Artificial Intelligence Soho Technology

Disrupt: Marketing is getting very personal


By Andy Black, Editorial Account Executive

October 23, 2017 | 7 min read

The scene around the Soho Hotel, site of MOI Global’s Disrupt event, was like something from classic Hollywood. Beautiful people in their finery dashed from the hotel lobby and into sparkling new cars complete with drivers and doorman.

Only as I get closer to the entrance is it apparent that the hustle and bustle is a product of the BFI Film Festival taking place in Leicester Square, just around the corner from the hotel.

Let’s forget the luvvies, though. The real drama is unfolding inside, at the Disrupt event featuring the movers and shakers of the marketing industry.


Firstly, MOI Global managing director, Matthew Stevens introduces the discussion “Understanding the role of technology in a modern marketing organisation” and the speakers. Each one is a tech industry trailblazer.

John Abel, VP of technology and Cloud at Oracle was on the ‘Hunt for the S-Curve’ showing how marketing plays the crucial role in moving companies and technologies through the different phases of their digital life.

‘Social data’ was Marcus Pemberton’s story of building the focus group on a grand scale.

And Jeremy Waite, evangelist, IBM Watson showed in ‘making AI human’ how the future will be all about emotional analytics.

As Jeremy is introduced a small cheer goes up from a couple of the audience. “We’ve got some fans in the crowd,” Stevens says. Watson is proving a big draw even without Sherlock.


Here are my five main moments from Disrupt:

Scene 1: Technology is key to marketing and marketing is key to technology

There is a push and pull between marketing and technology today, says John Abel. Where once the two were completely separate “marketing is key to technology nowadays and technology is key to marketing”.

How do you show that? Step forward a volunteer from the audience who was happy to have IBM Watson run analytics on his Twitter profile. On the screen was literally everything you would ever want to know about him, from his mood at certain times of day to his political stance.

Switch channels. The same software is also turning TV producer. IBM Watson software was recently used at Wimbledon Tennis Championships to collate and formulate the highlights reel, based on data and analytics alone. There was no human involvement.

A Super computer? Well no, actually. IBM don’t think so. Watson is simply something that helps you, the marketers, do your job quicker and more effectively. What would Holmes say?

Scene 2: Bring the industry to you

In the tech and marketing worlds, Apple has absolutely nailed “bringing the industry to you”, points out John Abel. In other words, they can set whatever price point they like and always receive the same yield. And how do they do that? They have turned their buyers into ambassadors for the product who go out and talk about it on social. How much does this cost Apple? Nothing.

Oracle’s approach is to run marketing Hackathons, to which they invite selected customers. Just like the developer version it’s usually over a weekend with beers and pizza. Together sales and marketing teams, with customers, work out the best go-to-market campaigns. It gives the consumer a feeling of being valued, while also serving as a very quick way of gaining customer intelligence. Once again this brings the industry to you. And it’s at almost no cost, bar the beer and pizza tab, which let’s face it is very little – especially if it’s on a (two for one) Tuesday!

Scene 3: Technology and its influence are subjective

A massive assumption made by many companies is that there’s one technology or device that’s right for everyone or every market.

Although there’s only eight years difference in the ages of John Abel’s children, the technology they use has changed rapidly and is very different for each of them.

His youngest, for instance, has never used her mobile as a phone. In fact, she’s baffled as to why they would as “that’s not cool, dad”. Marketers need to realise that everyone uses tech in a different way and adapt to that.

Similarly, influence is also subjective. As Jeremy Waite says of his 106,000 Twitter followers, only a tiny percentage are useful. The information that marketers really want about their consumers is what he calls “dark social”. This is information shared in private ways (private messaging, snapchat etc.) reveals someone’s likes and dislikes – from music to fashion and politics – that they would not put out publicly. So, therefore he advises that all data, no matter how in depth and wide ranging it appears, should always be taken with a pinch of salt.

Scene 4: Use technology to increase our relevance

What is social data, anyway? “People think straight away that it is simply social media,” says Marcus Pemberton from Pulsar Platform. “However, it also includes blogs, news and the like,” he explains.

All data through these channels is given voluntarily by customers. It is therefore seen as more accurate and helpful, as it is essentially unprompted opinion. It is also quick, cheap and simple to access, as it is already there!

“Facebook has 2.1bn active users, find me a focus group with that many people!” says Marcus.

In keeping with the event name, Disrupt, social data really does disrupt traditional marketing processes. It saves a colossal amount of money by creating your own source of accurate, honest data.

Scene 5: There is still a lot of trust to be gained from customers

As a millennial working in marketing, I always roll my eyes at the idea that a large portion of the population mistrust marketing and advertising. But it is a big problem. For tech and marketing to thrive, marketers really need to gain this trust back, explains IBM’s Jeremy Waite.

“75% of executives make decisions with their heart – even though data and tech can give a much more calculated decision.”

Worse still, “55% of consumers have said they wouldn’t give their data to marketers again.”

This is a worrying set of stats from Waite and begs the question how do we gain back this trust?

He puts it down to the age-old fear that “machines are going to take our jobs”.

Currently, that means not attaching Artificial Intelligence (AI) to everything, as it causes a lot of uncertainty. Take, for instance, driverless cars. They are 99.9% accurate before they have even been put into circulation, yet most people are sceptical that they will go in one.

OK, so to change the perception of a technology, change its name. As one of the largest tech companies in the world, IBM prefers to refer to AI as “augmented intelligence.” This is a refreshing attempt to change both internal and external perspectives that AI is not replacing humans but helping them. It is the type of cultural change needed in the tech world if customer trust is to be regained.

End scene: It's a wrap!

And there you have it, the future of tech in marketing in a nutshell.

Whether we like it or not, tech is rapidly changing the way we work, especially as marketers. Rather than just cope or learn to live with it, Disrupt has shown that we must embrace the change and use it to our advantage, as some of it really is mind blowing.

Oh, and the wrap party – with fish and chips and drinks – was memorable too, with not a robot in sight!

Artificial Intelligence Soho Technology

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