Mumbrella Interview: AI, Transformative Tech, & Customer Value

May 30, 2023 | Michael McLaren

Michael McLaren, President, North America at Bounteous, sat down for an interview with Calum Jaspan for Mumbrella, an Australian marketing and media news outlet, during Adobe Summit 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. They discussed generative AI, transformative technology, and delivering real value to customers. Here’s a transcript of their conversation (edited for clarity). 

Calum Jaspan (34:25): Finally, I spoke with Michael McLaren, former global CEO at Merckle for B2B, as well as holding senior roles, at McCann, Ogilvy and Mather, and other [prestigious firms]. Now he leads digital transformation at Bounteous. Michael, thanks for joining us. 

Starting off, it'd be great to get a few words on what the company does and why you're here as a premier partner of Adobe.

Michael McLaren (34:49): Bounteous is a digital transformation agency. We create digital experiences that allow businesses to get closer to their customers. We combine a set of tech capabilities that have the ability to integrate technology. 

We build marketing, technology and leverage the capabilities of all the top marketing technology platforms. We have a strategic capability, so we drive strategic insights like a consulting company, and then we also have a marketing activation capability, like a classic agency. So if you think about the ecosystem, we live in that intersection of the systems integrators, the consultants, and the agency worlds. 

Jaspan (35:40): We had this morning's keynotes, a couple of pretty big announcements that I think will be the focus of their generative AI products. What did you make of those and what are your thoughts on this? How is it going to help deliver the product that you deliver to your clients? 

McLaren (36:00): I think everybody who's working in marketing technology today needs to have a strategy around generative AI. It's a trend that is going to be evasive. Let's not forget Adobe's been at this for a while. They launched a Sensei product about five years ago. So, this is now a fifth-generation kind of tech. And clearly Microsoft, with the funding of OpenAI and ChatGPT, has really set the pace. So I think that we're going to see machine learning becoming more and more mainstream. It's already happening. Algorithms and computing capability allows you to work through massive data sets and extract insights and patterns that are going to lead to better decision making. 

So it's just the way of the future. I think that we all need to work out how to apply that technology in an intelligent way in the solutions we create. 

Jaspan (37:00): What's the process of bringing in these new products, and then applying them in a way that delivers that sort of trust that you've already established with those clients that you work with? 

McLaren (37:18): If you think about the entire digital ecosystem, let's start on the far right hand side. The digital media world is full of fraud. That's the bot fraud that exists out there and how the industry is trying to create greater transparency and using blockchain and other tech to ensure the clients are getting what they pay for. Then you move all the way over to personalization and how we can drive personalization from a high match identity resolution. 

That's independent of cookies and how we're trying to build ethical guidelines around how to leverage those sorts of personalization technologies. I think that everybody working in this world is really trying to be conscious of trust and respect for people's information and details. 

I think the rule of thumb is that just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should. The truth is that we live in an opt-in world. We have to respect the choice of the customer and that we have an obligation to create values for that customer. 

There's value that they see and perceive, then they're more willing to give you their information in order to sort of get what they're looking for. And I think that as a marketer in this day and age, you have to think of your job as creating that value exchange. It's no longer just “I need to persuade you,” or “I need to tell you something.” I need to create value for my customer. 

Jaspan (38:53): Yeah, really interesting perspective. I think someone, I think it might have been Susan Somersille, the final keynote this morning, said something similar: that as long as you're showing and providing growth and value for your customers, they'll be willing to be more flexible and work with you. 

McLaren (39:08): The beauty of technology is that you can do things that you would never have been able to do before. You can delegate tasks to software that would have been burdensome and create convenience. A great example, even though it's fairly low level, is a calendaring capability when someone reaches out and says they'd love to have a chat with you. Or if you want to make an appointment at a medical professional, being able to do that online and have that transparency and just get it done in one go so that I don't have to do 22 phone calls with assistance and help desks. You can plug in your insurance information and make it a more convenient exchange. 

So technology allows you to think about these ways. How do I create something that’s more convenient? How do I create something that is less burdensome? How do I create something that’s faster? And so a lot of the things we talk about in value exchange, they come down to really fundamental little things like that. Can I grease the skids? Can I create less friction? Can I put you in a place where you want to be? 

Can I recognize you when you come to my website? Can I bring in the intelligence that I have from my past dealings with you so that you only receive future messaging that is relevant to you? These are all tasks that are good for organizations. They should take this on themselves and understand how to use technology to help solve those questions so that the user experience is richer, faster, more convenient, more relevant, and more valuable. If you can create that, then you've got a customer who will want to come back and do business again.

Jaspan (40:52): Thanks for joining me. That is all we have time for today. Thanks for listening to the Mumbrella podcast.