As the euphoria of Mobile World Congress’s 30th birthday party subsides and is replaced by an industry collective hangover, the question soon arises – was it worth it? What were the major themes? What was discussed? What did we learn?
Here is my wrap up.
VIRTUAL REALITY WAS A HOT TOPIC
From the minute that Mark Zuckerberg made a surprise guest appearance at the Samsung Galaxy unpacked event where he spoke for 20 minutes about the potential for virtual reality, you knew VR was a big theme at MWC 2016.
Indeed, amongst the three halls of exhibiting device manufacturers, every stall featured their own VR headset showcase. This meant that over the course of the week, I was able to test out a variety of VR experiences which plunged me into worlds ranging from ski-jumping (I actually wobbled as I took off from the jump), to being a maintenance worker in the connected city of the future, to taking a particularly stomach churning trip on a VR roller coaster.
What impressed was the fact that most devices are now able to deliver an impressive level of VR experience. It seems that the difference in quality of experience delivered by top-end versus bottom-end devices is not vastly different. When increased hardware capability is combined with the decreasing cost of ownership it is not difficult to imagine a world where VR headset ownership is commonplace. A lot will depend upon whether we as an industry can get the use case right.
Previous VR discussions have centred on usage: Why would people use it? How will benefit? How will brands engage in a VR world? What potential does VR offer for the delivery of exciting and compelling marketing experiences?
“VR may require an adjustment of retail business models, but ultimately could prove to be hugely effective in driving improved efficiency and profitability”
This year’s show went a long way to answering these questions, as the focus was very much aimed at demonstrating how the technology will be used in the real world. It is clear VR has a large role to play within the area of professional training, as the technology offers a safe and effective environment in which a pilot or a surgeon or indeed any job with a technical aspect, can learn the range of skills required in their jobs.
From a consumer perspective VR provides the opportunity to enter into the world of celebrity or hero. Imagine being able to drive the Monaco Grand Prix through the eyes of Lewis Hamilton, or score the winning goal in the Champions League final through the eyes of Cristiano Ronaldo. VR will open new horizons for consumers through allowing them to experience the worlds of their heroes.
It is not difficult to see the role VR can play within digital gaming, as the opportunity for the gamer to completely immerse themselves within the virtual gaming environment is hugely compelling. We even saw the role VR could play within retail where VR could be used to deliver the same product purchasing experience, except this would be through a virtual store as opposed to a bricks and mortar one.
VR may require an adjustment of retail business models, but ultimately could prove to be hugely effective in driving improved efficiency and profitability.
When it comes to VR for marketing purposes, I believe it offers brands the opportunity to deliver new levels of consumer engagement around existing brand partnerships or sponsorships simply by allowing the person at home to be present at an event through their VR headset. Imagine McDonald’s inviting you to be a spectator at the next Olympics without having to leave your couch, and then linking product purchase to accessibility of new events.
Through AR, it could have been possible to have had unlimited attendance at the London Olympics on that magical night inside the Stratford stadium when the British athletics team won three gold medals. The possibilities for creative deployment of VR are endless. All you need is a good imagination; the technology gap has been filled.
One word of warning, though, despite all the excitement: there was significant discussion around how VR might negatively impact human behaviour as consumers may prefer virtual worlds to the physical one. Indeed, Zuckerberg spoke about the possibility for shared social VR experiences which seemed to further decrease the need for people to actually engage with each other in the real world.
EVERYTHING WILL BE CONNECTED
The much discussed ‘Internet of things’ was widely in evidence at MWC 2016, with many demonstrations of connectivity in everyday life. The concept of the ‘Internet of things’ has been around for some time, but the conversation felt different this time, away from the theoretical and concentrated on real-world practical activation.
AT&T demonstrated an impressive connected car software solution which illustrated how the combination of automation and connectivity can enhance the life of an individual.
The demo began by featuring car-to-car communication which allowed each vehicle to become aware of a new road hazard in real-time and subsequently recalibrate the route. This then moved on to showcase how the software enables the individual to manage email and calendar requests via voice whilst being behind the wheel, to finished by illustrating how the combination of automation and connectivity can deliver intelligent services, such as the car switching on your home central heating automatically when your car reaches the half way home point in the journey.
