Freiburg in southern Germany provided a beautiful back drop to the latest TAAN European meeting. Nestling near the Swiss and French borders in the stunning Black Forest region Freiburg is a friendly town and the sun shone the whole time we were there too. Agencies from all over Europe attended the meeting as well as one from Dubai and another from Tokyo and as ever the meeting was diverse, dynamic and stimulating.
Our first speaker was Klaus Mogenson from the Copenhagen Institute of Future Studies. We had heard from one of his colleagues at the spring meeting on a different subject so we knew what to expect. Except of course we don’t, which is the whole point of the Institute. Klaus was talking to us about ‘Anarconomy’ and the reality of a lot that is happening commercially or specifically non-commercially on the internet. Their insights are fascinating and really helpful for anyone trying to get a handle on how business is developing online. One point he made struck me; the value of professionalism will stand out as more and more amateurism is available.
Our second speaker was Alexander Wunschel, he’s a social media expert. Except actually he’s not, because there are no social media experts yet we were told. Everyone is still finding their way, some things are working, some aren’t and the whole genre is moving so quickly some are struggling to keep up. Alexander spoke clearly and well, he’s worked in social media for a long time and has an impressive CV and clearly knew what he was talking about. His insights into Motrin, Dell, BMW and Kodak in particular were great.
Our last speaker was Oliver Rosenthal, he’s the Managing Director of Saatchi and Saatchi in Germany. To become MD of an agency like that you need to be an industry lifer, probably a traditional agency account man with a bit about you and good few global TV campaigns in your CV. Except of course he doesn’t. What we didn’t expect was his background, he’s been working in digital for most of his life, he’s not got a conventional ad-man background at all. That an agency as successful and large as Saatchi and Saatchi think that’s what they need at their helm is telling for all of us.
In between being regaled by fine speakers we learned from each other. We’re all facing similar issues just now, some are dealing with them better than others. It is of enormous value to me to have an open and frank conversation about industry problems, and more importantly solutions, with other agency heads. I simply can’t do that anywhere else but TAAN meetings.
Freiburg has an open drain running alongside many of its roads in the heart of the city. It’s quite remarkable to see an open drain in one of the most advanced countries in the world. Obviously it’s a health hazard and an eyesore. Except of course it isn’t, it’s a tourist attraction and a great talking point and held in great affection by the residents. If you fall in it they say you’ll meet your true love and never leave Freiburg, I didn’t so I made it home. But not before realising that a lot of what we expect needs questioned; because it used to be doesn’t mean it still is or ever will be again.