Tuesday, June 30, 2009

men and their magnificent flying machines

My husband is an adrenaline junkie who has a particular love of anything that has wings and he can fly, so I get to meet all sorts of really interesting and often eccentric people (like him) who do, quite frankly, rather dangerous, but fascinating things with their lives.
I just stepped off the airplane from Cannes and was spirited away to a charity fundraiser for the first South African who is going to compete in the Red Bull X-Alpes, a non-stop extreme adventure challenge in Europe. It was here that I met James Pitman, who isn’t going to the X-Alpes, but has a great adventure of his own coming up. James and his partner Mike Blythe exemplify to me the great spirit of entrepreneurship and adventure, which is uniquely South African. They have built and intend to fly a prototype Sling aircraft from Johannesburg, South Africa, to the Oshkosh Airventure Airshow, in Wisconsin USA, in July this year. The Sling, they say is a new light sport aircraft developed in a forge of passion and careful thought, her creators’ brief being to develop the world’s most practical and desirable light sport aircraft. The two adventurers will return to Johannesburg by continuing their journey west, circumnavigating the globe en route. The journey, including 6 days in Oshkosh, is planned to take place over approximately one calendar month, commencing on 15 July and returning on 17 August 2009.
In my earlier days as Publisher of Out There magazine, a magazine for adventure enthusiasts, I met Mike Blythe. Indeed we awarded him the title of Adventurer of the Year for his extraordinary aviation pursuits, so it didn’t surprise me that he was still committed to a life of thrills in the sky. His partner James is an ex-lawyer and mining investor - also following his passion of science, creation and aviation.
Theirs is a story to inspire - South Africans challenging new frontiers, creating homemade machines and having the courage to follow their dreams and I for one am going to follow these chaps on their global adventure at http://www.airplanefactory.co.za/. Hopefully I can persuade them to Tweet along the way…

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Slave or not?

I was sad to leave Cannes today, because each year for a few days in my hectic life schedule I get to sit and listen and marvel at the amazing innovation that is shaping our advertising, media and communications.
This year was no exception. I was exposed to many campaigns that honoured integration and took real consumer insights and applied them in inspiring ways. www.thegreatschlep.com showed how a simple consumer insight could influence a presidential race, a brilliant campaign for the the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef will change tourism communication forever, Gillette's Campaign for men showed there are no holds barred online in demonstrating (pretty tastefully I have to say) how men should trim their pubic hair. And the campaign for Distracted Drivers/Road Safety got everyone talking.
I sat through fascinating insights on how 20 million consumers around the world interact with Xbox games each month and even Unilever use Microsoft's Free Interactive Games to sell margarine. The Sagami Original campaign for the world's thinnest condom was a beautifully crafted and thought out story that won a Grand Prix in PR. The work on the Deadliest Catch was riveting with very smart media integration and I just have to see that show!!!
We were told that men go online for fantasy and women for reality - sound familiar?
I learned about Microsoft Surface, Bing, the Long Nose, The Natal Project, the Eyeblaster Project to end traditional advertising, Skimmer, MagCloud and a whole lot of other really fascinating stuff - so much so that I was told I was becoming a technology slave one night at dinner by a techie (talk about calling the kettle black) who was watching me Tweet away. Slave or not, I cannot emphasis enough to communicators, marketers, advertisers and media specialists to get closer to the technical innovations that are changing our world. Find ways to bring the understanding into your business - collaborate with others, particularly technology partners, create campaigns that engage and most important become part of the conversation.
I started Tweeting from the time I arrived in Cannes and just this involvement and engagement shifted my absorption of information and clarity of thought and interaction with others. I warn you though; it is addictive (that’s the technology monk in me speaking).
My highlight was Twitter and the young and unassuming Biz Stone. Forget the $ 500 million. How incredible it must be to have been part of creating something that is changing the world so fundamentally. I say this, because for the past few days CNN has been a Twitter with the coverage of the riots in Iran and Twitter has been a key feeder to this. Twitter is becoming the news agency of the world and people are finding a voice that would otherwise be censored. All it takes is a mobile device and you can find your voice. Where major news corporations cannot be present or report the repressive tactics of governments, Twitter will make their voices heard. It's unstoppable and profound and I count myself lucky to live in this age where the individual can participate in this global conversation.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

