FinTech – shortcode for the disruption and reimagining of the world of financial services through technology – is full of energy at the moment. The true transformative nature of digital is becoming clear in this sector, just as it has in so many others. It’s an opportunity for brand building, and agencies can take the lead, argues Ed Melvin

The advertising industry is by now well past its first tentative embraces with digital. We’ve grasped digital creativity in communications. The progressive agencies are forging ahead and building out new service offerings including and beyond digital advertising.

In Publicis, we’ve a recognised creative reputation in storytelling. However like many in our industry, we have creative expertise elsewhere – namely in designing experiences which influence, convince, and help make things happen for people. After winning a Cannes Lion in 2013 in mobile, we understood that there was a new frontier in developing consumer platforms for the digital age. AdAge posited that the next big thing for the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity could be to attract the startup and VC community.

This is part of the reason why we’ve now incubated our own FinTech startup.
This is part of the reason why we’ve now incubated our own FinTech startup.

Ed & Dan from Publicis, pitching Who’s In? earlier this month at MoneyConf 2015, in Belfast

Who’s In? is the title we’ve given to our group decision making & buying platform. It’s an app which allows groups of people to “chat, choose and chip in”.

The problem it solves is a common one: if you’ve ever tried to get a group of friends or colleagues to decide to buy something (a gift, or a trip away), then you’ll know how painful that can be.

Who’s In: imagine WhatsApp and PayPal had a baby, and Richard Thaler raised it.

So it was interesting to bring the idea to MoneyConf last month in Belfast. We learned that our advantage is in true human understanding: what influences purchases, the dynamics of decision making, and good design around that thinking. The psychology of group decision making is complex. What dynamics influence a group? What behavioural nudges work in this context? How does the challenge change when the group knows someone is dragging their heels on deciding where to go…

This is where as an industry, we can lead. Clients now look beyond agencies who will tell them what can be done; the question is always what should be done. The technology layer in apps such as Who’s In? is about a) understanding the technical possibilities and b) eliminating friction in the experience.

But people who work in advertising (and particularly in creative agencies) are, in general, more social scientists than computer scientists. That will stand to the industry. Technical literacy is important. But it is a base layer. In a world where seamless transactions are the expected norm, it is creative sensibility which will distinguish brands.

So with Who’s In? as an agency we’re exploring what it takes to incubate our own startup, and put this creative philosophy – which we term ‘human digital’ – to the test.

We’re now at the stage where we’re seeking further funding, meeting with potential investors, and looking to bring our MVP (minimum viable product) to market. It’s an interesting journey so far. Whatever happens, we hope that thanks to us, the days of having to wait weeks for someone to pay you back for the stag party will be a thing of the past.

Ed Melvin is Digital Strategy Director with Publicis Dublin, and a co-founder of Who’s In? For more on how Who’s In? is progressing.