BIMA’s Beyond conference was neurological, sociological, global and only partly agency-o-logical.
In short, it lived up to its name.
Under the banner Opportunity and Responsibility, BIMA challenged attendees to see issues facing agencies in a broader context, drawing on the ways technology is rewiring the human mind, the evolution of art and the parallels between our societal blinkers and cones worn by dogs who can’t help licking themselves.
We had a lot of highlights from this mind-bender of a conference, but these are our top three:
1. Martin Sorrell – #learntocode
The demeanour of Sir Martin Sorrell can be triangulated between Alan Sugar, Darth Vader and loveable TV tyrant Logan Roy.
Founding the iconic and enduring WPP in 1971, Sorrell brings the gravitas of true agency pedigree. A charming, atavistic sternness, and a mind able to twig to every political, economic and cultural signal shaping the roles and remits of agencies today.
The advice from this polymathic clairvoyance?
Learn Chinese. Learn to code. And maybe learn Spanish, with the South American economies playing an increasingly important role on the world stage.
We may have heard it before, but coming from a heavyweight like Sorrell, we’re really listening.
And last, arriving as music to the ears of the #JAMFAM, Sorrell’s observation that a titan like WPP could not be founded today.
Now, clients want agility, specificity – niche. Yes please.
Which brings us onto…
2. Orlando Wood – the revolution will be digitised, and it will be very specific
Author of Lemon, How the Advertising Brain Turned Sour, Orlando Wood seeks to understand how the world inside us is changing the way agencies interact with their core demographic: the human mind.
In a talk both apocalyptic and sanguine, and bringing to mind the watershed Atlantic piece, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation, Wood tried to troubleshoot the increasing cultural tensions and curtailed attention spans that impact on not only advertising, but much of our public and personal lives, too.
The culprit is the smartphone, and particularly how digital interfaces of all types activate the left hemisphere (specificity, narrow attention, quantifiable data and systematising) at the expense of the right (context, metaphor, broad understanding and comfort in unknowing).
This can be seen in art (gone are the sweeping pastorals) and poignantly in the Wordsworthian adverts of yesteryear, according to Wood.
This narrowing and specifying of our attention is, as Wood put it, not so different from the conical blinkers placed on lick-happy canines, who, like us, report feelings of dread, rage and anxiety when our perspectives are shrunk to a pinhole – or a pinhole filter.
But – we said sanguine.
Apparently, this makes for a beautiful opportunity to look up and look out, with audiences hungry for reconnection with the poetic, mysterious world of our undigitised youths – so, put that on your vision board and smoke it.
3. Sam Conniff – are you sure?
From Wordsworth to Keats (we told you this event was cerebral). Livity founder and uncertainty expert Sam Conniff delivered an expletive-replete, bring-down-the-house riff on a topic touched on by pre-eminent Romantic poet John Keats.
Uncertainty, and how to act in it. Or, as Keats put it:
‘Capable of being in mysteries, uncertainties, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’
This dovetailed with Wood’s talk fantastically – and dared oppose the mechanical omniscience of Sorrell’s. Conniff recommended a grappling match with that most fundamental human fear (what we do not know) rather than a two-for-one on Udemy/Duolingo.
The benefits of this are activating the unconscious and attaining true resilience, and with an on-stage swagger the likes of which we’ve never seen, one must conclude Conniff’s charm is of an uncertain origin.
Highlights we didn’t get to
- Mary Keane Dawson’s holy rule – in recession, only innovation generates growth (since by definition business as usual isn’t working).
- Yayhe Siyad’s genuinely moving journey to the reasons inclusivity matters – you could hear a pin drop.
- James Whatley’s Keanu moment – the metaverse does not exist.
That’s all for now. The event left us uncertain, contextual and with a burning desire to learn Mandarin.
A farewell speech from us
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