Deciphering digital: choosing a technology

Recently I was asked to evaluate technologies for a particular execution of a campaign. The key objectives being:

  • It must be easy to distribute based on geography (eg. people in a particular establishment will receive the communication while people outside the venue do not),
  • communication should be pushed to users without interaction or the need to accept permission,
  • budget is very important,
  • mobile data reception and WiFi are not always going to be available,
  • the data will change frequently, and updates should be easy to make,
  • it should display different information depending on which venue the user is at, and
  • no prior setup should be needed before reaching the venue.


What’s the best technology that meets all of these requirements? A printed flier. It ticks all the boxes and can be distributed easily without an internet connection.

Choosing the best technology for a campaign is often akin to a chicken and egg quandary. If you rigidly define the requirements prior to involving your technology people, chances are you won’t achieve a good outcome. Alternately the technology team has a differing dilemma: they will try to do something new just because they’ll get to play with updated technologies, even though it doesn’t fit into the project’s needs. If what you’re doing has no strategic purpose for the brand it’s just as disappointing and it becomes a gimmick.

The best thing to do is to involve the technology people as early and as often throughout the creative process as possible. They can jump in and offer effective solutions exactly when needed. They can also offer thought starters with specific executions during the brainstorming phase. They can shape the creative from a different perspective if they are fully involved.

Often I’m asked, ‘Is it possible to do X?’

A better question would be, ‘Can we do X well?’ Just because something is possible does not mean that it’ll be a good experience for your audience.

So how do I actually choose a technology for a project? There are five very broad areas I look at:

Proximity of feature set: How closely matched is this technology to what we’re planning to do? Are there any features we need that would require major work to implement?

Stability: How long has this technology been around? Is it well funded? Has it proven itself for what we want to do with it? Will it grow and evolve with our newly created platform or stagnate and restrict us later?

Speed of execution: How performant is this technology in general? Are there bottlenecks that could be a problem for the project? Will it scale to meet our needs easily?

Speed of development: How difficult is it to create software using this technology? Will it take us shorter or longer than we’re used to?

Familiarity: How well do we know this technology? How likely is it we’ll hit new types of problems while using it? Do we have in-house expertise we can leverage? Is it a revolutionary new way of doing things or simply an evolution on top of what we’re already used to?

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t be trying to maximise all of these areas. Use them as metrics to evaluate the technology, and the priorities will change per project. For example, if one of your specific goals on a project is to learn a new technology, already being familiar with that technology is a downside.

Bringing it all together, I will say this in summary: involve your technical team early and continuously. When you’re curious as to why a particular technology was chosen for a project, ask what the other choices were and how the one that was chosen compares for each of the five areas above. It’ll help you understand how closely the technical team’s understanding of the campaign priorities matches reality.


Kevin Brown
BY Kevin Brown ON 17 April 2013
Kevin works as a technical director at Leo Burnett Sydney. Originally from the US, he now helps clients in Australia to get the most digital bang for their buck. Kevin has created accounting software, transport software, advertising campaigns, mobile name it. Twitter: @kevinbrowntech