Wevr Explains New Subscription VR Strategy

Virtual reality startup Wevr is working some big names across multiple industries to bring fresh content to virtual reality. In addition to developing Jon Favreau’s Gnomes and Goblins, the studio has just launched its first project with Deepak Chopra called Finding Your True Self. Wevr has also curated Tyler Hurd’s Tribeca Film Festival VR hit, Old Friend, for VR. The company has launched a new premium subscription tier within its transport service. For a $20 annual subscription, fans will get access to Chopra’s new VR offerings, Hurd’s work, Reggie Watt’s Waves and theBlu: Season 1.

Anthony Batt, co-founder and executive vice president of audience and marketing at Wevr, told [a]listdaily that additional content will be added to the service. For the short term, the annual subscription model will be the focus, but Batt hopes to move to a monthly model in the future once there are more steady content for subscribers. “I’d like to see it go monthly because the more money we bring in, the more money we can distribute to creators,” Batt said. “We’ll have enough content for a yearly subscription, and $20 is a pretty low ask.”

With the new premium tier, Wevr is embracing the VR creative community and helping establish a sustainable business model in these early days of content creation and experimentation for a small but growing consumer audience. “We’ve been putting headsets on thousands of people for the last three years and all of them love the content we’re making and want to have access to it,” Batt said. “Transport is a way to reliably deliver the content we’re making and our partners are creating. It’s a symbiotic relationship with the early adopters of VR technology.”

Transport is currently running on HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR and is in beta on Oculus Rift and Google Daydream. Batt said all platforms, including Sony’s PlayStation VR, will be rolled out by early 2017.

“Our business is linked to the purchase patterns of consumers on the hardware side, we’ll grow with the industry and we’ll support content creators,” Batt said. “From a high level, we think—pulling back from VR specifically—that subscription services are a good thing for everybody. They add some predictability to one’s business model. Like what we’ve seen with HBO or Netflix, when they get into a good grove with their audience they can provide the content they love.”

Batt said creatives continue to make great VR content and there’s a need for establishing a relationship between Wevr and the emerging audience. “That’s the way media is going to work in the future and VR won’t be any different,” Batt said.

Batt said Transport is focused on immersive and experience-based VR, not gaming. The company is looking for content that connects with the Transport brand.

“Wevr’s brand is high quality native VR,” Batt said. “Transport’s brand is about indie creators making high quality native VR. Our initial lineup of content goes from Tyler Hurd, to Reggie Watts, to Deepak Chopra and theBlu. These are all highly immersive, story-based, made-for-VR experiences. We’re not looking to make a space shooter game. That wouldn’t be on brand for us.”

Batt also wants to help VR makers who aren’t making games. Gaming has been a focal point for major platforms with Oculus, Sony, Samsung, Google and HTC all investing in game development. The non-gaming sector has received a lot of funding from investors, but it’s an area that Batt believes still needs help finding an audience.

“We think our partners have made some of the best VR in the market,” Batt said. “When a person walks away thinking that was great, it’s good for the entire VR industry.”

Wevr will continue to host stand-alone events across the country, inviting consumers to put on a headset and check out its content. “We’re physically putting together events so people can try VR without buying the headsets,” Batt said. “Even if it’s just thousands of people we’re reaching, that’s important. These events allow us focus on and develop a relationship with people who don’t have VR headsets but want to try VR.”

Batt said the heavy marketing Samsung is currently running, including television commercials with people experiencing Gear VR, is also good for the entire ecosystem. “Samsung’s amazing marketing is good for the entire industry,” said Batt. “It’s not even clear what people are doing, but it generates questions like: ‘what is that headset on their face?’ VR is the future and people are addicted to tech and the future. So this gets ads like that get the conversation going.”

Actor Alan Tudyk Discusses ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ And ‘Con Man: The Game’

Actor Alan Tudyk can notch a few more achievements off his bucket list. The Firefly actor can be heard in Disney’s latest blockbuster, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as the newest droid in the universe—K-2SO. Tudyk performed the motion capture for the CGI character live on set alongside the rest of the cast at London’s Pinewood Studios.

Tudyk is also a successful cross-platform creator thanks to Con Man, a hit digital comedy series he created with PJ Haarsma and Nathan Fillion. Season two is available now on the Comic Con HQ subscription service. Con Man has also been expanded to a free-to-play mobile game, which is also a hit with genre fans.

