The battle of the West Coast technology conferences is offering something more than name-calling right now: millions of dollars in free advertising to top presenters.

Thanks to the generosity of sponsors and partners, lucky companies presenting at TechCrunch50 and DEMO will have the opportunity to win a hefty amount of free advertising. TechCrunch50 will be giving away at least $1.3m in ad credits and DEMO plans to give away $2m in ad credits.

Having worked with a number of early-stage web ventures over the years, I've seen just how difficult marketing can be for young companies on limited budgets. Invariably, there has been a common refrain: "if we had more money to market the business we could [fill in the blank]".

Generally, I'm of the belief that it's not that simple. While marketing is important and it can be very hard to market effectively with a tight budget, a big budget doesn't guarantee success. After all, some of today's most successful startups spent very little on marketing. Google's popularity, for instance, didn't come from a Super Bowl ad. Facebook and Twitter didn't go viral with expensive ad campaigns either. Yet plenty of companies that spent big bucks on marketing are no longer with us., anyone?

Clearly, there's more to startup success than the amount of money a new company can spend on advertising. Which begs the question: will the recipients of the ad credits being given away at TechCrunch50 and DEMO really benefit from them? Or is the free advertising being given away little more than good advertising for the two tech conferences?

I for one plan to follow the companies that receive the free advertising. Of particular interest to me:

  • How well recipients run their campaigns. Even though the startups receiving free advertising likely won't have much control over the inventory they receive, it would be interesting to evaluate the quality of campaign execution. Will creative and copy, for instance, be managed haphazardly or will it be thoughtfully developed and refined over the course of campaigns?
  • How much attention is paid to ROI. Will the companies receiving free advertising treat it like it will never run out or will they make the effort to monitor ROI so that results can be maximized?

While I doubt that the startups or tech conferences themselves will make it a point to provide case studies detailing how advertising credits are spent, it will be interesting to see if the credits do anything to change the typical spike-and-drop traffic charts that are familiar to so many companies that launch to fanfare and then grapple with the real challenge every new company faces: how to build momentum and keep it going.

Patricio Robles

Published 14 September, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (5)


Barry Alistair

Hi Patricio,

A thought provoking article - thanks.

As an organiser of the Irish Software Show, we'd be interested to hear the actual mechanics behind free ad-credits - could you explain please?



almost 9 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy


My understanding is that the partners and sponsors of these conferences have agreed to provide 'credits' for free advertising on various properties they own. I'd assume that the partners/sponsors are specifying which inventory is provided and are basing the dollar value of the inventory on their list prices (i.e. 1 million impressions at $15 CPM = $15,000 of free advertising credits).

Hope that helps.

almost 9 years ago


selina howells

This is highly subjective since if people hate advertising on the internet which it seems they do then Techcrunch's credits have a negative value. I'm begining to think that advertising supporting free services is not the best business model for online businesses. Long term I'm starting to think paid for services that offer very good value from operating efficiently with very low overheads on the internet will ultimately prove more favourable with consumers than spam infested ad supported free services.

almost 9 years ago



We Can Say that free advertising make a startup for all startup business? But if you product and presentations things did not contain value so, I don't think free advertising make inpact on any business.

over 8 years ago



I realy think within couple years no one will ever advertise in papers, Internet will take over the newspapers. Its faster and its free, why pay when its free, You just have to watch it for people that trying to scam you.

over 8 years ago

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