China’s Mobile Advertising On The Rise

Mobile advertising trends have certainly picked up over the last 12 months, with a number of companies trying to find new, non-obtrusive ways to appeal to the public. However, the Chinese mobile market could be even bigger, with over 527 million people using devices in the country. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that advertising has picked up even more over there.

The New York Times reported that the shift in advertising is quite a stark one, as three years ago, nearly half of the advertising dollars went towards television, while only 14 percent was devoted to digital devices. (This comes from statistics provided by ZenithOptimedia.)

Lately, though, more companies lean towards the digital front, with next year expected to show a huge shift towards more technologically based advertising and less on traditional television.

“It’s the first time we’ve had an enormous middle class emerge while being digitally connected,” said Jeff Walters, a partner with the Boston Consulting Group in Beijing. “It sets the stage for why digital advertising is so important.”

In the midst of it all are social sites, but not more worldwide-based ones like Facebook and Twitter, which are blocked in the country. As a result, more local favorites, like Tencent’s Weixin (WeChat) are thriving.

Other companies are benefitting as well, though. Coca-Cola has managed to use the WeChat QR code system as part of a Lyric Coke campaign, which features popular lyrics like “Baby I’m sorry” and “I love summer” that can be shared electronically – an ideal way to get the advertising message across without overwhelming the user.

With this set-up, more unique programs can be used to appeal to the casual Chinese device user, according to Shaun Rein, founder and managing director for the China Market Research Group. “What is happening is that Western brands have to create new aspirations that the Chinese consumer wants,” he explained.

That’s not to say it’s an easy process, as the landscape of Chinese internet can change at the drop of a hat, and marketers have to find new ways to keep up – in different ways than the United States and other overseas markets. Fortunately, some products, like Weixin, have no trouble keeping up to task.

“I’ve been here four years,” said Chris Jones, executive creator director for Wunderman ad agency in China. “In that time I’m now on the third dominant social network – first it was Renren, then Weibo and now it’s WeChat.”

Still, some companies need to be aware of certain campaigns that work – and ones that don’t – as they adapt to this new market. Grabbed the right way, however, there’s no reason why a savvy company can’t thrive within China over the coming year.

More details on the report can be found here.

Image source

Report: Alibaba Working On Game Console

China is experiencing a boom in mobile gaming and the continuing success of PC gaming. Since China lifted its ban on consoles, Microsoft has begun shipping the Xbox One, and the PlayStation 4 is coming soon. As if that’s not enough ways for Chinese to play games, another competitor could soon enter the fray – Alibaba.

Niko Partners has reported that the Chinese eCommerce giant, who usually deals in mobile circles, is hard at work on a high-end game console that could very well be as powerful – or even more so – than Sony and Microsoft’s current models.

The company has denied that such a system is in the works, but Lisa Cosmas Hanson, the managing director for Niko, explains that she heard the details through a very credible source, indicating that it’s on track to release sometime early next year.

This could be a tremendous move for the Chinese gaming market, which is in the midst of an upswing following the lift of a 15-year ban for consoles in the country. Both Microsoft and Sony have swiftly retaliated, with the Xbox One already available and the PlayStation 4 and Vita heading that way early next year.

However, Alibaba has more potential for success, since it’s a more mainstream name in the country with its mobile offerings. For good measure, if it could find a way to utilize Android technology into its system, it could easily use a number of its applications and games at launch.

“They have been talking to developers about potentially getting content, some of it domestically developed to avoid the headaches of foreign game content rules yet there are of course domestic content rules too,” explained Hanson.

The company has made some tremendous moves this year, raising $25 billion from its eCommerce business alone, as well as investing $120 million in Kabam and releasing a number of Western titles on the market, including Angry Birds: Stella from Rovio. Now it’s just a matter of time before it could possibly conquer the console market as well. Will Alibaba then look to bring this console to other countries as well The company has vast resources, and an ambition to match. This could make an impact in 2015… we’ll be keeping an eye on it.

Sony Considers Streaming Options For ‘The Interview’

Fear not, fans of James Franco and Seth Rogen’s comedic collaborations: Controversial new offering The Interview might have its day after all.

That is, if Sony can decide where they’d like to release it.

