Will you go out of your way for advertising?

Johann Jungwirth is Volkswagen Group’s Chief Digital Officer.

Speaking at a recent event on the future of the car, Jungwirth suggested something interesting and potentially exciting for the future of advertisers, consumers and transport.

Jungwirth sees a natural link between autonomous ‘cars’ and major brands. “If we consider the basics – like getting to the grocery store,” he says, speaking to Auto Express. “Then these journeys could be funded by advertising. A basic message could pop up and offer the ride for free.”

The idea of a service in exchange for advertising consumption is nothing new.

It’s how most of our commercial television channels function, after all.

But can you see a day where you would allow your car to determine your destination on the basis of a brand offer?

Jungwirth can. “Think about Nike, as an example,” he says. “They’re offering a new shoe through in-car advertising, and you can bring people to the store directly. We’ll know if they’ve been driven to the store, and we can also know if they’re tried on the shoe or bought the shoe.”

If you were thinking about buying new trainers, and on your way to try a pair, it’s an offer you might take up. Especially, if combined with a retail experience which makes the journey worthwhile. Otherwise, why wouldn’t you wait for the shoe to come to you? By drone, most likely (we are talking about a future in which autonomous cars are common place after all).

But groceries?

Would you let your car choose between Sainsbury’s and Waitrose?
Because that’s where we will be, if Jungwirth’s prediction comes true.

Fully autonomous cars will need the computing capability to interact safely with one another, fixed landmarks, pedestrians and myriad other hazards. In other words, they will need a tremendous level of artificial intelligence (AI) to assess, predict and react accordingly, in a multi-dimensional environment: distance, space, time and speed.

Which means your basic phone would also have the same AI potential.

And your fridge.

So, it can check, see you’re running light on Super-Berry Smoothies, assess your purchasing history, place the order, debit your account and open the door to the delivery drone two hours later. No, really.

You see, that’s the problem with predictions.
If cars are moving on to be wholly autonomous, the world and brands are moving at the same pace. Probably faster.

And advertising moves fastest of all. No one can take advantage of new technology like a profiteering ad man.

Which means rather than making predictions about how and where advertising revenue might be generated in future, we’re better as marketers to focus on the things that don’t change.

Human nature.

The desire to fit in, stand out, be loved, be alone, be engaged, be entertained.

Focus on those, rather than whatever technology comes along, and success is sure to follow.

As for cars, how about a social value to the AI?

What about a car that reminded you to stop off and say hello to your parents on the way to a gig? Or that pointed out the guy at the far end of the street who isn’t so good on his legs these days and could benefit from a ride.

Rather than trying to sell trainers, what about cars that make us better citizens?

That would be a real intelligence rather than artificial.