The rise of the centaurs

Mediaworks UK Ltd


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June 10, 2015 | 5 min read

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Why would ‘Black and White’, ‘Deep Blue’ and ‘Last stand’ have relevance in an article about the north-east and its leading digital marketing agency?

You might be forgiven for thinking of the (not so) mighty Newcastle United, the Northumberland coast line and the Roman wall, but we have something else in mind when it comes to the digital marketing landscape.

Let’s begin with the simplicity of a black and white chess board. Within the world of chess, there has long been a fascination around whether humans or computers were better at the game… stay with us on this…

Human chess players spend years studying the game from a very early age; building up an encyclopaedic knowledge of the best and worst moves and the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents. They use this knowledge intuitively during a game to try and spot the best possible move.

A computer analyses and recall the moves, countermoves and results of millions of chess games in a matter of seconds; filtering out all the moves that would lead to a losing position and then repeating the process until it arrives at the perfect combination of moves that would result in victory.

The odds are firmly stacked against the humans.

Indeed, in 1997, when IBM’s much touted Deep Blue computer triumphed against world chess champion Garry Kasparov, Newsweek opted for the dystopian headline of ‘The Brain’s Last Stand’, believing that this was the catalyst for the human mind being substituted for machinery. Furthermore, imagine how much technology has improved since 1997.

However, something interesting happened. Instead of man and machine competing against each other, they collaborated. Centaurs were born: a hybrid player blessed with the unique abilities of each.

Centaur chess is all about amplifying human performance. You’re augmenting a computer with your own innate abilities. The same is true for the world of digital marketing. At Mediaworks, our collaboration with clients is not about competing with Google, nor do we rely solely on what Google tell us, it’s about getting the very best from both – let the machines do the ”heavy lifting”, whilst our highly trained digital experts can get on with doing the more creative, thoughtful and engaging parts of the job.

It is too easy for agencies to be captivated by the appeal of automated programs and software because they carry out work in a “black box.” They put questions in and get answers out. However, this approach misses the essential ingredients of commercial understanding and creativity that we at Mediaworks believe is vital to meet and exceed client expectations, and deliver real business results.

Our campaigns with companies such as House of Fraser benefit from a combination of Google’s lightning-fast ability to monitor and analyse 40,000 searches per second, as well as the meta-data and search intent behind them, while the blend of agency and in house teams bring the intuition, creativity, insight and commerciality – the ability to turn useful data into insight into trends and opportunities, and then action these to generate tangible business benefits for clients.

As marketers, we learn and improve by measuring the success of the strategies we implement. However, using the vast amount of data available to us, we can push ourselves towards perfection by knowing who our audiences are and what they want before we actually begin the work.

The same analogy can be applied to the end user, they enter a query into the Google machine and are returned a wealth of data. They then use their knowledge and preferences to make best use of that data, or start a new more defined search in an attempt to find what they are after.

In the same way that Centaur Chess illustrates the perfect interplay between man and machines; Mediaworks is another example of how technology can amplify human performance, by marrying the expert intuition, creativity and commerciality of our digital marketing team with Google’s ability to collect, calculate and display a staggering amount of data in an extremely small amount of time.

Back to the original question: Which is better – humans or computers?

Neither. It’s the two together, working side by side.

Craig Bradshaw, Head of Creative, Mediaworks

Tel: 0191 4040100



Twitter: @mediaworksuk

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Mediaworks UK Ltd

Mediaworks is a leading creative search and digital marketing agency with offices in the North East and London. Founded in 2007 by Managing Director Brett Jacobson,...

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