Recently I read an article recounting how the future of advertising a la Minority Report will not be taking place in 2052 but is already here. Later in the week over a casual dinner out with friends, I brought this article up in conversation. These friends are smart people but definitely not in the business of advertising. Phrases like “projected ads” and “personalization” came back in their replies, so clearly there were aspects of the movie’s futuristic vision that they got. Encouraged, I moved the conversation to other near-term future advertising concepts.
“Let’s talk about ‘smart TV,’ for example. Within three years, our television screens are really going to be nothing more than jumbo-sized computer monitors, equipped with all the interactivity a computer experience delivers us right now.” They were still hanging with me, but I saw I had to give them some context to better understand the concept.
“You know those television programs that incorporate texted responses or Twitter hashtags, and then the program takes those replies and works them into the content? Like tweets from a sporting event, awards show or voting on The Voice? Now imagine that this was all live. Instead of needing to go to another device to text or tweet, you could do so from your TV? And that’s only just the beginning.
“You could ‘Like’ a product when it’s displayed on your screen, or click on it to learn more about it, or if you’re watching a particular kind of show while you’re logged into one of your many accounts, the television will show you customized ads based on your account profile algorithmically married to other assumptions about you because you regularly watch this show. Before you know it, you have personalized, smart TV advertising taken to another whole level.”
My friends weren’t skeptical that this could happen, but they just didn’t see how any of this advertising would influence them anymore than current advertising does (which, they claimed, was not much). “Why would I buy something just because it’s personalized to me?” one friend countered? I don’t buy things because of advertising. I buy things after talking to people I trust. I act more on word-of-mouth than advertisements.”
“OK,” I said, “but what’s to say that your personalized advertising experience wasn’t influenced in a way you didn’t realize as you interact with people you trust?”
It wasn’t that I was implying that your trusted inner circle was being paid off…though those of us in the advertising business already know about seemingly innocuous paid-for tweets and blog posts, Klout and other ways that influence is peddled.
I came up with an example on the fly. “Do you know that wine tracking app we all use and how once “friended,” we can all view one another’s cellars? What if one or two of the wines at the top of the page of a person you trust is actually a paid-for listing – a wine that’s already in their cellar but which an advertiser has paid for the listing to be bumped to the top to improve its visibility to friends of that bottle owner? In that instance, you’ve now consumed an ad without even knowing? (Or realizing it – how many times do people click on search engine ads without even realizing they’re ads?)
“Ohhhhh,” came the shocked acknowledgement of understanding.
So I continued. “Now let’s go back to the television viewing experience for a moment. Let’s say that you’re watching a movie or television show, and you see a product in partial profile that catches your eye. You’re curious about it – perhaps it’s a wine bottle label or an attractive sofa. You freeze your TV screen. You use your mouse to crop the item you’re interested in….”
Suddenly, one of my friends jumps in: “Wait! I get it. You zoom into it so you can read the label and get that product information? Cool!!”
“Right!” I confirm. “Or save it to a special app that uses photo recognition matchmaking technology to reveal what that bottle of wine really is, where you can buy it, how much it costs, and you can either order it right from there or save it to a wish list. Suddenly, you’re in control of your ‘advertising’ experience and then it doesn’t feel like advertising at all.
“Now imagine that that wine bottle was embedded into a placeholder for a wine bottle that was built into the staging production but dynamically-generated based on what advertising technology knows about you? So it really was an ad, but you never even knew. Kinda creepy and amazing all at the same time, right?”
Everyone was nodding their heads in dazzled agreement. You could see the cogs in their minds imagining all the possibilities of this kind of advertising future. The energy level at the table elevated, more scenarios were thrown out, and I sat back a bit took it all in. I had managed to get these “ordinary folks” to look into that crystal ball with me, even if just for a little while. The ah-ha moment had happened.
Now I just have to keep the education curve going. 😉