By Axel Wallrabenstein, Chairman, MSL Germany What is the election result? Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term in yesterday’s German federal election. However, with losses of 8.5% her position is weakened, and this is likely to be her last term as Chancellor. Following their worst result in post-war history (20.5%; -5.2%), the Social Democrats […]
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As Ad Age rolls out its redesign, agency leaders spell out why and how they are reinventing themselves every day.
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For more than 30 years, privacy and data protection experts from more than 70 countries have gathered for the International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners (ICDPPC) to share knowledge and provide leadership on how to balance the free flow of data with protecting consumers’ personal information.
The 39th annual ICDPPC – taking place September 25-29 in Hong Kong – is certain to focus on how observational technologies have improved so dramatically and continue to accelerate. All over the world, connected devices are observing how much we sleep, how much we exercise, how fast we drive, where and when we took our pills, and so forth. Combined with our ability to develop algorithms and write software that analyzes sets of information based on rules, logic and human ethics, technologists may be able to discover new and valuable insights within that data that benefit not only certain people, but society as a whole. What happens, however, when humans are no longer writing the code?
Today, software performs analysis based on criteria typically written by human engineers and data scientists. However, recent advances in machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) support the creation of software that can, with limited or no human intervention, modify its procedures and criteria based on data. Machine learning techniques can often help hone algorithmic analysis and improve results.
However, reduced human direction means that AI can do unexpected things. It also means data protection safeguards need to be crafted to ensure algorithmic decisions are lawful and ethical – a challenge when specific algorithmic criteria may be opaque or not practical to analyze. Increasingly, technologists and policymakers are grappling with hard questions about how machine learning works, how AI technologies can ethically interact with individuals, and how human biases might be reduced or amplified by algorithms that largely think for themselves.
Luckily, the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) recently curated leading research highlighting the privacy challenges posed by artificial intelligence, providing an excellent basis and introduction to the complexity of these issues. Very importantly, the Information Accountability Foundation (IAF) has just published a paper on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics and Enhanced Data Stewardship, clearly outlining the need for ethical foundations that reflect our human values and provide guiding principles and accountability as we embrace these technologies.
On September 25, I will be presenting at an official ICDPPC side event specifically focused on these topics and how to ensure sustainable innovation with effective data protection, co-hosted by the FPF and the IAF. Those attending will hear more on:
- How machine learning and artificial intelligence work
- Why these emerging technologies can support better outcomes for users of online services, patients with mental health conditions, and systems designed to combat bias
- The challenges and implications raised by machine learning and artificial intelligence in the context of efforts to support legal, fair, and just outcomes for individuals
- How these emerging technologies can be ethically employed, particularly in circumstances when artificial intelligence is used to interact with people or make decisions that impact individuals
This will be an excellent opportunity to learn how AI works, why it matters for data protection frameworks, and to discuss the implications of algorithmic systems that interact with people, learn without little or no human intervention, and make decisions that matter to individuals. Together, the experts in this session will explore the application of “legal, fair and just” to AI and ML through examples and focused discussion, not just for the region but for the whole data protection community. Other speakers include:
- Rich Caruana, Senior Researcher, Microsoft
- Stan Crosley, IAF Senior Strategist
- Dr. Andy Chun, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, and Former Chief Information Officer, City University of Hong Kong
- Yeung Zee Kin, Deputy Data Protection Commissioner, Singapore
- Peter Cullen, IAF Executive Strategist
- John Verdi, FPF Vice President of Policy
The event will be held from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. (15:30 – 17:00) in Kowloon Room II (M/F) of the conference venue in Hong Kong. Registration is not required. For more information, please contact John Verdi at firstname.lastname@example.org or Peter Cullen at email@example.com.
Uber says that it will appeal the decision of Transport for London, issued Friday, not to renew its license in the city.
Just an hour after Transport for London, backed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, said it had found that Uber was “not fit and proper” to hold the license after it expires on Sept. 30, Uber retailiated in a statement, saying that “Transport for London and the mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice.”
TfL has today informed Uber that it will not be issued with a private hire operator licence. pic.twitter.com/nlYD0ny2qo
No longer the (perceived) poor cousin in the creative communications stakes, the Asia Pacific region is emerging as a powerhouse of innovative brand work. In the run up to Spikes Asia – the sister Festival of Creativity to Cannes Lions, eurobest and Dubai Lynx – we chat to Festival Director Andrea Hayes, Lydia Lee, our Chief Strategist, China, and Tim Sutton, Chairman of Weber Shandwick EMEA and Asia Pacific, about what to expect in Singapore this year.