The actor, who can also be heard as Heihei in Disney’s blockbuster Moana, joined [a]listdaily to talk about the power of crowdfunding and why he’s excited about Electronic Arts’ Star Wars Battlefront VR game.


The thing about this movie that’s interesting is it’s an original Star Wars story, so you’re stepping back into a world that people are familiar with. What was that like for you?

I think it’s a much more personal movie. It’s a more intimate movie in that way, but it’s just a standalone story. It’s a story where we have a mission and we have to complete the mission. And it’s about how to do that. Spoiler alert—we’re successful, so it has to be a good story since you already know that we get away with it. But it’s shot in a more intimate way and it just has that—not smaller, but it’s more intimate is the right word.

Can you talk a little bit about the new U-Wing spaceship?

I think we were only interior on the U-Wing. There were portions of the U-Wing in pieces. It wasn’t like the X-Wing fighters. Several of them were just parked there. It was impressive and exciting to be like a little kid running around going, ‘oh my God, it’s real!’ And to see that smoke coming out of the bottom of them. But the U-Wings were big set pieces, almost like a room that you walked into, and the spaceship is in there. You’re inside the ship. So from our perspective you’re inside the spaceship looking out of the windows, holding onto the controls, calling down on the radio. In that way it was more practical than anything I’ve ever done. I flew a spaceship for Joss Whedon in Firefly and our spaceship never moved, really. The Star Wars spaceships move, so that was exciting.

The Rogue One movie was also the very first one to actually use virtual reality during production. Were you able to look in and see any of that stuff? 

I didn’t, I never looked at any of that.

The other VR angle is that Star Wars Battlefront is coming out with the Rogue One X-Wing VR Mission, so you’ll be able to play that on PlayStation VR once the movie launches.  What are your thoughts as someone who’s played games in the past about VR and what that opens up?

Oh my God! It opens up your schedule to getting lost. I love VR stuff. It’s amazing. I can’t wait to play it in the Star Wars universe. I think it’s going to be the future in gaming for sure. I know a lot of people who want to play games and don’t have the time to learn the controller . . . if they’re coming to it later in life. Unlike these kids, who are now born with extra joints in their hands, because they can beat me every time. I don’t know how they’re wired. But with VR, anybody can pick it up and just start playing in as many worlds as are possible. I can’t wait. I think it’s a good idea.

So, we’ll see more challenges than finding the Hawaiian-shirted driver? 

To a lot of people, it’s funny, man. I’m terrible at it. That, and finding the medicine for the sick guy is just, uh . . . you make your messes all over the place. The game really sucks you in. I’ll set up my Con real quick and collect some money and then 20-to-30 minutes later, I’m still in there typing away, killing aliens.

It’s cool to see the posters on the wall with Nerd HQ and Comic-Con HQ that tie into the real San Diego Comic-Con. Where did the idea for this Con sim game come from?

PJ Haarsma and I were taking Con Man around—before Nathan (Fillion) came on—to different production companies. We spent a lot of time during that year-and-a-half dreaming about what would be cool to do with this world. We saw it was deep, and not just the show within the show. We wanted to do comic books of the show within the show and the game, and have comic books in the game. That concept of managing a Con that you build up and manage is my game. It’s not just a game I’m playing. I still show it to people and say, ‘look this is my game.’ I’m very proud of it.

Con Man: The Game has received great reviews from players. How validating is that for you?

Frima did a great job. I couldn’t be prouder. We crowdfunded it. And one of the things that happens with crowdfunding is people get ideas that are often really great and then it takes a really long time for them to follow through on the funding—if ever. We started working on this game right after we finished the first season. We went to Comic-Con to premier the trailer for season one and that Sunday we flew to meet with Frima. We had already been choosing artwork for the game, so we sat down and flushed out a lot of other stuff. And we’ve been building it ever since. So we didn’t wait at all on anything. We just went, ‘let’s do it all at once.’ And we have. It’s a bit overwhelming, but I’m so glad it came out and it just looks so good.

Will we see the second season of Con Man impact the game world?

