What Digital Transformation Is, And What It Is Not


There is a lot digital transformation taking place in many companies across Australia caused from the COVID pandemic and continued city lockdowns which has forced many business changes.

There are valuable aspects businesses can benefit from when undertaking digital transformation, as well as misconceptions that can waste time and money.

In my experience working with enterprise digital transformation, there can be unrealistic expectations of what such an initiative can and should achieve. Often transformation should be preceded, accompanied or followed by other work that can complement it, such as strategic goal-setting, culture change initiatives and organizational design. 

There are both opportunities and some overhyped aspects of digital transformation, here are three common trends;

How Digital Transformation Affects Existing Processes

Phase 2: Analyze the Existing Business Process - Improving Business  Processes [Book]

A common hurdle I run into working with organizations on digital transformation initiatives is the sheer amount of systems and processes that need to be modified in order to enable success. Add to that the fact that many people are creatures of habit, and it’s no wonder that such a high percentage of transformation initiatives are deemed failures. 

A great digital transformation is designed with a deep understanding of the current processes, why (for better or worse) they exist and the problems that they solve. Only by having a good understanding of the current state of things can we design something better. 

An error I have also seen is allowing current processes and the “status quo” to cloud our ability to think of brand new ideas. As long as you make sure that doesn’t happen, you will be in good shape if you understand why the current state exists and allow you and your team freedom to create a new solution. 

This is not a substitute for implementing organization-wide process improvement initiatives or business process optimization, such as the adoption of agile, lean or combinations of any of the time-tested methodologies. 

How Digital Transformation Affects Existing Company Culture

Frontiers | Understanding Culture Clashes and Catalyzing Change: A Culture  Cycle Approach | Psychology

While successful organizations have understood this for a while, any company undergoing a digital transformation initiative will soon learn that company culture and openness to change is at least as important as the technology strategy used. 

Before you begin the intense work of transforming your organization, you need to get buy-in at all levels. If leadership is not on board with your change initiative, nor are the front-line employees implementing the tactical approach (and anyone in between), there are going to be unnecessary hurdles along the way. 

One way to help with this is to educate and involve your entire organization in parts of the process from the very beginning to make them understand the role they play and to give them frequent updates on both successes and challenges. Make sure you celebrate wins along the way and clearly articulate the metrics of success. 

This is not a substitute for intentionally creating a great company culture. Culture change requires its own set of steps and metrics, but a healthy organizational culture will enable your digital transformation initiative to achieve greater success. 

How Digital Transformation Affects Existing Customer Experiences

7 Examples of Bad Customer Service Experience (And How to Fix Them)

The most visible and arguably the most important aspect of digital transformation is how it changes and ideally improves the customer experience. After all, if you can’t improve the interactions your customers have with your organization, your long-term investment in digital transformation is arguably not worth it. Customers who buy more may buy more often and refer others — this is critical to company growth. 

This is not a substitute for meaningfully understanding and measuring customer experience (CX) in the first place. After all, if you don’t understand what success should look like, how do you expect to reach it?

Instead, make sure that your digital transformation has clear customer experience goals in mind. While operational efficiencies and cost-cutting might also be key performance indicators (KPIs) of your transformation initiative, if you can’t meaningfully improve the performance of your customer experience, you are missing a key component. 

It is important to understand what digital transformation can do in order to be realistic about the outcomes you can achieve. In my experience advising enterprise organizations on digital transformation initiatives, I’ve found that knowing what you can and cannot expect will help you create better plans and achieve better results.

Accessible Technology


One of the great things about my role at WPP AUNZ is working with Microsoft and their passion on creating technology focussed on accessibility. The Microsoft company wide goals and plans are to essentially put solutions in for existing barriers that technology can bring—which are part of systemic ableism—that typically preclude disabled people from being successful, contributing members of society. That includes areas such as employment and education, which unsurprisingly in modern times, is largely driven by technologies created by Microsoft, Apple, and others.

Microsoft under the leadership of CEO Satya Nadella, a father of three including an adult son with cerebral palsy, has been for sometime improving and innovating with accessible tech.

I remember the Microsoft’s 2014 Super Bowl commercial being very impactful in outlining how technology can support diverse workforces provide companies with a greater range of talent. 

Bringing people with different backgrounds and experiences together can improve problem solving and creativity, while contributing different points of view. A core element of embracing diversity and inclusivity is ensuring that every single employee has access to all the tools and resources they need to enable them to do their best work.

It’s important to create an environment in which, for example, people with dyslexia, vision impairments, language barriers and hearing conditions can work and collaborate to their full potential. Everyone has the right to be heard and understood, and allowing diversity and inclusion to flourish will encourage teams to thrive.

