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October 11, 2017

By Tatiana Pacheco, Executive VP, RAPP Brazil

Lately I’ve been reading an absurd amount of information on digital transformation, and how it will impact us as consumers – and I’m sure you have, too. As a communications professional, I’ve also questioned where it will lead us and what impact it will have on society.

Digital transformation is a fact – a reality. I don’t believe the subject is new for anyone here. We talk about it every day, but I wonder if we know the real dimensions of its impact. It’s not simply a question of understanding the subject, talking about IA, machine learning and/or Big Data. The point that draws my attention, and the area in which I believe marketers and brands will struggle, is imagining ourselves in the role of the user and effectively living this transformation to ensure its brought to life most effectively. It takes more than understanding the context or meaning… I think we need to have a lens of perception only captured through personal experience.

Look around you and you’re bound to easily see a device connected to a cloud. What benefit did you get from that functionality? Which sensation did that product/experience give you? Simple questions, right? But I think we forget about these and others while going through the motions and hussle-and-bussle of life, we distance ourselves and only act as technical professionals.

I think about it often, and I believe it’s the duty of every communications professional to do the same. We must think outside of the box and picture ourselves in the roles that we also play every single day, which is that of client and consumer. We, like the consumers we target, are people with needs and desires – who, in our current economic scenario, may look for spending alternatives every day.

I observe my daughter daily and share with my colleagues how naturally she deals with this digital, technological world – for her, it’s not a transformation, it’s a natural part of her routine. I also talk to taxi drivers, the doorman, my cleaning lady and ask them about their lives. During these conversations, I try to put myself in their shoes and figure out if this “transformation” we talk about every day is present for them. Is it?

It is, for sure, but it isn’t as intense for others as it is for us. The impact of “digital transformation” is across a broad spectrum for people in our society, and that’s something I hadn’t considered before.

It’s important to note that I don’t believe it’s solely a question of economic status – I can see the shifts through conversations with my parents, for example, or other people who are not marketing and communication professionals. In Brazil, we’re still, according to Kantar Ibope’s monitoring results, a country which concentrates 73% of our advertising budgets on TV (55.5% on open TV, 12.1. on pay-tv and 5.6% on tv merchandising).

The amount of budget for digital advertisement: 4.2%.

Armed with this knowledge, let’s try to think outside the box. AI is a no-turning-back reality. In less than 20 years, it will be fully integrated into daily routines and will, no doubt, benefit our society. But, what does that mean and where will it end? I’m not against it at all – I think it’s great. But I also think too much of anything isn’t a good thing. This Veja article is really good, as it shows the pros and cons of our technological evolution and future. And the bad side is what I’m talking about.

Machine learning will make the world more controlled, comfortable and safe. The benefits are unquestionable – for example, nurses everywhere are already using the Watson application and in-home applications will help us organize our houses and lives (Google and Apple already offer devices for that). At the same time, though, 70% of the professions we have today will disappear and new ones may emerge – but maybe they won’t. The educational system will likely change – (the Globo News show, like in the Pyr article, experts predict that people will be self-taught, and so the idea of higher education will be phased out.

My fear? Well, this may make me sound old fashioned, but I have a sincere question to ask: what about moral education and evolution? The intangible north stars and inner compasses we pass from one generation to another. Things we not only teach, but feel – our essence as human beings. Our five senses: taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing. Together, they make us a human being full of emotions and feelings. Can we program robots to register these intangibles? Would we want to? Will robots ever be able to substitute our empathy, creativity and sensibility? What impact will these changes have on society? On relationships? What will Family structures be like? How will we react to it all?

Not to extend myself, but my point is that we must evolve sensitively to evolve adequately. The transformation is happening now, but we must be wise and absorb it correctly, both personally and professionally. In a future communications planning discussion, try to put yourself not only in the place of the sender, but also in the place of the receiver, and don’t forget to add a pinch of feelings.

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