Member Q&A Series: 5G is coming soon – along with a wave of opportunities and challenges

On June 17, 2021 Research & Resources

With 5G gradually rolling out here in Australia we want to review what the dramatically increased speeds and the increased ease of device connectivity will mean for the digital marketing industry.

Whilst it will take some time for consumer adoption and meaningful coverage – we are keen to review with some of our expert members what the industry will need to consider and prepare for, what the related opportunities could be and what challenges will we have to try and overcome in order to fully realise the future potential.

Zoe Cocker, Head of Brand & RYOT Studio – Verizon Media

Verizon Media have been planning for the innovative types of advertising products that hyper-connectivity may be able to offer your clients. Do you have any compelling examples that you are personally particularly excited about?

The last 12-18 months have thrown us into a new world of digitally connected experiences, transforming consumers expectations for hybrid environments that actualise in both the digital and physical. 5G has a huge part to play in this hyper-connectivity, most excitingly making it more accessible, affordable and scalable for everyone.

AR is a simple example. It’s been around since the 90s and was previously cast aside as clunky and difficult to use. But 5G connection has offered a chance for it to not only make a comeback but a renaissance.  The ability to leverage low latency in order to get truly life-like image quality, as well as location-specific information can now create compelling and almost tactile XR experiences. We’re meeting the consumer need for better e-commerce experiences by making AR more accessible. Take our work with BIG W’s Toy Mania campaign for example. By simply taking BIG W’s 3D assets of some of their key products that are too large to display in store we were able to build a digital web AR experience on the Verizon Media Immersive platform where users can place these large items in situ, rotating and zooming in on details, all from the comfort of their own home. If they liked what they saw, they could easily click through to purchase on BIG W’s website.

This sort of extended reality experience is already becoming the norm. We’re making it super scalable, trackable and easy for businesses to interact with and meet their customers expectations. But what excites me most is that this is just the beginning, it’s just one end of the spectrum. At the other end is a world of ultra immersive experiences that we can’t even begin to fathom. In these environments, AR/VR isn’t siloed, it’s built into entirely new realities. For example, our 5G studio has been working on a number of technologies such as game engine tech, smart stage and real-time production that are forming the basis of these new realms.

Fabric of Reality is a great example of what’s possible. It’s a new era of fashion shows that uses virtual reality as a platform to step inside the mind of fashion designers and experience the stories behind their collections. It gave consumers a much more holistic experience of Fashion Week and made it accessible to many more. The results speak for themselves with over 4.6 million event streams and 7 million video views.  High-level productions like this provide a glimpse into the future, built on innovative ad products and enhanced by hyper-connectivity. People are experiencing brands in a completely new way and it’s the endless possibility and creativity that’s got me excited.

From a consumer perspective what are some of the most compelling and seamless 5G-enhanced experiences that Verizon Media are currently building for?

With the consumer experience rapidly changing and 5G only supercharging it, the eCommerce experience is a strong focus point for us. From a consumer perspective, there’s a high expectation for frictionless experiences which will soon become even more of a norm.

Take digital ‘try-on’ services as an example. As 5G moves us further into a post-smartphone world any space becomes a potentially retail store. Any screen or mirror in your own home can and will become an opportunity for consumers to ‘try on’ items or garments without leaving the comfort of their own home or facing the dreaded neon lit changing room. Just as smart devices start to converge we will also see digital worlds or universes start to collide with gaming, content or shopping no longer existing in silos. We’re already seeing huge brands such as Gucci adopting the rising trend of digital fashion. Developing affordable digital versions for users to own in the virtual world, to dress avatars, potentially sell on or trade.

Our UK RYOT team are currently developing and prototyping a digital storefront built on a game engine, which will not only re-create a digital version of a retail institution but allow us to introduce game elements or hidden giveaways, exclusive content as well as digital twin purchases. These sorts of multilayered moments are not far away where every opportunity becomes a personalised eCommerce experience. Shoppable experiences will be in places you never would’ve imagined.

Sport is also a key focus area for us with our Yahoo Sport and Yahoo Fantasy platforms. It’s no secret Aussies love their sport so we’re developing products that bring an immersive lens to the fan experience. With Australia being the second largest fantasy community in the world there’s already a huge appetite and demand. We’re looking at ways to extend the current viewer experience to provide even more value to our customers. For example imagine a world where NBA fans can shop their favourite athlete’s sneakers, watch replays in realtime in 3D, and play minigames within a webAR portal. We’re not far off of creating a truly multifaceted fan experience.

Cam Dinnie, Operations Director APAC – Kargo

What are some call-outs for advertisers and the industry as we adapt and take advantage of the 5G opportunity?

All of these benefits does not mean that advertisers should start drastically maxing-out bandwidth with higher resolution videos, larger images, more frequent network requests, or larger JavaScript files. We still have a responsibility to ensure that we’re not taking up a large chunk of a user’s bandwidth (remember, not everyone has unlimited data) and advanced creatives can still cause websites to lag or browsers to crash, creating a poor user experience overall. Many web browsers such as Google Chrome have already put advertising restrictions in place to combat this behavior, and they won’t be lifting those just because of the capabilities of 5G.

Per the famous Spider-Man quote: “With great power comes great responsibility”. While 5G enables us to run better and more efficient advertising, first and foremost, we need to do so while respecting the user.

Has Kargo been planning ahead for some innovative and interactive forms of advertising products that hyper connectivity could enable for your clients and partners as 5G rolls out?

