Source: Glitschka Studios

Author: Greg Andersen (@gandersen), CEO, BBH New York

In the last couple of weeks I’ve read two specific articles that made me really stop and think about our future as a creative industry. The first was the March 26th New York Times article “In a New Web World, No Application is an Island”. It paints a picture of a silky smooth, boundary-less web full of open and interconnected apps thanks largely to HTML5. The creative palate and resulting experiences made possible by the likes of HTML5 are truly thrilling. The second article was “Nine jobs that humans may lose to robots”. On the list are occupations you’d expect to see left to machines, like soldiers and astronauts. But taking a step back and considering the all the advances in marketing technology I can’t help but wonder if advertising people, including creatives, will be appearing on that list when the article is inevitably written again in a few years time.

To be clear, this isn’t an anti-technology rant. That would be odd on the BBH Labs blog and flies straight into the face of tons of BBH work and investments within the agency. Rather, it is one guy’s view of a potential future brought on by a lot of very well intentioned innovations and advances, marked in my mind by said excitement around HTML5.

On the surface, what HTML5 offers to creativity and brand experiences is nothing short of amazing. Things like immediate video playback and better video tagging and search-ability will help to further accelerate content adoption and open exciting new creative uses of video. It also means that it will be easier to connect specific video content to other related content like articles, photos, data, etc. In short, HTML5 will make for brand experiences that can go both broader and deeper while maintaining a high quality user experience. Done well, these experiences will be good enough to be searched for and sought out…even if they are really just marketing.

Another positive side of HTML5 is its openness; providing the ability to create vastly better experiences on the free range of the web not penned in by walled garden technology companies. But this also means an incredible open flow of MUCH richer user data around preferences and behaviors. In itself, that’s not a big deal. Agencies and marketers and media owners constantly seek out better information to make better things and better decisions. But marketing is now also swamped with new marketing technologies to take advantage of this data. Coupled with tools for behavioral targeting, tools for social media monitoring, tools for conversion optimization, tools for automated bid optimization, tools for CRM marketing automation and tools that make it much easier for rich creative automation… I wonder what the role for us humans really is.

The best brands and their creativity make people both do and feel. To accomplish that we must not lose humanity in marketing creativity regardless of what is possible technologically. Human creativity is a special thing and when applied to brands there is still something oddly reassuring knowing that behind most any piece of brand communication there is a human engaging another human through a discourse of persuasion.

Asimov’s First Law states “a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” Man, I hope he was talking about advertising people.