Tell us about your role and journey into Technology. What inspired you to start at Splashlight and Telmar?
I started at Splashlight in 2005, and I had always been interested in the Creative space. And I saw this when I met Benoit; the company was three years old at the time, and the kind of brand they had, to be involved at the creative level with the photography was very appealing. And so we joined forces, and I was really happy to be part of Splashlight and the platform of content creation that was being built at the time. And then we continued to expand, and it even led into a technology initiative early on to understand the images and the thinking behind what makes a great image. And that led us on a technology journey.
We were a little early, so we couldn’t bring it to the market, but then later on the technology was available. And so, we built that technology to really enhance understanding images and people’s emotions behind the images. That led us on a journey into Data Science and Human Science around that kind of technology. And that’s where Telmar came into play, and Telmar, with its global footprint and reach, and frequency and audience measurement, and understanding media planning we felt was a logical connection.
What is Splashlight and Telmar, and how does it fit into a modern Technology stack?
Splashlight is one of the leaders in creating Visual content for online and e-commerce, and it’s extremely sophisticated in its creative process. So it’s bringing sophistication to content that’s never been there before, getting real feedback to the creative process and using something we call “Creative Intelligence” in the process. And Telmar is the largest independent audience measurement company in the world. They have for decades been a leader in bringing tools and algorithms and technologies to help you understand how to plan your media, where to advertise, when and for how long.
Which businesses are fastest to adopt AI and Automation technologies for Marketing, Sales and Customer Service?
From what I have learned and seen, there is a lot of AI in Sales and Marketing Automation already, and it’s a pretty crowded market. Everyone’s racing to try to understand behavior and how to get in front of it, and automate the Marketing process, or make it more accurate and more effective. I think the content creation industry is a little bit behind in using AI for creativity and for specifically creating Visual content.
I think there are a lot of influences happening, as you can see in my podcast. I’ve been interviewing people from car designers to architects, and there is a lot of creativity getting infused with the research and knowledge into finding what capability AI has. I think you’re going to see more and more of that, and we plan on being one of the pioneers of bringing AI into the Visual content creation space to improve its accuracy and really reach a consumer deeply.
How do you see AI and ML impacting the Marketing and Sales funnels in the B2B and B2C industries?
Well, I think what’s going to be happening is this: as the sophistication is increasing, I think understanding behavior is going to get easier to approach, as is understanding a consumer and understanding and beginning to predict what they really would like to see. The goal is to use these kinds of technologies to really connect to the consumer instead of just to try to push ads to them, and using this information and learning science to make a better connection, a deeper connection to what a consumer really wants to see, and how they really want to be spoken to, rather than just shoving ads in front of them.
Really understanding how they want to interact with the brand and the amount of data that’s out there. The more sophisticated you can get, combining Human Science and Data Science, the better understanding you have of them, your advertising is moving towards connecting and your Marketing is moving more towards connecting to the consumer.
What do you think about the combination of digital anthropologists and data scientists in the modern Marketing world?
I think it is going to be one of the most exciting developments to come! I think digital anthropology is an underused science. I think you’re going to see a lot of efforts in enhancing its research capabilities in the digital space, and you’re going to give a much richer way of understanding the consumer and people in general. You know, Data Science is doing unprecedented work in identifying the digital villages that are out there, and where they are, and using human science and digital anthropology in connection with that. And we’ll study those villages once they’re found.
That’s where the incredible combination of the two sciences is going to make an impact, a growing impact. We continue to advocate for more digital anthropologists and more universities to see this and get involved and understanding how this very effective science of studying people, anthropology, needs a modernized research capability to really study people in the digital space and how that space is affecting humanity.
Tell us about the need for digital anthropologists to understand user behavior over data scientists, and the ethics surrounding data sharing.