Like many companies, WPP has rolled out Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 to encourage collaboration across its global workforce. When COVID-19 hit, more than 95 percent of WPP’s workforce shifted to working from home

WPP was also serving all its clients remotely, and the company wanted to ensure that all client communications were as inclusive as possible. Inadvertently excluding people during creative pitches and client meetings would be a missed opportunity, so using technology to enable all staff to work at the same level was important for a sustainable remote-working model.

Microsoft worked with WPP to train 85 accessible tech champions — people who have an in-depth knowledge of all the accessibility tools available across Microsoft’s products and services so that they could, in turn, help their colleagues.

“Working with Microsoft has enabled us to really speed up our inclusion work,” says Nancy Lengthorn, Managing Partner and Head of Inclusion and Belonging for WPP UK.

“Improving systems and processes is vital to inclusion and diversity, and there can’t be a more critical system to improve than how we communicate with each other. The initiatives we are putting in place will really help us all to be more authentic and more effective, both with each other and our clients. This is about helping everyone to flourish and Microsoft have been a brilliant partner.”

Following the tech champion training sessions, a series of “brown bag” events focusing on diversity and technology took place.

These virtual sessions were made available to WPP, and covered areas such as vision, hearing, cognition, mobility, mental health, wellbeing and dyslexia. Around 800 WPP employees attended the sessions in the UK, and they were also recorded for people to view at their leisure.

“When the pandemic suddenly hit, it was a struggle,” Lengthorn continues. “However, in a way it also democratized everything.

Everyone was in the same boat, and we all had access to the same tools. Some of the barriers were taken away and many people started to notice new things. Perhaps things they hadn’t felt the need to confront in the past – can everyone participate, can everyone hear, does everyone feel they can speak up in a meeting?”

There are more than one billion people in the world with a disability, and for the majority, their disability is invisible. In the UK, 33 percent of surveyed employees responded that they choose not to disclose their disability, hiding their true selves due to fear or embarrassment – often referred to as “Covering”. Many people with dyslexia won’t, for example, disclose they have the condition.

WPP recognised that to help combat this stigma, they had to encourage openness through shared experiences while showcasing the strengths of dyslexic thinking. WPP and Microsoft created an event called The Creative Brilliance of Dyslexia, which included a keynote from Kate Griggs, CEO and founder of the Made by Dyslexia charity.

Role models from across WPP and other companies shared their experiences on the virtual stage, showing that people should embrace diversity. Demos of Microsoft Learning tools were also carried out, in addition to discussions on how managers can help their teams. Topics also covered how you can best help children with dyslexia to build their confidence and enable them to thrive.

“The dyslexia event had a much wider ripple beyond WPP,” says Lengthorn. “Employees also had their friends and family watch the live Teams event. Suddenly everyone found themselves at home, and people were homeschooling children with dyslexia, dealing with new, challenging situations. Bringing together so many people for such an important, positive cause was an amazing thing.”

The past year has been challenging for everyone. The global pandemic has kept friends, family members and co-workers apart, often isolating people from their support bubbles. While remote working isn’t a new phenomenon, shifting an entire workforce to a working from home model while expecting everyone to remain connected is no easy task.

The solution for WPP was Microsoft 365, a platform that provides a scalable and global collaboration platform. Employees in a global company like WPP will often work with people from other countries that don’t have English as a first language. Teams can help overcome language barriers by offering built-in text translation, letting people converse instantly without a delay in communication.

Employees who give PowerPoint presentations on Teams calls can also turn on automatic captioning, which presents subtitles in real-time, allowing employees with hearing loss to follow along more comfortably. There’s also the option to select live translations, which translate subtitles into other languages in real-time, opening up presentations to an international audience. If there are viewers who speak multiple languages, they can use the Microsoft Translator app on their smartphones to have real-time translations in their chosen language, too.

“It’s been an awful year, but some good things have come from it, too. We’ve all had to re-assess how we interact and that gave people a reason to engage with these tools and become closer to each other,” Lengthorn says.

For a company to truly embrace diversity and inclusion, the drive for change needs to come from the top. Leadership is vital in helping to instill a culture that fosters innovation and equal opportunities, and it’s a process that needs to be thorough, and authentic.

Velocitize Talk: Being relevant at the right stage of the journey.

I recently did an interview with Velocitize originally recorded in late 2019 but only just published. 

In this episode I was asked to share my insights into how brands can utilize personalization and voice-driven marketing to strengthen the customer experience, and how to measure Martech ROI. The transcript is pasted below.

Driven by Voice (2:03)

I see voice as part of a marketing-tech strategy. It drives you towards more automation. It drives you into that direction of how to use AI as part of your overall strategy. The output of that is more voice-driven solutions.

Voice, martech and marcom
Source: eMarketer

As peer-to-peer communication continues to evolve—from emails, phone calls, and text messaging to social media, messaging apps, and voice-based assistants—customers regularly interact with voice. In 2019, an estimated one-third of the U.S. population interacted with voice at least once per month.

Typical voice interactions into your phone or to a speaker is conversational. Building customer relationships through voice can be very challenging for brands since the technology remains limited.

