PSFK Leads Talks on Trends, Marketing

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Trends and ideas hub PSFK held its first conference yesterday in Manhattan, with the afternoon portion highlighting new marketing inspiration from a bevy of sources. Kevin Slavin, managing director of area/code, introduced his firm's work on Big Games, situations where players interact throughout the real world with pieces set out for them, utilizing the newest cell phone technologies and electronic gadgetry to play on game boards that cross over between physical and virtual spaces. Slavin spoke of area/code's projects as games with computers in them rather than the other way around, creating social interaction and physical context otherwise until recently neglected in the video game sphere. Projects like ConQwest, where area/code worked with SS+K to create a semacode-based game with roots in scavenger hunts, capture the flag and Risk. "We designed a game that had the qualities of the game rather than just tactics," Slavin said. Most recently, area/code created a promotion called "The Sopranos A&E Connection," described on its website as part scavenger hunt, part fantasy sports. "We're swimming in data; we're soaking in it, immense amounts. We're interested in how to use that to affect real life, the real world. The original ways to navigate stars didn't treat hem as stars—the original ways of navigation were about treating them as stories."

Later on a panel comprised of Cunning's Floyd Hayes, Renegade Marketing's Trip Hunter, Darren Paul of the Night Agency and Kacy Coll of Naked Communications wondered on the ethical lines of guerilla marketing. Moderator Rob Schaltenbrand kept the panelists on topic and they agreed their efforts were capturing more of clients budgets and no longer considered solely as stuntish PR grabs. While, as Hayes said, guerilla marketing is "spam by definition," it was still easy to make right decisions. "People tend to over intellectualize [ethical questions]," Hayes said. "Use common sense in terms of social ethics. If it's going to piss off half your audience, it's failed." Coll, incensed by ads on the supermarket conveyer belt, noted that companies should consider the potential repercussions to the marketing industry as a whole before undertaking potentially projects people may revile.

The afternoon's second panel addressed the morphing of media into realms previously inhabited by creative agencies, with Flavorpill founder Sascha Lewis addressing the situation where he, as a media owner, is also running a creative agency for his clients. The group, which also included Theme publisher John Lee, Denuo/Droga5 creative director of media Scott Witt and Engadget editor in chief Peter Rojas explored the increasing irrelevance of blanketed creative in niche publications. "Anytime we can get involved in that communication it makes us feel that whatever that ad is it's going to be more relevant. We treat it as content," Lewis said. "But it's not our core competency. That becomes a drain on our resources. The media companies have to have those resources." Witt said the future of the creative agency, if losing vitality in its current state, is in the sale of its ideas, "licensing concepts back to the marketplace, federating ideas, " so that its output is "no longer transient messages."

Anomaly's Mike Byrne wrapped proceedings with a rousing, emotional call to address the inner child in order to make most excellent advertising. "Only with the guidance of adults do we become detached, self-aware, stagnant," Byrne said. "We go from beings of wonder to beings of ritual and habit." The best brands, by Byrne's judgment, have products that give people hope, be it Nike, which can help make you a better basketball player or iPod, which, by putting 1,000 songs in your pocket can give you hope of escape from everyday ritual. "Here's the litmus test," Byrne said. "If you imply that with your product you will be in the know or it'll make you cooler, you're not talking to a kid."

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