I guess I see it like this: the data scientist’s job is to continually get better at more accurately discerning the kinds of villages that are out there, where they are, who participates in them, who’s in them, how are they coming together? Data Science is getting better and better and better at that, as it’s moving around and shifting and changing. Digital anthropology is about who they are and the meaning behind that. How are they behaving? Why are they in a village? So it’s the difference between identifying that that’s the village versus really beginning to understand the people that are part of that village. And that’s always been what anthropology was. There were not necessarily the scientists out there discovering the world and finding villages.
But when these little pockets of civilization are there, the anthropologists adapt themselves to understand. And we need ways to embed digitally this science into how humans are acting digitally without violating privacy. And that’s the biggest challenge. You don’t want to violate privacy and you’ve got to be able to go about, conduct this research and respect people’s privacy and who they are.
This notion of the brands sharing data about consumers for profit is something that’s very very dangerous. So that’s going to be the beauty of these technologies, inventions that are coming where you have the Data Science – you don’t intrude on people’s privacy, but you’re preparing data in a way that the human sciences and digital anthropology can study and get insights into these villages and their behaviors.
Which Marketing and Sales automation tools and technologies do you currently use to promote your Podcast channel?
I have a Podcast website, www.creativeintelligence.fm, the episodes are released biweekly on Wednesdays. The episodes are available to download from the website, on iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, Castbox and TuneIn. And then I share the episodes on social media, on my LinkedIn and on Twitter @_creative_intel. After I release an episode, I write a blog about some of the topics which are discussed, which I publish on my Medium page. We’re looking for organic promotion.
People who come on, they have their own followers and those people are interested in those topics. And so each topic has its unique followers. We try to cross-promote with each other. When I have a guest speaking on his or her industry in particular interest, we make sure their audience knows they’re on there and then that just begins to spread and create awareness.
What ideas inspire you the most on your Podcasts? How do you consume and promote tech-related information?
I think I’m most inspired by people. You hear their passion, and maybe where they’ve taken their career to get to where they are, or something about a particular topic gets them so passionate and so interesting to talk to. It’s fascinating to me, and I build on that energy. So when you have these conversations, this fresh conversation with someone who cares deeply about a very particular topic, and you’re curious, and you want to understand their point of view and why those things matter to them, it creates such an engaging conversation. I always walk away learning something, you know, one, two, three, four, five amazing things from these specialists.
And I find it very stirring to talk to people on a human level about what interests them. Then, of course, there are always facts that come out about an industry or about a point of view that I never knew and that leads to more research or more interest in another area or another person who should be on the Podcast. So it’s this beautiful exploration and journey between two people in 45 minutes and it’s always really controlled, beneficial.
What are your predictions on the most impactful disruptions in AI and Robotic process technologies for 2019-2024?
For AI, I think it’s going to be the popularity of combining Human Science and Data Science. I think that is going to have a profound effect on how we look at things ethically, how we look at the data that is there, and the impact we can make with that data. I think there is a nuance when those two sciences come together and work collaboratively that is going to really move the needle on where things are going. I do think we’re going to find that we’re going to hit some big roadblocks with data.
Privacy is continuing to be a massive topic. It’s got everyone very, very concerned. As we know, Data Science is relying on data like fuel. The fuel starts drying up, and the advocacy and consumer groups advocate for not sharing data, and I think you’re going to have some real challenges that innovations are going to have to solve to protect privacy, but yet, at the same time, study large amounts of data along with the Human Science.
What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?
Al Ramich, the CEO of Loomi, launched his company in 2017, and he’s doing some interesting research and work into building technology that removes admin overload with AI assistants. His product will be used on the B2B side in the corporate environment in optimizing employee productivity and reducing anxiety and so on.
I also read about a smartphone app called Abalobi that logs data on fish catches on the South African Coast. They can record what they caught, when, where, and how much they sold the fish for. It’s promoting traceable food, and connecting those small fisheries to chefs. And all that data that they collect can be used for scientific research, so it’s economically good but also socially fair.
How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?
