Saturday, September 29, 2007

I found my thrill.....

On Monday morning the 17th, we headed out from Sydney to the Hunter Valley wine country. It's about two hours north and there is no easy way to get there on public transportation so we bit the bullet and rented a car to brave the drive on "the wrong side of the road." Karen only had to yell at me a couple of times about where I was on the road and we made it to the valley unscathed. The fellow from Hertz had recommended a couple of wineries. Once we made it to and through Cessnock, we were told to look for the Hunter Valley Wine Country Visitor Information Center. We found it and went in to get info. They have a good book on the valley which contains a nice map. Most things in the valley are fairly close to each other. There are a lot of wineries to choose from and we first located Blueberry Hill based on the recommendation from the Hertz guy. Nice small winery. We tasted some Shiraz and bought a bottle to take home. We're going to have it some night soon. By that point we were hungry and looking for a place for lunch. One of the recommendations from friends was Blaxlands Grill, which turned out to be only a short distance from the Cypress Lakes Resort where the conference was being held. A good thing too, as we ate and drank our fill at lunch and were ready to check in when it was over. The food highlight at lunch was a delicious lemon souffle as an appetizer. Excellent. While we were sitting at the table, Karen, being seated facing the window saw her first kangaroos, hopping off in the distance. Great thrill. The picture here is not that roo sighting but it's a great one all the same from a few days later while at the resort. We made it to the resort but alas they were not ready to check us in. We found the bar and were happy to see an NFL game on. We did not care if it was live or who it was. With all due respect to the Aussies, it seemed like half the channels on the hotel TV had rugby, Australian rules football or cricket. Not understanding the rules for any of them, we were U.S. sports starved and very happy to see the game. I was ready for a beer at this point and once again, the local beers did not disappoint. Had a very nice lager from Bluetongue Brewery just up the road. Very pleasant. The Aussies manage to brew local beers without going over the top on hops, which seems to be a strong tendency for craft beers in the U.S.

Next, the iMedia Cypress Valley Agency Summit.

Two more great days in Sydney

I promised to go back and "back fill" on the rest of the trip. Over the next few days I'll be doing just that. By the way, I now have some pictures posted on the previous blogs, so go check them out.
On Saturday morning, the sun shone and we decided to take a trip to the Sydney Botanical Gardens. They are alongside the harbour, just beside the Opera House. There are specimens from all over the world in these beautiful gardens and the walk was lovely. Along the way we saw more ibis, local varieties of parrots and even bats, lots of them. We were told later that they were fruit bats. As you can see, these gardens are alongside the CBD (Central Business District and very easy to walk to.

That afternoon we took a cab out to Lane Cove, a suburban area and visited with some friends who had moved to Sydney. Tim and Karola Reed, who met while working at I/PRO have three lovely children in Mieta, Vivian and Zoltan. They put some Barrimundi on the barbie and we had a great meal. Karola was our son Dale's first "Nannie" for a few months when she had migrated from Hungary to go to school in the U.S. Many of you know that I was a consultant to I/PRO at the start and maintained a good relationship with them throughout their history (alas, then have just recently folded the tent). Anyway, I was able to get Karola an interview there after her college days and the rest as they say is history. Tim is originally from Melbourne and the move to Australia made sense for them as they were growing their family. We can see why. A lovely house with a nice yard, pool and their own resident (big) lizard who keeps the place clear of snakes!
That night, we went looking for bars with great views. The best view we found was from harbour level along side the Opera House. Karen did not think the picture of the Sydney Harbour Bridge was very good, but I think it came out great.

On Sunday, we walked down to the Circular Quay, wanting to take the ferry to Manly. We had been told about the Coffee Tour and it was starting up in a few minutes. It took us towards the mouth of Sydney Harbour into what they call the Inner Harbour. The Inner Harbour is surrounded by houses and reminiscent of inlets in Puget Sound.

When we got back from the Coffee Tour, we hopped on the Manly Ferry with about 1 minute to spare. It took us over to Manly which is a suburb of Northern Sydney. A thin neck of land where the ferry lands on one side and a beautiful beach is on the other. We walked the boulevard from the ferry to the beach. Reminded us of Venice Beach. Not much surf that day but a beautiful setting all the same. Had a wonderful lunch and headed back to the city. The next morning, we were heading up to the Hunter Valley for some wine tasting and the conference. Stay tuned for that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What a long, strange trip it's been...

I feel like I should start this out by saying something like, Dear Diary, sorry for not writing. It has been a madhouse trip. But truly wonderful. This weekend I promise to do detailed updates and pictures. I did not always have access, but had a great time everywhere.

The sun is coming up over the east river in NYC right now. It will be in the mid 80's in NYC and I am leaving my sport coat in the closet for sure. OMMA ended yesterday. I had a couple of drinks at Seana's MeeWee event, came home to the Affinia Dumont Plaza, returned the most urgent emails and crashed.

