Zaheer Nooruddin (Head of Digital Innovation, Asia, Golin) delivered one of the most forward-thinking presentations of ad:tech China. Despite his panel being entitled “The Future of Creative Communications”, the core themes he touched on resonated with some of the initiatives of today which Steven Chang (Corporate Vice President, Tencent) revealed to the audience, including WeChat-enabled payments and check-in at Beijing airport, QQIM integration in the command system of select BMW models, and the rise of DidiDaCha in China (the equivalent of Uber, which recently entered the market). Nooruddin is more than a blue-sky thinker – he was detailing the slow evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) or “Internet +” as Chang called it.

Those with an aversion to buzz words may squirm a bit, but for those unfamiliar with the concept, the Internet of Things describes the merger of three distinct “Internets”, these being the Communications Internet (what we traditionally consider to be the Internet), Energy Internet (decentralized energy generation and distribution) and the Logistics Internet (the distribution of goods and services via big-data optimized networks), to create a seamless intelligent infrastructure. Writers including Jeremy Rifkin believe this will eventually give rise to a third industrial revolution, but for the purposes of this article, we could imagine a situation where big data is being put to work to enable a smarter way of living, in which the cut between off/online is at its most tenuous.

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Nooruddin asks what he believes are timely questions: how exactly do marketers reach people when the Internet is everywhere? Media consumption is now for many largely non-linear and enabled via mobile devices and wearable tech. What happens when we move from screens to virtually any surface – walls, glass, concrete and skin? And furthermore, what happens when a generation of kids who have grown up swiping tablets matures, or in Nooruddin’s words, when the era of gestures is upon us? The only certainty it seems, is that in the future nobody will be clicking anything. A widespread change of mindset will be required in the worlds of advertising and content marketing, where clicking forms a basis for evaluating success.

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The biggest challenge in this hypothetical new world will be knowing where and how to place information: how to target at an exaggerated level of granularity. An increasing number of decisions will need to be made in a shorter time. The solution, it seems, is an increasing dependence on automation in the marketing process, with the end being personalization at scale – a theme that Brad Smallwood (Head of Measurement and Insights, Facebook) dedicated his keynote to. According to Chang, Tencent is working toward the end of creating solutions for smart cities, and given the rate of developments in China, we need to start thinking about how to operate in a smarter world now.

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