What will the world be like in five years? No one can say for sure. But our vision guides us to the place the want to be.
Towards the end of last year I spent many hours contemplating the future of the digital world and where we fit into this ever changing, digitally dominant world. What trends do we need to be aware of that will change the demands of the market and what our clients value from us? What will the agency world look like in five years’ time and beyond? As the digital world shifts continually, we need to make sure that we as an agency continue to be relevant, add value and well… still have jobs to go to!
What will the world be like in five years? No one can say for sure. We got a glimpse of what could be possible, thanks to the likes of the wondrous David Smith at our third Lets Do Digital conference earlier this year. Rather than trying to second guess whether we’ll all be wearing Apple Watches in the coming decade or not, it was important to think bigger than a service, technology or fad. To me it is important that we as an agency think about how we can make our contribution to the world rather than just being another ‘award winning digital agency’. The world doesn’t really need any more of those. As Jeff Bezos aptly puts it businesses should focus (your) strategy on things that won’t change.
My belief is that digital should be used to help improve the world and be used as a force for good. As an established and thriving agency, we should be a driving force to make this change happen.
I see a lot of what I call ‘misuse’ of digital at the moment. This ranges anywhere from the ‘landfill marketing’ of likes of Taboola to the simple lack of control we demonstrate when we have the ability to send anyone a message or update our status anywhere at anytime. Do we really need to walk down the road looking at a five inch screen when there is wonderful scenery all around us? Do we really need to spend two hours each night looking at Facebook or products we can’t afford on Amazon? Shouldn’t we spend more time connecting in a more meaningful way with one another and just put our bloody phones down for once?
I believe things can be better. Things will be better.
Another one of my hopes for the coming decade is that the current creeping of personal value realignment continues. Without meaning to sound all Russell Brand, there has been a trend towards buying locally sourced, non-conglomerated produce with the younger discernible audiences. A move away from the flash Harry/Loadsamoney days of the 80s to one of (slightly) more realism and practicality.
So what if you’ve got an £80k car or a flash watch or the latest phone or an Armani suit? Thanks to the likes of those fuelling the ‘flat white economy’ there is a trend toward experiences – doing things different or unusual. The measure of envy is no longer of possession but of life experience and variety. With the prevalence of social media with the current teen generation, the posting of these experiences onto feeds, walls, boards or other places only added fuel to this trend.
Your ‘friends’ are more likely to place you in higher regard if you’ve been to all the major festivals this year, been to some of the best bars in England, been to several capital cities across Europe etc. than if you’ve got the latest Nike trainers. If you can talk about great experiences and share them then it’s these things that give you talking points for when you next see your friends. Whilst sharing these fun pictures and stories can be seen as some sort of a modern day social currency, it does add more life experience to those who are participating in hopefully a good way. Similarly, as we see the gap between rich and poor carry on growing in the UK and even across the western world, the ability to live an aspirational and possession led life decreases. The result is that we place more importance in having positive experiences as a route to having happiness in our lives.
To add to my beliefs of how digital should be used better in the future, bubbling away in the background of the last few years has been the talk and gradual realisation of the Internet of Things. This gives us the ability for almost anything, be it a traditional device or otherwise, to be connected to the internet. This gives us opportunity and so many, many more options when it comes to improving the customer experience when interacting with services, brands and businesses. The current use cases of the IoT are around ‘practical’ measurement of things like tennis racquet swings, how you brush our teeth or something else similarly ‘ooh, that’s sorta cool but so what’.
Whilst the IoT hasn’t really touched the mainstream in any meaningful way yet (apart from possibly accessories like Fitbit), it will. In the next few years, we will undoubtedly see more and more ‘things’ becoming ‘smart’; interacting with us and hopefully helping us improve our lives. It could be something as small as sending someone a ‘touch’ to let them know we are thinking of them (instead of a text message) through to filtering out actual noise from our day to day surroundings. The possibilities are pretty much endless.
This presents a massive opportunity for a full service agency like ourselves. A website is fundamentally a shop window for a brands services and products. However, that experience is pretty limited, using predominantly one or two senses of sight and sometimes sound. This lack of physical connection means that our chance to connect properly as humans using the full five senses, is never achieved either on a personal one to one level or for brands, to perhaps offer something of true value and meaning. Perhaps the digital landfill is a result of this current digital limitation. Or perhaps history will repeat itself with the new wave of technologies and we’ll end up getting blasted with all sorts of advertising crap with our VR headsets. I sincerely hope not.
To summarise my want for us to do good in the world, change it for the better, add more value, create more connection, depth and ultimately happiness, I had to come up with one sentence which reads thus;
To make the lives of people happier through making experiences more enjoyable using digital technologies.
What are we doing to make this happen? We’ve started to look much deeper at the user experience in terms of audiences, personas and data to see how we can use the current touch points more effectively. The results can be seen in some of the work that we’ve been recognised for recently. We’ve also played around with new pieces of technology from NFC tags and iBeacons to devices like the Myo.
Ultimately we will be driven by the market, our readiness to the adoption of new technology and data to understand audiences in more complex and granular ways. However things evolve, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be an unprecedented shift in the coming years in how we interact with the world around us and it interacts with us. It will be a hugely exciting time for us. My hope is that we use this new technology in the right way and that all agencies create engaging experiences of value as a result.
We will be.
And we will be leading the way.