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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