Daily Archives: July 21, 2009

Battle of big thinking (£649)

A couple of weeks ago, I saw an ad for ‘the 4th Battle of Big Thinking’. The ad looked great. It offered the chance to see some big names in the industry battle it out on ‘marketing, planning, innovation, social media, mobile, global thinking and the concept of free in 21st century business’. So, I thought, I’ll email the address at the bottom and see how I can get tickets. There was no mention of price, and despite the blurb mentioning ‘the concept of free’ as a subject of debate, I expected some sort of nominal payment. The sort of payment that ‘OpenSoho’ use whereby some form of financial requirement removes those people who will put their name down for the opening of a bowel…so long as it is free…

Today, exactly 20 days after my initial email, I received my response. Yes, there were indeed tickets still available and these tickets were priced at £649 for non members and £559 for members of the APG. Suddenly the whole aura about the event faded. This wasn’t an expression of ideas open to all seeking enlightenment…it was a big agency love-in…an opportunity to talk about the importance of collaboration, the changing face of marketing, a bottom up approach…but not open to anyone who was genuinely interested, only to those from big brands and big name agencies who could come along and see how one of their own was faring in the competitive arena of debate…

 I don’t for one minute attribute any blame to those speaking. It would be an honour to be invited to attend and those names that I recognise are voices that I genuinely hold respect for, whose blogs I read and whose tweets I follow. It’s the organisers who I blame because when all the talk will be about collaboration, authenticity and questioning what surrounds us…the whole event seems horribly insular and elitist.

The organisers would argue that the price justifies the quality of the speakers but when I look at comparative prices of ‘entertainment’, I can’t see how it adds up… Intellectual debate – well Malcolm Gladwell cost £16 at the Lyceum last year. Even if you multiply that by the number of speakers here – then it is only £272… Or how about entertainment? I renewed my season ticket at Arsenal in May and that works out at £40 per game for 90 minutes entertainment. This would cost the same as every game from the start of the season until March.

Putting aside the fact that there are still tickets 3 weeks after first advertised, I’m sure the event will sell out of tickets in the end because there’ll always be plenty of agency bigwigs wanting to go along and network/sip champagne. However, I’d call that ‘big living’ rather than ‘big thinking’…

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Sicilian Adventures Days 6-8

The final post of the Sicilian Adventures series confirms one very important point. Alcohol seriously reduces levels of productivity. The first 5 days of the trip involved a variety of cultural exploits. At one point, I was seriously concerned that I had completely metamorphosed into a culture vulture. Churches, Roman ruins, debates over the European Union and a fondness for Pecorino cheese and olive oil had almost meant that my own mother would have ceased to recognise me from the person that had left. Fortunately, Taormina ensured a return to form and my true colours came out. I’ve been on any number of ‘boys holidays’ over the years – but I don’t think I have ever matched the sheer volume of alcohol that we drunk in these final three days…

Our first night saw us visit a restaurant that the concierge at our hotel recommended. It was unfortunately less Italian trattoria, more Bratwurst bar as it seemed to be aimed solely at Germans. It was also slightly disconcerting that a small child walked out the restaurant half way through our meal to vomit on the pavement outside. Fortunately we escaped unscathed and headed into town. I had looked online before we visited to find out where the happening places were in town. One name that came out was ‘Deja Vu’. Despite sounding like the sort of nightclub that would be normally based in Watford and play UK Garage, it was quite a cool venue that played lots of classic music – very guilty pleasures-esque. It was there that we discovered the drink of the holiday – named ‘Il Padrino’ – a heady mix of whisky and amaretto – no mixers. Things got a little bit hazy after the 5th.

Day 7 was spent sweating. A lot. And generally feeling unwell. I had been looking forward to some sunbathing all week and now when finally in the glare of the sun, felt decidedly unwell. Being troopers we all pushed through and prepared for a meal at Ol’Oragio.

Eating at Ol'Orogio - Suitably Cheesy pose

Eating at Ol'Orogio - Suitably Cheesy pose

This was probably the best meal we enjoyed in Sicily. Fresh anchovies on toast, bresoala and tuna, sea bass and salmon carpaccio followed by fresh fish the size of my forearm washed down with ‘Casa LJ’, an amazing Sicilian Chardonnay that flew in the face of those who say that they don’t like any Chardonnays. With our alcoholic appetite whetted by multiple Limoncellos, we moved to déjà Vu via flaming B52 doused in pure alcohol to set them alight. Deja Vu saw more terrible dancing and lots of fun. Whilst we thought we were a cross between John Travolta and Michael Jackson – the photos tell an entirely different story…

Day 8 was again spent sweating. Lots. There was not a cloud in the sky for the entire duration of our stay. Perfect for after 12 hrs sleep. Less good after 4. Somehow it is easier to get over hangovers when on holiday and we managed to gear ourselves up to what was the cultural highlight of our trip – watching Jose Carreras at the Taormina Amphitheatre.

Jose Carreras at the Taormina Amphitheatre

Jose Carreras at the Taormina Amphitheatre

It was an amazing experience. I’ve been to the opera and ballet in London and have enjoyed it on occasions and been bored on occasions. In London, going to ballet and opera can feel really elitist. This felt more like going to a  football match. There was a sense of tribalism as we walked up the hill to get to the amphitheatre and a sense of expectancy. This was after all, one of the greatest tenors that has ever lived. And he delivered. He obviously isn’t what he once was…but the setting and the occasion combined to deliver an extraordinary experience. I’ve always been more into dance music or rock music and turned my nose up at classical music. More out of ignorance than anything else and this made me really rethink…

 We set off the next day to return to England via Catania. Returning…to the cold…to the rain…and to swine flu… all I wanted was to live in Italy

 Over and out…

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