Overreach For The Stars – “We didn’t just buy a conference, we didn’t just lure a conference to Vancouver”; “This shows we’re breaking through in thought leadership.”

[image G&M]

“When the TED Talks people came knocking at Vancouver’s door last December looking for a new home for their signature event, the city’s tourism officials didn’t just see another small conference on the horizon.
Instead, they viewed the visit as their chance to promote a kind of intellectual Olympic Games for the next two years, where they could sell Vancouver to the world via an international elite of thought leaders.
In return, the organizers of TED – which stands for technology, entertainment and design and brings together innovators of assorted stripes – saw Vancouver as a city whose ethos matched that of the TED Talks: future-focused, green, creative.
“I think the spirit of the city is wonderful for TED. We’ve met so many people who are dreaming big here,” TED “curator” and owner Chris Anderson said Monday from New York, where he announced the signature event would move from Long Beach, Calif., to Vancouver for 2014 and 2015 – and possibly beyond.

“None of us see this as a simple convention coming to town. It’s an opportunity to tell our own story through TED,” said Greg Klassen, a senior vice-president with the Canadian Tourism Commission. “We’ve negotiated the rights to leverage their brand, using the kinds of things we learned from the Olympics.”
So Vancouver will be able to market itself as the TED host city and Canada as the TED host country. And tourism planners are looking at ways to spin off other city events and draw top companies to Vancouver for meetings, using attractions such asextra speeches from some TED presenters.
They hope the strategy will make Vancouver synonymous with creative thinking, the way Austin is now the city of independent music as a result of South by Southwest, and Davos means serious talk about international finance because of its association with the World Economic Forum.
The Monday announcement caused a visible bubble of euphoria among city officials. “This is a game-changer for Vancouver. We’re known as a world-class tourism destination but this shows we’re breaking through in thought leadership,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said. “I’d like to explore how we can best leverage the opportunity to vault Vancouver into the spotlight and endear us to the leading thinkers who come here.”

– from ‘TED Talks choose Vancouver as host’, Frances Bula, The Globe and Mail, 4 Feb 2013

“Watching over and participating in these proceedings at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center is a small vanguard of Canadians preparing to help TED’S once-improbable exodus from a state considered both the bedrock of American technological innovation and the birthplace of TED’S innovative brand for putting ideas in front of the people with the power to make them happen.
There are folks here from the Canadian Tourism Commission, Tourism Vancouver, the Vancouver Convention Centre, Mayor Gregor Robertson’s office, even hoteliers whose ringside five-star hotels will host attendees whose names are synonymous with power, influence and change. Over the next five days these visitors will try to figure out how to capture the magic of an intimate theatre setting TED concocted to make that idea transfer happen.
“Our relationship with TED is a partnership. We didn’t just buy a conference, we didn’t just lure a conference to Vancouver, we developed an alignment of our brand of Vancouver and Canada with the brand called TED,” said Greg Klassen, senior vice-president of marketing for the Canadian Tourism Commission.”

– from ‘Canada gets ready to host global tourism leaders. TED head to Long Beach to find ways of replicating success in Vancouver’, Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun, 24 Feb 2013

Years ago, we liked much of TED a lot.
Since its size and offerings have ballooned, its content has altered, such that we now like bits of it a lot, and lots of it a bit or not at all.
Regardless, it is not a bad thing for Vancouver to host a conference/convention such as this one (provided the price hasn’t been outrageous.. more about that below).
The attempt to link the announcement with claims that Vancouver is “breaking through in thought leadership” are laughably funny, but at the same time, familiar to those who have noted the hopeful (embarrassing?, desperate?) over-reaching that is characteristic of recent Vancouver rhetoric. (Example: Eco-friendly city? Green Leader? – Despite our bike lane preoccupation, just 1.8% of trips taken in Vancouver last year were by bicycle. Also see: Garbage per capita; Airline flights per capita; etc.)
And, bringing the discussion home, this over-reaching is, of course, manifest in our home prices, and we see a relationship there. “Dreaming big”; Talk vs Walk.
Regarding the TED conference funding: Do any readers have access to details of the exact deal struck between TED and Vancouver/BC/Canadian representatives? How much is this going to cost us?
When the CTC representative says: “We’ve negotiated the rights to leverage their brand”, what were the details of the negotiation?
When they say “We didn’t just buy a conference, we didn’t just lure a conference to Vancouver”.. Okay, fine, but we’re curious as to how much it’ll cost us, anyway.
– vreaa

Thoughts from TED critics:

“According to a Financial Times story last fall, Mr. Wurman [architect and urban designer Richard Saul Wurman started TED in 1984] thinks the TED concept has become too orchestrated and too slick. Other critics have complained that the talks have become intellectually pretentious and almost industrialized in their production. A recent New Yorker article described them as appealing to “college-educated adults who want to close the gap between academic thought and the lives they live now.” But that hasn’t made a dint in their phenomenal popularity, with over 1,200 cities having hosted spinoff TEDx talks.”
– from the same G&M article above.

