A More Human Than Human Agency

We appear to be kicking-off a new era of un-human communications. Last month, Facebook announced its new bot platform for Messenger. Microsoft continues to push its rapidly evolving Bot Framework. Everywhere else, intelligent communication bots are on the rise — solving scheduling problems (x.ai), providing superior customer service (init.ai), and personalizing one-to-one brand engagement (imperson.com). But are consumers really ready to receive both the up and downstream of these communications?

More than ever, being an always-on consumer means being a full-time curator, writer and publisher. As intelligent communications bots continue to explode to market, we are likely to see an emerging need for bots prepared and designed expressly to interface with marketing bots on behalf of over-messaged and exhausted actual humans.

Think social bots developed to respond to those cumbersome group texts overtaking your notifications screen. Or a work bot that transcribes and sends meeting minutes to everyone in the room. Or a shopping bot that sifts through the morass to surface the deals and products it knows you want.

So where will a bot-driven future leave communications and PR agencies? Many comms professionals spent the last Internet decade facilitating real and authentic conversations, driving and shaping opinions on behalf of our clients. But what do we do when the conversations out there aren’t even being had by humans? How will agencies maintain human authenticity in an automated, bot-led world? If bots are, by their very definition, inauthentic, can they deliver messages that feel meaningful?

While these questions still loom on the horizon they are coming fast and we need to begin to explore the answers to them now. The successful agency of the future will, by necessity, operate as a hybrid of communications expertise, social science and technology. Cultivating, retaining and empowering talented multidisciplinary teams that can create, engage and engineer for the myriad of marketplace bots of the future must be step one.

As our Blade Runner friends at the Tyrell Corporation reminded us with their prescient slogan, success in this space will come from an ability to be “More Human than Human.” Tyrell Agency, anyone?

Chief Digital Officer at Ruder Finn

Chief Digital Officer at Ruder Finn