I recently had the privilege to be interviewed by the SMU Temerlin Advertising Institute team for the TAI blog. This is a repost of the interview discussing various topics tied to teaching, career advice, and how the advertising industry has shifted over the years.
Professor Tom Edwards is teaching capstone course ADV 4399 Advertising Campaigns for the Temerlin Advertising Institute this semester. Professor Edwards is the chief digital officer at Agency, Epsilon, where he oversees brand planning, research, data design, digital strategy, digital experience, social/CRM/email, innovation and media. He regularly publishes content and speaks on the future of marketing.
Professor Edwards was an adjunct faculty member of the virtual campus for Wayland Baptist University from 2003-2015. He also instructed Principles of Marketing, Advertising & Promotion, Global Marketing and Consumer Behavior. He has also guest lectured at University of Texas at Arlington, and prior to joining the TAI team he was a member of the SMU Digital Accelerator certification program faculty.
What made you want to become a professor?
I have spent the past 17 years in the marketing technology space. The rate of change associated with technology, its impact on consumer behavior and ultimately how we connect with consumers continues to outpace traditional academia’s ability to keep pace. I wanted to contribute and give back to the next generation of advertising professionals by bridging the gap theory and the practical application.
What is your background in the subject you teach?
I currently instruct the Advertising Campaigns course. Over my professional career, I have worked on campaigns for hundreds of fortune 1000 brands (Citi, Starbucks, AT&T, GameStop, Activision, Hasbro, Frito-Lay to name a few) both domestic and international. My expertise is rooted in a deep understanding of technology, consumer behavior, data and intelligent systems such as artificial intelligence and the application of machine learning.
What has been your favorite memory from teaching for TAI so far?
The passion and creativity exhibited by the students and the staff and their willingness to roll up their sleeves and get to work, even when it’s in areas they may not be in their core area of focus.
What is your favorite part about being a professor?
I have instructed thousands of students over the past 15 years across a few universities and my favorite part is the open dialogue with the students. Getting to hear their perspectives and thoughts and to see their work evolve over the course of the semester is incredibly gratifying.
What made you want to go into advertising? How did you get where you are in your career?
I started my advertising career during the dot com days of the late 90’s. I had a passion for technology and all things digital. As graphical user interfaces and connectivity began to spread, so did the need to create engaging digital experiences.
The alignment of marketing and technology have been a key foundation for the advancement of my career. I have worked in interactive agencies, start-ups, enterprise software companies and large agency holding companies. Having the ability to decipher complex problems into simple solutions has been a key to career advancement. The other critical component to career growth has been my blog. 10 years and over 400 posts later, having a visible point of view and a repository for thought, industry commentary and speaking has been a valuable asset in my career development.
How have you seen the advertising industry change since you started?
The biggest change over my career is the shift towards the empowered consumer. Prior to 2007 advertising had remained somewhat stable with broadcast at the center of the experience. In 2007 we saw that begin to shift with the introduction of the first iPhone. This sparked the shift towards mobility in advertising that is still prevalent.
Then we saw how technology enhances consumer empowerment through the creation of user-created content, accessibility and amplification via social channels, the personification of brands and celebrity being redefined from Hollywood to influencers.
Moving forward we are now seeing the shift from content marketing to contextual and the rise of multimodal interfaces with the focus shifting from mobile and desktop to voice, vision, and touch.
Moving forward, we will see the shift from consumer-centric advertising to system based marketing as algorithms and virtual assistants will take on more responsibility for consumers and ultimately our definition of reality will evolve when we see the convergence of location data, computer vision, augmented reality and artificial intelligence where any space, physical or digital becomes a new canvas to connect with consumers.
What advice do you have for students who want to have a career in advertising?
I have 3 tips for students just starting their career:
1) Network – Begin building a professional network before you start your professional career. Attend industry events and network in-person, focus on your LinkedIn profile and engaging with content. Your professional network is one of your most valuable resources. It should require more nurturing and attention than personal social channels.
2) Sponsor & Mentor – It is key to seek a mentor, someone who works in the industry you are about to enter to help navigate key pitfalls and to “learn the ropes” from a seasoned individual. It is incredibly important to be open to feedback. It is also important to identify a sponsor within your organization. Someone who is either directly or indirectly in your chain of command. Someone who can provide positive internal earned media and groom you for advancement. You cannot always depend on an immediate supervisor to serve this role. Seek out highly respected and influential individuals within the organization, you will know who they are.
3) Original Thought – I cannot reiterate how important publishing content can be for a new grad. Having thoughts on industry commentary or showcasing your ability to connect trends that may not seem to link on the surface is an art that can lead to you being selected over someone else.
