RFID Egg Cartons and Talking Toilets: The Future of Advertising


Remember the 2002 Tom Cruise / Steven Spielberg blockbuster Minority Report? A glimpse into the year 2054, when premeditated murder has all but been eliminated in the District of Columbia due to the development of the Precrime progam? The conceit of the movie of course was that these pre-cogs were somehow connected to the world around them in such a way that they could see people’s anger, fear and lust. Basically, those emotions that can lead to crimes of passion, such as murder. Aside from the idea that the future could be predicted in such a way, I was captivated by the role that advertising played in this glimpse of the future world. John Anderton, on the run after seeing that he himself was to be murdering someone, navigated retinal scanners that attempted to sell him everything from consumer products to fantastic vacations.

These ads played a small part to move the plot forward. But the premise is worth thinking through. Future advertising will scan your face and tailor itself based on some repository of information on your buying patterns, web views, and other information contained within the cloud. Is that it? I suggest that product promotion will be far more sophisticated than ‘identify and personalise.’ Advances in functional magnetic resonance imaging are already leading to exploration on the role that different images, sounds, colours, smells and words have on our feelings about a product. Not our rational thoughts about a product, but the all important emotional reaction which dominates the purchase of many items. Eye-tracking tells FMCG conglomerates that a label with picture of a family will resonate more strongly with men than the colour of the bottle. So 50 years ahead I suspect advertising will be much more informed, and even more useful.

In a world where the Internet is fully completed, ambient devices like our refrigerators and kitchen cabinets, medicine chests and toilets will be ‘on the grid. The products and substances contained within (and those not there) will interact with their surroundings in such a way that ads will know what we need and help determine which products to buy. For example, our alarm clock will keep data on our sleep cycles - hit the snooze bar one too many times and you might get a coupon for Starbucks on your communicator device. Your toilet might detect a lack of iron in your urine, prompting an advertisement for washed, ready-to-eat spinach. These are intrusive, and incredibly useful advertisements that understand demographics, ethnographics and personal data on a micro-level, changing and updating on a minute-by-minute basis.

This type of advertising is fueled by a revolution in data collection and analysis. On the agency side, this will have enormous impact. The industry will be staffed with analysts with access to data mines about each of us. Of course there will still be room for the young, edgy creatives, but they will be working from briefs that are based on human behaviour, behavioural economics and purchaser level insights.

Until then, I’ll keep my Carrefour loyalty card affixed to my keyring.

Jeff Chertack

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