Confused about media and ad technologies? There’s a Lab for that.

Between the bazillion ad technology companies all claiming to revolutionize online advertising and an explosion of devices and services that promise to deliver  movies straight from the Internet to the TV, it’s  a full time job keeping tabs on what can do what.

That’s why Interpublic Group’s Mediabrands launched Media Lab last Thursday, a 5,000 square foot space dedicated to learning and figuring out which end is up with various technologies available to marketers.

IPG vets technology before it can even make it to the front door of the Lab — meaning just because it’s out there doesn’t mean it makes the cut for testing. More than 500 companies are in its database and the Lab keeps in radio contact with venture capital firms and emerging media and tech related companies both large and small to stay on top of trends.

During a recent tour of the Lab in mid-town Manhattan — it targets  high level chief marketing officers who usually make the rounds in a four hour stint — this reporter was greeted by a television screen that switched its programming based on gender facial recognition.

There was the room with a nice comfy sofa in front of several flat screen TVs that had just about every  kind of over-the-top service,  including Google TV and its one very confusing remote. There was  a mock retail store that showed off technology that helped clerks stock popular items (and those less popular). And a mock store-front window that showed off the latest collections inside and allowed people to order clothes right off the window — even if the shop was closed for the day.

Cautious splurge: the art of luxury advertising

Advertising at the highest end of the luxury market may be the last to get hit in an economic slump, but it’s still going to get scathed before the ad market turns around, Nick Brien, who heads up Interpublic Group’s Mediabrands, a holding company for media buying and planning agencies,  told the Reuters Media Summit in New York.

“There will always be some brands and marketers who are going to want to live beyond the realities that are going on for the masses of people,” said Brien, who’s responsible for agencies like Universal McCann, Initiative, Magna, and J3 . “That will go on… (but) will it be as pronounced as it was, will be it as mainstream?”

Brien didn’t think so. Not when even Russian billionaires – with their boats and Rolexes — are feeling the pinch, he said. “Even if their wealth is coming down from a billion to half a billion, that’s what it is — it’s coming down,” Brien said.