FutureVision, Cont.

Last month, we discussed technologies that may revolutionize the way we live, and how to track them—a process we at R/GA call “FutureVision.” We looked at three categories: personalization, control and peer-to-peer. This month, we’ll explore three more: mobility, experience and entertainment.

Mobility: The advances in mobile technology are staggering. 3G wireless—broadband on the handset—is growing worldwide. Verizon Wireless is the first provider of 3G in the U.S. with V Cast (www.getvcast.com), first advertised during this year’s Super Bowl. WiMAX and its progenitor, Wi-Fi, will continue to bring broadband to laptops and other devices.

What are people doing with this newfound mobile connectivity? One of the coolest mobile services to emerge in recent years is Dodgeball (www.dodgeball.com). It’s like having Friendster on the go. Just send an SMS of your location to Dodgeball, and it can help locate everyone in your social circle within a 10-block radius. Among the bar-hopping crowd, Dodgeball has changed the game of going out. In fact, it’s so cool that Google bought the company two weeks ago.

Another emerging technology that’s sure to revolutionize information on the go is Quick Response (QR) codes. Imagine bar codes that your camera phone can read, sending you back information on demand. In Japan, NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode 3G service supports QR. A recent Nike basketball outdoor campaign in Japan (www.nikebasketball.jp) linked mobile users to a LeBron James “Chamber of Fear” mobile site through QR codes embedded in the posters.

Experience: The convergence of interactive technology with formerly non-interactive devices or locations is creating an entirely new genre of experience. Spectacular signs in Times Square have existed for more than 50 years, but a new generation of digital signs is changing the notion of a simple walk down the street.

One example is the Reuters sign at 3 Times Square. Last year, for the relaunch of Yahoo! Autos, R/GA developed a car-racing game on the 23-story sign—the cars were controlled via cell phones. Visitors to Times Square dialed the toll-free number on the sign and took control of the cars, using their keypads to control the action. Visit Times Square today, and you can customize a pair of sneakers on the Reuters sign using Nike iD technology (www.nikeid.com). After you’ve put the finishing touches on your design, an SMS to your phone directs you to a URL where the sneakers are ready for purchase.

Other examples of billboards that interact include the Dove “What is beautiful?” campaign, which allows users to vote with their cell phones, or services like Hypertag (www.hypertag.com) that embed outdoor posters with electronic tags readable by devices like Palm Pilots or Pocket PCs that have infrared receivers. Point your Palm Pilot at the sign, hit the button, and a piece of information or free content is downloaded to your device.

Entertainment: Everyone knows the stats on videogames. They consistently outgross movies at a far lower production cost per title. Now advertising is coming to the world of games in meaningful ways. Companies like Massive (www.massiveincorporated.com) can dynamically serve ads into game titles from companies like Ubisoft, Atari and Vivendi Universal.

Hard-core gamers have already discovered that their game consoles can replace their phones. Video chat over broadband using Xbox Live or Sony PS2, and a videoconferencing tool like EyeToy is the next best thing to being there.

Advergaming via the Web is also growing rapidly. Today’s best Web-based game experiences, like Nike Gridiron’s Michael Vick Experience (www.nikegridiron.com), can divert users away from their console games long enough to rack up millions of game plays. An arcade version at Niketown looks even more like the real thing.

So what does it all mean? There are a few logical conclusions from FutureVision.

We are heading, ever faster, toward a new world of ubiquitous content on demand. Yet most of our old media paradigms revolve around reaching people at discrete moments in time that advertisers used to control. One of the biggest shifts in marketing and advertising today is the move from the outbound world of media-driven campaigns to the inbound world of information on demand. Web sites were the first manifestation of information on demand (consumers actually had to choose to visit them), but as FutureVision demonstrates, information will be able to be received from thousands of different entry points.

While this might be bad news for ad agencies who haven’t made the leap to the on-demand world, it’s actually good news for marketers. Mass advertising is incredibly expensive. Inbound channels are a relative bargain. Yet as purchasing decisions continue to shift toward inbound channels at the point of sale (imagine watching a broadband product demo on your cell phone as you stand in the aisle of Target), there are huge opportunities to make marketing dollars deliver more for less.

By staying in touch with expanding media opportunities and using FutureVision as a vehicle, we can help steer our clients in the right direction.