What could smart dashboards mean for marketers? Industry reaction to Google's partnership with Audi, Honda & Hyundai from OMD, Somo, DigitasLBi, Equator and more

This week at CES Audi revealed its 'dashboard of the future' and Google announced that it is working directly with car manufacturers to integrate its Android operating system into their dashboards as part of The OAA (Open Automotive Alliance).

And with long-term reports from the BBC suggest that Apple is working on a similar initiative with BMW, GM and Honda, advances in in-car operating systems happening sooner rather than later seems to be a safe bet.

With this in mind, The Drum asked a selection of leading marketers what so-called 'Smart Dashboards' could mean for the industry and what opportunities they may bring.

Toby Gunton, OMD, head of innovation

The Connected Car isn’t new, Apple introduced “iOS in the car” at WWDC last year, but Google’s announcement of The OAA (Open Automotive Alliance) moves it on another level and creates a new battleground for the tech giants.Google says the aim is to create familiar and consistent experiences when accessing mobile platforms in your car, but other than knowing that the first car with Android will be launched before the end of the year, we know nothing of their development road map or ambitions.The obvious question is, if we start building Apps for cars will there be safety issues? The OAA say they are working with the National Highway Safety Agency in the US and that the approach is about making sure that mobile services are accessed in a way that doesn’t distract from the road. So traditional marketing isn’t likely to have just found another channel for disruptive ad formats.But cars have captive audiences with long dwell times so there’s no doubt this offers new opportunities for marketing. It seems likely this will involve brands adding a layer of experience to journeys. Whether that’s providing seamless integration of utility or entertainment, it will ultimately be about how brands can augment the experience of driving.

Sergio Falletti, DigitasLBi, mobile business consultant

Google’s announcement of the Open Automotive Alliance mirrors the Linux Foundation’s formation of the AllSeen Alliance in consumer electronics a few weeks earlier. They hint at the future landscape of the Internet of Things, with large ecosystems bringing together hardware manufacturers and software developers.Nike+ have pioneered the use of connected objects to turn products into services, changing their approach to marketing in the process. It will take time for ecosystems like Google’s OAA to build momentum and deliver elegant and compelling experiences. In the meantime, marketers and brands should not wait. The opportunity in 2014 is for brands to create smart objects that solve single problems very well, along the lines of Nike+, Nest, British Gas’s hive and Zubie.

Jide Sobo, MEC UK, head of mobile

As more and more devices are being added to the Internet of Things, Smart Dashboards from Google & Apple are a welcome addition, bringing their familiar Android and iOS ecosystems into the car. This offers enormous opportunities for marketers as all of these connected devices create digital signals that offer a much deeper insight into their owner’s context. If we can interpret these signals then we can deliver marketing experiences that are truly relevant to the consumer, and that can deliver real value. Knowing that somebody is driving in a city that they haven’t visited before, we can serve ads that help them find shops and attractions that they might be interested in, whereas locals could be served ads for offers at their favourite coffee shop, or film times for their local cinema.

Rupert Cook, g2, MD

The news that Google is thinking of working with car manufacturers to create ‘smart dashboards’ is exciting as it opens up some lines of thinking for marketers.I think that the most important thing that marketers should consider is just how ‘present’ the dashboard is. Commuters especially spend many hours looking at their dashboards, meaning there is ample time to stream campaigns aimed at them.However, like in other, more traditional marketing campaigns, marketers should ensure that every campaign that appears through this ‘smart dashboard’ is seamlessly targeted to the audience. This could mean promoting coffee to be bought at service stations along a journey or GPS services, for example. The evolving technology clearly offers a raft of opportunities for marketers, they just have to ensure that any campaigns actually address the customer need, to avoid being gimmicky.

Carl Uminski, Somo, co-founder & chief operating officer

Google’s ‘smart dashboard’ announcement is another great leap forward in Google’s overall connected strategy. Utilising the power and diversity of the Android OS, Glass has been an early prototype success and now, moving into the next big connected opportunity, the car, is an obvious move for Google. As an over-the-top application provider, Google is well placed to bring a new wave of opportunities for developers and advertisers. Along with Audi, GM, Hyundai and Honda, it’s also created the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) which is exactly what’s needed in order to scale quickly. I’d expect this alliance and the standards to enable applications on all operating systems, including Apple’s iOS. Google has already been powering in-car media systems with Street View and Places of Interest (POI) for a number of years, therefore it can apply this usage data to bring more personalised options to drivers and passengers alike. For brands, there will be numerous opportunities to interact with consumers in car, such as using location to power a menu system for a drive through, through to car parks being able to offer variable pricing depending on demand. While many cars are connected today, it remains too complicated an experience. Allowing the dashboard to be led by developers will create new, customised, beautiful, useful applications for everyday use on the road. Safety will obviously remain the number one priority within the OAA.

