MBPT Spotlight: Technology Should Take a Backseat to Consumers

As we head into Advertising Week, I want to take a moment to reflect on what I believe makes it the must-attend event in our industry.

Sure, there are parties, concerts and scores of great speakers and sessions, but what’s the real purpose of the weeklong event? How does Advertising Week make us better as marketers and better at telling our brand stories to consumers?

Hot topics are dissected each year—whether it was display advertising when Advertising Week was incorporated a decade ago, mobile’s growth in the past few years or debates on programmatic likely to take place this year. But one thing remains constant in the advertising industry—change.

And right now, change manifests itself best in technology. It is the one thing that is likely to help everyone in our industry improve and succeed.

As much as technology has helped us, and the economy, advance in the past decade, we’ve just scratched the surface of what is possible. We have yet to fully experience the intersection of technology and advertising. Once we cross that barrier, we will see a dramatic shift in how brands interact with consumers to engage their senses, make their lives easier and make them happier.

So what does that barrier look like? The answer is: “nothing.”

“The best technology is transparent.” That’s what Bill Buxton, a principal researcher at Microsoft and one of the pioneers of touchscreen technology says. It’s a powerful statement that has stuck with me as we’ve worked with brand partners to build successful digital campaigns. Technology should not be the story; rather, it is a supporting partner in the background to help marketers amplify their brand stories in relevant and useful ways.

Taking a consumer-first approach to advertising is how marketers will make technology come alive. Advertising will be able to expect consumers’ next steps and anticipate their daily needs.

There are several real world examples of this in action today, but let’s say you have a business trip—to Advertising Week—and you need to look your “stylish best.” Your technology automatically knows about your trip and suggests when to shop. A retailer like Macy’s or Nordstrom then comes in and makes suggestions on what to wear based on New York weather in late September, your sizes and style preferences.

Other more futuristic examples of anticipating consumers’ needs and desires could mean big payoffs for advertisers, as well as more relevant and useful information for consumers themselves. And while this makes the media ecosystem more complex for marketers and media buyers/planners, it also provides us with far more opportunity to truly connect with consumers than ever before.

Technology will enable us all to think of media far beyond what exists today. It will push media and technology companies to flex their entrepreneurial muscles, and it will enable the industry as a whole to think creatively on how to solve and anticipate consumers’ needs.

As marketers and agency professionals, it’s on all of us to educate the public on the intrinsic values the combination of technology and advertising can provide when there is trust and value involved.

It’s this kind of dialogue I am so eager to have at this year’s Advertising Week. Check out what we’ll be talking about this year by following Microsoft’s hashtag #forthemakers.