This is a full manuscript of the opening keynote at our 2nd Annual PreCommerce Summit in London, 2015.
Thank you all very much for coming. I hope that on the way in, you had a chance to look at the art we have up, which owes a great debt to the Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte, who blew minds back in the 1920s with a painting of a pipe and the caption “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”: this is not a pipe.
Magritte was making a statement about art and about reality, and how the two shouldn’t be confused. A painting of a pipe is not a pipe. It’s a representation. It’s only shorthand for something real.
It’s fun to imagine what Magritte might have thought if he was born a century later and was coming of age during the digital revolution we’re living through. I like to think he would have come up with concepts like the ones we have on display.
We’re one step further into the surreal. The art of photography used to require hours in the darkroom, film and artist both marinating in noxious chemicals to modify an image to bring out this color or that detail. Now, we tap our phone to capture an image, tap again to add a filter, tap again to send it to the gallery that is Instagram. Is that art? I’d like to know what Magritte thinks.
And what of love? Does old-fashioned courtship have an analogue in swiping right on Tinder? Clearly there is an overlap between love in the Jane Austen sense and love in the Tinder sense, but app-based hookups? Ceci n’est pas l’amour.
The list goes on and on. AirBnB isn’t a quite a hotel company. Uber isn’t quite a cab company. Buzzfeed isn’t quite a news company. N’est pas. N’est pas. N’est pas.
Many of you who are younger never knew how perilous the telephone was. Back when communication was carried by wires, talking, especially with those in other countries was exorbitantly expensive and difficult to arrange. I spent time abroad with my family as a child, and the telephone calls back to the UK had to be booked a week in advance, and still might not necessarily go through. Connectivity was a luxury and precious.
Flash forward to my life as a young professional, when I was living abroad. But rather than paying pounds-per-minute, I was talking using Skype, broadcasting not only my voice but my image across thousands of miles. For free. Is Skype a 21st century telephone? Almost, but not quite. N’est pas.
The point of all of this is that we’re limited in how we think about digital because we don’t have the language yet to describe the new world. Like Magritte, the best we can come up with is shorthand, using old words and concepts that almost, but not quite, describe reality. Shorthand for something real.
This can be a liability, because it hides complexity and often hides the darker side of technology. Those who took the easy route and assumed Uber is just a next-generation taxi company probably failed to see the lawsuits coming. There is now, particularly in the United States, mounting pressure to define the status of Uber drivers as something other than free agents with cars. What, exactly, is their labour status? It’s a question worth billions.
What’s clear is that the digital tide is not receding and will not recede. There are more active mobile connections now than there are people in the world. The average consumer engages with 18.2 pieces of online content before making a decision, which is both amazing and potentially paralyzing.
And HR Zone says three quarters of employees have seen their role or career change as a result of technology in the last 12 months. Let me repeat that: three out of every four people have had their job changed by technology IN THE LAST YEAR. It is a wonder we feel off balance with reality constantly shifting.
Please do not misunderstand me. The digital revolution has made us smarter and more productive, and it has connected us in ways that are nothing short of extraordinary. But handling, profiting and thriving in this environment requires careful thought and precise language, so we can tell the pipes from the paintings of the pipes, so to speak.
And that’s part of the reason that I’m so excited to have such an incredible range of presenters today. All are individuals who are grappling not only with change, but ways to ensure that we understand technology so we can minimize risks and maximize gains.
Our afternoon is split into 3 sections, and we’re going to start with the good news and look at how digital has influenced the wellbeing of society from a handful of different angles, including the ways we can use new tools to improve human health and accelerate aid efforts to the world’s most vulnerable. To help us wrap our heads around that, we’ll invite to the stage:
- Dina Rey – Head of Digital Group at Roche,
- Anna Gruebler – Data Scientist and Software Engineer at Altviz,
- Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer
- Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF.
For the second part of this afternoon, we’ll look at how technology companies are evolving in this digital age. Or is it a matter of revolutionising. Our speakers will be:
- Steven Overman – CMO at Eastman Kodak.
- Kester Ford – Director of Product Marketing at Datasift.
- Simon Shipley – Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel.
And post our break:
- A former CIA Analyst and the star of Channel 4’s show Hunted, Cynthia Storer,
- VP and Global Head of Corporate Communications at Tata Consultancy services Pradipta Bagchi,
- And our own President Bob Pearson will summarize how technology is impacting the way we live, work, and create in this digital world.
We’re also thrilled to have here with us Lord Chadlington and Steve Milton, who will participate in the programme along with my colleagues Colin, James and Gary.
I think the conversations have truly shown we are in the middle of the new industrial revolution and we need to remain fluid and open to new ideas and opportunities whilst yet being mindful and aware of the true impact on our lives, organisations and communities that digital technology can bring. We are still human and digital technology will not be the only factor in our future. Human nature prevails. La nature humaine est prédominante.
Thank you to all our speakers as well as my wonderful colleagues for their fantastic moderation. I want to thank the W2O Team behind the event, you know who you are. And I would like to thank you all here today in London’s living room as well as those who joined us via live stream for your enthusiasm and participation. I am looking forward to connecting with you at the reception or in the digital world. Remember this is not a pipe!
We are living in a time where we are ‘always on’ with multiple devices providing us with information but also distracting us and exhausting our time. Technology has become a natural part of our daily life, where having different multiple online personas for work, life, and play is common. It has also become a source of angst.
