Wearables, IOT and the Ad Industry: A ‘Watching’ Game

While Wearables and IOT are taking the world by storm, the advertising industry, particularly in the region, is holding back to see where its headed.  And that’s no surprise because every one is waiting to see if this is going to be yet another game changer for the industry like mobile was, and still is.

Wearables and IOT – for both the consumer and the marketer is really about “discovery”. While consumers will take to it much faster than advertisers and media planners, investment in this platform will depend on what that “discovery” factor pans out to be. Just how much data, how much insight can come out of these devices, and how much can marketers push through to them for the consumer to discover. The Wearable and IOT marketing platform somehow looks set to become an exchange. It’s a two way information microhighway being built out there.

This information will really be about behavior and targeting. And because location based is almost a given in this genre, targeting becomes easy and real-time marketing becomes both measurable and simple. It will be a heady mix of qualitative data (from the consumer’s devices) towards creating quantifiable results. The holy grail of what our industry is about.

Aside from the massive impact it may have on health marketing (and that’s a huge industry-within-industry in marketing), one can foresee everyday brands relish the possibilities as well. When your fridge alerts your watch (IOT & Wearable in synergy) that you are out of milk, why can’t your nearest supermarket send you an ad for milk, or the milk brand itself inform you of choices between full cream, low fat and skimmed? 

Wearables have the inherent promise of super personalized, in the here and now brand experiences that will add value to the consumer. And that’s what the consumer wants – experience where the outcome is value. The possibilities of wearables and psychology based marketing triggers that respond to your mood, your state of mind, your daily patterns is going to open doors to highly customized messaging. So, yes, it will be all about data and the exchange of it.

The possibilities are mind boggling. Can an insurance brand send you messages of lowered premiums because the IOT in your car can sense that you are a safe driver. Or a better health insurance rate because they know you’ve been working out five days a week by evaluating data from your wristband or watch?

Then of course, there are these ideas of driving ads and messages, and even full-on brand-immersed experiences through to those screens on your smartwatch. Will tiny branded seven second vides be cool on your smartwatch? Along with a map of the nearest brick-and-mortar retail outlet? And a coupon to boot? Because these gadgets mostly all have Location-based marketing possibilities, instant discounting, multi-screen marketing (where the watch and mobile will let you jump from one screen to another) and intent or interest based messaging becomes exciting.

Here in the Middle East, we have a high penetration of smartphones, in fact, the UAE has the highest in the world. Data is becoming cheaper, and we can assume that mobile solutions providers will bundle data with devices as they emerge. This will certainly help real time marketing efforts and should change media planning in the very near future.  Once the Apple Watch appears on wrists and the several other devices on Android mature, we are likely to see increased investments on these channels of communications and them emerging from under the rock called niche.

Brands need to be consistent across the various always-on platforms with their messaging, their look and feel of communications and be careful with the consumers concerns on privacy and intrusion.  But I’m willing to bet that we’ll see standardized ad formats appear soon (like TapSense already is projecting in the US for the Apple Watch) and that forward thinking brands will find exciting new ways to reach out to the consumer and engage on the one device that is not just always-on – both literally and physically. Even while one sleeps.

Here’s to marketing sweet dreams. And reality. Coming soon to a gadget you are wearing.

 As published in Apps magazine

Tom Roychoudhury is chief innovations officer of MCN: Middle East Communications Network – one of the largest groups of advertising, marketing, media and social agencies in the region.

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