According to Good, “The response back on many brands is like a small child. They get the answers wrong or they’re not helpful but that’s changing quickly.” Conversational AI represents the next wave of voice automation. This is due to authentically human-sounding, AI-powered bots.

In fact, the conversational AI platform market will exceed $12B by 2025, according to a study by Research and Markets. As brands figure out how to interact with customers via conversational AI platforms, martech (Marketing Technology) and marcom (Marketing Communications) teams will have a new playing field to explore.

Loyalty is Everything (4:52)

I think personalization is something that consumers really like.

CX, martech and marcom
Source: HubSpot

Brand loyalty is the holy grail for any company. And personalization has become a vehicle for delivering brand loyalty and advocacy. When a customer has a great experience, it solidifies their loyalty. Conversely, if it is a bad experience, it can be a turn off.

Loyalty is the final step in the customer lifecycle. There are many other earlier steps essential to building long-term customer relationships. These can include brand discovery, product education, purchasing process, and post-engagement purchase engagement. 

The best brands build mutually beneficial relationships with customers that translate into a higher customer lifetime value. Good notes that if customers are given the information they require, or they need more information, brands should focus on that conversation. They shouldn’t just suddenly push something on the customer, like a marketing survey. 

Generation Personalization (5:39)

I don’t think consumers really understand the complexities of personal data and what that means. Companies have a real responsibility to make customers aware of what data they have and how they’re going to use that.

Source: WP Engine

Time and time again, experts have recommended, consumers have demanded, and laws have required that brands detail what data they are collecting and how they intend to use it. Customer data is crucial for good customer service, competitive prices, and better products. 

Good recognizes the generational gap that exists when it comes to data privacy. He cites younger generations who have continuously seen the benefit of releasing their data and providing experiences tailored to them. In other words, they’re quite comfortable sharing their data.

Older generations, however, can be confused about how their data can benefit them. In their experience, you only tell people certain things about yourself, Good says. It’s up to brands to create a clear value proposition for their customers, building a trusting relationship over time.

Invest in Martech and Marcom (7:39)

I haven’t met any clients that say, ‘I invested X amount of dollars and I’m completely happy with where I need to be.’ There’s always this feeling that they could go further.

Martech and marcom landscape
Source: chiefmartec.com

The rapid changes in the martech market over the past two decades have resulted in brands investing heavily in a variety of tools, and ultimately a consolidation of both tools and effort. Custom content management tools, outbound email solutions, ad tech, mobile apps and websites have all been a part of the martech and marcom mix that people have been moving through to land on a solution. But then what?

Good says that once they’ve delivered or used a service for some time, they begin to consider the ROI. Marketing ROI can be used to measure the ROI of a specific marketing channel, activity, campaign, or the entire marketing function. It is common for brands to analyze their investment and benefits before renewing a service.

Book Club (11:00)

It’s great reading in regards to research on how companies can be growing at that exponential rate; what are the traits, what are the behaviors that need to drive.

Source: Goodreads

Good recommends the book “Exponential Organizations: Why New Organizations are Ten Times Better, Faster, Cheaper than Yours (and What To Do About It),” by Salim Ismail. An Exponential Organization (ExO) is an organization whose impact is “disproportionally large” compared to other businesses because of its use of new organizational techniques. The new techniques can then leverage accelerating technologies.

The book identifies an ExO’s characteristics and contrasts an ExO with an outdated, matrixed, linear organization. One such characteristic of an ExO is the presence of a “Massive Transformative Purpose,” which refers to its aspirational purpose.

Marketers in Pyjamas

More than anything in a very long time, the global coronavirus pandemic will reorganize all our lives on a major scale, whether it’s the immediate effects on daily life or its longer-term economic impact.

How we get, our industry information is no different. Trade news, publishing, and podcasts are changing too. Production teams are increasingly shifting to remote workflows, and independents are bracing for hits to their business models.

Jules Lund’s Tribe, with the support of Facebook, is a good example of doing something new. They launched a new video series called Marketers in Pyjamas, in a bid to keep the marketing industry connected, learning, and growing as they work from home and grapple with the long-term effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

I was invited to join Jules with Rachael Powell the CMO of Xero to have an off the cuff discussion on what we are finding during COVID-19. See the link below for the full video interview.

It’s great to have programs like Marketers in Pyjamas this during COVID-19 as innovative marketers around the world are always craving inspiration. To hear the weird and wonderful ideas floating around the minds of the world’s most creative marketers each week, as they share their experimentation and the ingenuity born from it.

Early this month, I joined a great discussion on Paul McIntyre, MI3 Podcast. This weekly wrap of the “must-know” developments in Marketing, Media, Agency, and Technology for leaders and emerging leaders in the industry.

