tacoda behavioral targeting network and other networks, and the organization of a new ad platform business, appropriately named Platform A. Brian McAndrews, formerly aQuantive’s CEO and now Microsoft’s SVP of Advertiser and Publisher Solutions, will explain what he and his team have done to create cross-industry value in the six months since aQuantive climbed through Windows. Rob Norman, CEO of WPP’s Group M Interaction, will explain how ad agencies are adapting — and possibly leading — the transforming industry. Hulu Chief Executive Jason Kilar will describe vividly how online video is attracting consumers and advertisers now. With an introduction by Johnson & Johnson Global Media Officer Kim Kadlec, the chairman of Babycenter LLC, Tina Sharkey, will showcase how media companies are becoming “insights engines” for their customers. In her first major speech since leaving the top U.S. sales role at Yahoo for the media presidency of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Wenda Harris Millard (IAB’s new chairperson) will outline a worldview shaped by alternate lives in a platform environment and in branded media.

“Ecosystem 2.0” also will feature substantive debates:
  • In an industry first, leaders of two online ad exchanges will challenge leaders of two branded media companies on one of our industry’s roiling controversies: whether networks and exchanges commoditize media and advertising.
  • Booz Allen Hamilton U.S. Media & Entertainment Practice Leader Christopher Vollmer will unveil exclusive results from the consulting firm’s “Marketing-Media Ecosystem 2010” study, zeroing in on how media companies are competing and collaborating in the new interactive environment.
  • In another first, a cross-ecosystem panel — leaders from Ogilvy, Meredith, IAC Corp., Google, and Federated Media, joined by the Chief Marketing Officer of Computer Associates — will respond to the study findings, grappling with who is disintermediating whom in the battle for revenues and share.
  • The brewing regulatory battle over behavioral targeting — and its consequences for marketers and media — will feature in another panel.
The IAB Annual Meeting also will provide a chance for the interactive media industry to celebrate itself, in several surprising ways we will announce in a few weeks — not to mention in informal meals and at least a bit of partying.

With only a few hundred seats on offer, we anticipate an affair as comfortable as it is substantive. As unbridled opportunity and economic constraint collide, “Ecosystem 2.0” is what media, marketing, agency and service-provider executives need now: two-and-a-half days filled with news-you-can-use, sidebars for deal-making, and a chance to mingle with the leaders who are making a difference right now.

The full conference agenda is here.

Registration information is here.

And I hope to see you there.