How Interstitial Advertising Clicks With Brains

Global mobile ad spending is expected to reach an all-time high next year, capping nearly $45 billion, according to numbers from eMarketer. You’re not the only one to see that’s a lot higher than usual, and most of that increase comes in the form of new advertising that manages to organically blend in with content on pages, utilizing whatever technological advances can be supplied — including larger device screens, according to Adweek.

Interstitials could play the largest part in this new ad approach, mainly due to the fact that they’ve been successful thus far this year, with a “logical break point” for users to interact with, according to Google’s Jonathan Alferness. These ads managed to gain a better rate of engagement, with users looking at them for a greater period of time. Interstitials alone have managed to jump a whopping 43 percent between the first two quarters of this year, per AppFlood.

So what makes them tick Well, it’s a way these ads connect with the brains of users, utilizing a slick form of psychology. Interstitials have a way of connecting with users similar to ads from the older days of television, with something that feels more like an additional treat for viewers, rather than something to simply ignore or skip past.

Jane E. Raymond, professor off experimental consumer psychology at the University of Wales in Bangor, explained that “we actually process information in gulps. The brain goes out, grabs a bit of information, digests it, then grabs another bit.”

In addition, a study published in Psychology Today showed that, in a research project involving 300 students age 8 to 20, the general focus only spans about three minutes at a time. These students managed to look for various means of distraction, or something that would get their attention in that time frame. The introduction of an interstitial offers a form of interaction, if only temporary, and certainly something more well-meaning than a typically flat message.

An “isolation effect” can also play a huge part with interstitials, as people tend to recall things that stand out on their own end, even if they’re unexpected.

When it comes to how an interstitial can be effective, Madelijn Strick, a psychology researcher from the Netherlands, explained that two things are needed to make something like that work: a message that comes across the right way, usually with a sense of humor, and a delivery system, such as the Interscroller interstitial, that feels more natural and non-obtrusive.

Don’t be surprised to see more and more interstitials introduced in the market by this time next year.

Subaru’s Memory Lane Ad Pokes Fun

It’s not often you see a commercial that actually signifies a deeper meaning – as well as a playful little jab to the very company that produced it. However, that’s exactly what you get out of the new Subaru ad, produced by Carmichael Lynch.

In the ad, a pair of parents is driving on the road to Woodstock, with their daughter and hippie-based grandmother in the back seat. The trip is an interesting one, complete with stories about skinny dipping that are stopped short, as well as appreciation for air. However, it’s the end that’s interesting, as both the kid and the grandmother end up hugging a tree, while the parents look on in terms of both appreciation and slight confusion. They eventually join in, only for the grandmother to realize that it may not be the right tree.

The point of the commercial is that 97 percent of Subaru models produced in the previous ten years remain on the road, although the commercial itself effectively shows appreciation – and pokes fun – at the manufacturer’s usual stereotypes.

The ad has drawn quite a bit of attention since its debut on YouTube, as well as its fair share of humorous comments, mainly due to the inclusion of a hippie theme. “I like the idea of cool old people rather than just the Fox News watching scared old people who are afraid of their own shadow,” writes one viewer.

Another stated, “Whole family actually hugging a tree…for the love of God make it stop. Liberal Marxist whack jobs have thrown this country into a tail spin!”

The Carmichael Lynch agency almost didn’t go through with the ad, but eventually changed its mind. “Generational ads are really hard to do, and even tougher to do well,” Carmichael Lynch chief creative officer Dave Damman said to Adweek. “Add to that the huge challenge of cashing in some of the ‘tree hugger’ brand equity and spending it on the Summer of Love, 1969 mind-set, and it almost becomes something that if not done exactly right, you’d surely want to avoid. But it’s a genuine, compelling story, and because of this brand and what it stands for, it makes complete sense that the car they own is a Subaru.

“Much like the importance of the 1969 music festival, it’s a territory we felt can only be visited once, so it had to be the right story, and the right emotional fit. It’s rare that in one spot you can have nostalgia, heartfelt generational connections, and everyday ‘That’s my life’ humor. Identifying with the adventurous free spirit not only inspired the concept, but helped a great deal in bringing it to life. Lance Acord, the director, had an immediate connection—he proudly claimed that the grandma character was just like his own mother, and himself as the dad,” Damman added.

Meanwhile, creative director Randy Hughes explained, “Hugging the tree was something we felt we could laugh at and love at the same time.”

Watch the ad below and see for yourself.

{video link no longer active}

Stephen Colbert Tackles GamerGate Head-On

GamerGate has been making the rounds on social media for a couple of months now, eventually starting as an argument on ethics in gaming journalism but eventually shifting to an all-out war on female gamers, developers and producers. Now, Stephen Colbert has finally tackled the topic head-on, as last night’s Colbert Report had an opening segment talking about GamerGate.

Colbert first addressed the situation by poking fun at gamers, but got right down to business when he invited feminist blogger Anita Sarkeesian on the show to explain her side of things. Sarkeesian has been a huge target in the GamerGate controversy, to the point that she had to cancel an appearance in Utah due to a bomb threat.

