MediaPost's Online All Stars Luncheon, Marriott Marquis, New York
September 22, 2009
Does Advertising Week sounds like a who's who of heroes and villains to you too? I feel like if you're a Super Delegate your credentials should include a cape. And look, MediaPost gets in on the action with the Online Media AllStars, which last year had a flashy superhero theme and this year channeled Coney Island with a carnival freakshow. Because really, the most successful people in this world are pretty freaky.
The Online Allstars Luncheon falls smackdab in the center of Day Two of OMMA Global New York. Everyone has their Day Two face on. It has the marks of track sessions, booth schmoozing, hotel coffee, and breakfast rolls. These marks can be softened with a little thing I like to call liquid lunch, which was lining up on the bars in the colors of red and white as I strolled through the luncheon set-up posse. Framing the audience were fantastic illustrations by Molly Crabapple, who had transformed our lucky winners into circus creatures of all kinds like The Snake Charmer and The Elephant Handler. The big buzz, though, was around The Magician, Simon Waterfall (in his "No, I did not win The Aussie Masters" yellow jacket), who days before the event announced he was leaving Poke, the agency he helped launch.
Before the festivities began, I shared a Twitter conversation (in person, not standing next to each other Tweeting) with Renny Gleeson, Global Digital Strategies Director, Wieden+Kennedy, and The Tight Rope Walker. He's a big believer in peer sourcing vs. crowdsourcing, where the value of seeing top 10 tweets about, say art, might be more useful to an artist if they're the top 10 tweets about art by famous/respected/notorious/jailed artists. He asked me, "What did we do before Twitter became the de facto backchannel for snark?" Good question. I suppose we'd all just AIM to each other, pass notes, whisper, or sit passively silent instead of approaching the snark target after their panel for clarification or confrontation (nonviolent, of course). Later on, when Gleeson accepted his award, he delivered a quote and blatantly asked the audience to tweet it, about being in "digital" and how no one wanted to touch "digital" with a big stick; "we used to be the shit on their shoes, now everyone wants to get into our shit" Amen.
The awards began with a few remarks from Joe Mandese, MediaPost's Editor-in-Chief, about his fear of carnivals and respect for the winners, and John Capone, editor, MEDIA, OMMA and Online Media Daily, who called out that yes, there were judges, but that their peers are polled -- so really the Online All Stars are peer-selected, "which is more importan,t" concluded Capone.
Sarah Fay, former CEO of Aegis Media North America and currently on hiatus, gave a fantastic keynote with such quotables as "True success comes from a certain mettle of character...ideaholics...people who love to learn new things," and "No one can look backward and give you the formula for success for an ad campaign," and "the brands that win will be the ones whose customers tell the best stories." She also said confidently that effectiveness trumps efficiency, which I agree with and disagree with -- and you can apply this to traditional vs "new" journalism (er, should I say "writing for the web) as well. Is faster better or is better better? Exactly.
I also learned that Tom Daly, Group Manager, Global Interactive Marketing, The Coca-Cola Company, and The Elephant Handler, is a taker. "I'm a 'net taker.' I take their energy, passion, creativity, I take and I take and I take and I use the perch that I've been given, the Coca-Cola brand." He did say thank you, too.
Colleen DeCourcy , Chief Digital Officer, TBWA, and The Snake Charmer, doesn't care if you're old and offended. She wants to see younger creatives up at the podium accepting awards like this. She'd also like to see everyone stop patting each others' competitive backs and "helping" and instead put the fight back into advertising creative - "Put down your pen and pick up your sword - start creating things people can be jealous of." She doesn't like that the ad industry is the only place where "we ask babies to birth old people." Translation? Instead of the old goat getting behind the young pup to help him succeed, the old goats are still at the top, getting the young pups to help them shine. I can see where pride and ego would make that difficult. But if it's for the greater good of a company's success, it should be applauded, not sneered at.
Simon Waterfall, The Magician, is scared. He left Poke to become a verb, just as digital has gone from being a noun to a verb (ok so he's no grammatical scientist, but you get it). Waterfall was very serious and somber, but almost enlightened by his new freedom. It's like the reverse of the emporer has new clothes. He wants you to think he thinks he's clothed, when really he knows he's naked so the joke's on you. I subscribe to Waterfall's thought process. You won't change, you won't move unless you're scared. And that, my friends, is frightening, but fun as hell. Thinking of quitting your ivory tower position? When you do, you could say you're "Waterfalling." There you go, Simon, you're a verb. Or a gerund. Or something.