If Warhol Was Alive—Personalization Would Be His Next Mission

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I was fortunate to find myself on a panel discussing Warhol, and the intersection of art and technology this year at Advertising Week with some of the greatest minds in our industry.

Medialink hosted an event at The Whitney Museum together with Zenith & Moxie’s Sean Reardon, Adobe’s Alex Amado, Diageo’s Sophie Ann Kelly, Coty Inc.’s Ukonwa Ojo, and Viacom’s Dario Spina to discuss how art, science and advertising all come together.

It was awesome and fun. I mean, how often do we get to be on a panel discussing Warhol and technology and of all places, at the Whitney Museum. I thanked MediaLink’s Michael Kassan for “making me cool” and having me on the panel, not to mention the fact that my wife and mother, who happened to be in visiting from Israel, were in the audience—big points!

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Andy Warhol is a name everyone knows—he is famous for his works of pop art. And there are many things Warhol did in his days, but if there is one big thing that he did in a very special way, it was making art accessible and relatable by any means necessary. Whether using celebrity or brands, he pulled it out of the high brow, and put it into the eyes of the consumer. I’ll get to that later in this blog post.

The fine art of reaching consumers and the power of distribution.

Warhol was a pioneer in merging the traditional world of art with consumerism. He made his art not only accessible but relatable.

We’ve all seen the Campbell’s soup can and the Coca-Cola prints—these are excellent examples of how he connected people with brands. He was among the first to leverage iconic brands that everyone knew, loved and used every day and turned them into art.

“I just paint things I always thought were beautiful, things you use every day and never think about.” – Andy Warhol, TIME Magazine, 1962

50 years later, and as we’ve all seen, he was onto something. The most innovative brands out there are using storytelling, and direct to consumer relationships to drive growth to their business. Especially in the world we live in, where we’re overloaded with information, between Instagram, emails, messengers, games, friends, life…and with only 24 hours a day, we will never have enough time to read all the books we want to read, watch all the movies we want to watch—or buy all the products we might enjoy.

It is those innovative brands that through great products, and relatable content are able to get consumers to invite them to their everyday life.

An example I gave on the panel was Dollar Shave Club, and how with a captivating and genuine founder story, good product and offering, they were able to tackle a category completely owned by Gillette. It wasn’t through a banner with a picture of a razor, it was through a relatable story that everyone who needed a razor could connect to.

A world that is completely personalized.

One of the topics that came up throughout Adweek this year was personalization. How much is too much? When does personalization become creepy if campaigns hit too close to home?

And I thought it was actually very relevant to this panel. You see, I don’t think there is such a thing as too much personalization, as I think this generation we live in now expects value, they expect it fast, and they’ll trade a lot more than we were willing to for it in the past. I think people expect every interface they have to be “about them,” as long as it’s relevant, and involving exploration of new and interesting things.

Personalization is a perfect evolution of Warhol’s initial achievement. From making things accessible, to making them personalized. In fact, think if Warhol was alive—personalization would be his next mission. Today, there is much discussion of Machine Learning (ML), Deep Learning (DL) and Bullshit (BS). We’re still at the early stage of that mission, and I’m excited about the revolution AI can truly bring.

 

I personally have a love/hate relationship with Deep Learning and AI. I think it will do amazing things for us, and can be bigger than the invention of electricity. On the flip side, I still reminisce about person-to-person relationships versus person-to-machine-to-person (or just person-to-machine).

Staying connected with tomorrow’s consumers.

Warhol was ahead of the curve—he was constantly looking at tomorrow’s audience which begs the question, as we all become better, tech-savvy marketers—how can we leverage our partners for actionable/learnable insights about tomorrow’s consumer?

If you think what Warhol did, towards the end of his career—he went to the younger artists as his way of staying connected with ‘tomorrow.’ He spent time in a studio with folks like Basquiat, Julian Schnabel and others where it wasn’t intuitive to do so.

I believe we can do better, and try to think about the “not intuitive initiatives” we should test,  what works and what doesn’t. What startups are out there that can help us and our clients drive value, how do we collect data, and build relationships with consumers directly? Otherwise, we’ll end up giving all of our money to 2 to 3 companies (you know who) and hope for the best. Hope is not a great strategy.

On that note, I’m hopeful 🙂 and grateful for MediaLink, the awesome panelists and moderator, it felt as if we could have chatted for hours…

To a future that is all accessible and personalized.