Techno Sapiens: Uncovering Marketing’s Missing Link

Techno Sapiens: Uncovering Marketing’s Missing Link

In this guest post, freelance strategist Dan Machen (pictured below), says the battle of man and machine (technology) is fast heating up in agency and marketing land, but he argues, it needs to be a partnership not a war…

Noah Yuval Harari’s books Sapiens and Homo Deus explore humankind’s growth in tandem with our use of technology. Harari says that Sapiens shows us where we have come from, and Homo Deus shows us where we are going. But he skipped the tricky bit. There is a missing link – ‘Techno Sapiens’ – or where we are now.

0

As the UK’s Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) today calls for a moratorium on micro-targeted political ads, agencies and brands worldwide are wrestling with the issues of humankind meets machines. Marketers must get hold of technology now, to use it empathetically, ethically and effectively in future. 

As a job-hunting Brit, new to Sydney, I’ve been struck by similarities even though I’m supposedly a world away from the UK. They include:

  • A sense of decency and a fair go that dominates UK and Aussie culture and successful creative campaigns.
  • A real sense that agencies and brands need to build brand value ‘top to bottom’ and ‘bottom to top.’
  • A serious concern that our current use of technology respects little of what we value above. 

We need to get hold of technology for sure, but where is the root of the problem? Cambridge Analytica? Facebook? That’s a start but we need to look deeper – it’s a people problem.

In Sapiens, Noah Yuval Harari perfectly predicts the tug-of-war we are witnessing between man and machine. Talking about biological possibilities versus cultural permissions he says: “Biology enables, culture forbids.’ Biology is willing accommodate a very wide spectrum of possibilities. It’s culture that obliges people to realise some possibilities while forbidding others.” 

Swop the word ‘biology’ for ‘technology’ and it perfectly reflects the murky creek we find ourselves up. The Cambridge Analytica shocker that rocked people around the world is a perfect example of ‘technology enables, culture forbids.’ (Or more realistically in this case, technology enables, culture turns a blind eye, culture sh*ts itself, culture forbids.)

But let’s cut the crap and be adult about this for a minute.

Just as humankind explored every facet of what’s possible in biology, so it will be with technology. Yesterday’s NSA scandal, becomes today’s Facebook Scandal, and will no doubt be tomorrow’s Amazon Echo scandal.

In thrall of all our tech toys, it’s inevitable humankind’s grasp will exceed its reach. But we will reach. It’s human nature. It’s also entirely right and appropriate that collective culture obliges us to realise some possibilities, while forbidding others in future.

While CA was found guilty with Facebook a henchman by association, we are all complicit in being too free with our data online. We sweep permissions aside – ironically to get to that psychology quiz to find out how well balanced we are. It’s what is then done with that data that is the critical point for collective debate and action.

I’d argue the Cambridge Analytica scandal actually has some positives. It was significant and serious enough to wake up the world on the need to look at where we are. With the great power of ‘Techno Sapiens’ comes great responsibility.

The challenge now is what do we do about it?

In global terms, this means redressing how culture permits the use of the data people share online by intermediaries and companies. In marketing terms, we’ve equally got to get to grips with how this big stuff impacts what we do day-to-day.

It’s great to see thought-leaders like the IPA get out in front of this this debate with a call to ban micro-targeted political ads. They are also grown up enough to not make this a backlash on micro-targeting per se.

The IPA’s lead to move beyond the malaise and get to the ‘magic in machines,’ echoes what I recently saw at South by Southwest (SXSW). Simply put, this can be distilled into 3 Es – Empathy, Ethics and Effectiveness. I think these three areas are good rules of thumb for how we can start to approach the challenge of where we are, in practice:

Empathy

If where we have been is human vs. machine, we now need to consider humane + machine. Empathy is a critical mind-set to change to get to where we need to be. Or to paraphrase that wellspring of philosophical wisdom – Jurassic Park – ‘just because we could, doesn’t mean that we should.’ As Zuckerberg recently said from his Congressional naughty step, ‘we have to start about thinking about how we can use these technological tools for good’. We need to move beyond dark patterns of triggering a knee-jerk response and look at how we can use tools to optimise choices. This is key to long-term brand value verus short-term spikes.

Ethics

The world has had two serious wake up calls on data exploitation. Unethical use of audience data can seriously erode shareholder value. These two words are the language of proper corporate response. Smart brands and agencies will move ahead of what’s required and step up to new regulatory benchmarks such as Europe’s GDPR. GDPR could well be adopted further afield to give people better protection and allow them to make more informed choices about how their data is and isn’t used in particular. 

Effectiveness

There needs to be a wholesale move away from murky digital practices. Based on what I am hearing across Sydney, agencies and brands are sensitive to increased transparency and genuine qual versus quant measures on digital activation. Unilever’s Keith Weed recently describing social media as “little better than a swamp” particularly underscores this. It’s great to see the likes of Havas moving towards greater transparency in the programmatic buying space and also new media contender Truth using block chain to give complete understanding of budget allocation versus digital media spend.

Overall, we while where we have been and where we are going next is all very educational and exciting, but we must deal with the missing link – where we are now. If we can move beyond the distraction of today’s headlines and see this as a wider function of humanity’s maturation with tech we can start to make progress.

Ultimately, finding the magic in the machines tomorrow, hinges on our ability to really get to grips with this today. This comes down to changing practice and refocusing on empathy, ethics and effectiveness. Only then will we start to realise technology’s value bottom to top in marketing and more importantly for humankind.




