If the population of Brazil is on MySpace, then advertising on it is like sending Brazil a postcard

I know Burt’s been reporting from New York’s advertising week, but yesterday I popped down to Tribeca Cinema to listen to Simon Waterfall, partner in Poke, one of the most acclaimed digital ad agencies around (check out the separate sites for its London and New York offices). Simon was just appointed president of D&AD, the British non-profit celebrating creativity in advertising and design, and he was in town to give his official take on the digital landscape.

Actually, he seemed bored with the distinction ‘digital’ (really, if you’re not digital by now, then what are you? To emphasize, he quoted an Economist stat which avowed that by 2009, a quarter of all transactions will occur online. Brands need to pay attention.) The presentation was a dazzlingly fluent array of terrible language and smart insights laced with a healthy dose of entertaining self-deprecation. Some of the highlights:

1. Everyone’s got to stop looking at marketing and branding in terms of Web v Ad.

2. The equivalent of the population of Brazil is on MySpace. Advertising on MySpace is like sending a postcard to Brazil: Entirely ineffectual.

3. Big/bold/authentic works. Here he cited pop culture mogul Marc Ecko’s recent gimmick, in which he bought Barry Bonds’ homerun ball and then invited the public to decide the ball’s fate. Over 10 million votes were recorded, attracting a ton of people to the Ecko brand. Simon’s take: “Will I buy his clothes? No; they’re a bit shit. But I am talking about him…”

4. It’s Not About Polish. Give users the controls and let them run with them. Check this out. It’s not slick, but it’s sure as hell creative — and what a plug for the band (Daft Punk). The video’s had nearly four million views on YouTube (perfect demographic for fans of arch French electronic pop). Marketing dollars spent? Zero. Hours spent with catchy tune in head? A billion (approx).

5. Here comes the evolution of the closed network. Or, in Simon’s rather earthier words: “Second Life is dead. I don’t want to go to a party with a million people and be attacked with a cock.” Referring, of course, to the infamous event-hijack within Second Life where rogue elements pelted a speaker with inflatable penises. Instead, we’re all learning how to be smarter with our time, our personas, our public, our private.

There was so much more. It was really great. But the essence — and it’s a message that we here at Innovation & Design Towers have touted before — is that if you’re going to dip your toe in the Web then be ready to respect, engage and inspire. Anything less and you’ll be found out and dismissed in a nanosecond.

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