Tag Archives: 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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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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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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Time is our currency

This week has been all about the disruption of the Financial Service sector, well for me anyway; I’ve been exploring the future of traditional banks through the eyes of millennials, pretty interesting stuff when you really get under the skin of it. 

Once upon a time (which for me is before the Internet became adopted mainstream) banking was based on the banking giants being in control; they had the money, they got to dictate their terms, from opening hours to transfer charges, meaning we mere mortals had to play by their rules. 

The Internet has changed this, and with disruptive start ups like; Transferwise, Credit Karma, Lending club, Privlo, Avantcredit (the list goes on) all delivering better placed insightful thinking with more convenient and contextual user friendly solutions, the consumer now has choice, ease of use and more importantly ease of moving around. 

So what does this mean for the Giants? It means they are no longer in control. 

I was part of a workshop last week with a bunch of industry leads, where we were fueled with coffee and left in a room to decipher how technology has lowered the barriers for these disrupters, and how we should be navigating the landscape moving forwards…

Essentially, startups get to copy the infrastructure set by traditional Giants and simply create a frictionless, seamless interface making it easier to bundle these services together in a friction-free way. This means the old school need to stop trying to use the existing tech to just push services they already have and realize a top down centralised approach won’t work anymore, in our ever increasing Internet of Things, there are thousands of data points now so the model must flip to a bottom up collective. 

Giants will need to truncate their legacy systems to give more choice and more personalization, if they don’t they will lose further pace, they’ve already lost the edge on driving innovation and millennials are losing their patience in equal measures.

In short, we must address the minutiae to reach the mass, empowering rather than enforcing. 

gold egg timer

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The future belongs to connectivity

I spend a lot of my working life developing strategies for brands that need to move from broadcast, through audience engagement, to immersive connectivity, thinking three years into the future as a minimum, then I leave work and step into a broadcast heavy advertising bombardment and it saddens me.

That’s not to take anything away from the clever ads out there, but just imagine a future where advertising is intelligently informed, rewarding at just the right moment rather than randomly broadcast in a vain attempt to get your attention. 

Imagine that subtle product placement is integrated into how you live your life; your fridge is able to provide branded recipes based on it’s contents, your car can recommend a restaurant based on the time of day and your preferred driving routes, that restaurant then has your cocktail waiting on arrival with your preferred gin of choice.

It might sound mildly creepy to some but to me this everyday surprise and delight is an ease of living I am waiting to embrace.

I want brands to enable me to accomplish more, more seamlessly. We’re a few steps away from living in a truly connected world so every exchange between me and any brand should be streamlined at the very least. 

All we’re missing is the common language that connects all our smart devices but this will arrive soon and brands that adopt this thinking now, will be the ones that write the first chapter. 

Brands need to understand that they should be replacing my behaviours, not reinventing them; my ask is simple really, get to know me, then make my life better. 

gin cocktail

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Give a girl the right shoes…

I live in a rapidly evolving world where cars can drive themselves, robots can run warehouses and drones can deliver our parcels. A world where virtual reality blends with real reality (the re substantiation of mere ‘reality’) and I can get anything I want, whenever and wherever I want it, in the palm of my hand, so why do my new shoes still give me blisters?

A friend of mine lost a limb, on his road to recovery I’ve got to know him in a very different light this last year, where many would have turned inside themselves and got lost in remorse and pity, he embraced modern technology and now has a pretty cool prosthetic limb. He’s as strong as before, as balanced as he ever was and he argues, able to endure more than his human limb previously allowed him to.

This got me thinking about the tech available that could be used for solving every day irritations (not that I’m comparing blisters from new shoes to wearing a prosthetic limb!) but we could adapt the thinking…

Why not develop shoes with materials that are electronically charged, materials that transform from being soft to hardy through electro static charges? What about exo-skeletal hiking boots that enhance our ability to scale mountains like gazelles?!

Imagine shoes that transform to your feet, imagine dancing the night away, foot loose and blister free.

Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world!

ruby slippers

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My Dad is a microwave blender

The only real reason that robots haven’t replaced us yet is simply that robotic engineers can’t program all the knowledge currently required into a robot quick enough. As humans we adapt and learn every second of every day, therefore the sheer magnitude of possibilities a human brain provides excels any manufactured equivalent to date.

What we have seen though is that once configured, current robots in use are quicker, more efficient and less prone to accident. Amazon already have factories with considerably less error where robots are deployed, some Governments are looking to introduce drone delivery systems and Google have tested their automated car in Nevada for over a year and the only accidents recorded happened when a human overrode the system.

