Do you remember the Walt Disney film that was on the goggle box every Christmas? You know, the film where Snow White awoke from her eternal sleep after being kissed by the handsome prince. Oh, sorry. Spoiler alert.
Earlier, when she fled to the forest fearing for her life she encountered seven little chairs that belonged to the seven dwarfs.
Well, I was in Shanghai recently and I encountered there six other happy ‘dwarfs’ at a dinner in town. I was lucky number seven. And having the seven dwarfs is a good thing. You see a dinner party should always have a few characters round the table. And at the regular event that started in Sydney and is now across Singapore and Shanghai, The Next Dinner Party (“TNDP, because adland needs another bloody abbreviation”) we often encounter some of the dwarfs. But this time we had all seven.
I don’t think I should call them dwarfs as they’re all running really interesting businesses. But it works for me. Does it work for you?
Doc was the first to arrive. He was there before any others. He was half way through a martini when we did eventually get there.
“Stop me at martini number three” Doc said, “I’m on “four” right now.”
Well that didn’t make any sense. Not until he admitted he’d started at number ten and was working his way down. At “three” he switched to red.
Doc is a VC in tech land. One of the smart ones, building businesses “often before their time” as he confesses. Some make money when time catches up. Some don’t. He’s a successful man. And he can drink.
Grumpy runs one of the biggest ad agencies in Shanghai. This man dines out on stories hero-ing other agency CEOs, in a nice way. He’s a storyteller and is clearly driving change through pushing his teams hard. And that’s a good thing. He’s a change agent. Why so Grumpy? Maybe something to do with missing the relative anonymity of former account leadership in London. He’s now famous, running a great, big agency.
Happy sat on my right. He’s the tech lead at the world’s coolest digital agency. One of the happiest geeks I’ve met. Charming, bright, makes games for mobile in his spare time. And he took us to a particular bar just to prove that the pretty girl on his phone wasn’t ‘virtual’. That’s why he’s a happy guy. She exists! Maybe he can’t believe his luck?
Sleepy arrived late. As is his right. When you’re the coolest adman in Shanghai slight tardiness is your prerogative. Sleepy was there to remind us all of one simple fact. We’re all proponents of the storytelling industry and if we forget that we’re not doing our job properly.
Sneezy was is the kind of man who makes the world move with just one sneeze. He’s flown in from Singapore via three years in Sydney. And now he’s the founder of an exciting media start-up.
My colleague from Beijing was there too. Let’s call him Dopey. Why? Because he was perhaps the smartest guy in the room. He’s there assessing it all and working out how to take this dinner party format and own it. Keeping it alive and well in China.
Bashful – that’s me that is. Because there’s nothing bashful about me. My mind is an open gallery with all the artwork for sale. And if you’re not in the market to buy it, then you’ll probably just get it thrown at you for free. Watch out.
The meal at Xibo (http://www.xiboxinjiang.com/en/index.htm) was delicious and funky. The wine was flowing and the stories abounded. Normally at the dinners we have a theme. And we have one person driving that theme. This time we just met. And we just ate. And we just drank. And we just talked and talked and talked till 2am. What did we talk about? Well, as always, it was an off-the-record occasion, so it’ll never be recorded in writing!
Finally, the question must be asked, where was Snow White? Well, she cancelled on us at the last minute. Maybe she knew there were no handsome princes at the table, just the dwarfs!
Well, you know what, she’ll never see the dwarfs all together, in the one room, ever again. But it’s for sure, we’ll meet her again in due course, one-by-one. We’ll line up at her door as she’s the lynchpin in China for many a business. What a cool job running that show.
Who’s coming to The Next Dinner Party? One thing is sure: next time we’ll go back to the ol’ tried and tested format: a journo, a pitch consultant and marketing director will be the first three invites. Then the agencies and media owners can follow. Only reason that didn’t happen in Shanghai, I’m still growing my network there.
When’s The Next Dinner Party? And where? That information is free to those who can afford it and very expensive to those who can’t. But if you’re interested, let me know!
And if you can guess some of the people at this table mentioned here, I’ll pay for your dinner next time! Probably.
“TNDP, because adland needs another bloody abbreviation”