Digital Essays 2017: Digital talent transformation in the era of mass technology and information

By Javier Bravo, group director of digital, Spark Foundry

Machine learning, AI, hashgraph, blockchain, predicitive analytics and many other terms and technologies are frequently popping up in our day-to-day conversations with clients and partners. Early this year, Sundar Pichai announced during the Google I/O 2017 keynote that the company’s various machine learning and artificial intelligence efforts and teams will be brought together under a new initiative called Google.ai. With this move, Google decided not to focus solely on advertising, ad formats and data, but to expand on developing tools such as its new Cloud TPUs (tensor processing units), TensorFlow and “applied AI” for developing solutions.

Media agencies must embrace and adopt these new trends sooner rather than later if they want to maintain their status in the industry. Agencies that struggled this year in adopting technology will find it even harder to compete in 2018. As the pace of industry change continues to increase, it will become imperative that agencies are quick in adopting technologies early on to stay ahead in this competitive time. Media giant Publicis Media announced early this year that it will begin work on Marcel – the first professional assistant powered by AI and machine learning. And Publicis is not alone in this venture. Omnicom-owned Annalect is launching an internal chatbot called Annalect Utility Bot Interface (or AUBI), which processes and analyses data faster than any agency’s team of data scientists. “Chatbot technology has arrived as a form of artificial intelligence to facilitate automated exchange between a user and an entity,” said Slavi Samardzija, global CEO at Annalect.

Media agencies these days are not only competing with their historical rivals. EY, an accounting giant with scale and resources, announced back in June that this year it plans to launch the first blockchain platform for marine insurance, alongside Microsoft, AP Moller-Maersk and others.

All this sounds exciting for the industry as it creates a healthy and competitive environment, which begs an important question: can these technologies be implemented, planned and adopted without the human element? In short, the answer is no. Media agencies can play an important role in the digital transformation of their clients, but the road to success won’t be easy. They need thinkers and visionaries at their core who will not only implement these new technologies but also make them a vital part of the agency’s foundation. These talented individuals will also need to absorb all the new technologies and convert them into a solution structured around their clients’ digital transformation roadmap.

Therefore, new-age agencies must create the right ecosystem and training for their talent to be able to structurally embrace and digest

all the new technologies without getting overwhelmed in the process. In the future, AI and machine learning technologies will reduce the time spent on tedious analytical and media optimisation duties, giving agencies more time to focus on understanding technology so as to become indispensable client consultants.

This year, Matt Bluemink wrote an article about Socrates, Memory & The Internet, in which he argued that attention and ability to digest information has become one of the most pressing issues affecting Western society in recent years, because our capacity for sustained attention has dwindled since the development of the internet in the early 90s. Moreover, the huge amount of information and technologies media agency talent encounters every day they go online not only overloads their working

memory but also makes it substantially harder for their brains to identify the right ingredients for their clients’ digital strategy mix. Therefore, the technologies and information must be digested and processed by the agency’s vertical leads and cascaded down in a structured manner to ensure immediate talent understanding and client adoption.

Conversations with clients are quickly evolving to where expectations from their agencies now include capabilities around regional and international technologies available in the industry, media partners, macroeconomics, business challenges and coding technologies.

It’s not enough to only understand these emerging trends; it is just as important for agencies to be able to connect all the technology dots in order to create successful digital strategies.

It is imperative that big media conglomerates knock down silos across their agencies, allowing the knowledge, information and data to flow freely across them. Publicis Groupe is one of the pioneers of digital transformation, intuitively transforming its own business model and its organisational structure to put its clients

at the centre while facilitating access to all its services in a fluid and modular way across its four key divisions.

Digital disruption will be increasingly common in the next few years, and media agencies with talent unable or unprepared for those changes will find it difficult to compete in this industry. If there is one important thing that is clear in digital transformation, it is that all the new technologies must work together to push one another forward. I’m absolutely convinced that media agencies play a vital role in providing solutions through technology to accommodate their clients’ challenges. Top agencies will be the ones adopting technologies that will streamline tedious daily processes for them and their clients, allowing them to place more focus on digital transformation in a structured manner.