September 2017 and after years chained to my desk I made a ‘mid-year resolution’ to get out more.
‘Getting out more’ had me signing up to some pretty random events, but one particularly caught my attention and I headed to ‘Agency Models of the Future’ (organised by The Agency Collective
) with a sense of excitement.
That evening, I heard a talk from the previous owner of one of the UK's top digital agencies, who was now mentoring and supporting agencies to achieve rapid growth. The theme of the evening was about the wave of disruptive technologies and insights hitting the industry, and that if you weren’t prepared the end could well be nigh for your agency!
It was provocative stuff and although I was sure we could ‘survive’ without tackling these ‘unknown technologies’, my instincts were telling me there was a massive opportunity for The Pull Agency and our clients to collaborate and achieve our mission: “To solve problems so we can build brand love and deliver better business performance.” Yeah, I know, its cheesy to quote mission statements, but it really was what was on my mind as I sat on the train home that night.
I don’t recollect the full list of disruptive technologies and insights from that evening - thinking back AR/VR/MR, Fab Labs, IoT were mentioned - but AI and Machine Learning stuck in my mind.
I left the event slightly concerned at my lack of knowledge, but also incredibly excited at the opportunities presented. The idea that Pull could be at the leading edge of these emerging technologies began to grow in my mind. I spent the following months reading all I could on the subject. The more I read, the more I was convinced that many of these technologies fell perfectly within the remit of Pull as a modern creative agency. These were an amazing set of new tools we could utilise to help us solve our client’s problems and support their brand transformation!
Serendipity is amazing when your eyes are open to new opportunities and in late 2017 I connected with Microsoft at a technology event, where I discovered their programme to share and upskill agencies using AI, and specifically their Cognitive Services Suite (Machine Learning APIs). They had identified that agencies were a key route in to brands that wanted to use technology to solve business challenges.
We joined the programme as a founding agency and continue to work with Microsoft to identify and solve customer challenges using their AI solutions for Vision, Knowledge, Speech, Search and Language. For me what is most exciting is the support Microsoft’s team give us. They help us not only highlight the opportunities available, but to deliver on our client’s projects. We’ve even taken part in one of their recent Hackathons
and will continue with those planned for the future. It’s all been quite an extraordinary journey for a relatively small agency based on the outskirts of Guildford.
The title of the piece is ‘2018: a Tech. Odyssey’, and that’s because 2018 is the year things have taken off for us in the area of technology. We have begun to make huge strides in our knowledge of AI and its potential, and this year we have delivered three projects using emerging technologies.
We’ve nailed two projects taking expensive labour-intensive tasks out of human hands and used technology instead. We had received over 3,000 text responses to one brand survey question we did for Andertons Music Co
, (one of the World’s leading musical instrument retailers). There was no way we could analyse that many responses manually, without using huge levels of resource and client budget, but thanks to a ‘paradigm-shifting’ presentation by Phil Harvey (CSA for Data & AI in OCP at Microsoft) at our office, with their support, we started using AI, transforming our ability to get quantitative data from qualitative responses effectively and efficiently. And now we’re using it to analyse data on a second project, a global survey of hairdressers for Schwarzkopf Professional.
We have also built our first Chatbot and used the Vision API, alongside YouTube and Google Analytics, to analyse the effectiveness of a client’s video channel to generate sales on their e-commerce site.
Considering less than a year ago no one in the agency knew much about AI or any of the technologies previously mentioned, I now regularly hear conversations of how technology can be used creatively to transform brands and improve the results we bring our clients. Hell, we even created our own hashtag to bring together the unique proposition we offer: #WhereBrandAndTechMeet.
It’s this philosophy of sitting at the intersection of brand and technology that has driven us to host a joint event with Microsoft at their Paddington HQ on the 19th
of September 2018, AI: Empathy, Ethics and Your Brand.
As an agency focused on brand transformation we wanted to create an event with Microsoft that looked at the massive impact emerging technologies are having on brands and business, but focus it on the more human, brand and ethical side, hence the title. And we have a world-class line up of speakers including Phil Harvey (Cloud Solution Architect for Data & AI in One Commercial, Microsoft), Minter Dial (Tech speaker/author, ex MD of L’Oreal, International Professional Development Division) and Nicole Yershon, (Founder NY Collective & LabForHire&Co, and ex-Director, Innovative Solutions, Ogilvy).
If you are coming to our event, see you there, if not, then get in touch and we’ll try and fit you in. Or if you can’t make it, look out for further posts on emerging technologies as we are currently speaking with four major brands on projects that will end ‘2018: a Tech. Odyssey’ with a bang, so watch this space.
Oh and in all the excitement I forgot to mention that Microsoft have recognised our ambition and attitude by asking us to join their Partner Council. We are, I believe, the first and only agency on it, so more exciting times are sure to come in 2019 for us and any clients wanting to transform their brands in readiness for the future which is heading our way fast.