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Spotlight: We are in the third wave of digital disruption: Norm Johnston

30-October-2017
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Spotlight: We are in the third wave of digital disruption: Norm Johnston

Speaking at the recently held 17th edition of the exchange4media conclave, Norm Johnston, Global CEO Mindshare FAST & Global Chief Digital Officer at Mindshare, said, "We are in the third wave of digital disruption." According to Johnston, the Internet of Things (IoT) will have far reaching impact on marketing and advertising with one major advantage being availability of data. 
"A challenge that we see with a lot of companies, particularly creative agencies, is that they tend to think TV first. There are simple things that you need to keep in mind when making ads and these challenges will be even more pronounced with the third wave of digital disruption," he said, while adding that a lot of creative agencies struggle to create deep, meaningful experiences.
He also touched upon the topic of brand safety, something that has been much discussed this year. Speaking about it, Johnston noted that brand safety and ad fraud have always been around but due to increasing spends on digital, companies are now beginning to understand their importance. "You can never completely remove these issues but you can try your best to minimise them," he said. He also said that Google and Facebook need to be more transparent and stop thinking that they "can grade their homework." 
The changing role of media companies
There is no question that new technologies like AI are changing the very nature of media buying. With automation increasing, there is the possibility that many roles that are now done manually would be redundant. Johnston believes that 'mundane' roles in the media buying process could be delegated to AI. 
"I think our role will now increasingly become implicit rather than explicit, which will be to convince the AI to recommend our clients to users. And this is extremely complicated but this is how increasingly, people will be buying and searching," he said.
AR + VR to be bigger than TV 
According to Johnston, Augmented Reality (AR) would be the dominant technology in the future and would further enable the internet to reach out from devices into the real world. He predicted that the combined AR and VR (Virtual Reality) market would be bigger than TV by 2020. Further, the increasing penetration of AR would also help in humanising the internet.
He gave the example of how China utilised VR on Single's Day as an example of the kind of innovation that is possible with these technologies.
The importance of metrics
"I think, at least with social media, we have now come to an understanding of what the actual impact of a 'Like' is and it is not very impactful. Most people who like a brand are people who are going to buy the brand anyway. What is impactful is your friends sharing things to you. We know that this has an influence on your buying decision. The question about metrics has been around forever. The thing with digital is that you can measure so much," said Johnston.
Comparing digital to TV, he pointed out that the metrics used on TV are quite basic and come with several flaws. On the digital front, he stated that the industry is improving in two respects. Firstly, in linking digital exposure to actual sales and, secondly, in media attribution. 

Voice search, the next big thing?
40 per cent of search in the US is done by voice, a statistic, which Johnston feels points to a major trend on the internet, namely that people are more comfortable talking to their phones.

Two thirds of all search will be done by voice, he stated. "Of the 52 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020, only 5 per cent will have a keyboard. In most cases, you will be talking to Alexa, Google or Siri, which will have a huge impact on a lot of things. Firstly, the creative side, how do you create an experience for when a person is talking to the device and not typing. It will change how we optimise for search. There is a difference between how people phrase words and how they type or speak," he said.

Live sports, the game changer
The moment the big live sporting events move to an OTT player, it will be game over for TV, predicted Johnston. He gave the example of how in the US, sales of antennae is increasing. The reason behind it, he explains, is that most people are subscribing to OTT services but only want their TV to watch sports events. 
In the next 10 years, the likes of Google or Amazon will bid for these rights and with their deep pockets they will be able to do it, he said.

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