Cannes 2017: The Machines Are Here

Aden Hepburn

  • Executive creative director and managing director, VML Australia
Aden is the managing director and executive creative director of VML Australia and New Zealand, the region’s fast-growing digital creative, content and technology agency. Aden has been the driving force behind groundbreaking campaigns for the likes of Microsoft, Hyundai, Kellogg's and McDonald’s. He continues to deliver influential digital projects for the Commonwealth Bank, AMEX, ASB Bank and SPARK in NZ, in addition to leading product and service design innovations for businesses like Rip Curl & NSW Government. Aden helped launched VML into Australia in early 2012, which now boasts almost 100 employees and a number of the region’s most coveted accounts. Since opening, VML has become the #1 digital agency in the country, and is ranked #7 globally on the prestigious WARC100 list. An industry leader in his own right, Aden is on the advisory boards of multiple startups, and is the author of a leading global digital marketing and technology blog: Digital Buzz. He also sits on the digital committee of the Communications Council of Australia and judges at a host of local and international advertising award shows.

It’s day 4 in Cannes and among the ever-growing divergent panels, presentations and workshops spanning from one end of the Croisette to the other, there has been a very real emergence of how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning needs to fit into the marketing ecosystem of today and tomorrow.  

Step back just 12 months and this conversation seemed futuristic. A few brands were talking about exciting experiments they were conducting, but just a year on, the machines are here. Let there be no mistake. And with them, it’s clear the marketing world is in a state of technology disruption.  

Of course, with that disruption comes opportunity. And all the big players see it. A stand out trend here in Cannes is this emergence of in-market AI & Machine learning, and you only need to look at the seminars to feel its rise.  

Google VP of Engineering EMEA, David Singleton, led a presentation called ‘Machine Learning for all’, going deep on how computing power applies to products like Google Assistant (Google Home Device), or how a cucumber farm in Japan sorts their cucumbers with machine learning.  

And with its super power being pattern recognition, they gave an amazing look into how Google DeepMind reduced power usage by 40 per cent in its data centres by letting the machine learning algorithm take control of the facility in totality.  

This somewhat brute force methodology is only a slither of the discussion. Now that both the hardware (storage, processing power and networking capability) and software (how it can sense, think and act) mix has become advanced and affordable enough to go mainstream, it’s now immediately accessible to most and here to scale across a myriad applications and experiences.  

All powered by the big tech vendors who are showing off their wares this week. Adobe hosted sessions on Adobe Sensei and how marketers and agencies can drive AI enhanced creativity. IBM of course, took to the main stage to show how broad the work of IBM Watson is. Big Blue truly does lead the way from a commercial standpoint right now, with the most real-world applications of its AI Supercomputer, which also happens to be powering a number of award-winning campaigns showcased this week too.  

Don’t forget Google, Facebook, Salesforce and Microsoft all too have their own AI and machine learning products in market scaling for commercialisation that form the basis of which to build your marketing ecosystem from.  

For brands and marketers early on, it’s going to be about applying AI to the experience level for a competitive advantage. But with the playing arena already fragmented by the rise of multi-modal experiences, it’s a challenging proposition to jump in, or at least to know where you’ll get the most immediate impact with lowest risk/investment.  

But few entry points are emerging as favourites.  

Conversational story telling is becoming a high-value strategic art form designed to extend brand building and scale story telling thought every automated interaction; likely with a messenger bot to start, but eventually this will cascade across all digital channels and be baked into the core digital experience.  

And with the rise of the home assistant, there is an entire world of “voice first” experience design and AI work to be envisioned as millions of devices hit the market over the coming 12 months. Looking abroad, reports indicate that 30 per cent of American homes will have an Amazon Echo assistant by the end of this year. And with Amazon just about to touch down in Australia, there is a window of opportunity to get ahead of the game.  

All indications in Cannes this week suggest we are moving from a mobile-first to AI-first world. And with this, making bets today on how you leverage AI and machine learning inside your marketing ecosystem might be key to winning or losing tomorrow.

 

Tags: digital marketing, Emerging Technologies, machine learning, marketing technology

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