Forget the Information Age – Welcome to the Immersive Age

Genesis for the Immersive Age was with early video games where players became engrossed in virtual worlds for hours on end. Or, if you were like me, sometimes days. It was easy to become so engrossed in gameplay that you would lose all track of time and any desire to multi-task. So are we going Back to the Future? Well crank up the flux capacitor and gun the DeLorean to 88mph because we are going on a journey. Destination? 2017, hurtling headfirst into the Immersive Age…

The last two decades have witnessed more changes in consumer media than the preceding two hundred years. The 1990’s heralded the beginning of the Information Age where connected computers allowed those who controlled knowledge to dominate. In turn, this gave birth to the Interactive Age in the 2000’s where connected devices allowed those who created compelling experiences to rule.

And now? It’s no longer about the flow of information or connected interactivity. Marketing today is rapidly moving from multi-media or multi-screens to multi-sensory. With the rise of machines, the proliferation of the Internet of Things (or as I prefer to call it, the Internet of Everything) and a desire for real-life experiences, interactive marketing has become, err, very last year. So I make a declaration. 2017 will witness the death of antiquated media concepts and the rise of addressability. Welcome to the advent of the Immersive Age.

Delivering relevant messages to an individual based on registered user data, on a specific identifiable device and doing all that at scale means that marketing will evolve beyond all recognition in 2017. ‘Marketing to the many’ will finally be usurped by ‘marketing of the individual’ which will virtually eradicate wastage and revolutionise the way we interact with consumers and augment their online experiences. The message from Bastien Schupp, vice president of global marketing communications at Groupe Renault, the message is clear. Personalise or die:

“Communicating with individuals is undoubtedly the single biggest challenge ahead of us. The transformation of the creative and media buying processes will profoundly disrupt the way we do marketing. Getting big agency and client organisations to adapt to this change will define who stays in the game”

All sounds very ‘Minority Report’ doesn’t it? And so it should. Because it is. The future is here. Right here, right now.

Let’s take TV for example. It isn’t what it used to be. Technology has massively impacted the way it is now consumed. More than 50% of all US consumers and 75% of those pesky millennials watch their movies and favourite TV shows via streaming. Smart TV’s and streaming media players are becoming ubiquitous, with OTT options increasing each and every day. And with the Las Vegas tech fest CES just around the corner there is no doubt there will be a whole slew of new ways to connect with content waiting to seduce the consumer. So as traditional TV viewing behaviours converge with the digital ecosystem the implications for brands and consumers will be game changing.

Bots, APIs & AI will increasingly establish their role in the development of Content, Marketing and Customer Engagement in 2017. Combining and harnessing the power of technology and creativity will drive true innovation. Publishers and brands are developing bots and applications for messaging apps, voice interfaces and embracing VR / AR technologies which, coupled with advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence, are re-imagining how we convey information, where the experience of talking to a business via a bot is at least just as good as visiting its website. Speech is the ultimate invisible computer interface and technology will help shape the future of how consumers connect to a brand and the future of content.

Whilst we are talking content let’s delve a little deeper. The dual dynamics of mobile and social usage have created a bewildering tsunami of snackable / short-form content. But consumers are now looking for considerably more depth and complexity. They are seeking moments where they can immerse themselves in the story, their interests and passions, even in mobile environments. Storytelling has always been relevant to marketers, arguably now more than ever before given the nature of our deepening attention deficit. The media and tech industries can take the principles of immersive storytelling to create better communications and entertainment, engaging the consumer beyond the snackable moment.

Immersive marketing will expand VR and Mixed Reality to sights, sounds and touch. Immersive marketing allows for virtual worlds to be fully experienced by all. Immersive marketing leverages bots and machine learning. Immersive marketing is intelligent utility disguised with boundless entertainment. It’s time that immersive replaces interactive. Immersive is the new language of telling brand stories like never before, in ways never considered. So don’t be interactive. Become immersive.

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This article is part of the LinkedIn Top Voices list, a collection of the must-read writers of the year. Check out more #BigIdeas2017 here.

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Steve Blakeman is Managing Director - Global Accounts for OMD based in London / Paris. He was named by LinkedIn as a Top 10 Writer for Marketing & Social for 2015 (Top Voices) and also 'Agency Publisher of the Year' for EMEA. Please follow me on LinkedIn and Twitter