Festival of Media, Day One: fancy digs, Higgs Boson, digital prophets and fear of acronyms

As part of the prize for winning The Herald Advertising Challenge, a couple of FCBers got a trip to Rome to attend the Festival of Media Global. Here’s Kevin Walker’s take on the first day.  ​

I feel a bit like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. 72 hours ago I was packing my bags in Ngaruawahia, and now I’m waiting in the lobby of the Hotel Excelsior, a place that makes Downton Abbey look like a portaloo.

Our cab arrives to take us to the even more extravagant Cavalieri Hotel, where the Festival of Media Global is taking place. Not sure what it is with cabbies over here, but every ride has felt like we’re recreating the car chase in the Italian job, but with a derelict Fiat people mover.

We arrive in one piece. But now I must face my second biggest fear, two days of people talking about media. As a creative, I only know enough about media to fudge my way through meetings. I have no idea what a TARP is, so if they start talking in acronyms I might as well hit the bar early.

But my fear is soon turned into intrigue. The first speaker is Dr. Markus Nordberg from CERN, the crowd using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to find the Higgs Boson. Which apparently is like trying to find a needle in 100,000 haystacks. After 50 years of looking they have found it, and despite having massive scientific implications, it just looks like an Excel line graph with a crooked bit.      

The interesting part is how they found it. The LHC is basically a super high-speed camera that films particles colliding at 99.9 percent the speed of light. It is so high-speed it films the equivalent of 25,000 Hollywood films every second. Not even Kevin Bacon can keep up with that.

I’m wondering what this has to do with media. But I think it’s just an interesting way to illustrate that there’s shit loads of data out there. Harness it and you can change the world. And if scientists can find the Higgs Boson in billions of hours of footage, media companies may one day be able to read consumer’s minds. Now I’m scared all over again.

The second speaker was David Shing who is a digital prophet from AOL. Unlike most prophets he didn’t have a beard, but it looked like he had one growing out of his scalp.

His talk was highly entertaining and informative, but he spoke so fast and I was so engaged I couldn’t write notes and now I can’t remember what he was saying. From memory the main out-take was that content is king. Create content that people want to watch and people will like your brand. As I work for FCB, I was pleased that he used Driving Dogs as an example of a campaign that nailed it.

Steve King from ZenithOptimedia then spoke about the global ad spend trends we can expect to see in the next few years. The good news is Asia Pacific is going nuts. Our consumer confidence and GDP figures are the highest in the world. And these are the key figures that determine corporate ad spend. The other big trend is that mobile advertising is the next big mover. Essentially we need to stop taking our banner ads and whacking them onto a mobile, and start thinking the other way around.

After lunch the next few sessions were for the media hardcore. Something about programmatic media buying. I have no idea what these guys were on about, but apparently if you’re a media company and you’re not doing it, you better start. These guys were from programmatic media buying start-ups though, so maybe it was just a sales pitch.

Overall my main out-takes from the day were:

  • Mobile is going to go berserk. We have these things in our pockets everywhere we go so that makes sense. Think about it first for your next campaign.
  • Every media channel still has a part to play. Even though mobile is set to go off, TV ad spend is going to see a massive increase over the next few years too.
  • Content is king (like it always has been). If you interrupt people with a crap ad they won’t like it, in fact they’ll hate it.
  • Leading on from the last point, obviously great content requires great creativity. So that can only be a good thing. And seeing media people being so passionate about creativity is awesome, and it means we’re moving in the right direction. But yes, of course, I would say that.

Off to a Spotify party now. Despite a potential hangover, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Vince Gilligan, the co-creator of Breaking Bad is the first speaker. Awesome.

Oh, and for some reason Kevin Bacon is here, maybe because he is his own media channel? I want to ask him a few questions about a potential business proposition. I’m concerned he might punch me in the face over it but we’ll see.

  • Kevin Walker is a creative at FCB and recent winner of the Axis emerging talent award. 

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