November 30, 2018

ZEITLINES | 11.30.18

Another week full of fascinating stuff! This volume is all about technology shaping our world as Chief Creative Officer Bob Makinson makes his Zeitlines debut, talking about the battle between AI and human empathy. As well, CEO Beverley Hammond lays the brickwork for buildings that...grow?! We also do a flashback from one of our first volumes, diving into how the online-dating app geniuses at Tinder are innovating on top of their innovations.

The Death of the Human Empathy

Bob Makinson, Chief Creative Officer

As we close 2018 there is more and more discussion around what the trends were and how they will evolve for 2019. As a creative that prides himself on human observation, I am left feeling slightly uncomfortable with the current state of trend forecasting. Thankfully I am not the only one.

Big brands are relying on big data to detect market trends, analyze audiences and track brand perception. But there is some push back, particularly from young people. Last week at the Dubai Design Week 2018 global grad show, one theme covered was ”Belief in AI”. American author and designer Brendan McGetrick opened the show with a quote from visionary architect Cedric Price - ”Technology is the answer, but what was the question?” Regarding how young people feel about AI, McGetrick explains, “I would say that they’re critical of it. Some of them are trying to figure out how AI can be used in an interesting and health-driven way. I think most people have this very lazy assumption that every young person is just loving technology—this is obviously not true. Many of them are saying, ‘Can we please just press pause on all this stuff and open up some space where we don’t have information and technology dictating everything?’”

At a recent Republic company retreat we discussed our path to Extraordinary Stories and how we find them, free them and be them. There is a connective thread to get there but empathy is where it all begins. This made me think of how AI will figure into that, and shit got even stranger. Apparently, we are way past Narrow AI (sometimes referred to as Weak AI) and as marketers we should realign our focus on AE - Artificial Empathy.

Welcome to Westworld.

Although the development of AE is geared toward companion robots that detect and react to human emotions I can’t help but wonder how this applies to marketing and content creation. Firms like Affectiva, Emotient, Realeyes and Sension are working towards computers being able to recognize these emotions and apply them to task based functions. Rana el Kaliouby, founder of Affectiva, told Raffi Khatchadourian of The New Yorker, “I think that, ten years down the line, we won’t remember what it was like when we couldn’t just frown at our device, and our device would say, ‘Oh, you didn’t like that, did you?’”

Tom Shapiro, CEO of Stratabeat states that “Companies that invest in emotion recognition technology can gain a critical competitive advantage. The technology can provide marketers with emotion analytics and insights to improve their marketing messaging, creative, and execution, as well as to optimize digital campaigns, content and sites.”

Throughout my career my most successful creative got into the head of the end user of whatever our teams were making. I know that “fighting the future” will lead to failure but Artificial Empathy feels, um, artificial. I pin my hopes on the Gucci-loving youth who are still questioning whether Baby X is their friend. Perhaps I am naïve, but I don’t believe Gucci designer Alessandro Michele relied on AE when he sent models down the runway carrying their own severed heads. As Vice’s Garage Magazine reported, Gucci wrote on Twitter, “The show was staged in an eerie, cool blue operating room setting, which “reflects the work of a designer—the act of cutting, splicing and reconstructing materials and fabrics to create a new personality and identity with them…That’s how social media works, too: piecing together the ideas and images of others into something that’s somehow interpreted as “you.” Like putting a decapitated head on the runway, it's gruesome and morose—but also really cool.”

Click here to learn more about our CCO, Bob.

Could This Be A Growing Trend?

Beverley Hammond, CEO

Our friends at CBInsights have once again unearthed something so wacky it simply HAS to be true, and I’m once again ripping it off. File this one under “who really thinks of this s#*t?” - a patent application from Microsoft for a “Continuously Growing Physical Structure”.

Yes, it is exactly as it sounds - a growing structure. A building that grows like an organism to accommodate the need for more space.

According to Microsoft’s patent application, the technology could be used for anything from warehouses to office buildings to data centre to private homes. Apparently, an algorithm picks up changes in the business model or the geography associated with the space, and the building grows faster or slower in line with the decline or rise in the new-use need and the variables surrounding it.

Well, as crazy as it seems, I for one LOVE this idea. We are currently increasing in size here at Republic and as we meticulously space-plan to efficiently use every inch of our office in the short term before we need to start afresh and plan an entirely new space – all of which involves an investment of capital and human resources - this is a highly relevant and certainly appealing idea.

Were this available today our creative department would be organically sprouting a new studio to accommodate the exciting work we are doing for our amazing client BILD GTA.

This gives a whole new meaning to the term “a living wall”.

The Theory of Supply and Demand Dating

Beverley Hammond, CEO

Once upon a time when this blog was called The Week In Big Ideas we contemplated the crazy, money-making machine that is the online dating industry and the variety of options available to those looking for love, regardless of station or orientation.

Earlier this month, industry behemoth Match Group (NASDAQ:MTCH),  the parent company of popular dating apps Match, Tinder, Plenty of Fish and among others, announced third quarter earnings of $444m and a 23% increase in total subscriptions year over year. With these kinds of numbers it’s not surprising that Facebook is getting into the game.  No small threat to the existing players.

It's a business model based entirely in the fundamentals of supply and demand, and apparently there is a lot of demand. So Tinder  - an innovator in the space - has introduced “Swipe Surge” a feature that notifies members about spikes in activity in a geographic region.

Users can opt into the surge and if they do, they engage in real-time matchmaking (no waiting to find out if their swipe is accepted) and their profiles are pushed to the front of the line for users in the area. Wired points out that it's a gamification of sorts that serves to keep people on the app longer by ensuring there are enough users swiping at the same time.

According to the company, Swipe Surge increases Tinder activity within the applicable geographic area by a multiple of 15 and can mean a potential increase of matches of 250%.

Perhaps the most surprising part of this story is that early data shows most surges happen on Monday nights. Hmmm…no wonder those Monday Night Football ratings are falling?


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