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Informing marketers and agency leaders: The Drum’s favourite Can-Do Festival picks

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Helping marketers and business leaders was the core aim of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, a three-week virtual conference that involved over 40 hours of interviews, fireside chats and panels designed to offer insights and solutions for the industry during a time of global uncertainty.

Some of The Drum’s team have chosen their personal favourites from the festival, to point you towards sessions you may have missed.

The full content stream can be found at The Drum’s dedicated Can-Do Festival video site.

Stephen Lepitak, executive editor: There was a lot to take away from the Can-Do Festival which was always the intention, but of the many (many) session I enjoyed or participated in, I was particularly blown away during the panel on the evolution of cities that spanned discussion on smart cities, technology, race relations and so much more. It was a heady group and I would encourage everyone reading this to check it out as the insights related to everyone – not just marketers – but anyone interested in how their urban surroundings are set to change.

Amy Houston, social media manager: I love finding out what books people are reading, the music they have on repeat and the art that inspires them, partly because I’m really nosey and also because I think it gives you a honest insight into someone’s world, so naturally my favourite session at Can-Do Festival was the ‘What’s on your bookshelf’ series.

Week two’s conversation with Harjot Singh stands out. His infectious passion and positivity is perfectly articulated when talking about Andy Warhol’s diaries: “Every time you’re having a shitty day and think ‘this could have gone better‘, you can just open the book and see what Warhol was doing today.”

Katy Thomson, events director: The session led by the Marketing Academy’s Sherilyn Shackle was such an interesting and insightful discussion with two chief executives in their full leadership roles having previously served as chief marketers elsewhere. They were so honest and frank about their experiences making the leap, as well as their views on the role of the marketers – it was exactly the type of session we wanted to produce from the start of the festival. I loved listening to them.

Thomas O’Neill, managing editor: It’s been great to watch all the wonderful ways live events companies are adapting their physical experiences for online. But to hear Eurovision’s head of live events being upfront about the fact there’s no substitute for the real thing was pretty refreshing. Same when Edinburgh Festivals’ head of marketing explained how nothing can come close to being sat in the front row of a comedy club scared you’ll get picked on. I was happy to hear however that Guinness World Records is still managing to bring thousands of people together for some mass-participation, online record breaking.

Rebecca Stewart, trends editor: This session was a great example of why marketers should look beyond their bubble and take learnings from other industries. In this case – the hospitality industry which probably more so than any other has felt the brutal economic impact of Covid-19.

As well as being the first ever British chef to appear on Netflix Chef’s table, Asma Khan has become an advocate for social change, dismantling stigmas around what it means to be a woman, a chef and an immigrant through her work and her words. In the current climate, brands and agencies would do well to learn from the business owner’s approach to leadership and creating a workforce with equality and respect as the main foundations. Khan has just announced that she’s hoping find a bigger London venue for her restaurant Darjeeling Express and relaunch the concept once the industry is fully back up and running, so she is definitely doing something right.

Sam Bradley, assistant editor: I enjoyed Sonoo Singh’s session with Asma Khan, the chef behind Darjeeling Express. Listening to her discuss the impact of the lockdown upon the restaurant business, and hopes and fears for what that world looks like in the aftermath of coronavirus, was revealing. Few sectors have been as hard hit as the restaurant industry, but Khan hoped that the pressures brought to bear upon society in recent months can at least help people better appreciate their communities and the pillars that hold them up – including places to eat and drink.

Ellen Ormesher, editorial assistant: I’m going to choose the session that discussed the project from Huawei and FCB Inferno on ‘StorySign’. FCB Inferno’s collaboration with Huawei brought the world of storytelling to 32 million deaf children and their families by creating the world’s first global literacy platform for the deaf community. As many children in the deaf community struggle to learn to read via traditional teaching methods, this is an invaluable piece of innovation in the tech sector.

Chris Sutcliffe, editor, The Drum Network: I’m an easy mark for any future-gazing, and this session was a timely reminder that no matter what we’re mired in in 2020, it will eventually pass. Consumer behaviours will continue to change, technology will advance, and long-distance communication will come ever more easily to us. There were some great insights in there – I came away feeling more hopeful than before. Plus [as the technical producer of the session] – maybe I’m biased – but I thought the warping effect was great too.

John McCarthy, senior reporter: Seeing as I’ve spent the last three months worrying about the future every night, it was good to have some clever futurist and marketer types unravel new threats to the species for me to worry about. Points about us rediscover the importance of humanity at the centre of tech resonated with me. Read it, listen to it, watch it, you’ll be amused.

Imogen Watson, reporter: It has got to be the UN Creative Brief panel, where Dawda Jaborteh and Maya Bogle discussed how the creative community came to create eye-catching PSA work to help stem the spread of Covid-19. It was truly heartwarming to hear how a good idea can go such a long way – a true testament to the power of creativity. At a time where the world feels stuck in turbulence, the readiness of people to do good gives me hope of a soft landing.

Watch more sessions from The Drum’s Can-Do Festival on the festival website.

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