technology rules Cannes

The techies will continue to change our world. I’m more convinced of this than ever from my time here at Cannes. Sorry to say it’s not the creative talent or marketers who are setting the agenda here. Sure there are cool ideas, but it’s the geeks who have created and will create more and more tools unlocking a world of free and flowing communication and importantly captivating consumer attention.
The Media savvy Steve Ballmer CEO of Microsoft confirmed this. He exuded power and confidence as the paparazzi snapped away and Fortune fired off live questions at him. Later at the Cannes Awards Ballmer was named Media Person of the Year? Yes indeed.
Earlier on I listened with keen interest to the HP and RG/A team talk about Cloud Computing. Coming from a magazine publishing background I marvelled at MagCloud. This enables wannabe publishers to publishing virtually without the usual financial risks of magazine publishing and the revenue model is on demand. So the only real costs to the Publisher is the content generation - the rest is sitting in the Cloud only activated and printed on demand when a consumer buys the title. It’s really exciting for small niche publishers and even larger publishers who are testing new products. Importantly it puts the power in the hands of the individual and no longer in the hands of printers, distributors or retailers.
I've spent a good deal of my time with digital media strategists and tech savvy people and they are all saying the same thing. Technology will continue to set the agenda and we will have to constantly try to work out how we effectively join the ride.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

God, Flowers and Collaboration

Today confirmed that collaboration is key to communication success. Current market conditions and the growing influence of social media and participatory culture requires all of us - agencies, marketers, media houses/owners and the rest to humble down and collaborate. Clients are also going to have to take the lead and look at new models of remuneration to encourage and reward a more collaborative approach to their business.
Listened to case study on cool campaign for Sagami Original, the world's thinnest condom and winner in PR category. Great digital campaign!
I spent a lot of time in tech sessions. Bill Buxton a scientist working for Microsoft and creator of their latest innovation Microsoft Surface managed to get a laugh out of a weary crowd when he made light of the weighty topic of tech development. He told us three screens is child's play - we are heading quickly for a multi-screen environment where technology will change consumer interactions around multiple touchpoint tech offerings. We heard about the Long Nose (forget the Long Tail), how environmentalists will ensure that Print dies (they gotta save the trees), God being the founder of advertising and flowers being some of his greatest work. ..... well it certainly beat the prior experience of listening to the Principle Platform Evangelist who failed dismally to live up to her passionate title and content on integrative technology platforms to manage cross media implementation. Theme again - collaboration and integration, although poorly explained!
Later on at a party on the Carlton Hotel beachfront I got talking to Finance Week's Specialist Editor Tony Koenderman, considered SA's leading expert on Marketing and Advertising. He confirmed for the first time in many years at Cannes, there's proof in the campaigns that collaboration and integration has become a reality. That's great news, along with the two Lions SA agencies, Hunt Lascaris (Outdoor) and Network BBDO (Radio) picked up.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Twitter mania

Well I'm back in Cannes. One year later and ready to learn some more. Just arrived and went straight to a session with one of Twitter's founders Biz Stone. The Debussy Hall was packed wall- to-wall and floor-to-floor and the place was Tweeting so much I was sure at one point I felt the room vibrating. Stone looks about 16, very charming, friendly and speaks in this naive and very honest manner. What did I learn? Well that he's learning still (yes he's honest enough to admit this). The company is still in its infancy and they won't sell now even at $ 500 million. He sees collaboration with other social media as key and can't say what's Twitter's biggest threat. Admits to not really knowing. Check out Jet Blue - company started out small on Twitter, but Stones cites them as doing a great job. He also doesn't see Twitter as a competitor to big news groups, eventhough Twitter is now breaking news faster than most newswire services (just type ACCIDENT if you don't believe him) and he wants to be friends with all. No real answers on how they're going to make money, but hey this is not unusual... FaceBook can attest. Stones is evangelical when he says; "Twitter is a triumph of humanity and not a triumph of technology" - Sound familiar?