And to top that, at the end of last year there was a break through in how robots acquire their knowledge; they can adapt and learn through validated paths that process the human language by understanding how to identify speech patterns, therefore replicating how the brain connects from the frontal cortex to the striatum.

With these developments engineers predict artificial intelligence and robots will replace humans in the next 10 years, and by 2050 robots will be a part of our every day life. Gets you thinking doesn’t it?

To end on a lighter note though, I’d like to share a poem I love by one of my favorite non-robots, Tim Burton:

“Mr. Smith yelled at the doctor,
What have you done to my boy?
He’s not flesh and blood,
he’s aluminum alloy!”
The doctor said gently,
What I’m going to say
will sound pretty wild.
But you’re not the father
of this strange looking child.
You see, there still is some question
about the child’s gender,
but we think that its father
is a microwave blender.”

Tim BurtonThe Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories

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How many screens do you have at your fingertips?

We’re all used to watching TV with our laptops out and smart phone to hand yes? We’ve all seen the ads that prompt you to befriend a brand on Facebook. Classic multi-screen marketing; one to grab your attention, one to do the thing it’s asking you to and a third to share the fact you’re doing it.

It’s an advertising tactic that’s steadily grown over the last few years and with consumer figures doubling across Europe in the last year to reach 19 million it’s a theory that’s proving to work.

But the really clever stuff is achieved when brands recognise how people really want to interact with them.

When multiscreen marketing is executed to coherently synchronise across screens simultaneously, you’re closer to achieving what the user wants.

Brands need to design content that actively shifts from one screen to another in line with user engagement. More and more people are interacting now with what is known as an ‘ecosystem of screens’. It’s no longer clever to design digital platforms that only offer the desired service on one, they need to connect, and so we need to design systems that service multiple devices, seamlessly.

Because consumers now increasingly engage with media at different touch points, in different places and on different platforms, multi-screen advertising provides brands with a solution that will allow you to reach your audience wherever they are.

With traditional broadcast being challenged and often neglected by consumers with the power of choice at their fingertips, it’s essential that brands realise this is a strategy for improving reach, frequency and effectiveness.

Go forth and multiply cross screen brands…

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When robots rule the world…

Not long after inventing the wheel man has had an increasing fascination for passing on our menial laborious tasks to anyone or thing other than ourselves. Once slavery was abolished through society in the early millennia attentions were turned to develop mechanical solutions instead. Man tried to play God.

To some degree man succeeded. By creating complex mechanisms and systems capable of performing repetitive arduous tasks; from the first water pumps, the first locomotive and in today’s vast technologically glorious world just about everything.

The last year has seen robots being engineered that can help teach children who have suffered from brain damage to walk again, the KASPAR Robot W/RoboSkin teaches autistic kids interaction, we’ve seen prototypes teach children in schools (in fact this blog caught my eye; Will teachers be replaced by computers?) and at Cambridge University they have developed a machine that can analyse millions of papers in an infinitely shorter period of time than any human can ever expect to achieve.

But where will it stop? Developing technology to aid us in our daily work seems a fantastic idea, but how long before we are entirely replaced by a robotic army?

Somewhere in the US robots have been created to be self-sufficient. Powered by microbial fuel cells, they are programmed with a survival instinct which pre-programs them to prey on all sorts of creepy crawlies and small rodents which they then digest to provide themselves with power.

A group of robotics researchers across Europe are working on a project to ascertain whether humanoid bots are able to interact with groups of people in a realistic, anthropomorphic way. They’ve built algorithms that will enable the bots to mimic human actions and emotions. Think about that for a second; if that works we are talking about human looking robots that have adept social skills. Can you imagine them in a room deciphering a conversation from all the background noise and music?

And if that wasn’t enough the future science historians themselves have marked the beginning of the 21st century for the era when robots will take their place beside human scientists.

It’s all quite mind-boggling when you think about it. I remember watching ‘I Robot’ when it came out (admittedly mainly for the Mr Smith eye candy) but realistically, a human and humanoid mixed world could be just around the corner…

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What’s so great about the 4th generation iphone?

Whether through mishap or deliberate misplacement the 4th generation iphone has now been discovered and launch dates are on the horizon with the new and improved spec out there for all to know about.

According to reviews the new improved phone comes with a longer battery life, improved display screen, a ceramic outer shell (reported to improve reception) a torch/flashlight, and most importantly a forward facing camera which suggests video calls and ichat.

So what’s new? Apple aren’t the first to develop this technology, but then they weren’t the first to produce a touch screen mobile so why the hype?

Because even if the technology is the same as what’s out there and the device performs only equal (at best) to Google’s android or the latest HTC, it’ll look a darn sight sexier…

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