The internet of things presents new challenges for marketers

With CES showcasing the latest and greatest in consumer technology innovation this week, Ed Chater, chief operating officer at adtech outfit AdBrain, explains why marketers have to sit up and take notice, especially as programmatic media buying continues its march into the mainstream.

IoT is a broad concept portraying this utopia where everything is 'smart'. Cars, home appliances, toothbrushes, glassware, art – anything could be connected to the internet and considered a 'smart' object.

This level of connectivity in all the items we interact with daily is not yet mainstream as the question 'why bother' has not yet been cracked. But in 2016 the term IoT has broken into the mainstream with more people owning a smart device than not according to the IAB. The breakout connected device that has really driven this change is arguably already a sophisticated piece of kit, TVs.

The majority of households in America now have a TV connected to the internet. This means IoT is mainstream. It’s no longer a question of if or when.

So what does this mean to marketers and technologists who provide services to brands? While the penetration of connected TVs has gone mainstream, either defined as a Smart TV with connectivity built in or a TV connected through a streaming device like Apple TV, Chromecast or Roku, it’s fair to say that marketing on these devices is still very early.

Two reasons for this:

Getting your advertisement on TV and benefiting from all the advancements internet connection could bring is simply not offered by many publishers today.

Identity, the glue that binds data to execution, has not been solved for TV.

However, these two barriers are being dismantled rapidly.

First, exchanges and DSPs are starting to see more bid requests come from TVs thanks to publishers that are getting hits through either their TV app or a user browsing the net on the clunky browser experiences. This supply will increase as the app ecosystem starts to take hold with all the TV manufacturers finally getting their TV operating systems to be stronger in reaction to the streaming boxes like Apple TV’s innovation in making app experiences. Traditional TV publishers are learning from mobile and making their content available through their TV apps in the same way their iOS and Android apps do. That said, two worlds still exist on the TV: this connected app world and the traditional cable experience. The cable experience still dominates both the ad dollars and viewership, for now.

The other barrier – identity – is why I think the traditional cable domination of TV dollars is under threat in the long term. Connected TVs create new opportunities to establish who is watching the content. Either from a deterministic login by the user linking their mobile or cable subscription to get access to content or via probabilistic matching of digital identity onto the TV. As this proliferates the ability to deliver greater personalization and the experience both in terms of marketing messaging and actual product increases dramatically.

An interesting nuance of the IoT world though is the concept of shared things, or devices. To date, the internet has largely been a pretty personal experience. Only one person can use a computer or a phone at one time. With IoT you are going to see more collective internet experiences with more than one user at a time. The TV is a great example of this. Watching a great movie or binge watching a TV series with friends and family is a very common activity. And it’s not just TVs, think of a connected home. The home by its nature is a shared environment. Same for the connected car. Therefore identity in IoT is no longer just about focusing on an individual. It’s also about understanding the household and who else might be exposed to a marketing event through an IoT device.

How this complexity is managed is still in the early days. Marketers and technologists trying to help marketers are going to have to increase their data sophistication and take into an account an axis of identity. Starting with an individual using one device at the most simplistic end of the spectrum, then an individual using more than one personal device as you increase the complexity until you get to communities of individuals using multiple shared devices at the furthest end of the axis. The future of IoT is approaching quickly.

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