Not so long ago, I was invited to a presentation of a book on Marketing, a book that compiled the best that the great minds in the Advertising – PR – and marketing fields had to offer. I learned loads that evening - but not about marketing. It offered all the elements of holding a typical business conference in Italy.
First off, of course to me, was the noticeable lack of women in the room. Well, that’s not entirely true, there just weren’t any on the panel. They were greeting guests, serving water, and relaying messages, bending over just so as a special eye candy treat to the presenters for their time. After about 30 mins., I still didn’t know why we were there, who the panelists were (and would never find that out), and why they were chosen to speak in the first place. I guess keeping the public in suspense ultimately keeps you from nodding off.
The presentation started promptly, only 15 minutes behind schedule, nothing short of a miracle on the order of Padre Pio. Because it was a creative crowd, we were thankfully not treated to a head-bowed read of one’s written presentation. But we did get to be spectators in a massive ego-fest, in which each presenter courteously fanned the ego of another, all the while keeping us insignificant onlookers in the dark over their little inside jokes. They liked each other so much that only a few actually took calls during another’s presentation, or chatted with someone else. This came as a nice surprise, extraordinary, actually in its audacity.
With all this testoserone, jokes, when offered, were inevitably of the locker room variety: The Pirelli calendar guy joked how women had the ‘raw material’ to be portrayed – this, an example of marketing genius [well, the calendar is, in some – no many, circles]. Another boasted how he had to cut out early so he could find what his wife had put on the table [He had such a sense of urgency, I'm certain his mistress was waiting directly in the car…]. He went on to say that’s where one eats best (at home, not the waiting hotel), and where one could find the women who were absent from the hall. Another regaled us with the cliché scenario of the boss who beds his secretary, but still directs her in the formal ‘lei’ form of speech.
The eldest in the group, no longer so worried about Bella Figura, got the greatest response when telling about training a marketing team for a major ladies’ lingerie firm. There were 300 men. Only. So, he offered that they get to know 10 women a bit better: the wife/girlfriend, the lover, the girlfriend of the lover…and so on.
An hour into the presentation, two had already run off (probably with those same lovers) and the old guy had nodded off (after all, he didn’t need to wait for the introductions).
It ended, as they always do, with no questions opened to the public, a brief summary of cars and soccer, and drinks on the terrace. It was probably my 6179th presentation, and I prayed, it would be my last.
You can read about Marketing 101 here.