What WPP learned from Stream this year

“Streaming” has replaced “broadcast” as the catchphrase for how we send video and audio from an originating source to you. Where once we spoke about “broadcast television,” we now refer to “streaming video.” “Broadcast radio,” in much the same way, has become “streaming music” or “audio.”

The key difference, of course, between the terms is that “broadcast” has come to connote mindless transmission without ability to target and personalize that we have to find and tune into at the right time and right place; streaming, however, enables us to find content we want, anytime, anyplace.

Yet at the end of the day, whether “broadcast” or “streamed,” torrents of content amplified by the number of devices we use to see or hear rush towards us in an ever-growing tsunami of information overload.

And that deluge is concerning to educators who worry about how the coming generations will learn to sift important from mundane, and it is worrying to credible news sources who agonize over the “fake news” crisis feeding fear and hatred to the world.

It is also distressing to all of us who wonder how we can ever find enough time in the day to keep up with the immense amount of information and content. How can we understand the nuance to move beyond the buzz words and build on how we can actually make our lives and the world a better place? In short, how can we, the information-overload generation, transform the growing echo chamber of our world into an open and vibrant festival of thinking and real-time sharing?

Enter Stream, a different type of gathering created by WPP—full disclosure: my work home—where an eclectic group of leaders and rising stars of all types: art, music, technology, science, communications, movies, and sports (to name but a few) debate and inspire what happens next.

The aim is to be as provocative as possible; to break the walls of the echo chamber; to encourage the synapse leaps that lead to eureka moments; to unclog our minds. To free our souls.

The format at Stream Cannes 2018 was unique even for the unique. While the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity roared on the mainland, Stream diverted to the quiet of an island where you entered “the Stream”—no longer was it rushing towards you…you were wading in it…surrounded by it…and together, with your fellow participants, you let yourself be carried to places unknown. Places where you were free to think, question, and ponder, so that when you emerged from the stream, you did so as a more free-thinking person, open to…well to whatever.

We talked about the dynamics of the ad business (rather timely), where Facebook is going, how to recruit talent, effective news reporting, customer satisfaction, educating refugees, creativity born from sports, and new media coping with old problems and sensationalist journalism.

While you listened and thought, you built and created your own mind links. As discussions developed and debates ensued, topics converged and new ones emerged in eureka flashes that might otherwise have been drowned out by the inundation of info that most conferences posit—conferences where a POV of consensus is too often the goal.

Those of us who “stream” try to keep our toes in the water, every day, as a reminder to slow it down, to question, to listen, and most importantly, to understand that none of us have all or even most of the answers. Enlightenment comes with openness to all.

Excuse me as I wade back in…

David Sable is global chief executive of Y&R. He tweets @DavidSable

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