|Like any other cultural product, the biggest event of the Internet Mobile and Marketing Association of the Philippines (IMMAP) this year is subject to constructive criticism AND praise, especially by a blogger recently charmed by Furedi's search for public intellectuals.|
|Secretary Sonny Coloma at IMMAP Summit |
speaking about "Philippine Government 2.0"
I do admit there's no way anyone can give a fully legit review on the event since delegates, moi, could only choose one session at a time to attend. At least I never once left the Advanced Track that focused on "the shifting digital trends, both local and global, and how these shifts affect the market."
After listening to digital thought leaders for two days, it occurred to me that the summit, though with muscle and teeth as I've mentioned, lacks wings and a fixed ground to steadily take off from. While the speakers deconstructed consumer insights and "shifts," and generously gave away pragmatic digital points in styles that are TED-worthy, the overall content is a bit short of intellectual rigor and theory.
Are they just consumers?
The general public was referred to as "consumers" armed with digital technologies and a voice to either support or ruin brands. The overall goal is "to engage them," or to digitally interact and experience products and services in most creative ways. This is basically the motherhood idea I took home, and it left me rather starved.
A speaker who advocated Groupon even explained that collective action could topple presidents but can also be transformed to "collective buying power" to demand for discounts--a habit-forming consumerist setup. An agency guy also downplayed the social impact of a successful Miracle Machine outreach campaign for a branded salad dressing. A tech geek also talked about Search Engine Optimization and how Google wipes off listings when sites engage in "black hat" SEO practices. "Gray hat" techniques in the shady side of ethics, are acceptable as long as Google, with its "Don't do evil" policy, doesn't catch you. But ethics or related words, were never referred to, not even a mention of Google's golden rule.
|Barney Loehnis in "The Digital Shift" sharing his thoughts on pervasive connectivity and the disadvantages of having empowered consumers. Besides having the potential to become brand advocates, digital consumers can also "spread malice," he said.|
These and many other sessions left me asking, where's the soul of digital here? Before I got started on a "bring back Jeremiah Owyang" trend of thought, I recalled Will Sansom saying, "The person is in the middle of it all," and this is why digital professionals have to make the technology seamless and the individual experience "transformative of feeling, emotion and behavior."
They are also individuals
"People don't need marketing," Sansom also said early on. What they need is "education and entertainment," he added. His argument relates what people are as individuals, and not just as consumers who can "buy, buy, buy." With this, the Justin Timberlake dead ringer expressed in a few words my qualm with marketing as a field and its relevance to the human condition. Whereas independent journalism has the clear-as-day objective of finding truths and delivering them to people, marketing seems to just highlight the good stuff and understate the unattractive facts.
|Keynote speaker Will Sansom of Contagious Communications|
sat across me on Day 2.
Australian ad man Neil Hudspeth, however, urged (and correctly) that digital content should not be limited to making a brand known and getting people to participate in it. Brands, in the first place, should act with "deed" instead of just giving "word" in aiming to become "purpose brands." Sansom and Hudspeth's talks obviously had the depth to set the tone, but their message didn't fly to permeate the entire event. And sadly.
The talks seemed to me too segmented. Maybe what the yearly summit needs is a lineup that can approximate Clay Shirky or some idea that can take it to the air. Or a fixed, binding, almost idealistic theme that serves as a worthy common ground.
Now, I wasn't expecting such a practice-driven conference to be as profound as the university events I usually report on, but the IMMAP Summit experience was like eating in a fast food chain. It provided an enjoyable, easy venue to spur and explore ideas and learn about the latest tools and trends. At the same time, it made delegates momentarily satisfied. But at the end of the day, we've really missed out on essential nutritive elements most of us wouldn't bother looking for as long as there's food on the table. #