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Early Adoption of Technology: The Good, Bad and Ugly Faces


It was about two years ago when a young man sent me an intriguing message via LinkedIn. He was not a Saudi Prince with a million dollars for me and he was not trying to sell me insurance, which I typically find in my inbox.

No, he had a very interesting software product that could help me create better video for my clients. OK, you got me, let’s talk. After a short conversation, we decided to meet.

The conversation went very well.

He was a very intelligent young man with a pretty cool new product. Basically, he explained that many years ago in some village in Papua New Guinea, there was this guy who researched facial movements to gauge emotion. He told the story better than that, but you get the idea.

I guess after a lot of research, my new friend had determined that you could pretty much watch anyone’s face for certain movements and these movements would be able to tell you what kind of emotion was occurring.

Even better: He went on to explain that he had developed a software that could track these movements on a person’s face while they watched a video. Eureka!

So, you mean I can produce a video/commercial, load it up in your fancy new software, show it to a bunch of people and know how it made them feel whether they admit it or not?

I’m digging this.

I had watched that cool show with Tim Roth called Lie to Me, so I knew what this guy was talking about. I also knew that big companies and movie studios out there were using similar software.

I had read some industry articles talking about this very thing, however it was always a bit out of the grasp of our clients’ budgets. So, my next question – as my face emoted pain, I’m sure – was “how much?”

That’s where things got interesting.

We are a startup, he explained, and went on to tell me they were really looking hard for early adopters and it was very affordable – and it actually was. I even told this young man he wasn’t charging enough!

I signed the contract and we started using the product.

So, here is where my warning starts.

As marketers, we not only wanted to use this great new technology to make our videos better and more effective for our clients, but we could also use this as a tool to promote ourselves.

So, we began writing the blogs, building the web page talking about this, submitting articles to local pubs about how cool and awesome we are because of this new tech that nobody else has.

We even booked a conference in Orlando that year and brought along this young man to speak to a large audience of marketing professionals. Great opportunity for the fledgling company.

We spent the next 18 months or so promoting and implementing the facial recognition emotion tracking software.

Needless to say, my doors were not exactly broken down by new business, but it was still cool.

Meanwhile, this little startup company was working their ass off. I found out how hard they had been working in a rapid series of phone calls.

It was January, and I was scheduled to speak at the New York Empire Tourism Conference in April.

We do a lot in the tourism industry and I have attended for years. I thought this new tech would be very interesting to a group of people who rely on creating emotion to get people to visit their destination.

The session was scheduled the description was written and the registrations began. I was then introduced to the companies’ new CEO.

For purposes of this blog, we will just call him Richard.

Richard went on to explain to me that they had outgrown us.

He mentioned their new “big” clients at least 100 times and detailed all the reasons why he could no longer help me or my clients.

He even said he didn’t want us to feel like they were abandoning us since we were such early adopters while he was, indeed, abandoning us.

The “Dear John” came in an email (which I hate). I wiped the footprint off of the top of my head and quickly realized that becoming an early adopter of technology isn’t always a good thing.

After some minor scrambling and thanks to a great conference organizer, we salvaged our speaking engagement and I think it will actually be even better.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go talk with my web developers and make sure they get that service off of our website.

It’s important to watch tech and be aware and even play around. But, be careful how much you rely on it because things move at a rapid pace in our tech-driven world and you never know when that tech will disappear on you.

About The Author

Travis arrived at ABC back in 1995, when photography was his main creative outlet. That passion evolved over the next decade as Travis began thinking beyond imagery and pitching his broader ideas and strategies to clients. It was the birth of the idea-based marketing philosophy: Getting to know the client inside out, learning about the successes and failures, then spinning that into an idea that could build a better outcome. That’s the cornerstone he’s built his creative-first agency on since buying the place in 2005. ABC has grown exponentially since then both in terms of people and clients. Local, regional, national, banking, destinations, nonprofits: Travis has greatly expanded services over the years to accommodate them all. He’s also assembled a talented team. Just like them, he’s greeted each morning by a simple reminder etched on the wall: “Create Cool Sh!t Today!” He’s proud to run the kind of agency that does.