Adville v Techville: a question of collision or collusion

Gordon Young, editor of The Drum, offers his insight and opinion on various matters relating to media and marketing.

Two worlds collide

It was marketing's equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider. But rather than particles it was tech companies and traditional ad agencies which were fired from opposite directions to see what the resulting reaction would create.

Around 100 particles - er participants - gathered at Paramount, high above London, for the experiment which was called Collision and organised by Rod Banner and Robin Charney, as the first in a series of Adville v. Techville discussions.

The 'god particle' sought was some sort of consensus on how techies and luvvies are destined to share the marketplace. And the entire audience was invited to get involved in the debate, there was no defined panel of speakers.

At first the discussion seemed to generate more heat than light. 'Agencies are still obsessed with the big ideas - when the world is now about stories.' said one person. 'Tech people don't get branding, they don't understand the narrative.' said another.

'But I am a games developer and I don't need branding,' said another, 'in fact narrative can kill games.'

Even the success of Apple didn't build a consensus. Brand cynics argued that Apple was not about marketing, but about getting the product absolutely right.

'They break all the rules,' said one participant, 'they don't do social media, and they don't listen to their customers. They develop products in secret and their consumers then lap it up.'

'Don't kid yourself,' argued another, 'Apple is all about the branding.'

'Horseshit,' came an American voice, 'It is horseshit to say Apple is about either the branding or the technology. It is all about the execution.'

That particular voice belonged to Victor Basta, who should know a thing about execution. He was heavily involved in selling a business to Apple, which now forms the basis of their new map app.

But this exhange did seem to illustrate that the debate is more about language than anything else. In my view the technology is evolving far faster than industry jargon. Once precise terms such as advertising, tech, marketing and branding are beginning to mean different things to different people.

However, the financial trends are inescapable. Not only are you seeing the likes of AKQA and LBi bring snapped up by the traditional networks, but there is other financial evidence that shows where the market is heading.

According to industry research Chief Marketing Officers are now spending more on technology than Chief Information Officers.

So the evidence on all levels suggests that the tech and ad business are rapidly converging - even if nobody can agree the difference between a big idea, and an ongoing narrative.

This sector is more about collusion than collision.

Summed up one participant: "Convergence has to take place because the role of the customer changed. Historically customer voices used to be in the past tense. Now technology means you can understand the customer intention in the present tense.

"Tech now allows you to listen far more to your customer who actually has more control of your brand than anybody cares to admit."

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