Absolutely. We’ve already got ideas for season two, where there’s a whole other group of stories and characters and Cons to come. Just like last season, where we had two conventions within the season. One was the Ex Con and the other one was the Ba Con. This year we have the Long Con and the Shaka Con, which is the biggest Con of all. There’s a bunch of new characters, and each character has their own history and the movies that made them stars in this world. Some of them are actual celebrities like Lou Ferrigno, who plays himself. But then Leslie Jordan, who appeared last season, was getting ready to go play a mad scientist in this first superhero movie. Now he’s made that movie and he’s become a success and he’s doing a dark origin story, so there’s that movie that can be reflected in the world. There could be fandom around that and collectibles around that. It just grows and grows and grows.

Have you thought at all about a console game?

We haven’t talked about it. I think if there’s some way to grow it within the mobile platform, I would love to do something that takes what Pokémon GO did.

With augmented reality gaming? 

Yeah. Definitely something that could build out that way. But we don’t have any immediate plans to do that. We’re focused on Con Man and then integrating those storylines for the game. And building and expanding the game as it is so that it can keep up with people’s skill level. It’s surpassed me pretty quickly.

Tapjoy Brings Rewarded Ads To The Line Messenger App

Rewarded advertisements aren’t just for gaming and music—the same concept of interacting with an ad in exchange for rewards has come to Line’s free messenger app and is now available to more than 220 million active users. Line offers free one-to-one and group messaging, voice and video calls. Line users are now able to earn “Line Points” for free by engaging with advertisements, serviced by Tapjoy. These points can be traded for premium in-app stickers, themes and other types of content on the Line messenger app to enhance the messaging experience.

Tapjoy ads employ an interactive, gamified element in which users swipe the screen to brush teeth, paint nails or drive a car, just to name a few. Tapjoy offers thousands of opt-in, rewarded ads from hundreds of big brands and trusted partners such as Lego, Starbucks, Clorox and Google. With this new partnership, Tapjoy ads will be visible in more than 200 countries and also reflects a change in how advertising is used.

In this Sephora ad serviced by Tapjoy, users earn rewards by painting a woman’s fingernails different colors. (Source: Tapjoy)

“This partnership signifies the continuing shift away from traditional, interruptive advertising and towards rewarded advertising as the preferred method for the entire ecosystem,” Shannon Jessup, chief revenue officer of Tapjoy, told [a]listdaily. “It provides yet further evidence that rewarded ads aren’t just for gaming apps, and that publishers in any category can benefit from an ad model that delivers value for users and advertisers alike.”

A major problem for advertisers, especially on mobile, is a rise in ad blockers. When a user actively seeks out an ad for the purpose of gaining rewards, ad blockers are no longer a problem.

“Video ads have performed exceptionally well on our platform,” Jessup said, “and we foresee them working just as well in a messenger environment. Videos provide a great user experience because they’re simple to engage with and they provide strong entertainment value. Those same characteristics carry over into any app type. We also expect rich media ads to do well, and we look forward to seeing how emerging ad formats like playables and even 360-degree ads perform.”

One ad format that may emerge in the near future is engaging directly with a brand via chat bot.

“We are always trying to stay one step ahead of the curve when it comes to facilitating new ad formats and new types of engagement,” Jessup explained. “We’re also always seeking ways that brands can create unique campaigns based on the context created by our publishing partners. Our platform is flexible enough that advertisers are really only constrained by their own creativity, so we’d love to see advertisers come up with a chat bot-based engagement campaign. It would certainly make perfect sense given the Line integration.”

“While this marks the first time that our ads will run in a mainstream messaging app, we have total confidence that the ads will perform very well. Line has proven itself to be one of the stickiest and most engaging app experiences in the world, so Line users will surely engage with rewarded ads in order to earn Line Points.”

Wrangler Is Rockin’ Country Content With Its Digital Lifestyle Network

Wrangler is more than just an apparel brand, and Brett Favre’s favorite source for denim. In three years, the western lifestyle company has turned the Wrangler Network into a leading digital destination and content-creation machine that’s been expanding well beyond rodeo and bull riding.

After penning a content pact with Universal Music Group Nashville in November, the three-year old site is now serving as an online and mobile publisher, already scoring such hits as a free livestream concert with Country Music Hall of Fame singer George Straight at the historic Gruene Hall in San Antonio in front of an invitation-only crowd. The musician, owner of 60 number one hits, has been associated with Wrangler since the ‘80s and even has his own line of branded apparel.

