Which Connected Device Is the Next Big Thing in Mobile?

Marketers split on winning platform

Headshot of Lauren Johnson

Despite all of the hype around connected homes, cars, TVs and smartwatches, a series of discussions today at the Mobile Media Summit in London underscores the challenges that brands will have in moving mobile advertising beyond smartphones and tablets.

Apple and Google are both moving full speed into connected devices that sync up mobile devices with cars, appliances and watches. The tactic promises to give marketers more data and a better understanding of how consumers interact with everyday objects, but a group of agencies and brands at the conference were divided on which experiences are actually realistic.

Brands like Ford see a big opportunity in the connected car. However, James Hilton, global CEO of M&C Saatchi Mobile, is skeptical on how much smart vehicles can grow since brands will need to pour significant amounts of money into developing new cars that consumers may not own for a long period of time. "When we’re talking about cars, how often are people switching their cars? If that’s basically a four-year cycle, it’s going to take a lot longer [to create connected cars], and it’s the same thing to perhaps put all the connected devices into our houses," he said.

Even smart beds were brought up as a product that brands may eventually employ to understand consumers’ sleep habits for marketing purposes. However, Mark Jackson, McCann Worldgroup’s chief technology catalyst, EMEA, was quick to point out that brands should first understand how a device fits into a consumer’s life before testing such tactics. "If you’re in the business of sleep, [it’s important to] therefore understand how you can build a route that says, 'OK, what role does technology play?' Then, you find a good use for technology," he said.

Wearables fitness trackers like Nike Fuelband, Jawbone and Fitbit are a safer bet for marketers experimenting with connected devices since they’re fairly cheap for consumers to buy, per M&C Saatchi’s Hilton.

To the point of accessibility, Melanie Varley, global chief strategy officer at MEC, said that she sees a big opportunity with mobile and TVs as more viewing shifts over to smartphones and tablets, especially for marketers who still pour big money into TV. "The ecosystem around TV I think is going to be the most interesting for our business," she stated.

And with more consumers watching video on smartphones and tablets, brand marketers are looking for ways to take mobile video a step further by tailoring content toward specific groups, too. "I can produce a TV ad this week and show it to 100 countries next week. If we’re going to unlock the power of mobile, we really have to think about how we work differently as an industry and join the dots together," noted Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing and communication officer, during the conference’s opening keynote.

Ben Dimond, group agency director at Opera Mediaworks, pinpointed data as key in why mobile is prime for TV advertising. "What’s going to be interesting is when we start to get connected TVs feeding back into ad servers, and more data that you’re building up about user bases, you can start to actually have TV ads that are targeted to users specifically with relevant messages," he said.

Below, some speakers and attendees sound off on what's coming next in mobile via Instagram video.

Activision's Jonathan Anastas, vp of global brand marketing and head of digital and social media

Eric Litman, CEO of Medialets

MEC's Melanie Varley, global chief strategy officer 

@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.