How many creatives with real understanding for deep learning, marketing automation technology and predictive analytics do you know? The question is not ours but Thomas Hirschmann’s, CEO and founder of Behavioural Economy, a behaviourally informed digital transformation consultancy based in London (full bio below).
According to Hirschmann, we are starting to experience a “new renaissance in which we will need mindful people that can think across domains, pool knowledge from various areas of experience and meaningfully integrate and apply that knowledge to create new solutions that manifests in client value”. In this interview, we asked the digital insights expert about the main difficulties of merging technology and creativity, how agencies are integrating different technologies into services offered to clients, and the role of social data, among other issues.
Hirschmann is critical of the traditional agency model, which for him is broken. In his vision, the classic consultancies will have an advantage when trying to take over marketing agency scope “because of their better understanding of the commercial realities and needs of clients, their generally more effective way of working, and their generally better understanding of technology and industry contexts”. But, how can agencies position themselves in a smarter way to convince clients of the actual value they bring to the table? Keep reading…
Question. The market demands a change of attitude on the part of the agencies, which are playing a more strategic role supporting the long-term revenue goals of a company. How does that change of attitude, moving from service provider to solution advisor, work in practice day to day? How are the agencies facing this new paradigm?
Answer. In my humble opinion it doesn’t. Large agencies have evolved in the classic way of big organisations in the marketing and ad industry, namely by specialisation and scale. They themselves have tried to catch up with new technologies rather by “buying into” them than actually by embracing and adopting them at business model level, which would have led to digital transformation on their part.
This opens up new space for “actual” transformation agencies, agencies that are aware and know what it takes to change an organisation around and make it fit for the new era of data- and tech-driven peer-to-peer interactions. Everything that stands in the way of speed, efficiency and effectiveness will be wiped out. Everything that does not add tangible customer value combined with a pleasurable, digital / mobile experience will be left behind.
We live in an era of fast-paced change. If you think, with Uber, AirBnB, Amazon and Netflix you have seen all there is in terms of digitisation, you are mistaken. Big change is ahead. And it is waiting for no one.
Q. The movements of some huge consultancies expanding in the creative field, gaining more and more ground in marketing, are 'pushing' agencies to offer more integrated technological services. In that sense, what role does social data have in the value that agencies bring to their clients?
A. The traditional agency model is broken. It has been broken for a while. Agencies have tried to move more into the area of data, technology, and - in part - strategy. And consultancies have been trying to expand into these areas as well, especially given that they had already been successfully operating in the strategy space. In a way, classic consultancies will have an advantage when trying to take over marketing agency scope because of their better understanding of the commercial realities and needs of clients, their generally more effective - but not necessarily more efficient - way of working, and their generally better understanding of technology and industry contexts.
This leaves marketing agencies in a difficult situation where they have to carve out new USPs and position themselves in a smarter way to convince clients of the actual value they bring to the table. In my humble opinion this can only be about developing a deeper understanding of human behaviour and hence the capacity to help clients truly connect with their target audience.
Q. The concept of technocreativity, which is not new, has begun to make good advertising sense. What are the main challenges of merging technology with creativity? Do the agencies have technological partners that provide insights about consumers that demand the 360º vision of the consumer?
A. The biggest challenge is the way in which education and also careers have been set-up until now. Everyone has studied a subject in uni and then chosen one career path, that we blindly followed. Trying to get more experience, a promotion, a payrise, yet, but not looking left and right, not integrating knowledge and experience from different domains, not actually learning new skills in other areas and industries than the one you were working in. That means tech people were doing tech things, and creative people were doing their (weird) creative stuff - which in fact sometimes seemed like nothing, almost as if they were all just a bunch of crazy modern day “alchemists”, or if you want to be mean, eloquent and well-educated “bullshit artists”.
Because of the rapid pace of change we are now starting to experience a new renaissance in which we will again need “renaissance men” and “renaissance women”, meaning people that can think across domains, pool knowledge from various areas of experience and meaningfully integrate and apply that knowledge to create new solutions that manifests in client value.
Sounds tricky? It is! How many creatives with real understanding for deep learning, marketing automation technology and predictive analytics do you know? Luckily, some people are able to start and build bridges. Everyone else needs to learn - and learn fast!
Q. ‘Technocreativity is about bringing value to consumers through invisible technologies, that support and amplify innovative ideas but do not outshine them’. How are agencies integrating different technologies, with different objectives, into services offered to clients?
A. I like the idea to develop new value through “invisible” technologies that support and amplify innovative ideas, but don’t outshine them. In my view that means that the actual creative insight into how we can help people in their daily lives with their day to day needs has to take the lead - and technology needs to do what it does best: work!
Any use of technology for technology’s sake is pure show-off at best, and wasted energy or a nuisance at worst. I am definitely not a luddite, but I am surrounded and sometimes feel trapped in too much technology every day. If technology could do one thing better, than it would be to be more human. To understand and support us in what we are at our core: fragile, loving, hoping and feeling, human beings, that want to connect and experience the world in the most natural way possible. This is why I focus all my behavioural analytics activities more and more onto finding these truly human patterns in data, rather than just describing meaningless consumption trends.
Thomas Hirschmann is a serial entrepreneur who has set up several ventures in the digital space, including Evonovation, an evolutionarily informed innovation business, Herrandmister, an innovation identity company and Xynesis, a management consulting company, before embarking on his current digital analytics and insights ventures with Braingraph and Behavioural Economy (web under construction).
Hirschmann has a law and psychology background, is passionate not just about data but about anything innovative within the digital space and is always up to go the extra mile for an innovative project. In his employed career he has been working as an account director in the biggest private social media agency, as a digital insights director at one of UK’s biggest media agencies and as head of insights for a digital consulting agency in the private equity world.
Hirschmann has been teaching law to first year students at University of Bayreuth, digital innovation and social media to students at Technical University of Ingolstadt, communication psychology and creativity to Swiss students at the HTW Chur as well as Predictive Analytics & Big Data and Finance, Technology & Risk Management at Pearson College London. His academic interests lie in the area of communication, creativity, digital innovation, resilience, neuroscience and evolutionary biology and psychology where he has published several articles.