After 44 years on this planet, and what feels like longer in Advertising, it's time to put some musings together.

Five reasons why you should go to conferences

Er, networking, a day out the office, avoiding meetings, might learn something, the wrap up drinks. There you go five. Well, dig a little deeper and there are five more reasons that you may never have thought of, and have more influence on your whole experience there:



I’ve been to Cannes a few times, but last year something struck me that seemed, well, odd. This is an Advertising festival, yet nearly every major sponsor was a large digital corporation. It wasn’t that that was shocking; it was just where were the agencies? Or the network groups? Or ‘old’ media? If I missed something tell me, but Microsoft and Yahoo seemed everywhere. Why is this important? Two reasons: the sponsors are either who is making all the money, or where they want you to spend all the money.



Every conference has a tone, if may not be clear by the title or the individual talks, but once there you’ll find each session is normally tempered by it. Around 14 years ago at the DMA in New Orleans, it was like a gold rush: how to sign up your new online company, with how to pith to an angel investor seemingly the tone running through every talk. At the Dubai Lynx, four years ago, the GFC dominated: how to cope, what to do, where marketing was going, skinny budgets, these subjects were all the rage.



Look at the status of the conference, just be cause it’s big, it doesn’t follow it will be good. And look at who has been attracted to speak. Mind you, never judge a speaker by their position. I have seen some big names who were appalling, but two of the best were unexpected: 10 years ago an Australian Post employee took the stage in a green cardigan and spoke for 45 minutes without notes or any visual assistance on the benefits of barcodes. He was brilliant.  The next, the founder of Rovio, he found it difficult to rationalise the success of Angry Birds, the best he got to was his grandmother liked it and the app was red.



Buzzword bingo. Have your radar on. Every new conference brings a blow-in of mangled language to make the speaker sound clever. (‘Granular level’ was always my most hated expression). If it’s a three-day conference note the offending phrase down, if it’s mentioned on day one, it’ll spread like wildfire to day three.



PowerPoint, the staged interview, behind a lectern, these are all familiar styles, but there is always something new coming along. One of the best was Jonathan Mildenhall’s at Cannes a couple of years ago. He spoke to this as it animated on the screen behind him. He got a standing ovation.




These are more of the subtle impressions of conferences. Often hidden but once you notice them, they mean the conference leaves a deeper impression. This is no sales pitch but AdTech is next week, the Circus starts on March 19, TED is June 10-14 (good luck with accommodation), ADMA has booked Obama’s campaign advisor for August 7-9, and Cannes is in June, which is now probably more worth going to for the talks than the Ads.


When something great is about to get better

The commentary on Advertising is more often than not self serving, ego-driven or faddish in the extreme. Against this relentless wave, one man has surfed alone.

The adcontrarian.

Here’s the link so you can save google the bother: adcontrarian.blogspot.com.au
(I know I should probably embed that, but whatever.)

Since 2007, he has had the discipline, fortitude and depth of experience to write around 300 words per posting, every other day. These are not copies, rehashes or pass-ons with ‘great stuff’ or ‘I agree ’or some other empty platitude.

All pieces have insight, a perspective and clarity of thought. They are all written in the tone that your dad would speak to you after you pushed the button that says ‘Do not push’. Not hectoring or rude, but a kind of ‘really, you know you shouldn’t do that, but you did. And now I’m going to let you stew about how silly that was’.

So it was with great interest that on March 1 this was the post:

Bob Hoffman, the CEO of Hoffman/Lewis is stepping down and heading off to ‘do something different’. So what you say? How is that interesting? Well this is diamond in the rough, located in the penultimate paragraph:

“While I’ve always tried to speak the truth on this blog, there has been a certain amount I have had to withhold.”

So it would appear, that Bob is about to turn his commentary up to 11. Now the little he had to hold back, because of his position, has been removed; it will be completely unfiltered commentary. So to use one of his great phrases, if you have been searching through ‘web litter’ looking for insight on Advertising, look no further.

Whinging retailers

I got this published last thursday in the SMH, no I don’t have the link.

Read the business pages recently. Watch the news. Listen to the radio. It’s all about whiney, moaning retailers.

Yes. It’s tough. And apparently those Australians that aren’t digging up the country and shipping it off, all the others, yes that’s right rest of everyone employed, all work in retail.

‘People aren’t buying enough.’ ‘Toughest trading conditions in 20 years.’ ‘Profits just not up to scatch.’ Whine. Bleat. Moan.

And then in the very next sentence they all blame the Internet. Yes. The very place they all jumped into to build their online catalogues to tempt us in-store or show off their latest wares.

The trouble is in Australia we can all see that in the US, just about any product costs well really just about nothing. No I am being silly, less than nothing compared to the prices charged in-store. Ah but yes, convenience. Ok I can walk away with my purchase there and then, got that. Positive brand image, yes, don’t mind a bit of interest and acknowledgement as I fork out two or three times over the odds. And it’ll be genuine, and not a knock off. OK, got all that.

But, and a big but, how does the Aussie retailer respond to the cheaper online experience? Well not by lowering prices, but by lowering service. And why would I say that? Well, walk into a department store, any department store – they are becoming more like good’s museums than retailers. Acres of products to gawp at, plenty of time to get online to check and compare prices, because no one disturbs you. There are more mannequins than staff members.

And then just this weekend, I traipse off to a so-called sale. I could find about one item of floorstock that was reduced and one sales person in a warehouse full of punters – who had driven a fair way to get there. If I was online I could’ve have clicked to purchase; in a warehouse full of people, I have to give up and leave.

So I am trying to be supportive. But if you want to sell more, you have to have people there ready to take hard-earned readies. Not manning your web-brochure, or doing an interview about how tough it is. Or being a security guard; checking your bag as you walk out. Just someone, in a store, with a smile, that can operate a till. It’s not that hard. It used to happen before. And if I can find someone to buy stuff off I will. I don’t want to wait 7-14 days for delivery and I would quite like to get to know people, I will buy things from. So the message is simple, stop whinging and start serving.