Nigel Morris at the World Economic Forum

A Glimpse of Silicon Valley's Future From a World Away

Day Two at Davos: But First, Chickens and Diversity

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Nigel Morris
DAVOS, Switzerland ( -- Nigel Morris, CEO of Isobar, Aegis Media's global digital agency network, is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, where the business elite gather annually to debate business, political and intellectual issues. This year, internet and technology and how they're changing marketing and communications are on the agenda, and Mr. Morris will be filing daily reports to

So, here I am on Thursday night reflecting on the last 24 hours or so. And where to start?

Chickens. Yes, chickens.

As I said last night, I was off to a dinner on the importance of diversity and I was quite excited. As anyone in Isobar would tell you, I am passionate about diversity and it's the cornerstone of our philosophy. But here is where Davos really kicked off. The arrangement was a set of tables with 10 key guests spread throughout the tables stimulating debate about the importance of diversity. I was late, ran up the hill and spilled into the room just as it was kicking off. I found myself sat opposite Koen Vanmechelen.

Koen is a Belgian artist and he has been engaged in a seven-year project called The Cosmopolitan Chicken. I won't go on about it but it was fascinating. He is cross-breeding famous breeds from around the world, including the Poulet de Bresse and the English Red Cap, live in exhibitions around the world. Read about it. Also on my table was an amazing woman, Caroline Casey, who is the founder of the Aisling Foundation, an initiative to promote a positive view of disability (she is legally blind). Caroline is so articulate and so passionate it took my breath away. Our table debated many things but what we did conclude was the importance of visionaries that do things differently and are often inspired by diversity and a love for the arts and the emotional rather than the rational.

All the speakers then gave short summaries and it was genuinely inspiring. We had, among others, actress Emma Thompson; Carl Bildt, the ex prime Minister of Sweden; and Antonio Guterres, ex prime minister of Portugal.

On the other hand, the media connectivity party after was a pretty dull affair and the concept of a party built around large visual displays of blogs and vlogs seemed a bit out of kilter.

So it was bed and then up for another round of sessions and meetings, some organized and some by chance. Today included a session of the media and advertising industry on self regulation in advertising. Like many of these sessions they are off the record ... but I can say that it was very informative (helpful, I know).

Then I went to a session on the future of design that again was just simply brilliant. It was moderated by Alice Rawsthorn, whom I've always been in awe of, and included John Maeda, a certified genius; Paola Antonelli, the design curator of Museum of Modern Art in New York who was breathtaking in her vision; and Hilary Cottam, who founded a unique public-service design agency, Participle. I go to far too many advertising, media and digital conferences and almost all of them are dull and unchallenging. If only they could be like this. They addressed issues of changing design needs for society, for the environment, for business, for art, for life. There was genuine passion and intellect directed at the role design will need to play and a genuine acceptance of the challenges and difficulties. Oh, and I bumped into Caroline Casey and we sat together and just felt that we had to do something, so we're going to try and meet on Saturday.

I then went to a private meeting on sustainability investments and was introduced to both Al Gore and John Doerr, briefly. That was a lot of money and power in a short space of time. But, seriously, if you look at the direction of investment in Silicon Valley now, it isn't to digital or media technologies. It's to clean tech and to environmental technologies.

Tonight I have just finished moderating a session on the impact that high energy costs and environmental concerns will have on the patterns of demand and supply in transport and mobility. It was a pretty heated session and interesting to be moderating it from an advertising and marketing background. It's clear that marketing and advertising and digital communication have a huge role to play.

Change is only going to happen faster for our clients and for us and we need new approaches and more innovation.
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