Paul is a veteran industry journalist who talks each week with guest marketers who are in the know on what matters at the nexus of marketing, agencies, media, and technology. I was asked to join Citi’s Roger Slater to pour a little cold water on Gartner’s prediction that 80 percent of marketers will ditch personalisation by 2025.

Brand Traction principal Jon Bradshaw also joined the discussion saying “herd behaviour” going on among marketing teams rushing to stay “on-trend” around CX and personalisation without deep interrogation into their strategy and the efficacy of these deployments. It was a robust conversation.

Mi3 is a contemporary take on an industry journal – part journalism, part equities-style analysis and is producing some great content during COVID-19. It is designed to be different in its conversations across the nexus of marketing, agencies, media, and tech. Paul is doing an exceptional job at finding the balance between it all.

It’s always a pleasure to be invited to have a discussion on the marketing landscape. Thanks, Paul and Jules, for the opportunity to be on your shows.

Bushfire season and climate change







Aboriginal belief is to have a special connection with everything that is natural. Aboriginals believe and see themselves as part of nature. Through thousands of years of life they learnt they impacted nature. All understood that everything on earth we should see as part human. It is true that people who belong to a particular area are really part of that area and if that area is destroyed they are also destroyed.

The short term I thank the firefights across NSW for your efforts to date and what looks like catastrophic conditions and long season ahead. I don’t pray.

Long term I accept humans are making a massive impact to nature. What we are seeing as smoke continues to build is making people sick, sad and angry. I explore what we can do to reduce what humans do to our country and the planet. Climate warming denial is denial, dismissal, unwarranted and unhelpful

Step up government in NSW and Australia and create a smart energy debate and allow the people to create and vote on the policy. Nothing is more important.

Image result for nsw bushfire aboriginals

It’s important you stay up to date before, during and after bush fires and other emergencies this summer. To help, the NSW RFS provides information and warnings through a range of channels. Download the Fires Near Me mobile app here

SXSW 2018 – Connecting and synthesizing new things.

Steve Jobs said, ‘Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.’

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Fostering creative and professional growth alike, I could not be happier to be back in Austin Texas. Thankyou Dentsu for allowing me to attend.

The SXSW event is very big now and some say has lost some of its intimacy, but I personally feel it still remains the premier destination for creative inspiration.

So if you are in town this week for SXSW, do message me so we can walk a tightrope between blind faith and curiosity, between expertise and creativity, between bias and openness, between experience and epiphany, between ambition and passion and between an old today and a new tomorrow.

My SXSW schedule as it stands today can be found here.

My previous SXSW blog posts can be accessed below;

2012 – My transmedia journal
2013 – The premier destination for creativity and discovery
2014 – There’s no physics in the number of things
2015 – Curiosity and emotion are driving the big ideas
2017 – Diversity combined with passion and technology advancements are delivering the shiniest stars to follow

More 2018 SXSW blog posting to come.

Canon Think Big Leadership Business Series

As the curtains draw on 2017, businesses need to begin planning ahead for the upcoming year. With constant changes in geopolitical landscape, technological breakthroughs and stakeholder expectations, businesses cannot afford to rest on their laurels with stagnant business models.

Planning ahead may be a daunting task, but Canon Asia Pacific leaders got together to create the Think Big Leadership Business Series with an aim to provide clarity for over 700 attending business leaders, through a whole host of respected leaders in both commerce and academia sharing their perspectives on 2018’s projections.

Aptly themed Outlook 2018, this convention took place at the Grand Ballroom of the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel in Singapore, on the 21st and 22nd of November 2017.

I was invited to join the program with a focus on Digital Transformation working with Canon Mailcom Malaysia Sdn Bhd’s Mr. Chris Martin, Océ Technologies B.V. Netherlands’ Mr. Joost van Rooij, Zalora Group’s Mr. Parker Gundersen & LinkedIn’s Mr. Stewart Lee.


Tech vs Humanity: Keeping the Human Touch Alive in an Automated World


Robots, artificial intelligence, computerized algorithms, machine-to-machine communications, and autonomous vehicles are here and transforming human life.

Despite how digitisation and technology have become an integral part of businesses, people are increasingly craving for the human touch of personalisation, from product customisation to simply having someone willing to walk through and understand their customer’s needs.

What are some ways businesses can find a happy medium between technology and human interaction to ensure a satisfactory buying experience is not lost?


Moderated by NTU’s Chief Development Officer, Mr. Victor Tay.


  1. Adam Good, Chief Digital Officer, Dentsu Brand Agencies, APAC, Dentsu Aegis Network
  2. Parker Gundersen, Group CEO, Zalora
  3. Stewart Lee, APAC Head of New Business, LinkedIn
  4. Ryan Huber, Managing Director, Huber’s Pte Ltd
  5. Ewan Sou, Founder and Managing Director, Instantly

Company Culture Change Before Technology Drives Digital Transformation

As a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) I live every day at the intersection between technology and culture and how it drives change in a company or organization.

