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Up close and personal

20 January, 2017 Reading: 1:57 min

Richard Bland, our executive creative director, reflects on the world of personalised advertising.

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Way back in 2002 you may remember Stephen Spielberg brought us Minority Report, a science fiction film loosely based on a short story by Philip K Dick and starring Tom Cruise. It was a view of a distant future (2054) in North Virginia where criminals could be apprehended before committing their crimes by a specialist PreCrime police unit, headed by Cruise. The department used psychics, or ‘precogs’, to identify potential baddies and bring them to book.

To paint his picture of the future Spielberg used concepts that at the time felt pretty far-fetched, but at the same time very plausible, even probable. One memorable scene shows Cruise walking through a shopping mall where the entire environment appears to be populated by media completely focused on him. Shop windows talk to him directly through holograms and video, pushing brand messages and special offers. Now 14 years after the film’s release and 37 years before the year it was aiming to represent, we’ve already arrived.

In recent years you’ve grown accustomed to seeing ads triggered by your online activity, but massive leaps in the use of sophisticated algorithms and the recent introduction of AI means that 2017 will see advertising driven by marketing automation rise to yet another level. Our growing ability to understand and interrogate data gives us insight that will help make the experience even more contextually relevant. More and more factors will play a part as data links increase. Your weather, your travel, your food, your relationships. Everything you connect with online will define your online experience, through hyper-personalised campaigns that modify themselves the instant your data changes, in real time. It’s called programmatic advertising and as we see more and more brands adopt this approach, we’ll see its sophistication grow and grow.

At the moment much of our personalised ad experience is pretty sterile. You’ve been looking for a fridge online so every ad you see for the next few weeks features a fridge. Probably well after you’ve made the purchase. But with a tweaked algorithm and by sprinkling the data with a little creativity, ad performance can increase by up to 10x, suggesting that we should expect to see more brands with great creative appearing on a mobile near you. Sooner than you think.

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