Straight’s concert last month was received with much fanfare. The network scored viewers from 42 countries and generated more than 14 million media impressions. The Facebook Livestream has reeled in 1.1 million-plus views to date. It was the first in a series of concerts that will be livestreamed on the site. Wrangler, which is owned by VF Corporation, livestreams 120 events each year.

Based on the million-plus monthly visitors on the site and more than 27,000 app downloads, the content marketing ploy is forging connections among consumers. With six-figure ad deals, the full-on, standalone site’s ad revenue has jumped 100 percent from 2015 to 2016, per The Wall Street Journal. MGM Grand, Resistol, Pendleton Whisky and cooler brand Yeti are just some of the brands who are currently saddled to the site as sponsors.

Craig Errington, vice president of marketing at Wrangler, joined [a]listdaily to explain why they are champing at the bit to create more compelling content for their loyal consumer base.

Why is Wrangler aligning itself to content creation?

Our goal is to enhance our fans’ accessibility to the things they love and are most passionate about. We recognize that consumers are constantly on the move, and that we must meet them with entertaining and engaging content they want to identify with. The Wrangler Network generates content that is so unique and appropriate for our core audience, while also catering to an aspirational consumer that dreams of the Western way of life. Wrangler and the Wrangler Network understand the Western and country lifestyles—it is what our heritage was built on, and our content is created and served to evoke emotion and passion for rodeo, country music and all things outdoors. This was ultimately the motivation for instituting the Wrangler Network, and why millions of fans have elected to engage with our lifestyle content.

How does this partnership with Universal Music Group help you reach a target audience, and eventually to a sales increase for Wrangler apparel?

Wrangler has long been synonymous with the Western and country lifestyles. Our most recent agreement with the largest country music record label in the industry—Universal Music Group Nashville—allows the Wrangler brand to further align with our staunch country music audience. The agreement will bring new and exciting video content exclusively to the Wrangler Network, allowing us to connect to our fans natively and organically. Our main goal is to enhance our fans’ accessibility to the things they love. By connecting with consumers through relatable, relevant content, we hope current and potential Wrangler consumers will be inspired by what we are doing and purchase our products to show support for the brand they love.

What is the marketing strategy for the Wrangler Network?

The Wrangler Network marketing strategy utilizes multichannel content distribution through the Wrangler brand accounts, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The Wrangler Network is a leading content generation source for Wrangler, allowing us to distribute unique content gathered all over North America. For example, the Wrangler Network livestreamed a rodeo in Saint-Tite, Quebec, Canada, capturing content from the L’échange de Cavaliers (exchange of riders) Gymkhana competition. The video went viral on the Wrangler Facebook page, receiving 2.7 million-plus views to date. We offer quality content that relates to a wide variety of different audiences. The process of generating intriguing content through the Wrangler Network and distributing that across a Wrangler social media landscape that consists of upward to three million fans is something that is truly unique and special among consumer brands.

Why is digital music an increasingly key tactic for marketers looking to reach mobile users?

Regardless of the industry, all consumers enjoy streaming their favorite songs on their mobile devices. Music has the power to produce positive feelings and recreate memories. By syncing music with a brand, the two become interchangeable. Our consumers are particularly passionate about country music. It’s important that we offer an experience using music to connect with people who follow Wrangler where they are in the moment. As mobile usage continues to grow, we want to be there with our fans every step of the way and feel music is one of the best ways to connect with our audience.

Aside from music, what kind of branded content do you think best speaks with consumers?

In order for content to resonate with consumers, it should touch on more than one human sense. Since our branded content is available through a mobile device, the only two available are sight and sound. Being able to combine the two with the use of video allows the Wrangler consumer to be entertained in a way that makes them feel like they are part of the action. By offering unique access to rodeo events, never-before-seen interviews and country music performances, Wrangler is creating a unique experience in which fans can access the content that is most important to them at their convenience. We are investing heavily in video content because we recognize that video can extend our brand experience to users who would otherwise not have access to it.

The Wrangler Network is all about online streaming. Are there any new digital and social platforms you are experimenting with?

The Wrangler Network was a pioneer in branded content platforms, especially in the Western and country lifestyle space. We are constantly looking for ways to push the boundaries and bring our fans the latest content experiences, which was the inspiration for the UMG Nashville agreement. In addition to bringing fans the latest in country music the Wrangler Network has experienced great success utilizing Facebook Live, registering thousands of additional views for our content. As a media entertainment entity, we are also testing virtual reality. We cover some of the wildest and toughest sports in the world, so VR is a natural fit for our content.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Branded Content: Consumers Say “Make It Personal,” Or Forget It

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” While this quote is inspirational as it applies to everyday interactions, it turns out this is especially true when it comes to branded content . . . but only if that content is personally relevant to the consumer.

