We have previously discussed the emerging opportunities and threats presented by automation and artificial intelligence. Make no mistake, they are going to have a profound effect on our industry and society. But all is not lost. As we have previously outlined, the digital strategist is poised to thrive in this age of upheaval, and one of the key roles they will fulfill is the role of the integrator.
The idea of focusing on integrating platforms and channels is not new. In a previous career, I worked in broadcast technology, working for a company that built TV studios. This was an extremely mature industry, but was in the process of being disrupted by digital technology. What stood out to me were the distinct roles played by the various parties. You had the major technology providers who said they could deliver every single item, a claim that no one believed. You had the niche technology providers who manufactured one piece of technology that was the best in the world at the one function it fulfilled. And then you had people like us, the integrators. The integrators understood how these products worked together and could select the right combination of technologies from all the vendors in order to fulfill the client’s objectives, all within their budget. No single technology platform, no matter how big or how dominant could deliver this, and a major reason was the suspicion that the clients always had that the vendor was not making recommendations with their best interests in mind, but simply to sell more products.
Fast forward to today, and I would argue that we face a similar situation. You have the major technology providers, Google, Facebook, Adobe, SAP, Oracle and others. They are all racing to build integrated marketing platforms that provide end to end joined up digital experiences. On paper many of their offerings are extremely impressive, and will continue to be even more so with the emergence of artificial intelligence.
And yet, once you look beyond the hype, what do you notice?
First, how are we to trust any technology platform that is owned by a publisher? My personal favourite idea is an attribution platform that measures media effectiveness and is owned by one of the largest digital publishers out there. Nope. No possible conflict of interest here. Please move along.
The second issue is the idea that as digital innovation is accelerating and money is being poured into the sector, are we really to believe that every function, every task can be done best by a single vendor? The idea stretches the limits of credulity. It’s absurd.
The third issue is the idea that we can trust companies whose main motivation is to sell products rather than solve business problems. Can we really trust them to say to us ‘you know what, for this task we aren’t the best, you should buy the competing product’? I have yet to experience that.
These issues clearly deter us from putting all our eggs in one technology platform. So what is to prevent us from picking and choosing the bits that we like and expect them to work together, especially as the technology gets smarter. I believe we can continue to trust in the greed of technology vendors. It is simply not in their interest to work together. They aren’t built for it. If you don’t believe me, look at the mess of the Maps channel. There is a multitude of technology platforms that provide some type of mapping platform, for example, Google Maps, Apple Maps, Yelp, etc. One of the biggest challenges they have is that they are often populated with inconsistent data across these platforms, creating a bit of a mess and making it difficult for consumers to trust the results. This problem can be easily solved if they were to collaborate and create a standard way for business owners to populate their data in a single place that then syndicates to all the platforms. And yet they resist this, because this isn’t about coming together to create a great user experience, but rather they are motivated to keep their own walled gardens in order to grab whatever competitive advantage they can. And let’s not forget, this is a free platform.
Because of these reasons, the strategist who thinks and acts as an integrator, bridging the digital divides between platforms in the spirit of solving a client’s challenge is going to thrive. They know they can trust us because we aren’t pushing a product, and we are retained based on the outcomes of our recommendations. While it looks like the deck is stacked against us by the technology giants and their automated helpers, the truth is that the easier things are supposed to get, the opposite is true, and they won’t be able to do without us.
Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.