Consumers have adapted to new technologies at light speed. Consider the iPhone. It has always been around for only a decade, but visit any public space and you’ll see people buried in their smartphones. Sure, mobile phones have been around in one form or another for decades, but until recently people used them mostly to make calls. So if you were beamed here from just a couple of decades ago, you might wonder what these little boxes are and why they’re taken such control of the population.
Glimpsing ahead to the 2020s, I envision a similarly puzzling tableau in which consumers are talking to their washers, dryers, refrigerators and other inanimate objects and those objects are talking back.
This is the Internet of Things (IoT), a much-hyped technology that brings Internet connectivity that makes formerly dumb devices smart. Recall though that when phones got smart, they also got advertising. That’s what’s going to happen to all of those other devices as well.
Here’s why IoT is the future of advertising:
- 1. Smart devices get consumers’ attention. Consumers have become adept at tuning out ad messages. There was a time when the only ways to avoid a TV ad was to leave the room, shut the TV off or change the channel, but now a consumer can exist on an ad-free diet of Netflix, HBO and Pay-Per-View and employ ad blockers on desktop and mobile. There are times when you need to focus your attention though. If you’re trying to get something done like wash your clothes or make dinner, then you are a captive audience. The same goes for wearables. An ad on a smart watch is impossible to ignore.
- 2. Device-focused advertising harnesses moments. When you’re doing wash, that is a rare moment during the week when you’re thinking about the subject of laundry. If you sell detergent then, this is a prime time to reach the consumer. Think about it: Before IoT, the best a detergent maker could hope for was that the consumer would remember the messaging when she was at the store. Or maybe she’d clip a coupon. By contrast, when a consumer is running out of her current supply or is noticing how her current detergent isn’t getting chocolate syrup stains out of her son’s dress shirt, that moment is a prime time for your message.
- 3. Messages of this type interact rather than distract. Advertising in the 20th century was premised on the distraction model. Whether the consumer was watching a TV program or reading an article, the idea was to seize the moment when the consumer was thinking of something else and then hit them with a marketing message. In a best-case scenario though, an IoT ad could be helpful. Picture, for instance, an ad reminding a husband that today is his anniversary and then offering a link to make a reservation at a favorite local restaurant. Or a dashboard ad that reminds the driver that it’s time for an oil change and offers a $5 coupon.
Such is the promise of IoT advertising. But in 2017, very few companies are taking advantage of this opportunity. In part, that’s because there’s some education lacking in the market. A lot of people in media don’t know what IoT stands for and don’t realize that it will soon be a $267 billion business.
Not everyone is missing the opportunity. Amazon saw the potential for IoT advertising in 2015 when it released Dash, Internet-connected push-button devices for the home that let consumers reorder Pampers, Tide and Charmin. Amazon has since gotten its Echo devices in an estimated 11 million households. Amazon is clearly planning its future around IoT. It’s time that advertisers did the same.