Category Archives: The Future

Monetising Virtual Reality

I’m on the train back from a conference where I was privileged enough to be part of a panel alongside top guys from the BBC, Unity and Dubit, we discussed and interrogated the money making roadmap for Virtual Reality (VR).

It was interesting and much fun, not least because it’s something I believe is here to stay (no surprise to those of you that follow me), but eyebrow raising too in that the focus across the industry is steering quickly to ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) rather than considering the fact that we haven’t really nailed the craft, purpose or immersion factor yet.

I was asked afterwards by several people; ‘What are your top tips for getting into VR and where is the money?’ (mainly in the same breath) and so thought I’d distill the panel into a post… here goes.

First things first; as with any good content (or business), a VR experience is only as good as the idea(s) at the core. Crack a brilliant concept first and the money will follow (one way or another). During my career I’ve worked for some of the top agencies in the world, of these two spring to mind; one was focused on money first and idea second, another ideas first and money second. The latter is acing it, the first is arguably losing it’s identity, staff and direction. Enough said.

Secondly, again you’ll see the parallel here; you have to build trust. Trust in the medium is growing but headsets aren’t about to fly off the shelf just yet, it’s a slow burn but it will reap it’s reward.  The ‘jazz hands’ have been and gone, the next phase on the roadmap is about creating brilliant and relevant experiences, VR is about immersion not reach. Get this bit right and scale (therefore money) will follow.

Third up; consider the right investment and return model. You can; create an app based service and tie subscription to it, you can launch with experiential then move to freemium and start an economy of scale from there, you can take an AR in-road with an upgrade model, sponsorships, partnerships, branded content… as with any new medium there are many money making ways. However, as with any medium, one will apply to your objectives more than the other. Explore and choose carefully.

It’s a bit ABC but thats because really truly, the basics aren’t actually all that complicated. The playground is big, experimentation is happening, trailblazers are lighting up the way. Those that keep their head but jump in and concentrate on; brilliance, trust and effectiveness (in that order), will be the ones to make their millions in this medium.

See you there.

Minecraft Money

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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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3 Steps to adopting AI

I’ve being asked for my view on AI a lot this year, more so than last. It would appear the industry has caught up with the ‘hype’ being a reality.

I’m not getting the slightly twitchy ’Is it going to steal my job?’ anymore though, now the questions are; Is this something I need to be bothered about?, Can I afford it?, Where do I start?

All good questions. If you’re a brand or business looking to get ahead, simply keep up, or maybe even catch up, you can’t afford not to be thinking about this and getting a beta into place. If you don’t your competition will, and then you will be sat watching them eat your share of market or voice, or both. Either way, I can’t imagine that’s something you’re keen to see happen.

Roughly a third of the brands I work across either have a version of an AI (artificial Intelligence) ready IA (Intelligent Assistant) or have jumped straight into an AI trial or beta. Every single one of them has seen positive results. Every single one of them is now developing a roadmap with us to put in place milestones to be better, faster and more informed on a real time basis.

The shape of these solutions vary from bettering service response levels to informing fashion design and everything in-between. But the steps to get there are the same, and here they are;

Work out what the problem is you want to solve

Ok, obvious right? But actually I highlight this because I recommend you don’t ‘do a chatbot’ because your competitor did.

Is there a challenge that advertising or marketing isn’t fixing for you right now? Do you have a human centered design idea that you can’t quite get to grips with? Do you have micro communities you don’t understand or can’t reach in meaningful ways?

All of these are problems AI can help you with, quickly and effectively. So consider where you might want to turbo charge a solution and put a brief together around that.  Be clear about your brief as well, if you’re vague about what you want to achieve it’s tricky to train an AI to think comprehensively, it in turn will be vague.

Review and understand ALL of your relevant data

AI is only ever as good as the data you feed it; the more data you have, the more connections can be compiled and the faster it will evaluate and learn. It’s not magic, it’s algorithm on speed. 

Define the goals you want to achieve in order to reach the objective in your brief, or work with an AI data partner to do this (most good agencies should have someone who can help you get started and then find the right partner for you, the answer isn’t always ‘Watson’ btw). You will likely have a mass of data you understand and a bank of data you’ve never really thought about, once you have it all in one place you need to work out where the gaps are and fill them in.

