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Marketing Week

Mark Ritson: 5G is the latest hot topic on the bullsh*t roadshow

By June 27, 2019 No Comments
5G mobile data

Well that’s Cannes over for another year. I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted.

Fortunately, I applied my tried and tested three-point plan for getting the most out of the Cannes Lions Festival to ensure that it was a productive week. The first part of my approach is to rise early, ideally before 7am each day.

Second, try and cram as much into each day as possible. And third, and most important, get as far away from Cannes and France as you can and get some work done instead.

READ MORE: Mark Ritson: Apple’s confusing product portfolio makes Microsoft look sleek

Saving on air fare and spending time on actual work does not preclude you from partaking of the insights that come from the French Riviera of course. They are impossible to avoid. By Monday thousands of tweets, blogs and columns summarised the main themes from the festival for the unwashed, unfortunate and unimportant marketers who could not attend in person.

My favourite summary was from Digiday, which did a splendid job of summarising the bullshit from last year’s event and contrasting it with the (equally nonsensical) replacements on show last week. If 2018 was all about Facebook discussing disinformation, then this year was all about Facebook discussing equality.

Last year’s all-male ad tech panels were replaced with this year’s version, which included one woman. But most notable on the list was that “bullshitting about blockchain”, which was the theme of 2018, had been replaced by “bullshitting about 5G” instead. Spot on.

5G nonsense

It was hard to find an account of the big event that did not dip into 5G for a few suitably vague, hyperbolic sentences of total balls. There was Verizon’s CMO Diego Scotti telling Fox Business News that his company’s first device on 5G was likely to usher in a new era for everyone.

“When you think about the changes that 5G will enable in society, all the way from how we’ll change healthcare, for example, with things like remote surgeries or smart cities,” he explained to a slightly bemused Maria Bartiromo, “well now with 5G it will be possible when you have cars talking to cell phones, cell phones talking to buildings, and really realising the smart city dream.”

There was similar revolutionary talk from Street Fight’s Julie Bernard in her Cannes roundup. Her summary of the much-discussed conference conversation between Accenture Interactive CEO Brian Whipple and S4 Capital founder Sir Martin Sorrell was that “traditional models will lose business”.

Bernard predicted that if marketers did not pour (her word, not mine) their budgets into AR, VR and AI, and “leverage the massive speed and capacity of 5G when it rolls out”, their businesses would probably not survive the decade.

No one in marketing actually knows what 5G is or how it works or what difference it will make to society, business or anything else.

The Drum was drawing very similar conclusions ahead of its trip to Cannes. People, it claimed, were soon likely to identify more with their home city and less so with the country of their birth because of the future and stuff. And all of this will accelerate as a result of 5G communications because, well, it’s 5G and everything is going to be different and faster after 5G takes over.

But there was bad news over in France for the 5G early adopters. A shadow was rising in the East. Su Xin, head of 5G technology for the Chinese government, was not in Cannes last week but was in his lab in Beijing, and his focus was on anything other than 5G. Xin had a big surprise for everyone because China is already focusing on…6G.

That’s right fuckers. We still don’t have 5G, and most people (especially those on stage in Cannes) have no idea what it really is, but the Chinese are already making it obsolete.

For almost 12 months a Chinese team has been working on a secret new 6G technology likely to render 5G redundant. Xin has been extremely guarded on exactly what his new infrastructure will be capable of but he did tell one Chinese news agency that his new technology will be “the G to end all Gs”.

Well I have some bad news for the Chinese and all those pasty laggards still sobering up after Cannes. I was keeping this development secret, however Su Xin’s fighting talk leaves me with no option but to reveal my hand significantly ahead of schedule.

Ritson’s new 9G device

Ritson’s new 9G infrastructure

For the last few weeks I have been dividing my time between professorial duties, writing the odd column and creating a new technological infrastructure that I am tentatively calling 9G. I admit that, at first, I intended to christen my new technology a 6G system but then I read about the advances in Beijing and decided to be even more agile and disruptive.

Even then, I was halfway through writing 7G on the side of my new prototype (shown above in exclusive early test photos) when it suddenly dawned on me that this was exactly what the Chinese were expecting me to do. With a Machiavellian swipe of my Sharpie I changed the 7 to a 9 and stood back to enjoy my handiwork.

“Ritson, you marvellous bastard,” I said to myself with an evil chuckle, “you’ve cracked it.”

READ MORE: 5G poses ‘dramatic challenges’ to privacy and personal data

I want to use this column to announce that I am officially working on a 9G communications technology that will change everything, completely, forever. Its new components and incredible new speeds mean that it will be at least 30% better than whatever the Chinese come up with and even more superior to the crappy, old-fashioned 5G stuff they were talking about in Cannes last week.

9G is going to fix space travel, healthcare, parking meters and match all the socks in your top drawer. Seamlessly. It will enable buildings to communicate with cars, cats to chat with dogs and – the killer – people to talk to other people almost as if they were in the same room as each other.

Critics might scoff and point out that my new 9G system is nothing more than a second-hand modem bought on eBay, wrapped in tin foil and connected to the old microwave that we kept in the garage. I would expect nothing less from those Luddites living with the ancient, traditional media systems of 5G. You won’t scoff when my device finally becomes operational.

I cannot comment at this stage when that will be, or on any of the secret technology that enables my 9G system to supersede everything before it. But as a marketer I can promise you that this is the future tech you have been looking for, to talk about in your next keynote/article/podcast.

The next time anyone mentions 5G, snort in their general direction and then, with a dismissive tone, drop the immortal, argument-winning words: “What about Ritson and 9G?” Game over.

And, to be fair, is my new invention really so stupid? No one in marketing actually knows what 5G is or how it works or what difference it will make to society, business or anything else. I freely admit that my device is a massive load of bollocks but so is 99% of the discussion about 5G that is currently going on among marketers.

What’s more, these bullshit discussions get completely in the way of the actual, very real challenges of marketing that no one seems interested in concentrating on. Bollocks to 5G. Let’s talk about customers, about brands, about effectiveness. About real marketing rather than bullshit tech.

You can draw a thick, brown bullshitty line from 3D printing to artificial intelligence, to virtual reality, to blockchain, to 5G, to 9G and whatever inane techno-porn that will arrive next to distract marketers from their true challenge.

The only value that 5G offers – like millennials and agility and the walking, super yacht-renting anachronism who is Gary Vaynerchuk – is as a bullshit magnet that attracts and identifies those who do not understand marketing but masquerade as experts among us nonetheless.

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Phvntom, Inc. is a digital marketing company located in Boise, Idaho that creates websites, apps, and full-scale promotions/campaigns for other businesses. The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly those of its authors and were not written by Phvntom. This article was originally published by Marketing Week.   

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