(Picture Above L-R: Susan Borst, IAB, Louis Moynihan, VP Product, Demandbase, Frannie Danzinger, Head of Market Development, 6Sense, Maria Caraballo, Sr. Director, Digital Ad Sales Research and Strategy, NBC Universal, Mary Long, Executive Director, Resonate and Judith Hammerman, VP National Media Sales, Connexity) After missing last year’s IAB Annual Leadership Meeting (#IABALM) due to surgery, I was eager to head out this year with several on the Blast PR team. As we revisited old and very lovely Palm Desert stomping grounds, my chief intent was to listen and reconnect with a wide body of long time industry colleagues, clients and partners. As the event comes to a close, I am hardly disappointed. In fact, as the IAB turns 20, my cup is definitely overflowing.

By now, the fact that the east coast storms prevented and/or delayed some from heading West is old news. That said, as sometimes happens, the unintended aftermath was perhaps a bit more intimate and chatty as result. Everyone had a story, those who made it sometimes had an adventure tale and the content and networking opportunities were strong, on point and easy to navigate. Best of all, in addition to planned encounters with great old pals from IAB, eMarketer, Aerserve, Bombora, Conde Nast, Factual, Forbes, MediaSmith, IPSOS, Nielsen, RadiumOne, SheKnows and others, this year’s conference offered new acquaintances as well.

In terms of content, it was both smart and provocative. IAB President and CEO’s Rothenberg’s fine and talented delivery of the opening ad blocking protest poem comes to mind, as does the way in which he introduced several dialogs to stage which were sure to draw “reaction” but allowed them to play out for themselves vs. intervening. Another example was new IAB chair Lauren Wiener’s remarks, a fact-packed talk which Connexity’s Judith Hammerman sagely described as an “artful and interesting story with a good beginning, middle and end.”

In one of the most provocative election years of my lifetime, the media oriented political chat between New York Times Magazine’s Emily Bazelon and David Axelrod rises to the top of the content chart on my scale. Political persuasions aside, it was a strong and vital discussion about many things, including how TV and data and digital are impacting political campaign strategy and tactics. Maybe not earth shattering to an audience of highly versed media innovators, but tidbits like the Obama campaign’s use of set-top box info. driving over 60 cable TV buys across shows like Family Feud and a 15% overall ad spend reduction were appreciated factoids for a listener hungry for that level of detail. I personally thought Emily was pretty lucky, and David too – to give Emily credit, to get the interview to herself since snow thwarted others’ plans to join in.

After heavily focusing on content last year, the overall theme of where the next $50B WILL come from was a good one too – as was the ad blocking charge, a continued, complex and necessary dialog that must happen until, well, it doesn’t need to anymore.

Finally, on a much more personal note, in addition to getting to hear from such a wonderful roster of leaders from Dunkin, Google, New York Times Magazine, Oracle, Taco Bell, Toyota and getting well served during the tasteful networking events, the spontaneity of a dinner enjoyed after Appnexus’ women’s networking reception will be my other memory. It was in the grill downstairs where I enjoyed time and a good meal and conversation with old and new colleagues from 6Sense, Connexity, Demandbase, NBC and Resonate. The conversation was so diverse and interesting that a few of us made plans to carry it into a next morning workout which was hard to dread considering the curvy, sunrise backdrop of the peaks surround the hotel. Leaving the conference with lots to think about and a big smile.  Thank you.

-Lana