For many in the brand and agency worlds, there’s still a big leap between the trendy vernacular of emerging technologies such as Augmented and Virtual Reality and the day-to-day integration of these elements into brand strategy and execution.
Still perceived as nascent, AR, in particular, is just now hitting the fast track with some of the more exploratory brand marketers, and it was recently earmarked the next “trillion-dollar industry” by Deloitte.
According to Mark Power, managing director, USA, at Ansible, a division of Interpublic Group, these are no longer just trade press buzzwords or concepts. Emerging platforms are a new reality, and brands across all verticals need to start playing a more active role in adopting the very technologies that consumers are demanding for richer, more engaging, entertaining experiences. Even if that means failing at first.
Sitting at the helm of Ansible’s global team of strategy, media, creative, and solution specialists with a 20-year career in digital and mobile behind him, Power is entrusted by some of the world’s biggest brands to help navigate the tricky landscape of technology and consumer behavior. But despite a treasure trove of exciting new tech platforms and channels to test out, he feels that too few brands have even scratched the surface of what can be done when advertising and technology co-exist to create consumer-pleasing experiences and build brand value.
Can you describe a recent tactile-driven ad campaign or branded content experience that really opened your eyes to the future of advertising?
There are many cool experiential things happening in the market, but nothing has really moved the needle as far as I’m concerned. There’s still a huge opportunity for brands to really impress people with delightful experiences, and that’s the takeaway.
I’m becoming immune to a lot of branded content and ad experiences in general. What it comes down to are the brands that are creating engaging utility without getting in my way. Brands have an amazing opportunity right now to expand their services and products to fit this expectation. If you’re not providing utility and making people’s lives easier, or giving them something that’s useful, entertaining, or educational, then you’re falling through the cracks. If you can delight people, you’re going to win.
As a mobile media and technology agency, how do you stay on top of consumer trends, new technology, and how they can best fit together?
We’re very dependent on insights from our technology and publishing partners and some of the more nimble start-ups in our space, what they’re focused on and what’s taking shape. They can move much faster than the world of agencies and brands. We also keep abreast of the marketing and technology trade press. A lot of what’s happening at the conference and expo level in terms of insights and discussion is of great importance. You can’t sit back and wait for mainstream media to give you the inside view on what’s happening in our industry. You need to go into the weeds on AR and VR news to really understand what’s happening. It’s good to get that news at the early stage and not wait, otherwise, it’s no longer innovative.
Can you share a client story of a traditional brand client transforming its image through mobile?
Auto brands have traditionally been seen as having a lower product standard, and they’ve always been challenged by new technology. We work with Kia Motors America, the KIA auto brand. For a long time they struggled with their brand perception, but through our work together, they really embraced mobile innovation and new experiences to bring their brand into the 21st century. By tapping into emerging new channels like chatbots and Google Home, they came to be seen as a more innovative auto brand, and the press and consumers reacted immediately.
We helped create a VR showroom for them on a mobile phone where consumers could see cars in 3D, and it was a very successful, award-winning campaign. It got people excited and talking about the experience of the car buying journey and lifted the KIA brand by making consumers’ lives easier. It’s a real challenge for many brands to get beyond TV and banner ads and elevate brand perception like that. It’s not just about the outcome of an ad, it’s about motivating consumers through new channels that they connect with, and it requires broader thinking around the consumer experience.
What are some of the immersive technology integrations you’re recommending to clients?
There are huge opportunities for brands to embrace AR. Brands that have physical products can now bring those products alive through the lens of a phone. You can create an engaging experience in a totally different way to showcase your brand. AR also has very interesting applications in the physical world by helping us navigate price and products for consumers to share and experience. There is great potential for really organic traction in the world of augmentation.
On the other hand, VR is going to reinvent shopping, if you can imagine shopping in a virtual world in the future. It’s going to create a massive industry shift. Brands need to experiment now with these new technologies. They need to take chances, try new things, experiment and fail. Failure is okay, in fact, it’s necessary for success and even bigger rollouts. That’s exactly what KIA did. They entered the world of emerging platforms that they knew nothing about and experimented and found what worked best for them. Sometimes you have to fail in order to get it right the next time.
If the Ansible credo is that experiences should be built for people, not screens, what guiding principles do you share with clients when it comes to creating meaningful connections with consumers?
We’re advising clients to respect the attention of consumers. It’s so easy to exist behind a giant spreadsheet and ad creative, but in front of every ad is a unique individual, and we need to be mindful and respect their attention. You can’t just throw advertising out there anymore. Consumers are telling us that they’re not looking at ads anymore, they’re blocking them, and there’s a lot of mistrust out there. Consumers want respect, and if you give them that, it might just change the way they think about what you’re trying to do.
If you could recreate your career trajectory and transplant yourself in any new place or position in today’s digital ecosystem, what would it be, who would you be?
The future of marketing is experiences working in unison with media. I’d like to work more often with the clients who are ready to innovate with emerging technology and be challenged. We’re about to enter a period of massive disruption across every corner of our industry. The world of marketing needs to get a hell of a lot more integrated if brands are going to succeed. Those who are embracing innovation will win if they’re willing to push forward.
I’d also like to be working remotely from an island somewhere, using my VR headset when I need to collaborate with my team and clients.