The powerful breakthroughs in computing, smartphones, and telecommunications have seen massive adoption of broadband, mobile, and e-commerce systems, resulting in a real-time buy and sell channels that have changed customer experiences forever.

How a company moves to embrace the opportunity, I tend to first look at the company culture.

Companies born in the pre-digital era always need much more adjusting or shift in their organizational culture to keep up with today’s digital disrupted world.

Company culture reflects an organization’s deepest and most tightly held beliefs and values. Those beliefs and values have had years and often decades to become deeply entrenched and often played a significant role in why the organization reached its level of success in the first place.

Thinking these beliefs and values can be easily changed is a fool’s errand.

As a CDO I am regularly tasked with moving companies into the digital age via newly created customer first strategies, go to market programs and mobile first engagement platforms.

With this role, I have often underestimated an organization’s ability to change quickly and get surprised with a push back when the culture rejects the new way of doing things.

Frankly, it depends greatly on what business vertical and industry I have been being invited to operate a digital transformation within.

If it is an industry with a short fuse, big bang disruption like travel, finance, retail, professional services, media, and telecommunications. These industries like our very own advertising industry are seeing the explosive and immediate impact on traditional business models.

The company resistance to embracing a digital transformation is often culture driven as their deepest soul still thinks the old days of working are still more relevant than not.

Big bang digital disruption is a force that rocks the foundations of a business and many times over I see the management teams while seeing change coming were not prepared and or willing to adjust and invest quickly enough.

Other times I find myself operating in a vertical grouped where a longer fuse, big bang digital disruption is occurring, and here you find applying digital transformation strategies, tends to move towards cost efficiency to be the key drivers. Industries such as auto, FMCG, education, health, transport, agriculture and utility sectors.

While all industries are being disrupted because of the Internet, you need to call on all your experience to drive the right amount of velocity to apply to the proposed transformation assignment, so the customer engagements paths and new revenues proliferate rather than become restricted because the disruption has taken a front seat.

These velocity decisions impact how tasks are conceived, led and resourced and in many cases how you recommend culture change management on how to nurture the digital transformation program.

The understanding of how this works results in many new and exciting ways to engage with customers. Especially thinking on a global scale, rather than the traditional local market level which often conflicts with many organizations operating structures.

Digital transformation should always look for programs that increase automation and gather and analyze unprecedented amounts of data so they can stay relevant in a competitive global market.

While cost efficiencies are necessary strategies, the digital transformation program must have the core goal to deliver customer acquisition, engagement, and usage. The program should be developed to have milestones on customer interaction. The program should look to be finding constant improvements. In the early days, it is about the test, learn, implement and scale quickly.

This combination means there are a vast array of capabilities and skills required to stitch together a large-scale audience led digital transformation and ultimately Dentsu Aegis is well positioned within our various agency capabilities to lead clients.

I find the leader of a digital transformation program must have a clear customer-centric upbringing. Ideally spent their entry career creating compelling stories across many different types of media channels, and were brought up on design thinking approaches and techniques, that can then be fused to screen customer first approaches, tracked to agreed business models and defined audiences and financial plans. Yes, you need to be able to communicate and action all of this to have a successful digital transformation agenda.

A find the leader of a digital transformation must also have a passion for the arts blended with a scientific method mindset to use the tools of the day, but also be innovative always to be looking ahead to find an edge.

Successful digital transformation approaches often start a life launched from innovation labs. As a CDO I find digital transformation strategies should be ‘story told,’ must always be mindful and have an understanding these stories impact others. Their client’s staff, their friends, and their customers.

I also find it essential to communicate the understanding of what drives a new culture as well as the opportunity. Culture always trumps strategy, so any digital transformation strategy has to be collaborative at all times seeking out digital artisans and change agents for both the client, the agency/service provider and the end customer.

To bring to market a digital transformation program I find a successful technique is to foster a partner ecosystem for co-innovation and co-creation. The team that is created for the assignment must also give the project leads and middle managers latitude to fail fast so they can learn even more quickly.

In summary, it’s not the technology that drives change, but rather companies don’t allow legacy culture to slow down a digital transformation in a fast-moving digital economy. That is, companies must become disruptors or risk being disrupted.

Companies need a culture of speed, agility, innovation, constant learning, and mindfulness.

SXSW 2017 – Diversity combined with passion and technology advancements are delivering the shiniest stars to follow

South By Southwest (SXSW) unites more than 30,000 attendees from over 80 countries, celebrating and helping creative people from the interactive, marketing, technology, film and music industries achieve their goals.

This was my fifth year attending SXSW, and it continues to prove to me that the most unexpected discoveries happen when diverse topics and different people from different backgrounds come together.

