Tech futurist Tim Frank Andersen traveled from Denmark to share predictions with Signal Theory employees and clients.
When Signal Theory co-CEOs Ali Mahaffy and John January traveled to Iceland for the Advertising & Marketing Network (AMIN) Global Conference, they brought a special souvenir back to the agency’s employees and clients. Not the usual snow globe or kitschy key chain, but the promise of a personal visit from tech futurist Tim Frank Andersen.
“We found him so inspiring we invited him to Signal Theory to share his presentation, ‘The Digital Explosion: Opportunities and Challenges,’” said Ali, who also serves as the president of AMIN Americas.
Signal Theory Meets the Future of Technology
Though Tim didn’t hitch a ride in the duo’s carry-on luggage, he did make it to the Midwest in September, taking the stage in Signal Theory’s Kansas City office on a sunny fall morning. More than 100 Signal Theory staff and clients gathered in person and online, ready to meet the future.
The COVID Effect
Tim talked about the rapid advancement in technology as the world raced to convert from an in-person to work-from-home environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the world accomplished two years’ worth of digital transformation in just two months. Even as the world edges back toward normalcy, some pandemic ways are here to stay, such as ordering groceries online.
“I think it’s because a lot of people, especially elderly people, were forced into shutdown and they learned ordering groceries is actually pretty convenient,” said Tim. He noted the live shopping trend, quickly growing in popularity in Asia, will extend that convenience as it becomes more widely adopted.
“The idea is that you could sit at home and somebody in the store that you talk to directly through video and you ask questions like you were in the store, and you can purchase items directly.”
Indeed, Signal Theory’s FoodThink initiative found a positive correlation between COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and online activity for clients throughout the foodways system. This activity led us to encourage clients to keep barriers low, remain accessible and help consumers research products and availability.
Enhancement, Efficiency and Implications
Tim showed the group examples of new digital technologies and talked about their implications, including the opportunity for the metaverse to help people become more connected while at the same time presenting a risk to some users in the form of isolation and addiction. The prediction left Samantha Scantlebury, brand strategy director at Signal Theory, wondering about the metaverse’s impact on marketing.
“How can we harness these great new technologies to enhance our jobs, bring efficiencies to our clients and just do overall greater work,” she mused after the presentation. “How do marketers engage in real and authentic ways? How can we be smart and ethical marketing professionals in that space to try to do social good with it?”
The group also came away with conflicted thoughts following Tim’s demonstration of text and images created by artificial intelligence. Lexi Glassman, account supervisor, saw the positives. “There’s a lot of biosecurity surrounding livestock operations so being able to utilize that tool, where you can type in certain prompts and create photography, is just an overall safer way for us to be able to have more variety in the imagery that we’re able to use.”
She also saw an opportunity to use artificial intelligence to create images missed during photo shoots. “I think it would be really amazing to use in the future.”
Clients, too, saw the possibilities. Attendees from Faultless Brands told us they couldn’t write down ideas fast enough. Another shared that he found the presentation highly engaging, with digital insights he would have regretted missing out on. A third summed it up for all of us: “My mind is blown.”
While AI presents solutions, Tim pointed out those solutions can also create problems. Madeline Harris, senior media manager, has seen that in her work already as data regulations shift.
“We’re obviously using data partners to find the right audience online to serve our clients’ message,” she said. “But in a lot of areas that’s not possible because of the regulations. People don’t want to have that data controlled by other companies.”
Questions About the Future of Marketing
Tim promised to leave attendees with more questions than answers. He definitely succeeded.
“My mind is going so many different ways,” said Lathi de Silva, managing director of Signal Theory’s Wichita office and public relations director. Her key takeaway was the concept of digital trust.
“To be a digital trust leader you really need to think about the consequences of what you are recommending,” she said. “How is that going to show up? How is that going to be interpreted?”
Beth Wickerson, associate innovation director, wasn’t surprised by Tim’s predictions. She’s been thinking about them for a while.
“I’m glad to see it discussed on an agency-wide level with not only the people we work with every day, but our clients as well,” she said. Beth agrees with Tim’s prediction that marketers in creative roles will have to adapt, becoming curators who use technology as a tool to make their work better or gain inspiration.
“How will people not currently in the industry keep up with the pace of technological change?”
Katherina London, UI/UX designer, saw some discomfort among many in the audience. “Copywriters, designers, art directors, photographers and videographers – all of our jobs are evolving,” she observed. “As a UX designer, I’m constantly having to educate myself and keep up-to-date with technology. How will people not currently in the industry keep up with the pace of technological change?”
Tim’s presentation brought that point home for Lexi. “I greatly appreciate being able to have an opportunity like this to take time from the workday to learn about something you might not be thinking about on a daily basis,” she said. “To be given the time to learn and look toward the future and be able to see how that can be applied in our clients’ world is very exciting.”
For Lathi, it all boils down to balance. “There can be an algorithm that spits something out, but I think it’s always going to require the human direction.”
How we do that is the question all of us will be considering in our future work.
Marketing’s Digital Transformation
We asked Signal Theory Innovation and Technology Director Elijah Kleinsmith to try the AI technology Tim demonstrated. See the results and Elijah’s article “Three Tech Predictions That Will Shake Up Advertising (Sooner Than You Think)” for more insight into marketing’s digital transformation and Signal Theory’s work in the tech space.
About Tim Frank Andersen
Tim Frank Andersen has 25+ years of experience in the tech and digital scene. He founded his first digital agency in 1995, before digital marketing was common. Now the co-founder and CEO at Liveshopper.net, his past tech predictions have been a precursor to digital innovations such as augmented reality (AR) and live streaming e-commerce. He has worked with several international brands, including Nike, Pandora, Kellogg’s and Unilever.
You can learn more about Tim Frank Andersen at TimFrankAndersen.com.