Geraint Lloyd-Taylor
Geraint Lloyd-Taylor 18 May 2016

IoT Nothing to see here (yet), move along!

IoT presents some pretty interesting opportunities and challenges for the future of advertising and marketing. But where is everyone?

According to tech research experts Gartner, by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices forming part of the ‘Internet of Things’, aka, because we all love a three letter acronym, “IoT”.

This ‘next big thing’ (yes, another one) is already impacting on how we live and work. And before you can say “Siri, disco lights please”, every brand and every marketeer is going to want a piece of the action.

The only real question is… what’s taking everyone so long?!

The Future Is Now

Thanks to IoT, I can already control my heating, blinds, lamps, vacuum cleaner, music and TV, before I’ve jumped out of my Uber. When I collapse on my sofa, my watch can tell me how many flights of stairs I’ve huffed and puffed up and down today, and how fast my heart is beating; and I can shout across the room to my phone to ask it to remind me to buy more ice cream next time I’m near my local supermarket. 

All the while, my connected devices are busy connecting to one another, chatting away silently… presumably swapping notes about how unfit I am, or how irresponsible I’ve been by leaving the windows open and asking Nest to crank up the heating to 23 degrees...

And that’s all just a little taster of what’s to come. 

Don’t even get me started on the amazing advances in AI, drones, robotics and virtual reality (VR is really going to happen this time… forget the 80s!)

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves too much.

Even when we consider IoT as it stands right now, we can see that the relationship between consumers and our various connected devices is deepening.

Every brand and marketeer should be champing at the bit! 

So, I ask again, where is everyone…?

Perhaps there’s some anxiety about being on the front line. Marketeers might be waiting for brands to take the lead, afraid to suggest anything too radical lest it prove to be unachievable (or a disaster); while brands, for their part, might be afraid to put their heads above the parapet, they’d rather wait and see who will venture forward and fail first, fail fastest or fail hardest.

Need to Know

Whatever it is holding everyone back, there are a couple of areas you will want to keep in mind in order to avoid getting tangled up in IoT.

The first is: the general regulation of advertising, marketing and promotions.  I know, I know… not as sexy as you might have hoped after all that future-gazing.  But stay with me, because there’s good news: IoT hasn’t ushered in a new wave of rules and regulations to restrict or confound advertisers and marketers.  In fact, despite the new tech-laden landscape, it’s pretty much business as usual here.  Virtually all marketing communications and promotions will still fall under the CAP Code, even if they fully utilize IoT; and the CAP Code will continue to be enforced by the ASA under the existing self-regulatory regime.  So no earth shattering changes here then. 

Even so, it’s likely that CAP (and the odd top notch law firm, ahem) will issue guidance from time to time on any potentially sticky areas; but any additional guidance (including from CAP) will simply clarify the way in which the existing advertising and promotion rules apply, rather than changing those rules in any meaningful way.

However, Trading Standards and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will also keep a beady eye over how things develop in this area, in case things get out of hand and practices develop which materially disadvantage consumers; in which case they have the power to commence investigations and even to bring prosecutions under consumer protection regulations.  It’s worth keeping that in mind when deciding how far to push certain boundaries.

The second area to keep in mind is that of data and privacy.  Brexit aside, the General Data Protection Regulations have put data and privacy under the microscope again. Those Regulations will be implemented in 2018 and will fundamentally change the way platform owners, brands and marketeers collect and deal in personal data – they’re even likely to change the way people think about personal data, and who can own and control it.  These changes come into force during the early years of IoT, and might go a long way towards explaining the current reticence by some brands.  Nevertheless, all brands and marketeers are advised to pay close attention to further developments and guidance in this area, and to make sure their data policies and practices are reviewed and updated well before the new rules come into effect in 2018.

So, yes, the Internet of Things (or whatever we end up calling it – surely there’s a better name out there somewhere) is uncharted territory.  Like any uncharted territory, different explorers will take different approaches.  Some will be gung ho and will jump in with both feet, many others will take a pragmatic but cautious approach, while some will miss the boat completely. 

But whichever camp you fall into, and whatever your views on IoT, I hope it’s of some solace that the legal and regulatory landscape will be reasonably familiar to you when you arrive; even if there are new creative and commercial challenges to be navigated, and some difficult discussions about data to be had, it’s all just part of the rich tapestry of digital life.

Now, let’s get this show on the road!

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