For an industry that should know a thing or two about the dangers of getting carried away by a good promotion, advertising often feels like it’s susceptible for a ride on the hype-train. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself at Cannes Lions, then I guarantee that, whether you’re knocking back rosé on the Croisette or listening to a talk in the Pavilion, at some point someone will pipe up about the magic bullet that is going to change everything. 

In previous years, this MacGuffin was everything from programmatic to Blockchain, but in 2019, the panacea is 5G. Sure, it’s only been rolled out in a few cities in South East Asia and the United States, but already, the super-fast mobile network’s ability to get marketers fired up is only matched by confusion about its actual potential.

Most advertisers and marketers haven’t seen it in action yet, so it’s hard to know what it’ll do. On the one hand, the lightning-fast speeds promise marketers the ability to connect with their audiences on a new, more personal level, while simultaneously offering nothing at all. On a tactical level, 5G is undoubtedly going to be something that marketers must grapple with in the next few years. But what, exactly, can it do now and how should brands prepare themselves?

If there is one company that knows how 5G actually functions, it’s Verizon Media, currently embarked on a massive rollout of the technology across the U.S. To get a fix on what these applications look like and what they mean for marketers, I sat down with Verizon Media’s head of global client solutions, Jeff Lucas at Cannes Lions. Over coffee, we had a wide-ranging discussion about the implications that 5G will have on brands and how the technology will change the way companies will look at digital creativity.

At this early stage, what does 5G mean for marketing departments?

From what we’ve seen so far with 5G, the possibilities really are going to be endless. It opens up so many doors, and the applications can extend as far as your imagination. We just don’t know what all the possibilities are yet.

I think the best way to think of it at the moment is as a supercharged software kit. You know how tech companies give people new software development kits (SDKs) and they, in turn, create all these incredible applications? I believe 5G will roll out in a similar way. We’ve been one of the first companies to connect through the technology, and we’re only just starting to scratch the surface of what can be achieved.

Things move pretty quickly in the mobile space. How fast will 5G take off? 

Things are moving very quickly. In Southeast Asia and Scandinavia, there has already been a lot of progress, but 5G networks need a whole new infrastructure from [those of] 4G and 3G, so I imagine it’s going to be another 18 months or so until we see widespread adoption in the United States. 

From a device standpoint, all the major manufacturers are looking to realize 5G ready smartphones by the end of the year, so I imagine you’ll be seeing a large number of consumers using it by the end of 2020. It’ll undoubtedly be the standard within the next three years.

What do you think will be the effect on consumers once 5G becomes commonplace?

I think the effects are going to be huge. You currently notice the speed difference when you move from a 4G to a 3G area, and I think the jump in speed will be that again. The massive increase in processing power means that 5G removes a lot of the latency that comes with mobile data, so experiences that once had a lot of drag associated with them, like downloading a movie or streaming a live sports game, will now happen almost instantaneously.

No doubt, this is going to have a massive knock-on effect with consumers. If you think that people already expect a mobile experience that is instantaneous, then you can imagine how much worse that is going to get [in the future after 5G adoption]. They’ll really notice when they’re not operating on 5G speeds.

Will this be counterbalanced by the fact that 5G will allow marketers to be more nimble in their media tactics?

Actually, I think 5G has the power to really change media as we know it. If you look at the direction of travel when it comes to innovation in adtech, you’ve seen a non-stop progress towards consolidation. Most platforms are becoming more streamlined and creating a place where a single message can be disseminated through a one-stop shop. 5G is going to supercharge the process, opening up more channels and allowing them all to be managed through one DSP.

We’re already seeing this happening. We have one client, a quick-service restaurant, who has thousands of outlets and wanted to talk with us specifically about how they could deploy 5G as part of their business. Each one of their outlets has a video message board, and they wanted to be able to run different campaigns on them in a second. Now, it’s true that this is something you could already do, but the extra connectivity that 5G brought allowed them to be able to use them in a whole different way. We can run a campaign, deliver it instantaneously and see receipts coming in at the same time, speeding up the decision process.

It has taken something that was very latent, an in-store campaign, and brought it into a reactive digital space. Marketers are going to be able to use similar tactics over the entire advertising mix.

Is 5G going to give marketers a lot more data to play with?

Yes, It’s not only going to allow marketers to consolidate all this information into one or two channels, but it’s also going to increase the channels that you can receive data from, revolutionizing how marketers use media. Where once you had thousands or even millions of data points to work with on a campaign, in the near future you will be able to work with trillions. All done with privacy and in a way that is data-safe–that is very important.

How will 5G help brands connect with customers?

This technology is dissolving the barriers between channels, but on the other hand, it’s also dissolving the boundaries between content and experience. Our Hypezilla, which was created by our RYOT studio, is an excellent example of this. Launched on Yahoo Play, it uses 5G technology to create a live augmented reality experience. You have voice, action and animation, all happening simultaneously. 

That is just one example, but I think 5G is the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to a lot of these digital/augmented reality experiences; be it smart mirrors in clothes stores to driverless taxis. 

This sounds exciting but doesn’t creating AR And VR experiences like this require a level of investment most SME’s can’t match?

I’m not too sure about that. I think 5G is going to be so widespread that it really is going to be for everyone. Right now, we’re a large company, and we have the resources to really play in this space, but any advantages we have are always going to be shared with the wider industry. In fact, one of the big things we’ve always said about RYOT is that we’re committed to working with everybody!

In the long run, I think 5G is going to help smaller shops to be even more competitive. The vast increase in processing power is going to allow small teams to do even more work at a better level of quality. Take animation; my brother worked on King of the Hill; first as an editor and later as a voice actor and as a writer. Over the years he worked on that show, the way technology changed that industry has been nothing short of profound. It used to be that you could tell where a computer had animated something and where a human had animated something, but over the years it has become harder and harder to tell the difference.

I think 5G is going to accelerate and democratize these processes. it’s going to allow something that once took a team of 50 people to do to be done by, say, a team of five. The cost savings are going to be amazing.

In summary, what are the main points marketers need to know about 5G?

I think the main thing is that it’s going to add a whole new set of tools to the tool kit. It is not only going to shorten the distance between data and experience, but it’s also going to vastly improve the quality of those experiences.