Vegas, New York, Friends Bring Good Times
So I just returned from a week-long, back to back conference trip where I re-connected with current friends and made lots of new ones. Personally, I love traveling to conferences. Sure, it puts a huge dent in daily productivity but what you glean from the experience, what you learn while you are there and the new connections you make with people far out weight staying home and going through yet another day of the same old thing no matter how much you love your job.
In Las Vegas at Blogworld, a conference which explores blogging and its role in just about everything, I was lucky enough to have wandered over to the conference a day early where there was a sort of pre-conference occurring. At the conference, Wine Library's Gary Vaynerchuk, who I'd seen once before in Boston, was giving a keynote about how, as a blogger, one can carve out a niche and work their way towards becoming the expert in that niche. It was very motivational talk, filled with Gary's trademark excitement. It was informative and gave me more than a few ideas I could put in motion to improve my own situation.
Wherever I was - at the conference, at the Techset party, at the Affiliate Summit dinner, at the Prive party, at Mirage's Revolution, in the exhibit hall, at a Planet Hollywood dinner, hanging by the Maker's Mark bus during the exhibit hall party or during the insane last night during which 23 of us just sort of moved from one place to another in the MGM Grand - I just kept seeing and meeting more and more people I knew or came to know.
There was Hugh MacLeod, Lisa Bethany, Photrade's Krista Neher and Andrew Paradies, Rubicon's Nicole Jordan, Guy Kawasaki, Brian Solis, Stephanie Agresta, Marjorie Case, Shawn Collins, Missy Ward, Maria Thurrell, Laura Fitton, Dave Taylor, Lee Odden, Sarah Townsend, Dave Alston, Toby Bloomberg, Jesse Stay, Chris Aarons, Annie Lynsen, Linda Bustos, Tessa Horehled, the Comcast Cares guy, Micah Baldwin, Jay Billingsley, Greg Swan, Scott Monty, Annie, Dorothee Royal-Hedinger, Chris Brogan and countless others whose names I sadly can't remember or that have left my brain.
Walking through the casinos in Vegas is like entering some kind of trance state. Your mind just sort of floats out of your head and into a different place. I don't know if it's all the gambling action, the hotness that surrounds, the music, the lighting or the absolutely endless twists and turns inside each casino which keep one forever unsure of one's bearings. The whole place is best categorized as Disney for grownups.
It was this feeling that overtook the last night I was there when 23 of us ventured over to the MGM Grand and visited no less than four bars - where a few Car Bombs were consumed - and a restaurant before we all stumbled out of the Grand, across the strip and over to some Irish bar before things got kind of hazy, detached from reality and, well, into Vegas tagline territory.
Out of the many people I met during Blogworld in Vegas, two had an indelible affect on me. On Friday night after the Techset party at Mirage's Bare, I met Linda Bustos, an SEO and ecommerce guru who writes the getelastic blog for elasticpath. This woman is amazingly awesome. She chases pigeons across exhibit hall floors, gets really excited about ring tones, gives hilarious presentations, loves to eat, is incredibly focused and seriously has her shit together. I think I fell a little in love with her. Yea. I know I did.
Tessa Horehled is from Atlanta and I met her the last night (yes, that night) I was in Vegas. Currently, she's taken it upon herself to become the go to person regarding the "gas crisis" in Atlanta. She's a social media wiz and recently worked for Turner. She does the pic a day thing on Flickr and is one of those people who is seriously fun to just be around. You know the person who sort of leads the party? Tessa is that person. She was one of "the 23" who had so much fun Sunday night at the MGM Grand. Sweet ;)
When I returned from Vegas, I was home for less than seven hours before i turned around an headed to New York for Advertising Week. Again, many great visits with friends, aquaintences and soon to be new friends
On Tuesday, I went to the MIXX Conference at which I visited with Laredo Group's Leslie Laredo. When the conference ended, it was time for the MIXX Awards. It was one of the better awards shows I have been to. The awards coincided with a dinner which, while there was some overtalking during the awards, the presentation went smoothly, quickly and better than some I've seen. I was lucky enough to have sat at a table with two Gold winners, TBWA/Media Arts Lab's Joannah Bryan who won Super-Rich Media for the Apple Don't give up campaign and a guy whose name I can't remember (apologies) from JOGO Media who won In-Game Advertising for BMW's M3 Challenge.