Please login with linkedin to comment

Dan Machen techno sapiens

Latest News

GroupM Nabs Dom Dipple From Groov Ltd
  • Advertising

GroupM Nabs Dom Dipple From Groov Ltd

GroupM is expanding its strategy team in New Zealand with the appointment of Dom Dipple as a strategist. The newly created role marks the latest of several key appointments at GroupM New Zealand in recent months under new CEO John Halpin. Dipple will report to Emily Scovell, who joined in December as chief strategy officer. […]

Wellbub Unveils ‘The Ruin I Need To Fix’ Campaign: Redefining Motherhood & Championing Maternal Mental Health
  • Campaigns

Wellbub Unveils ‘The Ruin I Need To Fix’ Campaign: Redefining Motherhood & Championing Maternal Mental Health

Wellbub, a trailblazer in promoting maternal well-being in Singapore, launched its groundbreaking campaign, ‘The Ruin I Need To Fix,’ on Tuesday, 27th February 2024. This transformative initiative aims to challenge societal norms surrounding postpartum bodies, fostering inclusivity and empowering new mothers to embrace the beauty of their journey. The Wellbub team, in collaboration with photographer […]

Australian Turf Club Tells Race Goers To “Expect It All” Ahead Of 2024 Autumn Racing Carnival
  • Campaigns

Australian Turf Club Tells Race Goers To “Expect It All” Ahead Of 2024 Autumn Racing Carnival

Australian Turf Club invites racing lovers across Australia to Expect It All with the launch of the latest creative campaign to highlight the racing on offer in Sydney at Rosehill Gardens and Royal Randwick. The campaign, which will officially launch ahead of this year’s Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival, highlights the wide range of incredible experiences […]

Avenue C Mixes It Up With KitchenAid Media Account Win
  • B&T Exclusive

Avenue C Mixes It Up With KitchenAid Media Account Win

Avenue C has won the media account for kitchen appliance brand KitchenAid, B&T can reveal. The North Sydney-based agency snared the media planning and buying work away from Havas. M&C Saatchi-owned Bohemia and fellow indie agency This Is Flow are understood to have been involved in the pitch, too. KitchenAid had awarded its media planning […]

West Australian Ballet Unveils 2024 Season Themed ‘The Discovery’
  • Campaigns

West Australian Ballet Unveils 2024 Season Themed ‘The Discovery’

The ballet takes us away from the everyday – a feeling that inspired the theme for West Australian Ballet’s 2024 Season ‘The Discovery.’ In partnership with VML, West Australian Ballet worked with renowned photographer Jason Capobianco to bring the sensation of the 2024 theme to life. ‘The Discovery’ concept explores how ballet takes audiences someplace […]

Icon Agency Empowers Victorian Students With UX Design Principles
  • Marketing

Icon Agency Empowers Victorian Students With UX Design Principles

Icon Agency’s Digital UX design team has partnered with Visual Communication Victoria (VCV) to provide an enriching presentation for secondary school students across Victoria. The session aimed to teach students UX design principles with a human-centred approach. Tailored for VCE Visual Communication Design students as part of their Unit 3 curriculum, the presentation focused on […]

Tracksuit Secures $20.5M To Fuel The Future Of Brand Tracking
  • Marketing

Tracksuit Secures $20.5M To Fuel The Future Of Brand Tracking

Tracksuit has announced it has raised $20.5 million AUD in Series A funding, led by Silicon Valley-based firms Altos Ventures and Footwork. Lead Image: Matt Herbert & Connor Archbold The funding marks the company’s second external investment, reaching a staggering valuation of $142.9 million AUD and achieving $9.5 million ARR in just under three years. […]

She Creates Unveils Dynamic New Approach for 2024
  • Marketing

She Creates Unveils Dynamic New Approach for 2024

She Creates has revealed its plans for 2024 with a new committee and revamped structure to support women in the creative industry. Lead image: Amy Lambert & Elise Rundell She Creates is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organisation dedicated to inspiring, promoting and representing women in the creative communications industry of Adelaide. “As we start this new […]

Credit Union SA Partners With Local Agency, KWPX, To Say “We CU SA”
  • Campaigns

Credit Union SA Partners With Local Agency, KWPX, To Say “We CU SA”

Credit Union SA has partnered with a local South Australian integrated agency, kwpx, on a new brand campaign, ‘We CU SA,’ that highlights their love for the state. The recently launched large-scale brand campaign showcases Credit Union SA as one of the last remaining credit unions solely focused on South Australian members. The campaign captures […]

Three Major Wins For Atomic 212°
  • Advertising

Three Major Wins For Atomic 212°

Atomic 212° has continued its 2023 winning streak into the new year with the announcement of three new clients: VetPartners, Adyen and UKG. Lead image: Claire Fenner VetPartners is Australasia’s leading veterinary practice management company, with a community of 4,500 people in more than 250 practices plus training centres, a vet nurse training school and […]

Chloe Hooper Talks MOOD x Mental Health Record Attempt For Cannes In Cairns
  • B&T Exclusive

Chloe Hooper Talks MOOD x Mental Health Record Attempt For Cannes In Cairns

Cannes in Cairns revellers at the ready, we’ve got the low down on the MOOD x Mental Health First Aid Course taking place at this year’s Cannes in Cairns. The industry-first course will see attendees certified as mental health first aiders, to help colleagues manage their mental health. Chloe Hooper, the founder of Bare Feat […]

Avid Collective Nabs Niki Jones From Junkee Media As New Head Of Enablement & Operations
  • Media

Avid Collective Nabs Niki Jones From Junkee Media As New Head Of Enablement & Operations

Avid Collective has officially announced the appointment of former Scout Publishing and Junkee Media executive Niki Jones (lead image) as its new head of enablement operations. In the newly created role, Jones will be responsible for overseeing operational activities across various arms of business with a focus on partner engagement. “Niki’s appointment comes at an […]