The tech industry had quite the ride in 2018. The Cambridge Analytica scandal rocked Facebook, Elon Musk started calling heroic divers ‘pedo guy’ and Google workers staged a worldwide walkout. Nevertheless, advertising had a whopper of a chest of toys to play with, with AI, AR, VR, voice and more further cementing their places in the everyday of life of consumers.
So, what’s up for 2019? LBB’s Addison Capper picked the brains of tech-heads from The Mill, FCB, Droga5, RPA, Laughlin Constable, Huge, Deutsch and McKinney to find out.
1. Justin Durazzo, co-director of interactive production, Droga5
There was a time I’d have liked to say VR / AR, but the innovators of this technology are still finding their footing as we (hopefully) move out of the so-called ‘trough of disillusionment’ and into a new ‘slope of enlightenment’ with devices like Oculus Quest and Magic Leap emerging onto the scene. Creators are improving the craft technology and pushing new boundaries for entertainment purposes, but mobile AR has the most potential due to its already billion-strong user base.
Machine learning and AI continue to improve how we interact with product, interface and experience. The technologies are also helping brands better gauge our interests and behaviour to more deeply understand us, all in pursuit of serving more dynamic, personally relevant content.
The smarter brands recognise the need for contextual, enriching material that offers true value and utility without always pushing product before first earning our trust. This leads us to Instagram. Ubiquitous Instagram. The once photo-only app continues to robustly expand its feature set and transform what it means for individuals and marketers to develop their own voice (even with tiny budgets) and reach their target with potential for greater accuracy, authenticity and ability to provoke more interesting dialogue.
Nonetheless, this sort of ‘Facebookisation’ of Instagram ironically seems to correlate with the apparent decline in actual Facebook users. It’ll be interesting to see how Instagram navigates its burgeoning growth without compromising the very values and functionality it was built on.
2. Husani Oakley, SVP, director of technology, Deutsch New York
Imagine hyper-targeted and hyper-personalised brand messages, in any medium you can imagine, created in real-time by algorithms driven by a heretofore unseen scale and scope of data. Imagine watching an interactive film like Bandersnatch while riding in a self-driving car, with what’s on screen - including ads - informed by your current location.
The history of the Internet is full of moments where what's-next is an exponential improvement over what-is. 2019 brings one of those inflection points, with 5G poised to finally enter the mainstream. 5G is the next generation of cellular communications, and it's going to change everything. While 5G is exponentially faster than 4G, and is both cheaper and uses less energy, the core advantage is low latency. Initial tests by the telecoms show that connections can happen in one millisecond. Which means that we'll be able to send and receive huge amounts of data - 4k video, high fidelity audio, usage information, anything we can think of - to and from all our devices, practically instantaneously. Our phones, of course, but also our 5G-enabled microwaves, washing machines, toasters, you name it.
When combined, real-time connectivity via 5G and ever-smarter algorithms introduce a whole new world of exciting possibilities for practically everything.
3. Ian Burns, executive creative director, Huge
What I'm most interested to see in 2019 is how image / facial recognition and image / video manipulation technology could come together simultaneously into a stew of mostly exciting and sometimes terrifying applications. Apps like Hawkeye are using eye tracking to let us navigate the web hands-free. Google lens is applying its imaging technology to make sure we can identify, and buy, literally everything we see. Amazon Go and other players in the cashierless store industry are using imaging to analyse our in-store behaviours and will no doubt be able to distinguish the posture of a buyer versus a browser versus a shoplifter. If they can’t already. And while the prospect of ‘Deep Fakes’ is mostly the stuff of nightmares, this example
out of UC Berkeley using AI and video manipulation to turn anyone into a world-class dancer, has clear applications for content and advertising.
Imagine Netflix’s late-2018 foray into interactive content with Black Mirror, updated for 2019. Rather than navigating with the remote, eye-tracking and posture determine where the story goes. Oddly, the protagonist just happens to be wearing that shirt you’ve been obsessing over for the past two weeks. And rather than being served up one of five canned final scenes, the episode serves up a single ending, made on the fly, just for you.