Martin Jordan, Equator, marketing director

When it comes to in-car tech, cars (certainly outwith the USA) have been well behind the curve. From a technical standpoint, most in car GPS systems sold still run off CD or DVD, are updated manually and have little real-time intelligence. Connecting your music player is still an expensive optional extra that is stymied by bespoke cables (see Audi’s terrible AMI cable set). And as for the user interfaces, they typically appear to have been designed by someone who grew up in Cold War Russia. Compared to the slick, smooth experiences you get with Android and IOS, in-car technology is typically outdated, awkward and downright expensive. For what you can get a £99 Moto G Android phone or a £60 Nokia Lumia to do, your car company will happily charge you £2-3k. The news that both Apple and Google are making moves to break this space can only be welcome, and SHOULD be welcomed by the manufacturers. If we do not see improvement in in-car technology in this area, eventually users will rely on their phone to tell them everything bar how much fuel is in the tank (and it could probably have a good stab at that too). Then users will no longer be investing a penny in the manufacturers’ precious but overpriced add-ons. In fact, there’s every chance that those who fail to adopt will ultimately lose customers. Corning’s amazing “Future of Glass” video demonstrated the potential of seamless mobile integration into the car and it’s achievable now. Manufacturers need to respect their buyers and get with the times.

Lexi Brown, Carat, communications planning and strategy executive

The car epitomises convenience, especially for the hard to reach, busy consumer. Connected cars give marketers the potential to reach this notoriously difficult audience with a personalised and immersive experience. Marketers could offer value to the consumer by providing relevant localised updates and offers allowing for more targeted communications. Brands will need to meet consumer expectations by maintaining their integrity and providing only non-intrusive and intuitive content that makes their lives easier. As they collate more data, they can optimise these experiences to create truly tailored messages.The connected car, with multiple screens will also allow brands to target not only the driver but other passengers such as children. Brands could provide content to engage the little ones during journeys to reduce distraction for the driver. Many will be concerned with the obvious dangers of the connected car, but smarter cars will also have ways to make us safer from heads-up displays to in-car sensors that can alert drivers of dangers ahead or road conditions.

Dan Machen, Billington Cartmell, head of innovation

Increasingly, software and hardware manufacturers must cater for ‘mobility’, which encompasses a much broader vision than just ‘mobile’. It’s about fluidity across all connected devices to deliver ‘effortless digital lives.’ Thinking about mobility, Google’s move to integrate their software into cars to create automotive ‘smart marques’ is a step that offers many exciting opportunities for consumers and brands alike. Considering ‘Google Now’ – which is powered by your intimate personal dataset – Google are positively placed to create rich predictive offers and contextually relevant location triggers around an Android/car integration. This could include traffic and weather prompts as well as Points of Interest promotions for restaurants and retailers. This is beyond SoLoMo thinking, (Social, Local and Mobile) and towards PeCoLo (Personalised, Contextualised, and Localised). Smart dashboards can also enhance the interface with the car in terms of content access, voice control and car condition reporting delivered to your mobile device. Of course there is a note of caution here, as Gary Golden of FutureThink NYC, said: “I expect to see a growing cultural backlash around this notion of distracted driving.” Many would be also be wary of locking a car into a specific OS as it could actually down value the car (and I would say a degree of platform agnosticism is paramount). However, it’s an interesting point: if historically we saw Ford Vs General Motors, perhaps it will be iOS Vs Android as the tipping point of future choice for cars.

Chrissy Totty, Vizeum, head of innovation

If the Open Automotive Alliance is going to have the success of Google’s Open Handset Alliance, Android will become the common standard for most cars. Developments will initially be focused on improving the driver experience, but in the long term could provide advertisers additional data and targeting opportunities. For example, GPS data from the car combined with in car mobile/tablet usage data could lead to powerful OOH planning insights and even real time personalised digital OOH campaigns - something we are already exploring for clients. However, advertisers need to be mindful that the traditional approach of interrupting consumers just won’t be an option. Marketers will need to be helpful to the driver or entertaining for the passengers. To leverage in car devices such as Audi’s new tablet brands need to think content first, and leverage in car tech such as voice recognition to find new ways to interact with drivers and passengers

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