Last week was CES, the big show that takes over Las Vegas. 140,000 or so folks descend to schmooze and to check out that latest technology. I used to go every year but I can’t say as I’m disappointed not to have gone the last few. It’s a mad house. Mad as it may be, however, it generally gives us an indication about where technology might be heading over the next year or so. This year, Virtual Reality was one of the biggest stories. Cars were the other.
What’s that you ask? I said it was a tech show, so why are cars the big thing? Glad you asked. You see, cars are becoming rather sophisticated computing platforms on wheels. You might not be impressed by the 100,000+ lines of code in today’s car (Windows has tens of millions of line, for example), but that number will grow exponentially over the next couple of years as cars become more and more autonomous. Most importantly, they will become totally connected devices. After all, since you won’t be driving, you might want to catch up on Netflix, and not on your phone either. Why not on the car’s screen? In fact, since you really don’t even need to look out the windshield, why not make the window opaque and stream it there?
The notion of the car doing the driving doesn’t have me alarmed. This does:
“Cars are essentially becoming the next must-have mobile device,” says Jason Harrison, global CEO of Gain Theory. Driverless cars open “an entirely new opportunity for advertisers. Assuming Wi-Fi-enabled cars would be targetable in the same way other devices are, they would offer high-quality targeted-audience opportunities, with an added contextual dimension such as parents and kids on the way to school, daily commutes and so on.”
I’m not sure what has me looking at this askance. Maybe it’s the notion that everything has to be a receptacle for someone’s marketing message? My car is not the subway. While NYC Transit sells ads (in theory to help offset the costs of your ride), I’m not welcoming marketers into my vehicle. Where is the attention/value exchange? How does the fact that marketers are paying the navigation system to come to the nearest Dunkin Donuts help me? How is yet another invasion of my privacy helpful? What other system preferences will be set based on an exchange of money that excluded me, the car buyer?
We need to learn when to give it a rest, folks. No one wants to install an ad blocker in their car – isn’t that what the buttons on a radio are for? Instead of rubbing our hands in anticipation of yet another trackable environment for marketing, maybe we ought to be thinking about what the benefit to the consumer will be for letting us into their daily drive? Instead of thinking of cars as a “one-ton cookie” (as in the code dropped into your browser to track you), maybe we need to think if them as a place where we can reset our relationship to consumers and raise their expectations about the value of good marketing. Thoughts?