This up front bit seems tedious, that’s because it is. But don’t cut corners as you’ll only pay for it further down the line. The better the data set, the more robust your AI solution will be and the quicker you will see results.

Choose your AI partner

What you want your AI to do will depend on what supplier or partner you choose. There are many solutions already available at both scale up and enterprise level to choose from. They offer everything from; language skills, analytics, tech stacks that speed up services, listening, finding ‘moments of serendipity’ through to predictive analytics and forecasting.

A read of IBM Watson and AWS are good places to start if you want to dig more into what’s on offer, but also check out the likes of DigitalGenius and DeepMind for something smaller or a bit more creative.

Of course you may be looking to create something truly bespoke in which case you may have to hire a bunch of experts to create your algorithm from scratch, or seek a start up willing to work with you and co-create. There are an abundance of really cool start ups just about to break on to the scene so this is a truly valid and cost effective approach, don’t rule it out.

That’s it. From here, you should be in safe hands. You know what you want, you have the data in play to get it and a partner who knows what to do with the data to get what you want.

My parting piece of advice is to remember that AI / ML (Machine Learning) are solutions that learn and develop, think of it as a child going from kindergarten to PHD level but in weeks rather than years. There may be a few mistakes along the way but be patient and think big, because with direction and correction the results are nothing short of impressive.

And it’s not just customer service stuff either…

marchesa-thumbnail (1)

Marchesa and Watson’s cognitive dress – read more here

P.S. Here’s a mini wiki;

IA; Generally speaking an Intelligent Assistant is a pre-structured agent used to deliver automated responses but does not include self correction or ‘learning’, therefore is not always classed as AI. It’s often the step before AI and used to validate the quality of data. That said some do include NLP (Natural Language Processing) and are connected to the IoT (Internet of Things) so the line is often blurred.

NLP; Natural language Processing is a computer science that uses AI and handles human speech between computers and humans.

AI; Artificial Intelligence is an intelligent or cognitive behavior exhibited by machines, sometimes also referred to as problem solving or learning.

ML; Machine Learning is a sub-field of AI that includes programming computers to deepen the learning process.

P.P.S. If you find AI interesting generally you might want to check out my other blog, co-written with @kayperbeats – it’s a bit more off the wall but it’s insightful none-the-less.

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My SXSW Poem of the Future

At SXSW this year I took part in the Tech Off, run by the ace guys over at TechDept. The theme was ‘The Future’, quite a big subject.

Since getting on stage several people have asked me to publish my talk, mainly because it rhymed I think… so here it is, enjoy!

