I Crashed a Technology Conference: What I Discovered Might Shock You

technology advancements
March 20, 2019

I got my start in the technology industry, so I’m no stranger to the industry’s conferences, but it’s been close to a decade since I left and began helping companies generate growth through digital marketing. Needless to say, I’m a little out of the loop on the latest and greatest in tech hardware.

Integrated Systems Europe is a conference for hardware integrators – people who sell tech hardware like TVs, phone systems, lighting, drones and hundreds of other products that we interact with on a daily basis. And it’s big. So big that the organizers had to build two massive tents that attached to the conference center to accommodate all of the vendors and attendees. While I was aware of a segment focused on signage and outdoor advertising, quite frankly, I was just looking forward to a fun trip to Amsterdam. I never imagined that I would learn so much about the future of marketing while I was there.

Here are my two big takeaways from the conference.

Displays are Multiplying

So, in case you haven’t noticed, digital displays are everywhere. You’ve seen them in Times Square for years, and you’ve likely noticed that a number of static highway billboards are being replaced with digital billboards. Now they’re popping up on top of gas pumps across the nation and just last year Delta installed a screen in every seatback in over 600 of their 893-plane fleet. Those are just a few examples, but the growth is going to be massive in the years to come.

The price of LED displays is down dramatically and as we’ve learned over the past two years, a big reason for the price drop is because of data collected on people who view them. A $17 million class-action settlement with Vizio settles claims that the company tracked, stored and sold data on viewer habits between 2014 and 2017. Vizio isn’t the only offender and the privacy invasion is one reason why manufacturers have been able to lower the prices by so much.

The falling price of screen technology is also due to natural downward price movements introduced by Moore’s Law, but it’s worth noting that even if screens didn’t get less expensive, the appetite for advertisers to put their message in front of you is driving massive demand for more of them.

At Integrated Systems, I saw hardware manufacturers and software developers tripping over themselves to show conference attendees all of the new things they’ve been able to do to improve display performance, deliver new content to those displays and manage all of it from the cloud. Just last year, it is estimated that digital out-of-home advertising revenue grew by 16% to $33.5 billion. Be prepared to be inundated.

Ad Tracking is Getting More Powerful

While the idea that you’ll be seeing more and more displays with advertisements may be daunting, you may be happy to know that tracking technology and other tools will make it easier for marketers to personalize the ads and messages that you see on displays. If you’re privacy conscious, it may scare you into hiding.

Technological improvements driven by faster processors and artificial intelligence are giving advertisers and retail merchants tools to show you ads based on your age, gender, mood, behavior, and countless other factors.

At one booth at the conference, I saw myself on a large screen display – I was being filmed by a camera that was mounted on the top of the screen. As I moved around a yellow box appeared around my face that had lines pointing to real-time data that was being collected about me: my distance from the display, my relative age, gender, whether I was happy, sad or neutral and, I am all but certain, other data points that either couldn’t fit on the display or that the developers didn’t want me to know about.

This sort of technology will allow advertisers to learn how their ads are received: how it drives action, which messages resonate with which audiences better, how the timing of animations drives engagement and many other insights. Advertisers will no doubt use this data to further segment audiences, make more profitable ad buys and get more of their ideal customers to buy their product or service.

The Takeaway for Marketers

The Internet has driven a lot of the proliferation of screens in our lives. It is the reason we have smartphones and trackable online ads. It is the reason why 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every hour and why we watch 5 billion videos per day on the platform. It is also the reason why advertisers can get free video impressions on the YouTube platform (from the people who always click “Skip” after 5 seconds). These statistics aren’t new, but if we stop and take stock, we can acknowledge that screens (and the Internet) have all but replaced physical phone books, have put countless news organizations out of business and have allowed us to control the systems in our homes and offices from our mobile devices.

If one thing is clear from this notion, it is that advancements in advertising technology are cannibalizing or transforming older forms of advertising every day. One old form of advertising that is still experiencing significant transformation is video. In addition to the proliferation of screens, increasing internet speeds allows content creators and marketers to serve more video and it allows consumers to view more of it. With the advancements in display technology – and all of the technology that supports video creation – it’s clear that we’re seeing just the tip of the iceberg of video marketing.

Aside from advancements in technology, it’s worth mentioning that businesses that use video to market to their customers grow revenue 49% faster than businesses that don’t (Vidyard). So if you’re not on the video bandwagon, now might be the perfect time climb aboard.

Will Melton is the president and chief digital strategist at Xponent21, a digital marketing firm serving small to Fortune 500 companies across the globe. If you’re in Richmond, Virginia and would like to learn more about marketing your business with video, check out Hey, Richmond!, a free video marketing education series co-hosted by BES Studios. The first of the four-part series is on April 12.

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