Opinion: Top three mistakes brands & creative make with new tech

Austin Powers, Weber Shandwick's creative director and technologist based in Hong Kong, says getting familiar with any new tech is the key to getting the best out of it

Austin Powers
Austin Powers

1) New tech for new tech's sake

This is a big one, and it’s the one I find people most often guilty of. It’s an attitude of "We know it’s new. We know it’s cool. We know it will drive a buzz just because it is what it is, so using it matters more than how we use it, right?"

It is true that people will be more interested in mediocre content that is presented in a new and exciting way than they will be about mediocre content that is presented in a familiar way. But that doesn’t mean much of anything, because ultimately no one really cares about mediocre content.

Like any other content, the mediums, tools, and platforms chosen to create and present the work have to make sense for the narrative - which is in turn driven by the brand and the audience.

If the technology used doesn’t make sense for the narrative, then it shouldn’t be used. Period.

2) Underestimating the technology

This is almost the opposite of number one – often people take too long to get on board with a new technology, hemming and hawing over whether or not they should invest in developing work in creative tech - both from the client and agency side.

That’s a self-defeating frame of mind. All these companies are doing is making themselves late for curtain call, allowing themselves to be outpaced by other companies that realise the value and need to work in these spaces. This is part of what separates the leaders from the followers.

The same was true for adoption of mobile device marketing. Some companies were eager and ready to take advantage of this new platform - shortly after, many companies had to play catch-up. It’s the same for technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, and the much-hyped Internet of Things.

3) Not hiring the right team

This is a consistent problem and it’s honestly probably the hardest to navigate. It’s pretty hard to tell who does and doesn’t know what they’re doing without having a background in it yourself or relying on someone you trust and who knows what they’re talking about.

For example, it’s easy to assume that great film directors will make great virtual reality directors - and in some cases they will (Chris Milk’s Clouds Over Sidra was nothing short of profound and inspiring!). As a blanket statement, however, it does not hold true. Many of the techniques heavily relied on in filmmaking simply do not translate into virtual reality.

Do your background research on the partner you choose, check out their recent work, and speak to current or former clients.

The key to making new creative technologies work for you?

Play with it! Seriously. The first step is experiencing it as much as possible. Knowing what it feels like, what it looks like, and getting a sense of how it works. And experiencing as many things as possible!

Take a trip to CES and play with every single gadget on the floor. Then your mind can start running with ideas of how to use these new things and combine them or tell stories through them in new and exciting ways.

The biggest challenge many people will face is the investment. It’s not cheap to work with new technology - it breaks easily, it can be expensive, and you need highly skilled people to work with it.

But it’s a very important investment to make. Whether it’s for a proof of concept you need so your client will believe that you’re capable of creating what you say you can create, or whether it’s because you need a better understanding of how the medium feels so you can most effectively use it to tell a story to the audience.

Testing and experimentation is of utmost importance, and it’s frequently bypassed because it’s expensive. But if you look at the companies creating the most powerful work with creative tech, you’ll find they all have something in common - a solid research and development team.

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