There’s nothing new about technology-led disruption these days; there simply isn’t an industry, sector or business that isn’t being impacted by it in some way. While many of us may be tired of hearing about the shift, it’s actually more important than ever to pay attention to it. As an operational and technology leaders atone of the largest media agencies in the US, I see every day that our greatest challenges – and opportunities – involve the intersection of technology, business needs and human capability. Woven throughout all of these things is the constant current of change: people-centered, people-driven, and people embraced. For this reason, I often quote from Thomas Friedman’s recent book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.
“Weep not for that nine to five work era of old. It’s gone and it is not coming back. Once we get through this transition, it will be rough but there’s a high probability that a better and fairer workplace is waiting on the other side; if we can learn to combine what is new – artificial intelligence- with the best of what never changes: self-motivation, caring adults & mentors, and practice in your area of interest or aspiration.”
For me, Friedman nails both this moment and the future – and informs our approach to disruption at Carat.
Practicality over hype, purpose over platforms
By and large, both clients and agencies have struggled to articulate a clear and defining roadmap for how technology should be used to reinvent and reshape businesses. Often things degenerate into a recitation of technologies of the day, such as AI, Machine Learning, and Blockchain, to name a few. At Carat, we ask a few basic questions on any new technology:
1) How can we identify the reality vs. hype?
2) What are the most important and practical use cases for driving value?
3) Where do people fit into the equation – how do we improve the value, quality, and pace of the work our people do?
Allow me to share a few examples:
1) Responsible deployment of human understanding. Agencies have always used customer data to inform media plans, but our technology can unlock a real understanding of real people and their behaviours on over 1000 attributes. Through this people-based approach and platform, our data sources include PII, but are stringently governed by processes, ISO accreditation, full and on-going audits and accreditation.
How we leverage creativity to tackle the disruption in our industry is directly correlated to how successful we will be
2) Automation that unlocks value. To ensure more transparency in the media supply chain, we have initiated a program using blockchain technology and automation to aid us in a cleaner, more efficient data exchange with our supply chain partners, enabling better reporting and business insights. While there is still much to do, this has added real, tangible benefits to the agency and our clients.
3) Impact and accountability. Just as we are evolving our media planning approach around human understanding powered by people-based data and insight, a similar pivot is happening for measurement and accountability. We are moving away from a simple, hyper focus on pricing and efficiencies, to a more consumer centric approach directly correlated to client business outcomes.
A focus on now
It is very seductive to be focused on the technology of tomorrow and its potential value. But that is a small part of my job today. Rather, it is most critical to Carat that I focus on how we are making real impact to the business in the moment. To that end, here are a few guideposts for our daily work.
1) Re-imagining work flows. How and where can we take waste, time and cost out of our business, and in doing so, deliver more value to our clients?
2) Reducing friction between mar-tech, ad tech, and legacy platforms to deliver more accurate and transparent accountability to clients. Most clients are still struggling to determine real impact for their spend across and between platforms. Our job is to make that challenge front and center in our focus for them. The promise of today in this area cannot continue to be pushed to tomorrow.
3) Where is the people line? Will you trust an algorithm to fully develop and optimize your media plans? What tasks should humans be performing? In the moment there is a lot of opportunity to improve how our people conceive of and deliver strategic plans to our clients. Waiting until the next version of a platform to deliver some of those benefits is unacceptable. What can we do now?
We must remember that creativity is still the lifeblood of our business. How we leverage that to tackle the disruption in our industry is directly correlated to how successful we will be. All of our efforts for technology advocacy and the corresponding drive for change across the organization must always be linked to that mission.