Future Flash 2010: It’s a wrap

The ICA event wrapped yesterday, covering two days of big-picture thinking with media highlights that included location-based event marketing, mobile replacing mass media and why Google is so gosh-darn rich.

Jaron Lanier asks us again: ‘Do you guys understand what I’m saying here? Do you want me to explain it again?’

Yes, Jaron, we do.

Lanier, one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, was the closing speaker at this week’s Future Flash event, hosted by the Institute of Communication Agencies at Blue Mountain in Ontario. A man who is as comfortable playing obscure Asian wind instruments as he is waxing on the relationship between power, gadgets and Google in the modern world, Lanier was valiantly trying to drive a point home to the advertisers, marketers and executives in the crowd: Google is rich because it treats its clients differently than you do.

Auction-based paid search, he said, creates an adrenaline-pumped environment for its clients – forcing them to act aggressively to thwart their competition. And because ‘everyone’ is on Google, and it would take a significant mass exodus to change that, then advertisers must be there too.

‘The interesting question for [Google's customers] is the balance of benefit and risk. Advertisers are used to selling people based on benefit. There’s always been a little bit of a sense of risk…but the thing about Google is that it has precisely quantified risk for customers. Because if you’re not the winner of an auction, then your competitor is, and so there’s a certainty that whenever you cease to spend money on Google, you’re directly helping your competitors. Your closest, most dangerous competitor.

‘That’s Sergei [Brin]‘s genius,’ he continues. ‘It’s that negative potential of being second-best in an auction, that creates the persistence that’s similar to Ebay’s persistence [in the marketplace]. And that is the reason Google makes all the money – I’ve just revealed to you one of Silicon Valley’s great secrets.’

Lanier went though the scenario several more times to make sure we understood, which was much appreciated by a slightly awe-struck crowd – that man can think – and drove home the point that, try as you might to make magic with a ‘viral’ campaign, the internet is as unpredictable as hurricane season.

It was the perfect cap to a conference – which spanned Wednesday afternoon to early Thursday afternoon – that covered in equal measure communication and media-based strategies, new attitudes to market research and unconventional agency approaches.

AKQA’s Ginny Golden and Laura Breines

On Wednesday, Ginny Golden and Laura Breines of AKQA presented their stunning VW mobile case study for the GTI release. A low-priority model in the VW line, the brand agreed to go exclusively mobile for the launch campaign and let AKQA (VW’s mobile agency of record) go crazy in creating a racing-based app for the GTI’s launch. The result? A campaign that cost 97% less than a traditional mass-media model launch campaign and tracked 250 cars sold to people who had signed up to play the game. The success of that campaign, the women said in an interview with MiC later, earned mobile a solid place in VW’s media campaigns.

‘The GTI campaign became a benchmark of success, but we have to be realistic that it’s a once-in-a-lifetime campaign,’ Breines told MiC. ‘The mandate at VW is that mobile needs to be a component of every initiative in marketing going forward.’

Another media highlight at the event was a presentation by Simply Good Technologies’ Bill McLean on the importance of creating mobile apps with real relevance to users. Hot off the heels of an announcement earlier this week that Scotiabank will activate Simply Good mobile applications with all of its sponsored events and festivals, MacLean supported his talk with some wrap statistics on the Night Navigator app the company created for last year’s Nuit Blanche in Toronto, which MiC reported on last fall. The app achieved 20,000 downloads in the few short weeks before Nuit Blanche, had 13,000 location/navigation requests, had thousands of participant referrals (users could refer their friends to other events in the festival) and made the Top 25 app list for that weekend on iTunes.

Photo: Simply Good Technologies’ Bill McLean (left) and Winston Mok