Steve Yi
Jul 10, 2019

How 5G will affect marketing communications

Faster speeds will make advanced creative technologies mainstream, and allow AI-driven campaigns to instantly adjust to changing environments. Steve Yi at Geometry Korea asks, will you be ready?

How 5G will affect marketing communications

Recent news around the coming of 5G networks has been dominating global tech media headlines, with many postulating how it will apply to everyday life.

The main impacts focus on the speed of downloading and transmitting data, especially video, particularly affecting new players in the video streaming market. Game streaming platforms and giants like Google will be dramatically affected.

The big question that remains for agencies and other marketing communications companies, is what does 5G actually mean for them?

Being able to download an HD movie in ten seconds or less inversely hurts advertising, because long download times offer more opportunity windows to advertise. A ten second download means almost no advertising across the board.

On the other hand, the same 5G network will allow many more marketing and communications options using AR (augmented reality) & VR (virtual reality) as a mainstream platform. With up to ten times less latency, the same technology that took forever to load and operate now can happen near-instantaneously, creating consumer excitement on a new level.

Another interesting element to examine is the cost of 5G deployment and how it would affect ad streaming at any level. There are significant layout costs that may be controlled to the end-user for now, but will no doubt be added in later years when coverage has expanded to nearly 100%. In addition, the temptation to use higher-resolution graphics, video, and VR/AR technology will no doubt incrementally add to production costs as well. With 5G, the cheaper, low-graphics advertising will be sub-standard to the mainstream.

For marketing communications of the future, there are really only two elements of 5G that will make a true impact: (1) data transmission speed and (2) latency (sometimes referred to as round-trip delay).

The most obvious aspect of 5G is data transmission speed increase from a 100Mbps to 500Mbps range for 4G & LTE to a 1-10Gbps range in 5G. Even at the lowest end of the 5G range, it would still be twice as fast as current technology available. The new, 5G service offers an average 1.17 Gbps, just over double the maximum speed of the previous service (LTE-based).

This will impact transmission and download speeds significantly and will allow faster sharing of content online. This also applies to high-resolution advertising video content, allowing brands to explore more creative options.

The other immediate impact might be the development of shorter ‘burst’ ads of 5-second intervals rather than the traditional 30-second format (15 seconds in some markets). Obviously, 5-second ads are too limited for a full message, but can allow for creative serialization, where 5-second bursts can be strategically placed in a series of downloads (since now one can download multiple videos and files in succession even faster) or even a user-driven puzzle format, where the viewer can piece the ‘puzzle’ of the bursts together to form the full ad.

What is obvious is that marketing and advertising will have to find creative new methods for shorter, quicker messaging in the new future of speed.

Latency is more about mainstreaming new graphics and visual technology. It reduces response time which is currently 50 milliseconds (ms) to about 1 ms (still theoretical, but even if it’s close, it’s a huge reduction in loading and response time). The average human response time is 10ms, so now the latency trends are now finally equal or better to biological human response speeds.

This instant response time offers a tremendous series of creative applications from more sophisticated gamification (higher-graphics and immersion) to augmented content (VR, AR, holograms). Before it was the higher latency or loading speeds of such content that discouraged advertisers from experimenting in such new creative content, but that excuse no longer exists with 5G. Not using such tools would actually be lagging from the new mainstream standard.

Low latency also makes an AI-driven lifestyle more practical for the consumer, which will disrupt the current consumer-content interaction ecosystem. This poses some interesting questions about how the same AI can be applied to advertising and marketing. Could algorithmic advertisements, for instance, begin to take on chameleon-like qualities that can morph to target individual users?

Marketers and advertisers need to adapt quickly to the new reality, and the best way is to start experimenting now so that when 5G coverage really becomes mainstream, a far more refined communications package will be ready to go. This will allow brands to adapt in a truly agile way, instead of rushing to catch up when 5G is already the norm. 


What is 5G?
The new network is probably the first step in the AI-based industrial revolution. Until 5G, all of the AI-based technologies were more conceptual than practical, but that definitely will change.

When is it coming?
It’s already here to a limited extent. But 2019-2020 are almost like beta testing years, leading to a more stable network set-up, with most of the kinks and bugs worked out by the end of 2020.

How will it change advertising and marketing?
The potentials are endless for ‘smart’ advertising and the greater use of AI or data-driven marketing and can be encapsulated into 3 key clusters:

1. Graphics
Advertising in VR, AR (augmented reality), MR (mixed reality), interactive & streaming video, gamified ads, holograms and/or any other graphics-intensive advertising becomes mainstream in this new era. If 5G plays out properly based on all the data on its speed and latency, all those loading delays on previously graphics-heavy advertising will disappear and appear simultaneous with biological eye speeds. This will further reduce the appeal of non-interactive, one-way advertising & marketing communications of the past and force advertisers to create more immersive and creative communications platforms with customers.

2. AI-based Automation
Automation in marketing will be more about AI-based media algorithms that can instantly make changes and adjustments based on multiple market and input variables.  This is thanks to next level of 5G speeds that currently seem a bit delayed in response time.
Assuming that ads will become more immersive and interactive even on 2-D spaces such as OOH and TV, smart selective automation of media campaigns could be reality faster than we believe, which means that media agencies need to quickly find an AI platform themselves with a premium-performance AI engine to engage and provide value-added services to justify their fees.

3. Immersive Sharing
The sharing mechanism already exists with current technology, but with improved latency the immersion itself could be cooperative. A multiplayer game online is an easy way to look at this new ‘sharing’ concept. It is not just about creating a post to share it with people, but actually ‘sharing the process’ at the moment, a live immersion with advertising and marketing as well. Imagine an immersive ad that requires someone to make choices during the progression of the program, and the person decides he wants to invite four or five people (thanks to increased latency, this should not be an issue) to join the process with him or her. That is the power of this new 5G revolution. Or imagine an agency inviting a client into an immersive process of selecting and producing advertising campaigns.

What are the affects on ad agencies?
Like every revolutionary process, there will be a lot of growing pains in the development, and the entire media-advertising-digital agency structural organization will evolve radically because of these changes. The traditional account manager will not only need to understand basic advertising communications, but also understand technological applications on a wider scale. A single manager might not make sense, but an actual expansion might be necessary to have two to three managers working closely on an account because of the new complexities involved. Or perhaps agencies in general could be facing an ELE (extinction-level event) situation with this new revolution.

What is certain is that agencies specialized by function will start to vanish. They will need to consolidate or go extinct. Because of the speed and reach of the new networks, it goes beyond just a mere agile response, but an immediate, immersive one and that requires that the new agency structure needs to connect all the fundamental parts of marketing communications instantly. Whether this means an AI-platform that aids in the process or some new linkage platform, that is still difficult to foresee.

Steve Yi is a strategic planner at Geometry Korea


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