Wednesday, May 21, 2008

iCitizen recap.

just got back from Columbus, OH, a few hours ago, where i attended iCitizen, an invitation-only "client symposium" put on by one of my i-agencies, Resource Interactive.

it was GREAT. a welcome break from the day-to-day, but added plenty of food for thought. head and shoulders above many of the industry conferences i've attended in the past. this was the 2nd iCitizen, the first i attended 18 months ago was 30% smaller, and a bit more intimate. back then there were only 5-6 people from my company, whereas this year it felt like 25. other than the agency themselves, we were by far the largest contingent (which makes it hard to be a beautiful and unique snowflake). in attendance from the mothership were a handful of my peers, some brand managers + marketing directors, some super senior marketing types, and even some people from purchasing to keep us in line + make sure we gave back whatever iPod, Wii, FlipCam we might win. we did not [win].

sadly, even though i work at an multi-billion-dollar company, my department was on a bit of a travel ban, and i tend to gain no sympathy given my recent company-sponsored jaunt thru Asia. but as there was NO WAY i was going to miss the conference, i got resourceful (no pun intended). i got green + hitched a ride up with some friends, and even crashed on another friends couch (which gave me an excuse to catch up with said friend AND have a drink/share some Hound Dog Pizza w/ their new S.O. outside of the office).

oh, and Twitter? it decided this was the perfect time to be completely unreliable. everyone and their mother was actively making tweets. even creepier/more appropriate - the agency kept a tweetscan going of what people were tweeting about. i tried, really. but it just. kept. going. down.

before i go any further, see goofy recap video from day 1, followed by more detailed highlights:

DAY 1:
the song above, "thanks to the internet," was performed live at the opening of the conference by iCitizen + singer/songwriter/corporate CGM constant winner Joel Levinson - great humorous start to the conference.

spent most of day 1 hanging out w/ my BM + MD. it was great that they attended + were as engaged as they were. makes my job that much easier.

Resource leaders Nancy Kramer and Kelly Moony opened the day talking about "the open imperative" (beyond the book of a similar title, the Open Brand) with some fresh + relevant examples (which were, as usual, really great). this set the tone of the day, needling in the common thread we'd all be hearing about + discussing. but rather than keep the stage to themselves, they quickly stepped out of the way and let the games begin...

keynote speaker, Joe Jaffe. having seen him before, and as a [somewhat] frequent reader of his blog/books - this was nothing new, but still very well delivered speech on conversational marketing - how to engage in a dialogue VS the typical monologue. and i got his bank account # + social security #. hello, crayon money. later found out Joe was brought into a prior converation with another of our brands...have got to try to get him up into fabric. i hear he likes Tide to Go. maybe we can bribe him with some Swash.

Stephanie said my colors looked weird (mixed brown thrift store jacket + green Thai-striped shirt ). my feelings got hurt. it took some time, but i recovered. girls are stupid-heads.

lunch speaker,
Marsha Collier. self-made eBay guru. power seller, writes books, teaches seminars. she's a businesswoman, eBay just gave her a business. the personal story of her life was engaging. plus, when i met her the next day, she found my tshirt hilarious

post lunch speaker,
Duncan Watts. super academic dude AND principle research scientist from Yahoo. dry stuff for a post lunch talk, but he made some really good points (too bad there "no tipping") which was mostly theory. this left me wondering how this comes to life in execution. and then...

post-Duncan speaker, Steve Knox. CEO of Tremor (P&G's internal WOM agency that serves internal + external clients). based on some previous experience, i've had lukewarm feelings here, but Steve brought it home in terms of the mechanics of WOM (based on past campaigns).

final speaker of day, Tom Venable. EVP of InnoCentive. while this wasn't 100% relevant to my day-to-day, man did this get me fired up about the positive change this space can affect. basically crowd-sourcing wicked problems, public or private, via a deployed RFP to a community of 140,000 armchair scientist-types (retired, in school, hobbyists). one example showed how a concrete mixer from Chicago had the know how to remove the remaining oil at the bottom of the ocean from the Exxon Valdez spill...something hundreds of corporate engineers could not solve for ~20 years.

post conference + pre-dinner. got roped into a pretty hi-level conversation with some movers + shakers from my own company. carried the conversation further with my MD on the way to dinner.

drinks + dinner. great Italian food + got to catch up with a bunch of old friends from the agency.

DAY 2:
opening speaker, Doc Searls. super-important academic dude + coauthor of the Cluetrain Manifesto, which is apparantly a big deal. i plan to buy + read it (after all,
Scott Pilgrim Vol 5 doesn't come out until December). Doc talked about VRM (rather than CRM). i.e., consumers tell advertisers how they want to opt-in, on their conditions, not ours. want to donate money to NPR? sure, but only if NPR won't bug the hell out of you afterwards. that, and he'd rather rent a Ford Focus (or similar). neat stuff. after a quick post-speech conversation, i'm sure this is another guy we want to try to get in on the "relationship" conversation internally, but maybe with our tech folks first before we unleash his crazy thinking on the brands.

most awesome speaker of the conference, Avinash Kaushik. standalone smart guy AND Google measurement guru. talking Analytics 2.0 in a very well-received comedic nature. how to take all that crazy digital data that we're deluged in and distill it down to actionable insights, and in a very practical (virtually free!) manner. websites aren't a one-night stand (or are they). further proof that most Google peoples are awesome. UPDATED (5/22): AdAge coverage of this speech

lunch/drive home. hitched a ride to lunch with another agency friend. fantastic greek food another MD (from one of the brands i worked on pre-Asia, she came on after i left) hitched a ride home with us. got the chance to talk to her about a number of stuff (work + non-work). NET, she's pretty awesome, + i think i made a great new work-friend. she might even bring her 5 year old to ToyLab :)

overall, i got what i wanted out of the conference. kudos to Resource to doing it better the second time around. heard some great speakers. had some great conversations. caught up with old friends, made new ones, and spent some quality time with a handful of people i don't see enough of.

oh, and got to play with cute little doggies on the ride up + down. can't wait for iCitizen V3.


  1. Anonymous8:07 AM

    Damn, I'm sorry I missed Avinash. Next time.

    Send on the Swash, dude!

  2. Raman,
    great summary! Thanks so much!

  3. Anonymous3:57 PM

    hit send too quick. it was from me...

  4. Anonymous8:23 PM

    Sounds like a great conference. I'm taking a look at some events later in the summer. I did SES San Jose last year and it was interesting, but I might opt for X Change this year since it is purely focused on analytics.


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