We met with Freddie Laker of Sapient today and gossiped about Sapient itself, their seminar yesterday that they held with Coca Cola and how advertising smothers new technologies to death.
Dab: We're here with Freddie Laker, Director of Digital Stragety of Sapient, and - you've been on the internet since forever, actually.
Freddie: Yes, for as young as I am I'm pretty old school actually.
Dab: Since -95, and the 24 hour internet radio station, the Womb!
Freddie: The womb, a funny thing about that was, we weren't trying to do anything on the internet, we were just running a pirate radio station. And the only way we could get around the cops was using the internet. It never dawned on us anyone would actually listen through the internet.
Dab: First, tell us about Sapient, where is the core idea for the birth of this agency?
Freddie Laker: Sapient is about 6500 people and and we're called the biggest unknown digital agency in the world. Somehow they've build a huge amount of digital business around the world not many people heard about, but we're out there doing this.
I think what makes Sapient interesting is it started out as a sort of a technical consultancy back in the day, back when they started the business which is nineties, mid-nineties, and they've taken this history of technology that they have, and leveraged it with all these marketing people. So they've met at this intersection between technology and marketing, and you'll frequently find that while our teams use technology that's totally transparent to consumers, they'll put a wow factor into our creative, so a lot of things you've seen this year for example in the Lions I don't think there's actually that many other agencies that could have put them together at least not without outsourcing to a third party or bringing another team in.
Dab: Yesterday you held a seminar. Tell us how that went.
Freddie Laker: It was great! It was Sunday, you're a little nervous. I thought nobody would turn up. I thought it would be me and three peddlers and maybe six other people, but the crowd at a point numbered 500 people so it was great being there.
Dab:I've been watching the line at the vending machine you're here with ...
Freddie Laker:The line's crazy, right? And I'm kind of bugged, I was on twitter yesterday just looking for feedback on our panel and no-one cares about us, they're talking about the bloody vending machine. For every one reference to a panel, there's 50 references to the vending machine.
Dab: I wanted to queue up because it looks really good.
Freddie Laker: It's really neat, and I think that's really a perfect example because we brought it in for an innovation project and it becomes a marketing platform for us.
Dab: I saw people walking away with like bottles.
Freddie Laker: Well the bottles are cool too, you know those brushed aluminum ones.
Dab: Yeah, they're excellent, I should get some. What did you submit to the awards?
Freddie Laker: Well, you've seen the vending machine, it's in the point of sale category - I grew up in the agency world and I would never imagine having an entry in the point of sale category - so we got his crazy vending machine. We've got Burn alter ego, which was this facebook application which was developed for Burn energy drink, that got about two hundred and fifty thousand installs, and created about a million pieces of branding content for them. And then the Happiness factory campaign, we did the microsite, we did the game.
"If it won a grand prix tonight, I'd probably spontaneously combust".
Seeing Freddie off as he went for another interview, this time with Sweden's "Dagens Media", we had a talk with Bill Buxton, principal researcher at Microsoft. He was wondering about the tech in the Coke Vending machines, on the touch screens specifically: "There's tech-spec, there's military spec, and then there's rock'n'roll spec". he explained, and he's the guy to ask for Rock'N'roll spec. Tomorrow morning he's speaking in the seminar the future of digital advertising in Cannes. Don't miss it, we won't.