Intelligent, Interactive and Converged Advertising

Male, 22 years old, dark haired. If I turn on the television or the radio, which combined account for the vast majority of ad spending, sooner or later I will come across the advertising of a disposable tampon, a denture adhesive and a shampoo for curly red hair. Guess what, every time I see one of such advertisings the company that paid for them is wasting money. Now if you consider that this pattern repeats itself millions of times day after day you get an idea of the amount of dollars that are being burned. As John Wanamaker, father of the department store, puts it: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half”.

If we consider the traditional advertising media until the mid 1990s television broadcasting clearly represented the most efficient way to reach mass audiences. The problem is that Information and Communication Technology (henceforth ICT) has advanced tremendously over the last years, eroding the television efficiency and creating new methods to approach the customer. One example is the IPTV, delivering video through Internet Protocol creates a bidirectional connection link, meaning that data and information is no longer travelling only from the broadcaster to the end user but also the other way round.

Marketers, despite such technological advancements, are still addressing their campaigns and targeting their customers in the same ways they used to do twenty years ago. Put the toys advertising between the cartoons and the Ginsu knives between the soaps. The few companies that recognized the need for more intelligent, interactive and converged advertising techniques leaped ahead from competition. In one word: Google.

Now let me explain more in detail what I mean by intelligent, interactive and converged advertising:

  • Intelligent: advertising should be delivered with the right message, on the right time, for the right customer. Based on the television channels I watch, on the internet sites I visit, on the purchases I do with my credit card and on any other recognizable pattern that might emerge, a central intelligent network should be able to determine with accuracy my needs and interests, at any point in time and space. There are no limits for the degree of intelligence of such network. Advertisings will be created and customized in real-time to maximize the effectiveness of the message. Imagine our friend John sits in his coach and turns the television on. The television “knows” that lately John has been thinking about buying a notebook. More than that, it also knows John plays 3D games therefore the notebook should pack a fast processor and a good graphic card. Furthermore the television knows that John passes his weekends on the beach and that his favourite color is red, and it even knows that instead of the word notebook he is used the word laptop. The result is that on the break of his favourite program John will watch a man (that incredibly resembles himself…) laying on the beach as a beautiful reddish sun sets, with a high-end laptop right on his side.
  • Interactive: the end user should be able to interact with the advertising itself. As John watches the advertising of the notebook – I mean, laptop – he should be able, with a simple click or voice command, to get further information on the characteristics of the processor and to check what color looks better on the cover. There should be interaction between different devices and media as well, and such interaction will foster the intelligence of the network previously described. The television should be able to “talk” with the cell phone, who in turn talks with the personal computer and, why not, with your refrigerator, your clothes, and so on. Privacy issues apart, the more transparent and pervasive the communication between technological devices and things the more intelligent the network gets. The concept of an interactive network is analogous to what some people call “the internet of things”. As Bruce Sterling commented in one of his keynotes: “you will no longer hunt anxiously for your missing shoes in the morning, you will just Google them!”. There are some companies already commercializing systems that benefit from such interactions. One example is smart billboards that detect what radio station customers are listening to in their cars and automatically display an advertising that matches the demographics of such station.
  • Converged: advertising should also leverage the convergence that is taking place in the ICT. In other words the end user should be able to receive the ads in the most suitable form – text, audio, video or any combination of them – independently of the device he is using. And this does not mean agencies should use multiple channels to bombard customers with advertising. Rather the contrary, successful companies will be able to create value through advertising and, by choosing the right platform or combination of platforms, they will deliver it in a smooth and seamless way. Think about someone, not our friend John but someone else now, walking down the street who suddenly comes across a poster of the newest BMW model. By placing his cell phone close to the poster he automatically loads a streaming video of the advertising, which features a nice soundtrack. Once he arrives home he checks the video in his high-definition television and decides to buy the soundtrack music, with two clicks on the remote control his computer opens the site of an on-line music store and starts downloading the music. We are moving towards a broadband and user-centric society. It will not matter if you are using a computer, a television or an mp3 player just as it will not matter if you are connected through Dsl, Fiber, UMTS or Wi-Max. Such ubiquitous connectivity will create ways to deliver information and consequently advertisings that can not be conceived yet.

So that is what I define intelligent, interactive and converged advertising. It is clear that most of the changes required to create such a network will not appear overnight, and that is because they depend not exclusively on technological innovation but also on innovation adoption. Nonetheless the sooner companies start developing advertising techniques and business models that break the rules of the game the higher their chances of success.

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