South by in my mind remains the premier destination for creative inspiration. My previous SXSW blog posts can be accessed below;

2012 – My transmedia journal
2013 – The premier destination for creativity and discovery
2014 – There’s no physics in the number of things
2015 – Curiosity and emotion are driving the big ideas

SXSW 2017 like previous years had over 16,000 talks, panel sessions, showcases, screenings, exhibitions, mentor sessions and a variety of networking opportunities to choose from.

The key is deciding well ahead of time what larger inspiration and meaning you intend to bring back. I find the best way to do achieve this is to reach out and follow the people coming to the event who you believe you can learn from. Turning up unprepared and making decisions on the day based on wacky click bait program titles can make your day feel very overwhelming and ultimately you are not going to get the best learning experience.

My SXSW 2017 schedule for the week can be found here.

Things I learned at SXSW 2017

Mix Reality over Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality story telling is starting to develop, but the headsets are still not fashionable enough…..yet.

You can’t go to SXSW and not spend some time in virtual reality (VR) as it was everywhere again this year and will be for many years to come.  Each year, the gathering of tech-film-music enthusiasts highlight virtual reality/augmented reality and now mixed reality technologies that seem to be on the brink of widespread use, but never quite get there was pushed along in 2017.

I still don’t know a single person who spends an hour a day in VR. So I tend to believe VR is currently suitable for gaming and general entertainment first but if used for the brand experience I think it’s best to develop stories in Mix Reality (MR) to enhance in-store, or real world events rather than a customer being at home using a VR brand experience. This will of course change as headsets improve.

This year, for the first time in its thirty years plus history, SXSW organizers created a “Virtual Cinema,” where VR/AR content creators could show off the latest innovations at the JW Marriott.

I liked the VR production from INITION, a London-based production company specializing in 360-degree and VR/AR. There were showcasing “Spatium,” a VR piece which celebrated the sculptural qualities of Philip Treacy a designer renowned for creating hats that appear to defy the possible. Maybe best known for his millinery creations for Madonna or Lady Gaga.

When seen from the front, Philip’s hat appears flat yet the more you explore, the more you find a more elaborate form. When struck with the light it appears to glow. These attributes are given scale to create a fantasy building of light and shadow where surfaces change as you navigate them.

In VR experience the hat becomes architecture where the limitations of the physical no longer apply, conjuring discovery and wonder. “Fantasy hats give you the possibility to dream,” said Philip Treacy.

Probably the best talk on VR, AR and Mixed Reality from Jake Lee-High an artist, creative technologist, and CEO of Future Colossal  based in NYC.  H is talk was titled Holens Magic Leap and Making the Mundane Magical and featured a number of Future Colossal immersive experiences produced for brands such as BMW, Showtime, JayZ, Warner Bros, Microsoft, and Citibank

He outlined some clear advantages for Mix Reality over VR. The main one is no isolation or unobstructed sight feeling safe to navigate your environment which makes it a much more human experience.

Directional speakers was also an important element and having the sound down to the ear so that you can hear the real world combined with augmented sounds.

The clear glass and being to see the real world was the most important reason why AR and Mix reality will grow as an industry must faster than VR over the coming twenty four months.

As for Mix Reality head sets there are many but the five I ried and thought the best at the momeht are listed below;

Microsoft Hololens is the best on the market, and I am a big fan of their gesture capabilities. It containing more computing power than the average laptop, no wires, external cameras, or phone or PC connection required, you can move freely and self-contained.

ODG R-9 powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip is cool. Like the Microsoft HoloLens, this head piece has six-degree-of-freedom tracking, so you can place digital items in real space instead of just slapping a flat overlay across the world. It’s expense at over $1,500US price but is headed in the right direction regarding a fashion piece.

Daqri is also a good device although a little ugly to look at. The Los Angeles-based startup Daqri originally developed with a specific demographic in mind—blue-collar workers. The Daqri Smart Helmet was developed to help make the lives of onsite engineers, construction workers, and technicians easier with an Android-powered hard hat, complete with an array of sensors.

Meta2 has great hand tracking support and very good field of view. While on the one hand, it’s far cheaper than HoloLens at $949 compared to $3,000. On the other, its images look less convincingly real, more like a projection than a solid object. It’s tethered to a computer, not self-contained which has big limitations.

Zapbox is an impressively low-cost option. The Google card box of Mix Reality. It was originally launched on Kickstarter and an affordable way to experience mixed reality and room-scale virtual reality using the power of your smartphone. It uses the phone camera pass through to display virtual objects on top of the real world, but even more impressive is that it uses a pair of handheld controllers that let you interactive with these virtual apparitions.

The biggest advantage for Mixed Reality are the practical applications that can be developed. It will grow in use and not be just be another advanced gaming console in my mind. Instead, it will add a whole new world of interactions, apps, games and experiences we have yet to imagine.

A hybrid of both AR and VR, Mixed Reality (MR) is far more advanced than Virtual Reality because it combines the use of several types of technologies including sensors, advanced optics, and next-gen computing power.

