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Mobile Technology 5G

Marketers need to get up to speed on 5G – here’s how to prepare

By Richard O'Sullivan, Vice-president and general manager

June 23, 2021 | 6 min read

With 5G around the corner – and new marketing opportunities surely following – brand marketers need to make sure they’re up to speed. As part of our deep dive into everything Mobile, Richard O’Sullivan, vice-president and general manager of InMobi, ANZ, explores what preparations your brand needs to put in place.


Given its potential to affect current business models, conversations around 5G must be elevated to the board room

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” It’s not often I quote Ferris Bueller in a work context, but his words spring to mind when talking about the potential for 5G and what marketers and media agencies should be thinking about to prepare for it.

This is because while the transformative promise of 5G on the media, entertainment and marketing industries has long been discussed, little has been ‘done’ by brands and agencies to prepare for its arrival. With 5G networks finally (and oxymoronically, if slowly) beginning to roll out across APAC, it would be a mistake for marketers to continue putting off considering where, or how, it could benefit or mitigate their strategic plans.

The introduction of 5G (the fifth-generation standard for broadband cellular networks) is significant for the media, entertainment and marketing industries because it will offer a step-change improvement in latency, download speeds, connection density and energy compared to current 4G networks.

The table above outlines just how major the improvements are, but in layman’s terms it means downloads and lag times will be slashed, and the issues of buffering and patchy connections will be consigned to history.

That means the related barriers to running audio, video and multi-media content across mobile devices will be removed, meaning a higher quality experience available to more people in more locations, more frequently (> growth of the digital population). While the convergence of 5G, AI and edge cloud technology will make cost-effective augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) across devices easier, gaming and live events (including sports) production quality will improve the immersive experience. And the proliferation of data that will emerge has the potential to drive highly personal, predictive and contextual marketing dependent on its inflection point with rising privacy regulation.

Three key areas worth considering today to help you prepare include:

Strategy and education

Given its potential to affect current business models, conversations around 5G must be elevated to the board room because of the transformative nature it can have on competition in industries. We have witnessed the impact of a single privacy change from Apple on the diversity of identity companies vying to fill the void left by IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) and cookies, and the impact it can have on share price. Therefore, boards must first understand how 5G technology will impact current operations within the context of a competitive landscape, and then what does this mean for their engagement with customers.

For example, we already know that 5G will drive personalized video content and enable AR, VR, MR and other sensory experiences to become mainstream. This will create a much closer connection between the consumer and a brand and its products. For brands, this might mean building out a direct-to-consumer channel, while for media agencies it could mean radical reimagining. With 55.7% of advertising expenditure already going to digital marketing across APAC, and a sizable portion of that already being spent on mobile, it is inevitable that 5G will accelerate the decline of non-digital media – and agencies must reimagine their role in supporting clients.

Data and identity

We’re about to see an explosion in first-party data, at least 175 zettabytes (or 175 trillion gigabytes), at precisely the moment in time where concerns about privacy and distrust are at a zenith. This means two things. Firstly, consider how you build, buy or acquire the capability to aggregate, unlock and manage vast quantities of disparate data to drive the customer experience. It is likely to mean additional identity management technology and people to work out how to responsibly connect and leverage the data. It will also require careful consideration of ethical data collection and usage, as well as contingency plans for a tightened regulatory environment that will accompany the mainstream introduction of AI, biometrics and MR technologies.

Privacy from a legal standpoint and in the context of media relates to personal information, however it is proving to be a dynamic term based on who is defining what it constitutes. Secondly, the use of anonymized and de-identified data will still carry risk as data from new sources becomes available, with the potential to stitch together and reidentify individuals.

Skills and capabilities

Most regions across APAC are already mobile-first in their approach (with almost 90% of consumers accessing the internet using their mobile as the primary device), but 5G will cement this as the value exchange improves with a high-quality audio-visual and emotive experience that leads to a mobile video-first approach. Brands and agencies must therefore ensure they have the technology, processes and people in place to manage exponential demand in this area. An example of someone that is getting this right is S4 Capital, including MediaMonks and Mighty Hive.

But that is just the beginning. Over the longer term it is going to require a whole new breed of technology partnerships, data scientists and regulatory wizards to help wrangle the ensuing volume of available data that will drive deeper insights into consumer desires and behaviors.

More than anything, however, it is going to require a shift in the creative mindset and the technological ability to hyper-personalize at scale.

If you take one thing on board, make it this. The last few decades are littered with examples of businesses who did not see wholesale disruption coming (Blackberry, MySpace and Nokia to name but a few), so learn, envisage and act before it is too late.

For more in-depth coverage on the present and future of mobile marketing, dial in to The Drum’s Mobile hub.

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