Empathy, experience, AI and the future of advertising

Part three: yet more from Northside Innovation Festival



Can empathy be automated?

Hello Alfred is a butler service that we were told is thoroughly systematized, from the face-to-face IRL home visit when a client signs up – to the handwritten notes left by the Alfreds who have cleaned your house, put your groceries away, fed the cat, whatever needed doing. All the “structural touchpoints” are managed with human empathy “built into the system.” When you get home (the Alfreds have your key and have come and gone while you were at work) you immediately have the opportunity to report that you are happy with the service, or you are not, The entire Hello Alfred staff see this real-time feedback so that they can leap on any problem areas ASAP. Empathy is carefully defined by Hello A and it involves establishing trust which depends on vulnerability. And research tells us that trust based teams are the highest performers. So what are the vulnerabilities? What could possibly go wrong?

Experience and hyperexperience

Did you know that the “next rock stars” will be Experience Directors. That they have been too long in the shadows but they should be named and celebrated. Beyonce shows being an example of their work: sound. light, smell, emotion, space: all the senses are engaged and working together. Beyonce is, by the way, apparently an example of everything. “Experience is the new currency.”

Experience for this purpose was defined by Justin Bolognino of META @metabeyond as the intersection of design+art+tech+story over time. It is muti-sensory. The experience geeks are obsessed with human interaction – experiences and relationships that are unprogrammable – how can they be directed and affected?

Apparently, for example, adventurous travelers are checking in to prisons for an authentic prison experience. This is what is called hyperexperiential. (Check out the link and tell me what you’d call it!)

The future of advertising – sorting out the cesspool

“Brands are the solution, not the problem,” Eric Schmidt has said. “Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”

Brand owned channels are now more trusted than social media. Indeed not only are brands creating and distributing their own content – they are going further, with Mountain Dew acting as agent for YouTube creators and promoting their artistic careers.

It’s time to stop treating the consumer as an audience and start treating them as participants and ambassadors. Provide them with help – creative patronage – when they come to you for help. Marketers are looking at consumers’ micro-moments of intent – understanding context and providing snackable, relevant bite-sized content.

Brands are focusing on being ambassadors for good stories and not for themselves. They are going direct to publishers so that they can get access to their specific and deeper understanding of their own audiences. Going direct like this also allows for speedier response times and more control by the brand team. You know it’s over when someone from a global ad agency says “we have to collaborate – sometimes we get to lead, sometimes we don’t” That sounds a bit like the death knell for any AOR relationships.

Some examples of all this were shown in the PSFK presentation. Incidentally I was enormously impressed with the amazingly strong on-stage presenting skills of the two women from PSFK labs.

HP developed and integrated plot points for Star Trek

American Express VR at the US Open: You vs Sharapova’s 100 mph serve (very scary they said. no one came back for a second chance!)

Quaker Oats recipes are featured on Alexa

Johnson and Johnson Bed Time Baby app for new parents

Coke bottles that trigger drones to release “shooting stars” when you open them.

Friends TV trailers are “customized” to your searching habits – eg if you search on cats you’ll get the “smelly cat” clip the version served to you

Are you smart enough for the future?

With this brilliant title Michael Horn from Huge Inc sure drew a big crowd. The future he was talking about was AI and he said that AI will penetrate widely in just 2 years – noting that Mobile took 8 years.

Google, Facebook and Amazon are working on AI. In the future, AI will know you so well that what you want or need just shows up. People are going to want more of this and most brands are not paying attention. Take a look at the AI that Mark Z is developing for his house.

So, Horn asks, who runs AI at your brand? Have you tried to ask Siri or Alexa or Google about your company? What did you learn from that adventure?  He showed us that Huge Inc itself does yet not show up the way he’d like it to. There’s work to be done.

Here are the people who spoke and whose ideas are woven through these notes

Sarah Holoubek, Luminary Labs

Ernest Ng, Salesforce

Alexandra Cavoulacos, The Muse

Marcela Sapone, Alfred

Albert Lee, NEA VC

Erin Griffith. Fortune

Jeremy Levine, Bessemer Venture Partners

Ana Andjelic, Havas LuxHub

Colin Nagy, recently of Barbarian Group

Avery Booker, Enflux

Lacey Norton, Kit and Ace,

Maud Pasturaud, Spring

Peter Olsen, IDEO

Soraya Dorabi, Zady and angel investor

Hayley Barna, First Round and Birchbox

Piers Fawkes, Scott Lachut, Adriana Krasniasky, Michelle Hum, PSFK

Michael Horn, Huge

Justin Bolognino, META

Jesse McDougall, C+ICRAVE

Kristin Maverick, Rent the Runway

George Alan, The New Stand

Mark Rosen, Artsy

Taylor Newby, Met Museum

Susi Kenna, FITZ & CO