From shit to leaky pipes: Five lessons from TEDx Sydney

Lachlan james and roshini hegermanIn this opinion piece Roshni Hegerman and Lachlan James share their five most valuable insights from the recent TEDx Sydney event.

Arguably the world’s most inspirational event, TED and its local variations, TEDx, reliably deliver equal amounts of insight, foresight, revelatory sparks and imagination-bending stimulation.

We challenge anyone to walk away after even one TEDx talk without any inspiration, but here we have gathered the five lessons we took away from TEDxSydney 2015 for those who missed it.

tom uglow tedx1. Go backwards to look forward

Technology doesn’t have to be complex and scary. That was the message from Tom Uglow, creative director of Google Creative Lab. We are simple people who love simple things, and yet everything is continuing to get more and more complex.

Takeout: We too in marketing have a tendency to overcomplicate. Maybe sometimes we should see technology in different ways and go for solutions that are more backwards compatible and intuitive to our nature, rather than always trying to be new and complex.

Watch his presentation here. 

hamish skermer2. Even shit is golden

The beauty of TEDx is that it exposes you to people and ideas not in your personal mainstream. Hamish Skermer, billed as the ‘King of the Compost Toilet’, was a great example. In his very entraining presentation, he argued that we should stop seeing ‘shit’ as waste and instead reframe it within our ecosystem. It has huge potential as a fertiliser (among other uses) and the benefits of this alone are huge.

Takeout: Not all ideas shouldn’t end on the cutting room floor, nor should agencies fear reprisals from clients or demonize creative who indulge in an occasional bit of recycling. So long as the brief is being answered, why should it matter?

Watch his presentation here

dylan alcott3. Perception is everything – so let’s get it right! 

Not content with being a world-record holder, Paralympic gold medallist and an Order of Australia medal recipient, 24-year-old Dylan Alcott is also a motivational speaker. Driving down a street in Melbourne, wheelchair-bound Dylan saw an ad for drink driving picturing a person in a wheelchair who was portrayed as depressed. His question was, why do we need to portray disabled people as depressed? In his experience, it’s not the reality and it’s both insulting and harming.

Takeout: In marketing we all too often go for ‘easy impact’ – the obvious visual message. We need to think more laterally about the way we deliver these sorts of messages, the way they are perceived by a wider range of people (beyond the original intent) and the effects they will have.

Watch his presentation here

tega brain 4. It’s time for multiple purposes

Leaky pipes are supposed to be bad, right? Artist Tega Brain proved otherwise with her dynamic experiment in sustainability showing how leaky pipes can lead to ecological growth and whole new life. This was a great reminder that things don’t have to be solely used for one purpose.

Takeout: While there is a current hype to creating a single purpose for most brands, there may be an opportunity in understanding how a brand can serve multiple purposes in consumers’ lives.

Watch her presentation here

tony fry5. Adapt or die: the end of material consumers 

Design theorist and philosopher Tony Fry talked about the world we have created within our world – a fundamentally unsustainable world that’s destroying the very world we depend upon. Surprise, surprise – the problem is us! We are both the product and the producer of the unsustainable, and so we have to learn to adapt in order to survive. As Fry explained, to successfully adapt we have to move to be cultural producers, rather than just material consumers.

Takeout: As McCann’s own Truth About Global Brands study uncovered, 85 per cent of people believe that global brands can make the world a better place. However, they also feel that their relationships with brands are one-sided, in that they don’t get much from brands in return for their loyalty. Brands have an opportunity and expectation to play a greater role in our lives and in sustaining our communities with products whose by-products can be recreated for another useful purpose.

Watch his presentation here

  • Roshni Hegerman and Lachlan James are McCann Sydney strategy directors

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