I'm on the 33rd floor with a corner room (jr. suite) and have a GREAT view. North to the Chrysler Building, east to the river and UN Plaza a little to the north. A truly beautiful sunrise, made more beautiful by the knowledge that this time tomorrow I will be in a town car headed for Newark Airport and home.

Highlights? So many.

Karen's shot of a BIG kangaroo early morning in Hunter Valley.
Sydney Harbor. Any time of day or night.
Seeing all of my friends in the business at the various conferences.
But in the end, there's no place like home.
Stay tuned for more.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Longest Night Followed By Two Very Nice Days

We've never traveled to Australia before. We know long plane trips, having spent a lot of time back and forth to Asia for business and personal. We'd been told it was the trip from hell. But for us it went OK.

United Airlines is much maligned these days. Combining the troubles of United with the long trip, we expected the worst. We checked in early and went through security easily, with the exception being Karen and her titanium hip. Even though she has a card, they always want to pull her aside as if she has something secreted. Which always leads to another problem. Her stuff sits on the end of the belt. I tried to retrieve it, asking for permission. I got no answer. This continues to frustrate. Anyway her bins were piled on top of one another and she got everything, or so she thought.

We went into the Red Carpet Lounge and were comped drinks. So far so good. Moved along to the plane which was scheduled to leave on time, around 11PM on Tuesday. Yeah, 9/11 at 11. Once we got settled upstairs in the 747 (Business Class, very nice), Karen realized that she did not have her laptop. She tried to go back to retrieve it but lost and found was closed and the plane was leaving. We got information on who to contact, left emails and phone calls and also left the info with our IT person, Stanley and my assistant, Lisa. Fortunately, they were able to retrieve the next day. This is the second time for this, as I left my laptop in Long Beach on the belt a few months ago. This apparently happens often, as they have a process for this occurrence. Am still unclear on why they have to be unpacked. It is not so in any other country.

The nice thing about business class, besides the seat and room, is the service. We slept for a good part of the trip and, as in previous United transpac trips, every time we woke up, our water glasses were full. Hydrating makes a lot of difference on these trips. Got an article finished for MediaPost on the plane in advance of OMMA. You can see it at
We landed at 6AM Thursday (1PM in San Francisco). Dawn was breaking as we landed, so we were in darkness for pretty much the full 14 hour trip.

Immigration was quick. Our bags came out immediately. SFO could learn something from the Aussies! Customs was quick too as we had nothing to declare. And yes, they screened our bags with my laptop inside. Quick walk to the cab line, got a cab immediately and headed into the Sydney CBD (Central Business District or downtown) to the Sofitel. We had inquired about checking in early back in the states (thanks, Lisa) and were told they would "do what they could". We announced ourselves, were told we had an upgrade to a deluxe suite and that the room was ready! We got to the room, (escorted by a bell man from Fresno!) and looked at each other, kind of in amazement. A very nice suite with a separate living room. And we got here with no pain. Knock on wood.

Took a nap and went out to see the city. Just a short walk down from the hotel is the Circular Quay, which has the Opera House on one side of it. We walked out to the other side and had a delightful seafood lunch at Peter Doyle's, kind of the McCormick's of Australia. Outside on the patio, looking out at a very small and intimate harbour. Lot's of boat action with many different kinds of boats reminded us of Hong Kong or even the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok from the deck of the Oriental Hotel (one of the single best places in the world for breakfast or a cocktail at the end of the day). Sydney and San Francisco are often compared. Greater Sydney (4MM+ in population) and the San Francisco DMA (5MM+ in population) are similar in size, both on water (although as I said, the Sydney Harbour is cuter) and have diverse populations. Both founded in the 19th century. Old buildings and new. Sydney seems hipper. But also has more suits. We can see the similarities but also the differences.

While we were playing, Mediasmith was hard at work and the Anvil group got our latest out the door. It's an article that first ran in iMediaconnection on OTT, bringing web video to the living room. You can check out the latest Anvils and previous editions at

Thursday night, we joined Andrew Darbyshire and his senior staff for a drink at the end of the day and toured the offices of Bullroarer, an Australian mobile content provider and our newest big client. They are in the process of introducing into the U.S. in the next few months. Nice group of people. From there, we went down to the harbour and had dinner at Cafe Sydney with Andrew and his wife Jeanette in Customs House. A top restaurant by reputation and it live up to the reputation. Great service, wonderful food and a top Shiraz. Wonderful company too. We're happy.

Fell into bed for a welcome sleep. Up at 6AM due to jet lag. Felt like we could handle it so we took the CityRail subway to Surry Hills and explored around before meeting Andrew for some Thai food and a little business. After which we took the light rail (tram) to Darling Harbor for shopping, drinks and a nice walk across the Pymont Bridge and back to through the CBD during Friday rush hour. More people than we had seen yet on our trip. Rested up and had a light pizza dinner.