How do you incorporate aspects from your work into your teaching?
I look to bring best in class examples and techniques, be it research, the latest on aligning psychographics and affinity to personas or the role of conversational experiences into digital strategies. The key is aligning experience and tools with the core areas of focus of the lesson or assignment.
Follow Professor Edwards on Twitter @BlackFin360 to stay up to date on the latest areas of study.
I had an opportunity to share my thoughts and predictions about the evolution of customer experience in 2018 with Advertising Week & the Huffington Post.
I outlined how technologies that empower consumers, intelligent systems will enhance experiences, and how the blurring of experience between digital and physical will continue to converge in 2018 leading to new forms of interaction.
I also discuss the potential disruption of mobile user experiences as well as the rise of system based marketing as we offload more of our daily tasks to virtual assistants.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
It’s my favorite time of year. No, I am not talking about Santa & reindeer, I am talking about predictions!
Here is a full analysis of potential trends to consider heading into 2018 via a non-linear or choose your own adventure video format just click the image below.
This video starts with a brief intro, then you will have the option to select a specific section of interest or watch it straight through from beginning to end.
In 2017 I spoke a lot about the evolution of experience through the E^3 Innovation To Reality series. 2018 will bring us closer to a convergence of technology that empowers, intelligent systems that enhance, and the line between physical and digital reality will continue to blur.
EMPOWER – Highlighting everything from camera as a platform, virtual reality gets social, evolution of social messaging, physical experiences that enhance digital, immersive eSports, expansion of contextual commerce and more, this section dives into technology that empowers consumers.
ENHANCE – How AI & intelligent systems are accelerating the evolution of experience. From the democratization of AI, device based machine learning, blockchain put to use, visual discovery, voice + visual conversational experiences, and personalized audio.
ENVIRONMENT – How our world is shifting towards synthetic reality with the convergence of location, computer vision and mixed reality that will reshape how we interact with the physical world. This section includes pervasive robotics, biometric security, augmented art, mixing reality, connected intelligence, and brain controlled interfaces.
EXPERIENCE – This section highlights the convergence of empower, enhance and environment. With topics discussed such as Gen Z = enhance vs. create, system based marketing, mobile disruption, ambient computing, and synthetic reality.
Follow The Epsilon Agency Innovation Team:
Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
Steve Harries @Steve_Harries22
Ian Beacraft @IanBcraft
Jeremy Olken @JeremyOlken
I received a nice surprise as there was a special package waiting for me in my office. It was an early release version of the Xbox One X Project Scorpio edition.
The Xbox One X officially launches on the 7th of November. I captured the full unboxing, setup, and discuss what’s included and the features of the console including a look at the system after start-up.
A special thank you to Brent at Xbox and Chris from TripleClix for the great surprise.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
I discuss emerging technologies impact on consumer behavior and the acceleration of disruption and the role of the empowered consumer.
We also discuss the shift from content to contextual marketing and the role of data, specifically the data of culture & data of identity as well as the role of intelligent systems, augmented intelligence and artificial intelligence.
We end the discussion with how we interact with artificial intelligence, how I work with start-ups and then personal questions such as a favorite quote, how I started in technology, discussing failure that leads to success and more.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
I had an opportunity to discuss the upcoming release of the iPhone 8 & X with AdExchanger. From machine learning to augmented reality, here is the full commentary.
Is Apple becoming more data-driven with the growing focus on Siri and personalization?
Machine Learning was one of the most prominent topics during the keynote event. Apple conveyed that Siri is evolving and the experience will not only be personal, but more contextual in its interactions.
Where Apple truly shines is the interoperability of its platform. Having deep integration gives new insight into datasets, opening up the door for more predictive and seamless experiences.
And what impact will that have for advertisers? Is Apple becoming a friendlier place for advertisers?
The announcement from Apple today is another signal that advertising will continue to evolve from contextual content to contextual experiences. With ARKit, Apple is enabling advertisers to tap into new effect-based marketing opportunities where it’s more about enabling experiences versus creating them.
Dedicated AI chips are a critical component to off-load processing for advanced AI activities, such as facial recognition and real-time machine learning functions within the handsets.
As marketers, we have to expand beyond desktop and mobile to consider a multimodal approach that includes computer vision, touch, voice and immersive computing such as AR & VR.
Apple technology will continue to evolve to support new canvases for marketers to connect with consumers, and it’s important to stay in front of new opportunities that become available.
Both Amazon and Google support third-party development to create experiences for marketers within their voice ecosystems, which is step one.
