How ‘Back To The Future’ Nailed The Future (And The Bits It Missed!)

How ‘Back To The Future’ Nailed The Future (And The Bits It Missed!)

Yes, it’s Back To The Future day! And to celebrate the day Marty and Doc travelled forward to in the film the guys at programmatic marketers Rocket Fuel take a look at the marketing things the film predicted correctly and the other things they missed altogether…

Wearable tech
One thing the film oozes is the use of wearable tech, from hi-tech glasses and clothing such as Marty’s talking jacket and police hats that flash messages. Today’s marketer is already looking at how smart watches and clothing, and Microsoft’s Hololens, Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets, and Google Glass will impact future campaigns, as they will become another touch-point to reach consumers.

Augmented reality is something marketers cannot ignore and should be leveraged for greater customer engagement, especially with the surge of mobile technology and wearables. Some brands are already looking at incorporating tech, where smartphones and tablets can be pointed at surfaces that then come to life. The next step will be being able to shop or buy via an augmented reality experience.

Interactive advertising
We all remember when Marty walks past a billboard for Jaws 19 and it comes to life, with a giant shark hologram swooping down on him. Today, we now have outdoor 3D displays, and M&C Saatchi, Clear Channel and Posterscope recently launched the first artificial intelligence led billboard that reacts to how is in close vicinity. As well as devices, marketers need to engage audiences through these mediums too. Whether it’s on a TV, smartwatch, billboard, or even a fridge, every screen is an opportunity to transcend digital and real-world experiences to consumers.

Likewise, the film did show some use of touchscreens and tablets but missed the opportunity of showing them more and often used newspapers to keep Marty updated on impending dooms. People now own multiple smart devices and the future lies with leveraging real-time insights and personalised cross-device engagement across various platforms with innovative marketing strategies.

The field of robotics continues to hit the headlines as new developments continue to occur. References in the film include drones owned by news stations, high-tech mobile trash cans that follow pedestrians and a robot car mechanic that fuels hover cars. Today robotics is advancing in all industries, including marketing. By integrating artificial intelligence-based platforms within your marketing strategy, machine learning can bring as much knowledge as possible about customers’ behaviour at any given time, on any given device.

So what’s missing?

Despite the presence of smart glasses in the film, one of the biggest things missing is smartphones, which the majority of us can’t live without in our everyday lives. The continuing rise of mobile cannot be ignored and investing in further marketing intelligence of consumer’s multi-device usage will be invaluable for the marketer.

 Social media
Another element of our daily routines is social media. We don’t see Marty and Doc taking and posting selfies, or updating their statuses. Social media means that marketing is no longer only a one-way channel, brands can now engage directly with their audience. Although, it is also presents the challenge of not knowing exactly where you will capture someone’s attention, for example, during a TV show ad-break, consumers way be watching but they may also be on Facebook, or Twitter, or blogging on what they’ve just seen. But marketers need to understand the opportunities this also presents and work with artificial intelligence (AI) led marketing campaigns that learn from individual’s behaviour online and offline.

Artificial Intelligence
Although the film showcased some AI within the field of robotics, it didn’t touch on the other capabilities that AI technology now brings us. Due to its lack of personal and mobile smart devices, it missed being able to influence people on the go at multiple points of the day. Every device, app, social network and publisher presents another marketing opportunity, and with these new channels comes the capabilities to collect data about the individual consumer, traffic volumes, engagements, and a variety of performance KPIs.

Here, machine learning can then automatically collate this information to create user profiles, which has the potential to fundamentally change the way we market businesses, products and services. As AI technology keeps evolving, the right message and design will be delivered to the right person, over the right channel, at the most opportune time, and in real-time.

The Web?
In fairness, the World Wide Web was invented the same year the film was released and the term email was not yet in existence, but it’s a shame not to see a hint to the internet in the film, despite the odd tablet and video call via TV. Imagine a world without the ease of communication we have today, think how far they could have got with Google Maps, 5G and the aid of Siri. By leveraging all of the communications channels available to engage with audiences, marketers have a vast amount of opportunities to reach their intended consumer.

Dominic Trigg, SVP, managing director Europe at Rocket Fuel said: “Twenty six years ahead of its time, it is amazing how many of the technology trends Back to the Future got right. We might not yet have flying cars and not use fax machines, but elements of personalisation, cross device and interactive advertising displays were all there. Technological advancements are moving so fast now, it’s hard to predict what technologies we’ll have to be adapting to in another 30 or so years. Learnings from Back to the Future teach us that we must continue to be innovative, not be afraid to try new things, and constantly adapt to a wealth of new devices and consumer touch points. Rocket Fuel’s AI-based media buying brings a wealth of non-obvious intelligence on consumer interactions with brands and is an invaluable tool to evolve with the continuously changing marketing landscape.”


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