"Content can be made unbelievably richer through technology" - AKQA CTO Ben Jones discusses emerging technology and content delivery

AKQA's Ben Jones took a few minutes out of attending this year's Dmexco in Cologne to discuss one of the overriding themes of this year's conference, content, and share his views on why this is becoming a more important topic of conversation for marketers and brands as they talk ad tech.

Why are we hearing more about content within a tech surround?

It’s always been about content, it’s always been about stories. It’s what we share, it’s what we talk about. You share a joke, you share a story - it’s always content of some type. In yesteryear, you would just create a piece of content through YouTube, for me that’s just taking the same format into a different world, although you have to have a killer piece of content to be successful. Why you are probably hearing about it more is that you can deliver content in a much more beautiful and interactive way through technology. That is the key thing. (He cites the new WFF app created by AKQA as an example of progressive technology aiding the delivery of engaging content.) That is content about endangered animals which everyone has seen a number of times, potentially. And if they haven’t then they are onto a true winner. If you take technology in the iPad and display that in a beautiful and interactive way, then you can get closer to evoking emotion. With WWF, you sit there and have a conversation with your son for instance, and he will ask questions about the experience, because we can deliver it where he can see through the eye of a tiger using the video camera on the device. So instead of placing that content in the context of ‘Tigers can see really well at night and you can’t’ - you start to show it and they start to ask questions like ‘why?’ and then you can go off and explore more content around that. Content, no matter what device you use, and the hardware it gives you or the APIs around it, can be made unbelievably richer through technology.

Clearly we can now do things we couldn’t have imagined, even a couple of years ago. But was content not discussed widely before in terms of content?

It could be about the progress of technology that is driving it. Now you can invent different ways that you can display different content. That, for me, is what it’s about. You’ll see it progress even further where you can create content using different human interaction and emotion analyses. We’ll see that within the Xbox One and the camera which has emotion analysis on it. Microsoft patented it many moons ago. They’ve integrated that into selling you adverts depending on how you’re feeling. Imagine if you could deliver content based on how you truly are feeling, and it moves into the world of content, rather than just ads, and content within games. It is entirely through the progress of technology. That is exciting. Xbox One is just one route. How do you display a beautiful piece of content onto the new Samsung Watch? Potentially you can. And how does it move from my watch to my phone - then you tell a story and maybe it interacts. You can be a bit of a magician in many ways these days and that’s quite exciting.

Is the high level of personalisation delivered through mobile platforms a factor in delivering more emotional content to an audience?

We are always looking to create an emotional response. If I told you a story, I would want you to be emotionally reactive. That’s why we move our voices up and down. Humans have the ability to alter story through voice to get more attention when you want it. Technology can do that now. That’s what it’s all about and why it’s exciting for us going forward.

What excites you most about technology at the moment?

There are so many things - and I am very lucky to see a lot of things early, most of which I can’t talk about. There is a particular company at seed level which can truly project holographic images off of a small screen. So your content becomes truly 3D and it is truly holographic. So the world of Star Wars, from many moons ago, is becoming reality.

I am excited by the connected car and what you can get from that. Everywhere I look there is an opportunity to do things very simply. I was told that the Americans invented the nitrogen pen because when they sent their astronauts into space they couldn’t write, because the ink in their pens was affected by gravity. So what did the Russians do? They gave their astronauts pencils. So you get technology invented for the sake of technology. The technology that we have affects so many different people in so many different ways in the context that they live. I don’t understand why I can’t read my texts while driving. Sure, I understand road danger, but the progress that Apple is starting to achieve, for instance, you can ask Siri to play music or read your texts for you.

I am excited by technologies such as Causata, which enables us to process real-time data. Audi USA is an example of that, running off 27 algorithms, so the content is constantly tailored to your being and your needs and you don’t know it’s happening. That’s only phase one. We’re going to get richer and more refined, but if you wanted to, you could come to the Audi USA site and we’d roughly know who you are, where you live, whether you have kids, your rough income and so on. So we can know about you, which is important because in the world of today where there is so much technology and so much content, what consumers are expecting is to have choices made for them. (He cites the Paradox of Choice book which claimed that people should be given fewer options in order to make better choices.)

We live in a world where there is so much choice, with so many variations of colour like the ability to customer shoes like what we’ve done with Nike ID and Instagram, if we can really harness data in a clever way, we can reduce choice, and that’s what we’re trying to do with Audi USA. It’s to get them to the car that’s right for them. Technology like Causata and the Big Data technologies, that provides unbelievable personalisation and unbelievable adaptation.

Technology supports true omni-channel, which I think of as being a continuous experience. You train on Nike Connect, you should be able to take that experience into a different context, look at your Leaderboard and see your progress on your mobile phone. The compendium of apps and the solution strategies for our clients are exciting and the ability to be able to connect technologies through Cinder is also an exciting innovation and we’ve used that a lot. It allows you to connect devices in a seamless way. So why wouldn’t it be that when you log onto Nike Connect, when it’s warm outside, that you can't go for a run outside. And from your Xbox game experience, it tells you don’t worry about training here - go for a run. It’s a nice day. You’re more likely to chuck on your kit, and when your phone works out you’ve gone outside, it begins to track you seamlessly. That’s the type of thing that brands need to do rather than any bolt on things that they sometimes come up with.

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