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The Stream Series: Why 3 Months Is a Long Time for Consumers

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About eight weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be invited to WPP's Digital Unconference, Stream. I accepted the invitation with much skepticism about how exactly a gathering of 300 of the leading digital minds from various agencies, brands, start-ups and venture capitalists, with no set structure, could possibly be successful. And when I described the event to people and mentioned it was also in Phuket.... well you can imagine the reactions.

Fast forward eight weeks and I find myself sitting on the plane heading back home reflecting on my experiences. Was it worthwhile? Did I learn anything new? Has it changed the way I view digital? Would I recommend Stream? If you are someone who wants to drive change in the digital world, then the answer is a resounding yes.

What Stream does really well is to foster discussion amongst a disparate group of people who would never otherwise meet. And let's face it -- it's not every day you get to have a chat with a board member and the CEO of the world's largest advertising group.

So what did I learn? Stream reinforced my belief that mass consumer technology is forcing ever more rapid change, particularly in areas such as media consumption, that most marketing people are ill prepared to deal with. Clients are reliant on agencies to deliver campaigns to reach consumers through the most relevant, effective and efficient media channels. But do agencies have the personnel to follow, let alone decipher, consumer technology trends?

This year, Smartphones are expected to constitute the majority of mobile phones sold globally. In many markets, Smartphones are increasingly becoming the only type of mobile phone consumers can buy. Android Smartphones are the #1 type of Smartphone sold. In 2012 they represented more than three times the next nearest type. According to IDC, Samsung (the company I am employed by) is #1 in Smartphones with a 7% lead over their next nearest rival.

A lot of these new Android Smartphones have already announced support for a payment technology called Near Field Communications or NFC. Now some of you are probably skeptical about adoption speeds of new technology. In Australia, the world's most advanced NFC payments market, use of NFC (i.e. contactless) card payment has been growing exponentially, growing from 12% in Oct 2011 to 21% in Sep 2012 (HP-RFI Australian Payments Research, Oct 2012.). In Convenience channels, the change has been even more dramatic with 60% of transactions occurring through NFC card payment in 2012! That's not bad when you consider that ownership of NFC card payment was only 38% of respondents (HP-RFI Australian Payments Research, Oct 2012.). Have you considered what impact this change will have on how you talk to consumers?

This year, IDC is forecasting global sales of 173m tablets. That's nearly as many as were sold in the previous two years combined! What thought have you given to the impact this will have on your decisions to deploy apps? Agencies confess stories of CEOs and CMOs demanding an app presence on a particular platform with very little thought beyond just launching it. Given that it takes 6-9 months to develop a good application, such hasty decisions could mean you miss large segments of your consumers by the time your app launches.

I listened to discussions where brands and agencies debated whether or not they should even build apps, given the complexities involved. But this negates the opportunities afforded by apps as high engagement media channels. Why is the starting point not that this is a media channel your consumers are spending a lot of highly attached time in? If you're a brand and your app presence is not reflective of Smartphone ownership realities, will your consumers consider you when they search and you're not even there?

Another concern I heard, was the need to maintain apps once built. When did it become a given that apps needed to be more than a short term creative burst? Does this mean app development is an expensive exercise? Well what metrics are you using to define success?

In the world of TV, the ability to buy anything but a Smart TV (i.e. connected TV) is rapidly disappearing. Is TV really a lean back experience or did "dumb" TV force the experience to be lean back? What does connectivity mean for content development and what does that mean for you? One thing's for sure, things will change.

When I asked one group how much forward research they were doing in campaign development, as opposed to looking at historical data, the answer was silence, before a lone voice confessed not much.

I challenge brands and agencies, how many of you have used some of the products and technologies I described? To those on client side, demand forward research from your agencies and challenge the consumer rationale. Don't put too much weight on efficiency measures alone and do put more weight on relevance. Question how you measure effectiveness in digital.

I don't have all the answers and I won't even pretend I know your business. But I do know that a long time in consumer tech means three months. At Samsung, we know our products, we know what our consumers are buying and we know what they are going to buy. For those Australian brands and agencies reading, we are more than happy to share our experience with you.

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