Dubbed the “Brexit Budget,” this year’s Autumn Statement was one of few surprises – other than that it would be the last. The chancellor certainly lived up to his “Spreadsheet Phil” epithet. But Philip Hammond gave a welcome nod to UK tech industries, all too aware that their impetus will play a prominent role in establishing our future position in the global order.
One such nod was offering local authorities the chance to bid for a chunk of a £740m fund to trial superfast 5G mobile networks, the first of which is in Bournemouth. Asides from playing catch-up with south east Asia, Hammond is future-proofing UK network infrastructure against the approaching deluge of interconnected smart homes, phones, cities and cars. If all of these devices are going to work sequentially, and at full capacity, we’re going to need more bandwidth.
With great bandwidth comes great responsibility – especially for advertisers and marketers.
For those in Adland, especially in the US, AppLovin will need no introduction – a so-called tech unicorn, at just four years old, it’s the leading mobile video advertising platform, helping brands to reach over 2bn consumers globally through its proprietary ad automation and analytics system. “What we did very early on,” says Simon Spaull, managing director Europe, Middle East and Africa, “was build our own exclusive ad network. Very simply that means that, to access the inventory that we have for sale, you have to come through our platform.”
In its short life, AppLovin has grown up fast. “Because we got there early we were able to grow very quickly, and we’re now the largest video platform in the world,” says Spaull. In fact, AppLovin has been so successful, it turned over $234m last year, and is “on course to hit $500m this year,” which will be welcome news to Chinese private equity firm Orient Hontai Capital, which recently acquired the business for a cool $1.42bn.
Remember all those years ago when 4G was launched in the UK? Four years is an epoch in technology. 4G ushered in the era of mobile advertising we’re currently living in – it gave advertisers the bandwidth to serve videos on handheld devices, rather than static pop-ups, and has been at the very core of AppLovin’s success.
Spaull says of 5G that “it’s going to be very fast. Somewhere around 10 times faster than 4G, although I have heard people quoting 100 times. The increased speed and connectivity, combined with the reduced latent lag times, is really going to open up opportunities for different types of apps, downloads and videos,” he says.
With increased bandwidth will come a newfound capability to broaden the horizons of marketers and advertisers. Ultra hi-definition 4K video is just one slice of the pie, leading to an inevitable increase in video quality. But Spaull believes that VR is the next big thing in mobile and advertising. “It’s great for our industry – we always assumed that due to the need for power and bandwidth that it would only ever be desktop based, but now VR has moved to smartphones, and it’s unbelievable the opportunities that creates. We’ll be able to deliver more realistic, immersive and interactive experiences.”
No longer is advertising exclusive to the physical world – the opportunity for immersive experiences in the virtual realm brings with it opportunities for brands. Spaull gives the example of an immersive demonstration of a holiday destination on VR. “Within that experience we can be very clever about how we promote other products, be it suncream or fashion or whatever brands are trying to sell. We don’t know how those ads are going to appear right now, but it’s a revolutionary opportunity.”
But in the world of 5G, the real draw is data arising from the Internet of Things. There’s going to be a lot more of it.
As the world becomes more interconnected, every action we take – from routes we regularly travel, to the products in our fridge, to our average resting heart rate – creates a data point. Every data point creates a better understanding of the consumer, and if advertisers can better understand the consumer, they can serve them more tailored, relevant advertising.
“The huge amount of connectivity that’s going to come from this – people will have so many devices. When you buy a new car now it’s connected, soon it’ll be fridges, wine bottles, just about everything will be connected.
“We’re going to have a lot more data on people, all within privacy standpoints of course, but it means that from a marketing perspective, things will be more intelligent, and because of that, the data will be more relevant, resulting in more relevant experiences for consumers,” says Spaull.
Mobile already offers a tremendous degree of targeting. But the ability to continually iterate based on data, combined with additional insights garnered from 5G will take it even further. “Think of the possibilities with augmented reality ads on 3D Google maps, or ultra-intelligent refrigerators that link to markets in your area. You could have context-aware ads on Internet of Things home devices that find deals on items you need for dinner, or VR goggles that track eye movements for controlling on-screen graphic interfaces — the only limit is your imagination.”