Musings from Google Zeitgeist 2008

I was lucky enough to go to the Google Zeitgeist event again this year – had great expectations given quality of proceedings last year and I certainly wasn’t disappointed this year. Amongst the high profile line up was Gordon Brown, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, Salman Rushdie, Jami Miscik (former Deputy Director of the CIA), Chad Hurley founder and CEO of YouTube and a rare opportunity to hear from Sergey and Larry – the founders of Google itself (accompanied by the fatherly presence of CEO Eric Schmidt).

Too much to cover in one post as regards what was said and experienced so I will follow up in a series of posts. For now will just outline the broad themes discussed.

Day one was around global macro-economic trends with discussions ranging from the opportunities in new world markets such as China, to technology as an enabler in India and Africa, to the power of technology to bridge cross-cultural divides in the Middle East.

Day two was about the users online with a focus on community and video. We heard from the founders of Stardoll and Ask a Ninja, got the latest figures on the uptake of BBC iPlayer with some interesting emerging trends around IPTV viewing behaviour as well as got to meet some of the actual stars of UGC. The hugely popular “grand-dad of the Internet” Geriatric 1927 was in attendance and raised rapturous rounds of applause and even the odd tear with his down to earth and touching comments about why at the age of 80 he is a video blogger on YouTube. He was joined by Mia Rose (who within four months of posting videos online of herself singing songs she had written had got a record deal and is now working on her debut album) and 17 year old Charlie McDonnell otherwise known on YouTube as Charlieissocoollike who has a following of nearly 46,000 subscribers.

One of the more interesting thoughts of the event for me came from Antonio Campo Dall’Orto who having previously been the CEO of Telecom Italia Media is now CEO of MTV South Europe. He said that what organisations need from digital solutions now is not simple answers to complex questions, but complex answers to complex questions. I thought this was a really great way to express something that I have been thinking about a great deal recently in relations to what type of agency is best placed to deliver digital solutions. With the proliferation of platforms and devices out there which make up the digital landscape, what we do in the digital world is actually pretty complicated in terms of design requirements (for example PC vs mobile) and format requrements. As an industry I think we need to stop under selling the combined creative, planning and technology skills required to deliver these solutions and remind ourseleves that what we do is build stuff that has to work – and to do that well is pretty difficult without the right experience and skill sets in your teams.

More thoughts from Google Zeitgeist to follow but in the meantime check out the videos from the day here.

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