PSFK: The First 3 Discussions…

Above: PSFK Conference folk having a bloody good chin wag.

I came, I saw, I blogged… well, I’m about to.

I also took quite a few snaps. View them here.

Before I go any further, I’m also acutely aware that the adlads, NP, The Geek Pirate and Charles Frith will also be writing this up, so if you want a series of alternate views to mine, read each one in turn. Then make up your own mind. Or move the pictures up and down really quickly – it helps simulate being there (or being at sea…either way, you win).

Anyway, I had a damn good time. Thanks to all who helped organise this, and all the speakers. A special mention must go to Piers for setting the whole shebang up. Legend, in a word.

On with the post. I’ve split this up into two sections, as I took probably about 12 pages of notes (Sam’s twitter was fairly accurate about that), and I’m not sure anyone would be able to digest 12 pages worth of my wibblings.

So here’s my morning thoughts (as they happened, because consciousness writing is always more fun):

Up at 6.30. Not much of a morning person, so I shamble to the shower in a state of dazed confusion, swear as I stub my toe. Shower, get dressed, eat a hasty banana and listen to loud music on my ipod to wake me up.

Get there. Wow, it’s a proper conference and everything. People open doors for me? This doesn’t really make sense; usually it’s with a faint sense of derision, but not this morning. Oh no.

Free juice and a spot of tea helps towards making me feel civilised. I hob nob with the adlads, Juliana, Dan Symth (from Islington Council), Helen Taylor, Henry Lambert, Charlie and Mark McGuinness. All lovely people, who listen to my warblings and make sympathetic gestures.

Right, it is beginning. Better take m’ seat.

Piers is speaking.. playing a few highlights from the NYC PSFK Conference. Looks pretty good. Can only hope today is as good. Piers’s point about ‘planting seeds of thought’, to help change the way you view communications and life in general is great. As is his need to ‘bring obsessives together’. It’s an interesting way of framing the conference. Doing what you love, and are mildly obssessed by. A good way to think about things, and why I didn’t do Law and did English. Do what you enjoy, everyone!

Right then. He’s introducing the first chap, Timo Veikkola from Nokia:

Timo’s speaking about his job, which is to find out what’s going to happen in the next two to three years. There’s a great quote of his, which is repeated now for your pleasure: “Nothing compares with the intimacy of one to one communications, but there are barriers of time and distance. My job is to make things natural”.

Diversity, and travel, are both key to his job. I’m beginning to wish there was a graduate recruitment thing for ‘trend hunter’ at the University fairs, but sadly not (and who wants to work for a Law firm or Deloitte anyway?).

Trends, according to Timo, are “Manifestations of values, attitudes and behaviours, of reactions and expressions”. Good to know that. Neatly covers off most things, from the Pogs I collected when I was 9, right through to this whole bloggery shenanigan.

So far so good then, but Timo did say something I disagreed with:

Maybe I’m far, far too much of an Orwell and Huxley fan, but I have my doubts as to whether it’ll be all as wonderful as he suggests. Still, I’m not a trend watcher/prognosticator, so what do I know? He thinks, interestingly, that we’ve just come out of a ‘Noah’s Ark’ period in the world, of natural disasters et al, and we’re moving towards a knowledge based culture.

Cultural capital is, in Timo’s view, being molded together to help make new things. He’s referenced the new Morgan Spurlock as an example of this – What Would Jesus Buy? He wraps up on an optimistic note, that all of this will lead to good things in the future. Damn, I’d like his job. Never mind that… he’s said some interesting things, and on we go.

Piers is moving onto the next person, Regine Debatty of We Make Money Not Art:

Well, during the slight technical mishap that went from switching from Timo’s PC to Regine’s Mac, I can say that she’s easily the most stylish speaker thus far. Browsing through the PSFK handbook, I also realise that hers is one of those blogs I’ve heard about but not read about.

I silently curse how rubbish I am at refusing to subscribe to too many blogs. But never mind, this should be something I’ve never heard before (or maybe some of it, via BoingBoing). Her laptop’s sorted now, so on we go.

She’s interested in how artists use technology… mmm, this is definitely a field I know nothing about, considering my last proper brush with Science was at GCSE, and I can’t really call myself an artist. She’s most interested in ‘Bio Art’ today, and how people are modifying it. She urges us to go to the RCA, and see a show by Tony Dunn, in order to imagine what the future will bring.. and then puts us off our lunches by showing us stem cells being grown on the body. Urgh. But interesting – wonder if people will start a trend and make it cool? It’ll then be branded, become more mainstream.. and the cycle begins again.

Victimless leather jacket? Would you like to wear something that’s growing, instead of killing a cow to wear one? I’m not sure which has less appeal; I wonder if the growing jacket could feed off you – all kinds of Stephen King b-movie possibilities.. Although, we do eat yoghurt.. chock full of organisms, so I suppose we’ll just have to consider it/market it for the future – though I doubt it’ll fit me for a good few years yet.

I didn’t catch all that… Regine is talking about Memento Mori in Vitro, and how it is a harbinger for the future – for who could have predicted that this would arise two years ago? Not me, that’s for certain. Hell, I have to remind myself to get up in the morning sometimes.