The Interview, a dark comedy from the minds behind Pineapple Express and This Is The End, centers on bumbling broadcast journalist Dave Skylark (Franco) and producer Aaron Rapaport (Rogen) as an interview with an unexpected fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, snowballs into an espionage-filled assassination attempt.

The film’s plot and leaked ending are believed to have served as the impetus for a major hacking attack on distributor Sony Pictures, an attack the FBI claims was the doing of North Korea themselves.

Major theater chains, fearing retribution over the film’s content, compelled Sony to cancel The Interview’s Christmas Day release. Now, with a completed $44 million movie on their hands and a public eager to see it, Sony is considering streaming video as a means of bypassing a traditional theatrical release.

The question, it seems, becomes which streaming service Sony will turn to.

There are several options, each with their own casts of sponsors and partners doubtlessly anxious to get in on the action of a well-liked comedy team’s newest film. Crackle, Sony’s in-house producer of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, is an obvious choice, though Sony spokeswoman Lauren Condoluci denied rumors they’d already selected it by stating they were “still exploring options for distribution”.

“There have been a lot of conversations about the robustness of various systems to be able to make sure they’re not hacked, if and when we put the movie out digitally,” added Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton in a recent interview. “I think, in general, we need to bring together a coalition of platforms to make this operate properly.”

Regardless, Sony’s intention to put The Interview through to release outside of theaters will make it arguably the highest-profile film ever to be subject to a mobile-first streaming strategy, albeit under extraordinary circumstances. Whether The Interview comes to Crackle, YouTube, PlayStation Now, or some other service, the audience it brings along with it will reap massive benefits for sponsors involved.

Also of note: Peer-to-peer file sharing giant BitTorrent has expressed an interest in taking The Interview off Sony’s hands, offering to utilize their paygate-enabling Bundle service for the benefit of both parties. “This is bigger than Sony at this point,” BitTorrent chief content officer Matt Mason said of their offer. “We can’t let this go, and by we, I mean the free world. When it comes to freedom of speech, what’s happening with this is really frightening. This film should come out, whether on BitTorrent or not, even if it’s the worst movie in the world.”

A Sony-BitTorrent partnership would carry a fair amount of irony along with it, as peer-to-peer services were instrumental in the propagation of Sony Pictures’ leaked documents after they’d been hacked.

VIDEO: Kevin Winston On Mobile-First Marketing

Kevin Winston loves mobile marketing. As the founder and CEO of DigitalLA and creator of the Silicon Beach Fest, he is one of Southern California’s foremost mobile marketing evangelists, attending and speaking at a wide variety of events in the region including [a]list summit.

We spoke with Kevin following his panel on The Future of Mobile Marketing to hear his thoughts on the importance of mobile-first marketing strategies.


How Game Marketing Will Change In 2015

The rapid changes in the game industry have been obvious for over thirty years, as we’ve progressed from graphics created by a few pixels to photo-realistic 3D movement, from a few thousand bytes of storage to dozens of gigabytes, from unconnected devices to a global high-speed Internet. Yet for most of that time period, game marketing stayed pretty much the same. For the late 20th Century, game marketing meant you had an art director create some box art, you wrote some box copy and took a few screen shots, then created an ad which you placed in the handful of leading game magazines timed to appear when the game would surface in retail stores. The next game is ready for the process by this time… Lather, rinse, repeat.

All that has changed as we entered the era of online games, digital distribution, games-as-a-service, social and mobile games. A vast array of new capabilities became available to marketers as games became liberated from the boundaries of the retail box. Social media, easy video sharing, massive amounts of data about customers and game usage and sales… and new business models fundamentally different from the game-in-a-box model all drove incredible changes in marketing.

Now marketing has begun to evolve rapidly, faced with the pressures of competing against not just a handful of games but hundreds of thousands of games, all readily available and most of the free to take for a spin. The competition is no longer making predictable moves, and it’s not always clear whether your competition is another game or some other activity like watching a video or spending time on social media. Marketers are now faced with an overwhelming array of choices, tools, media, methods and goals. Is it better to maximize the number of users or the revenue per user, or the long-term engagement How does the game design influence the marketing, and vice-versa How do you engage with the community, and is that more important than deciding on your acquisition techniques?

The [a]listdaily takes a look at some of the trends in game marketing to keep an eye on for 2015. Fasten your seat belts — we may encounter some turbulence ahead.