Eighty eight percent of consumers say that personally relevant branded content positively influences how they feel about the brand, according to a joint study by OneSpot and Marketing Insider Group. More than two-thirds of consumers say that branded content is at its best when it educates or informs them, but of the 1,500 US consumers surveyed, only 17 percent named entertainment as the most important factor.

“More than ever, consumers expect and demand a personally relevant experience wherever they go and whatever they do digitally,” said Adam Weinroth, chief marketing officer for OneSpot, in a press release. “Findings from this research reinforce the need to make personalization a strategic priority for brands to remain relevant to consumers. Digital marketers who leave this irreversible trend unaddressed are missing a tremendous business opportunity and placing their brands and business results at risk.”

Source: OneSpot

Brands who produce thought-provoking content make the most impact, the study found. Consumers find content that “informs” (40 percent) and “educates” (28 percent) to be the most valuable. Surprisingly, only 17 percent say branded content that “entertains” is the most valuable while 11 percent want to be inspired.

“I really like how-to videos,” one respondent said. “Showing common and unusual uses for a brand gets me thinking about how I might be able to solve one of my own problems with the brand.”

Above all, content needs to be relevant, OneSpot warns. Forty five percent of consumers won’t spend time with branded content if it’s not relevant to their interests. This is especially true for reaching a millennial audience—51 percent of millennials are less interested in a brand’s products and services if branded content it doesn’t fit the bill. Getting it right yields plenty of rewards, though, with 88 percent of consumers responding that personally relevant content improves how they feel about a brand. Likewise, this type of content increases purchase intent for 78 percent and 50 percent say they would pay more for products and services.

When citing the most important categories for personally relevant content, consumers ranked health and wellness at the top with 72 percent, followed closely by food (71 percent) and electronics and technology (66 percent). This is interesting, because food brands have debuted quite a few branded content series this year.

The Earliest Show
The Earliest Show, presented by Quaker, focuses on the story of a news anchor’s very public break-up while periodically promoting Cap’n Crunch through purposely zany infomercials. (Source: Quaker)

Nutella and Starbucks, for example, both decided to create inspirational content for its audiences in 2016. Nutella’s feel-good series Spread the Happy tells the stories of individuals who make the world a better place by spreading kindness to others. Starbucks began a similar campaign in September with Upstanders, an original series that aims to inspire positive change amidst cynicism in the United States.

Meanwhile, Geico and Quaker have taken the entertainment route for its customers with comedy. Geico promoted its eSports sponsorship of SoloMid with TSM’s New Neighbor—a comedy series about an obnoxious neighbor who can’t get enough attention from the professional gamers. Cap’n Crunch teamed up with Funny or Die to create a comedy series called The Earliest Show that targets millennials watching TV in the middle of the night.

If you’re wondering where consumers are discovering this type of content, 50 percent of consumers surveyed cited Facebook as a primary discovery channel, followed by email and search—both at 29 percent, respectively.

The Nobel Peace Prize VR Concert Shows How #PeaceIsLoud

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, this year for his efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war—described as the longest-running conflict in the Western hemisphere—to an end. Santos called the prize “a gift from heaven,” and both he and his country had plenty to celebrate on Saturday night. The occasion was further marked by the Nobel Peace Prize Concert held the following evening in Oslo, Norway.

The concert, hosted by late night talk show host Conan O’Brien, featured performances by Sting, Highasakite, Halsey, Icona Pop and others. It was also livestreamed in virtual reality, which marks the first event in a multi-year partnership between Digital Domain, the Nobel Peace Prize Concert producers Gyro AS and Warner Bros. ITVP Norge AS and the Telenor Group. The 360-degree broadcast can be experienced using the Nobel Peace Prize Concert’s PeaceIsLoud VR app on both iOS and Android, on the Nobel Peace Prize Concert’s website, or its Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels.

Digital Domain’s COO, Amit Chopra, told [a]listdaily: “The Nobel Peace Prize Concert is a prestigious event with a meaningful goal, and we’re proud to use our advanced technology to help share its message of peace with a passionate and increasingly connected global audience.”