Anyway….Regine is now talking about disembodied cuisine. Much as I like munching on all sorts of things (bloody steak being amongst them), I’m not sure I want to eat a still alive steak. Wonder if it’ll promote a new form of carnivore behaviour? ‘Still alive restaurants’? It’ll only be a matter of time before people decide to munch on other guests, I’m telling you.

Regine believes that if we educate the masses, they’d eat it. Not sure myself, but hell – if you train the kids, you can do anything (bloody frightening, but probably true).

And with that, she’s done.. some interesting stimuli, and I must check out her blog.

Onto the next set of speakers. Ooh, a panel. This concerns ‘The Marketing Gap in Green’, chaired by Karen Fraser. It features (from left to right) Tamara Giltsoff, John Grant and Diana Verde Nieto:

Karen frames the debate by imagining a world where consumers can see what companies are up to – how they are trying to become more green. Would be nice, albeit a bit strange. And very much like an Independent worldview (though that’s my favourite paper – I’m not sure I see that view ever truly happening).

She then asks a question to the panel: Are agencies and corporations being shaped by consumers?

John steps up to the plate – apparently, there was a study in Marketing Week which stated that of the top 5 polluters, 4 of those are aviators, and John believes (much like Russell, if I recall correctly) that this isn’t a brand issue – that the public will shape perceptions of these companies themselves. He notes that, the Body Shop aside, there are very few truly green brands.

Diana holds that it’s not about charity – it’s about making money, and that marketeers could fall prey to the ‘Glass House’ supposition. Fair point there; how the hell can you preach green issues and yet be trying to sell stuff? Well, I’d answer that one by claiming that the punters you are trying to reach do know how recycle/do more, and that they’ll be flogged things. Just the way of the world – you almost can’t help being mildly hypocritical.

Diana then moves on to state that the governmental perspective on the overall green issue has been very confused, and that the green issue has been largely driven by women. She backs up this point by emphasising a choice benefit from the supermarkets – women were the first to go for organic food, and they make the purchasing decisions in the typical household.

Tamara comes back to the paradox of marketing and advertising promoting green issues. Certain brands, she thinks, will be able to get away with this paradox, and others (like car manufacturers and aeroplane companies) will not. Fair point, and nicely put.

John believes you need 3 things for sustainable marketing – being ‘green’ means 3 things have to happen: 1. Setting new standards – be they labels or publishing a manifesto – for the consumer to follow/judge them on. 2. Collaborating with the customer, not merely selling to them – ie the Ikea Cagoule design (I can’t find this one on the web, for some reason). 3. Having new systems in place such as lending goods and libraries, helping us live better – and this notion comes from web 2.0. We are working out where these ideas will come from online – after all, 5.6m people are on Freecycle.

Tamara discusses Zopa, and how web 2.0 can help cut out systems of commerce that have been in place for centuries. I like Zopa, and really wish I’d have talked about it in various client meetings – ah well, it’s one for another day. But would I use it? I’m not sure….

John discusses the importance of thinking globally and acting locally – supporting local produce and shopping at the local corner shop, citing farmers markets and the like to support his statement. I’m all for this; I hope the local Londis can spark a revival of sorts (albeit with MUCH better advertising).

Karen wants to know just what it is consumers want, having overheard Tamara’s point about packaging, and how you’d rethink convenience over ethics – essentially, people don’t like too much packaging, but sometimes it is essential…when do the two converge?

John holds that people just want to be involved. Ask them, and you shall receive your answer. With my cynical hat on, I wonder – do I want to be consulted about a company’s packaging decision? No, not really – but I suppose, it’d be nice to be asked. How long before we have floods of questions, and things become the question age…?

John follows that up by contesting that there is very little evidence to suggest that consumers require incentivisation any more. No – in an ideal world, he’d encourage mobile phone companies to halve their fees per month, but have a minimum of a four year contract per person. Nice idea, and one I think will happen. Not sure when, but I find myself nodding and agreeing with it.

Diana pipes up; people want to be rewarded and made to feel happy in her view – to be given an objective and an opportunity to do good. What’s wrong is how much people are made aware – Second Life uses a lot of electricity. At this point, I wanted to speak up, and make the point about Second Life avatars and the average Brazillian, but I guess I was wise to keep it quiet…John’s chock full of stats, even off the top of his head.

John proposes that green is beyond what people want – it’s more needs based in the future. People will need to live in bigger cities. It’s paramount that people realise that there will be things that they won’t be comfortable with, like the debate about fortnightly bin collections. People will have to deal with issues like waste management in the future.

Karen then asks – what should agencies do? Diana immediately answers, telling them to embrace day to day sustainability, Carbon Footprints and the cost per employee. John holds that there will be niche ‘green’ agencies, much like digital is now. Diana cuts in, telling people not to treat the green issue as special interest; no-one is an expert at the moment. Too true – you seem to read a different statistic every day.

For Diana, being naive is a big part of learning, and leading to improvement. People think experientially, and we are all learning at the moment. All of the panelists agree, and it’s time for Niku’s talk…

*This was going to be a 2 part writeup, but sheesh, it’s going to be three. Writing up my notes is proving to take a long time (especially in that style). I’ll write the next instalment as soon as I can*