I’ve been asked to speak at Saachi in a few weeks about the internet of things. I’ve had clients before who were agencies before and we did some fantastic work together but I’ve also had 15 minute conversations with agency types asking more or less the same questions or interpreting the internet of things in more or less the same way. These are a few answers to those questions.
Why is it relevant?
1. The Internet of Things is a way to make a brand more tangible by connecting a users’s digital presence with the real world, or vice versa.
This might take on the form of a one-off installation or piggybacking on a client’s existing infrastructure. These are mostly done as research projects internally and often for Christmas or a big national holiday as a way to promote an agency’s approach or work.
For example, social media platforms can be used as a way to link users to installations or objects such as:
- Hashtags that trigger Space Hoppers
- Fuss Ball results that are published on Twitter
- Ice tea dispenser triggered by Twitter
- Coca-Cola sponsored space where people use their bracelets to “like” the event.
- Red Pepper built a Facebok Like Light
- Renault built a way to use the tradeshow badge to like the booth on Facebook.
- GE Social Fridge opens with a set number of Foursquare checkins by iStrategyLabs
- Baker Tweet is an example of an agency (Poke) working with a neighbouring business.
2. Sometimes the internet bit isn’t the most interesting bit, it’s the story you tell.
Moving Brands have been building some really interesting projects like a rapid prototyping a chocolate advent calendar. The models were built on a website and then sent them to the hacked 3D printer. The web bit of this isn’t the important part but it makes these experiments possible.
A few years before, they published a site where people could draw an image in a grid of pixels and they collected them to make the patterns of a scarf they sold. This is a lovely way to make your agency stand out.
Casa (on of JWT’s companies) built a beer fridge that is only opened on Fridays when everyone has filled in their time sheets.
Momentumem Madrid built 18 temperature sensitive vending machines for Coca Cola.
3. On process & people
Most of the time, these projects are internal only and the result of a small team of people inside the company working away from billable hours. This is a sacrifice worth making if you’re willing to keep those people playing and inventing to help new business leads. Do not have those people work on these things for only some of the time, it won’t be worth it.
These people are often called creative technologists, you will find they graduated from computer science programs but ended up involved in design somehow. You might find them at Goldsmith’s or the RCA’s degree shows. You might find them in hacker meetups. Some of them have online portfolios that include doing great things with Arduino.
This type of work is also work you can decide to outsource to other vendors, but this means you won’t develop the ability to have new conversations with clients on a daily basis. Having a senior creative technologist on a retainer to hang out to talk to planners would be best. If they are quite junior (ie quite cheap) they might sit on their desk hiding, building interesting things, but not be respected or understood by the CDs. This is an important challenge which is why experience and confidence will go a long way. This person will also help the producer find the right people to make the thing as well.
4. If this then that…slowly
The best way to come up with an “Internet of things” idea that will be possible to make is to think “if someone does XXX online, then it triggers XXX elsewhere” and vice versa. But remember there is always a lag. Nothing happens across media as quickly as it happens online. So that r/c car you want to move with a flash game will not respond automatically.
5. What it means for the future of marketing.
At the moment, anyone from IBM to Bosch is interested in making their products connect to the internet. This will have an impact on marketing only in as much as it will make communicating these emmerging products a real challenge. Youtube, & Vimeo are going to be a big part of the equation because explaining a thing that does something is better done through video. E-commerce and online PR will also lead the way for a really long time as the retail space tries to adjust to hybrid devices. Understanding where a connected lamp like GNL sits in John Lewis is a nightmare. Existing clients who have some new and kooky thing they’ve made might wish to take a leap of faith online before committing their supply chain to these experiments. These are all choices and a world that advertising can help navigate. It’s going to get very exciting.
6. Who do you call?
Some lovely people can help agencies get started in this world (in the UK):