Rich Flier, managing director of business development for Digital Domain, also spoke with [a]listdaily about its partnership to express how “peace is loud” across both real and virtual spaces.

What led to the partnership to broadcast the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in VR?

Our European partners Gyro AS, Warner Bros. ITVP Norge (Warner Bros. AS) and Telenor were looking to marry music, vision and cutting-edge technology to amplify the important work of The Nobel Institute and its celebrated laureates, so the relationship was a very good fit from the outset. It’s worth noting that these partnerships will extend to several additional immersive experiences going forward. This event is uniquely important to us, as it’s entertainment for an important cause. We’re working with our partners to amplify the Nobel Institute’s “peace is loud” message to a global audience. It’s an incredible honor to play an active role in sharing this prestigious event with the world and we cannot imagine a more worthy application of our technology and creativity.

How does the VR experience compare to a traditional broadcast?

In comparison to a traditional broadcast, 360 productions give the audience an opportunity to actively engage in an immersive experience that truly transports them to the center of the action. Viewers from around the world can experience live events in 360-degrees, as if they were a member of the physical audience—allowing them to the freedom to take in their surroundings, even if they’re watching the livestream from their living rooms halfway around the globe. Using our apps, viewers are even given the ability to change their perspective of the event by switching to different cameras, rather than watching what’s fed to them in traditional broadcasts.

How does the Nobel Peace Prize concert fit in with Digital Domain’s other VR content?

Like our livestreams of the Country Music Association’s 2016 CMA Fest and the Today Show concert series’ performance by DNCE, Digital Domain is providing the best seat in the house to technology and music enthusiasts alike. We’ve developed technologies that capture the concert’s sounds and surroundings to create a sense of presence for audiences everywhere. With our cameras and broadcasting tools, viewers now have a seamless connection to the live event.

How are you spreading awareness of this VR broadcast?

The Nobel institute and Telenor Group are the producers of the event, and therefore leading the charge in spreading awareness about the platforms available for tuning into the livestream. The artists themselves, including concert host Conan O’Brien, are participating in the cause with videos and social posts about the livestream. Our primary responsibility is to ensure the broadcast goes off without a hitch.

How do you think an event like this concert grow adoption of VR content among consumers?

Adoption of VR will be driven by the content itself. The more engaging and transportive the experience, the more consumers will immerse themselves in this technology. With a 360 livestream, we’re giving audiences around the globe the experience of actually being in the concert hall, sharing in the live event and viewing their favorite artists and entertainers in a way they cannot otherwise. It’s the next stage of evolution for the broadcasting industry, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it in these early stages.



Hyundai’s Mobility Vision Is Driving Forward With The Ioniq Unlimited Platform


Hyundai made one of the more significant splashes of the Los Angeles Auto Show last month when the Korean car manufacturer introduced a subscription-based ownership model essentially made for millennials.

Billed as Ioniq Unlimited, the innovative, stress-free ownership concept is designed to market Hyundai’s Ioniq line of zero-emission, eco-focused vehicles by offering a negotiation-free, single-payment method.

How does the internet-based buying experience work, exactly? Ioniq shoppers will be able to select one fixed payment that includes unlimited mileage, electric charging costs, scheduled maintenance, wear items and all typical purchase fees such as registration and down payments. They then receive a quote to take to the dealer to complete the transaction. The pilot program will launch in California early next year. The price points consumers can expect to pay have not yet been announced.

The transaction-simple project will be paired with a marketing partnership with WaiveCar to give consumers a chance to drive Ioniq cars on-demand for two hours at no charge. The only catch is that the cars are wrapped in ads and include a roof-mounted digital display that generates ad revenue to offset costs.

Hyundai expects millennials to be their primary buyers in 2017, and their new strategy with Ioniq Unlimited and alternative-propulsion vehicles completely aligns the company with their expectations. According to an April report from Bankrate, among all age groups that were surveyed, millennials are most likely to purchase a vehicle in the next 12 months. The most populous generation in the US is radically changing the go-to market approach for car companies.

Dean Evans, chief marketing officer for Hyundai Motor America, joined [a]listdaily to thoroughly detail the new direction of which Hyundai is driving its brand.

At the LA Auto Show, Hyundai’s message about no longer being just about cars was rather clear. How are you democratizing new technology while staying at the intersection between health and mobility? 

