Yesterday we attended the 2011 Ad:Tech Conference in San Francisco. This is one of the Internet's leading industry conferences which attracts thousands of attendees including many top Internet companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and LinkedIn as well as leading advertisers, intermediaries, and other public/private Internet Cos. Overall we noticed much higher than usual focus on social, affiliate, email marketing, and mobile and less focus on paid search related ecosystem. Overall 'Net ad trends appear to be very healthy in terms of volume/pricing.

Summary of key takeaways:

1. Facebook-led social media ecosystem has emerged very rapidly. The most noteworthy trend we noticed at Ad:Tech is the emergence of a Facebook-led social media ecosystem. For years we have seen a Google-led paid search ecosystem emerging and we believe that now it is a Facebook-led social media ecosystem that is creating all sort of product and service companies for social media. We interacted with nearly half dozen such companies that are providing products/services for social media ads/strategy, social E-Commerce, social media analytics, and other social media user engagements/interactions. Most of these companies are 12-18 months old and seeing a hockey stick style adoption for their products/services.

2. Online advertising trends generally healthy. We found the overall environment and mood at the conference very upbeat. In our view, the Internet ad spend is very healthy and both volume and pricing are seeing nice Y/Y growth.

3. Ad budgets for social coming mostly from print and off-line. At the conference we spoke with Vijay Pullur, Founder and CEO of Social Twist, a leading provider of enterprise-grade social marketing solutions with clients such as Intel, P&G, Jamba Juice, KLM, Barnes & Noble, GAP, Conagra Foods, and Sara Lee. He mentioned that for many of his clients the budgets for social advertising have come largely from print and off-line and rarely from search or display. Mr. Pullur also shared with us that the campaigns his company has worked on have produced average CTRs 10x higher than the CTRs of standard online campaigns.

4. Bing/Yahoo! integration progressing well; new video ad units coming in the near term. According to Bing representatives, the integration process with Yahoo! is progressing on schedule. We also came to know that Bing is currently working on new ad units and particularly ones that integrate video.

5. LinkedIn ad platform evolving. We spoke with an Account Executive at LinkedIn, who gave us an overview of the company's ad platform. Right now advertisers can place display ads (managed by LinkedIn) and text ads (self-service) on LinkedIn. CPMs on the site depend on how long in advance advertisers lock their desired inventory (target audience) and how specific their criteria are (filters applied). Average CPMs usually range from $12 to $25 but can reach up to $30.

6. In addition to social, we found affiliate marketing, email marketing and mobile as other hot areas. In prior industry conferences we have seen exhibit halls full of ad networks, SEM and SEO agencies, etc. but this time around at Ad:Tech we found the exhibit halls full of companies operating in affiliate marketing, email marketing and mobile/location-based advertising in addition to social media.

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