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Interview

GroupM CIO Cary Tilds: 'Innovation is not defensive - this is an offensive game'

29 June 2015
GroupM CIO Cary Tilds: 'Innovation is not defensive - this is an offensive game'

Advertisers must learn to go on the attack with investments in technology and data, rather than assuming “defensive” positions, according to GroupM’s chief innovation officer Cary Tilds.

Speaking to M&M Global, Tilds warned brands hoping to return to “business as normal” conditions that they will be disappointed, given the raft of new technologies emerging on the scene.

Instead, she urged marketers to build a “technology and innovation roadmap”, and work out how they are going to incorporate developments in augmented reality (AR), holographics, connected cars and audio advertising.

“Any change is uncomfortable, and the seeming disruption to business, because when you have disruption, you may have inefficiency to what you’re doing,” said Tilds.

“The issue with looking at it from a disruption perspective is that you’re already putting yourself on your heels in a defensive position. This is not a defensive game; this is an offensive game. You should never think you’re defending your position, you should be learning how your consumers want to connect to your business with the new technologies available.

“That is, of course, going to cost time and resources, but there are so many different ways to learn and test without huge expense. The rigour to do that must end up being part of your norm.”

Known and unknown

Recounting a meeting with Snapchat’s sole representative at the Cannes Lions in 2014, and observing the social network’s sizeable presence only 12 months later, Tilds said advertisers must plan for both known and unknown partners.

“Last year, I was running on the Croisette on the morning and I saw one of the first business development people at Snapchat, with no office or big presence. In a short time I’m seeing huge billboards with a Snapchat logo on it. [Brands must] harness the fact that there are new entrants to the ecosystem,” she said.

“We have consumer roadmaps in our business, and creative roadmaps, but most businesses fail to have technology and innovation roadmaps. I ask every company I come across, and the answer is typically ‘no’.

“We have to be purposeful about partners, and how new entrants fit into those frameworks. That is how brands can manage that chaos which will continue to happen – it will not slow down, it will only get faster.”

Underused opportunities

Tilds said three technologies are particularly exciting her: the rise of AR and holographic capabilities, as demonstrated by Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Microsoft’s HoloLens; the opportunity to connect with consumers while they drive cars in a “safe” and “very personal” way with; and the “underused” opportunities of audio.

She also dismissing the notion we are in a phase of refinement after the invention of online search, social media and digital video: “Are we at a stage of just refining? Absolutely not, and brands that think that is the case should be very concerned.

“If you think about the next devices, they will create new marketplaces and ecosystems we haven’t seen before. Of course, Facebook will be part of that, but others we haven’t yet engaged with at scale will also.”

Alex Brownsell, London

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