New Technology: Getting Inside Consumers’ Heads

The emergence of new channels is one of the major challenges facing advertising — and a source of opportunities. While advertisers and agencies are still coming to terms with seismic shifts such as the Web, social networks and wireless, there are new technologies on the horizon that could mean further dramatic changes in the playing field. As one example, check out this video showing the first “voiceless phone call.”

A wireless neckband intercepts signals from the user’s brain, allowing the caller to think words that are communicated to the receiver via computer. Future applications could allow a user to think a question and have the computer go out, find the information and communicate it directly to the user’s brain. This would be a Google search without a keyboard, mouse or even a voice command. It would make the wearer the smartest person in the room.

But what happens to advertising on search pages in this world? Setting aside the obvious ethical concerns for a moment – no small matter – what does this mean for advertising? Advertisers have dreamed about having a direct channel into the heads of consumers, and it doesn’t get any closer than this. Imagine that, with appropriate permissions and filters, users could receive targeted ads related to their thoughts. Thinking of a cappuccino while walking down the streets of Manhattan, suddenly you know where the best spots are in a four-block radius. Thinking that you’d like to trade in your old car for a new one, you receive an offer for a test drive as you are passing the dealership. This is both interesting and a bit creepy – but many technologies evoke the same reactions, at first. While the future applications and adoption of such technologies are uncertain, this example illustrates that even with all the dramatic changes in advertising in the past generation, we may not have seen anything yet.

– Robert Gunther

[Reposted from SEI Center site.]


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