“Brands can learn more about how an individual customer uses their product, and offer them a service or piece of advice based upon their own behaviour, whilst also making repeat purchase a frictionless experience”
Oral-B demonstrated how they see connectivity impacting the humble toothbrush through the delivery of their connected toothbrush product. The toothbrush strapline was ‘brush like a demon’ and featured the toothbrush beaming real-time brushing related information to a display in your bathroom mirror which showed you where in your mouth needed extra attention.
The show went on to explore the role connectivity could play within marketing through the delivery of automated service delivery. In the case of Oral-B, you could automatically order a new toothpaste, or toothbrush head based upon the data your collected toothbrush gathers on you, how you brush and your level of oral health.
The point is the brand can learn more about how an individual customer uses their product, and offer them a service or piece of advice based upon their own behaviour, whilst also making repeat purchase a frictionless experience.
THE CUSTOMER DATA OPPORTUNITY
The advertising and media halls were the biggest and busiest I had ever seen them at MWC 2016. The huge level of interest in connectivity and associated advertising and marketing opportunity was clearly evident.
Companies exhibiting covered all aspects of the digital eco-system including DSPs, DMPs, ad-networks and data suppliers. No-matter which company you spoke to, all conversations inevitably featured a discussion around customer data and the range of ways this could be collected and activated. For me, connectivity allows advertisers the opportunity to better understand your target audience’s natural behaviour and to be able to better target them.
Over the week, we saw a few interesting new developments in the customer data deployment space. We had one location based company unveiling a location specific marketplace – think Google AdWords except for real-time real-world locations with little relevancy score.
This is interesting as it allows a brand to bid according to the importance they place on reaching a consumer when either in a specific location or their location history means they fall within the target profile.
Indeed, there was a lot of discussion around the concept of using an individual’s location history as a way of profiling them, and delivering them advertising that was targeted to them. I believe this offers advertisers rich opportunity to have a much greater depth of customer understanding, and a huge opportunity to either talk to them in a way that naturally appeals.
“MWC 2016 has been a positive experience for the mobile industry; it felt like we were actually growing up at last”
Another interesting opinion on the power of customer data came from network operators. There was a lot of discussion around the role they could play in replicating the success Facebook has had in mobile advertising across the rest of the mobile advertising eco-system.
It seems as if operators are finally waking up to the fact that their huge customer databases offer a highly valuable opportunity to open up new revenue streams and deliver this concept of personalized advertising. Whether the operators will commit to delivering this at scale still remains to be seen, but the initial signs are good. Particularly as dwindling voice, SMS and data tariff revenues continue, perhaps their motivation to explore will increase.
Overall, MWC 2016 has been a positive experience for the mobile industry; it felt like we were actually growing up at last. No longer was the focus on unearthing the shiny new thing. Instead, the focus has shifted to making previously discussed lofty concepts actually attainable and successful.
It was also noticeable that there were more brands and their agencies present than ever, which is a hugely important barometer of interest. People now realise not only the potentially game-changing opportunity offered by smart connectivity, but are also visualising the role that technology can play within their own business. Mobile really is everything.
By Matt Jones, Mobile Strategy Director, Manning Gottlieb OMD and Aman Mastana, International Account Manager, OMD
So once again the great and the good of the mobile industry descended on Barcelona for the annual Mobile World Congress. It’s testimony to the broadness of the term ‘mobile’ that there is such a wide and varied group of companies, from all over the world, packed into eight huge halls.
As expected, there’s a raft of mobile advertising companies competing for the attention of marketers, agencies and publishers. However, there are also hundreds of mobile hardware component companies, IoT providers and mobile infrastructure companies showcasing everything from the latest bendable screen technology to connected bikes and homes or the telephony infrastructure required to power a slick 5G rollout.
