MARKETING FUTURE SHOCK

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Surrounded by dozens of high-tech prototypes, from a flying car to a space suit designed to withstand Martian dust storms, Wired Editor Chris Anderson didn't hesitate when asked to name the gizmos closest to his heart.

"I love robots," he said in an interview, as workers vacuumed and technicians set up exhibits on the eve of Wired's second Next Fest late last month at Chicago' s Navy Pier. "I've just got a thing about robots."

NextFest held plenty of robots for him to ogle. A walking robot with movable fingers named Hubo. A talking reproduction of legendary sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, whose novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" inspired the movie "Blade Runner." Nimble mechanical arms that spun records and articulated to the fat beats.

"Robot scratching!" Mr. Anderson exclaimed.

This modern-day version of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition wowed more than 30,000 attendees as passionate about tech as Mr. Anderson. But it also demonstrated that the pace of innovation is ever increasing and marketers have to keep up-and figure out how to exploit new media to communicate with consumers-to survive. NextFest also has a marketing component for Wired. It brings the "magazine to life," Mr. Anderson said. "It's taking what we do and expanding the audience."

`THE BLEEDING EDGE'

"It's all faster," said Mr. Anderson, who as editor of Wired has pushed coverage of the links between culture and technology. "Consumers are closer and closer to the bleeding edge. What used to be the sole domain of a few geeks [now includes] all of us. We're all getting new cellphones every couple years."

He added, "10 years ago, the distance from lab to our life was measured in decades. [But now] you can assume a lot of these things will be buyable in three, four, five years, in one way or another. "

Indeed, developments in technology, from the explosion of the blogosphere to the increasing importance of search, already has radically changed the game for marketers in recent years. The potential for "hypertargeting" remains huge. "Once people declare their intention with a search word, you're able to then deliver an appropriate ad," Mr. Anderson said.

A display of communications equipment pointed to how people will be more wired. A "seamless mobility" prototype included a wireless Webcam that links to a handset so you can watch your house while you're away. It's also a cellphone with videoconferencing abilities and a car monitor that automatically schedules maintenance appointments.

As cellphones add more media and interactive capabilities, they'll be increasingly important marketing vehicles.

"The opportunities to take advantage of location have just begun" to be tapped, he said. "My phone knows where I am. It would know what else is there. I can Google the world. ... Smart marketers (could) give you relevant information appropriate to your needs. That's a question good marketers are going to be asking."

Video games were prominently featured at the show-including a virtual reality "Human Pac-Man" game that superimposes game elements on your surroundings as you gobble dots-and will be an increasingly important frontier for marketers. It's a "medium that's every bit as legitimate as TV, radio and others," Mr. Anderson said, describing it as "interactive television." "It's really defining a generation."

SOUNDING SMART AGAIN

The tool for marketers will be "product placement," he said. "There'll be more."

It remains to be seen how soon people will be steering the flying car prototype on the showroom floor. But marketers have to be ready for the world to change.

"A lot of the ideas we laughed at in the mid-1990s are actually starting to sound smart again," Mr. Anderson said. "The notion that Internet advertising was someday going to be a very big deal was hype in 1995, ridiculed in 2001 and responsible for the biggest media company in America in market cap in 2005."

‘Wired’ is fired up about

* Blogs. "Obviously the power of word of mouth, peer-to-peer marketing is a very big deal," said Chris Anderson.

* Video games. Increasingly sophisticated games are "interactive TV" for an audience whose average age is almost 30. Marketers will step up product placement.

* Internet. Online searches give marketers the ability to send "hyper-targeted" messages.

* Cellphones. They go with us everywhere and, as they add more bells and whistles, are an increasingly important medium. "My obsessive interaction with my cellphone is probably going to be more the norm than the fringe exception going forward."

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