10 Things That Suck About FOOA: Day One

Day one of the Future of Online Advertising conference has ended, and now that I am at home in my cushioned rocking chair, I have had some time to sit and reflect about the events of the day. Here, uncensored, unedited, and unsponsored, are 10 things that really sucked about the Future of Online Advertising (FOOA) conference. Just ten. Any more, and I’d be seen as ungrateful. My ticket was free, after all.

Okay, the list:
  1. Free Wi-Fi connection - Powered by Urban Hotspots, the Wi-Fi was absolutely atrocious. It worked during breakfast, stopped functioning right as the conference began, and was annoyingly spotty the rest of the day. For a $1000 conference, this is pretty much inexcusable. And seriously - this is freakin’ New York City for crying out loud!

  2. Lunch - One could hardly call this hour-and-a-half long “hor d'oeuvres and glorified potty break” a meal. A handful of busboy/girl-types made their way through the crowd offering scraps of food. A tiny piece of turkey wrap here, a few (really, just three!) veggie sticks there, a portion of Caesar salad in a takeout container fit for an anorexic king. It all tasted just fine. Quite a disappointment. The several snack times were also loath-able, as they consisted of little more than leftovers of the breakfast pastries (For the final break they had Kashi GoLean bars. I tried the peanut butter and chocolate one. It tasted...healthy.).

  3. Web 2.0 - The number of people I overheard pitching their startups to each other was frankly disappointing. “Yeah, we basically started it with no outside funds, just our own money.” seemed to be the sentence of the day. What are these wonderful startups-to-be? “Basically it’s, like, a social network for xxxxx. I can’t believe no one else has already done something in this space!” It’s official - I’m over Web 2.0. Check back in a week or so for my eulogy. I’m serious.

  4. CPC, CPA, CPM, CPI, CPU, CPMMORPGORLYROFLLOLWTF - There is no way that the presenters and audience members who spewed these inane metric acronyms at a rate of 10 per second have any idea which ones they were using. “Are we allowed to skip straight to CPA instead of starting with CPM for brand awareness and moving to CPC for educating and refining or can I just jump straight to monetizing my mechanical bull by selling it on eBay at a loss?” Yeah, no thanks. I think I’ll focus on the ROI of my LMNOP.

  5. Overeager Conference Staff - During the final break, conference staff went through the rows of chairs collecting all of the “unclaimed” magazines that had been placed on seats for attendees. They also took anything else (like program booklets) that added to the clutter. Nice idea - to get a jump start on cleaning the auditorium - but one thing: no one was in his/her seats, so everything looked unclaimed. Including my schedule of events booklet in which I was taking notes. Yeah. At least they left my 12-inch-long PayPerPost pen that I intended to give to my roommate.

  6. Powerpoint - I don’t think I need to explain why this is awful. Just take my word for it - some of the worst Powerpoint presentations I’ve seen in my life. Not across the board, but enough for me to seriously consider “forgetting” my glasses tomorrow morning.

  7. Teenage Executives - Sorry, but if you are still in high school, you do not deserve to be wearing an “Executive” nametag. I don’t care if you just got funded by some clueless V.C. - you are still lame and you are not the next Mark Zuckerberg. Not fooling anyone, dudes. Get a diploma.

  8. Creatives - First, I hate this name. Creative is an adjective, not a noun. Second, why does everyone with a Creative name tag have to wear jeans and an edgy t-shirt and carry a shabby-chic mail bag slash laptop case? I had a Creative tag myself, mostly because there wasn’t anything else on the list of possibilities that sounded good either: Developer? Publisher? Marketer? Media Buyer? Advertiser? SEO & SEM? Executive? So many great choices! I hate reductive labels like these - part of the problem with advertising (and business) today is that things are so segmented like this. Marketing in the future is not about “ad units,” it’s about an entire experience that can only be created by passionate people stretching across and blurring traditional boundaries of discipline, media, and demographic. You are your company’s own best brand manager. The medium is no longer the message. The message is whatever your audience decides they want it to be.

  9. No Future - Until the final (and great) panel discussion, the closest anyone got to discussing the future of online advertising was when Kim Malone of Google mentioned that her company would be adding Cost Per Action (CPA) ads sometime soon. I realize that many in the audience might have found some of the previous talks incredibly enlightening and on-the-edge, but as a semi-outside observer of the industry, I can’t wrap my head around how prehistoric-sounding much of the discussion was. Maybe I just read too many forward-looking feeds to have an accurate perception of the industry.

  10. One Woman - Yeah, only one woman spoke today - the above-mentioned Kim Malone of Google, who did a decent job, but wasn’t given anything terribly interesting to talk about. Two are slated to speak tomorrow, it seems. Two. That makes three. Out of about 25. This is just stupid for a ton of reasons I won’t get into here, but especially since the copy of Advertising Age they gave attendees had its annual feature on 25 Women to Watch, which showcased some pretty hardcore chicks who would’ve been awesome to hear speak. At the very least, any one of those women would have been far better than a couple of the male speakers today (I won’t name names unless you ask), whose talks were just painful and pointless and short-sighted.
So that’s 10. In spite of all that, I am looking forward to the second day. I’ll cross my fingers about lunch, charge my laptop a ton tonight, reach deep inside for some courage to strike up an interesting conversation with someone (not just hopeless networking b.s.) and hope for the best.

Finally, if you’re at the conference and on Twitter, why not Follow me?