Cannes Lions 2018: Beyond Digital, There Is Ambient.

Unruly’s futurist Simon Gosling weighs in on the ‘ambient era’ of advertising and what it means for Cannes Lions, and the industry as a whole, in 2018.

With Cannes Lions just around the corner, you can expect lots of proclamations about how we’re living in, or about to live in, the ‘year of’ something. I’ve lost count of how many ‘years’ we’ve had of mobile, VR, Voice or big data… or brand purpose, and 2019 will be no different.

The point I’m making is that to get caught up in a single trend or tech development is to miss the bigger evolution happening around us. This is the start of a new age of advertising: the age of ambient.

We’ve been talking about the concept of ambient advertising at Unruly for some time. Back in 2016, Unruly founder Sarah Wood had the idea of building a connected home to help Unruly clients stay ahead of the game, and the Unruly Home was born. Today there’s a two-bedroom, fully furnished, gorgeously designed apartment in our London headquarters.

It’s a time machine which transports visitors to the very near future and demonstrates technology integrations that will affect the ways brands could engage with consumers.

But the Home is more than just a showroom for gadgets. Very quickly from the outset, we realised that all these technologies signified something bigger. People would no longer receive advertising in a one-way broadcast, but take an active role in seeking out information, at a time of their choosing. Brands would have to share, not sell, and advertising would be personalised on who you are, where you were and what you were doing.

Welcome to the age of ambient advertising. It’s manifesto is simple: immersive, unobtrusive, and entirely on the consumer’s terms.

I recently presented the connected home of the future at IAB Engage, where I talked about how Voice, AI, AR and Lens are the big technology trends to watch for brands and publishers. And anyone off to Cannes this year is bound to hear plenty about all of these.

But I promise you, these technologies represent something beyond just ‘digital’. Digital is where the industry is now, ambient is where it’s headed, and we’ve made a nice home there.