I've covered my fair share of conferences and exhibitions over the years—from the glitz and glamour of luxury retail to the mind-numbing tedium of wastewater treatment (it was shit, literally)—but until Wednesday, I was a Spikes virgin.
As the saying goes, you never forget your first time. But was my Spikes debut a disappointing fumble in the creative darkness or a mind-blowing experience of epic proportions?
In terms of the official programme, there were some presentations I absolutely loved.
The JWT and TNS talk (see 'Dear brands, consumers just aren't that into you') was so compelling because it wasn’t afraid to tell some uncomfortable truths. Namely that despite all the hype around brand engagement online, many efforts are failing to connect with consumers.
As JWT Australia’s Angela Morris said: “Is it us or them? Have we got it right? We can do better.”
Importantly, the presentation then went on to look at what brands should be doing: cooling off on chasing participation and instead targeting people who aren’t currently interested in the brand.
Kudos to SapientNitro too, which tackled the thorny issue of leadership and employee attitudes to their bosses, both in the creative industries and further afield (see 'Leaders should look in mirror over talent woes'). As its head of strategy for Singapore and Hong Kong Melanie Cook pointed out, people are empowered to try and change the world through Twitter, but not to change their workplaces.
These two talks were memorable precisely because they took people out of their comfort zones and presented plenty of food for thought.
Other sessions, however, contained nuggets of gold, but only the skimmed the surface of a subject instead of digging deeper for the whole treasure trove.
A couple of the talks felt like they were aimed at the general public and not at an audience familiar with the creative industries. So, if you are speaking on behalf of a major social media / tech outfit / brand, you probably don’t need to give us a potted history of what your business has done over last two years—we already know.
Then there were the parties, of which my recollections are somewhat hazy. I do, however, remember being introduced to Christina Hendricks and suddenly feeling like I was an awkward 13-year-old at a school disco. When I needed the charm of Don Draper, I felt like I had the class of Donald Trump.
Moving swiftly on, the official Spikes agenda is only one piece of the jigsaw, and many of my most memorable moments came from random conversations with delegates or catching up with people I have only ever communicated with via email.
So there was the fantastic lunch with one of Japan's most creative PR pros, the beers with the guys from Australia who talked me through some of their most recent, outstanding work, and the coffee with an ECD who seemingly had more ideas in a minute than I have in a month.
Oh, and there was the chance meeting with one of the most senior CEOs in media. Poolside. While he was in his robe.
Looking back, one line that stuck in my mind from the event came from Twitter’s Steven Kalifowitz, who said “all people are looking for is a connection”. While social media and technology are increasingly facilitating this, nothing beats face-to-face contact and human interaction.
And that, for me, is why Spikes is a success. It brings like-minded people together and gives them the freedom to connect...be they robed or not.
See you next year!