My Job didn’t exist when I was at school,
When I started coding my Dad thought I was fool.
He thought I’d turn into a weird geeky hermit,
In fact, he tried to make me study law and get a law permit.
But the visions for the future excite me more than the past,
Because when it comes to tech, the past fades fast.
So I’m definitely not a hermit and I’m proud to be a geek,
Which you’ll know if you go online and maybe read a tweet.
And maybe I’ll reply or maybe it’s my bot,
Because maybe I’m real and here, or maybe I’m not.
The future isn’t just augmented or virtual you see,
It’s set to be a blend of several realities.
And as the future keeps advancing and we become more connected,
We’ll all be liked and rated and ever more self reflected.
Will we strive for 5 gold stars or get jobs based on social ratings?
In a future that’s rose tinted and won’t allow for ‘slatings’.
Will robots steal our jobs? Will Skynet really happen?
Or is that as likely as a one handed man clapping?
Will tech become so seamless that we won’t be able to tell,
Where I begin, you end, and the tech blends in as well…
Does the future of ‘blurred lines’ mean mortar and bricks,
Become synonymously intertwined with pixels and clicks?
Today we pay with fingerprints, tomorrow our voice
In the future, our faces, will this remove our choice
To be recognised or not, to have ambiguity?
Or will we be on camera everywhere, live streamed to the street?
When our lives are in the cloud, seamlessly connected
Will we be faster, more efficient, or will our memories be neglected?
I only know one phone number, that’s the one I’ve had for 15 years,
If tech fails us, are we lost, stuck in a tech-less fear?
Will we all walk round in circles when Google maps decides to stop?
Will our short hand math become really shit? Will that matter, or not?
Does a bit of humanity get lost when we rely on tech?
Do we discover less, feel less, care less, meh what the heck…
Or is tech making us efficient so we get more out of life?
And if we supercharge this in the future do we negate trouble and strife?
I’m at a conference with talks about ‘cheating MRI’
And every little thing becoming powered by AI.
In a future where every heartbeat and every drop of sweat,
Is calculated, decoded and uploaded to the net.
When connected collars tell us when our dogs have got a fever,
Or our cats can be interpreted through intelligent receivers.
When Jacquard powered jeans tell guys ‘you’re flying low’,
Our clothing interprets stress and tension, head to toe.
In a future where cars aren’t just autonomous but fly,
In highways constructed over cities in the Sky.
Where these cars are an extension of our physical being,
Our fridges order milk, our homes capable of seeing.
In the future are we dumb? Just run by automation…
Or are we elite and empowered, an unstoppable ‘one nation’?
In OUR future we WILL stand beside robots that are intelligent,
But further more we face a future that goes beyond this and is sentient.
There will be competition, co-petition, ambition and decision
But convergence and empowerment will come to fruition.
If biology is programmable and we can program 3D printing,
Will we solve poverty and hunger, now that got me thinking…
If a world built on noughts and ones merges with atoms,
Does that provide a world that you and I can barely fathom?
If we can put interfaces into brains and quadriplegics can move cursors,
Will we enhance that human life, is the advance in science worth it?
If we contemplate the dialogue between human and computer,
Do we invite tech to take over or, just to help us when it suits us?
There are so many things that today we do not know,
But if we super charge our neurons there’s nowhere a brain can’t go.
We can speed up our learning curve and mass communicate,
Have conversations without speaking, silently collaborate.
Whether this 5 minutes makes you laugh or maybe makes you wonder,
There is one thing for sure that we should collectively ponder;
Is technology and innovation a force for good or force for bad?
Is it going to bring us closer or going to drive us mad?
To quote Einstein ‘it’s obvious it’s exceeded humanity’
And he’s been dead for decades so it’s pretty clear to see,
That the trajectory we’re on isn’t slowing down,
And in fact with quantum computing we can go to town.
I for one would rather be in the driving seat,
Amongst you crazy bunch of awesome techies, devs and geeks.
For the ONE thing about the future that we should ALL be aware
Is love it fear it, WE are ALL going there …
And we can choose to lead or we can choose to follow
So I say, let’s grab the future by the balls and go invent tomorrow!!!
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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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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.

judge-dredd-on-screen-future-still-up-in-the-air-01

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179

This week I was privileged enough to be counted amongst 12 other fantastic women as leaders of tomorrow in the IPA Women of Tomorrow awards

In the run up to this event and many others on March 8th, I’ve been asked a lot about how I feel about being a leading woman, and more recently a leading woman ‘in tech’ and I wanted to share my thoughts with anyone else who may be interested.

First and foremost I am both proud and humbled, it is exciting to be recognised as one of the women to watch ‘bursting full of brains, vision, inspiration and energy with a wealth of experience, results and high recommendations under their belts.’ Thank you Nicky Bullard, one of my judges and another amazing woman.

Whilst I am a feminist (it would be silly to not be on my own side having been a woman for a while now) I have to thank my other judge Dan Shute (who is a man) for calling out that one of the reasons I won was not because I’m shouting about my gender but because I’m cracking on with simply being the best person I can be, which is all I’ve ever done. 

I love being a woman, but that doesn’t mean I’m ‘anti man’. I also love being a leader, inspiring others to become leaders, working with clever people and working with techy stuff, because I love all these things I am good at it.

I encourage everyone to find something they love doing. It doesn’t matter if you’re male, female, black, white, young, old, privileged or not. I live my life on the mantra of ‘If you can dream it, you can achieve it.’ Thanks Walt. I’m not saying we all get our fairytale ending if we skip through life singing, but live by this and a ton of hard work and very little can hold you back. 

I’m as much an advocate for equality as I am for not using circumstance as an excuse, together we will always achieve more. 

That said, sadly there are a dying breed of luddites out there still doubting equality, to them I’d like to point out that 179 is the sum of my bra size and my IQ, I’ll let you do the math.
  

