Technology cannot win the battle for hearts and minds
A view from Sue Unerman

Technology cannot win the battle for hearts and minds

I was struck by a comment on Radio 4's Hidden Histories Of The Information Age: "The weakness of modern strategy is that it is too reliant on technology - the triumph of accuracy of outputs with no impact on outcomes."

There are often questions about how programmatic will transform advertising. Clearly, one benefit of programmatic is pinpoint accuracy and the reduction of wastage. But, when we consider how it will transform strategy overall, we should examine the impact of GPS technology on military strategy as a related world.

I love GPS. My relationship with it did get off to a rocky start as I tended to take the bossy voice of the navigator too literally and was directed across a river in full flood in Cornwall once. Common sense prevailed but it was a disappointment. I wouldn’t be without it now and, thanks to Google Maps on my phone,I can rely on not getting lost anywhere I go.

Soldiers used to have to find their way around using a map and compass before the first satellite-navigation system, Transit, was developed by the US Navy in the early 60s. The development of GPS came about on Labor Day weekend in 1973 when a group of military officers met at the Pentagon to discuss the creation of a Defense Navigation Satellite System. It was at this meeting that "the real synthesis that became GPS was created".

But it is President Ronald Reagan who we must thank for its everyday use in stopping us losing our way. For years, the system was restricted to military use but, after the tragic incident when the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 carrying 269 people was shot down in 1983 as it strayed into the USSR’s prohibited airspace, President Reagan issued a directive making GPS freely available for civilian use – once it was sufficiently developed – as a common good.

Tech has improved the accuracy of targeting but has done nothing to improve the persuasion of opponents

It is still, of course, used in military circumstances and, as we know from the current series of Homeland, aids the accurate deployment of military drone aircraft.

So technology has massively improved the accuracy of targeting. But, as the comment opening this blog points out, it has done nothing to improve the persuasion of opponents to a different point of view.

What is the objective of military strategy? Usually, it is a good peace. More accurate missiles are clearly a great thing in the short term. Winning only comes about if we convince the opponent to a different point of view.

Convincing the potential consumer of a brand of our point of view is, of course, a major part of advertising strategy. More accurate targeting via programmatic is a good thing. But it is only important if we can persuade the consumer of a brand’s point of view at the same time.

Sue Unerman is the chief strategy officer at MediaCom @SueU