By Jane Hovey Head of Planning  As a child back in the day I remember complaining to my dad that a simple program I had written on th...

Should I hire a robot for my Strategy Department?

By Jane Hovey Head of Planning 

As a child back in the day I remember complaining to my dad that a simple program I had written on the ZX Spectrum displayed red instead of my favourite 80’s shade of magenta. Rather than sharing my frustration he simply pointed out that it was my very human error. This years APG conference was excellent and thought provoking as always but speakers seemed to treat robots (and tech) like something sent down from Mars HG Wells style, not something we can be involved in creating, programming or developing.
The conference designed to spark debate occasionally felt schizophrenic with Steve Hilton’s opposition to smart phones for himself and his kids seeming at odds with his and his wife’s successful tech careers. What excited me most (like many) was Russell Davis centaur chess analogy touching on the need for robots and strategists or organizations and tech to find better ways of working together. Tech can be bad for people — the effect on children building relationships is a good example but it can also be marvelous — connecting communities making people feel less isolated, freeing time and highlighting social issues. Occasionally the APG can feel like the ad industry playing catch up seeing technology as something to do battle with, something ‘other’.
From exploring how to garner big brand insights from social listening or how to look at brands using IBM Watson planners need to embrace technology now. But we also need to start thinking about what we as a planning community need. What are the problems humans need help to solve. As good planners we need to stay ‘curious’ about new developments knowing how to use them to add the magic. Taking insights and data, inspiration from art, observed human behaviour and a good dollop of imagination to take strategic leaps might not be something robots can do in my lifetime but they might help us get to better solutions. As a consumer I don’t like buying washing powder so I am not scared of bots choosing it but in other categories I care a lot and will always be involved. So in the same vain I need to work out what I want tech to do for me and what needs human involvement.
Embracing tech could mean one day having a robot in the team. A robot now could take some of the guesswork out, to focus on some of the detail that is occasionally lost, to optimize and find new inspiration…to make connections and point out when the obvious is being suggested to look at the wider communications landscape, nuanced influences and more detailed customer journeys. In the future planning could use robots to mimic the consumer so we understand audiences needs better or to look at how a brands personality would play out if made into a sentient being — how cool would that be…
I would be happy to have a robot in the team if we worked with them collaboratively. Helping the agency be braver, more creative and solve clients business problems like all the planners I hire.

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