so I’ve just returned from The Guardian Australia’s launch drinks, but before I call it a night I thought tonight’s happy event made it timely to throw some thoughts down about yesterdays shock report in Adnews that “The Caxtons’ famed jamboree to an exotic location will not happen this year. But the awards will. And next year the junket could be back.” … furthermore “Tasmania has been mooted.”
well phew. heaven forbid that in the midst of the biggest systemic shift in print advertising in several generations we miss the chance to junket it up somewhere exotic.
I should declare an interest; I was honoured and privileged to be asked to speak at last year’s Caxtons – on Hamilton Island, above – so last year I very much enjoyed the benefit of giving a presentation in Adnews’ mourned-for sunny climes.
I have to be honest though; I didn’t wholly enjoy my presentation. and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why.
the truth is that I wasn’t at my best … it wasn’t the most focused of talks, and that’s my bad. but I think it was also a lot to do with the room; a mix of mainly newspaper staffers, ad agency people, journalists and some flotsam and jetsam like me. you see sometimes when you present the room is with you, and if you’re like me that makes you better. but sometimes the room isn’t with you, and that makes some people stronger, but if you’re like me it makes nagging doubt creep in … perhaps I’m wrong? perhaps I’m a crazy person for even suggesting this!? and when your presentation to a bunch of creatives pivots around your (my) belief that “the worst thing that ever happened to advertising is adverts” you can see how that would affect your (my) performance.
I’ve gotten pretty good at reading rooms, and I think the reality is that whilst I wasn’t, by my full admission, at my best … a lot of people in the room just didn’t want to absorb the message: that the time had come to change.
my audience, perhaps quite rightly, wanted to get on with what the Caxtons are there to do: celebrate creativity in newspaper advertising. who the freak was I to turn up and rain on such a brilliantly orchestrated parade? people’s hearts and souls and time and effort had gone in to organising that celebration. people much better than me had created ingenious and awesome presentations to delight and entertain and stimulate.
the words of Maya Angelou echoed in my head that night and many nights since: “People will forget what you said, People will forget what you did, But people will never forget how you made them feel” (source) … and I think that is why I failed that day on Hamilton Island – when the words and actions were long gone, I had made that room feel no better about the situation I believe press advertising is in. I hadn’t followed-though my dark night to deliver a dawn. I’d attempted, but it hadn’t landed.
so why the confession? well, yesterday’s Adnews report that – essentially – the party was over, filled me with nothing but sheer optimism. because the party is over, and that’s what I so desperately tried but failed to say last year. but the party being over makes it all the more important that the celebration continues. because what I experienced on that island, that energy and passion and creativity shouldn’t be lost because of some crazy perception that the Caxtons is a junket … what I witnessed was much more than that. the Caxtons isn’t living the vida loca in some exotic location, its an idea … an idea shared by some staggeringly creative and passionate people.
the Caxtons, like print advertising, must reinvent itself … and that is a conference (in the truest sense of the word) that has never been more urgent nor necessary. this is the Caxtons’ opportunity to fight for its own future, I believe that it’s more than up to the task.
featured and above image via trip advisor