Ian: GSMA’s unusual suspects


I like Kevin Spacey. He’s a consumate actor. His performances in American Beauty, Glengarry Glenn Ross, Se7en, LA Confidential and The Usual Suspects were master classes in playing enigmatic losers.

He’s appeared in some clunkers (we’ll skip over his Lex Luthor in Superman Returns). But, generally, Kev knows his way around a stage and film-set. You wouldn’t necessarily regard him as a guru of the mobile phone business though.

As far as we know, Spacey has never run a mobile network, worked for a handset manufacturer, or even set up his own independent dealership.

This small gap in the actor’s glittering career doesn’t seem to have worried the GSM Association. The GSMA is touting him as a “Mobile Industry Thought Leader” and given him star billing at the mobile industry’s equivalent of Glastonbury in Barcelona next month (well the food and the crowds are similar).

In fact Spacey’s role at the Mobile World Congress is just to present the prize for the best mobile-short-film-of-five-minutes-or-less and participate in a keynote interview. I’m sure he’ll offer some fascinating insight into film-making.

But “Mobile Industry Thought Leader”?  Whoah. Which Mobile Industry Leader Thought that one up? It sounds more like a phrase George Orwell would have written before crumpling the paper, chucking it into his bin and recovering his literary powers with a nice cup of tea.

So – which other legendary innovators of the mobile world have earned the GSMA’s magnificent new accolade? Well, there’s Steve Ballmer, the head of that well-known mobile comms company called Microsoft.

I have no criticism of the venerable GSMA for moving into show business (Robert Redford and Isabella Rossallini appeared at last year’s Barcelona bun fight). And it makes commercial sense to sign a big movie star for a walk-on part at the Congress to attract worldwide media attention about the event and thus promote the latest entertainment content developments on the handheld. 

But it is a bridge too far (did you see what I did there?) to wheel out a Hollywood star and the bloke responsible for Vista as great “Mobile Industry Thought Leaders” of our age.