All of this technology bundled into a single device will provide the user with the capability to overlay augmented holographic digital content into your real-time space, creating scenarios that are unbelievably realistic and mind-blowing.

A few limitation of Mix Reality (as of now) is the field of view, and this needs to be addressed but the content I saw it didn’t bother me that much once you got used to it. Sunlight is a problem, as it doesn’t work outdoors to well. Processing and battery life and of course fashion the biggest issue that needs to resolved. The manufacture that brings a fashionable earwear peice, that links to your smarphone has a hand controler capability is going to super charge the industry.

But while there are, limitations the future is bright, especially with the faster wireless transmission on its way. When you experience Mix Reality on a 5G connection it means cloud-based process and rendering will be doing all the heavy lifting.

There were many Mix Reality examples at SXSW but still the best video on the topic is the Ted Talk done from Microsofts Hololens Creator Alex Kipman.

Digital off screens and into real world items are moving fast and becoming practical and fun experiences for creative ideas.

When you see digital tech beginning to integrate into real world items as well as becoming fashion wearable you can start to see how our digital lives are on the edge of another radical shift; new forms of technology are decoupling digital functionality from consumer electronics.

Connectivity and digital interaction are being integrated into those familiar objects from hats to clothing, furniture, cars, buildings – creating the opportunity for seamless, discrete interactions that reduce our reliance on any single device.

Google ATAP Technical Project Lead Ivan Poupyrev and Levi’s VP of Innovation Paul Dillinger talk Beyond the Screens: the Ubiquity of Connectivity spoke about moving beyond smart gadgets to a future when our entire world is intelligent and interactive.

They went deep into the Levis and Google partnership and what they learned developing the Project Jacquard platform.

Called the Commuter, which uses Google’s Jacquard technology to turn its denim fabric into a gesture-controlled canvas.

On the talk, Google and Levi’s revealed that the smart trucker jacket will arrive this Autumn in the USA for $350. The Commuter comes with a Bluetooth cuff that pairs with a smartphone to let you get directions, adjust the volume on your music or answer a phone call — all triggered by finger swipes on the jacket’s fabric. Some people said it was the Google Glass of jackets. I think it’s a much better attempt of focusing on fashion first over tech.

Another interesting talk on digtial in the real world items was “Making Music Physical Again” by Dr. Kate Stone from Novalia.

She is a creative that adds interactivity in the form of touch and Bluetooth to printed surfaces. Kate talked about being physical again, the fusion of physical and digital requires a focused design service skill set to create immersive interactive experiences.

Kate spoke about the power of physical print with a musical digital soul and went about sharing stories of these achievements and put forward a vision for the future of interactive experiences with everyday things.

For example, McDonald’s turned their placemats into music production tools, Bootsy Collins played bass on a paper note book and Budlight turned a wall in Brazos Street into a 50 ft long musical experience at SXSW all using her inventions.

The world’s first working DJ turntables made from a pizza box using grime DJ P Money and Rinse FM’s DJ Vectra. Despite being made mostly out of cardboard, the box features two decks, a cross-fader, pitch volumes, cue buttons and the ability to rewind music.

The playable DJ decks also sync via Bluetooth to the user’s smartphone or laptop with DJ software such as Serato. Using conductive ink, users can mix, scratch and release their inner DJ by tapping and sliding their fingers over the controls.

To make your dreams you had as a child come true requires passion of course, but you also need to be one step ahead of today’s technology and consumer trends.

Fresh off the successes of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” director Gareth Edwards gave an SXSW keynote to discuss how he got his start in filmmaking. In a very powerful, funny, and above all inspiring talk, Edwards recounted, step by step, how he went from for-hire VFX artist to his awesome 2010 feature debut Monsters and from there into a galaxy far, far away.

As a kid, Gareth had a dream he wanted to join the Rebel Alliance and destroy the Death Star like the heroes in the movie, but soon learned that this was impossible. Or was it?

Zane Lowe, Creative Director of Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio, give a wonderful address at SXSW. A New Zealand-born radio DJ, Live DJ, record producer, and television presenter, Lowe is now the Creative Director and LA Anchor for Beats 1, Apple’s first free global radio station broadcasting 24/7 to over 100 countries.

Zane recapped his life, career and musical philosophy that was crisp, polished as well as a great example of how to do a talk aided by video stills and plenty of musical snippets.

Lowe told the packed room that he “never had a choice” about going into music industry; “It was my passion”. It may have been his passion but how he went from a kid in Auckland loving his first album from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ to the heights of the music industry was his ability to read the trends in technology, and now it impacted his industry of his career choice.

Cannes 2016 – Festival of Advertising and now Technology

Cannes Advertising Awards 2016It’s been ten years since I have attended the International Festival of Creativity, the Cannes Lions Festival.

Somethings are exactly the the same. The abundance of awards, drinking, dinners, parties and the networking events held on large yachts.