For Apple to stay competitive alongside Echo and Google in the voice races, we may see Siri evolve to support more skills and actions that can be driven by marketers.
eSports is “athletics of the mind” and it’s popularity is skyrocketing past traditional sports leagues. It’s a way for younger millennials & gen Z to compete and to create and share experiences and it’s shifting entertainment and lifestyle behaviors dramatically.
This eBook provides insight into 5 use cases for brand marketers to build an eSports strategy beyond simple sponsorship. We also highlight Epsilon Agency’s proprietary data assets that map psychographic insights through machine learning tied to various segments of gamers to uncover key personality markers.
We preview how this information can highlight lifestyle and affinity connections with gaming audiences for brand marketers through an eSports brand index that allows for seamless connections between brands and gamers with eSports playing a key role in binding the two.
Download the eBook here.
I received great news this morning that the BlackFin360 Alexa Skill passed certification and was published to the skill store.
Now you can access key insights and information via Alexa by enabling the BlackFin360 skill. Simply search “BlackFin360” on the amazon home page or enable via the Amazon Skills Store here.
Some of the key intents of the skill are as follows:
In the coming weeks I will be adding an RSS feed of the blog content and evaluating YouTube playlists and the Echo Show. I would appreciate if you could enable and rate the skill. Thanks in advance.
Over the past six months, my team and I have evaluated the top emerging technology trends that will fundamentally reshape how marketers will connect with consumers.
Here is a brief preview:
The full analysis includes 68 trends categorized by our trend framework of Empower, Enhance, Feel & Ambient Computing. This will replace our original framework of Connection, Cognition & Immersion.
Empower to create content, engage and connect through new interfaces and touchpoints.
Enhance your daily life activities and responsibilities through intelligent systems and proxy’s.
Feel emotional experiences like pleasure and excitement delivered through immersive computing.
Ambient computing is the alignment of all three behavioral drivers.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
I had the privilege to speak and host Epsilon Symposium 2017. With hundreds of clients in attendance, I was tasked with discussing the role of artificial intelligence across Epsilon and Conversant as well as tease examples of emerging technology that my team and I are working on.
Here are the key highlights I discussed during Symposium 2017. Part of my role is evaluating and embracing the latest innovations and determining how they connect to our Epsilon and Conversant solutions.
Whether that’s through conversational and voice based experiences such as Alexa Voice Services, Google Assistant & Siri, or the amazing artificial intelligence work happening here at Epsilon and Conversant or immersive computing such as augmented & virtual reality, that’s bolstered by our data, insights and creative execution.
So the last ten years I have talked about how disruption is the new normal. How emerging technology can impact consumer behavior and what it means for marketers.
Today we are at an inflection point. Where we are seeing the shift from mobile first to AI first. It’s less about disruption and more about acceleration through intelligent systems.
That’s where Epsilon and Conversant’s heritage of aligning data and technology and driving innovation is the key to leveraging whatever the future may bring and where consumers will be.
Within the agency business, we are using Machine Learning to categorize the data of culture along with our data of identity to fuel our creative approach.
From a product perspective, We are also achieving harmony (Pun intended ;) through machine learning and AI through a centralized intelligence hub for decisioning across channels.
Finally, Conversant is at the forefront of integrating AI through machine learning and image recognition to create world-class speed and scale where every 5 minutes, consumer actions across 160M individual profiles lead to over a billion model updates.
The key moving forward is empowering consumers, enhancing solutions through artificial intelligence and creating immersive experiences
Regardless of how the future state shifts and evolves… be it through bots becoming agents on our behalf, the evolution of consumer based journey’s expanding to include system based journey’s or a hyper connected augmented reality future. All of those elements will be highly dependent on Data and decisioning as the foundational element.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
When I think of Apple, 3 things come to mind: Industrial design of it’s hardware, interoperability across products, and of course millions of apps. After WWDC 2017, I need to add artificial intelligence (AI) enabled experiences, device level privacy and a new focus on augmented reality.
Here is the Full Recap:
AI was a the key theme of WWDC (mentioned 20 times in 2.5 hours). Apple highlighted how both machine learning and deep learning are now integrated across multiple products. From Apple Watch, Siri, facial recognition in photos and even hand written notes in iOS11. AI integrated experiences were one of the more important areas discussed during WWDC.
WWDC also saw a new hardware launch in the form of the HomePod. HomePod is Apple’s entry into the Smart speaker market. While Siri is integrated into the device it’s to be determined the role it can play for brand marketers as the skills and actions we have begun to depend on in other product ecosystems was surprising absent.
Apple is also investing heavily into enabling augmented reality experiences through hardware and software. With the launch of ARKit, their strategy is to empower the millions of developers to take their AR building blocks and create immersive experiences that are closely mapped to the real world via world tracking for both 2D and 3D elements.
