PHD on chatting with Sir Tim Berners-Lee: ‘Almost a surreal experience’ | M&M Global

PHD on chatting with Sir Tim Berners-Lee: ‘Almost a surreal experience’

Mike Cooper, global chief executive of PHD, and Mark Holden, the agency’s worldwide strategy and planning director, talked to M&M Global about AI, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and how media and marketing is on the cusp of a communications revolution.

Mike Cooper interview

Unsurprisingly, given the agency’s recent publication of book ‘Sentience: The Coming AI Revolution and the Implications for Marketing’, Cooper talked evangelically about artificial intelligence, while reflecting on getting  Worldwide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee onstage at the Cannes Lions.

“It’s almost a surreal experience,” Cooper said about chatting with Berners-Lee. “Sitting with the guy who developed something that had so much influence all over the world and is arguably the most important communications system the world’s ever seen.

“And he’s a remarkably down to earth individual and I found myself chatting to him about the most mundane things.”

In terms of PHD’s business, the last six months have seen the agency extend its relationship with Unilever globally.

“So we won Unilever’s search business earlier this year,” Cooper said. “It’s always the best kind of win really, more business from an existing client, because it’s an endorsement of the work you’re doing.”

Elsewhere, PHD’s SC Johnson account was bolstered with the addition of the household goods manufacturer’s media buying business.

Here’s the full interview with Cooper:

Meanwhile, Holden noted how the industry’s changing attitude towards data was apparent at Cannes Lions 2015.

“It’s good not just from the point of view of media and targeting and efficiency, it’s starting to be recognised as a creative canvas now,” he said.

“Think about the platforms that we have that can be accessed across multiple devices, that can be tailored at an individual level, with messaging that be sequenced, that can be changed based on even offline behaviours, all happening in real-time. This is a new multi-dynamic, multi-device canvas and it really needs to be explored.

“As a canvas, it has to be grabbed by the creative industries because the big awards of next year and the year after that will be using it in very clever ways.”

Here’s the full interview with Holden:

Looking ahead, Cooper predicts great change driven by AI. “I think it’s likely that in next three to five years that we’ll all have a virtual personal assistant in the developed world. So if you miss your flight home, your VPA will rebook your hotel, your car hire, will inform your loved ones, it will change all your flights; and it will effectively be making decisions on your behalf.

“And that has a real impact for marketing, because that changes the choice of which airline, which car hire company, which taxi company you’re using from a frontal cortex decision in your mind to an algorithmic one, where the algorithm is using other factors that it knows about you to make those decisions.

“Clearly it’s going to be a much more automated world and I think the creative process gets more elevated to a higher-end element of that, so it’s going to be quite profound. I think the artificial intelligence train will run right through our backyard in marketing. I think clients are open to something that’ real, that’s not science fiction.”

He was adamant that PHD’s – and the media industry’s – key to success would be to pursue longer term relationships with clients, rather than pursue pitches.

“There’s a hell of a lot of pitch activity going on at the moment,” Cooper said. “I think it’s one of those times when you have to be focused on what your strategy is because there are an awful lot of temptations that come along in terms of things to pitch for.

“So I think our focus is going to be building business with existing clients over the next 12 months.”

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