Ten Years On.
I’m reading the conference agenda and I’m pretty engaged by the topics. “Interactive Brand Building: Where Next?”… “Rethinking the Rules: Managing Buyer-Seller Interaction”… “Common Currency: Developing Metrics and Measurement to Enable Cross Media Evaluation”… “Interactive and the Agency: Making Interactive a Profitable and Successful Medium for Madison Avenue.” Sure sound like the right high-level topics to me. Not caught in the weeds of the latest microtargeting and data tactics. Just leadership on the issues that will continue to drive the digital channel forward.
Want to go? Well then, rev up the Way-Back machine, Sherman, because this is the agenda from the very first iMedia Summit which took pace ten years ago last week in Park City, Utah. Mark Zuckerberg was starting his senior year of high school, Google was three years old (and three years away from its IPO), and Barack Obama was a lawyer and community activist still smarting from his failed congressional campaign the year before.
Want to view the original iMedia Summit program and roster of attendees? You can see it here. And if you were in attendance at that first event, I’d love to get your thoughts and recollections in the comments section below.
While the iMedia brand is still going quite strong (there are both agency and brand summits, Breakthrough events, vertical market offerings and more), it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge this anniversary. Even if the original October conference dates hadn’t been pushed back by the events of 9/11, Rick Parkhill and his team were making a big bet at a very challenging moment. The Internet bubble had burst, the industry was in the doldrums and back to sweeping up crumbs. Some would see this as a terrible time to launch a conference, but Rick’s counter-intuition got it right. iMedia became a critically important community hub for the industry, a forum for describing a positive future, and — occasionally — much-needed group therapy.
I was fortunate to have Rick reach out to me that fall and offer me the opportunity to program that initial event and ultimately several that followed it. My relationship with iMedia continues to this day, as do the the friendships with so many of the people who shared the cozy atmosphere of those first few events. As proud as I am of being on the team that launched web advertising at Wired in 1994, I think I’m even prouder of the small contribution I made to getting iMedia off the ground. But make no mistake, iMedia has only one father and one doting uncle: Rick Parkhill is the guy who took all the risk and whose energy, vision and sheer will made this happen; and Mike Pubentz then helped make it financially viable by marshaling sponsors and guests during one of the worst possible times.
The conference circuit is now virtually saturated, of course, and it’s not easy for the casual observer to differentiate one from another. But for me the iMedia Summits will always hold a special place. But that place is not in the past; it’s still about the future that we all share in, a future that gets richer in possibility with each passing year.
So hats off and congratulations to Rick, Mike and the whole team that made that first event happen in the dark days of late 2001. May you always be proud of what you built, and may we all continue to find our way back.