Category Archives: Connected Technology

Cannes Lions 2017: From stories to experiences

Movies like Terminator, iRobot or Minority Report didn’t predict the future, the creators just opened up a new way of thinking within the realms of their scripting.

Similarly, as an industry, we advertisers pride ourselves on creativity and storytelling. We strive to create new ideas and worlds every day and communicate these through stories. Our stories get seeded online and then evolve amongst communities online and offline. They’re influenced globally by opinions and cultures, evolving and developing as multiple varieties from that one original core. The best stories transcend through the industry as ways of inspiring others.

But we must move beyond just stories. In today’s ‘post cinematic’ world we have so many new and exciting ways of creating, telling and sharing experiences; immersive mediums, alternate realities, cognitive and predictive data, connected and intuitive ecosystems. All of these things push the boundaries of storytelling, so why then, when for years we have successfully told linear stories, do we suddenly get ‘tech fear’ and limit ourselves at the hands of technology stressing over whether it’s been done?

This year I was honoured to be invited to judge the Cannes Lions mobile category and it was clear to me that when creativity and technology meet there are a few key trends emerging across the globe:

  1. Tech for tech’s sake is taking a back seat, FINALLY! The pioneers of converging an idea with the pace of life today are really doing their research to nail the killer insight at the heart of an idea, and you can see how this helps the idea evolve but not stray.
  2. That said, few are brave enough to state they don’t quite know what they’re doing (which is OK by the way as long as you are ‘doing’) and so stick digital and social amplification plasters over the cracks in an idea and talk about reach (I’m rolling my eyes now).
  3. Too many brands are quick to experiment but slow to adopt and scale, they come with an award in mind but lose sight of their audience in doing so.
  4. Very few have really, truly wrapped their minds around how to move from telling a story to putting their user at the centre of it to create an experience.
  5. Those brave enough to explore new terrain are doing so with a cause at the heart of it, which is empowering, I salut you.
  6. Ethics and morals aside for a moment, there’s still a ton of opportunity to just do really cool shit that leaves your brand emblazoned on the minds of those you want to buy your product.

Two words in most of the case studies and two that I hear every day are; Disruptive and Innovative. For me, true disruption emerges at the convergence of technologies, ideas and of course stories.

I was excited to see the bar is inching up, however there is a whole new world we can create through the next generation of stories and experiences that is currently untapped.

Whilst I love a good story, it’s definitely left me fuelled to continue to push for experiences, ones that make hairs stand on end, screeches escape mouths and eyes to well up, all of which happened in the jury room #justsaying.

Cannes Lions 2017

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the blending edge

It’s the second week of a new year and I’m halfway through writing three future retail strategies.

Though blurred lines won’t be a new premise for most of you who follow this blog, I thought a handy snapshot of where you can expect them to become increasingly blurred across the year might prove useful as it’s the recurring theme I’m hearing myself explain on a daily basis.

So here are my top blurred lines to expect for 2017;

The line between clicks and bricks

For anyone leading the way when it comes to the conversation between shopping online verses in-store, this will have been on your radar for several years by now, but thanks to Amazon bringing checkout free shopping to bricks and mortar in Seattle, this year comes with a whole new sense of anticipation and threat. Admittedly whilst limited at the moment, given the force behind the world’s 7th biggest brand it won’t be long before they’re popping up all over the globe. The internet will continue to spill out of our mobiles and laptops and into the objects around us, the age of the Internet of Things (IoT) has arrived.

The line between humans and intelligent assistants

Not to be confused with Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is autonomous, Intelligent Assistants (IA) are on the rise at a rapid rate. An IA is pre-programmed with data and doesn’t learn autonomously, this means brands are feeling more comfortable with releasing them into their customer service offerings and consumers are more comfortable with interacting with them. The speedy response negates the desire to have an informal chat with a human over the phone and accuracy is vastly improving.

The line between one and many

One of the greatest strengths of the internet is it’s ability to merge consumers needs with others that identify with the same. This pier to pier collaboration is defining what habits emerge and what technology enables those habits.

The line between social power and brand success

Building on this last point, brands are built on what consumers say about you, and thanks to the power of social, what is said is heard far and wide in seconds. You only have to look at the likes of Uber and AirBnB, case studies that are thrown around to show the true power of businesses built on ratings and feedback, to see the reality is that what you say is barely relevant, the true power is with the consumer. Content was King across Web 1.0 and 2.0, Context across Web 2.0 and 3.0. Depending on how sophisticated your brand is, you’re likely somewhere between 3.0 and 4.0 so the consumer is very much your King today.

