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Last year, in one of those future gazing presentations we often give our clients, I talked about near field communication (NFC) and what it could potentially mean for our industry. I was genuinely excited about NFC, I thought we found a way to link our “offline” advertising with more useful or entertaining content. I am sure you were too.
I was also excited because I thought this was about using a technology that people would use every day for things other than advertising. I thought it was a technology people genuinely needed and would use to make payments, communications or transport, much easier and more streamlined than ever before. I was excited because of all the Visa Paywave ads. I imagined that people would use something like Visa Paywave or Commonwealth Bank’s Kaching and would easily transition to NFC enabled phones.
Now, I am a little bit more worried.
I shouldn’t be. All signs are pointing towards a new iPhone with NFC from the patents Apple licensed to the hints a MasterCard executive let slip whilst discussing NFC. I am little worried because it seems the only ones truly ready for NFC are the advertising industry (and Comms Bank). We are ready: my own agency, MediaCom, as well as virtually all outdoor media owners and many other players in this industry (if not all of them). We have tried to educate our clients, we have devised strategies, and some have already tested the technology with outdoor panels. When NFC reaches a large enough proportion of the population, we will be there.
I am worried because I don’t know anyone who would come into a telco’s shop and say “I really really want an NFC enabled phone so I can interact with advertising”. People will want to learn to use NFC, not for an ad but to avoid queuing to buy a train ticket or a coffee. That is our problem: We need to get other industries involved and excited. Take transport for example: In London or Honk Kong, NFC could be an easy and positive change. Their Oyster and Octopus card would be replaced by their phones. What about us? Well in Sydney for example, we were supposed to have something similar called the Opal Card. This was first announced in 1996 to be in place for the Olympic Games, and it is still not there. Fortunately, similar cards are in place in Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane. All three are heavily criticised, mostly for usability issues.
My work does not involve direct discussion with clients in the transport, banking, entertainment or retail industry but I would urge anyone working closely with them to help them get ready for the end of this year. As a media agency, we are in the best situation when we are considered as business partners. And as business partners, we should help our clients make the best out of NFC, beyond their advertising, for their consumers. NFC will only get people excited if it seems like a genuinely compelling service. We are ready, we are excited and I think a lot of us really want to make this work.
This all made me think about Jerry Maguire. Let’s tell our clients: “help me help you”.
Client Communication Planning Executive