The emergence of telematics and connected cars have converged the automotive and technology industries. Today, it’s to the point that automobiles, connectivity and technology are intrinsically linked and interchangeable moving parts at motor shows and consumer electronics events everywhere. With that shift, our mission has now moved well beyond providing products to transport people from Point A to Point B. We no longer just build vehicles, we’re in the business of providing consumer mobility. And we’re committed to doing that ‘Better’ on behalf of our customers.

‘Mobility’ can mean many things, depending on who you ask. For Hyundai, mobility isn’t just about cars and trucks. It’s about how we move, communicate and interact with the world around us. In Hyundai’s vision of the future, mobility is environmentally friendly, it’s infinitely connected, it’s easy to access, and it’s safe. The initiatives we’ve been advancing on our own for some time are absolutely helping to make that vision a reality.

Our Blue Link telematics system, our integration of smartwatch controls and Amazon Alexa, and rapid adoption of Android Auto and Apple Car Play interfaces have put us at the forefront of providing products that can not only exceed the automotive needs for owners, but actually improve their daily lives. The newest tangible element of Hyundai’s mobility vision is our electrified Ioniq lineup. Ioniq is much larger and broader in scale than just a fully dedicated platform offering three distinct propulsion systems. It really serves as a linchpin for all our future mobility initiatives. We call it ‘Project Ioniq’ because it’s more than just a great new product—it’s a way to concentrate thought leadership and incubate these great ideas and bring them to life.

The Ioniq Unlimited sounds like it is Hyundai’s way to get millennials to subscribe to cars. What are the strategy and initiatives for the novel-alternative model work? And how are you trying to challenge convention?

We are challenging convention by listening to our customers and offering new ways for our customers, including millennials, to engage with and experience our brand. We’re excited to offer Ioniq Unlimited as an innovative, worry-free means of clean, zero-emission vehicle ownership with our new Ioniq Electric vehicle. This new ownership experience adds to the satisfaction of driving a no-compromise, clean vehicle with unlimited mileage and zero hidden costs. It was time to make clean vehicle ownership easy for everyone.

Hyundai CMO Dean Evans

How do you see subscription model services further developing in the future? Do you think there is a sustainable appetite in the space among consumers?

The subscription model will be simplified and better meet the needs of our customers. Our brand is focused on ‘Better’—meaning we focus on improving the lives of customers through better thinking and better products. Hyundai is adding value to that experience, by creating a better ownership model with the Ioniq Unlimited plan. The Ioniq Unlimited plan gives customers a different path to emission-free mobility while eliminating the confusion of purchasing or leasing a vehicle.

Traditional add-ons like registration, doc fees and other miscellaneous expenses are included, so the price you see is the price you pay. What differentiates the Ioniq Unlimited ownership experience from a traditional purchase or lease is that it covers all vehicle ownership and operating costs. In one simple monthly payment, subscribers get a ‘no compromise’ EV with America’s best warranty, and lifetime battery warranty. To make purchasing an Ioniq Unlimited subscription even easier, we’re also offering a unique online buying experience. Customers can select a vehicle from their preferred dealer’s inventory, choose the term, and then simply go to the dealership to complete the purchase. At the dealership, there’s no haggling or hassle. It’s a completely transparent, stress-free and an entirely ‘Better’ purchase experience.

What is the toughest task when it comes to marketing electric, hybrid and plug-in vehicles? What’s the message you want to convey to millennial consumers?

Currently, there are a large group of consumers that consider purchasing an electric, hybrid or plug-in vehicle, but ultimately choose a traditional gas engine car. Our biggest challenge is convincing these ‘fence sitters’ that alternative-powered vehicles are right for them. We’ve found that one of the main reasons they don’t select an electric, hybrid or plug-in is because of customer anxiety over the unknown when it comes to the technology and ownership experience. Customers are limited many times by either lack of understanding in terms of the lease, cost of charging, cost of ownership, maintenance and miles limitations of these newer technologies. We’ve listened to the customer and are addressing these challenges with the Ioniq Unlimited program. We simplify all the challenges, we answer their questions for ease and joy of ownership. We want to show our customers that we listened to their concerns and this is our solution. 

How are you going to get the word out about subscription model? Is influencer marketing a strategy you see working here? Has Hyundai had success with influencers in the past?

