“And then a light bulb went off, mobile is a phenomenon at the heart of everything we do. It’s the force behind every emerging innovation. It is an essential part of how we interact, communicate, work, and play. Experiences that were once limited by time and place are now instant and effortless.”
This quote is how the Mobile World Congress set the stage for their inaugural Americas event, held in San Francisco from September 11-14, 2017. Such a rousing rallying cry could only lead to pulsing optimism among the 30,000 mobile industry professionals who filled the Moscone Center’s exhibition halls and conference space.
With the ad tech community indulging in beer and bratwurst in Cologne, Germany at DMEXCO, the focus at MWC was emerging tech and the infrastructure that will bring it to life.
The evolution from 4G networks to 5G stole the show according to some and it’s difficult to disagree. Most operators are forecasting Q1 of 2019 for the first at scale pilots of 5G Networks with supported devices in consumers hands. The increased speed and sensor density supported by 5G will mean, among other things, data rates of 100MBs / second, huge reductions in latency and support for up to a million connections per square kilometer. Bottom line. Everything’s faster than you ever thought possible and smart devices, cars, cities and everything in between just got a whole lot more interesting and inter-connected.
So, what does this mean for media?
Throughout the conference, keynotes, panel sessions and hallway conversation focused on topics like AR / VR, Content & Advertising Experiences, the Blockchain and more. Here’s are some of my key takeaways:
AR & VR are creating a new “language”. Are you fluent?
VR faces some challenges: understanding its place in our lives and distribution. But it has made some noteworthy advances with gaze control allowing users to self-select experiences. VR artists now understand how to use depth of space to solicit enjoyably visceral reactions from situations that would be uncomfortable in film or real-life. There was general agreement that VR fits as an entertainment media and AR more as a practical application (gaming being an exception). You can read JUICE’s backgrounder on Apple’s ARKit here.
Common across both mediums was the notion that ways of communicating and creating emotion in traditional media like video are being re-defined. A new language is necessary to turn linear narratives into more conversational ones. Content creators can guide with sign posts and invitations but relinquish total control.
Content & Ads That Are Empathetic & Empowers the Consumer Will Win
A wide-ranging session on content and advertising tread some familiar ground:
– Consumers expect to be part of the content experience and have it tailored to them;
– Brands are relinquishing too much control to platforms and should create sharing tools but own the data and experience;
– Content creators are prioritizing user experience at the expense of interruptive ads;
– We’re too reliant on data, making it a crutch for decisioning at the expense of experience and inspiration.
It’s the last point that deserves more attention. One panelist surfaced the idea of being more empathetic to what consumers want vs. what you want them to do. A tricky balance but with consumer blocking ads and tracking tags and ever restricted cookie use, it’s a conversation worth having. Here’s an auto play, auto audio video on the subject.
The Blockchain Opportunity is Exciting but Unclear
Beyond tokens, coins and the currency feeding frenzy, the Blockchain’s secure and distributed leger system offers an immutable and transparent trusted network. Great idea, but while lots of companies are tripping over themselves to participate, consensus seems to be that most are doing so without having a clear problem they’re trying to solve.
Blockchain’s public networks resist tampering and censorship so use cases for smart contracts or supply chain and identity management make sense. “Follow the money” fraud prevention and monetizing user attention are promising applications for disrupting the digital ad ecosystem.
No one’s calling this a gold rush; there’s genuine belief in the promise of the technology. It will succeed where industry participants can agree on a shared set of problems where using Blockchain is a better tool than what exists.
While all of this hugely promising, we’re not quite at the “instant and effortless” stage promised in the MWC’s light bulb moment. It’s tempting to be blinded to the hard work yet to come. But for those who understand and embrace the phenomenon of mobile innovation, today’s shiny object can be tomorrow’s gold.