Wearable Tech and What it Means to Advertisers

on June 10, 2015


Wearables have become more pervasive among mainstream audiences, and with Apple scheduled to release additional information this week about its much anticipated iWatch, the wearable will become important not only among a new set of users but also among advertisers. 

Apple’s announcement will likely include a release date for the iWatch, and a slew of new users will follow. Plus, a new screen is to be introduced. And if the second-screen experience causes a shift in the ways users experience content, it would be equally monumental—but different in its impact.

The wearable by its nature offers a personal and intimate experience, with health and biometric data being key components of this type of device.

As a result, such devices become tailored to their users, and they provide specific insight into daily routines and potential areas of improvement. That level of detail about user-specific data is unprecedented and becomes an important catalyst for the advertising industry as a whole.

We can imagine that sometime in the very near future, all of that data will be made available; and with it a whole new set of targeted ads will arise. So will a kind of hypertargeted ad exchange whereby, say, physical nuances and changes in heart rhythms can be extrapolated into moods and behaviors. WPP-owned Mindshare has set up a wearable-technology group called Life+ to help brands understand this new technology as well as the implications around privacy issues. Another company, wearable ad network FitAd, has already started to pioneer this space with simple banners for Amtrak on the Android-wear platform, with expansion into iOS coming soon. Already the industry is beginning to set up infrastructure to begin looking at the new medium.

This nascent space presents opportunity but also gives rise to a variety of questions, two of which are especially important to the creative community. The first involves privacy and just how much information is too much information and at what point will the infamous creepy factor set in when an ad knows how I’m feeling and what time I go to sleep. Although such data has not been made available yet, we do know these devices will have the ability to capture it and ads will be served on them.

The privacy question is becoming more and more prevalent because security and privacy issues have become more and more important to the general population.

The privacy issue should serve to begin a conversation about what it means to the ad industry: What will those privacy standards be in the future? How will they be enforced? Ultimately, what sort of information will we be able to use in these ads in order to offer users an experience they are delighted to have and not creeped out by?

The second question has to do with the types of ads that will be supported on these types of devices. Will we again see the 300×250 banner ad port its way over to a different device like we saw with mobile and tablet? Or will this inspire the industry to revisit those form factors as native experiences to each device? Because of its canvas size, the wearable ad will force creatives to offer the most concise, most effective ad possible, thereby pushing us to simplify and distill messaging to its most succinct incarnation. Hopefully, we’ll step out of the 300×250 or the 300×50 and continue pushing into platforms that can speak to the needs and strengths of each device. Can the wearable ad help us rethink the way we conceive and develop digital advertising? Only time will tell.

Kara DegeorgisWearable Tech and What it Means to Advertisers