Advertising In The Age Of The Machines

Advertising In The Age Of The Machines
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In this guest post, BWM Dentsu’s brand experience director, Alex Wood (pictured below), argues that technology and creativity can definitely coexist, and he is confident of adland striking a balance between people and machines.

Alex Wood

The way we interact with the world has been, and continues to be, irrevocably changed by technology. We can see this in our everyday actions – waking up and asking Alexa to snooze our alarms, using augmented reality to see how homewares will fit into our houses before we step foot in store, even checking out international destinations via virtual reality before booking a flight.

Given these changes, it should come as no surprise that the way consumers interact with brands has also changed, and as advertisers we need to ensure our thinking keeps pace.

I was recently lucky enough to host a Comms Council panel on ‘Brands versus the Rise of the Machines’. The discussion featured panellists from Treasury Wine Estates, Amazon Web Services, DDB Group and CHE Proximity, delved into how our industry can take advantage of the new channels available to us, how to bring clients on the journey, and the pitfalls to avoid.

The new word of mouth

While there are a number of exciting new technologies making their way into the mainstream – AR, VR, AI – the most accessible and familiar to most people is voice-controlled assistants. Most of us have probably asked advice from, or even had a full conversation with, the AI assistant on our phones, and home AI units like Alexa are weaving the voice function into more areas of our lives.

As these assistants become more life-like, they also become more than a search engine for consumers. Instead, they’re becoming more like a friend who knows exactly what you like, where to find it, and won’t judge you, no matter the question.

For marketers, this provides an incredible opportunity to get one-on-one with consumers and communicate with them via a trusted voice. But there are a number of things to consider if we’re going to get this communication right.

The first step is making sure your brand is in the right places, so that when someone asks their Alexa for advice, you’re on the device’s radar. Then we need to combine this with more traditional marketing and advertising values, like capturing the right brand voice and having a genuine value proposition in order to capitalise on the recommendation.

Finding the balance

It can be easy to get swept up in the tech, but information alone isn’t enough. We need to lead our brands and clients to the sweet spot between technology and creativity. From my perspective, I definitely think that technology and creativity can coexist, and the advertising industry can find a balance between people and machines.

Of course, one of the challenges discussed by the panel was how to get clients to sign off on new and largely untested ways of communicating with their customers.

According to the speakers, the answer is simple. Open conversations are the best way to bring clients on the journey. We’re all learning – why not do it together to achieve the best results? Having the whole team on board allows us the freedom to give new things a go and learn by trial and error.

While not everyone can be first to market in utilising the latest tech, the panel raised the point that businesses need to make sure they’re agile enough to be a close second. This isn’t just great advice for marketing departments wanting their brands to be on the cutting edge, it’s also a reminder for creative agencies to constantly challenge our clients to try new methods of speaking to their consumers.

The panellists each talked about their experience in taking a ‘test and learn’ approach to new ideas, and how seeing the results – both the successes and the failures – excited them and their teams to the point where they overcame any trepidation they might have gone into the project with around trying new ways of working.

However, there is a flip-side. The danger of jumping on every new trend is just that… it’s a trend.

People love being distracted by the newest, coolest thing, but eventually a new trend appears, and everyone moves on.

This is certainly true of technology trends. So, when asked if voice will take over any existing technologies, the panel were unanimous in saying no. Instead, voice and other emerging technologies are tools that should be added to our traditional advertising kit.

Finding new ways for our clients or brands to interact with consumers is exciting, but at the end of the day, we can’t do great work without keeping our traditional skills sharp, no matter how technologically advanced the channel. We shouldn’t be thinking about brands and machines as a ‘versus’ situation. We’re going to see a much more exciting future if we work together.

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