Insights 2018 – The Future Starts Where?!


A couple of weeks ago I attended Insights 2018 in Frankfurt, Germany (PundA Insights 2018) – a yearly conference targeted at German speaking CI professionals.

There were about 200 attendees, clientside made up over 30% of visitors, and registration allowed entrance to a parallel conference on advertising effectiveness in the same building. Networking was relaxed, organisation excellent, a good buzz pervaded the well-lit rooms of a decent hotel in Frankfurt’s West End.

What were the key take aways? From what stuck in my memory, here’s three:

1. We Need Marketing People to Shout for us

Two of the stand-out excellent talks – by T Systems Chief Marketing Officer Sven Krüger and Zürich Versicherung’s CMO Monika Schulze – were by marketing folk. They were rhetorically gifted, business-informed, inspiring.

Sven Krüger was a role model in delivering an intelligent, well-informed talk about how AI and the like would impact our futures.

“All interactions will start with a virtual assistant in future” was one of his key take-outs – which raised my eyebrows.

Another startling statement – just as a side remark – was about how Washington Post articles are written by AI, then checked by a journalist. Really?

My mind raced – I googled it just now. The great IT overpromise syndrome – we’re talking updating sports scores, weather reports, this isn’t the Great Gatsby. Yet.

But still – it was inspiring, which is so important, and is so often lacking in MR presentations. As was the fantastic talk of Ms. Schulze, who made the best case for consumer insights/ consumer centricity I have heard for a long time.

2. Market Research – Analytics or Whatever – Is Being Upstaged by Tech Sex Appeal

The largely depressing messages on AI and automation – that MR is ripe for automation as it’s all easy, anyone can do it – were sucked up by an audience that probably didn’t agree but were lacking in angles of fighting back. Who were we to disagree? How do turkeys feel about Christmas, remind me.

A talk on block chain for example – done by experts, all very clear, all very positive stuff.

But did anyone think to ask – as Ray Poynter did somewhere on the web: what about stuff that’s added to a chain that is demonstratively wrong?

We didn’t have the confidence even to think of disagreeing with stuff that is like, leading edge.

Talking – as Happy Thinking People’s Thomas Ludzinski did pretty successfully IMHO – about insights, eg. insights activation techniques, is challenging against a tech backdrop. But it’s the reality – we need to get into counter-punch mode.

3. Ambition is fine – but overweening Ambition?

I was reminded by the words from Shakespeare’s Macbeth about vaulting ambition after listening to Zappi’s CEO Stephen Phillip’s talk on the morning of Day 1, talking about the next big thing in AI and automation: single source.

If all data streams were connected with one another, just think about the power of predictive analytics! This, he suggested, would ensure MR a stable seat at the top table, as decision makers would see the power of what we can really do. And who better to help than….something beginning with Z.

I couldn’t stop thinking about my Amazon experiences. Bought a winter jacket online? Buy another one. Go on.

Hegemonies aren’t necessarily attractive – we need a healthy eco-system of smaller things, not one big beast with multiple tentacles reaching everywhere, promising maximum efficiency.

One last thing: on every participant chair there was a notepad of one of the sponsors, Gfk. Written on the cover, the message: The Future Starts Here. It was so inappropriate, so culturally insensitive, it was a laugh or cry moment – I did neither, but caught my breath, and it has stuck with me since.

That’s it for now. Impressions of a conference many of you will never even have heard of. And for those of you not speaking German, look out for how AI can help reliably on instant translation, and come along. If you trust the technology, that is.

Curious, as ever, as to others’ thoughts.

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