Digital Poker Night: Rough, Immediate & Holy

Digital Poker Night, the invite-only gathering, once a quarter, of great minds in marketing and digital, has really found its feet.

The principle of the evening is for brilliant marketing minds to come together, to share their thoughts, observations and predictions for the future, inspiring and challenging one another to greater insights.

Last night’s attendees debated the contentious point: “If you aren’t seriously technologically-minded then you no longer have a place guiding social media innovation in PR and marketing.”

Because of my belief that technology itself is increasingly becoming the marketeer’s actual medium, with technology, not just art, copy or product used to express things, I came out more towards agreeing with the provocation. I argued that marketeers need to be able to look at creative deliverables, even if these be codes, algorithms, etc, and be able to make judgements on them. My slightly extreme viewpoint was in the minority, I think!

The guest speaker at the last DPN was a political speechwriter who broke down the art of great political speech-making. This time it was due to be a tank commander (yeah, that’s right!), but he had to pull out at the last minute, so I stepped in to talk about the philosophies of theatre of Peter Brook, Michael Thalheimer and Theatre de Complicite and how they relate to marketing.

A precis below:

The theatre practitioner Peter Brook outlined in his book The Empty Space that he believed:

“The reason theatre exists is to awaken in an audience the understanding of the human condition they were unable, or unwilling, to comprehend”.

With this thought in mind in the 1970s he did a ground-breaking staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in a white cube…

The inheritors of this baton in the 1990s were theatre de complicite who said that in creating productions they were “seeing what is most alive… disruptive”…

Finally in 2001, the ‘radical reductionist’ director Michael Thalheimer staged a production of the heavy Schiller text Emilia Galotti on a cat-walk in Berlin. He stripped pages and pages of dialogue down to mere looks between character as they crossed eachother on the cat-walk. What he showed on the stage were charged almost holy moments of one on one connection…

All these piece of theatre related to Peter Brook’s overall categorisations of performances as either being: deadly, rough, immediate, holy.

1. The DEADLY theatre – commercial drama, motivated only by money. Predictable, formulaic and unadventurous

2. The ROUGH theatre – a theatre of laughter, ideas and invention often appreciated by the masses. A theatre against pretension and full of noise and action.

3. The IMMEDIATE theatre – which Brook identifies his own career with, an attempt to discover a fluid and ever-changing style that emphasizes the joy of the theatrical experience.

4. The HOLY theatre – a theatre of ritual and spiritual exploration. Not always hugely successful but sometimes incredibly powerful. Able to make the ‘metaphysical’ appear on stage through use of patterns, rhythms and structure

I put it to the group that 99% of the marketing being done right now is ‘deadly’ when in fact, what is required in this brave new age where the rate of technological advancement is creating an infinite amount of media channels and broadcast techniques is ‘holy’ marketing. We agreed that we don’t often nowadays see marketing that moves people to the point of thinking differently about something or having a metaphysical moment. Great marketing right now tends to full into the ‘rough’ bracket – joyful or funny.

All I’m saying is that in an age where we are, as Faris Yakob put it, “touching infinity” marketeers can’t just do the same old things.


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