The Only Constant is Change
As the game market continues to expand, globally and demographically and technologically, the marketing strategies that worked best in the past will inevitably get less effective. For that matter, the more successful marketing tactics may become less effective through their sheer success — when getting into the top 100 list proved to be an effective way to kickstart viral uptake of a title, companies started spending heavily on app installs to make that happen. That drove up the price of paid installs to the point where it became too expensive for many games to make a profit, so now fewer companies try that strategy.

New types of ads will keep appearing, as will new technologies that help potential players get into a game. Interesting and creative tactics will be tried, and some will succeed, whereupon others will begin using those tactics as well. The only thing you can be pretty sure of is that sticking with the same marketing playbook month after month will sooner or later become less effective. Marketing is now surfing on the wave of technological change, and that means constant adjustments to stay on top of the wave. And you’d better be looking ahead, too, to make sure you don’t run into a rock or another surfer or a great white shark. If you expect to sit back and relax, you’d better be on vacation, because marketing will demand constant effort just to stay even.

The New Meaning of CMO: Community Marketing Officer
Marketing is no longer fully under your control in the gaming industry, not with the massive social media network and direct connections with every single customer not only possible, but expected. Marketing is not just about sending messages any more — it’s about engaging in a conversation, if you’re lucky. But it’s going further than that — your customers are becoming marketers of your products, and in some cases they are more influential than the marketing driven by the company.

Now there are YouTubers with millions of followers who can make a video extolling your game — or trashing it. The surprise hit game Flappy Bird had been languishing in obscurity until star YouTuber PewDiePie ranted about how terrible it was… whereupon his millions of followers downloaded it to see for themselves, and a phenomenon was born.

When your game has millions of fans, there are millions of potential voices talking about your game. Some of them will get amplified and have an outsized effect, and it’s impossible to tell when and where that will happen. Marketers are just beginning to grapple with this phenomenon, which will continue to strengthen in 2015. It’s time to figure out how to turn this to your advantage in the future, before it becomes a problem rather than an opportunity.

Master Chief, Marketer

Content is Conquering
Those days when you could craft a few messages for a product and then spend your time figuring out how to repeat them as much as possible within your budget are over. The customers want more information, more connection, more everything if they love your product — or if you want to convince them to love your product.

That means articles, stories, videos, music, artwork… either created in-house, or coming from the community and shared with them. This will become increasingly important in 2015, as companies strive to create lasting brands that can engage an audience for years. Releases of a game and its DLC can’t be frequent enough to satisfy the desire of fans to embrace the experience of the game endlessly. You’ve got to slake their thirst with more information somehow.

Creativity Gets More Valuable
Each marketing plan will be a snowflake, unique and beautiful… if it wants to have a chance of lasting longer than a typical snowflake, or having more of an impact than one. Marketing should be interwoven with every aspect of a game company, from the game design and development to the customer service and community relations, from finance to HR. Ideas can come from all parts of the company, and should resonate with all parts of the company.

Look at some of the very successful marketing tactics that are happening these days. BlizzCon, for instance, was a terrific way to connect to fans and excite them about products new and old, but it’s not a typical marketing technique. Events both physical and virtual are becoming a very interesting way to connect with fans, and we’ve only just begun to see the possibilities.

As the competition gets more intense at all levels, creativity will become even more valuable as a way to compete against companies with massive audiences or massive warchests. The opportunities for creative marketing have never been greater — witness the millions of views that videos can get on little or no budget, if the subject matter is interesting enough. We’re going to see some newer game companies get noticed in 2015, and it won’t always be due just to the creativity of the games. Creative marketing has its chance to make a huge difference in 2015 and beyond.

New Hardware Rumored From Microsoft, Nintendo

If there’s one thing that’s consistent in the video game industry, it’s that developers and publishers alike strive for the next innovation, in an effort to be “the next big thing” for their avid audience. This week, it appears that Nintendo and Microsoft are ready to get things moving for 2015.

Speaking with the Associated Press (via a story from Gamespot), Shigeru Miyamoto, director and executive for Nintendo, explained that the Wii U will remain a focus for the company heading into the New Year, although that isn’t stopping it from exploring new ideas for its next console.

