The day could only be described as a perfect mix of breeze and sunshine. Visitors of the OMD Oasis gathered around under the smooth sunlight to make small talk just moments before noon; the air bubbling with murmurs and the occasional laughter; a representative sample of the atmosphere around the Palais here in Cannes.
Nothing could’ve made the moment any better than the pleasure of listening to an insightful and deeply human talk by multiple-Pulitzer Prize winner and The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Using some of the thoughts in his upcoming book “Thank You For Being Late” as a starting point, Mr. Friedman went on to give a thought-provoking overview of the forces he deems are shaping the world today.
His talk, titled “A Brief Theory Of Everything Transforming Our World”, pinpointed these forces as Market, Mother Nature and Moore’s law.
The rapid changes in these three forces are shaping the world, he said. “Geopolitics, politics, the workplace, ethics and morals” are all being transformed, Friedman added.
What Our Industry Can Do
Although the talk gravitated towards politics more frequently than media, marketing or advertising, it was easy to draw parallels and insights into practices that could very well translate.
“Ideas circulate faster today than ever before, and opinions now change at a quick rate,” Friedman stated. Technology is accelerating faster than we can adapt. The real challenge becomes our ability to change. But humans, says Friedman, cannot adapt as fast as technology is moving.
How does one deal with these forces? According to Friedman, the trick is in slowing down. He quotes “The Eye”, a song by one of his favorite singers, Brandi Carlile, the chorus of which goes “You can dance in a hurricane/But only if you’re standing in the eye.”
Advice For Content Producers
You can’t fight the hurricane, Friedman advised, “You can create an island of serenity in the eye. Don’t fight the changes. Take your energy from it.” In his book, he calls it “pausing”. It was easy for me to see how the changing landscape of content, for example, could benefit from his advice.
In a world where people are bombarded with so much content and information online, it is our challenge to convince people to grant us their time or attention. We talk about best practices and video durations, but what ends up happening is that we lose the story for the form. We want to finish so quickly that we miss out on delivering substance.
What we ought to do, by Friedman’s advice, is to slow down, make real human connections, and take our time to tell our stories.
Friedman raised the interesting point that the purpose of successful technology is to reduce complexity. “The only way we can manage this is if we turn Artificial Intelligence into Intelligent Assistance. Allow people to operate at a higher level of complexity,” he explained.
The phone we have in our pockets allows us to do so much more with a single touch, he pointed out. It has reduced the complexity of our tasks by minimizing our efforts. Friedman’s talk made me think about brands that make people’s lives easier versus brands that simply want to sell. The future is in purposeful marketing.
In a related point, he argues that the ideal governing body today unit isn’t the state. He says it’s far too behind on technology to be able to govern. “It’s not the single family, either. It’s too weak [against technology]. “ It’s at the community level, he said. Communities can respond at a local level, to relevant problems, and using the right technology.
Once again, that relates to our marketing efforts, as we take brands from being a state —from being just another company trying to dictate its values— to being a community. Only when operating at a community level, with real on-ground insights into what moves its consumers, can a brand make meaningful contributions.
Slow Down And Connect
The most touching and personal part of Friedman’s talk came at the end when he responded to a question by elaborating on how he interacts with the world. “Don’t get me wrong, I love my [phone]. But I’m not active on social media platforms. The New York Times tweets my column. But when it comes to learning, I prefer to keep it slow.” He points to the gentleman who asked the question, then points back at himself. “This…this is how I like to learn.”
He’s talking about real, slow, and human interaction, like that taking place on this sunny day at the OMD Oasis. One that is not interrupted by the fast-paced technology that keeps us operating at a much higher speed; a speed at which it would be nearly impossible to make meaning of information, and build real relationships.
For more information about the #OMDOASIS at Cannes Lions, go to cannes.omd.com.