From day one, it was obvious that there a few key themes standing out:
The VR ad network called ‘Virtual Sky’ allows brands to launch VR style ads, almost like pre-roll ads in other VR experiences. For example, a consumer could take a quick 10-30 second virtual test drive before their VR gaming experience starts. This is interesting as brands have the opportunity to get more immersed in the level of richness that these VR experiences provide.
We also encountered Samsung’s 4D theatre, where viewers are equipped with Oculus headsets that react to the motions of the VR action. Judging by the cheers from participants this is certainly the new sought-after experience, but could it be the death of movie theatres as we know it?
Internet of Things (IoT)
As we seek to improve the ease and practicality of our surroundings, otherwise ordinary objects are becoming increasingly connected through the use of technology.
Up and coming smart cities – defined by the ability to use connected, technological solutions to manage their assets, improve sustainability, economic performance and quality of life – have adopted bigbelly bins. Not only are they used as Wi-Fi hotspots, they also double as solar-powered compacting rubbish bins. The multiple benefits here are obvious; they provide a useful, sustainable service to the community, blending seamlessly into the city landscape itself. What’s more, city officials are able to collect real-time data to inform waste management organisations, often saving money and resources. This too is funded by out-of-home advertising.
However, the IoT also extends to our homes. A company that caught our eye was an Israeli company called Kwik who provide an IoT button that has similar features to Amazon Dash. In short, they provide a branded physical button that integrates with a brands e-commerce and distribution platform. Imagine a button stuck to your desk, fridge or wall at home that when you press it – calls you an Uber or orders some new nappies, coffee pods, new makeup, etc. Unlike the Dash platform, Kwik enables you to do this outside of the Amazon eCom and distribution infrastructure.
Day 2 involves a tour of some of the most innovative start-ups exhibiting at the conference, so will update you after that!
OMD EMEA’s Head of Mobile, Alex Newman outlines the key trends to expect at this year’s Mobile World Congress, and what they mean for the marketing and media industry.
Next week, just under 100,000 people will travel to Barcelona to celebrate a birthday. From Mark Zuckerberg to Lewis Hamilton, the who’s who of the ever-expanding mobile and tech world will descend upon the Fira Gran Via for the 30th Mobile World Congress (MWC).
For those of you who have never been, just picture the biggest exhibition you’ve ever encountered – around eight full-sized football pitches – of the world’s leading technology companies (except for one notable exception) showing off their latest hardware and software innovations.
“I always travel to Barcelona filled with a sense of excitement to see at first hand the progress being made within the industry I love”
This year’s theme? ‘Mobile is Everything’, which of course is something I’ve preached for a long time.
For me the theme is simply an acknowledgement that mobile connectivity is finally beginning to seep into all aspects of everyday life, and really is opening up a plethora of new opportunity. Whilst I’m yet to ascertain if I’ll be over or underwhelmed or by what’s in-store, as an MWC pilgrim I always travel to Barcelona filled with a sense of excitement to see at first hand the progress being made within the industry I love.
The trends you will see spoken about at this year’s event will closely mirror those of 2015.
NEW DEVICES, AND LOTS OF THEM
Every MWC is characterised by numerous new launches with most major handset manufacturers having something new to shout about.
The rumour mill is already spinning with indications that Samsung, LG, Sony, Microsoft and HTC are all tipped to be unveiling something new. Expect to see bendy and foldable phones, new types of battery technology, handsets that emit less heat. We will also see a growing number of Chinese manufacturers offering significantly but sophisticated handsets.
VIRTUAL REALITY GOES MAINSTREAM
Portable virtual reality headsets are set to be a major focus at this year’s MWC with new unveilings being unveiled by the Facebooks Oculus Rift partnership, new updates of the HTC Verve platform, and the new IOS update from Google facilitating a further push into the VR Space.
Interestingly from Google, it is all about the software as opposed to the hardware-based approach from others. The point is manufacturers are pushing each other to develop better and cheaper platforms, making device ownership a reality for consumers.
5G is set to be THE theme of MWC 2016, as operators begin to get their hands around best ways to roll out this new technology.
