A view from Lir Cowman

Tech viewpoint on the role of developers

The brand/agency relationship can be a complicated thing.

Mutual understanding, trust and a little deference have kept the ad industry’s cogs turning for decades to create a vibrant and productive ecosystem of ideas. Now, with a multitude of digital platforms at our audience’s fingertips and a broader spectrum of advertiser needs, developers have taken a vital role in bridging the gap between brand ambitions and the ever-growing, ever-changing digital landscape.

This relationship is young, however, and its future success relies on establishing some new ways of thinking about the work we create together.

First, marketers must include tech experts in the earlier stages of the creative process. Currently, companies such as Potato are contacted once the creative is approved with a simple brief: "Build this." What this means in practice is that there are normally unresolved gaps or missed opportunities.

Early input from developers will help marketers and their agencies arrive at a solution that is as efficient to build as it is to use, saving time, money and an end-user headache.

Early input from developers will help marketers and their agencies arrive at a solution that is efficient

In a rapidly evolving digital world, the art of building a great app is to consider future needs – especially the unknowable ones. At Potato, we give our work agility and scalability by using code as Lego blocks: while every complete project is a bespoke piece of work, elements of it are created with modular components of code. You can’t tell what’s coming next, but it will generally be a bit simpler and more efficient to change one or many modules than to rebuild the whole product. Plus, when we release modules to the open-source community, they live independently – they change and take advantage of trends as they emerge, allowing you to reintegrate the newest version of the module gracefully.

Marketers needn’t be seasoned coders to enjoy a successful relationship with developers. You will need a logical – and somewhat open – mind and to work closely with tech experts as early as possible. Developer teams who are as well-versed in creative concepts as their code will yield innovation and efficiency in spades, making for an end product that is all the stronger for it.

That said, getting your head around some of the basic terms won’t hurt, as any development project will expose you to a world of terminology that will help you better communicate what you need (knowing your back-end from your front-end is as important in tech as in real life). The key is just to ask and be prepared to learn a lot.

Lir Cowman is the head of production at Potato.