The ISBA conference, an annual jamboree for advertisers and media folk, was – until lunch-time – a more lively affair than you might imagine. Good, visionary speeches from Richard Eyre, chairman of the IAB, and Stephen Carter, communications minister; and some long-overdue clarification on such recondite industry matters as CRR (contract rights renewal) and BT (behavioural targeting) from the regulator, Ofcom ceo Ed Richards. (One will be relaxed, by the way; and the other is OK, so long as it is ‘transparent’ and in the consumer interest, whatever that may mean.)
But the highlight came just before the luncheon bell, as Google was put in the public stocks and pelted with rotten tomatoes. For that we have puckish Simon Thompson to thank. Thompson, European md of Lastminute.com, was called upon to chair a panel of industry experts which included the hapless Matt Brittin, UK country director of Google. Thompson immediately rounded upon his helpless victim by instigating a spot poll of his audience.
“Google”, he said, “believes it should do no evil. Which of you believe it is now evil?” A majority of hands shot up in the affirmative. He then turned to the panel: “And which of you?” Blank faces from Nick Milligan, md of Sky Media, Adrian Sayliss (or should that be ‘say less’?), head of Publicis-owned Vivaki (a key Google ally) and Andrew Walmsley, founder of i-Level, all sitting uncomfortably close to Brittin. Only maverick former lawyer Mike Kassan was prepared to say he agreed with the motion, mainly because he had spent the last half-hour depicting Google as a manipulative, monopolistic monster that needs to be brought to book. The panel’s craven majority verdict would seem to prove him right.