I remember watching the Steven Spielberg film Minority Report and thinking: "Nah, that will never happen." But, to my surprise, 13 years later the ad technologies portrayed in that movie have almost become a reality.
The film scene I refer to is when hero Tom Cruise is trying to be anonymous, running through a pedestrianised area evading futuristic time travel cops. Tom's unfortunate predicament is that the mall projection ad units begin to give him away, by genetically identifying him through scans of his irises, and then showing him custom-made adverts that talk to him with direct personalised communications.
This futuristic scene would only work, if there was a data set built around Tom. A data set that would combine personal identifiable information, his genetics, as well as his behavioural and social triggers to give him a custom personalised ad experience. In 2002 this was merely a futuristic pipedream, but with the rapid advancements in ad technologies, big data mapping and computer processing power, these types of communications are soon not to be a thing of the future, but a reality of today.
The amount of information and data that is now collected around a single individual is frightening. The modern day consumer is incredibly care free when it comes to giving their data away, happily signing up for an app, a free service, free WiFi connection; never taking the time to read the small print, and it's because of this care-free nature that data sets are now arising around consumers that are simply frightening.
You could argue that some of these data sets know consumers better than they know themselves. Corporations such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and the like are amassing huge amounts of data around individuals. The reason they are doing this is because this data will drive their future revenues.
It's this data that now underpins all modern digital advertising campaigns. The better the data set, the better the audience identification, the more efficiently the advertising can be tailored to the consumer, which results in more money an advertiser is willing to pay. So Google, Facebook and other companies are hell bent with building the biggest data sets they can around each and every consumer.
Google has built its fortune on a database of intentions; everything you want to know, find, understand, buy, consume you tell to Google through a keyword search. Facebook is a database of actions; you give it everything you do, like/dislike, hangout or associate with. These two combined make an incredibly scary, and extremely powerful proposition when it comes to marketing. Google can tell us "what" you want today; and Facebook can tell us "how" you may want it, but things get really scary when you tell us advertisers "where" you may want it.
In the film, the eye of Tom Cruise is the identification system, but the reality today is that the mobile phone has become the key identifier of you. The mobile is a device that never leaves your side. It is traceable to a 25-metre radius and potentially can be used to understand where you are and where you have been at any given time. So it's no wonder that Google owns Android and Facebook owns WhatsApp. These become parts of their forays into owning your location data. If data sets such as mobile location, Google search, Facebook actions are connected with one another, we suddenly get data sets of immense power being built around the consumer. Data around where you are, what you want and how you want it, is a marketers dream come true!
The example given below will elaborate how some of these data sets can be turned into marketing action.
The secret to the future of ad-tech will be the accurate mapping of you as an individual, your attitudes and behaviours, and the devices you use.You search on Google for shoes, and come to a large retail and clothing brand. This brand monitors your behaviour on their website. You add a pair of shoes and trousers to the cart but for some reason you do not purchase it. The analytics and CRM of the company remembers that you did this, and maps this against your user ID, computer system address as well as mobile phone mac address.
When you walk into the brand's store, the store beacon recognises your mobile phone and pushes to a TV display a visual of the same trousers and shoes you were looking at online, but with the message 'we have two left in stock' and 'avail 10 per cent discount if you buy within the next 30 minutes'. The message on the store TV display has been customised based on your website user behaviour.
This is precisely what happens within the Minority Report movie, but is actually now physically happening today.
The secret to the future of ad-tech will be the accurate mapping of you as an individual, your attitudes and behaviours, and the devices you use â€“ phone, laptop, iPad, TV, even your fridge or house. As we enter the world of the Internet of Things, all devices will begin to collect data and be mapped to you as an individual. These devices, coupled with the concept of programmatic buying, will allow advertisers to advertise directly to you on the devices you use.
Programmatic TV has just been rolled out in the UK by Sky, where adverts are not placed against the content, but are placed against who we know is watching the content. If we know which consumer is watching the TV and we can map that back to their digital data sets (analytics, search, social, CRM data), then we can design advertising campaigns that are custom built not for the masses, but for the individual.
Right now, what you are probably thinking is "arrrgghhh! I am going to be attacked by even more pop-ups, banners and spam, and useless irrelevant adverts"; but, NO. None of the advertisers want to spend money on adverts to people who have zero interest in their product. They only want to show adverts to people that are 'in market' and show interest to buy, therefore maximising advertising budgets.
So fundamentally, the more data the systems capture about individuals, the smarter the advertising will become. Advertising will no longer be a hindrance but will suddenly become a life aid. Imagine a scenario where you don't want to switch channels during the ad break, as the adverts you see are actually tailored to you and your desires.
The future will not be about plastering a brand everywhere, it will be getting a brand in front of only the people who will be interested in buying the brand. As a consumer, your life will be no longer hindered by adverts. It will be aided by them!
The author is executive vice president of strategy at iProspect, a digital performance marketing agency.