When Digital Meets Physical: Don't Chase the Shiny Penny

Ad Age Digital Conference: Creative Experts Talk Best Practices With Emerging Technology

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Marketers are exploring virtual reality.
Marketers are exploring virtual reality. Credit: Bloomberg
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Typically, agencies need to shove their clients to dip their toes into digital advertising waters. But with some of the most cutting-edge technology tools used in marketing -- such as robotics and virtual reality -- it's the agencies preaching caution.

At the Ad Age Digital Conference, a quartet of ad agency executives that work intimately with emerging technologies advised careful consideration for brands diving into these new physical platforms. Some clients will demand to deploy a new gizmo simply because it's new, said Damian Gutierrez, associate partner with the Control Group.

"If it didn't fit the brand, fit the concept, we have to be conscious about pushing them," added Aron Hjartarson, executive creative director for Framestore.

Stephen Clements, executive creative director for AKQA, also urged advertisers to ask critical questions before diving in with physical integration of futuristic tools. "Is it useful? Does it actually solve a need for people? The red herring is just to use technology for technology's sake," Mr. Clements said.

That said, each has found clients to run experimental, out-of-home campaigns. Marketers can use the consumer unfamiliarity -- and curiosity -- of new-fangled tools, like Oculus Rift, to their advantage, the agency executives noted. And each said to expect more of these trials in the future, as marketing dollars are pouring into the category.

Matt Lower, general manager for Sub Rosa, a design firm that built a "brew-bot" for a GE campaign -- the bot drew consumers' portraits on cups -- stressed that these efforts need to be "user-centric." These campaigns, Mr. Clement said, "cause a buzz, a little 'a-ha' moment."