Goafest 2018: In an increasingly technical world, you have to become more human, says Dean Donaldson of Kaleidoko

A visionary and initiator, Donaldson is a staunch believer in change and helps brands around the world navigate its inevitability. He spoke to BestMediaInfo.com about why ad agencies need to re-invent themselves and why instead of focusing on the flip side of technology, it is important to look at the bright side.

Anybody who has read their fair share of science fiction or binged-watched shows like Netflix’s Black Mirror is bound to be a little wary of technology. As Dean Donaldson, Co-founder & Director, Kaleidoko, rightly mentioned, science fiction movies and shows have largely only depicted the bad side of technology and that is where Dean and his Partner Jonathan Tavss come into the picture. The duo endeavour to dispel the myth surrounding technology and predict what the future holds.

In their session at Goafest 2018, Tavss and Donaldson argued for and against technology and talked about why people need not be worried about technology taking over humanity.

With BestMediaInfo.com, Donaldson spoke about Kaleidoko and what they do, why the storm surrounding digital will get worse before it settles down and why it is important to be more human in an increasingly technical world.


To begin with, can you tell me a little about Kaleidoko and what you do?

We are a change agency. What we try to do is help clients understand the future and the speed of change and help them go back and apply the same in their own companies and situations. We help them figure out how to tell the story about being an innovative and exciting company. A lot of companies don’t do that, they have an innovation lab in a corner somewhere. We also have a branding background and therefore, we help match brands with innovative thinking. Companies need to be prepared for both – telling a story and having the organisation set up for change.

The talk that you gave on Genomedia and its potential was really interesting. How do you think brands can leverage Genomedia to communicate better and reach their audience?

The problem with advertising is that, as it has been said before, “half of advertising is wasted but we don’t know which half” and we have been trying to fix this problem for a very long time. Today, we are closer to solving the problem than we have ever been because of digital media. But we haven’t come far enough because the promise of digital media has ended up with a lot of reactions, assumptions and silos. As a consequence, the data that I need as an advertiser and the data that I have as a consumer is as equally disconnected now as they ever were. So, while we win awards and pat our backs about using technology, the truth is, it is still as disconnected for consumers as it was 120 years ago.

Now, this is the problem but how do we solve it? It is quite simple, combine digital and traditional. If we could take a model like the loyalty model where weembrace consumers and say that we are not just going to reward advertisers but also reward consumers with a loyalty programme and marry that with all these amazing technologies, we could give a lot more value to consumers. Then, when we start moving in to the stage where data gets far more personal, one can eventually set up a model or framework that grows and develops with the consumers and I believe that is going to be a changing point in the industry. We have to realise that we have missed something fundamental but it has a very easy fix. Rather than assuming the implicit we have to start asking for explicit consent. But my fear is we will be too slow to take it up and blockchain will be here before we do it and blockchain will force the issue anyway.

Call me a pessimist but every coin has two sides. So, what do you think are going to be the pitfalls of technology a few years down the line?

Every science fiction film focuses on the negative side of technology but the problem is we can’t really understand the degree of change. When the internet was developed, nobody thought of YouTube or Facebook. There are a lot of things that we can get wrong when you look ahead in the future. In such a scenario what one tries to do is take a broader look in terms of the culture shifts and trends. Everything has a flip side. We invented fire and it has the potential to burn down houses but we learned to control it. Similarly, every new innovation has the potential to be great or be terrible. So, what we have to do is come up with moral and ethical safeguards and check points. The world that we are moving into is going to become incredibly more technologically driven and in an increasingly technical world you have to become more human.

Digital has been in the eye of the storm for a while now. With problems like ad fraud and brand safety coming to the fore and big players like P&G cutting their digital spends by millions, what do you think brands can do to ensure brand safety?

I think the situation is going to get a lot scarier before we tide over this. Today, you cannot trust what you read in a newspaper, you can no longer even trust videos. People are now making fake videos because technology is very advanced today thanks to CGI and AI. From a brand safety issue, that is a big challenge. What brands can do is dig into their core value and align themselves with that, which will help them connect with their consumers better. On the technological front we are seeing a whole new range of companies working towards identifying fraud. So we have these pre-qualifications now.

Do you think traditional ad agencies, as they are now, are becoming obsolete? Is there a need for them to re-invent themselves?

I have a very personal story about that. When I was 18, I was looking for a design job and I got into an agency. Within a year, half the designers were sacked and they replaced them with Apple Macs and we were all out there looking for jobs. I, as a junior designer, was now competing with award-winning senior designers because we had this belief that Apple Macs were going to come in and change the world. The designs looked rather terrible for the first few years. It took us some time to get our heads around it, embrace the same and change it. We have been through that and every industry has been through these changes before and we will change again. Computers have helped simplify a lot of jobs and AI will do exactly that. Is it going to affect people? Yes. But is that a bad thing? Not really. I believe it is going to do away with all the rubbish jobs. There are going to be challenges but I would rather an agency spend their time pondering these challenges than cut out pictures on Photoshop. We need to find a way to use people’s time and talent in a more effective way.

In all these years and out of all the innovations that have come out, which is your favourite one?

It has to be the mobile phone. I can’t even imagine where I would be without my phone today. I don’t know why we even call it a phone any more, it should be called a mini super computer or something. But what excites me is the future. We went from desktops to laptops to phones and each new innovation just got better and better. This isn’t the end and I am excited about that next game changing technology.

Tavss then came to a very important aspect of the next wave, i.e. genetics. The study of genetics will help brands to come further closer to the consumers. Brands can have a better understanding of people’s behaviour if they also study consumers’ genetics behaviour. Therefore, after social media, it would be geno-media.

“Through the understanding of genetics, brands can have a targeted advertising. In fact, India is one of the biggest spenders on the study of genetics,” concluded Donaldson.

As first appeared in Best Media Info.

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