Development & technology for marketing content

by on 9th July 2015

Over the past couple of years, there’s been an increasing move to building front ends of websites and applications where HTML is used as the data layer, but it’s built and modified by Javascript. As a result, we’ve started building a richer, more compelling web. That has implications though, and so I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about modern development practice, what I’ve seen happening and changing, and how it’s going to affect marketing as an industry.

The Web is Getting Faster, Faster

Between increasing broadband speeds, better understanding of back end systems, advances in browser technology and front end rendering, we’re not only seeing applications delivered over the web getting faster, but the speed that they’re getting faster is going to continue to increase. Logically, that’s got to plateau at some point, but I suspect we’re a long way from that right now. After all, most places still don’t even have fibre broadband yet, let alone gigabit scale delivery. The technology isn’t the issue for now, it’s geography.

With that as a premise, I suspect we’re only going to see web applications get more complex as higher-speed connections gain greater levels of penetration. I’m not talking about simply using more data – in a world where 4k Netflix streams are a thing, that part of the equation blatantly obvious. Instead, I mean in terms of what applications like Google Docs can do; they’re only going to get more advanced. Take a look at Excel. Features like pivot tables, and other computationally expensive functions are starting to appear in Google Sheets. It’s worth remembering however, that these things still run in browsers, which isn’t a particularly elegant solution to anything. Which is why I suspect the second thing we’ll see is…

More Computation Will be Deferred to the Cloud

A lot of the work Microsoft has done with gaming recently is based around the concept of deferring complex physics processing to cloud servers, rather than running them on local machines. That’s part of why games in the near future will be able to get away with doing things on hardware that’s not remotely capable of doing what the game is asking for – the heavy lifting will be done by much more powerful machines somewhere else.

This isn’t something that’s restricted to games though. There’s no reason why that same principle can’t be applied to other areas of what we do with computers. It’s possible (theoretically) to do things with Google Sheets that you just can’t replicate on a computer running Excel locally. We just haven’t quite got the front-end software in place yet. We do have the technologies to do it though. Websockets, APIs, remote data centres. The infrastructure and communications layers already exist. It’s just a question of actually building the software.

How This Affects Marketing

The best pieces of marketing I’ve seen recently, the most compelling and innovative, have been enabled with technology that didn’t exist even as recently as two years ago. Let’s take a look at some of them and see what’s happened to make them possible.



The House of Clicks

  • Architects: Tham & Videgard
  • Client: Hemnet
  • Microsite

Magic of Flying

  • Agency: OgilvyOne Worldwide London
  • Client: British Airways
  • Case Study

In the case of each of these, there’s some very interesting technology going on. With Magic of Flying, OgilvyOne use an ADSB antenna to determine where aircraft were, hooked up to a custom-built platform designed to check flights over London against call signs provided by BA. That allowed them to have billboards which would show a child pointing to a flight as it went over London, saying what it was.

In the case of The House of Clicks, a team at Hemnet analysed their own analytics to derive the most sought after features of a house in Sweden, and then teamed up with architects to create the house that would appeal most broadly based on their data.

With Rise, AKQA used social media to scour China for young basketball talent, and then combined that with big celebrity presence to create a massive buzz around their campaign for Nike.

The common theme behind all of these though is novel interfaces in front of interesting data, driven through creative front end development. In the case of BA, the interface is billboards. But the back end technology isn’t all that different from what you’d expect from a web app. For House of Clicks, it’s data taken from web analytics, that could be turned into an interactive to allow for adjustment of parameters to customise the house created. For Rise, it’s social data being fed into marketing management platforms to allow analysis and real-time engagement.

Each of these uses technology we’re familiar with but in ways we’ve not seen before. Advertising budget being spent by in a pay-per-show billing method through Clear Channel, using web APIs and old-school hardware. Big data being mined to create insights on new products, for marketing purposes. Multi-channel social media being used with video, digital touch-points and real-life experiences to create and amplify marketing messages and drive incredible levels of engagement with brands.

The systems and technologies we are creating are going to allow marketers to be more creative and inventive than ever before. The broader your understanding as a marketer, the more interesting the work you’re going to be able to do with clients going into the future.

Great Marketing Will Increasingly Use Cutting Edge Technologies

The marketing and development industries can’t afford to stay siloed any longer. Search marketers need to understand how JavaScript front end technologies work. Designers need to understand browser rendering technologies. Developers need to be staying abreast of marketing campaigns and the technologies behind them. Only teams where there’s cross-discipline understanding are going to be able to produce truly exceptional marketing content, and the gap between those agencies and clients and everyone else is only going to get more obvious as the rate of progress hastens.

So, if there’s a message here, it’s that whatever your job is, it’s not enough to simply be good at your one thing. Very quickly, your skill sets are going to become interdependent on other creative disciplines, and you’re going to have to know how to talk the languages those people speak in order to be effective.

In my next post, I’m going to look at new front end technology for marketers in a little more detail, focusing on our new favourite: react.js. Until then!

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