Ultimately, we need to ask why should we care about 5G and what does 5G mean for advertisers? Once 5G is rolled out on a larger scale, we can expect to see network requests respond more quickly, ads loading faster, and videos starting more quickly. For advertisers, and anyone involved in serving ads this means reduced discrepancies, more opportunities for your ad creatives to be viewed before a user has scrolled past them, and higher video start rates.

Importantly, the increased connectivity and speeds will enable advertisers to reach users in new, creative ways with more advanced ad units without the fear of slow loading times! We know that rich-media creative delivers stronger engagement and performance and the rollout of 5G will further unlock that opportunity for advertisers.

Ross Phillipson, Senior Advisor – Risk Advisory, Norton Rose Fulbright

How should the industry be preparing from a governance perspective for the dramatic increase in additional consumer data of all types that we could all be dealing with in the future?

The exponential increase in available data, both personal and industrial, that 5G connectivity will deliver to companies will bring unique governance and risk management challenges. Without strategic planning and upfront choices, the tidal wave of data will represent at least four headaches for organisations, all of which are interconnected:

1. The cost of storing large swathes of data that the business is not utilising to generate value;
2. The ongoing operational cost and maintenance of managing de-identification, opt ins and outs, data subject rights and further, secondary usage;
3. The “Damocles sword” compliance risk hanging over such a data lake from a privacy and cybersecurity perspective; and
4. The emergence of Artificial Intelligence and algorithmic decision making, and the ethical, human rights and legal risks that “black box” decisioning may create.

As is immediately recognisable, these risks are not separate – they are intertwined to form a species of “Digital Operations” governance that knits together IT operations, Privacy, Cybersecurity and Information and Algorithm Governance into a complex web of choices that, without strategic thinking at the outset, could easily spin out of control on one or more vectors in terms of cost, operational efficiency, value creation or breach and reputational harm.

Data is not valuable in and of itself. It is the uses it is put to that generates the value and governance is critical in ensuring that the value vs cost is understood. Laying the foundations early on in understanding the value of the data types and the cost of maintaining them, making decisions as to whether data truly needs to be personal or not, thoughtfully developing information governance and retention policies, and approaching privacy and cybersecurity from a “whole of enterprise” perspective will prepare industry to be best placed to capitalise on 5G in a responsible manner.

Are there any increased cyber-security risks related to 5G that businesses will need to be cognisant of and should consider starting to prepare for?

The bandwidth 5G provides will allow “everything” to be connected. When everything is connected, the attack surface for an organisation, or an individual, grows exponentially. This expanded attack surface will be a threat actor’s dream as it will mostly consist of device-to-device connectivity. Every point in a network where two devices connect is a weak spot waiting to be exploited.

In addition, the complexity of ongoing patching for security flaws as they are identified will increase, especially as many of these devices will be in consumers’ homes and outside the safety and security of the enterprise’s firewall. Factor in the increasing ability of threat actors to jump across unconnected systems to move from low risk systems to crown jewel assets and you have hacking heaven. To combat this, organisations are going to have to consider a variety of issues including:

• Mature financial models for assessing the value a 5G connected device will bring to the organisation vs the lifetime cost of operations, upgrades and patching and maintenance;
• Limitations on contractual warranties and liabilities, in particular for technologies that may become obsolete or be impacted by a future, unforeseen issue, especially when dealing with consumers;
• Costs associated with more sophisticated and complex IT architecture needed to separate and isolate systems where necessary; and
• Associated compliance risks and liabilities (and insurance costs) for these hyper-connected devices, especially where consumer data is involved (think hacked nanny cams), where industrial systems could be shut down or damaged (think Iranian uranium centrifuges and Stuxnet) or where the infrastructure is running on a multi-tenanted cloud solution and your organisation’s device introduces malware…

The world of 5G hyper-connection will unleash even more powerful data opportunities onto the world – and with great power comes great responsibility.

Are there any potential unintended consequences of the ‘hyper-connected’ 5G future which you think we should be considering and be taking more seriously?

The ethical and human rights considerations of a hyper-connected world have not yet being fully appreciated. Hyper-connection can result in hyper-surveillance for the individual (see for example the use of Covid check in app data for police investigations) and potential infringement of human rights in relation to bias and discrimination, especially via algorithmic decision making. There is a real risk of marginalisation of elements of society that do not “fit” into the perceived norm as this data is processed and decisions taken. And the risk is real because the only way to deal with the volume of data that will be generated to deliver value from the sensors and chipsets embedded in these devices will be to utilise artificial intelligence to analyse the data and make decisions. It will likely not be good enough for an organisation, when faced with an accusation of bias, to point at a black box algorithm and argue that no one really knew how the algorithm worked. Human oversight and ongoing quality control measures will be needed to ensure that the machines don’t go rogue.

Thinking these issues through requires diversity of thought – the business and IT teams tasked with building these programs should include lawyers and other risk specialists to provide diverse points of view and “what if” scenario planning. Ethics and governance frameworks, along with leadership and tone from the top, will be required to guide the organisation. Finally transparency will be key – transparency of purpose, transparency of decision making, transparency of mistakes (even if just internally) and transparency of trying to learn from those mistakes will provide the cultural backdrop for an organisation to learn and do better by its stakeholders over time. It’s often not the mistake but the subsequent cover up that causes the most harm.