By John Sintras, CEO Starcom MediaVest, for Campaign Asia
What does the study of ecology have to do with developing a better understanding of our complex communications landscape?
No clue? Well if I hadn’t come to the Cannes Advertising Festival this year then I wouldn’t know either. You just never know where that next spark of inspiration is going to come from. Where else in the world can you come to meet and hear from leading advertising and marketing gurus, clients, media vendors, content producers, Hollywood celebrities, technologists, artists, musicians, scientists, architects, designers, data geeks, humanitarians and ex-US Presidents?
Some of the sessions on the main Palais stage are thinly veiled credentials presentations and case studies. But the more stimulating sessions are the ones that stay true to the spirit of Cannes, those that bring extraordinary people here that you just wouldn’t normally have access to.
TED@Cannes, sponsored by Starcom MediaVest, is such a session (forgive the shameless self promotion!) This year, we heard from 4 very different TED fellows, each extraordinary in their own way. An organic architect, a new breed of graphic designer, an Ethiopian singer using her music to unite musicians for water conservation along the Nile, and a complexity scientist. Each inspired us with their unique projects and perspectives on the world, but last speaker Eric Berlow had a particular impact on me.
Eric is an ecologist and complexity scientist who is interested in studying the complex systems in nature to find simple solutions to urban problems. Technology is helping him to map ecosystems of interconnected bio-relationships previously not possible. He is finding the meaning in the complexity, using big data.
And isn’t that exactly what we are all trying to do in our marketing communications fields too? We are all trying to understand how to create meaningful customer exchanges in a world made more complex through digital and social platforms, using real time, democratized big data.
So the real insight is that the complex marketing landscape we are dealing with, the one we feel is relatively new, is actually just like the natural world itself. All around us are biological ecosystems that are complex and interconnected, that iterate and evolve over time, just like great communications platforms need to do today.
So we all need to accept that this complexity is a natural state, and we need to get comfortable with dealing with it. Real time data can help us to understand how the rules work and where the inflexion points are, and we need to be prepared to iterate and evolve to stay relevant and survive. That means we all need to train our people and our organizations to be less controlling and be more prepared to evolve based on the reactions in our marketing ecosystem from the people we are trying to influence.
Complexity is the natural state of our world, and we need to stop fighting it. Not surprisingly, Mark Berlow is now starting to work on complexity and data projects for major corporates. How ironic that the answers we are all looking for in the business world might have been all around us in the natural world the whole time.