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What Advertising Looks Like with the Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things will change everything—including ourselves. - Dave Evans, Cisco’s Chief Futurist

You’ve heard about a future where your orange juice tells your refrigerator that it’s time to get more OJ, and then the fridge sends that information to the shopping list app on your phone, right? Or your laundry detergent tells your washing machine it’s running low, and your washer beams that information straight out to Costco and schedules a pick-up? You get the point.

But what brand of orange juice or laundry detergent, specifically? Will you just keep getting the same kind of OJ? Or does your app let you sample another brand? Does Costco forward back a mobile coupon for a different brand of detergent with a better discount? And just how is that decision made – by you, by the app, by the brand, or by the washer?

Welcome to your new world in the Internet of Things (IoT). In case you don’t know, IoT is THE hottest new topic around the ad world lately. The term refers to a set of technologies that connects the real and digital worlds by embedded sensors in everyday objects and real-time communications between objects and machines. In other words, everything around you is ‘smart’ and equipped with an addressable sensor. Which means everything can talk to everything AND other messages can be inserted into the data flow.

Like brand messages. Then that information can be collected in the cloud and acted upon – by the manufacturer, by the brand, by the advertiser. Or by you, or your doctor, mechanic, realtor, gardener, and so on.

This is literally a seismic shift in how we see the world. Everything will be connected. You will have an ecosystem that serves you in everything you do – at home, at work, at play; in sickness and in health; on the go, or virtual.

It’s no wonder that “the Internet Of Things is suddenly high on marketers' radars, with clear benefits for creating stronger brands through the interaction between products and consumers,” according to corporate advisor Jeffrey F. Rayport , from a recent blog post for Harvard Business Review.

Think of it – addressable device sensors (and readers) could be the cookie technology of the future. Existing products become smart products that can deliver and receive dynamic ad messages. These messages become part of the social flow that the consumer has an ongoing relationship with.

And ad agencies will need to look to ‘creative technologists’ who understand the semantic web, data analytics, mobile and social, and machine to machine communication. These creative technologists will figure out new and interesting ways to blend these streams of information into this new IoT layer we will be interacting with in our daily lives.

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From a brand perspective, what will that look like, exactly? If everything has a sensor, then everything potentially has a ‘story’ – where it came from, how it arrived, how it’s used.

This could be really intriguing for brands, because, after all, storytelling is what branding is all about.

So my jeans have a story. They were made of this type of material (eco-friendly, cotton, types of dyes?); they were made by this garment worker, in this country, and shipped to me by this method. And now I wear them here, here, and here (geo tagging). Two years later I donate them to Goodwill, and the story will continue. Will the brand incorporate my story into their messaging?

Clearly the opportunity to insert messages in the social and digital stream of the IoT world is exciting. A Honeywell ad pops up on your thermostat….or a coupon for chicken soup is inserted at your microwave on a rainy day when you have the sniffles. That could be cool.

It could also be annoying, if not done properly. And, anyway, what agencies have the creative and technological chops to make all this happen?

To truly take advantage of the opportunity, agencies are going to need to re-think the creative and digital process. We’re talking the ability to read and make sense of truly big data from mobile, cloud, geo, device sensors, and more and boil that down to the individual person’s smart eco-system.

This new type of agency will emerge. It has to – because already the number of smart and connected devices is multiplying like crazy around us.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit LLC and the co-author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing. She teaches Executive Global Marketing, Brand Management, and Social Media Marketing at UCLA Extension. You can find her on Social Media Radio on BlogTalkRadio or follow her on Twitter @BeverlyMacy.

[Image credit: Adidas Augmented Reality Shoe]

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