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How The TEAM Companies is Transforming Talent and Production Business Affairs via AI

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COO Greg Smith on his latest employee, KAT

How The TEAM Companies is Transforming Talent and Production Business Affairs via AI
As the advertising and entertainment landscapes continue to evolve at an ever-increasing rate, the way in which the industries engage with talent and produce content does too. The TEAM Companies, a payroll, business affairs and technology provider for the advertising and entertainment industries, knows this all too well. It’s TEAM’s task to stay on top of the ever-evolving complications of labour laws, union rules, industry terms, and so on and so on. 

To guide themselves in this journey TEAM is in the process of building a new employee. Her name is KAT and she is an artificial intelligence (her name stands for Knowledge @ TEAM). TEAM is working with Equals3, a technology firm that has ample experience of working with AI in the marketing industries, on the build of KAT, and right now she is being fed with resources from TEAM’s extensive knowledge library, and will be trained and used by its most senior experts to ensure that she is put on the right learning path. 

Eventually, TEAM hope that KAT will “transform the industry”. LBB’s Addison Capper spoke with The TEAM Companies COO Greg Smith to find out more. 

LBB> How long has KAT been in the works and what initially inspired the idea to build her? How does it feed into the work that TEAM does?

GS> KAT has been in the works for the past few months as we have been loading all the knowledge we have (both industry-provided and our own) into the platform. We initially had the idea when we saw a platform called Lucy (from Equals3) that is focused on being a super smart assistant to help marketing folks answer complex questions relative to media plans and the like. This led us to believe that we too could leverage AI in making our people more efficient and allowing us to answer our clients’ questions (and those of our own) faster and hopefully more accurately.

At the moment it’s early days as we have found out that training is a requirement for a platform such as KAT to be effective. It’s like bringing up a child, nurturing the child with the best information, and steering the child initially in the right direction. Once KAT has been taught the basics (terms, rules, etc.) we will release her to our Talent and Business Affairs teams to assist them. Following that, KAT will continue to learn as she is used and engaged by TEAM staff.

LBB> How has the shifting landscape of advertising and entertainment informed the decision to build KAT? What are those shifts?

GS> The advertising and entertainment landscape continues to change at an amazing rate. The sheer volume of content, media complexity, and the speed at which changes are taking place certainly has driven us to look at ways to stay ahead of the curve. As more and more brands and agencies produce content for multiple purposes and uses, the increased level of knowledge to make informed decisions on how to engage talent, as well as produce and edit content, only grows. In addition, with brands decoupling and more brands engaging multiple partners for production, the need for expertise around talent and business affairs is no longer concentrated only at agencies. Ensuring that our clients are getting the most accurate estimates and kept clear of risk is a big part of what we do so having instant access to key information in the complex world of labour is key for TEAM.

LBB> Right now you’re feeding KAT with resources and ensuring that she’s on the right learning path - what’s involved in this process? What info are you feeding in?

GS> Great question. It’s a process, and in fact we have started with the basics such as labour guides, union rules, and industry terms. These are all key to a basic understanding of labour and talent. We have some of our top people interacting with her now and we have been asking her questions and providing feedback so she knows when she has made a good suggestion or a bad one. Once we are through this initial stage we will feed her with more detailed information such as TTC University webinar materials, case studies, white papers, and other information that homes in on the nuances of our business.

LBB> You’re working with Equals3 on the build of KAT - why are these the perfect partners for the project? 

GS> Equals3 was an early entrant into the AI space and has been working in the marketing arena from day one. Not only do they have experience in advertising and marketing but a large portion of the solutions they have provided have been in the knowledge space. While talent engagement, rights management, and general business affairs are not areas they have covered yet, their experience in knowledge management and more importantly leveraging AI was key to our decision. Having a partner who is already on a successful path allowed us to accelerate our vision.

LBB> Talk us through what KAT will do and how she will “transform the industry”. What will her main capabilities be and how will they impact and improve business for you and your clients? 

GS> In the past we have had to rely solely on subject matter experts who have years of experience in the industry to handle the more complex scenarios. As our business continues to grow in both volume and complexity, we realised we simply could not train enough people fast enough to support our growing client needs. Leveraging AI and in particular KAT will allow us to scale the knowledge of our key people across our organisation. Her main priority will be to provide the best advice and answers to the questions that our team members are faced with everyday. 

LBB> Will KAT be client facing or will they see her benefits via the work that TEAM will do with it? 

GS> Ultimately we would like to see her being used with clients. As we make more progress internally and as we gain confidence she is as knowledgeable as our smartest people, we will determine if and when clients will be able to use KAT. As good as she can be or will be, there is certainly a level of knowledge that is required to act upon her guidance, at least for today. Aspirationally we do hope to see her become a tool that people with some level of knowledge will be able to use to make correct decisions when it comes to talent.

LBB> How will TEAM clients use and interact with her? 

GS> At the moment we are focused on making our people more efficient in conjunction with KAT. However once we are ready to deploy to clients, KAT would be available in largely the same form we have internally. Perhaps we’d start with a more focused version delivering advice and direction on compliance-related items as these basic items are not always completely understood by our clients. Beyond this initial version we envision releasing the broader KAT platform. Of course this depends on the success of our internal release(s) and beyond. 

LBB> You’re aiming to launch KAT before the end of the year - what will be next steps after that? 

GS> Once we launch KAT she will be deployed across the various departments at TEAM. We will continue to provide input to KAT as well as feedback to ensure she is learning and growing. Clearly our Commercial group will benefit from the start but we are looking to see if our Tours and Live Events teams could benefit from her capabilities as well. 

LBB> Any parting thoughts? 

GS> We are super excited to be the first in our market to embrace AI and are very pleased with the progress to date. We believe that AI will be key to our future and that we’ll see benefits in other areas of our business, especially when it comes to customer service and self-service functions. These are certainly exciting times in our industry and this just makes it all that much more fun.
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The TEAM Companies, Wed, 29 Aug 2018 16:28:46 GMT