“Strip away the hype and you’re left with a reasonably good video podcast with delusions of grandeur. For most of the millions of people who watch TED videos at the office, it’s a middlebrow diversion and a source of factoids to use on your friends.” – from ‘Don’t mention income inequality please, we’re entrepreneurs, Why TED Is a Massive, Money-Soaked Orgy of Self-Congratulatory Futurism’, Alex Pareene, Salon, 21 May 2012

[image Salon]

33 responses to “Overreach For The Stars – “We didn’t just buy a conference, we didn’t just lure a conference to Vancouver”; “This shows we’re breaking through in thought leadership.”

    • [GeorgiaStraight] – Pluck them! Vancouver’s urban chickens are settling in just fine

      …It’s been almost three years since Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver stalwarts passed a bylaw (June 8, 2010) allowing chickens to be kept in backyards.

      …A year after the bylaw’s passage, 25 chicken “licences” had been issued by city hall (and only seven complaints received), according to an article by Teresa Goff on the bcliving website.”…


      • Real Estate Tsunami

        “Only” seven complaints.
        With more than 1 out of 4 licenses resulting in a complaint, I’d call this statistically significant, not just chicken feed.

    • Cyril Tourneur

      Nails it!

  1. Wow, the G&M quote nails it. Van has become the epitome of pretentiousness.

  2. Ralph Cramdown

    Some come here to sit and think…

  3. I’m obviously not part of the target market because I see the word TED and a foul-mouthed bear sitting on a couch next to Mark Whalberg comes to mind. I “close the gap” between life now and the academic life I used to have with CBC podcasts. But hopefully the thing doesn’t cost us much since we’ve already got post-Olympic infrastructure in place. It’s a convention, it’s going to bring money in, right?


    In two years’ time, once people are emotionally attached to them and they are part of the Vancouver identity, TED will start asking for (more?) money and threatening to move to other cities. The TED organizers are definitely smart enough to recognize the $$ potential of the pro-sports-team business model.

  5. “we’ve met so many people who dreaming big hear” LOL all Vancouverites dream big about is more Condo towers everywhere and hopes their personal real estate goes up in value,

    Vancouverites are the least intellectual people i know. a conversation with a typical Vancouverite would go,…. hockey is nice, real estate is nice, seawalls are nice, mountains are nice, Americans are bad, Toronto is bad, we’re better than you because were from Vancouver

    • Its true, there’s a very low level of university participation in the local population. People with degrees are especially likely to come from elsewhere. I say this as a born-and-raised Vancouverite btw.

      • It’s a horrible thing to disparage people for being ignorant. Vancouver’s real sin is hubris and its population has become mean spirited assholes. And I say this as someone who was also born-and-raised. Try merging to get into the George Massey tunnel against counter-flow during rush hour and tell me this isn’t true. Hell, when was the last time you saw someone give you a wave for letting them in your lane or saw a motorist stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk?

      • Every day. Drivers stop to let me cross the street at uncontrolled crossings (ie I’m J-walking). I hate Vancouver as much as anyone here but the drivers are, by world standards, pretty nice. I always wave thank-you when people stop.

        Today sucked. Too many people around enjoying the kick-ass weather. I prefer it when it rains so I can enjoy the city without “people” interfering with my styles. Who’s with me?

    • What this city needs is more bitter cynics!

    • Leaving 604 very soon! :P

      and dont forget to add ” we are the best city on earth!!!” lol

  6. Green is good

    If you’re serious about the ethos of TED, vote for Jane Sterk this May

  7. I’ve never seen a TED talk that didn’t reek of pretentiousness and/or overwrought emotionalism.

    That said, might be a money-maker because the plebs dig it.

    How to pay for it? Well BMO just dropped their mortgage rates again, so borrow, borrow, borrow!

  8. For the price of a glass of fine claret a day you too can hobnob with the elite. I’ll enjoy watching them on the internet, but I guess I’ll be missing out in the afterparties and hallway conversations.

    We are talking bloody decent wine, after all.

  9. one of my favorite twitter feeds right now https://twitter.com/TEDcouver

  10. The City of Vancouver should start a conference called SMUG CITY.I am sure theres not another city in the world that could take that conference from THE BEST PLACE ON EARTH.

  11. “a reasonably good … with delusions of grandeur.”

    Perfect match.

  12. We had our chance to become a center of thought when we had HABITAT, by we chose real estate instead!!!

  13. Leaving 604 very soon! :P

    “…world-class tourism destination”

    typical delusional vancouverite’s thinking…

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