A couple of weeks ago I was in a bar high in the Wicklow Mountains outside Dublin listening to a band, they were encouraging their audience to sing-a-long to ‘Dirty Old Town’, a popular tune on the Irish traditional music scene. One of my companions on the evening commented that it wasn’t an Irish song they were familiar with; there is a good reason for this, it’s not an Irish song. Written by Ewan MacColl who was born to Scottish parents in Manchester, England it was written about Salford a town close to his birthplace. Yet most of the people in the room that night either thought or presumed the song was Irish. Part of the reason for this misapprehension is that the Irish band The Dubliners recorded the song, indeed their version is the best known one.

Reinvention, taking ideas from elsewhere and adapting them as well as learning about other’s best practice was, in many ways, the theme of that weekend. I was attending the annual Taan Worldwide global meeting, being held in Dublin for the first time. Agencies from 34 different cities were in attendance as well as speakers from Google, the legal and PR professions. I really enjoy Taan Worldwide meetings, you can’t help but learn, not just from the speakers but more so from your fellow delegates.

We were reminded just how influential Google is and how they are increasingly shaping retail purchases. We were given an insight into their company and their culture. We don’t always find Google the easiest company to deal with, it was very informative to hear their side of the story. It was made clear to us that the internet is going ‘mobile’ and that sites that aren’t mobile phone friendly will soon be left behind. Some of the statistics involved are staggering.

The internet has opened doors to international commerce but the legal profession is keen to check we’ve wiped our feet on the mat first. We’d an informative talk from an international lawyer, his over-riding point being that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Advertising alcohol online is now banned in Russia, in Italy fast food promotions can’t target young people, and Google ads are subject to different rules all across the world. Even if you aren’t involved in international markets it’s interesting to know in advance how other countries are viewing certain issues, often these rules follow a sort of domino effect and arrive here eventually.

The real gems though came from our colleagues, the many people in attendance who carry out the same job we do, just somewhere else. That pooling of knowledge, the sharing of ideas and observations, concerns and examples of success is almost invaluable. It’s difficult to think of another instnace where experienced, gifted people are so willing to give of their time and knowledge to help your clients. .

The truth is there are very few completely new ideas, but there are lots of ways to improve existing ideas, to sharpen them and make them your own, to apply them to different scenarios, to new media opportunities and new markets.

As the Dubliners proved sometimes you can take something great from somewhere else and make it even better.