Friday, September 17, 1999

The Cyber Scene in Portland ~ by Mike Kingsella

Portland Ad Club Fosters Local Interactive Industry Development

If you want to meet and greet your interactive peers in Portland, go to The Pint. But for professional development, go to Internet Professionals Northwest?? Sure, that’s fantastic for engineers but where do you go if you are a creative or a marketing wonk? Dennis Hahn and the Portland Advertising Federation is setting out to fill that very void.

Now some of you may have noticed that I have been recently focusing my attention on interactive agencies. I have decided to take a diversion this week to take a look at the organization that is servicing interactive advertising professionals and a look at the state of the Portland interactive market in general.

The Portland Advertising Federation has been in existence for over ninety years, the oldest ad club on the west coast. With its ninety-year history, the club is no stranger to change.

Last week I had the opportunity to stop by Dennis Hahn’s office in the Lair Hill neighborhood to talk about the interactive industry that is exploding in Portland, Oregon, and the Ad Federations initiatives to develop it. Dennis, who just recently took office as President of the Portland Advertising Federation, has been working hard to bring the interactive advertising industry to the forefront of the PAF.

There are two catalysts to this movement, one being the lack of a professional organization for the interactive community, and the second being the tremendous desire from traditional advertisers to learn more about interactive advertising.

According to Hahn, the Portland industry is exploding – and with good reason. “There’s about two dozen interactive agencies here in town,” Hahn explained, “and then there are somewhere around a hundred dot com companies.” So why is there a huge explosion in Portland? According to Hahn, Portland enjoys the halo effect. Portland is situated right in between the large high tech centers of Seattle and San Francisco. Couple that with the quality of living and the large advertising community – you have an interactive advertising match made in heaven!

As I alluded to earlier, The Pint of Portland is about the only venue where a interactive pro can meet his peers in Portland – but the nature of the Pint is a party, no speakers, no panels, just 100% shmooz. Which is great, it has brought the interactive community together like never before, and it has fostered a true sense of community. What many creative and strategic people in the Portland interactive industry want is a place where they can hear speakers, panels, and get programming geared just for them. Portland has several organizations for new media types, such as IPN, but none offer programming geared towards the creative and marketing aspects of the interactive business.

Last year the PAF conducted a pilot program that introduced specialized programming for its members. The Communication Arts Interactive program took place in May, and was an incredible success. Especially considering that only 80 attendees were anticipated in early planning stages. When the PAF got involved, the room was packed at about five hundred people. Over the summer the PAF sent a questionnaire to all of its eight hundred and seventy five members to find out what kind of programming they wanted to see this year. Out of all the categories available to members, interactive won by far. However, what is interesting to note is that out of all 875 members of the PAF only about 50 work in interactive advertising. A tremendous amount of traditional advertisers want interactive programming from the PAF because, as Dennis Hahn puts it, “they want to see where they fit in.”

Quickly recognizing the need for such programming, Dennis whipped together a crack team of interactive visionaries. The task force is comprised of John Craft, Marketing director at Uvona and also the founder of Pint of Portland, Andrew Shakman, CEO of CyberSight, Kent Lewis of Wave Rock Communications, and Brad Johnson, one of the founders of Second Story. The team is now organizing the first interactive program of the year, which should take place sometime in November.

With the explosive growth in the Portland market, and the enormous momentum pushing the interactive initiatives within the Portland Advertising Federation, this programming is sure to be a hit. Consider how popular the Pint of Portland has become, according to John Craft there are over 750 people on the Pint of Portland distribution list. Add to that 400+ traditional advertisers in the PAF who want to learn about interactive, and you have a sure thing!

Be sure to check out the new Portland edition of Shakers and Stirrers! And make sure to tune in next week to read my interviews with the creative professionals at the Portland Creative Conference!!