Wearable Devices: The New Big Opportunity for Digital Advertising

By Manish Ahuja

I held out for a year, telling myself I didn’t need yet another device, but I just couldn’t resist getting a smartwatch. So I got myself a Moto360, and I love it. The two things that excite me the most about it are the device’s copycat faces of luxury watches and the fact that I don’t have to take my phone out of my coat in 10 degree New York weather.

As a tech-savvy consumer, I see the benefits of a wearable device, but as a person who makes a living in the digital advertising industry, I wonder what the future of digital advertising will be with wearable technology. As these devices get more personal, consumer tolerance for having brand content pushed to them will diminish. While all advertisers need eyeballs on their content, would consumers really want an ad pushed right at their eyeball? (No pun intended, Google Glass).

It has been eight years since the launch of the first iPhone, but the adtech industry has not really kept up with the fast pace of adoption of the smartphone. We continue to call each year the “Year of Mobile.” Even though mobile ad spend is increasing, it remains a fraction of display ad budgets. We should fully expect the adoption cycle for wearable devices to be shorter, and that means the industry will need an accelerated plan to address content on these devices to align with how much time consumers will spend on them.

While smartphones and tablets are independent from your laptop and desktop, wearable devices will really be an extension of your phone. So the key component in the addressability of wearable devices, from an advertising standpoint, will be to gain an understanding of consumer habits across multiple devices.

A consumer certainly will not appreciate a brand message taking over her watch screen. But the consumer might welcome a timely push notification while walking down Fifth Ave, past a store, for a brand whose website she accessed with a tablet the night before. Brands that gain deeper insights into consumers’ cross-device usage at different times of day or settings will be better positioned to make these devices addressable.

Wearable technology is likely to be the next must-have for consumers. “Big things are expected from wearable technology, including smartwatches, over the coming years. We estimate total product shipments will reach 130 million by 2018, or 10 times what it expects in 2014,” according to Juniper Research.

Same as tablets a few years ago, wearables are a key device category that the advertising industry shouldn’t ignore in its infancy. By staying ahead of the adoption curve, a brand can certainly reap the benefits of engaging with the customers on their preferred devices.

And speaking of devices of the future, Internet of Things (IOT) and Virtual Reality devices present a tremendous opportunity for the advertising industry. I can’t wait to have my fridge call an API from Nestlé to pull the latest coupon for my favorite ice cream and order it before I run out, but that is a topic for a different day.