Q: Why is Spikes such an important event now?
Andrea: Asia is such a diverse region, and Spikes really demonstrates its richness, raises the creative bar for the region, and showcases its creativity, including new technology and platforms. Agencies and marketers who come to the Festival can also see first-hand that creativity has a value, and can yield a real return on investment in terms of business results. It may not be on the same scale as Cannes yet, but people do really want the accolade of winning a Spike.
Lydia: Asia is the growth momentum engine for the global economy and Asian consumers have real purchasing power, so as a Chinese who has lived all around the world, Spikes is exciting because it brings all the disciplines together and spotlights Asian creativity and innovation. And it’s not just for the marketing community: the Chinese media are starting to pay attention to Spikes as somewhere where they can see how Chinese brands and marketers are performing.
Q: How has the event developed, and what’s new this year?
Andrea: Spikes Asia is nine years old this year and it’s the biggest creativity festival in the region. It’s grown to three full days and this year the respected Tangrams Effectiveness awards and programme are part of the Festival for the first time. Our sister festivals don’t yet have that solid focus on results as well as ideas, so we are leading the field in that respect. We’ve added a fourth stage so we have an expanded programme that will be more inspiring than ever before, including a new Market Focus series that looks at individual markets, from China to India. There are also facilitated Meetup sessions on specific themes, and a Makers Lab where delegates can attend hands-on workshops and come away with practical skills and knowledge to take home and implement with their teams.
Q: How is creativity evolving in the region?
Tim: In the past, there has been a lazy assumption in the West that London and New York were the global creativity centres, but I was based in Asia for eight years and I soon learned just how rich and fertile creativity is in the region. It was a real eye opener. It’s a crazily challenging region, geographically, with so many different cultures, languages and systems of government. This obliges and drives people to think in ways you wouldn’t do in other regions. There’s also the huge appetite of folks in Asia for mobile-led social media engagement. The Chinese market, for instance, has content-to-commerce applications on platforms like WeChat that we simply don’t have in the West. I’m not sure that creative work like our much-accoladed Daughters of Mother India campaign would have happened in any other part of the world.
Lydia: To echo Tim, the region is definitely becoming bolder in terms of ideas, and that, coupled with our traditional Asian focus on detail in execution, is exciting. At the same time, we’re seeing creativity coming from unusual places. We might think that consumer brands carry the creative flag, but in Asia, partly because of that complex NGO, government and market ecosystem, we are seeing smaller companies and social causes embracing creativity and using the power of communications to carry a message that might be region-specific but has a universal humanity.
Andrea: If you look at some of the results from over 50 countries at Cannes this year, Australia is ranked third for awards, with over 100 Lions, India is ninth with 40, and Japan is in tenth place, with 38 Lions. That’s a phenomenal achievement. These countries are not only powerhouses in this region, but have significant impact globally. The top-ranking agency was from Melbourne, and the sixth was from Thailand. Asia is not a backwater of creativity, it’s absolutely bubbling over and starting to have global influence.
Q: What value does attending Spikes have?
Andrea: Our goal is to be the centre of inspiration for those who work in the industry in this region. Spikes brings everyone in this ecosystem together – we don’t have the opportunity very often to meet and talk to people who do similar things to us. People come away from Spikes with new ideas and discoveries. You already know your own work but you don’t know what other people are doing.
Tim: The irony is that the people we’re competing with the whole time are also the most like us. It’s less lonely if we understand how others are dealing with the same issues. Those of us who are privileged enough to attend in person work really hard to feed back to our colleagues around the world about what we have learned from other people’s work, and new ideas and insights.
Lydia: There’s a word in Chinese, qi, which roughly means “force” or “energy”. At Spikes, there is so much creativity, courage and curiosity, and that qi is contagious. Three days of inspiration recharges you, you make connections and breakthroughs and bring back that energy and passion. If we’re not passionate about the brands we communicate for, or their beliefs, we’re probably not doing our best work.
Q: What do you expect to be the main themes of the award-winning campaigns this year?
Lydia: This is a unique region with 200-odd languages, and different cultures and religions. I think we’ll probably see a lot of work that reflects each market’s own wave of creativity and innovation, but with the deep sense of universal humanity I mentioned earlier. Great cases that touch our hearts, with a local flavour, that solve local problems but inspire other markets. We’ll also see work using mobile and new technology to engage consumers in a more experiential way.
