In November 1994, The Rolling Stones were the first big-name music act to broadcast a concert live over the internet. As a computer science student at the time I was captivated. Watching Mick Jagger dance his way across my computer screen, I realised that digital technology was going to change the world forever.
The following year I joined Dentsu in Tokyo as a copywriter. An advertising career was not the most obvious option for someone with my degree, but I wanted a job where I could explore the vast potential of the internet as a media platform. The World Wide Web was in its infancy back then. It was the days of dial-up connections on clunky desktop computers. Online advertising was limited. But we were at the dawn of a new era full of opportunity and challenges.
Nearly 30 years on, we are at the dawn of another revolutionary era. Artificial intelligence is changing the world as we know it, reshaping how we work, shop, communicate and interact with brands, businesses and each other. There are incredible growth opportunities, but existential threats too. Politicians and business leaders alike are facing up to the conundrum of how we shape the advancement of A.I. so that it best serves the future of humanity.
In this era of perpetual disruption, I think back to when I began my career. While my computer science background saw me push for ideas that went beyond traditional advertising into areas like experience design, the skills I learnt as a copywriter also forced me to simplify the premise behind complicated, technology-dependent ideas and sharpen the stories behind them. I learnt the value of human creativity as an essential companion to technology.
That philosophy has remained as relevant as ever in the last three decades since. I vividly recall the launch of the iPhone in 2007 (I was proudly the first iPhone owner at Dentsu!) and how our industry was tasked with engaging consumers with brands in a new age of hyperconnectivity. Thanks to our creativity, our understanding of human behaviour and our industry’s relentless innovation, we helped brands to find their purpose and place in the smartphone age.
Now we must apply those same levels of intuition and understanding to artificial intelligence. AI is more than just a technology; it is a study of humans and human nature itself. Creative people are experts in human language and emotion, so it stands to reason that we should play a leading role in forging the future.
Like many agencies at this time of year, Dentsu Creative has published a 2024 Trends Report. This year, we felt it necessary to urge our industry to seize this moment to design, innovate and strive for the future we want to see. How can we use AI to augment our humanity? How can technology unlock imagination and shape new experiences that bridge physical and virtual worlds? Despite exponential leaps forward in artificial intelligence, we see enduring power in experiences that connect technology and humanity through touch, haptics, voice, gesture and beyond.
It was with this in mind that I founded our first R&D Lab in Tokyo in 2014 – so that our clients would have the time, space and resources to explore the latest technologies and their potential impact on society, such as with our recent ‘All Players Welcome’ project that uses the eye movement and Electromyography Signal tech to make it possible for an ALS patient and DJ to mix music and ‘dance’ again. By using state-of-the-art solutions to tackle social issues like this, or to provide genuine value to customers, brands can ensure that technology is not simply used for technology’s sake.
Indeed, despite my long-held passion for technology, it is the real world that truly inspires me. Nature, kayaking, the pen and paper... I can still think like a computer scientist, but I try to do so through the human lens of a copywriter and creative. As we enter 2024, human connection has never mattered more. Together, we can shape the role of technology in augmenting our shared humanity.