By David O’Loughlin, Business SA Deputy Chair and kwpx Chief Executive
I like space. Not personal space – I’ve had enough of that recently thanks to COVID – but deep space, I love.
The images NASA publishes. The theories of physicists grappling with black holes and dark matter. The complexity of what’s out there, and the way in which humans steadfastly work through tedious data to reveal powerful new insights into our existence in the ever-expanding universe. I love it.
But then along comes astronomer royal Martin Rees and his book On the Future: Prospects for Humanity bringing me back to Earth.
Among many brilliant insights, one stood out. Rees writes that for thousands of years humans have been able to predict. – with a degree of precision – solar and lunar eclipses. But despite our advances in science and technology we still cannot predict whether cloud cover will stop us from being able to see an eclipse on the day.
Rees’ point is that things get simpler and more predictable the further away from Earth you get and that this planet and its biology is by far the most complex system known to mankind.
I still love space, but as a strategist and CEO of a marketing company who has monitored, attempted to predict, and even change human behaviour over the past 30 years, I can confirm: predictable this world is not.
And yet the machines are trying. Big tech and media companies are using complex maths to try and simplify the world and everyone in it into predictable groups with standard behaviours and easily identifiable consumer patterns.
I’m not going to hide the fact our business has a couple of brilliant staff who dedicate their day to working with Google’s 70+ Million “signals” it tracks and traces on your internet usage to try and put the most relevant products in front of you at the most opportune time. It’s incredible what we can do today with technology, but it’s far from perfect.
At the world’s most famous and influential festival of advertising in Cannes this year, three “effectiveness in advertising” gurus got on stage and announced that marketing – en masse – was failing to connect and influence people.