Venu Vasudevan – What futures will technology permit & consumers love?

Venu Vasudevan, Senior Director, Motorola Mobility

Seismic shifts in advertising over the past three decades have followed a pattern –

  1. One or more technologies that become ‘good enough’ to drive a killer app with disproportionate user value
  2. The killer app then creates a new ‘seducible moment’ – from searching to converged media to social to next big thing yet to be discovered
  3. New ad experiences and ad economics form around this moment. Ones that enable advertisers to participate as an authentic partner in the moment, rather than merely an irksome ‘discount’ to the alternative of paying for the app.

Predicting five cycles of Moore’s law into the future (at a time when change seems to be outpacing Moore’s law) is tantamount to taking a position on the three questions above. There is the caveat that the ‘new’ in point 2 could include a radical remixing or rejuvenation of the old (much as the ipod was to the traditional and staid music industry). Two trends with seismic potential in the above vein (in and of themselves and their effect on ads) eight years from now are media sublimation and the digital skinning of the physical world.

Media Sublimation

The term sublimation here refers to the conversion of something that was previously solid, to something more akin to a spray. Over the past few years we’ve seen media go from solid (trapped in a specific device rectangle a.k.a TV) to something akin to liquid content that can flow to your favorite rectangle (be it a TV, a Laptop, a Tablet or a Phone). The next trend for media is to atomize from liquid to a finer units that are more amenable to shape-shifted story telling. Some forms of atomization and the technologies that will drive it include:

  • Atomization of Interest (AoI). Both Games and Gamification enable the relationship between viewer and storyteller to be atomized from a linear story into the events, objects, and people of specific interest to a particular user. The growth of Fantasy Sports and the extension of Fantasy like game overlays on non-sport genres (e.g. Reality Shows) leads to user interest being driven by how their favorite characters are doing in a show or episode, over the episode itself. Gamification (a la Club Pysche) similarly leads to situations where points of peak engagement between audiences and the show may or may not correspond to emotional peaks in the video story.
  • Atomization of Consumption. A consequence of the Atomization of Interest is that the Atomization of Consumption. This phenomenon is already in place in that users flip between channels while watching TV, to watch the ‘interesting parts’ of programs rather than end-to-end. Social networks such as Twitter, social tools such as GetGlue and social aggregators such as Trendrr will make the art of channel flipping into a power tool for users. Social signals integrated into program guides and remote controls will enable ‘heat seeking’ TV viewers who flip from valleys of engagement in one program to peaks in another.
  • Atomization of Perspective. Viewers of venue based TV shows lack the peripheral vision that people in the venue have, and are therefore prisoners to the camera angles chosen by the programmer. Interactive Video technologies will enable watchers of sports and other physical events to pick personalized camera angles, and Augmented Reality technologies permit camera angles to be auto-selected based on tracking the stability and direction of a TV viewers gaze, thus giving ‘peripheral vision’ to a TV experience akin to someone at the venue.

The impact of all three forms of Atomization is to dilute the reach of ‘planned’ ad and media moments, but lead to an explosion of dynamic and unpredictable micro-moments of high viewer engagement, where an advertiser can participate into the conversation. These micro-moments are emergent in their occurrence, reach and predictability. From an Ad Planning perspective, these are likely to lend themselves to real-time bidding (RTB) over  the current ‘top down’ ad planning typical to traditional TV ads. While RTB is a topic of interest even in the present, the industry will likely experience a crossover moment before 2020 where the RTB market for TV exceeds the planned economy of TV ads.

Digital Skins for the Physical World

A riskier prediction (but ultimately one that is larger if played out) is that ‘Everything that is physical will have a real-time digital skin’. The ubiquity of mobile devices combined increased user interest in wellness applications will lead to value (both user and commercial) created around the quantified self, and the use of mobile wellness applications as digital skins around the person. While the intersection of personal health and advertising can be a touchy topic, smart advertisers will figure out ways to create authentic transactions that begin with the prudent use of personal information and provide the user with something of value to them.

The enthusiasm around smart homes and smart appliances has never translated into a real market because it hasn’t addressed the trillions of dollars of sunk cost is my old sump pump and your old washing machine.  The ubiquity of cheap sensors and cheap networking is leading to software customized appliance skins from companies such as Twine.The ability to have a real-time pulse on the local appliance universe has advertising benefits that accrue not only the DIY brands and appliance manufacturers, but also an indirect but more significant impact on the level of analytics around the CPG industry. It has the potential of moving retail from destination to distribution. Instead of customers coming to a store to look at your wares, you can proactively sense their need (e.g. for a new dishwasher) and engage them in a personalized retail transaction.

All in all, the change by 2020 that advertising needs to grapple with isn’t the new, new thing as much as the opportunity and angst that comes from the exception becoming the norm. Nevertheless these new norms around dealing with the economy of micro-moments and the associated data deluge will affect both the creative and organizational parts of advertising in substantial ways.