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Influencers, Prophets and Charlatans

This post is supposed to engage a key influencer, but I confess that I don’t yet know any influencers, so instead I thought I would profile one (with a healthy dose of skepticism for good measure).

In most cases “influencers” are naturally identified due to their influence over specific stakeholders or consumers within a community, market or sector, but sometimes influencers are an industry unto themselves. David Shing, who goes by the moniker Shingy, is one of those people. The bespectacled Australian with the Edward Scissorhands hairdo who looks like he is part of LMFAO is actually the “Digital Prophet” at America Online.

One of these dudes is Redfoo, one is a party rocker, and one is a highly successful influencer of business.  Can you spot the Prophet?

                  A Redfoo, a party rocker, and a highly successful influencer of business. Can you spot the Prophet?

Being a Digital Prophet is one hell of a title for any sort of position within a company. The fact that the company is AOL gives it significantly less credence. However his role at AOL doesn’t really seem to matter since it seems Shingy spends most of his time away from the office giving talks and presentations at various events around the globe. Most recently he was one of the speakers at Cannes Lions, which I wrote about last week. He was also in our fair city of Toronto last month to visit the offices of JWT Canada to talk about predictions for the future of digital.

Now obviously I have never had the pleasure of being at a Shingy presentation, but I must admit that I am skeptical. On his website he has a publication called Future Doing, a sort of sparse manifesto on digital trends. To be honest most of the information seems pretty basic, self-evident and oriented around buzzwords, though styled in way that is reminiscent of Marshall McLuhan. I am not saying his advice isn’t useful, maybe he is on the cutting edge and pushing industries in the right direction, but he also seems to be an influencer simply because he states he is one. In the same way that today we have de facto celebrities, we have de facto influencers and there is definite overlap. Look at Will.I.Am going from The Black Eyed Peas backup vocalist to a Creative Director at Intel.

Once you’ve made the claim that you’re an influencer and visionary you can really soar off your own momentum. Then you can pretty much say anything you want and people will pay good money to listen. Clearly I am not the first person to rag on Shingy or Will.I.Am, but I think that is important companies don’t spend their time embracing the cult of personality.

Despite my skepticism of these self-proclaimed influencers/futurists/prophets or whatever they want to call themselves, I certainly agree that it’s a cushy job. If you can find enough rubes to make your prophecy self-fulfilling then go for it. In fact I now aspire to be one of these self-styled gurus. Goodbye Benign Propagandist…hello Social Soothsayer. I need to purchase some extremely large sunglasses, garish outfits and grow out my hair. Next year I’ll be ready to peddle some influence and pseudo-wisdom.

Sorry for prophet knockin’

An Awarding Career

Cannes-Lions-2014-Logo1It is no secret that the goal of this journey back to college is to finally end up where I’ve always wanted to be: a respected creative/communications agency. I say agency without too much definition because they come in many different forms that are currently colliding. There are agencies that define themselves as: advertising, creative, marketing, public relations, government relations, strategic communications, branding and probably even more that I am unfamiliar with. At this point, it doesn’t matter too much what type of agency I end up.

I desire to work for an agency because I like the idea of working in a dynamic environment. After working previously in a corporate environment where you are usually writing about the same products to the same audience, I want to be able to work for different clients. I understand the environment is challenging, but it also sounds exciting and extremely rewarding. One thing I didn’t realize about the industry is that in addition to being rewarding, it’s also awarding.

I follow many different agencies on twitter so I can keep up-to-date with what they’re doing. This past month twitter has been dominated by award galas from different organizations.

And of course right now the most exciting of all the awards ceremonies is being held in the gorgeous French Riviera: The Cannes Loins festival for creativity. This is really a mecca for creativity where advertisers, public relations agencies, artists, musicians, celebrities, tech superstars and all the finest creative types get together. I yearn to go one day. Not just to spend a week in beautiful south France though. I mean where else can you find Richard Edelman, Kanye West and Sheryl Sandberg at the same conference? Perhaps at South by Southwest as it evolves into a similar sort of party/conference/gala, but that still doesn’t have the same cachet as Cannes, and honestly I’d like to go to both. My twitter feed for the past few days has been tantalizing me as Edelman, Ketchum, JWT, Ogilvy + Mather, Leo Burnett and the like keep me up to date on everything awesome going on.

My point is not that I yearn to hob-knob with celebrities (though who doesn’t?), but that I like that aspect of the industry celebrating each other’s work. There are plenty of careers out there that provide no recognition beyond a nice pat-on-the-back from management for a job well done. The fact that creative types routinely submit their work for awards provides an opportunity to give some exposure to the agency and their work, but also to provide some sense of fulfillment and appreciation for the people who create these award-winning campaigns. It must be a great feeling to be recognized amongst your immediate peers, as well as the industry as a whole.

I don’t know how I’ll get to Cannes just yet, but it’s nice to have goals. In the meantime I look forward to breaking into a rewarding and awarding career.

The emotional rollercoaster of commuting

My Daily Commute

                                                                                      My Daily Commute

I will preface this post by letting you know that for class, I had to create a blog post that was “visual”.  Since I have only had one class in photoshop so far, this isn’t going to be pretty.

The image at the top of this post shows my commute from Brampton to Centennial College’s Story Arts Campus near Pape/Danforth in East York.  Since the entire trip door-to-door is just under 50 kms, I figured it wouldn’t be too bad.  Google says it should ideally only take me 46 minutes.  When I started this program in in January, it usually took me about 75 minutes to get to campus.  Now with the Gardiner Expressway under repair, my average commute time is around 100 minutes, sometimes a full two hours on an especially bad day.

To sum up my highway-oreinted trip it’s pretty simple: South on Highway 410, East on Highway 401, South on Highway 427, East across the whole Gardiner Expressway, North on the Don Valley Parkway, and then I just go up Mortimer to Carlaw and I’m there.  Unfortunately it isn’t that easy.  Everyday I go through a full spectrum of emotions on my agonizingly slow journey.  The memes below, provide a pretty good picture of my range of emotions.

Emotions through memesToronto seriously has the worst commute ever.