“Time to buy milk,” your refrigerator says to your smartphone. This communication instantly pulls out a grocery list app and adds that item to the list. A coupon for the latest sales on milk at certain stores pops up. Your map app then pulls up directions for how to get to the nearest store. If your car is low on gas, your gas app will let you know the cheapest gas station on your way to the store.
In the future of the Internet of Things, your home and life will be completely connected, and, not surprisingly, advertising will be integrated into those technologies as well.
Whether it’s an advertisement for a particular product, a coupon, or a brand that provides a handy service, marketing will quickly become a natural part of the interconnectivity of life in the future. The question is: Will advertising be used in the same way by brands and marketers to reach their customers in this new way of life?
In the 1990s, cofounder and executive director of MIT’s Auto-ID lab, Kevin Ashton, coined the term “the Internet of Things.” His definition sought to connect objects in the physical world, such as cars, home appliances, health and fitness monitors, clothing, etc., with the web through the application of sensors and tags to achieve some sort of benefit for the end-user.
Essentially, with the help of smartphones and the explosion of mobile Internet usage, everyday products would become “smarter” and could convert data about the consumer into helpful products, services and suggestions. In fact, already, connected “smart” products already outnumber people on the planet, and Cisco estimates that that number will increase to 50 billion by 2020. This gives brands a huge opportunity to interact with customers in a whole new way.
Surely it wouldn’t be long until brands and marketers jumped on board this latest technology, and they’re already seeking to develop specially tailored products and services to more deeply connect with consumers in a way that feels more natural than the traditional advertising methods of today.
Instead of targeting customers only while they are shopping or browsing the Internet, brands and marketers could reach them as they participate in everyday tasks as well. Because of this deeper and more close-knit interaction, it is imperative that advertising be restructured to suit this new context.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the Internet of Things will reframe the definition of advertising in five ways:
These five changes demonstrate the future interconnectivity and participatory methods of advertising that will replace the one-way, interruptive and broadcast-style form of messaging that is used today (think TV commercials, pop-ups online. or ads before a YouTube video).
As a broad adoption of mobile devices began to change how and how much people created and consumed Internet content, advertisers devised new ideas for how to reach consumers. However, many of those methods are just as invasive as they were previously (TV ads, product placement, magazine and billboard ads, etc.), if not more so. This cannot be so with advertising in the context of the Internet of Things if brands and marketers intend to be successful.
Analysts and marketers predict that advertising based on the Internet of Things will be a far cry from today’s traditional forms of advertising. To engage consumers in a new way using new venues for communication, brands and marketers will have to conceive of innovative ways to more seamlessly integrate advertising into their products and services. These advertisements need to be carefully woven into the fabric of a consumer’s everyday life, or the brands or marketers risk being dropped from that consumer’s radar due to a still more invasive bombardment of advertisements in the home and workplace.
The first thing to consider when debating what the Internet of Things’ advertisements might look like is the devices on which they will be presented to consumers. As “smart” devices are generally hooked up to a smartphone or computer—anything with an Internet connection—it is most likely that those devices will be the carriers of the ads in question.
For example, if you go on a 10-mile run, as calculated by your fitness band, that band might communicate to another connected app on your smartphone that you might need a refueling food or drink, such as a power bar or Gatorade. Another app might pull up a coupon that has to do with one of those products, and still another app might tell you where the nearest store is that you can buy it. If Google is able to tap into any of these apps, then you might start seeing ads for fitness equipment or food and drinks in the sidebar of your searches.
In this example are five different advertisements:
Would you consider this a bombardment of advertisements? Some would. Others might find the information useful and appreciate being so conveniently connected. Regardless, this is exactly how the future of advertising in the age of the Internet of Things could look.
As the Internet of Things takes hold, the face of advertising is destined to change forever. Whether or not you experience this new form of advertising will be based on what smart products you buy, if any. What’s certain is that people are entering a new age in connectivity and technology, one that will affect everyone’s lives, for better or for worse.
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