MipTV and Festival of Media couldn't have chosen a tougher time to make people travel to Europe. Getting in at MipTV on April 12 was alright, since the only thing people were fighting against at the time was the French railway strike. Still that was alright since the flights were operational. The volcanic eruption at Iceland changed that. Most air transport in Europe has come to a standstill, and all travel in and out of the continent has become a nightmare.
The moving cloud or ashes (depending on which report people were following) has shut down airports, taking the likes of France, Italy and Spain in its grip, and giving travel hassle a new meaning altogether. Most flights from India to Europe, too, have been cancelled.
If people didn't get too many content ideas from MipTV, between the volcano and the train strike, there were all the ingredients of a pot boiler. Just standing in queues, hoping for a train or bus somewhere, got one to hear of people who have been on the road four to five days trying to get home. Families, whose vacation took an unpleasant turn, couples who wanted to live the romantic side of stranded but not managing it with any success, given the unending queues and words like ‘sold off’, ‘complet’, ‘completo’, ‘delayed’ and ‘cancelled’ hurled at them, and the odd strange guy who thinks that any experience is a good experience…
And by the way, if you don't know Spanish and French and still wanted to go to Valencia or attend all days of MipTV and still hoped to get to office in the US or the UK or India on Monday... that was asking for a bit more than much. What were you thinking?!
The French authorities didn't even seem to have a contingency plan in place, no extra coaches, no visible efforts to lessen the queues, no availability of relevant information, they left quite a bit for people to sort out for themselves. Spain was still more concerned, though, of course, you couldn't book any train or bus tickets unless you had a Spain issued credit card (which meant get in a queue if you are not Spanish). However, extra coaches to Madrid controlled the flow of traffic into Spain, and that was a boon for some, especially the families with kids and the elderly. I hope the hotels in Spain are sensible enough, too, and realise that this is not the situation when you don’t reimburse on cancellations – what has happened to goodwill?
At one stage, I thought Festival of Media would be called off, who could reach there with all this madness. Well, the organisers – C Squared - decided against that, too short a notice, among other things, and one of their officials mentioned that, well, like you, there are others who have made it too. But the agenda of the event has changed. Speakers like Google’s Damien Burns, Mindshare’s Dominic Proctor, OMD’s Barry Cupples, and Initiative’s Richard Beaven are not coming. But names like Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales, ViVaki’s Jack Klues, Microsoft Advertising’s Marc Bresseel, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Maarten L Albarda and MPG’s Maria Luisa Francoli are there.
The Festival has not even started as I write this, well but for the networking cocktails on April 18, which I will miss since I haven't reached the venue yet. But I am very eager to get there. How this event impacts conversations of global media brand CEOs would be interesting to observe. But I am very keen to see how C Squared handles this situation that is any event organisers' ultimate nightmare.
Until then, I wonder if I should pen down some of the ideas for my content production friends... Travellers like me, who didn't know French or Spanish, had no Spanish credit card, were amongst those who contributed to the traffic, and so got into the queue as the 555th person (no exaggeration), meant listening to many, many, many mad stories, some not even in English or Hindi! The worst is the journey is not even over yet…