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YOLO to FOMO

How many times have you rolled your eyes and resignedly sighed ‘Oh the Yoof of today’?

If I’m honest, I lost count a while back, but that said I’ve also forgotten the last time I said it. Why? Because quite frankly this ‘Yoof’ are outsmarting c-suites around the world and as they start to enter the workplace they’re shaking things up, I believe for the better.

They’re more focused, more ambitious and more tech enabled than any other generation to date. They also have the lowest drug abuse, lowest alcohol abuse and lowest teenage pregnancy rate than any other generation. They’re tech savvy and life savvy.

They are the first digitally native generation, having never known a world without the internet and according to Business Insider 61% would rather be an entrepreneur than an employee when they graduate.

They’re the generation happy to pay over the odds for the latest smartphone but that make up for it by streaming video content for free rather than paying to rent movies, they dual screen constantly, multi task ferociously, are hungry for everything, patient for nothing.

For brands, they pose an increasingly difficult audience to reach, with such rapid and sporadic consumption of media they live in fear that they will miss out. They constantly switch between devices and channels, which has resulted in them having the attention span of a goldfish… literally.

They’re exposed to thousands of brands, hundreds of times from their waking moment to their sleeping one, so the question posed to brands today is, how do you make your 8 seconds count?

Less is certainly more, and any communication must cut through the noise in a concise way, bear in mind that these guys have entire conversations through emojis, or Kimojis (JGI).

Forget disruptive technology, these guys are already beginning to change the landscape. The clunky old guys at the top currently trying to move things forwards will simply need to keep up or get ready to pack their suitcases and go home.

 

emoji unicorn

 

p.s. YOLO = You Only Live Once (totes popular with millennials) FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out (which if you read the post you’ll get 😉 )

p.p.s. sorry if you’re feeling old now

p.p.p.s. but I did use a unicorn emoji so that restores the balance

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Is it a bird? erm nope.

The next era of connectivity is on the horizon, or rather more accurately hovering above it, as tech giants launch their test projects to provide internet coverage for the harder to reach parts of the world.

Google have test piloted Project Loon a few times since June 2013 near places such as New Zealand’s South Island and Sri Lanka, a series of high- altitude balloons equipped with LTE (more commonly known as 4G LTE) that rides the wind currents in the stratosphere.

Facebook have also developed a fleet of solar-powered drones called Aquila now ready to hover at altitudes of 60,000 to 90,000 feet. These can be steered and controlled more directly, constantly circling a two mile radius to stay aloft.

Both the balloons and the drones can be air born for around three months.

Combined with lower priced smartphones coming to market we are seeing the next evolution of connectivity looking set to be pretty rapid.

There’s still a way to go to stabilise the launch and flight of both, plus the clean up exercise once they come back down but the effort to connect the whole world with the internet is accelerating.

Next we’ll be in orbit, talking to the moon, connecting galaxies… well, maybe.

 

clangers

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Curiosity didn’t kill the cat, complacency did

A big part of Leadership is the ability to pivot and adapt to change. Within the creative industry change happens all around us, new ideas, emerging technologies, new skill sets, different teams, in my entire career I don’t think I’ve had two days that went the same way.

I currently help lead the digital discipline across an integrated agency that has moved rapidly from its roots in traditional advertising, to adapt to our clients needs to deliver quality integrated campaigns.

With this evolution we are seeing a new expertise blossoming in the coined value of ‘T-shaped’ people, those that have a strong vertical but can work alongside other teams and departments to see the wider context of their work. For example, my vertical is digital, but I work through ‘the line’ with traditional creative and production teams. Within the digital vertical I am working with other ‘T’s’; designers who work with tech, producers who work with writers and so on.

The success of our agency is inevitably about the ability to embrace change, being curious about what everyone around them is doing and collaborating to make it amazing.

We’re a digitally empowered nation. As an agency our clients and their audiences are smart. They can tell when the dots aren’t joined up so a blended skill set is no longer a nice to have, it’s a necessity to transformation.

The search for the best talent today is less about specialism and more about diversity. This next phase promises to be dynamic, turbulent and challenging.

The last of the dinosaurs are on their way out.

all my friends

 

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