Frankly, we as consumers need this planning, as the need for 5G services is already growing, and we need the roll out to be smoother and quicker than was the case with 4G, a bit like the service itself!
Internet chatter is already pointing out the potentially game changing implications this could have for industry as mobile consumers are able to access heavy data files at almost instantaneous speeds. This is seen as being a major ingredient that finally brings the internet of things to life. We can expect a few demonstrations of how the technology could be used to be on show at this year’s event.
INTERNET OF THINGS
This year’s MWC tagline ‘Mobile is everything’ seems to lend itself directly to the Internet of Things (IOT). At previous years shows we have seen dedicated pavilions set up to demonstrate how the IOT will come to life, in terms of how technology can integrate with everyday tasks. This year will be no different, and there promises to be plenty of manufacturers demonstrating how connectivity will play a role within their previously unconnected products.
Expect to see connected toothbrushes that talk to bathroom mirrors to tell you about oral health; washing machines that talk to your mobile app shopping list; toilets that talk to your health tracker to analyse your food and drink intake.
Driverless car technology has invaded MWC over the previous two years, and with the number of auto manufacturers exhibiting at the 2016 event increasing, I can only see a greater emphasis on this area.
When connected cars were first discussed, the conversation centred on the work Google and Apple were doing and the potential for disruption this offered. Since then, manufacturers have been keen to take back ownership of this area, and with Ford, Volvo, Jaguar and Toyota all rumoured to be unveiling their work at this show.
It is no secret that auto manufacturers see connected cars as offering them the possibility to generate a new influx of consumer money, so the race to launch the best products in this area is well and truly on.
LACK OF ANYTHING NEW?
At first glance the apparent lack of anything new seems to be disappointing, but when you take a closer look actually the reverse is true.
It is not that the technology is not evolving, it is that the development is no longer focused on the breaking of new ground, but instead upon bringing these lofty concepts to fruition. That means taking a concept such as wearable technology and ensuring it works seamlessly and has a useful application within the real world, as well as ensuring cost of ownership makes it attainable at scale.
In my opinion these are the lenses that both device manufacturers and new technology developers need to apply to the products they launch. When these basic requirements are fulfilled we see the advent of new and exciting products and services that change the world – and at that point technology really does become exciting for both brands and consumers.
“These companies are the new giants of the global economy, and their success is down to the smartphone”
Since 2007 the smartphone has provided a platform that enabled new types of business to come into existence, and furthermore allowed them to grow their user-base rapidly. We have all marveled at services such as Uber, Airbnb, Hotels.com, and Amazon amongst many others.
They all have one thing in common: they identified a natural consumer behaviour and understood how they could use connected technology to simplify that behaviour, and then launched highly successful business upon the back of that insight. These companies are the new giants of the global economy, and their success is down to the smartphone.
BUNCH OF SENSORS
When you look at it, what is a smartphone? It is just a bunch of sensors that enables us to connect with our surroundings in new ways. The trends we will see highlighted at MWC 2016 such as the Internet of Things, 5G and wearables are simply a manifestation of these same sensors moving from only existing within the smartphone to being embedded within any number of previously unconnected devices.
But why is that interesting? In the same way that the smartphone gave birth to new businesses, new monetisation models, and new ways to engage consumers, wider connectivity will provide a more exciting platform for new companies to launch products and services that have not been imagined yet.
We have already seen evidence of that in the developments being made within the health industry based upon wearable devices, and the travel and luxury industries based upon virtual reality. I travel to MWC more out of excitement than anything – I want to understand the progress that is being made in putting together the essential building blocks that will enable a whole new layer of business and marketing opportunities.
Although the themes coming out of this year’s event will not change from the usual, I am hopeful the developments unveiled there will provide proof that progress is being made, and these lofty concepts we have all heard about are becoming attainable.
Most of all, I hope to leave MWC feeling inspired, armed with new ideas of products and marketing services that represent significant opportunities for my clients, that although we may have theorised about previously, are now possible! So come on MWC, don’t let me down. Here’s to another great week in Barcelona – hope to see you there!