“Here’s the problem with data: there’s just too much of it…data itself is useless…it just flows over us and buries us.” This was the opening message of Rishad Tobaccowala, Chief Innovation Offices of Publicis Groupe, at AdExchange.com’s inaugural Human Centered Automation conference in NYC. In a conference notable for the eclecticism of its pro-tech presentations – many of which seemed to ignore the “human” part of the conference theme – Rishad struck a powerful contrarian chord. Eschewing slides and A/V support, he paced the stage and spoke softly and sagaciously about “analog carbon-based life forms in a world of silicon objects.”
When it came to topic of real time, one of the core principles of the AdExchanger mindset, he had this to say:
“Whoever told you real time was better? …When things are real time, it colonizes your mind. You have no time to think, you have no time to create, no time to strategize. All you are doing is reacting. Reacting is not marketing. That is one of the most important things to recognize.”
So what was important in marketing according to Rishad?
“The most important part of brand building is cultural resonance and desire. You want people to desire you. And that is done in only one way that I know…through storytelling.”
He went on to summarize how emerging technology, far from being useless, can be essential to the future of storytelling: “Creativity is connecting the dots in new ways that resonate with people, brands, and culture.” The old storytelling dots – text, audio, video, image, and place – are being enriched, he suggested, by the tech-driven addition of three new ones: mobility, participation, and “the API” – by which he meant linking elements together across channels and media types.
His parting advice to the ad tech audience was, “don’t tell someone who you want to sell to that they’re going to die. The reason we sometimes are not moving fast enough is because a lot of the stuff [people] should be doing, they don’t do because they are human beings and they feel insecure.”
I’ve heard this sentiment echoed several times over the past few days. Underscoring this anxiety angle, it was telling that at both the AdExchanger conference and one thrown by search retargeter Magnetic the night before called Attribution Revolution, presenters found it appropriate to show the famous scene from Minority Report in which John Anderton, in a long tracking shot, is barraged by personalized billboard ads as he attempts to elude pursuers through a mall. Michael Zimbalist, Chief Futurologist of the New York Times, used it to motivate a call for transparency, disclosure, and consent; at the Magnetic conference, the message was far more ambiguous. But perhaps it’s time to listen, to tune into the insecurity of marketing’s old guards and ask if we don’t need to slow down and rediscover some of the basic truths about marketing, creativity, and engagement. One of them is: more and faster aren’t always better.