Smart Cities: time to get serious
Smart Cities: time to get serious
A view from Michael Brown

Blog: The year ahead in experiential - part two

Smart Cities, authenticity and zero tolerance of wastage are high on the experiential agenda for 2017, says Michael Brown, managing director of MKTG.

Zero tolerance of wastage

As experiential continues to challenge big media as the place to spend your marketing moolah, the quest to become ever more measurable, more targeted and much less wasteful around your audience will be front of mind this year. A great start would be identifying with ever-improving accuracy what kind of people are being immersed in your events. One such way would be the 2017 launch of Smart Cells to scrape audience data from wi-fi signals emitted by smart devices on location or at event experiences. The device helps you to build a very detailed socio-demographic picture of those present. For obvious reasons the data remains anonymous but you can build a very detailed portrait that includes life stage, whether they have kids, age, gender, the type of social media they use, the type of content they share, the geography of their home address (but not the actual address), wealth bracket and the type of device used.  These are all things that are good to know if you want to unlock bigger campaign budgets this year. It promises to be a powerful tool and will feature behind the scenes as a way to help develop, improve and rationalise your event marketing strategy. These devices are in the market courtesy of a major telco, making the data limited to their user base, but it's an interesting development none the less.

Innovation as standard, not the exception

Notwithstanding all that I have just mentioned, innovation is now the most overused word in marketing. Clients demand it: innovation is the yardstick by which every response to a brief is judged. Agencies have responded in kind by seeking to find ever artier ways of expressing just how original their thinking is, and how innovation is the driving force keeping their lights blazing through the night. Innovation is everywhere, not just in tech, but in the refinement of processes and services. From a consumer perspective most innovation is invisible. Good innovation should make life easier without anyone ever really realising life just got easier. And if they do realise, it soon becomes standard to their life.  Which means that we should all stop banging on about innovation as if it were some kind of USP. Innovation is now a standard benchmark of quality, not the exception.  Meanwhile, there is another buzzword that will get further use this year… 


The quality of being authentic is aspirational and highly valued. It is this quality that has fuelled the rise of artisan and pop up culture in recent years – it’s why you might pay over the odds for a Brazilian bean from a bearded barista. Authenticity is most certainly an attribute that a lot of brands have tried to convey to their audiences. Those with appropriate heritage are turning to their history as a marketing platform as the best way of illustrating how authentic they are. Many have created both fixed and pop-up brand museums or plan to do so in 2017. Great news for any experiential practitioner with a heritage client. 

Smart cities will get serious

A lot has been said about smart cities; the coming together of technology, city infrastructure and big data to enhance the citizen experience of urban life, but there is still no genuinely city-wide permanent smart city initiative in London. Or for that matter, any other UK settlement that claims itself as a city, despite Ed Vaizey, former UK minister for the digital economy, saying in July 2016: "We want the UK to be a place where technology ceaselessly transforms the economy, society and government."

Furthermore, the Smart Cities economy is going to be worth an estimated £400 Billion by 2020, and the UK industry is targeting 10% of that – which is twice the value of what the entire UK advertising sector was worth in 2016.

Essentially, we had better get a wriggle on! For experiential practitioners there is real opportunity. Who better to consult on enhancing the experience of city life than people who design experiences? We here at MKTG are already involved in the 2017 roll out of Smart Benches and Buzz Bikes across London, the former being solar powered benches with dual functionality for local authority and the community under its jurisdiction. Sensors in the benches monitor and report back on air and noise pollution (Sadiq Khan’s current hot hazelnut filled confectionary item), and a person can use them to charge their device, and access free wifi. A win-win-win-win situation. There are lots of clients who should be in the smart city space, and not just the obvious candidates such as energy and consumer tech brands. With ambitious smart city targets set by UK government for 2020, anyone designing life-enhancing experiences in an urban setting could prosper. 2017 is the time to get thinking and doing.

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