Just like Sterling Cooper & Partners installed their computer in a prominent space, current-day agencies are reconfiguring how they work to embrace the technology and data-driven world. As much as I enjoyed the parallel between late-60s advertising and now, it struck me that the era of change we are living through is markedly more exciting than then.
Tech in 2014 is staggeringly powerful and accessible: processing speeds are more than 3,500 times greater than in 1970. Moreover, the potential of SC&P’s computer is controlled by the few who know how to operate it (kicking out creative to make room for it is a nice metaphor). Jump to today, when technology seeks to be collaborative and intuitive, and when agencies are encouraging their people to bring tech and data into every department, both at the strategic and delivery ends of the process.
At Mindshare’s Huddle event, this democratisation of technology was everywhere. Out of 200 "Huddles", more than half had tech and data as their start point. Many were looking at the opportunities for tech disruption across all media and saw everyone – from planners to data scientists, strategists to buyers – experimenting with tech that will allow us to create new brand experiences. I particularly love the variety of access points to technology on offer: in virtual reality alone, we had the glitz and gadgetry of Oculus Rift and the DIY approach of Google Cardboard.
In Mad Men, tech shuts the ideas people out, but everyone at Huddle was clamouring to access it
In Mad Men, technology shuts the ideas people out, but everyone at Huddle – clients, media partners, start-ups, tech engineers and people from every department of the agency – was clamouring to access it. And it showed anyone can have a tech idea and work to make it happen.
So many of the Huddles had doing good at their heart, with mini-hacks on a range of issues close to Huddlers and the brands we represent, including collaborations we will make reality. For example, a hack including people from Mindshare, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Talent Cupboard designed an app to help teenagers take control of their online identities that we are now looking to fund. Perhaps the most exciting output was from the hack bringing together Huddlers and the disability charity Scope with Mick Ebeling from the Cannes Lions Titanium-winner Not Impossible Labs, who collaborated on a plan to reinvent the wheelchair – with brands supporting and taking part in the process.
All this excitement around using tech shows that, while the computer’s arrival at SC&P signalled the beginning of the computer age, it is only now – with everyone in the same room – that our industry is truly embracing tech and its place in our world.
Louise Richardson is the director of marketing at Mindshare UK