Dentsu Group companies (Dentsu Inc., Carat (London), 360i (New York), Dentsu Young & Rubicam (Tokyo) and Drill (Tokyo)) were awarded a total of thirty-one Lions (one Grand Prix, one Gold, twelve Silver, sixteen Bronze and one Product Design) at the 63rd Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (June 18-25), Lions Health Festival (June 18-19), Lions Innovation Festival (June 21-22) and the inaugural Lions Entertainment Festival (June 23-24) held in Cannes, France.

The Dentsu Group Grand Prix Lion winner was “Life is electric” for Panasonic Corporation.

The insight for this work is very powerful. What if we could see electricity? It managed to use the power of design to change the perception of a product that has become a commodity, by bringing storytelling in—in every space. It creates a bridge between the digital tools and the analog world. A great piece of work.

Dentsu team with the Grand Prix Design Lion

Dentsu Inc: – Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity
Cyber:    Two Silver, one Bronze
Design:    One Grand Prix, one Gold, six Silver, one Bronze
Direct:    One Bronze
Film:    One Silver
Film Craft:    One Bronze
Media:    One Silver, one Bronze
Mobile:    One Silver, one Bronze
Outdoor:    Three Bronze
PR:    Two Bronze
Product Design:    One Product Design

Lions Health Festival
Pharma:    Three Bronze

Lions Innovation Festival
Creative Data:    One Silver, two Bronze

The three minute award entry show reel continues to drive what entities are awarded and what isn’t.

If you can’t tell a three minute video led story on why your work should be awarded, you have no chance of finding a jury judge interested, no matter how effective your results were for your client.

What is very different for me is how much Cannes has turned into a tech show. A Consumer Electronics Show crossed with a watered down SXSW festival.

I remember ten years ago Microsoft just starting to make a presence on the ad scene. Now it’s all about the big showy setup from Google, Facebook and Twitter and a thousand other tech venders attending all shouting for attention. Advertising has certainly transformed from a festival celebrating print, radio and film to an event all about digital advertising tech led solutions.

So many talks seem to be about promoting tech and the benefits of big data, virtual reality and audience demand generation platforms rather than a celebration on how a big strategic and creative idea can deliver brand impact and business growth.

What has also changed is how separated the creative and media agencies are in operation, focus and collaboration with each other. Creative agencies are now creating ideas with a no canvas approach but it often does not support the media agencies approach to an endless amount of platforms both online and offline to push the message. Too often the creative idea is not made for the media channel to amplify.

This is very apparent at the Cannes event itself.

Advertising messages are planted everywhere. Sure it’s a ad event but the ads themselves are not for client brands but rather have been purchased by tech ad vender solutions.

This means all the outdoor advertising is very average creative work. It is a very polluted ad environment as no brand is making an impact on the audience. It would seem every iconic building in Cannes has some type of tech vender ad message screaming out for attention.


This to me is a miss opportunity. Cannes should be a celebration of beautiful brand client advertising rather than a place to showcase bad ad executions from partners and venders.
Sure I get the event is a money making exercise, but I find the work so bad and disturbing and such a  missed opportunity to program the event as showcase for the power of great advertising to our clients.

While the event is held over seven days I think that is too long to hold people’s attention.  You can feel very contraphopic within 24 hours of arriving as their are so many limited ad themes to speak about. There is so much overlapping talk on Big data, virtual reality, experience design being talked about without any real authority or case examples.

The event attempts to bring in other industries to pad out the ad talk. All the agencies tend to invite big name guests from the film, music and business industries to flesh out their points of view.

Over the last ten years I have elected to attend SXSW for my creative inspiration over Cannes, and I think based on this years experience it continues to be a wiser choice. There is much more diversity and authority in Austin over Cannes in how to grow brands and business using innovation.

As I was only six weeks into my new job as CDO in the Dentsu Aegis Network I found the timing of Cannes very convenient to meet up with colleagues from around the globe and receive a debrief on our network strategy and capabilities and our journey to 100% digital.

When not in meetings I attended the conference hall seeking out inspirational talks. One highlight was a conversation with Brian Eno and Dentsu Lab Tokyo on their project to explore whether machine intelligence (MI) can acquire the creativity that is innate to human beings. Brian hired Dentsu to work on his latest project called The Ship.

Brian Eno-talks-about-using-artificial-intelligence

I have always had a man crush on Eno the musician, producer, visual artist, creative thinker. I remember when I first heard U2’s The Unforgettable Fire when I was about 15. I was so amazed with the abstract sound on that album. It was so different to U2’s previous albums like War. I remember reading the album credits and seeing for the first time the names Brian Eno, Producer and Daniel Lanois, Sound Engineer. 

Eno changed how music was recorded. He mastered the multi track technique. His work with Roxy Music, David Bowie, Talking Heads, Ultravox were the soundtracks of my life. I studied in sound engineering and manipulation because of this man so it was great to meet him after the talk.