Apple is building a foundation for the future built on device level privacy, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and multimodal computing through evolving Siri beyond handsets into cars and the home with Homepod.
Here is a quick reaction video following the WWDC Keynote.
2017 has seen a rapid acceleration of technology trends. Of the 50+ trends observed from CES, MWC, SXSW, F8, Google I/O and more, here are the top 5 midyear trends that I am closely monitoring heading into 2018.
1) MOBILE FIRST TO AI FIRST
For the past few years, Facebook, Google and other industry heavy weights have proclaimed to be mobile first organizations. Now at the midpoint of 2017 we are seeing shifts from mobile first to AI first. Google recently announced their intent to redefine their core products around AI research, tools and applied AI.
Through 2017 Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial intelligence (AI) are rapidly transforming business, products and services. A primary fuel for ML/AI is data. Understanding how to create actionable data centric AI experiences is critical to drive growth in 2017 and beyond.
2) MULTIMODAL INTERFACES
Conversational experiences have been a primary topic of discussion in 2017. From bots to voice based experiences, to computer vision and object recognition, expanding solutions beyond mobile and desktop has been a major trend through the first part of the year.
The shift towards AI first means text and visual tied to mobile and desktop are not enough to evolve the future of interaction. As 2017 continues to unfold, we will see more voice + paired visual experiences come to market where voice is driving a visual companion experience to further enhance Alexa Skills and Google Actions.
3) CAMERA AS A PLATFORM
As marketers begin to shift their attention from Millennials to Gen-Z, strategies in the first half of 2017 are shifting towards leveraging the camera as a platform.
From Snapchat’s ever evolving lenses to Facebook’s newly announced Frames & AR studios, major industry players are taking a core native behavior that is all about empowerment for the consumer and building new solutions that will integrate real-time data, location and object recognition to create new forms of effect based marketing.
4) RISE OF THE PROXY WEB
The first part of 2017 has shown the first major steps towards the rise of the proxy web. The proxy web is predicated on systems taking over core day-to-day human functions and becoming agents on our behalf. One of the big steps towards this in 2017 was the recent launch by Google of Google Lens.
Google Lens combines the power of Google Assistant and provides the ability to overlay computer vision, which will serve as the basis for contextual augmented reality that links to various services, from purchasing, to content, to predictive reservations based on traffic and other environmental factors. Voice has led the way in 2017, 2018 will be the year of computer vision powered experiences.
5) DEMOCRATIZATION OF IMMERSIVE COMPUTING (VR/AR)
One of the drawbacks to mass adoption of virtual reality has been tied to how isolating an experience can be with limited abilities to share “what’s happening” Both Google and Facebook realize that adoption is closely to accessibility and the ability to share experiences. 2017 has seen a major shift towards the driving the democratization of virtual reality.
The key to driving adoption at scale is to empower consumers, developers and other 3rd parties to create experiences. From empowering the creation of user generated 360 degree content to co-viewing, casting, capturing and sharing VR content. It’s important for brand marketers to pay attention to how consumers interact with these experiences and the rate at which they are creating their own virtual content.
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360
This week I had the opportunity to attend the Google I/O conference in Mountain View, California. It was an incredibly compelling event as Google shifted their focus as a company from mobile first to AI first. This means that all products will be redefined and enhanced through various forms of AI.
This includes the Google Assistant, which was the star of the show. The deck goes into detail, but it’s incredibly important that we begin thinking about the role that the Google Assistant plays across home, smartphone, wearables, auto and soon AR. With the launch on the iPhone announced at the conference it gives Assistant 200 million voice enabled devices out of the gate.
What is also key to consider is the Google Assistant equivalent of an Alexa Skill, called an Action by Google. Actions can support transactions outside of Amazon as well as not requiring installation. Also, there is a very small number of actions that exist today, but a huge and rapidly growing ecosystem of devices that are Google Assistant enabled.
Here is the full trend recap and analysis:
Section one covers trends tied to connection & cognition:
- Vision of Ubiquitous Computing
- Multi-Modal Computing
- Google Assistant (Actions, Auto, Computer Vision, Wear)
- Android O
- Progressive Web Apps
- Structured Data & Search
Section two covers all facets of immersive computing:
- Immersive Computing
- Daydream (Virtual Reality)
- Social VR
- Visual Positioning Services
- Tango (Augmented Reality)
In addition to the attached recap, there is also a 4 minute “light recap” video:
For third party commentary, discussed the role of Google Lens & Computer Vision with AdExchanger here
Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360