The organisers of the April 2009 Internet World exhibition at Earls Court are celebrating a 26% increase in visitor numbers. Over 22,000 seats were filled in free seminars and keynote presentations. Such were the queues that probably another 8,000 were on their tippy-toes outside the theatres struggling to get a glimpse of the presenters and pick up a few words of wisdom. Interesting. Hardly what you would expect for a digital marketing event in these difficult times. After all, marketing is the first department to get cut in a recession, right?
This dictum seems to be true for many of the bigger digital marketing brands. Unica, Chordiant, even Omniture for example have all turned in less than exciting financial results recently, although the SaaS-oriented vendors salesforce.com and ATG are powering on. None of these brands were represented at Internet World, which is largely the domain of some 200 innovative start-ups and entrepreneurs who see the massive potential for digital marketing.
Not that this mattered much to the attendees, many of whom were students and junior marketing executives sent along to get a feel for the market. Enough economic buyers were there to keep the exhibitors sweet, but most were there to get educated in the digital marketing buzz words of mobile, online advertising, search & affiliate marketing; ecommerce; web 2.0, social media, usability, design & build; email, mobile marketing & analytics; and enterprise 2.0 & content management.
For those with digital marketing industry knowledge there probably wasn't an awful lot to learn here, but for those new to the digital marketing space it was a Pandora's box of amazing colourful and shiny things. Some might argue that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and many left being converted to the idea that digital marketing is ‘the next big thing' without really understanding the how, when, where or how.
The really good thing is that the vendors are now starting to calm down. Previously many were trying to be "all things to all men" and served to massively confuse the customer with jargon and buzz words in the race to differentiate themselves. Now vendors are focusing more and specializing in certain product categories, their sales propositions are making more sense to potential customers.
Whichever way you look at it, the excitement and buzz around the Internet World exhibition is hugely encouraging for the digital marketing industry. It may not be time for "green shoots" just yet, but there is little doubt that as the world pulls itself out of recession over the next couple of years, digital marketing will be one of the beneficiaries.