Sarkeesian didn’t waste time addressing the problems with GamerGate. “I think women are perceived as being threatened because we are asking for games to be more inclusive,” she said. “We’re asking for games to acknowledge that we exist and that we love games.”

Recently reported numbers show that women playing games are on the rise, taking over both PC and mobile gaming mediums with larger audience numbers – just as equal as males.

When asked to define GamerGate, Sarkeesian explained that it is “men going after women in really hostile and aggressive ways,” and “terrorizing women for being involved in (the video game) industry.”

But Sarkeesian made her strongest point when Colbert explained that feminism shouldn’t scare off men from saving damsels in distress, simply stating, “Maybe the princess shouldn’t be a damsel and she could save herself.”

The full interview is below.


Here’s hoping the whole GamerGate controversy – and the hateful ones that support it – goes away sooner rather than later.


CREATIVE: Honda Shows You ‘The Other Side’

In order to fully experience Honda’s newest ad, you’ll have to watch it twice. Completely skinning Honda’s YouTube page, Honda shows that there’s definitely 2 sides to the Civic with an elaborate interactive experience where you are able to revert from the story of a family man and the gripping proceedings of a (we won’t spoil it) crime.

When the video finishes, you are able to slide to view either the Civic or the Civic Type R Concept and are prompted to share on social. The whole ad is a brilliant and cinematic way to display the features of both vehicles in a way that doesn’t feel like any other car ad.

See the hard edges and the soft side of the Civic on Honda’s YouTube page here.



Hulu Orders Half-Hour Comedy Series From Jason Reitman, Lionsgate

by Sahil Patel

Hulu has stated its desire to bet bigger on original programming in an effort to compete with Netflix and Amazon — and it’s following through on those claims.

Earlier this year, the company announced a deal with JJ Abrams, the filmmaker’s production company Bad Robot Productions, and Warner Bros. Television for an original series based on Stephen King’s JFK-assassination novel “11/22/63.”

Now the company has made another straight-to-series order from another prominent Hollywood filmmaker, Jason Reitman (“Up in the Air,” “Juno”), who will executive produce “Casual,” a single-camera comedy about a dysfunctional family comprised of a bachelor brother and a recently divorced sister.

The show comes from Lionsgate Television, and will follow the siblings as they coach other through their various misadventures in dating — while living under the same roof, and raising a teenager.

Spanning 10 half-hours, “Casual” will debut on Hulu in 2015. The series is written by Zander Lehmann, with Reitman on board to also direct the first episode.

“Jason Reitman uniquely blends comedy and drama in a way that touches the human spirit.  We are honored to work with him to bring the next distinctive voice, Zander Lehmann, to television,” said Craig Erwich, SVP and head of content at Hulu, in a statement.

“Casual” will be produced by Reitman’s Right of Way Films, and will begin production later this year. Executive producers include Reitman, Lehmann, and Reitman’s production partner Helen Eastbrook.

It’s the second original series between Hulu and Lionsgate, which also produces the supernatural comedy “Deadbeat.”



Electronic Arts Powers Ahead

The times are finally changing for Electronic Arts, after years of less-than-stellar returns. The transition of the company to embracing the new digital realities of the game industry has been a rough one, but things are finally looking pretty good for Electonic Arts, as the latest earnings report demonstrates amply. The company may well pass up arch-rival Activision in total revenue this year, which would certainly be the occasion for some high-fives among the executive team.

The numbers EA posted were impressive in many ways: The company’s net (non-GAAP) revenue of $1.22 billion beat the previous guidance of $1.14 billion, and earnings per share (EPS) of $0.73 was above the guidance of $0.50. Operating cash flow was also up by $189 million, and the company has now stacked up an impressive $2.39 billion in cash, and 67 percent of this cash and short-term investment balance is held onshore. That’s a pretty good war chest for funding strategic moves, whether that’s new game development, acquisitions, or marketing expenditures.

CEO Andrew Wilson noted some usage stats during the call. EA had 155 million monthly active users for mobile games during the quarter. “Mobile generated $115 million for the quarter, up 11 percent over the prior year,” noted CFO Blake Jorgenson. “$105 million, or 91 percent, of this was from digital extra content and advertising. This was up 35 perfect versus the prior year and continues to more than offset the decline in the premium business.”

Essentially, EA is going all-in on free-to-play in the mobile space, and the strategy is working. The company is doing very well with its sports titles on mobile, too, and it looks like those titles are helping to drive console game sales as well. Wilson noted that Madden games played are up 48 percent year-over-year, with 89 million games played this year. There are 50 percent more players online in FIFA 15, and the aggregate Ultimate Team player base increased by over 40 percent. EA Sports mobile game audiences are up over 250 percent from last year.

EA may not have a chart-topping mobile title like Clash of Clans, but it’s doing quite well overall with its mobile games. It does lead you to wonder if the company will be looking to create more original (or licensed) mobile games to try and garner some of the juicy revenue available at the the top of the top-grossing charts. It’s worth remembering that EA has the Star Wars license, and it’s easy to imagine some Star Wars mobile games that could do very well indeed if the movie does well.

