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Mobile Fix December 18

First of all we want to wish everyone Happy Christmas. Rather than cards we are making a donation to our friends at Trekstock and sharing our expanded Soulful Christmas playlist - the soundtrack for Christmas.

With some great new tracks – how could we have missed the Bootsy Christmas Album? – it is now over 10 hours long. But as Jerry Lee Lewis used to say; All Killer, No Filler

(If any of you still prefer good old fashioned physical music you can buy a CD of similar music put out by an old friend here)

We thought we would use this Fix to think about the themes likely to shape 2016. These are not predictions, more thoughts on the general directions we expect our world to take next year.

Of course, just like Hollywood. no-one knows anything and whilst we live in the future none of this stuff is quite settled yet. As we see with Brazil closing down Whats App and Donald Chump talking of closing parts of the internet.

Messaging

A good New York Times piece gets into the plethora of ways people communicate online – from email to SMS to Slack and WhatsApp – even tagging people so you can chat in the comments on someones Instagram feed. Messaging is a huge part of this and the fact you can now book an Uber in Facebook Messenger demonstrates just how much innovation there is.

A post about an app that was closed because it could not get traction illustrates the switch that is going on; the service was valued but the app never got used. Solution – they have relaunched as a Slack bot.

Slack are facilitating this with an App directory and an investment fund. It’s a smart move as it encourages developers to consider Slack as a platform and the apps and bots act as Anchors for Slack – moving to another team productivity app is harder when you have to leave other services behind. Some more background here. So how long before you can order an Uber on Slack? Some students have built a hack to enable this – expect an official integration anytime soon.

We mentioned our (very good) local restaurant where you can book a table through WhatsApp and in China brands use WeChat to build a dialogue with customers. Now North Face are using conversation for online service powered by IBM Watson AI. Really impressive but we are sure this type of service will migrate from the brand site to Facebook Messenger or another messaging platform. How will you use Messaging next year?

AI

Increasingly termed Machine Intelligence, the sort of power demonstrated by Watson in the North Face service is going mainstream. This post maps out all the ways Machine Intelligence is being used and by whom – and you can see the huge growth since a year prior. Bloomberg remind us why 2015 was a breakthrough year and it’s a must read.

But is too important to sit within GAFA and become another front in those platform wars? Elon Musk, Peter Theil and others think so and have launched OpenAI – an R&D company trying to advance AI in the way most likely to benefit humanity as a whole.

Location

Perhaps rather mundane compared to the previous two, knowing exactly where someone is – and has been – is a huge asset for mobile and we are starting to see smart use cases. Whilst the once ubiquitous idea of the Starbucks coupon as you walk past a store has been shelved, knowing that someone is a Starbucks customer –because you have seen them in the location of one or more of their stores, for a sustained period, on a regular basis - remains really valuable knowledge.

It’s not that long since most marketing was done on a local or regional basis – some of our more mature readers may remember testing campaigns on TyneTees TV? Now everything has gone national, many brands with limited distribution get no ad support as it’s not feasible to reach people who shop at the limited set of Sainsbury that stock the product. Well now it is.

There are a number of vendors who can help you target people in a specific catchment area and accurately identify people as shoppers through their movements. We believe this will free up big spends in FMCG –especially when combined with mobile coupons so effectiveness can be measured.

Fast food businesses have always been interested in the possibilities of location and KFC are working with Snapchat to target users with their GeoFilters

One potentially interesting twist is that the big FMCG brands could start to share the data they hold on their customers, and empower those customers to take control of how it is used. Unilever is playing a key role here and they have precedent – many years ago they lead Project Jigsaw where a bunch of FMCG firms shared data to drive a DM programme to customers. Making this locally focused would make sense.

Good ads

We may be being slightly romantic here but we believe we will see a renaissance for good advertising next year. The current mess doesn’t work for anyone. Publishers aren’t making much money, Brands are not getting engagement and users are getting pissed off – cue the rise of adblocking.