Tim: I think we’ll see work that reflects concerns about how organisations can build trust and authenticity in today’s world, as well as brands making political (with a small “p”) comments on controversial themes to reflect their own values.
Andrea: I’d add that the awards are the foundation of the Festival: if we didn’t start with a rigorous and respected process and a neutral jury (we have 98 jurors this year) then they wouldn’t be held in such high esteem.
Q: What are the main themes of this year’s speaker programme?
Andrea: We like to have as broad a range of topics as possible in the speaker programme, rather than one overarching theme, but one of the biggest themes will be effectiveness, since we’ve brought in the Tangrams programmes and awards. As I mentioned, we’ll also be focusing on specific markets for the first time.
Lydia: I’ll be speaking as part of that Market Focus Programme, with a spotlight on China entitled: “Eastern Promise – How China Is Transforming Global Communications”. It’s my attempt to give non-Chinese marketers some cultural, political and historical context to why China is the way it is, to explain the nuances of the Chinese market, the development of its innovative digital, social and e-commerce universe, and why campaign ideas, or copy, or visuals will or won’t work. I’ll also be showing that creativity is possible in China without stepping on red tape!
Q: Any other observations?
Tim: The growing importance of Spikes for the industry reflects shifting geopolitical tectonic plates. Asia has grown in confidence over the past ten years, in terms of its capabilities and engagement with the global picture, and Spikes is a microcosm of those huge forces. I would absolutely back up what Andrea said: there are – perhaps unexpected – hotbeds of creativity across Asia. The European equivalent is the astonishing quality and quantity of creative work that comes out of Sweden. Ten or 12 years ago, the assumption was that the best creative stuff came from London and New York, and the rest of the world followed. Increasingly, Asia isn’t waiting for the West, it’s generating its own original thinking.
You can find details of the Weber Shandwick session featuring Lydia Lee, scheduled noon local time, Wednesday 27 September on the Spotlight Stage, here.
Spikes Asia Festival of Creativity runs from 27-29 September.
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Many people have heard me talk proudly about our tenure here at the agency – in terms of both clients and the people who work here. The duration of our client relationships is often more visible, because we cite it in case studies or cover letters or simply in answer to a question in an RFP.
And we talk about the average tenure for agency leadership across disciplines, but we’ve never really talked specifics. Well, I saw a number the other day that shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. Here it is:
First, a little background. As evidenced by the naming convention of our conference rooms (they bear the names of the people who have worked here the longest, regardless of what job they do), we value longevity, not seniority. It certainly bucks the system of a hierarchical organization, but since we’re intentionally flat, there’s no system to buck.
And when you consider what longevity means to a client – without constant turnover, the people who learn your business stay on your business – it’s well worth the value we place on it.
So it follows that if we value longevity, we should reward longevity. And we do.
When someone reaches their 20th year here, they get three things: a new patch for their agency jacket, a stairwell meeting with the entire agency held in their honor (family members have been known to fly in for it), and $10,000 toward a trip of their choosing.
There have been cruises to Alaska, expeditions to Antarctica, walking tours of Jerusalem, elephant rides in Thailand, an entire week sampling beers on a tour of Trappist monk breweries in Belgium, and – perhaps my favorite – two people who started here on the same day 20 years ago and became best friends recently took their spouses to Italy, so all four of them could celebrate their milestone together.
So, back to the number.
127. That’s the number of 20th anniversaries we’ve celebrated since I began this tradition. And as you can imagine, every year brings more anniversaries to mark.
Last year, there were eight. (1996 must have been a light year for hiring.) This year, there will be 16. And next year? 18.
While I love welcoming current and potential clients at the stairwell and giving them a sense of what it is we’re all about, nothing makes me prouder than gathering everyone together to honor these people – in front of their peers, their friends, their families – who have helped shaped who we are and the work we do.
Admittedly, it’s a more expensive proposition than I ever envisioned. But the benefits of stability, for both the agency and our clients, in an environment where people feel challenged and fulfilled every day for decades? I don’t think you can put a price on that.
Stephen Tompkins and Haruna McWilliams have spent their careers working all over the world. Before joining Essence Singapore as our head of media activation in APAC, Stephen held roles in New York and Beijing. Haruna spent time in the US, UK, and Japan before taking the role of APAC regional strategy lead, a newly-created position here. Together they will help us continue to expand our presence in the Asia-Pacific region, with Stephen overseeing our social, display, and search teams and Haruna further developing our strategy offering there.
They say it’s about the journey, not the destination, but as we continue to forge a new path in APAC, we’re happy Stephen and Haruna have arrived at our Singapore office.
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