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How mobile moves people

The team from McCann Worldgroup in Europe (l-r) : Dr Rodney Collins, Harjot Singh, Monica Moro*, Mariam Asmar** and Jon Carney at Mobile World Congress 2019
The team from McCann Worldgroup in Europe (l-r) : Dr Rodney Collins, Harjot Singh, Monica Moro*, Mariam Asmar** and Jon Carney at Mobile World Congress 2019

The honeymoon is over, but people are still positive about mobile tech. McCann Worldgroup in Europe explores why and what it means for brands

Every year at Mobile World Congress, we aim to help our clients navigate through the huge range of new technologies and make them meaningful for their brands and businesses – looking at technology, as always, with a human-first approach," said Pablo Walker, President Europe, McCann Worldgroup. "No matter how much mobile technology evolves, it is ultimately meant to make people feel that it’s working for them versus around them, and this is what we sought to demonstrate with this year’s theme of Mobile That Moves People," he added. 

So this year, we shared a new way of thinking about mobile, based on four themes that emerged from a review of a vast body of creative work from around the world, which showcased how brands are using mobile tech today. 

To start, we should always remember why and when the most enthusiastically adopted technologies are successful. When mobile tech is deployed successfully by brands to move people, it has done so by combining data, technology and creativity into something that is unusual and original – yet useful. 

Unusual in that users feel it understands them. Original in that it has a unique point of view. And useful in that it has a positive impact on their daily lives. 

However, one clear shift we’ve seen over the past 12 months is the end of digital naïvety. People have realised that there’s no such thing as a free digital lunch. There is a transaction that takes place in exchange for convenience. The fact is that most of the time, when people are sharing photos, playlists, or messages, they are not considering the data trail being generated.

"No matter how much mobile technology evolves, it is ultimately meant to make people feel that it's working for them, versus around them."Pablo Walker, president Europe, McCann Worldgroup

Initiatives such as GDPR have highlighted the fact that we are both the user and the used, the customer and the product, the fuel that feeds the platform. But there is no going back. Tech is now fully integrated into our lives. The real and the virtual now blend: media, politics, crime and commerce happen equally across both. One in every five purchases in the UK now happens from our mobiles. Our homes are becoming voice-activated digital havens. Most businesses are transforming into technology businesses, with our industry being part of the lead pack. Tech has opened up vast new opportunities for entrepreneurs. 

Today, if you can think it, you can make it. You can even ‘deepfake’ it. Is this vision exciting, or disturbing? After all, our goal is to make positive emotional connections with people. Is technology making the world more ‘well’, or more ‘sick’? We posed this question in one of our recent Truth Central* studies. The answer is surprising, given recent headlines: 64% feel that technology is making the world a more ‘well’ place. Technology and data are still providing fundamentally useful, original and unusual means of improving lives and moving us to act. We have identified four ways in which mobile tech is achieving this.

Investing more effort in understanding audiences, greater creativity and new ways to be meaningful – through data – means consumers’ lives can be truly enhanced.

However, these new opportunities bring greater levels of responsibility to the creators, especially now the era of digital naïvety is over. Our job has always been, and will continue to be, about people. How can we connect brands, product, services or experiences with technology to fulfil an unmet human need – moving people in ways that are creatively and commercially compelling? No matter how transformative and complex the world of data and technology gets, in our business the simplest truth prevails: if it doesn’t move people, it won’t move the market. 

Four ways that mobile technology is moving people

The simplifier: reducing complexity, easing the journey
Three-quarters of a recent global sample* agreed that mobile technology has simplified their lives. The key to technology as a ‘simplifier’ – to making it useful – is to reduce the complexity of life through using data and technology to reduce friction and free up people’s time. Think of life before taxi-ordering apps, mobile check-in, or on-demand food.

The enhancer: technology can make our everyday lives a little less ordinary, and a bit more fun
When we use tech not just as a means of selling, but of solving, we’re on the road to success. But when used to bring surprise and delight, technology can also deliver magic. 

The nurturer: supporting our wellness needs and goals
A watch that can provide a cardiogram. An app that can tell us how many steps we’ve walked today. Another that can help us meditate. Technology now improves our personal and collective wellbeing. 

Consumer attitudes remain ambiguous*. When asked whether their mobile devices distracted them from what mattered most in life, or helped them focus on it, the respondents were split right down the middle, 50/50. Millennials seem most afflicted by the addictive power of these devices. More than 60% feel pressured to be constantly busy, compared with just over half of Generation-X respondents. 

However, a correction is around the corner. Those in the younger Gen Z demographic overwhelmingly told us that they were actively trying to reduce their screen time. Nevertheless, one in four people globally say they "trust wellness information on social networks more than their doctors", demonstrating the extent to which technology has assumed a more central role in our quest for wellbeing. In particular, mobile tech from brands has the power to provide new ways to care for ourselves and others.

The activist: enabling activism around the world
From the Arab Spring to the Gilets Jaunes movement, mobile tech has time and again proved its effectiveness in galvanising collective protest. 

It is enabling a new generation of activists: Gen Z. They see inclusivity as a basic right. The idea of judging someone by gender is anathema to them, with 63% of 18- to 34-year-olds believing gender to be ‘a fluid concept’. Their focus on inclusion drives them to consider brands from a new perspective: in terms of how they understand identity, are having an impact on society, think of problems as shared, and understand and empathise with the lives of other people around the world. 

The good news – and the challenge – for us is that 81% of them believe that global brands have the power to make the world better – with mobile tech being a key enabler. 


"The world has moved from talking about the potential of AI, voice, wearables and mixed reality to these technologies becoming mainstream. This is on the heels of what we believe is the end of digital naïvety, as even the most conservative consumers grow in digital sophistication. People are regaining their focus and excitement of what technology can do for our world as well as transforming commerce."Jon Carney, chief digital officer, Europe, McCann Worldgroup
"Every time data has worked successfully in moving people in our business it has done one of two things. It has moved people by either solving new problems or solving old problems in new ways. The only way to make sense of data is to think of it as a means to sell the problem we are trying to solve. When we use data to solve a problem in an interesting way, the product sells as a result."Harjot Singh, chief strategy officer, Europe, McCann Worldgroup
"Across the world, people are increasingly aware of the benefits and dangers that come with innovation and the outsized role that technology plays in their lives. This makes for a complicated relationship with technology that is further nuanced by cultural norms and generational expectations. Despite this complexity, in 2019, consumers at large continue to think that the world is becoming better because of it."Dr Rodney Collins, regional director, EMEA, McCann Truth Central

 *McCann Truth Central data *Chief creative officer, McCann Spain **Planning partner, innovation & digital lead, McCann London

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