Interview: Walter Pike on mobile, Google and augmented reality

Walter Pike is a South African marketing maven who has embraced the digital age with unusual clarity of vision and foresight. We got in touch with him to find out his thoughts on the future of the web, marketing and how it is all converging.

Memeburn: What are the major trends you are seeing in your industry?
Walter Pike: The entire advertising paradigm is undergoing intense change caused by a complete and fundamental shift in the way the connected world collaborates, finds stuff out and buys stuff. This is causing a fundamental rethink of how marketing, communication and branding works.

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MB: What will the industry look like in 10 years time?
WP: What a question! Trying to predict 10 years down the line in this space is impossibly optimistic. Predicting what will happen in a year would be pretty good. The insight is that the impact on society and marketing is so fundamental that much like the invention of the printing press plunged the world into 150 years of chaos, so to are we moving into a chaotic few decades. The best that you can say is that the industrialised model of advertising and marketing will have changed and advertising agencies will look totally different.

MB: Which new technologies most excite you?
WP: In the short term, mobile and the mobile internet, and in the medium term the movement into the semantic web. I think that when augmented reality recovers from the hype, it’s going to be very exciting.

MB: What social media tools do you use?
WP: All of them.

MB: Are there any social media tools that you despise?
WP: Despise? No. Some are better than others at achieving their objectives. Some will win and some will lose.

MB: Why, in your opinion, is Google not cracking the social networking game?
WP: Who said that they are not? They have, in unconnected pockets, the entire social media game in the bag, they just need to pull the strings together. I really would not judge the alpha roll out of some applications as a failure. No… I am afraid saying that Google aren’t cracking it is like saying (like many in the tech world said) that Apple had boobed with the iPad.

MB: In your opinion, what will be the next Google, Facebook and Twitter?
WP: The evolution will probably be into mobile and location-based networks. I feel that Foursquare has a lot of potential

MB: Blackberry, iPhone or Android?
WP: The game is iPhone and Android. That’s it at the moment. In South Africa the Blackberry is popular, but the best developers are working on iPhone and Android and they will lead the way.

MB: How did you end up in your current field?
WP: I started off farming. So it’s entirely logical that I should end up thinking and talking about marketing. Who knows?

MB: What is the most fulfilling project you have worked on?
WP: There have been so many. Every one in its time was consuming and fulfilling in its own way.

MB: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
WP: Being a father of three stunning human beings, and watching them grow to be leaders in their own space.

MB: What was your biggest failure and how did you deal with it?
WP: Its sounds trite but a failure is just finding something that didn’t work, I have probably had hundreds, maybe even thousands of failures. I treat them all the same. Think about what the learning was, pack it away and move on.

MB: What do you love most about your job?
WP: I love standing in front of a room full of people and knowing that I have made them think, and maybe learn something.

MB: Why are you attending the Tech4Africa Conference?
WP: There will be lot of smart people there. I love talking to smart people because I learn so much.

MB: What would you most like Tech4Africa attendees to take away from your talk?
WP: I’d like them to think: “I never thought of it like that”

MB: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing African tech growth?
WP: Imagination – the lack thereof.

MB: What one thing should Africans be doing to better compete globally?
WP: Being brave, not caring what other people think – just making it happen.

MB: What advice would you give to a tech start-up trying to get a great idea off the ground?
WP: Think big, start small, scale fast.

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