Friday, April 13, 2007


Dani's day out in Toronto

After thirteen hours away and $150 in taxi fares, I'm back from my conference yesterday. I love traveling for business. I feel like such a grown-up. I'm a very infrequent flier, though, and I made a couple of rookie mistakes.

As I mentioned, I had to get up at four in the morning to catch my 6 am flight. I bought my coffee on the wrong side of the security barrier and of course coffee falls under the ban on liquids crossing the security checkpoint. By the time I made it through, the queue for the Tim Horton's on the 'safe' side of the barrier was huge and I didn't have time to wait for one. And then we lifted off into a giant storm of wind, snow and rain that was so turbulent that they cancelled the in-flight beverage service, so I didn't actually get my first coffee of the day until I was in Pearson airport, nearly four hours after the alarm dragged me unwillingly to consciousness. (Note how I am far more disturbed by the lack of coffee than by the relentless and possibly life-threatening turbulence buffeting the plane. Who me, addicted?)

(Editorial aside: both my flights were late in leaving, but made up most of the delay in the air. Each way, terminal to terminal the 35 minute Ottawa-Toronto flight was actually shorter than my daily commute from Barrhaven to downtown on the bus. That just doesn't seem right!)

But this conference - wow! It was the first ever Canadian word of mouth marketing conference, and I went wearning both my government-communicator-studying-social-media hat and my mommy-blogger hat. It was a great conference with some fantastic speakers. I met Janet Kestin, chief creative director at the agency behind the Dove Real Beauty campaign (including the Evolution video - you MUST click through if you haven't seen it) and she was just so incredibly nice as I fawned at her. They had a raft of other top-drawer social media marketing types, including some truly excellent speakers. One of the funnier presentations was by Douglas Walker, the buy who founded the World Rock Paper Scisscors Society (talk about a grassroots word of mouth campaign!), and it was really interesting to hear how Lululemon runs their anti-marketing non-traditional campaigns (but I'm still annoyed at the company for not offering their clothes in sizes larger than 12.)

But what really blew me away was the presentation by Kyle MacDonald, better know to the world as the One Red Paperclip guy. I know I've blogged about him before - hasn't everybody? - but damn if I can find the post. Anyway, he's the guy who over 12 months in 2005/2006 traded - in a series of 14 trades that included a coleman camping stove, a cube van, and an afternoon with Alice Cooper - one red paperclip for a house in Kipling, Saskatchewan. It was a great story at the time, and I remember following it. But I had no idea of the full extent of the story until listening to his presentation yesterday. He's a terrific and funny public speaker, and he tells his story with an endearling combination of aw-shucks modesty and wide-eyed optimism that I found truly irresistible (except that I'm probably almost old enough to be his mom. Sigh.) Sample: "If you ever get the chance to go on stage in Fargo with Alice Cooper, I highly recommend it."

He talked about how each trade was meaningful for him, and had to be made in person with a handshake. When he had an offer for a recording contract that he knew he couldn't ever use, he understood immediately that he could use it to make someone else's lifelong dream come true. And he says he'll never sell the house in Kipling, even though he doesn't live there full time, because he feels people will ascribe a monetary value to his series of trades that he says would cheapen the whole experience. He's got a book coming out this year, and I'll have to pick it up now. What a great story!

Speaking of books, I was sitting at a table at the conference (completely by chance) with one woman from Random House, one woman from Simon and Schuster, and one woman who used to work for Harper Collins! Holy bookpublishing power table, Batman! You can bet I not-so-subtly started handing out my little bloggy Moo cards to anyone who would take one. I may be a long, long way to needing friends in the industry (heck, I already have one!) but it never hurts to make those connections. And besides, book publishers have books to share, and if I can't be publishing my own stuff just yet, I'm more than happy to accept freebies of the people who have!

(Sorry, Marla. I made my flight last night and couldn't stay over for the ticklefight and pocky buffet. Next time, I promise!)

Edited to add: it's such a small world. I was kvetching with a guy over one of the coffee urns at the conference about the early start to my day as he drained the last of the coffee. Although I didn't realize it at the time, turns out he is Ian from the Moto KRZR blog, the fellow who set me up with my fancy new phone. How funny is that?