What Marketers Need to Know About 5G in 2021

Technology and marketing-related media and investors have been hyping up 5G networks for the better part of the past five years. The truth is that, today, U.S. coverage is still largely limited to densely populated, urban markets. With Apple’s iPhone 12 launch on October 13, however, the potential of 5G feels more within reach than ever before. 

While the announcement should excite brands, the first-hand conversations I have had with leading marketers and content producers also make me nervous that many are not prepared to fully capitalize on the immersive, hyper-connected world 5G promises.  

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What is 5G?

Before we go too far, let’s quickly review 5G’s main benefits. To put it simply: more immersive content across more devices. Compared to 4G networks, 5G offers:

  • 20x faster download speeds, 
  • 25x lower latency (the time it takes to transfer data from one device to another)
  • The ability for 10x more devices to be online in a square kilometer.

What does this mean? For one, these new networks can support more data-intensive digital experiences. Secondly, the proliferation of 5G networks will also unlock the long-promised “Internet of Things” (IoT), bringing greater connectivity to traditionally analog devices. 

If a movie took 6 minutes to download on 4G, it will take less than 20 seconds to download on 5G. U.S. consumers already prefer video content to static content, but with speeds this fast, video will quickly become the default communication currency. 

How will 5G Affect Marketing and Advertising?

In this future reality, marketers must finally embrace video-first campaign strategies. Video is just the starting point—other data-intensive content, like AR and VR, will also be easier to distribute on 5G networks and will slowly but surely become a prerequisite for capturing consumers’ attention. 

It’s important to note that the opportunity to utilize these rich new experiences extends far beyond advertising. Healthcare professionals will utilize more video and 3D renderings for patient diagnosis, education, and care. As online learning continues to disrupt the educational sector, academic institutions will work with teachers and professors to develop more data-intensive experiences that engage students. And governments will have an entirely new way to communicate with constituents and to provide necessary resources and information. 

5G & The Internet of Things (IoT) 

As we continue to make the transition to IoT, 5G connectivity will bring a vast array of new devices and objects online, many of which could support content distribution (like refrigerators and bus shelters). Much has been said about how these vast connected networks will greatly increase the need for a cross-device identification solution, but we often overlook another critical implication—content creation. 

How Will 5G Reshape Content Production?

I cannot say it more plainly—greater demand requires greater supply. Many of the brands I am lucky enough to work with admit their constant struggle in keeping up with the ever-growing number of platforms available today, leaving little doubt that the industry is ill-equipped to produce content for the dozens of new ones 5G networks will bring about in the coming years

In search of lower-cost content creation options that can facilitate scale, many brands will lean into remixing existing assets (what is known as “post-production”). This is a great, cost-effective approach, but it’s not enough. 

The efficient creation of new assets (what is known as “original production”) will also be critical to make sure content is customized to each platform and that it is refreshed often enough to avoid creative fatigue. 

The 5G Future: The Takeaway

Apple’s iPhone 12 announcement has resurfaced the need to discuss the future that widespread 5G adoption will unlock. This next generation of networks offers tremendous new opportunities for engagement as video, AR, and VR experiences become more commonplace across a plethora of newly connected devices. Before marketers, healthcare professionals, educators, and even governments get too excited about all of this possibility, they must rethink their content strategy and production approach in order to keep up.

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