I think it’s being open-minded to believe that AI can create additional workforces. They can and do work, and create capacity for things that would just take too much labor. I think you have to have data-centric thinking, how you build your systems. You have to be really thoughtful so that what data you do have inside your business can be maximized, and be open-minded and really looking to continue to recruit people who see the value of computational advantages.
Whether it’s in Creativity, whether it’s in Journalism, in HR, or in a Supply Chain, all over, there are advantages in having repetitive tasks or tasks that can be passed onto AI to do a quicker and smarter job at. It’s going to be key. It’s going to be key to a competitive advantage position, that you adopt AI throughout your business.
How do you inspire your people to work with technology?
Well, I think I would really say that some of our technology leaders do such a good job of inclusion and really getting people engaged, and working at the human level because it’s all about the people. Technology is fantastic, but if you don’t have an engagement, if you don’t have an understanding of why and the benefits and quality training, then adding any kind of tool or technology is never going to get you what you were hoping for because adoption is difficult. You have to get buy-in.
You’ve got to be collaborative with everybody, and you really have to focus on that. It’s got to be part of how you implement and communicate what’s going on, getting them involved, or you lose respect. It’s a very collaborative process of implementing it, especially in workforces that have all kinds of different generations.
For the younger generation that’s in elementary school or going to high school, technology adoption is a little quicker. But when you have multiple generations in a company, then you have to consider these changes in technology and communication. Using technology is probably the biggest one to be to make sure you have a good collaboration. Any time you change technology and tools, there’s anxiety. You have to really work with the employees as humans and think those things through.
One word that best describes how you work?
Relentless! Another word is Inspiration. I like to work through inspiration.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
I think I can live without any of it, honestly. I love technology, but I think I could be just fine without it. But I think in a modern workforce right now, the kinds of work, what we do with Zoom and with Slack and messaging, it’s really how work is getting done. I think probably Zoom and Slack are really key tools that are making a disparate and international workforce very effective.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Do you know what’s productive? Actually having a conversation. That’s, I think, my productivity “hack” because you can go back and forth, email and texts and things, and it’s not as effective. I still believe one of the biggest productivity hacks is really quality communication. Do you want to be productive? Have quality communication in what you want and what you’re saying, and what’s needed.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading two books, Why Buddhism is True and Measure What Matters. My preference is to consume books on paper because I just like the feel of it. I annotate, I kind of go back and forth. My magazines and newspapers and news, I take it all digitally. I consume a lot of news. I consume a lot of magazines, but those I prefer to do digitally. Then books, I like to read on paper.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
On the Professional side, some of the best advice I was given was to have a mentor, and how important a mentor is to help a person to excel. I think that was some really good advice. I think on the personal side, some advice that really impacted my life was to make a tradition. I have a one-on-one weekend with each of my children, that is the same weekend every year, one for my son and one for my daughter.
I think it was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given, to have a really quality relationship with your children. On the personal side, for myself, is to continue to always work on yourself and to strive to be the best version of yourself you can be, and it’s a lot of work. It’s a full-time job. It pays rich rewards when you continually invest in being the best version of yourself possible.
Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?
My ability to learn and to stay curious.
Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Brian Chesky, the CEO, and Co-Founder of Airbnb.
Thank you, James! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
James is an experienced entrepreneur and executive with a global track record in the technology field, and a thought leader in the creative and visual arts, drawing on more than 20 years of doing business. He began his career in graphic arts at 19, going on to serve as COO of Fuel Digital Inc., a digital advertising company. In 2005 he became CEO of New York-based Splashlight, which has become the leading photography and video provider for retailers and brands. In 2019, he combined his role as CEO of Splashlight with the same position at Telmar, a long-established global supplier of advertising and media information software and services.
Having worked with over 350 retailers, luxury, jewelry, fashion, and athletic brands, Splashlight is the premier photo and video creation partner for clients such as Target, Bloomingdale’s, Under Armour, Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, David Yurman and The Aldo Group.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.