Simon Watson, Head of Digital
Upon arriving at ad:tech every year you’re immediately greeted with all the faff. By that I mean the exhibitors that have no doubt paid thousands to exhibit their wares in front of thousands of keen marketing and tech practitioners. The main benefit behind these exhibitors, for me, is the stash, albeit mainly pointless stash. This year I accumulated a moleskin notebook, many pens, sweets, enough business cards that would have taken a small tree to make, 2x branded iPhone chargers (win), a foam dice and an inflatable dinosaur. Oh, and I also had a shot on a VR rollercoaster and had a 4-person Scalextric race. Good times and a decent haul, one might say.
Forgetting that, for me the seminars are where the value lies and this year there were 3 main takeaways from ad:tech London:
1. Blockchain and its place in our industry and the massive potential it could bring
2. Technology in the home and the pace of change it’s seeing
3. I don’t think I ever was in, but if so – I’ve fallen out of love with social media
Before I start let’s be honest – Blockchain is a total headf**k, but it’s difficult to avoid its hype around our industry and Republic of Media have been considering its use for a while. If you forget about the tech behind it, you realise the potential benefits it could bring to our industry. Stripping it back, Blockchain speaks a similar language to that of Republic of Media – a transparency one. Blockchain’s full transparency model can cut the supply chain in half, at least, leading to a marketplace where price far more accurately reflects value. Working for an agency like Republic of Media, this was music to my ears – where do I sign up? How? Let’s do this, now!
The irony is however that Blockchain’s success is going to slow its adoption as there are too many middlemen set to lose out. These parties don’t want agencies buying through Blockchain and cutting margin, but our job is to do best by our clients which means cutting unnecessary margins and adopting the best buying methods as soon as possible. Blockchain really can work in the media buying process and it won’t be long until it’s here. Personally, I can’t wait for it to commercially benefit our clients.
2. Tech in the Home
Voice technology is creating a new set of rules for brands.
People love tech, but people also love human interaction and tech giants have caught onto this and realised that the more human a voice assistant sounds and interacts then the more likely we are to trust it. I sat and listened to Google Assistant making an appointment at a hair salon with the person working at the salon having absolutely no idea they were talking to a machine. AI carrying out our menial tasks for us is going to be a next big stage for voice technology – and I’ll quite happily let mine book a dentist appointment or order my favourite pizza on a Friday night. Taking this to the perspective of a brand – there’s no point entering the voice landscape unless you have a clear purpose.
An understanding of your audience and where adding voice into their journey with your brand is key. Keep what you do simple, but be able to scale quickly if it takes off. Speaking more broadly about tech in our homes – our connected devices sit in our homes and await command. The idea, or hope at least from tech giants such as Google and Amazon, is that as we get more and more connected ‘things’ in our homes, the more and more our connected homes will learn about us and our habits. It will know, roughly, when you get home and listen to music, when you go to bed and wake up, when you like your central heating activated, when various lights go on and off, when you watch TV and a whole host of other things we may not even know about yet. In the short-term this will lead to alerts on our smartphones if our lives aren’t meeting the habitual data. My alarm will blare if it reaches 7am and the shower hasn’t been on yet. I’ll get a message on my smartphone saying: “Simon, it’s 8pm and X-Factor is on, but your TV isn’t. Would you like the TV in the living room on and microwave set to 3 minutes ready for your popcorn?” *
Whilst this is marginally useful, it does have great promise – especially for care. Imagine you have a housebound elderly relative who you know has a fairly regimented day due to their age and mobility. The morning that the toaster hasn’t been used by 8:30am or the TV isn’t on by 10am then a carer or relative could be alerted who could call or pop in to check everything is ok. This has a real tangible benefit.
* Based entirely on fictional events
3. Social Media
I used to be an active social media user – in fact there was one point not so long ago that I used Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. No longer. I now occasionally browse or post on Instagram and my other accounts lie dormant.
You could say that social media has changed the world, and you might be right, but what it certainly does do is accelerate change – good and bad. The Ice Bucket Challenge and political scandal being examples of these. I don’t need to categorise these into the ‘good and ‘bad’ for you!
Unlike the golden age of great brand TV ads, social media isn’t going to create the next Ridley Scott, David Fincher or David Lynch. So, what have we actually gained from social media? ROI in advertising – probably. The ability to keep in touch with friends and family who aren’t nearby – certainly, although there are other arguably better means. I’d argue that isn’t a great deal and that young people having fake or exaggerated profiles, privacy issues, health consequences and cyber bullying are negative issues that outweigh any benefits.
All that said – social media platforms aren’t going anywhere as we’ve created a wave of excitement too big for some people to forget about catching up their ‘friends’ news’ or posting about what they’ve had for dinner.
Attending ad:tech London again this year was great and I’ll go back again next year to listen to the speakers at the hundreds of seminars you can choose from. If you choose to go – take one piece of advice and plan an itinerary of what or who you want to see. That’s what I did for the first time this year and definitely got the most out the experience, whilst others floated about gathering too much branded pointless stash to even carry. A big thumbs up and thanks to all the speakers for creating engaging and inspiring presentations and debate.
Now, “Alexa, run my bath for 7pm – usual temperature”.