Overall, despite the weakness of console game sales in general, EA has been doing well there. Wilson noted that gamers spent1.9 billion hours of playing EA games during the quarter — or, if you look at it another way, the company is making less than a dollar for every hour of fun. That’s a pretty good deal for gamers, though no doubt EA would like to boost that ratio a bit.

“EA’s non-GAAP net revenue was $1.22 billion, which was 17 percent higher than the prior year’s results and 7 percent above our guidance,” said Jorgenson. “The excellent performance was led by FIFA 15, Madden 15, and The Sims 4. ” EA announced that Battlefield Hardline is now set to launch on March 17, 2015 in North America, and that Star Wars Battlefront is headed for the holidays in 2015. Both of those titles are expected to do very well.

Moving on to other areas, the emergence of China as a huge and growing market for games has been hard for Western companies to take advantage of, in part due to the restrictions of the Chinese government that preclude non-Chinese companies from doing business easily without a local partner. EA is making progress in generating significant revenue from Asia, but there’s a lot of market potential the company is not yet realizing. FIFA Online 3 is one of the top games in revenue for Korea, so that’s a positive step.

Still, the truth is that EA needs to get substantially stronger than it is in the world’s largest game market. — China. On Asia, we don’t break out our revenues. It is obviously the smallest part of our international business,” said Jorgenson. That’s got to be a major area of concern for EA going forward, especially as Chinese companies are using their market growth to power acquisitions of Western game companies.

Meanwhile, the company continues its transition to becoming a more digital company than a physical one; on a GAAP basis the company’s digital revenue last quarter exceeded its physical revenue. “Full game PC and console downloads generated $94 million, up 71 percent over the prior year,” said Jorgenson. “Although the percentage varied considerably by title, platform, and geography, the trend towards full game downloads continues. Subscriptions, advertising, and other digital revenue contributed $91 million, up 47 percent over the same period last year.”

One way that EA is performing well is by improving its gross margins. In part, this is due to the higher-margin digital revenue taking an increasing share of the business, but Jorgenson also pointed out how reductions in marketing expenses have contributed to this. “Our non-GAAP gross margin for the quarter was 66.1 percent, an increase from last year’s 61.7 percent and better than our guidance of 65.5 percent. The increase over the prior year was primarily due to growth in our digital business, both full game downloads and extra content, and by The Sims 4 launch,” noted Jorgenson. “Our lower operating expenses compared to guidance were largely driven by quarterly phasing of key expenses in marketing and contracted services, combined with continued cost discipline. We expect some of these marketing and services costs to be incurred in future quarters.”

Activision will be delivering its earnings report on November 4, and it will be interesting to see how these two companies compare in their handling of the game industry transitions — and how successfully they are doing so.

For Millennials, Halloween Means Business

Gearing up for the holiday season Don’t forget about Halloween. According to Digiday, Halloween is now the second-highest grossing holiday after Christmas. That’s $6.9 billion spent on costume, decor, food sales, movies, music and more. Moreover, for millennials, Halloween is the holiday of chief importance.

A study conducted by ooVoo showed that Halloween is the #1 most favorite holiday for the storied age group. Couple that fact with millennials being the most active demographic on social media and what would really be frightening this Halloween is leaving that engagement on the table.

Halloween stirs up some oppportunities for a dialogue specific to the holiday. The conversation is largely fueled by DIY, self-expression and of course, nostalgia,


CREATIVE: Top Trailers For The Week: October 29

It’s time for another round of Top Trailers For the Week, highlighting the best features in TV, movies and video games. We’ve got a full batch of selections for you this week, so let’s get started.



Hot on the heels of last week’s trailer debut (and the revealing of a larger Marvel universe yesterday), The Avengers: Age of Ultron got an exclusive sneak peek that premiered last night on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This one features Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and other Avengers attempting to lift Thor’s hammer, with somewhat humorous results. The joke doesn’t last long, though, as the devastating Ultron (James Spader) eventually makes his presence known. The Avengers: Age of Ultron arrives in theaters on May 1st.


Not letting the Avengers have all the fun, Hayley Atwell’s Agent Carter also got a debut of her own last night, with a teaser for the forthcoming series that will debut in ABC in early 2015. The 8-episode event will focus on Atwell’s character, who was featured in a prominent role in the 2011 release Captain America: The First Avenger. The series will focus on her continued efforts in the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization in the 1940’s.


With Halo: The Master Chief Collection set to release in just under two weeks for Xbox One, Microsoft has released a new trailer for the game that focuses on the upgraded Cinematics for Halo 2 Anniversary, which is included in the package. As you can see, a lot of work went into the game’s remastering, as it resembles more of a science fiction film than a video game. The Master Chief Collection will arrive on November 11th.


Last but not least, even though it’s not tied in to any current promotions, Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame stole the show on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon when he chose to rap to Blackalicious’ “Alphabet Aerobics.” The performance is a tour-de-force, namely because it speeds up as the song goes along – and Radcliffe keeps up with it gracefully.