Day two of Silicon Beach UK 2016 started with a few blurry eyes and fuzzy heads thanks to the good people of Wirehive and their sponsored afterparty at 1812! After being suitably refreshed and reinvigorated with caffeine goodness, day two could begin.
It was a magical start to day two as Anna Rafferty of Pottermore took to the stage and talked to us about working with the amazing imagination of J.K Rowling and what struck me immediately was how intimidating and scary it must be to represent such an iconic and revered brand as Harry Potter! Anna explained some of the challenges that her role includes; how the media landscape has changed so dramatically over the years, the different forms of content that now need to be produced and how the Harry Potter audience has also changed over time. There were some big statistics on smartphone use in this session that made me question how dependent I am on my mobile but as someone who hasn’t watched or read any Harry Potter I was most surprised to find myself keen to know what my Patronus was….it was a ginger cat!
Next up, Glyn joined us to explain how Matt had inserted himself into a Twitter discussion by way of an introduction and challenged Glyn to predict the future. In particular, the future ebbs and flows of bundled and unbundled service provision. The examples of bundled and unbundled services across industries like banking, music, holidays and television showed how seriously the guys at Albion had thought about this and the depth of their research but for me, shining a light on ‘agencyland’ was when the concept became really interesting. Glyn gave us some tips to avoid the pitfalls of bundling, outlined the need for a new aggregation model driven by customer needs and left us with the challenge of reinventing the dated and dying world of the traditional marketing agency. A big challenge but certainly a worthwhile one.
In an impactful and emotional talk that I will not be able to adequately capture here, Pete asked us to consider the implications of big data and how alongside AI we could proactively intervene and potentially help people in vulnerable situations and mindsets. A big question that also raises many other other questions, particularly with the use of that same data powering advertising platforms like Google and Facebook so prevalent! Pete expertly demonstrated his point with an emotional and personal case study, he walked us through finding our ‘data soul’ on Apple devices and even hacked the conference wifi to highlight the power of that data soul in an eye-opening demonstration. This was a fantastic talk that left me speechless but with a list of things that I want to take away and think about in more detail. I will be following and supporting the work of Nexus closely moving forward starting with Hippo: The Human Focused Digital Book.
It was a funny start to the fourth talk of day two as we were greeted by a dancing baby GIF on the screen and the assertion from Thea Hamren of Mr President, that this is the best thing on the internet. Thea told us about a startup conference in the Philippines called Geeks On A Beach and then proceeded to surprise and concern me with statistics about internet connectivity across the world that bring the term ‘Global Brand’ acutely into question. The news that 50% (over 4 billion) of people are unconnected globally is staggering and as Thea explained, this is primarily due to three things; accessibility, affordability and awareness. After showcasing some of the work the big players like Google and Facebook are doing, the question of what we as an industry can do, was put to us. I particularly liked the idea of an industry award to recognise the use of simplicity to deliver great experience at low bandwidth!
Next, Tom took to the stage to talk to Silicon Beach about pricing and with his experience of moving The Time content behind the paywall, he should know a thing or two about the subject. This was an interesting look at the strong emotions that pricing engenders in people and the important role context plays in how we react to pricing and the examples that Tom used were brilliant, making his point perfectly. Any talk that reminds me of how much I hate Martin Shkreli is usually a bad thing, but not in this case. Moving forward I will definitely be asking clients to think more carefully about their pricing and I will be referring to the three rules of pricing that Tom laid out for us. I might also buy less tealights when I next go to Ikea so thanks Tom.
The man in charge of business transformation at R/GA talked to us next and I found myself frantically writing down far too many action points to possibly list here. From a really useful distinction between disruption and innovation to a new definition of ROI (Return On Involvement), Damien’s talk gave me so much to think about and all things I can put into practice with a little thought and initiative. The importance of remaining relevant, avoiding familiarity and therefore indifference and always striving to make your current business redundant are just some of the notions I took from this talk but I think the stand-out idea for me is that we need to focus on what will make us successful in the future, not what has made us successful in the past.
Marcus John Henry Brown
I’m not sure how to adequately summarise or explain this brilliant and engaging talk from Marcus Brown without using the phrase ‘you had to be there’, so this might be short! Highlighting how hungover Matt appears is a great way to start any talk in my book but to then launch into a diatribe against ‘The Network’ entitled Zombie Apocalypse and set it to music…what a start! Marcus then segued effortlessly from his eloquent rant to a compelling description of the virtues of walking, before returning to the subject of connectivity with great showmanship and the introduction of his AI companion, Rachel. After some dialogue, an escalating tempo and a cameo appearance from Richard Huntington, it was revealed (Pierre Boulle/Franklin Schaffner style) that the Zombie Apocalypse might already be here! A truly epic performance to highlight the potential concerns with connectivity. Oh, and the beauty of walking.
In a coincidence that almost felt like Matt had planned it, Jenny Howard from Sunshine took to the stage to talk to us about the power of films following on perfectly from Marcus Brown. There was even another mention of Zombies! Jenny gave us a fascinating look at how movies a way for our society to explore our emotions and often act as a barometer of what’s collectively important to us. The example of action and military film genres gaining huge popularity following September 11th 2001 was particularly interesting. I love the idea of using films as a research and development tool or an ideas incubator and I will be keeping in mind that imagination is our most powerful dev tool from now on!
In a refreshing and thought-provoking talk from Richard Huntington, we were invited to think about the concept of duty, what that means in our roles and the power and responsibility that comes with duty. Richard explained the three duties we have and pointed out that our commercial duty is something we take care of very well but we do not use our power to carry out our social and political duties and have a real and meaningful impact on the world. Richard shared some inspiring examples of great work that’s being done and the words of some brilliant thought leaders and ‘advertising geniuses’ before expressing upon us our ‘Noblesse Oblige’ or ‘Progress Oblige’. We have the power to make a difference to our social and political world and with the responsibility we’ve been given through our roles, we have an obligation to use that power and make that difference.
So the final speaker at Silicon Beach UK 2016 was Nadya Powell who is also the only person to speak at 3 consecutive SB events so this was something of a landmark moment and as always, Nadya didn’t disappoint. We were treated to an energetic leadership workshop with activities, claxons and audience participation with a serious point that if we don’t collectively start learning to be better leaders, there’s danger of falling into an ongoing cycle of poor leadership. Nadya also offered a hilarious dissection of the X-men ‘team’, their diversity and how their success is down to good leadership. A great end to a great event.
Massive thanks have to go to Matt Desmier (@mattdesmier) and the Silicon Beach (@SiliconBeachUK) team for putting on another fantastic event. We’re looking forward to testing out some of the innovative ideas mentioned in our work as an eCommerce agency!
See you next year for #SB2017…