Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Enthralled by tech we don't understand

The advertising world has discovered this week that an app purporting to crowd-source spotting migrant boats in trouble in the Mediterranean did no such thing.

It rendered the same static image for every user and when they 'spotted' the boat in it, asked for their contact details.

On the plus side, it did update with the weather forecast for Libya.

The app just won a Bronze award at Cannes.

Apple has pulled it from their app store and an investigation has started.

Whatever the morality of producing the app in the first place - which is pretty shocking - what the episode brings home to me, is the need for senior managers making decisions about tech, to actually understand the technology. Not to be programmers themselves necessarily, but to have a good idea of what is possible, what is easy and what is difficult.

A bunch of judges at Cannes decided that the migrant spotting app was worthy of an award.

None of them apparently had the nous to say "hang on, where are they getting their live satellite images?"

Of course the app can't exist. Marketing creative agencies don't have access to live satellite video streams of the Mediterranean. This isn't 24 and Jack Bauer's not an agency staffer.

Google Earth isn't a live stream.

You can get live images, if by 'live' you mean one per day. And it's not cloudy.

At the very least when it comes to technology, if we don't know, then we need to find an expert and ask. There are charlatans out there in the world. Some of them are software vendors, some do digital advertising and some make apps. If we're not to be taken in, the level of tech savvy in our industry needs to increase and quickly.