Forget Henley or Royal Ascot, the season’s foremost event for those really in the know is the Buy.at Speakeasy in which the great and the good from all four corners of the British Isles converge on a central London venue for a daytime of lectures and learnings and a nightime of frivolity and frolicking. This is one gathering you will neither read about in Tatler nor Harpers & Queen, as the exclusive reporting rights have been snapped up by yours truly at affiliates4u for a pretty penny. To keep the rest of the media away and thereby force them to instead feature as their lead story the insignificant news about somebody leaving Number 10, the venue is only disclosed to the affiliterati, who are under a strict non-disclosure agreement, two hours before the event; any paparazzi who do turn up are, errm… ‘evaporated’ by a bunch of Newcastle United fans who are hired to patrol all streets within a 100 metre radius of the venue.
OK, me doth exaggerate, just a tad, but the annual Buy.at is one of the events on the UK affiliate marketing circuit, alongside the gatherings of various affiliate networks, Kevin Edward’s London meet-ups, and the a4u expos, that both advertisers and publishers relish.
Having been to every Speakeasy since the first one in 2004, I have seen them develop from hosting a small bunch of (mainly) blokes in a pub on a Saturday afternoon to becoming the glitzy mega-events they are today. Their evolution has mirrored that of Buy.at and online marketing as a whole. Those present at the first event, such as Overture and Wheel, are no more, and as Buy.at has grown in a Goliath in UK affiliate marketing, the events have become increasingly sophisticated and corporate affairs.
Tuesday’s seventh Speakeasy lived up to the high expectations, with the venue this time being Cocoon, off Regent Street, one of the finest Pan-Asian restaurants in the country.
The guest speaker was BJ Cunningham, who launched the iconic Death cigarettes in the UK in 1991. Whatever one thinks of Mr Cunningham’s marketing ploys, he is a charismatic character and had the audience enraptured with a both insightful and hilarious talk about strengthening brand identity and the power of customer loyalty.
It ended with a potent message, “be in love with everything you do; love who you are and love what you do”. Cunningham said that life was too short to sit around doing a job that one did not get a buzz from - though perhaps he needn’t have conveyed the message in an industry where people change jobs more often than Imelda Marcos does her shoes.
To go with the Asian theme of the restaurant, the keynote presentation was followed by a ‘Meishi’ session. Meishi is the Japanese name for business card and also refers to the ceremonial exchanging of cards. There is a formal etiquette around a Meishi presentation. The presenter holds the Meishi out with both hands and introduces him or herself by affiliation, position, and name. The card has to be held at the bottom two corners using both hands, face up and turned so that it can be read by the person receiving the Meishi. There is also a ritual around how a card is received, but you get the picture.
The Meishi evolved into a general networking session. As Chris Tradgett, the organiser of the event explained, “rather than being an event where people are talked at for hours on end, I wanted to arrange it so that people could mingle and converse freely.”
He succeeded in that respect. Micky Khanna, formerly of Buy.at and now Sales Director at Existem Affiliate Management, said, “I am thoroughly enjoying the event as it gives everyone the chance to speak easily about their business. It was been wonderfully organised by His Majesty, Tradgettsy!”
After a good few hours of mingling and drinking, the event drew to a close at 10pm, surprisingly early for an affiliate do. But the hardcore, as usual, ended up in a random pub in Soho and it was a delight to gossip about all things affiliate marketing until the late hours with friends from Ogilvy and Buy.at’s sister network Affiliate Window.
In a write-up of a previous Speakeasy many moons ago I was asked by Buy.at’s PR person at the time not to refer to them as ‘The Party Network’, but, as they have been bought-out and I can be a bit freer, I think there is no better term to describe the boys and girls from Newcastle. If Carlsberg did affiliate gatherings, they would be like these.
You may read more of Nadeem’s musings on the Azam Marketing blog at Azam.info.