Russell Davies: Agencies must find their own ideas and not just look to TED
A view from Russell Davies

Russell Davies: Agencies must find their own ideas and not just look to TED

I was flattered and alarmed to see myself on the internet the other day.

Tom Morton wrote a fantastic presentation about big data and stuck it up on Slideshare. It featured a slide on "the creative industry adoption curve" and described it as: a) someone does a TED talk on a subject; b) Russell Davies interprets it for the creative industry, and; c) a cool Swedish agency does something with it.

Obviously, I felt a gratifying ego-tickle at being placed at the centre of such a critical process in the development of world culture, and, obviously, I realised that Tom was taking the piss, but I'd like to say to the hordes of cool Swedish agencies out there: stop it at once!

It's hard to remember how rare and special the TED talks felt just a few years ago. If you were lucky enough to be there in the mid-noughties, you would have been exposed to all sorts of special speakers from worlds you would not ordinarily encounter - who'd taken the time to condense their ideas into something memorable and digestible.

Then, when they started putting all those videos online, more and more people got access to that special source, links flew round the internet and more than one ad was directly "inspired" by the inventions and notions from TED. It was a real democratisation of ideas.

And it wasn't just TED. There were all sorts of similar events unfolding around the world - independent of, or inspired by, TED, but with a similar mission to inspire and inform.

Around the same time, a set of bloggers decided to "professionalise" and became serious about blogs as sources of inspirational content. They were watching trends, documenting culture, predicting this, that and the other, hoovering up global culture and dumping it in the laps of anyone who was interested. The stuff that used to cost you a fortune from a trends consultancy was suddenly turning up for free in your RSS.

Now, of course, we're getting incredibly blase about it all. There's a mini-TED backlash heating up (understandably, as TED begins to scrape the bottom of the inspirational barrel and starts to believe in its own importance) and the trend bloggers have to work harder and harder to differentiate themselves. It becomes clearer every day that "creative inspiration" has now become fully commoditised. There is no edge left in that kind of cultural connection - it's equally accessible to all. These days, the trick is to invent your own - to make ideas, not find them.

So, I'm hoping that the cool Swedish agencies aren't waiting for word from TED - though there's nothing wrong with being interested in things - but are doing something cool by investigating the world, themselves, directly.

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