The line between listening and predicting

Nike built their brand on the philosophy ‘Know me to serve me’ and it sits at the heart of everything they do. Because technology means consumers can have whatever they want at the touch of a button successful brands have a limited window to ‘listen and respond’. The successful retailer will know what a consumer wants before they even know they want it.

It’s clear that the notion of a clear dividing line is drawing to a close.

amazon-go

image found on http://www.theguardian.com – thank you

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Success in 2017 means Disruption as standard

One thing stood out to me this year more than anything else; the fact that senior clients are finally seeing disruption as the new norm within their businesses.

Good news for me. Great news for them.

In 2017 more brands and industries will be shaped by technology and models that challenge their internal legacy frameworks. In marketing ‘traditional’ is no longer broadcast, that’s simply archaic. Traditional encompasses straight forward digital advertising, social at the heart of your conversations with consumers and hopefully semantic designs and processes.

So brands looking to be ahead of the game, or even just quick to follow, will need to go beyond sticking digital plasters over the cracks in their swim-lane plans for reaching and engaging audiences.

Mobile centric should now be standard, consumer concentric planning should be something your agency is talking to you about on every brief, and if you’re not already thinking about smart solutions that step towards AI integration into your service offering at the very least, then be prepared for next year to be the year you fall behind.

The internet is no longer contained in our laptops or phones. The Internet of Things (IoT) is here and very much a part of consumers’ lives. So if you’re a senior marketer then get ready to disrupt your marketing, chuck out the old rinse repeat model and shake up the business.

Brands that embrace innovative thinking next year will be the ones that establish new rules of engagement in a window of opportunity to explore and be brave.

Consumers want to work with brands and more importantly buy from brands that are seen to be innovative. The key is to take that first step, getting it 100% right doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you involve them in your journey, bring them into your beta; innovate, deploy, ask, listen, innovate, deploy… you get the picture.

So as you look to 2017 and wonder what it holds for you and your business, my advice is simple; disrupt your norm.

 

fish

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I Dredd to think…

I’m writing this from one of my favourite cities in the world.

For me Hong Kong is the epitome of where urban dwellings meet the jungle. Tropics growing into brick, buildings built around ancient roots. It feels like a chapter from I Am Legend, except we’re all still very much alive.

The subject of technology outgrowing humans is rife here, I’m collaborating on a project with a friend and it’s come up time and again as this city and the surrounding majors struggle to adopt innovations in a way that resonate with the humble origins the culture is built upon.

This week has left me reflecting on whether sustainable thinking will lend to mega metropolises, or whether global urbanisation will mean that rural areas will get left behind.

As transport becomes more sustainable, more affordable, ever faster and more connected, will it conflict with the debate around borders being reimposed and trade restricted back to regions again? Take Brexit as an example closer to home; if we leave the EU and customs barriers lead to effective restriction to start with, will we note the stagnation that will quickly follow so that when international exchange comes to a standstill we won’t notice the daily conflict?

On a related note but different angle, technology has allowed that we all become producers. Open SDK’s and API’s, 3D printing and crowdfunding all mean that rather than brands lending to personalisation, self made and personally tailored will be the next movement. Will brands play a role in enabling this or will they move to a protective stance on their IP?

I like to think that all my favourite cities are characterised by diversity and as such we will continue to encourage flexibility across the globe, joining forces to build reliance against what could otherwise be a tough future.

But as technology surges with intelligence at it’s core, the biggest question I am hearing repeatedly from all over is whether global cooperation and unlimited interaction will evolve to one diverse world where we see and share everything, or whether the future take us back to the past?

Will Mega Metropolises mean just Mega blocks and Mega highways? Will we live in a Mega City One? Will it be more Skynet than that? So many film references and a tad Dredd I know, but I believe the next few years will impact this more than we care to acknowledge.

I judge you not.

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the voice inside my head told me to do it

Psssst

I’ve been trying to work out how to deliver whispers through experiences.

No I haven’t finally lost the plot, though you’re forgiven for thinking so but it has got me thinking about what we need to bring together to do this.

Binaural sound is trending at the moment, though largely delivered through bigger immersive experiences or using 360 video and normal headphones, which is ace and puts you in the moment more than one directional sound can.

But it’s not enough for me. I want to take this one step further and completely blur the lines between visual and sound effects so that they’re delivered together seamlessly…

Imagine a VR headset with built in bone conduction audio that would give you complete visual and audio 360… still with me? Good.

