Close-Up: Web community unites for Internet Week

By Nick Farnhill, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 19 November 2010 12:00AM

From the bizarre (a band playing Tweet requests on a live stream) to the serious (a debate on pay-wall pricing structures), the first Internet Week Europe brought together a cross-section of businesses with the web at their core at a series of events celebrating all things www.

It's a good feeling to be sitting here, exhausted, yet elated at completing the first Internet Week Europe. Just 12 weeks ago, the week was simply a seed of an idea - a reaction to seeing the success of the third Internet Week NY, now a defining digital festival in the US - and seeing an opportunity to bring it to Europe.

Until now, the burgeoning internet industries have had nothing to bind them together and celebrate them as a whole. Yes, D&AD has bitten off small chunks of the web to play with, as has Cannes. But the web is so much broader, deeper and wider than the initiatives that spin up from marketing budgets.

So the week set out to appeal to a hugely diverse audience. The internet community that I work in and with every day, but also film-makers, broadcasters, media owners, music producers and designers - all businesses that see the web as a core part of their business now or going forward and are shaping the future of our online world.

Its purpose is to celebrate the creative, technical and entrepreneurial talent that exists in the UK and promote the magic that occurs when all these people from a cross-section of businesses get together and share ideas, thoughts, experience and knowledge.

There were more than 125 events filling every day - from conferences, technology demos, panel discussions, educational programming and meet-ups to late-night parties at venues across London. With set-up time short, every event had a wonderful spontaneity and this, too, helped the audiences feel a part of Internet Week as they witnessed it unfolding in front of them.

The week began in style with the launch party, introduced by Mollie Spilman, the senior vice-president, global marketing, at Yahoo!, and kindly hosted by the Hospital Club; while, on the other side of town, the BBC Comedy team threw a live night with its emerging talent, that included tips on developing comedy online and how to be a part of the process. Google's Creative Lab also opened its doors to explain a bit about its philosophy and why it believes that getting the toys to the kids is the most exciting brief anyone has ever been given.

On Tuesday, some of London's best creative and strategic minds had ten minutes each to change our perspectives at the Metaphwoar event put on by Poke. Anomaly's Nathan Cooper captured the imagination by explaining the rise of the internet through the metaphor of Prince's Purple Rain, while Darren Savage from R/GA suggested we could all learn by the rules set by The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.

An interesting element of the week was the number of events that appealed to creative talent looking to establish their careers. Wednesday saw agencies throwing their doors open to students as part of the OpenShop series and the IAB explaining how to get into digital. The packed Brilliant Design Lecture showcased Tim Hunkin and the jellymonger Bompas and Parr.

Temperatures rose at the first live Webby Debate with the Telegraph.co.uk columnist Milo Yiannopoulos performing as moderator, and debaters Robert Shrimsley (the managing editor of FT.com) and Janine Gibson (the guardian.co.uk editor) sharing the pros and cons of pay-wall pricing structures.

Questions were raised as to how newspapers could justify charging for online content when blogs - particularly influential ones such as Techcrunch and The Huffington Post - are regularly breaking better stories. What also quickly became clear from the speakers was that they saw Apple, with its provision of iPad and iPhone apps, as essential to the future of their newspapers. Shrimsley said: "Apple's power as a distributor is something we will have to get used to."

An illustration of the variety of events was evident on Wednesday night at The Bathhouse when Spike Edney and friends who included Tom Robinson, Graham Gouldman and Coco Sumner played tracks from Tweet requests sent in live - Love Train had the audience dancing on the tables and it was mind-blowing to witness such a collaboration. A simple celebration of how we now weave social media activities into our daily lives. The event was hosted by Last Exit and Flint and was streamed live, picking up more than 7,000 views.

This was followed by Splendid's "URL - The Night", a "come as your favourite website"-themed fancy-dress party. Best costumes included lolcats and redtube(!).

CaT: Creativity and Technology picked over the many trends and methods that now touch marketing and advertising, followed by Click London's look at where digital creativity and technology will take agencies and how global trends in digital communications will change the way we all do business. It was noted that the web has turned from a mechanical medium to a cultural medium, and will therefore force people to focus more heavily on the social implications of the business decisions that they make.

Wrapping up the week, Wieden & Kennedy invited everyone in for beers on deckchairs to discuss the perils of big agencies working with small creative digital shops.

It was concluded by some that the tension between big agencies and smaller shops cannot be ignored, and it has been caused in part by the refusal of larger agencies to sacrifice tried-and-tested methods in the name of progress, for fear of alienating big-spending clients. However, it was also claimed that smaller boutique agencies must lose the arrogance they have when working with their larger counterparts. It was argued that only when both sides recognise this can changes be made.

A final personal pick was Jim Boulton's Digital Archaeology event - an exhibition that celebrated the blossoming of creativity and inventiveness that followed the invention of the worldwide web. The now redundant technologies and almost totally lost creative work was on show and many creators of the most influential web expressions of the past 15 years stood up to talk about their forgotten jewels.

A few things will be left behind in IWE's wake. We'll collate all the coverage and contents and present it at www.internetweekeurope.com. Many of the events will be available in video form (Metaphwoar included). Saint@RKCR's www.canyoudrawtheinternet.com not only stands as a record for this lovely idea, but also looks like it will continue growing (see below).

Looking back and piecing together the many conversations I've had with the many great individuals who attended, the overall themes of the week are clear. First, opinion is riding high that London is one of the core digital creative capitals of the world. The talent and level of thinking is stronger than ever and many great businesses are starting to flourish, benefiting from the individuals looking to make a mark for themselves. Teams like TweetDeck, Moo.com, Spotify and Mind Candy are perfect examples.

Second, social media and gaming were key subjects of the week, with social gaming, learning through gaming and creating games for an iPad generation proving hot topics and well-attended events.

And, finally, traditional agencies presented their digital ambitions, supporting the week with passion and energy, clearly showing their desires to evolve as creative businesses and attract new talent. The discussions revolved around their ability to work with freelance digital artists and, obviously, the future of advertising in our ever-more-connected world.

With our digital creative industry thriving and many events on the calendar every year, some have argued that having an Internet Week is unnecessary, but I couldn't disagree more. Not only have we had our minds blown by the first-hand exposure to all the creativity and talent on show, it's really put the importance of the industry at the forefront of people's minds.

This isn't a one-off. The response has vastly exceeded our expectations and our many new friends have offered their support for next year's festival. With 12 months as opposed to 12 weeks to plan, IWE 2011 is going to be massive and takes us close to achieving our vision of celebrating everything good about the internet across Europe.

Nick Farnhill is a Poke founder and a co-chair of Internet Week Europe.

CAN YOU DRAW THE INTERNET?

One of the main aims of Internet Week was to get people thinking about the importance that the online world has in everybody's lives.

As part of this initiative, Saint@RKCR challenged advertising figures to embrace their creative side and illustrate what the internet means to them. More than 300 people submitted suggestions, with the results throwing up everything from the provision of knowledge, to the power of socialising, to the sheer abundance of porn that exists on the worldwide web. Each illustration is displayed on www.canyoudrawtheinternet.com, and everyone is encouraged to vote for their favourite. Here are some of the best entries.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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