How 5G will supercharge a new digital revolution

Tom Robertshaw's essay earned a Distinction as a part of the IPA Advanced Certificate in Communications Planning.

We are spotlighting some of the best essays from our MIPA qualifying courses and qualifications. Here, TPA's Tom Robertshaw explores the opportunities and challenges facing advertisers following the introduction of 5G technology as part of the IPA Advanced Certificate in Communications Planning.

This paper sees the introduction of 5G technology as the catalyst to a revolutionary period in consumers' lives. If brands (and their agencies) want to prosper in this modern era, they will need to adapt and exploit the many opportunities provided by 5G. The discussion examines how 5G will supercharge a new digital revolution and it how it will deepen consumers' brand relationships. It will highlight the opportunities that advertisers will need to exploit to ensure their brands stay relevant to consumers in this highly personalised era. Moreover, it will study some of the challenges that advertisers will face. Before concluding that while 5G will be very much part of our future lives and brand relationships, advertisers and their agencies will need to be wary of the time, it will take to roll out and to manage consumer expectations.

5G will be a game-changer

5G technology is the key ingredient to a new, exciting and transformative period for marketing, a fourth industrial revolution, making it as relevant as steam, electricity, and the microchip in transforming our lives (Hartell 2019). This new era is a mobile internet revolution; we're experiencing unprecedented growth in smartphone ownership and usage that is reshaping the way consumers behave and consume online content. Noticeably a shifting to a visual vocabulary that relies less on text and more and more on photos, emoji and video snippets (IPA et al. 2016). To date, every new advancement in mobile generation has added new services, with 2G it was voice, with 3G we started browsing online, and with 4G it has been all about video consumption. (Brownsell 2017). With 5G, it will be more profound and have a far more significant impact (Karaim 2019). Ubiquitous higher speeds and connectivity (up to 10 gigabytes per second and capacity to handle up to 100 times as many connected devices), the bandwidth that will allow for the instant delivery of 4k-quality video content (Brownsell 2017) and dramatically reduced latency (that is the delay between data being sent and received between devices) delivering near instantaneous real-time communication (Karaim 2019). More importantly, 5G will not be bounded within the mobile industry and be about smartphones; it will transform the digital ecosystem that exists between consumers, businesses and brands (Whiteside 2019) by powering a whole host of Internet of Things (IoT).

What this means for brands and their agencies

Undoubtedly advertisers and their agencies will need to adapt their thinking to this new world where vast amounts of consumer data and deeper, immersive brand and creative experiences will become the norm. The 5G environment will have everything from smartphones, home systems to cars, traffic lights and smart doorbells, all providing real-time information (Karaim 2019). This abundant supply of data will give an as-yet unimagined knowledge of consumer journeys and preferences (Karaim 2019) as well as the advent of new immersive media spaces. Future successful brands will be the ones that use this to their advantage by hyper personalising at every point along the customer journey with messaging that is highly relevant and contextual.

5G's nearly non-existent latency means real-time VR and AR experiences will be a new method to deepen consumers' experiences and emotional connections with brands (Karaim 2019). Brands will need to revolutionise their thinking around how this technology can be used to create better online and offline experiences as well as consider greater use of VR and AR as an OOH opportunity. EE recently demonstrated just how immersive the 5G experience could be with their live augmented reality stunt across three UK cities. It treated 'disembodied' commuters across three mainline stations simultaneously to a live 360 degree AR performance by the band Bastille (Glenday 2019).

5G, with its high speeds, will enable faster websites that feature more interactivity and multimedia, leading to greater brand immersive online experiences. 5G will allow consumers to download HD movies in less than a minute having a considerable impact on the levels of content consumption and consumers' ability to quickly absorb far more immersive video content (Roper and Goode 2020). Agencies will, therefore, need to think more about creating richer video content and interactive advertising formats as well as consider how to use real-time data to enhance the engagement of their creative. O2 showed just how superfast 5G speeds would be by producing 'the world's first-ever live TV ad' in conjunction with England Rugby—streaming the real crowd emotions simultaneously from several cities into a TV ad format (Oakes 2019).

There will be challenges

There is a lot of excitement and hype around the possibilities that 5G can offer the future of marketing. Still, advertisers and agencies need also to be realistic and careful when looking to adopt this technology. It will be some time before the 5G network infrastructure will have the coverage to make a significant difference to consumers (Oakes 2019). Cisco predicts that only 10.6% of devices or connections will be 5G by 2023 (Miller 2020). The fact that the best brand examples of 5G being used to enhance marketing communications is from the telecommunications brands themselves is suggestive that 5G is still in its early stages, or at the very least needs to be 'sold' to consumers, advertisers and agencies.

The data proliferation created by 5G and its variety of marketing uses could take threats to personal data and privacy to a new 'creepy' and 'intrusive' level (Barnett 2019). Even convincing consumers to upgrade to 5G smartphones, given the lack of total coverage could be a costly hard sell (Slefo 2019).

Furthermore, the immediacy of 5G services will mean that consumers will have less time and patience for anything that is even a second too slow to load. Blunders unacceptable in a 4G world will become outright rejected once 5G is mainstream (Hansford 2019). So, brands will need to manage the expectations of consumers while 5G appears in its nascent form. Those brands and agencies that will become successful will be those that can deliver exceptional experiences now, on 4G, that can easily translate to 5G.

Tom Robertshaw is a Director at TPA. This essay earned him a Distinction for the  IPA Advanced Certificate in Communications Planning. There is a 10% discount available on the course fee for bookings made by 31 December 2020 using discount code IPAEARLYBIRD.

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Last updated 07 December 2020