This really would take you to the next level of immersion and rumor has it something is being trialled, which I am very excited about…

Immersive storytelling is about to get a whole lot more… well immersive.

 

vogtk

found on imgflip.com –  thank you 

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music is morphing

The audioscape is shifting. In 2014 digital music revenue matched the physical and though the report isn’t out yet I suspect the balance tipped over towards digital in 2015. Whilst downloads still just about make up the bulk of that revenue, streaming services show continued growth to satisfy the personalised on-demand needs of the ever impatient consumer.

It is becoming more apparent however, that rather than posing a threat to traditional radio broadcast, it is in fact providing pre-cognitive insight to help programmers find the next hit, or know when to stop playing a track to death, thankfully.

Having long been an advocate of services such as Spotify, Amazon Prime and YouTube I’ve pondered several times where the data connections between airplay, streaming and record sales will join up.

A short while back I spoke with Spotify (the world’s biggest music streaming service) about how their platform can inform what’s next, allowing them to be ahead of the curve on everything from up and coming artists to how to name their playlists, the value is clear; it’s a completely accurate analysis of listener choice.

Streaming is a mainstream activity. Over two thirds of internet users accessed a licensed digital service in 2015 and the strength of the industry today is seen in the total flexibility it provides, allowing artists to reach a much wider audience in a way they want to be reached.

This has seen a shift from music models based on ownership to those based on access, which coupled with consumers streaming more and more on smartphone and tablets (up 114% in 2015 according to Wells Fargo) means subscriptions will continue to shape the music portfolio available.

So what’s next? I reckon we have three things to look forward to:

First up, music will become more intuitive. The Echo Nest acquired by Spotify provides an intelligence platform that mixes human skill, clever algorithms and social curation, meaning you can quickly get personal. This thinking will spread.

Secondly, enhancing how we perform by influencing the frequency of our brainwaves will continue to improve. We all know that faster music makes us run faster and slower music focusses breathing for yoga. This thinking is already built into how Spotify’s algorithm can work, for example their partnership with Nike which matches music to your tempo.

Thirdly, a merger of these two approaches to create a constant seamless service that will use prediction to enhance our brainwaves through binaural beats so we all become super intelligent thanks to music.

OK, maybe that last one is a few years away… but it will happen.

 

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Click to Predict

Last year eCommerce saw a rise in click to collect behaviour, pop up millennial hubs, drone deliveries, shoppable store fronts and mobile payment systems like Apple Pay leapfrog forwards. So what does this year hold?

Here are three things I think will start to take off:

  1. sCommerce: 2015 saw all of the major social players roll out their version of the ‘buy now’ button in order to bring shopping to the masses acting on impulse in social media around the world. The trend is set to spike into this year as the tracking of associated likes and comments enable brands to quickly grasp and react to what consumers want.
  2. Pre-cognitive commerce: Is the art of knowing what consumers want before they know they want it. In a connected world where immediate gratification is an increasing expectation, brands will need to be reactive more quickly, not to what shoppers ask for, but to what they may ask for next. 
  3. Truth-based purchasing: Technology has provided a level of connectivity that means brands will not be able to hide anything about their products in the future. Clothes will communicate with washing machines as to how they need to be washed, food will talk to fridges about when they’re going out of date, the national grid will talk to homes about when they are switching to ‘bad’ energy. The margin for creative license in communicating brand truths has narrowed further and will continue to do so.

I wonder who will get it right…

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Personalisation with a side of ease

As someone who travels a lot there’s nothing worse than stepping off a long flight, red-eye kicking in, knowing you’ve still got to claim your luggage, find your transfer, get across town, find your hotel, complete an arduous check in process and get up to your room before you can finally collapse on the bed.

So imagine my excitement when I spent a day with the top tech bods in the travel and hospitality industry reinventing the entire future-scape for the upgrade needed to cater for Gen X & Y travellers.

We talked a lot about the automation of the journey. How we could put in place a centralised data approach with intelligence systems connected to smartphones and robots aiding the various staff throughout. Whilst I find that really exciting, I’m sure you won’t want to be bored with the tech stack, so to let you in on how it might feel in 2025 I’ll summarise a brief walk through of a typical business trip, we’ll start with stepping off that plane again…

The second you switch from flight mode a signal is sent to your smart suitcase where the built-in tracker connects to your phone as you make your way through customs, you time getting to the conveyor belt perfectly. You pick up your case and activate the next signal, which is sent to your driver who now knows to get to the pick up bay within a three-minute window, avoiding parking fees, congestion and more importantly you being irritated by him not being there.