We have two more days in Sydney and then head up to the Hunter Valley wine country and the iMedia Conference. We'll post some pictures soon. Really.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

iMedia Brand Summit

My two days at the iMedia Brand Summit in Coronado (San Diego), CA were over all too soon. Actually, it was just a little more than 24 hours but it was action packed. If you've not been to an iMedia Summit, they are the best game on the planet. Really good content. Captive audience that actually attends every function. Plenty of time to meet and greet. Lots of issues discussed.

These are generally so valuable that the major players come in a day early just to spend more time with each other. In this case, there was a seller's summit run as usual by Doug Weaver. I'm going to ask Doug to post something on this summit if he can. All of the seller's summit attendees were hyped about the day on Sunday. In addition, the brands had a day for themselves on Sunday behind closed doors. No report yet, but I'm asking a couple of the brand folks to report back.

In the U.S., (iMedia is about to go global, more on that later this week) the summits generally start on Sunday night with a cocktail and buffet/heavy munchies feed. The food at this event is usually the best and the drinks are flowing. For someone like me, it is old home week. Every time I turn around, there is someone to chat with who we have done business with and/or who I have had great conversations with over the years. I've been attending these events since the Deer Valley Agency Summit in 2001 and they NEVER fail to be great. In addition to the chat ups, I always come away with people to follow up with on deals, problems resolved or new deals made. In addition, I always make new friends and start conversations with new clients, partners and vendors. I know that life is not just about work, but if you gotta work, there is no better way to do it.

Rick Parkhill, the highly regarded founder of iMedia plopped his birthday smack into the middle of this summit. I was honored to be invited to an intimate birthday party at the Boathouse Restaurant in Coronado on Sunday night. We squeezed that in between early cocktails and a late appearance at the Sunday night cocktail event. Great conversation and a look back at the history of iMedia. Was reminded how people came from all over the country to Deer Valley just two short months after 9/11. This is the power of these events. Most people there would not have gotten on a plane for any other reason. At the end of the night, Rick was awarded his own mini super hero doll, surf board and everything. I've also attached pictures of the Rick on a stick pictures that we greeted him with and the whole group, actually standing after dinner.

On Monday, after Mr. Parkhill did one of his legendary impersonations (This one was of the Great Karnac, I think he was called Parnac) to kick off the morning, Sean Finnegan delivered the keynote. He talked about the dialogue with the consumer being more than just a relationship, it needed to be a friendship. Nice job, Sean!

Right on the heels of the keynote, my panel took place. It was moderated by Susan MacDermid of Real Branding who did a fine job of keeping four large egos in place. Any one of the panelists could have talked for hours about the impact of Emerging Technologies on the planning function today. It boils down to the fact that you can no longer take last year's plan, add 7%, put aside a little money for experimentation and move on to more exciting things. The excitement is in the planning and execution of the new opportunities that face marketers today. Watch the iMedia site for the posting of the video on this session. Fine job by Jack Haber of Colgate-Palmolive, Alan Schulman of IMC2, Joe Jaffe of Crayon and yours truly. We'll add the video to this blog as it becomes. In addition, there was content prepared that we did not have time to present. I'll add links to that as it is posted.

After the panel, iMedia did their "One Minute Match-ups". Think speed dating for business. This aspect of their event is new in the last year and still being slightly debugged, but I unbelievably came away with more than a dozen quality follow ups with brand marketers who need solutions they are not getting from their current partners.

Alas, I need to leave this Summit early (first time ever!) as Karen and I are headed to Sydney tonight. (Yes we are flying on 9/11...I wondered how we got such a great deal...). We're flying from SFO to Sydney non-stop. 14 hours. But we will be upstairs in the 747 in business class. Stay tuned for more on our adventures.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Getting Ready

Karen and I are getting ready for September travels. First we go to San Diego for the iMedia Brand Summit on 9/9. We return on the 10th after I speak at the Summit on a panel titled: "Planning for the Future - Fearful Hysteria vs. Thoughtful Urgency". Should be interesting. We'll keep you posted on that.
Late in the day on 9/11 we head to Sydney, Australia. We'll spend four days in Sydney and then head up to Hunter Valley for the iMedia Agency Summit where I will deliver the opening day keynote: "Competing in a Global World". Then back to Sydney, returning to San Francisco on 9/21.
I head to New York for Advertising Week, including two days at OMMA where I chair the Media Track and the Metrics Insider Track. And yes, the tracks do cross and we'll actually get to do metrics for one media session. The other metrics tracks will be in content, marketing and advertising sessions.
Karen and I will be posting updates, including photos to this blog. "Stay tuned"