At the end of September, I spent two days by the beach listening, learning and starting to live again. Curated by the self-styled most selfish event organiser in the world, Matt Desmier, Silicon Beach is a complete mystery. You have some idea of some of the speakers but no idea when they talk, what they will talk about or indeed what may happen.
I went last year and was completely smitten with the format compared to the typical bloviation from other conferences so had high hopes. Hopes that were fulfilled. And then some. And while I wrote some digital postcards last year to some people who really stood out for me, I wrote some actual postcards this time.
You may have got one in the post. There are still one or two who haven’t even got one yet because it really has been impossible to find the addresses of some people; easier to find an address in Montenegro than Marylebone. But let’s get back to the beach…
Matt makes a thing of there being no theme, just people he wants to listen to and learn form. And that seems to be good advice for life in general, let alone a conference.
But there was a theme for me.
To get on and do things.
Because time is short. Because we’ve been hoodwinked that timesheets are the most important thing in advertising. That the colour by numbers dumbing down of creativity by Facebook et al is the temple we should all be praying at because they dominate over 2/3 of the internet.
That actually, we should be more rebellious in our behaviour and intent. Because life is short. As Billy Connolly once observed, you should be anarchic and put stink bombs under the rim of the toilet or cling film over the porcelain on train journeys because…
“Do these things. You’ll improve your life no end.”
A theme that Paul Armstrong showed in high-speed fashion (I may have to buy his book to try and remember what he speed-talked through) with his tiny square of paper showing you what little time you have left to do something.
A theme that Scarlett Montanaro recognised and that advertising wasn’t fuelling and did her own thing. Being the dependable back-up and timesheets are not the reason we got into advertising. Scarlett encouraged everyone to spend at least 20% of their time at work working on side projects or things you really give a shit about. Because while the industry still requires you to be chained to a desk for hours on end, you may as well be productive and doing stuff you like and can make a difference rather than endlessly staring at social media.
A theme that came up with Sally, with Victoria and with Vanja about attention, sleepwalking, doing the same thing. We think we know our problems inside out, but history shows that sometimes the excuses we make are preventing progress (or survival). When we say ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’ or ‘that’s just how it is / has to be’ there’s a danger in complacency, and that the competition will overcome that challenge first.
Where advertising has become colouring by numbers to feed the digital machines of Facebook and Google. Where our short-termist, instant gains culture has created an obsession with quantifiable metrics. We need to embrace the chaos (Bo Hellberg) that we seem to process out of everything in search of efficiency. Chaos is the part of every story where the magic happens, and it’s the same with work. We can start with data, but it should never form the whole solution. If we want to affect real change, we must change our centre of gravity from chasing data to embracing chaos.
And put penis’ on 20 foot presentation screens. Because life is too short. Do these things, they’ll improve your life no end.
That we over-complicate, we spend time on the wrong things and that we need to wake up, do things that matter and do things that excite us. To think without the restrictions growing up places on us (Richard Gerver).
To demonstrate our value, we’re overcomplicating things and obscuring potential solutions. Embrace the clocks and clouds in life as Matt Ballantine would say. Clocks work in a very specific way and require expertise to make them work and carry out a necessary task. Clouds are intangible, transient and ever changing – this is where we should experiment, not knowing the exact value of the activity going in.
Be inspired, be braver (Dave McQueen) and think about what our own legacy may be. Don’t follow the herd (Up Your Elvis as Chris B-B would say, a nod back to Mark Earls from last year there too).
And in a dystopian manner, I loved Marcus’ ‘The Passing’ to bits. I say talk, it was art. Beautifully conceived and delivered. Truly stand out. But also terrifyingly believable following on from several of the talks about the rise of the influencers. The man is a genius. Read the Forbes review if you don’t believe me. I hope he does get a book deal.
It’s hard to really tell you more. I have lots more notes. I have lots more actions and ideas. And in a way, that’s the joy of Silicon Beach. You really should be there to experience it. To try and do a post about it really doesn’t do it that much justice but I have tried.
Do these things. It’ll improve your life no end.
See you on the beach in 2018.