On adblocking the Page Fair people believe that Net Neutrality legislation doesn’t allow ad blocking at the ISP level – so O2, EE etal can’t legally block ads. Sounds like good news but I suspect the lawyers will relish getting into this. It shouldn’t reduce our desire to improve the ad experience so people don’t want to ad block.

So out of the move to Private Marketplaces could we see publishers encouraging better ads by offering richer formats. Might brands recognise the value of the context offered by premium publishers? Could all that data enable ads that are relevant and useful for the reader? We hope so and intend to do our bit next year.

The new Mckinsey study on global media spend indicates slowing growth – but growth nonetheless- with digital continuing to lead.

And Alibaba buying the South China Morning Post shows there is a lot of value in publishers with a strong position

Money

A current project on money and mobile has convinced us that there is huge change coming to this sector –and it could be interesting learning for many other verticals. The first wave of mobile has led to a multitude of mobile wallets. But this skeuomorph approach ignores the fact mobile can do so much more than merely replicating a wallet. Along with new technology new legislation like PSD2 will enable a whole new set of services and herald many new entrants, inevitably leading to very different business models. And that’s without considering Blockchain where momentum is building.

Given payments and finance are key to so many businesses this is an area to watch closely.

(So too is retail where our work on a new department store is opening our eyes to how tech is transforming retail –albeit below the radar in most cases.)

VR

We are going to see so much noise around VR in the coming months but rather than focus just on the platforms, we should also watch how the creatives are approaching the opportunity. The Sundance film festival in January will feature a number of VR movies including a VR film for the Martian shot by Ridley Scott. He has always embraced technology. I spent some time on the set of Exodus which he was shooting in 3d and relying on fantastic post production Special Effects. He wore Google Glass most of the time and made a short film called RidleyVision using Google Glass.

One of the most active creators in VR is Chris Milk and his firm VRSE have done some great work. This TED talk by him is worth watching too.

Despite all the hype over headsets I think that VR will be predominantly a mobile experience. The 360 videos on the VRSE App are a great spectacle – even without a Cardboard. What are you going to do with 360 video next year?

Yahoo

The ongoing struggle of Yahoo is a theme in that it epitomizes the constant evolution of how people use digital. If you are on a laptop, on your browser is a home button – mine is still set to Google IG which was discontinued 2 years ago. Your Home page was once the most important real estate in the world as it was the start place for every online session – even that term sounds outdated now we are constantly online.

Yahoo used to be that starting point for so many people, but now we pick up where we left off. As this good piece points out, Marissa really isn’t the problem at Yahoo.

This is the latest deck being used to beat Yahoo up –the fact one of the elements of the Better Plan is Milk the PC business longer than anyone expects suggests the author is no visionary. In a good (extended) article about ex Googler Nikesh Arora –now running Softbank - it seems he was approached about running Yahoo whilst at Google but when he looked at those assets, he says, he didn’t see how he could fix them.

As the tide turns towards a messaging driven world, who will be left high and dry?

Content as Anchors

One of the reasons we are pretty bullish about premium publishers is that they have a great track record of creating great content. And that remains truly valuable. As GAFA become closed platforms they need exclusive content to attract/retain the attention they monetise in their various ways.

Just as it’s hard to quit Sky when you know you’ll miss Leeds vs Wolves, content acts as an Anchor. It’s only going to keep getting more valuable.

Finally… We all know and celebrate the fantastic changes that mobile has made to peoples lives around the world. The way it is transforming how industries work. How smart brands have been able to gain real competitive advantage by being quick to embrace the possibilities. But it’s not all good and Seth Godin points out some of the down sides of the SmartPhone Tax.

We agree and will be turning ours off a little more over the holidays. We’re back in early January and will be raring to go. If we can help you navigate these themes next year, give us a shout

In the meantime enjoy the playlist and have a great break

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