Your GPS switches to your driver who you find with equal ease. You collapse in the back of the car, whatever music you want is synced automatically, the temperature adjusted and an update sent to your hotel with your live eta feed updating your awaiting concierge.

On arrival your check-in is confirmed through facial recognition, you’re then greeted personally and swiftly shown to your room whereupon your climate is again synced, your drink and snack of choice is freshly prepared and your smart TV pre-loaded with your favourite channels. You can even activate a holographic in-room personal trainer should you so wish…

Your dinner table is reserved at the time you would normally eat and on arrival you see that the menu is based on your culinary preferences with wine recommendations to match. Not only that but the seasonal info and the history of the restaurant Chef are sent to your mobile because they know you like to read the background to what you eat and how it’s prepared.

After dinner, you retire to the lounge and login to a guest screen which is loaded with your business itinerary, options to tailor your travel and where to take your clients, plus recommendations on what to do with your spare time.

You relax, confident that every detail has been taken care of.

In this future-scape our aim is to democratise an executive level of assistance so that everyone can have his or her own ‘Parker’ rather than having to rely on ‘Manwell’.

do not disturb

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one forwards, two back

For every degree of separation that technology has connected in the digital world, I’m starting to think that many of us are stepping one further away from those we know in the real one.

The six degrees of separation theory was originally set out by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929, then some decades later (hard to find an actual date from the reports freely available) sociologists proved a theory that if you spoke to enough people you were really only three degrees separated. The first degree is physical, the second emotional and the third spiritual.

So if the only thing that depicts the first degree is physicality, then arguably in our digitally connected, socially ‘always on’ world we could all be within two degrees of each other. That sounds quite nice in theory, the prospect of seeking, finding and establishing a new connection with people all over the world.

As someone who spends a lot of time in front of a screen because of my work, I make an effort to not look at my phone when I’m out and about and look up at what’s going on around me. From what I observe, as a society we have become latent in our socialising skills, too many of us are better at being who we are online that who we are in the real world.

Yesterday I overheard a conversation on the train; two girls, one had just dumped her boyfriend, the other was asking her how he’d taken it, she replied ‘I don’t think he knows, I just posted it on Facebook.’ I felt more sorry for her then I did for him, he dodged a bullet there whoever he is…

I’d love to be able to work out the ratio of degrees closer in the digital world v degrees further apart in the real one. Facebook published an article back in 2011 that outlined 4.74 degrees just on their platform and that’s old news now.

For all the time we spend looking down rather than up, what opportunities do we miss to connect to someone properly, physically? Not just your eyes across a crowded room malarkey, but getting to know the guy at the paper stand you pass every day and pick up your copy of Wired from, the couple who take their dog to the park when you do, the lady wearing that really nice dress you’d like to know where to buy.

Forget the rise of the robots, in this smartphone zombie era we’re turning into autobots ourselves.

smartphone_zombies_by_dodo91-d81pgac

Image by dodo91 found on deviantart.com – thank you!

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A view on the programmatic semantics of binary trading predication

What the..? You may ask.

Well, I’ll tell you… you see most of my meetings this week have been about the uptake of programmatic, commonly I’m being asked; Is it robust? Is it robots? Are the robots robust? How do I plug it in? Do the robots plug it in? Are the robust robots plugged in?

Breath in.

So, having explained this a lot, I find it’s easier to start with what it is not:

It is not: Real Time Bidding (RTB)

It is not: A new type of media

It is not: A new format, a new device, a new tactic, a new insight or a new inventory. 

It is, quite simply put; AN AUTOMATED PROCESS.

Programmatic Trading simplifies the buying and selling process by digitally connecting the buyer and the seller of the ad space. This brings automation to the process adding operational and pricing efficiencies which take the mundane and repetitive tasks away from humans.

It is important to note that this doesn’t mean that creative is any less important, studies show that creative is still responsible for 70% of the effectiveness, the placement and timing making up the other 30%.

Marketing is, and will always be, about getting the right piece of content to the right person at the right time. Programmatic quite simply means we can be quicker, more effective and therefore scale in a more structured and relevant way. 

I love this example from Nike and Google, it’s a great demonstration of what can be achieved with clever design and RTB, and just recently Unilever have explored the use of video in their Romeo Reboot campaign.

So in summary, you still need a wicked idea, a clever plan and some digital genius behind it, but if you embrace the fact that you can’t be in total control of the real time exchange and you’re prepared to sit back and enjoy the ride, then some really cool stuff can happen. 

And contrary to the title of this post, it’s not that tricky…

image found on adweek.com - thank you

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