In Thin Air

Gary Bolles, a partner in Microcast Communications, describes what’s going on today and tomorrow in Aspen:

Brainstorm is a high-wattage event, with world-class speakers ranging from political leaders to technology gurus, including Michael Dell, Madeleine Albright, Queen Noor of Jordan, Michael Eisner, and Senator Sam Brownback. The sessions focus on a variety of wicked problems, such as global warming, economic restructuring, the American competitiveness.

One session that applies to topics we cover here was Internet: The New DNA. According to Bolles, who is providing the most comprehensive coverage of the event, Sir Martin Sorrell, head of the second largest ad agency in the world, and whose Group M subsidiary buys about 23% of media around the world, said that Internet advertising this year will be 13-14% of the UK market – which is more than newspaper advertising.

“The biggest impact that this will have is on measurability. We will be able to track very accurately,” he said.

Thankfully, other panelists had more profound thoughts to share. Ebay founder, Pierre Omidyar, for instance, waxed poetic on the impact the internet is having on the global village.

“This is the first time in human history that we have a technology that enables communication and rich interaction between people all over the planet…And the only real progress that has happened is when people get together in groups,” said Omidyar. “Now…people can get together…and move things forward on their own agenda. That is a fundamentally new environment we find ourselves in.”

Taking things even deeper, Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, in a session titled, “Economic Truth versus Environmental Truth,” delivered a talk on restructuring the global economy.

By 2031, Brown says, China is projected to have an economy the size of the U.S. today. And India’s economy might be even larger. The problem, Brown says, is that following America’s consumption model isn’t sustainable for these emerging powerhouses. At our rate of ownership, for example, by 2031 China will have over a billion cars. Obviously, if most of these have internal combustion engines, the sheer amount of fossil fuels – and the pollution they’d create – would be overwhelming. Not to mention the fact that oil and air are rapidly-depleting resources.
“The key,” Brown said, “is to get the market to tell the environmental truth. The Soviet Union collapsed because it didn’t tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it doesn’t tell the environmental truth.”

I need to go to more conferences, particularly when they’re conducted at altitude.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.