At the cocktail party before the Awards, I ran into Doron Wesley from Millward Brown and met gigya's Jacqueline Gerber. I later ran into the two of them at the post-awards Adify party held at Jay Z's 40/40 club. A great venue with lots of different spaces, the placed rocked but, unlike many clubs, also allowed for actual conversation without tearing a vocal cord.
It was this feature that allowed Jacqueline and I to sort of find a place to converse for a while about things not related to work such as marriage, love, kids and the importance of appreciating the good things in life. Sometimes it's just about finding the right person at the right time that makes things right for life. She seems to have done that.
On Wednesday night, Adobe hosted it Battle of the Bands contest at the Nokia Theater in Times Square. It was well attended and there was some amazing talent on stage. Agencies participating were The Concept Farm, Eric Mower & Associates, Vidal Cendeno Advertising, Initiative, Grey, May & Co., Tribal DDB, Surge, Pyper Paul Kenney, TargetCast TCM, Starcom Chicago, Twon Sports International and McCann Erickson. McCann Erikson, with their eighties, big hair approach to things combined with hot stages dancers, won the night.
Following the Battle of the Bands, I tagged along with the Barbarian Group to a little hip hop place in the Lower East Side for some drinking and dancing which lasted until 3AM. That agency knows how to party. One employee IM'd me she had "85 hangovers" in the morning. Sweet. All kinds of pictures here.
On Thursday, I attended Jon Bon Jovi's panel about brands, music, celebrity and the importance of building a lasting brand. A few weeks prior to Advertising Week, Rosie Siman, who works for Steve Stout's Translation tweeted me she'd be in New York for Advertising Week so we met after this panel and went to lunch with her co-worker Stacy Fuller. We had fun discussing music, celebrities and how the two can (or not) work together for a brand. All while eating amazing Gnocci. Two more amazing people I now know and never would have had I not gone to Advertising Week.
Thursday evening, still on a tear to meet up with everyone I possible could before the week was out, I went to the SoHo offices of Undercurrent where I met my optical double, Julia Roy and her co-worker Yianni Garcia. We went to some uptown bar where everyone looked like they were from the movie Wall Street. We sat there in out jeans and t-shirts surrounded by suited yuppies. It was weird but we had fun with it.
So after meeting with Julia and Yianni, I went to The Smith on 10nth or something to hook up with the Mischief crew, a rag tag bunch or New York advertising and marketing types from Fuel Industries, Oddcast and Interference Inc. that, along with Adrants, hosts monthly parties for the ad industry.
While there was serious discussion about what's going on in the industry, the highlight of the evening was Eric Hauser's fondling some phallic-shaped fruit juice container. Yes, we all work in advertising and we all like to goof around like high school kids from time to time. It's good therapy.
Never made it to the Facebook Advertising Week closing party.
On Friday, I had lunch with iCrossing's Alisa Leonard-Hansen, one of the smartest people I know in the world of social media. Though, if you talk to her, she'll claim there really isn't such a thing as social media, it's just the current iteration of the web which kinda makes sense because, after all, everything about the web is social.
As we left, for some odd reason, we got to talking about booth babes at conferences and Alisa suggested I do a "behind the boobs" series that would dig into the real lives of the women who stand in front of exhibit hall booths for the sole purpose of using their hotness to attract visits from conference goers. Having talked to many of these women over the years, they are far from the bubble-headed bimbos some would assume them to be. Perhaps Alisa's "behind the boobs" suggestion is a good one.
And then, and then, and then. Yes, this goes on and on and on, I know. The week was capped off with drinks with Catalano Lello & Silverstein Art Director Alice Anda, a good friend I've known for four years. We met at a Soho area bar and, well, just talked. We've known each other for a very long time but we joke we've probably spent less than 12 hours physically together. We made up for that in the the two hours we spent talking about relationships, the definition of relationships and the responsibility each person in a relationship owes the other. Yea, it was one of those conversations. Deep. Cathartic. Therapeutic. Then her boyfriend arrived.
We went to some Italian restaurant which was very good and, well, didn't talk about much other than, well, after two martinis, it's not easy to remember. So who knows what was said but you know how the dynamic changes when other people enter the scene? Well, that happened.
So. Vegas. New York. Advertising Week. Friends. New Friends. Adventures. It all happened. Sometimes it seems like a dream but I'm glad it wasn't and I'm glad every second of it happened. Next? Another week in New York for ad:tech. I can only imagine what's in store ;)