With an influx of new information and online digital platforms almost daily, the digital landscape is evolving and consumers are now more empowered than ever. Brands can no longer fully control their narrative and need to find and understand the people who are most relevant to their future determining how they consume and share information as well as how they listen to each other as individuals.
This rapidly changing world can sometimes feel both like a massive headache and an incredible opportunity for marketers and communicators. C-suite leaders must be able to adapt to these changes if their organizations are to survive. Staying nimble and being able to predict how the industry will evolve before it happens is all part of the job. What we see from working with our clients and helping them stay one step ahead of competition is that regardless of which industry you are in or who your audience is, we are all facing similar challenges when it comes to digitalization. Being so imbedded in our client businesses is what allows us to build the community where innovators and leaders can come together and share their best practices and learnings.
Breaking away from your everyday routine and meeting those who are walking in the same shoes as you, is a proven method to generate new ideas or new solutions. Following on the success of last year’s Social Intelligence Summit we are excited to host our second annual thought leadership event – PreCommerce Summit London 2015.
The event, coinciding with London’s Social Media Week, will bring together experts from across industries to discuss how we work, live and create in the digital world. We will be considering the impact and opportunities of the mobile generation and will provide perspectives and host panel discussions with key leaders, such as:
- Lord Chadlington, Founder of Shandwick
- Pradipta Bagchi, VP & Global Head of Corporate Communications at TATA Consultancy Services
- Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer
- Kester Ford, Director of Product Marketing at Datasift
- Anna Gruebler, Data Scientist and Software Engineer at Altviz
- Steve Milton, Consultant and former Global Communications director at eBay
- Dina Rey, Global Head of Digital at Roche
- Simon Shipley, Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel
- Cynthia Storer, Former analyst at CIA
- Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at Unicef
I’m hopeful you are able to attend this important forum. Don’t miss the last chance to register to attend the summit on the 14th of September in London via livestream or in person!
More information on the event and the speakers can be found here www.w2oevents.com.
Navigating the future takes more than just educated guesswork. It combines knowledge, adaptability and a willingness to garner new inputs from new sources.
The W2O Group Pre-Commerce London Summit is your personal GPS to succeeding in the future!
The W2O Group PreCommerce Summit London 2015 on Monday 14 September in London’s City Hall will focus on how we live, work and create in the digital world, and the challenges of the generational digital divide. With technology at our fingertips, we are living in a time where having multiple online personas is normal; work, life and play meaning that we have never been more empowered to control what information we want, when we want it and how we want it. But is being connected making us more disconnected?
Coinciding with London’s Social Media Week, our event convenes industry leaders, senior marketing and communications professionals, entrepreneurs, influential journalists and bloggers from across a broad range of industries and interests. Our distinguished panel includes:
· Marvin Chow, Senior Director at Google
· Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer
· Anna Gruebler, Artificial Intelligence specialist
· Dina Rey, Head of Digital at Roche
· Kriti Sharma, VP Data Strategy at Barclays
· Simon Shipley, Marketing and Innovation Manager at Intel
· Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF
We will be sharing more information about our panel, new members, as well as event highlights and topics in the coming weeks.
The event is by invitation only, so to reserve your seat, please do so early at W2O events.
See you on 14 September!
There is a tendency to judge a the social media savvy of biopharma companies by simply tallying the sum total of their online presence. Got a Twitter feed? A You Tube channel? Great: you’re in the top tier.
But simply hanging a shingle in the more genteel corners of the social media doesn’t automatically mean translate into influence or eyeballs. A couple hundred subscribers to a YouTube channel falls somewhat short of a revolution. That’s not to say that incremental progress isn’t important. Nor does it mean there aren’t folks out there who aren’t making waves using these tools. Take Kevin Pho, an internist in New Hampshire, who has turned his oft-updated blog into a daily must-read for thousands and garnered a regular spot on the USA Today op-ed page. That’s the world we live in today: one doc, posting in his spare time, has an online footprint that dwarfs most Fortune 500 companies.
It’s not breaking new ground to suggest that companies should take some time getting to know these new influencers; tech-forward companies have been doing it for years, and health care giant Johnson & Johnson has gathered a handful of bloggers for dinner at least a couple of times.
But, this summer, Roche took a bold step in health care social media by bringing a couple dozen diabetes bloggers to their Indianapolis campus. This was a stroke of genius: diabetes has one of the largest and most cohesive online communities, a group of motivated individuals all dedicated the kind of constant vigilance need to thrive with diabetes. They enlisted the help of Amy Tenderich, who writes the site diabetesmine.com, and managed to bring a select and diverse gang to Indiana. There were leaders of online communities (Manny Hernandez), writers who looked at the business angles (Kelly Close), longtime online diabetes journalists (David Mendoza), and many, many more.
But Roche shouldn’t get full credit just for flying folks to their confab for a song-and-dance routine. They listened. Especially when the assembled crowd started asking tough questions about the economics of diabetes test strips. Reading the blog coverage afterward, it was pretty clear that the Roche line on test strips didn’t resonate with everyone. But that didn’t matter: the company had heard them out, and that clearly generated oodles of goodwill.
And that’s goodwill that’s hard to come by through 140-character tweets or even the occasional corporate blog post. It’s rare that Bob Pearson gets through a blog entry without extoling the value of listening, and it’s worth remembering that — even in a wired world, dealing with wired influencers — sometimes it’s easier to listen when you’re sitting face-to-face.