“We’re focused on providing a robust line-up of Wii U software for next year,” he said. “It seems like we’ve managed to do that this year and people are very happy with what we’ve done on Wii U. For the time being, our focus is on the Wii U hardware, but Nintendo as a whole has groups working on ideas for new hardware systems. While we’re busy working on software for the Wii U, we have production lines that are working on ideas for what the next system might be.”

The iconic plumber Mario could also make a return with the new hardware. “From early on, I wanted Mario to be that character in the digital world, so that with each digital evolution, he was there to usher in the next era,” he explained. “I think that maybe when we release the next hardware system, you can look forward to seeing Mario take on a new role or in a new game.”

This follows the rumor earlier this week that Nintendo was looking to utilize Sharp technology in its latest hardware, although that remains unconfirmed.

Meanwhile, Gamespot also reported that Microsoft could have a big surprise planned for the Electronic Entertainment Expo next year, as it could be planning to introduce its own virtual reality headset., something that could compete with the Oculus Rift and Sony’s Prject Morpheus.

A Digitimes story explains that the Microsoft headset will work with the Xbox One console, and development is being handled by the same team that works with Microsoft’s Surface tablets. The company has been experimenting with virtual reality for some time, but stopped just short of confirming it was getting into the market.

When asked for an update, Microsoft simply stated, “We have nothing to share concerning these reports.”

Still, the move would make sense, especially considering that Sony is making huge forward progress with the Project Morpheus headset it introduced earlier this year at the Game Developers Conference. Oculus Rift is gaining leverage as well, especially with its purchase by Facebook for $2 billion. It’s starting to look like 2015 will be the year we see virtual reality launch into the consumer market, though whether it will sink or swim remains to be seen.

Google Rolls Out Mobile Sales Tool

Google, looking to provide advertisers information regarding the direct link between using a search ad and purchasing items in a store, have introduced a new tool that will enable better research in terms of how effects a search ad can be, according to Adweek.

Called “store visits,” the tool provides insight in terms of search ads, and how effective they can be measured up with local inventory and product listing ads.

It utilizes an algorithm that estimates which consumers go to a store in terms of seeing an ad online within a 30-day period. The data is measured using data collected via location history form devices, which is then given to advertisers so they can gauge the data. The data is anonymous, so that specific users aren’t pointed out in terms of spending habits.

Advertisers looking to use the program need to verify their location through the search giant, and then set up extensions via Google’s AdWords program, as well as registering an account. Only U.S. advertisers qualify for now, and will open up further leading into 2015.

Though the data is based more on guesswork (for the time being), some parties are certainly interested in details, such as Famous Footwear CMO Will Smith. “The insight that we’re getting from our partners at Google are really showing that the influence of online advertising is in fact not only getting people to shop at, but to shop our stores across the country as well,” he explained.

According to the information, approximately 15 to 17 percent of clicks on the ads result in an in-store visit, according to Smith. The company looks to display different products for promotion and change some of its in-store merchandising strategies via region as a result.

With brick and mortar-based stores still leading the way in retail sales (an estimated $150 billion by 2018, according to Forrester Research), this could be a great way to get even more people to visit them.

“Getting better insight into these new, complex purchase paths can help you optimize your online marketing programs, design better experiences for your customers and allocate budget more effectively,” said Google director of product management Surojit Chatterjee.

‘Install Addicts’ Add To App Downloads

When it comes to downloading apps, the average U.S. consumer manages to be rather steady when it comes to keeping traffic and interest. However, according to Flurry, these numbers are slowly on the rise, mainly due to a few avid users who have a greater use for mobile devices.

A report from Mobile World Live indicates that, according to Flurry, the number of apps downloaded in 2014 was around 8.8 per person on a monthly basis. That’s the same number reported back in 2013, and a .2 increase over 2012. (However, it’s a drop from the 8.9 reported back a year before in 2011.)

However, the report goes on to say that while 54 percent of consumers are downloading less than that, the “Install Addicts” are adding to it, averaging more than 17 apps a month on their devices. This group actually makes up a large chunk of the mobile audience, to the tune of 32 million people – 20 percent of the general customer base in the United States.

When it comes to measuring these “Addicts,” Flurry believes that 53 percent of them are female, with the other 47 percent being male. This is slightly different from the average mobile consumer spit, which slows 48 percent female and 52 percent male.

