Creative people, it's time to get with the platform

Marketing itself is becoming a platform business and, for creatives, technology means anything is possible.

The other day, I sat next to a very successful man. We had a good natter as he’s about to start a creative business. We spoke about the future of creativity, the macro-changes to our world that are going to affect us all. Eventually, I asked him a question about his new venture: have you thought about which platform you’re going to align with? 

He asked me what I meant. The chat that followed is worth unpacking.

If I were starting a creative business today, or growing one, "which platform" would be a key question to answer. When I say "platform", I don’t mean the big tech platforms, such as Google and Facebook. I mean that marketing itself is becoming a platform business.

It’s evident that, some time in the next 10 years, automation will control 70% of all marketing. Technology will:

  1. Recognise in-bound, repeatable systems of marketing
  2. Configure combinations of processes and people
  3. Manage the generation of content and actions
  4. Distribute media with intelligence and personalisation

This will get better over time, as machine learning greases the cogs.

So, marketing will become a platform business, run by as few people as possible. It'll create value in both directions, for its clients and service providers. This is what we at You & Mr Jones call "brandtech". We’re building for it, asking our clients what their needs are and designing a tech infrastructure around them.

All major, global clients will do their marketing on a platform. The idea of doing their marketing with a holding company will die. 

So what does all this mean for us creative folks? Some people tell us that technology is putting creativity at risk. This seems to be predicated on a choice between one or the other. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just because the canvas is changing doesn’t mean it’s less creative – it’s actually getting more so. There are more and bigger opportunities to be creative with technology than we’ve ever had before.

This is a subject dear to my heart. Part of my job sees me nurture creativity on the You & Mr Jones technology platform. I work with all our creatives across the group. We bring together different technologies, people and companies. We set out to transform the way our clients do their marketing.

There are so many reasons for creative entrepreneurs to embrace the tech-driven, marketing platforms rather than fight them. For one thing, the marketing platforms of the future will create a brilliant new business engine by creating organic connections with client businesses at scale. Our recent acquisition of Oliver is partly built on this theory.

It’s time for creative folks to get with the platform. This isn’t the end of the world. It’s the beginning of a better, faster, cheaper one. Gone are the broadcast shackles. Tech is a process, a toolbox and an endless set of opportunities. A world without ads, as envisioned recently by Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer, doesn’t mean creativity is any less important.

A good friend of mine – let’s call him Nils – is fond of quoting Willy Loman, after he gets fired in Death of a Salesman: "I'm not interested in stories about the past or any crap of that kind because the woods are burning, you understand? There's a big blaze going on all around."

I think he likes the quote so much because it's a statement. It makes a point about the collective blindness of the advertising industry. A group that eats itself, navel-gazes and clings to the past. 

As ever, he’s right in many ways. But my reaction to the quote is a little different. When I see the big blaze and the burning woods, my thought is a simple, Tiggerish one: what amazing things can we do with all that charcoal?

George Prest is a founder of Blood and a partner at You & Mr Jones

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