4. Boo Wong, global head of emerging technology, The Mill
We’re in a state of iteration, where critical components like AI, big data, augmented reality, robots and genetic engineering are in play and we look for interconnectivity and utilisation for the next ‘big thing’. Smart cities, smart homes, smart cars, smart wearables, smart fabric, smart mirrors… add ‘connected’ to this with a good dose of decentralised machine learning and it becomes clear that we are heading into a post-mobile world. Digital assistants with invisible UI or voice interfaces will be prevalent. Creating compelling interactive and immersive experiences will bring people out of their homes and the march of augmented reality will gain momentum as new headsets hit the market. Deep Learning continues to move us from human-derived to machine-generated data, and the push pull of technology will speed innovation ahead while verification and validation of results trail in its wake.
5. Colin Dwan, creative technologist, McKinney
The biggest tech hurdle we’ll face in 2019 is a monster of our own making - the flattening of the online shopping experience. Rooted in efficient UX and functional advertising, we’ve made purchasable goods so accessible that there’s almost no chance to make an impression on the buyer anymore. Gone are the days of window shopping or even visiting a retailer’s website to search for a product. Our social networks, voice assistants and shoppable ads are already predicting what we need, when we need it and allowing us to purchase it right away. In that ultra-brief transaction, where is the opportunity for the brand to build a relationship with the consumer? Are customers loyal to the product or just being pulled around by whatever is most accessible at the right moment?
6. Parva Hashemi, associate creative technologist, RPA
Artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, voice assistants, augmented reality, virtual reality - 2018 gave advertising so much to play with, so many ways to connect with consumers. Each of these technologies will continue to evolve in 2019: data breaches will become a thing of the past with stronger data regulation, we’ll move toward optimising voice-search results, more companies will start implementing AR and VR as a part of their buying process, and the one thing every marketer, every brand will want to incorporate in their campaigns: AI. Yes, artificial intelligence and machine learning made their breakthrough in 2018 but they seemed too intimidating for engineers and agencies that lacked experience with them. With more tools developing, more information within reach, and more knowledge and insight on how it can be used to deliver the best experiences, technologists are more motivated and inspired to tackle the world of AI, giving every brand and agency the opportunity to optimise their efforts toward AI. In 2019, AI will have one of the largest impacts on advertising.
7. Paul Brienza, chief technology officer, Laughlin Constable
A lot of the hot-topic technology we’ve been watching in the past few years will be coming into its own this year. AI’s applications have been blending into everyday work, so this year, I think we’ll see the conversation shift from how helpful AI could be to the ways it’s actually helping people. The building of chatbots is becoming more streamlined, which is going to make them commonplace on websites. And for a trend that’s bigger than just 2019, the number of consumers who have never had linear TV is on the rise. As television as we’ve known it heads towards obsolescence, get ready. The ‘non-corders’ are coming.
8. Kris Hoet, global head of innovation, FCB
There is plenty of new technology that is rapidly reaching mass audiences. Voice is probably the fastest-growing one and the one that I’m the most excited about. It offers a whole series of new challenges for businesses, ranging from commerce to branding. Smart speakers are the Trojan horse of voice technology because the product is fairly cheap and, compared to your regular USB speaker, offers a much more interesting way to interact with the Internet. Even though most people still use it to play music, most of the time this is actually the ideal way to get used to talking to a piece of hardware without feeling uncomfortable – and in the process, it opens the door to everyone using the voice interface with technology as the most common thing ever. This poses interesting challenges for brands because we don’t really know yet how this will influence people buying things, especially since you don’t often mention brands in a conversation. How will we recognise brands in the audio spectrum, where most of the distinctive brand assets are visual? This will open up a whole new creative playing field, beyond the tech, that I’m really excited about. In 2019, I believe we will start focusing more on the creative value of technology rather than the other way around.
9. Sean Barry, SVP of digital, Laughlin Constable
Live video is going to keep growing, especially across social media platforms. The ability for anyone to broadcast live is a technology that isn't lauded as much as buzzwords like AI or machine learning but has just as significant of an impact on our culture and our marketing. The ability for brands to produce live content for an engaged customer base is an untapped market ripe for exploration. Everyone should be keeping an eye on live video as we find ways to create more compelling and engaging stories.