The aim of the annual Most Contagious event is to “make sense of the most important trends in marketing, technology and consumer culture from the past year and analyse what impact these ideas will have on the immediate future for brands and agencies.”
And despite Contagious Editor Alex Jenkins starting the day with a summary of the various deaths, disasters and socio-political issues that have made 2016 the clusterfuck it has been, we were given reason for optimism as we looked to 2017…
Over the course of the day it was clear that there were more than enough opportunities, innovations and ideas to go around. The talks ranged from examples of small and emerging start-ups (such as Monzo, attempting to create a bank for the 21st Century, and Urban 3D – pioneering 3D printed concrete structures to ease the growing housing and infrastructure problem), to well-established multinational brands innovating to stay relevant in a changing world. Marketers from Axe/Lynx and Barbie for instance discussed how they had taken their brand personalities, increasingly rooted in outdated ideas of gender, and forced them into the present day with the ‘Find Your Magic’ and ‘You Can Be Anything’ campaigns respectively.
But the strongest theme running through the day, and the biggest prediction for 2017, was the rise of machine learning. A type of AI that allows a computer to teach itself and learn when exposed to new data, machine learning was shown to have huge ramifications in a multitude of fields. ScriptBook for instance has been fed an archive of millions of successful and unsuccessful film scripts, and uses this data to predict the success of new scripts it is given, 30% more accurately than film critics.
Yet the most interesting application of machine learning (and the winner of the Contagious ‘Small but Perfectly Formed’ award) was NotCo – a food tech start-up using artificial intelligence to breakdown the composition of meat and dairy products, and then re-creating them exactly using only plant-based elements.
While various speakers also predicted the continued, if gradual, rise of virtual and augmented reality and its use in marketing, it was machine learning that was given pride of place as the innovation to watch in 2017 and beyond.