Mobile World Congress: Advertising in the 4th Industrial Revolution

By Published on .

A worker demonstrates the Qualcomm Iris Authentication Solution on the third day of Mobile World Congress MWC in Barcelona last Wednesday.
A worker demonstrates the Qualcomm Iris Authentication Solution on the third day of Mobile World Congress MWC in Barcelona last Wednesday. Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Most Popular

In any given year SXSW shows us the businesses that new technology allows, CES shows us the devices that will use the tech, and Mobile World Congress projects the plumbing and infrastructure that will make both happen. If CES shows us the canvas for advertising, MWC gives us the toolkit. Mobile World Congress this year was built on the theme of the 4th industrial revolution, the idea that connectivity will be the key element that empowers business transformation and a paradigm leap in what's possible. So what keys to marketing came out of the conference?

1) The World Of 5G

What's interesting about new technology isn't the human needs it reflects, but the behaviors it enables. 2G allowed the world to speak and text to each other and created new currencies like M-PESA in Kenya. 3G created a world where we could access any piece of information, anywhere and any time, and where we shared our feelings, locations and photos near instantly. 4G allowed livestreaming, creating an age where anyone anywhere could become a content maker and video consumption on the phone proliferated.

This week 5G standards were released by the International Telcommunication Union, one of the major groups working toward the next generation of mobile tech. (3GPP is another.) The specification calls for speeds fast enough to download 2 movies per second and says 5G must support at least 1 million connected devices per square kilometre, a nod to the number of connected devices envisioned in the internet of things.

With such velocity, security, capacity and other characteristics, we'll finally see the development of robust smart cities and fleets of connected self-driving cars, but also a radical change in the media landscape. What becomes of fixed broadband or TV signals when all 5G is so fast?

Surely all media becomes digital, all TV becomes video, and a whole Lumascape of new ways to leverage personal data to best serve TV ads in real time emerges.

2) A Smarter World and More Intimate Data

Sensors are proliferating, getting more abundant, smaller and closer to our bodies. From smartwatches to home monitoring devices to health trackers and other elements in the internet of things, the speed, accuracy and abundance of data is becoming even richer. Combined with better connectivity and faster processing, we can now extract, analyze and obtain meaning from more data than ever. We can now make more profound decisions and in real time, with more advanced analytics and better data visualization tools. We're also getting more valuable trends and deeper insights.

Brands can now have access to information they've only ever dreamed of: knowledge of what people are feeling, what their plans are, their moods or intentions.

3) The Anticipatory Internet

It's this vast amount of rich personal data combined with the superfast, secure, low latency network of 5G, and also the computing power and self improvement of AI that leads to the third trend, where the internet serves us.

For much of our lives we've gone to the internet, but soon the internet will surround us as a thin ambient layer that connects everything. Screens become entry points to a lattice that's connecting everything, a pervasive internet which guides us and allows easy access and a seamless vanishing interface. Sometimes screens vanish and virtual assistants like Siri, Cortana or Alexa help us make decisions.

Many aspects of our lives will become seamlessly assisted by a thin contextual information and smart suggested options or nudges. Anticipatory computing will make constant micro predictions about what we are likely to do, need and want.

We need to rethink of the roles of brands in this world. How do brands keep top-of-mind? How do we make replenishment work for us? Brands need to be cautious in a time where the roles of memory and purchase change.

4) New Screens

Smartphone designs are tending towards the optimal solution and becoming similar, but new screens are becoming more compelling. Mobile World Congress saw Huawei introduce a smartwatch and Robert Scobe reiterated his prediction that Apple and Carl Zeiss are working on AR glasses to launch this year/ Wwe're perhaps starting to see digital convergence reverse and for people to own personal device ecosystems, the phone as the sun in a solar system of devices.

What does this mean for advertising? I think it means we need to revisit every assumption. Smartwatch advertising may just mean the capture of more intimate information to help you decide what to buy.

AR headsets, if they come, could mean the creation of entirely new advertising experiences. We need to consider devices not just as places to show messages and help people decide, but also new ways to make things easier. How can retailers use Apple or Android Pay, keep receipts and earn loyalty payments or send special offers? How can messages move from screen to screen and push people towards actions based on contexts? How can we buy things with the press of our finger on Touch ID?

New screens mean a new way to think about advertising and marketing, unbound by thinking of the past and lazy assumptions of the past.