The report also broke down across different age brackets, as well as “personas,” including social enthusiasts, mothers, gamers, parenting and education.

“It is becoming clearer to us that what we call family devices (or shared devices, or hand-me-down devices) make up a good chunk of the Install Addicts audience,” said Simon Khalaf, Flurry president and CEO. “Such devices are for the mother or the father, but the children (teens) have access (and most likely passwords) to them and routinely visit the App Stores and download their new favourite app.”

A lot of the “Addicts” tend to discover apps through social channels, with people talking about them or via advertisements.

Flurry was also quick to note, “Despite the fascinating growth of app install ads, the vast majority of app downloads are still organic.” For this year, 93 percent of all app downloads fit into the organic category, a decrease of two percent compared to 2011’s 95 percent.

Could this change as the years go on and more apps are offered Possibly.


Facebook Ads Outperforming Mobile Display

Marketers are always looking for a way to get better outreach with advertising, working through mobile-based advertising and other means. However, according to Fiksu, Facebook could play a huge part in drawing the right kind of audience.

The company published a new report called Facebook Audience Network Investigation – Value Beyond CPI, and it provides an outlook to the performance differences between Facebook Audience Network ads, traditional Facebook news feed ads, and other display networks. The report looks closely at app marketing data across a number of Fiksu’s clients, which had campaigns running both in general display and on Facebook.

“The Facebook Audience Network provides value to marketers well beyond the app install,” said Sriram Krishnan, product manager for Facebook. “It was most interesting to see the conversion and LTV results come through so favorably in their research, further validating that the targeting power of the network was in line with news feed and far better than display networks.”

The research indicates the following:

-Higher number of returning users: 25 percent higher than display ads and just five percent lower than Facebook news feed

-Drastically lower cost per purchasing user: while Facebook news feed drove the lowest cost per purchaser, Facebook Audience Network was only 1/5 of the cost of display ads

-Increased revenues per purchasing user: the data shows revenue per purchasing user of $3.64 on Audience Network, and only $.15 on display traffic, presenting marketers with a huge 24 times increase in revenue potential. News feed revenue also performed well at $1.63, but didn’t match the Audience Network results. As such, these highlight the value of the loyal, high-quality users that can be found on the Facebook Audience Network

-Stellar conversion rate: while click-through rates were lower on Audience Network, the conversion rate was almost ten percent higher than news feed and 25 percent higher than display. This demonstrates the power of Audience Network’s targeting capabilities, as the users who did click had a much higher propensity to be the right users

“The research proves that the latest addition to Facebook’s mobile app ads, Audience Network, can be successful across a range of apps, thanks to the comprehensive tools they provide for segmentation and targeting,” said Craig Palli, chief strategy officer for Fiksu. “As our report indicates, it makes sense for marketers to spend more per click on Facebook properties since the ROI will be significantly better due to value of that segmentation, context and timing.”

GE Breakdances Into Streaming Documentary

With streaming services on the rise – and Netflix performing better than ever – it appears that General Electric wants to get a piece of the action. However, it’s doing so in a way that not many people would expect – through breakdancing.

Before you go thinking about Krush Groove or Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, realize that GE is following a different rhythm with its product. Shake the Dust is more of a documentary piece, one that looks into the fad of breakdancing and the worldwide movement it created in the process, according to Reuters.

Rap star Nas has hopped on board the project as an executive producer, and GE is looking to debut it through video streaming devices like Roku and Apple TV, as well as other avenues. For the time being, it’s set to make its debut next week, on Christmas Eve, through music video platform Vevo.

The move enables GE to enter the sponsored content realm, as it purchased the rights to release and sponsor the movie for the first two weeks of its release. The company also plans to introduce other videos that tie into it, including an interview with Nas and a video featuring former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart.

With the project, GE is looking to make a connection between neuroscience and music, something that will try to expand upon within the next coming year. With it, GE hopes to expand beyond the reach of typical television programming, according to Sam Olstein, director of innovation.

“We have been grappling with this challenge of how to reach the binge consumer that doesn’t watch TV,” he explained.

The sponsorship marks GE’s first foray into content such as this, and even though it isn’t long-term – the documentary’s creators will be able to seek out other distributors once the campaign concludes – it definitely marks a new step for them leading into the coming year.

It’s almost enough to make people want to do, ahem, the Robot.