The first panel is filled with old titans — Hubert Burda, Joseph Vardi, Martin Sorrell, Richard Wurman, Joe Schoendorf with moderator David Kirkpatrick — and it is good to hear them embrace change and optimism about its impact.
Schoendorf says that soon there will be more video cameras on earth than people. Burda talks about all the ways people have to broadcast that video. At this moment, Jason Calacanis is here trying to do so from his cell phone.
Right now, Jason Ca
Sorrell is worried. He’s not worried about recession; he says we shouldn’t fret about that until at least 2009. He is worried about the fate of Western Europe (though he’s rooting for the conservative leaders Merkel and Sarkozy to succeed); this is why he’s betting WPP’s fate on Asia. If he were 25 and from Western Europe, he says, he’d leave. He’s worried about some clever PhD inventing the next company, the next Google, but he’s worried that won’t be in Palo Alto but will be in Bangalore. Burda adds that media is not just content but is also software — “We still believe that a website with 40 editors is better than a web site with 20 editors” and we don’t pay enough attention to the software, he says. So he worried that European PhDs don’t invent algorithms. (It’s refreshing for me, an American, to hear so much discussion of Europe; American conferences are always so American-centric.)
Asked, though about the U.S. — and whether we’re headed down — Sorrell says it is always a mistake to underestimate Americans. He says that years ago, we thought Japan would dominate but “post-Reagan” America rose. We know what kind of leaders he likes. “Don’t underestimate the resourcefulness of Americans and their entrepreneurial culture,” he says.
Sorrell talks about the N11, the next countries after China, India, and the usual crowd. I agree: I wonder whether we’ll see a China bubble because everybody but everybody is betting futures on it and I doubt — given their amoral economy that poisons their people, American customers and pets, and their environment — whether they are ready for the investment.
Is Google too powerful? Burda responds that he was on a ski lift and asked the trainer how his business is. Great, the long-haired guy says. Why? Google. Right: more optimism about change. Google enables businesses. “Google has discovered millions and millions of new customers.” Amen. “If you sell ad pages two years from now you will make a long face. But you have to sell around the brand and around the brand will be very interesting opportunities for platforming.” Schoendorf says Google does not have a commanding market share of global advertising (a bit of a red herring; you can’t say that about the US and UK and Europe) so it is not a threat.