It’s too soon to discuss the specifics of our marketing plan, but we are looking at various ways of communicating this exciting new ownership model to customers. Influencers have been and will continue to be an important part of the way we market our cars today. They have a great ability to reach audiences and tell stories in a way that is authentic to their fans.

Why is it critical to reach consumers interested in Ioniq in experiential ways with partnerships likeHow will you measure the success of this specific activation?

Our partnership with WaiveCar gives consumers the ability to drive Ioniq EVs on-demand for two hours at no charge. This is a stress-free, commitment-free way for potential customers to give Ioniq a try. We feel these types of opportunities for potential customers open up additional paths for customers to feel comfortable and informed before making a purchase decision.  

What kind of presence will you have at CES? What can we expect?

At CES in January, we’re demoing a fully autonomous Ioniq concept on the neon-and-sunlit boulevards of Las Vegas and will also be demonstrating Hyundai Exoskeletons. You will be able to see our robotic exoskeletons that enable paraplegics to walk again, empower the military to run up to 12 kilometers per hour with assistive joint torques, and give factory workers the ability to lift up to eight times what they normally can with ease. At our press conference, we will show mobility and eco-friendly transportation—developed both independently and collaboratively with industry-leading partners demonstrating future technologies in connectivity, autonomous driving, health care and personal. The exoskeletons will be featured along with 12 additional tech items spanning the connected home, healthcare and autonomous vehicles at the Hyundai booth.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Amazon Imagines ‘The Man In The High Castle’ As Man Of The Year

Last week, Time revealed president-elect Donald Trump as its Person of the Year with the caption, “President of the Divided States of America”—resulting in about as much controversy and online arguments as you’d imagine. But what if the US was literally divided? This is the concept behind Amazon’s original series, The Man In The High Castle—Philip K. Dick’s vision of America if the Nazis had won World War II and occupied the country.

Within each of Trump’s Person of the Year issue is another six-page issue of Time magazine dated 1963 (set during the events of the TV series) paying tribute to “The Man In The High Castle.” Inside is an article that outlines this mysterious figure and how his films cause a stir among American citizens by providing hope for a world other than the dystopian reality they currently endure.

“Since its defeat in 1947, the United States of America has been ruled by the victorious Axis powers; Germany in the east, Japan in the west,” the article reads. “But one man is shaking these foundations with his mysterious films. Who, we ask, is he?”

The Man In The High Castle Time magazine

The idea of America under Nazi rule is disturbing enough, but Amazon hasn’t been shy with its controversial marketing efforts. Last year, subway commuters in New York were surprised to find one car decked out with a Nazi version of the American flag, as well as a stylized flag inspired by imperial Japan. Residents were so disturbed by the imagery that Mayor Bill de Blasio requested they be removed and Amazon complied within hours.

For season two, Amazon has released a billboard in New York City showing the Statue of Liberty making a Nazi salute, which has been met with a similar amount of controversy and outrage—particularly during this time of political strife. The premise behind The Man In The High Castle is meant to disturb American viewers who might take their freedom for granted, while inspiring human resilience with the slogan, “The future belongs to those who change it.”

The show is, after all, about an underground resistance. For Holocaust survivors and their families, however, the Nazi imagery hits too close to home but when challenged about the show’s controversial advertisements, Amazon defends them based on the show’s narrative.

“Season two of The Man in the High Castle, based on Philip K. Dick’s acclaimed novel, continues the journey into an imaginary, fictional world that explores the ‘what ifs’ of an alternate history in which America lost World War II,” Amazon explained in a statement. “Season two debuts December 16 and if you’re interested to see what an alternate world could look like if history had gone another way, you should watch the show.”

Understanding The Extent Of The ‘Pokémon’ Effect

This has been a phenomenal year for the Pokémon franchise, given the tremendous success of Pokémon Go, which is expected to have players running out to catch them all once again today, as Niantic reveals a new set of Pokémon creatures that will be added to the roster. This is in addition to how Sprint became the first US partner for Pokémon Go, turning more than 10,500 nationwide Boost Mobile and Sprint at RadioShack locations into PokéStops and Gyms. So, players already have a destination to discover the new Pokémon to add to their collections.

The 20th anniversary of Pokémon is certainly one well worth celebrating, especially since Pokémon Go has led to the success of Pokémon Sun and Moon on the Nintendo 3DS handheld gaming console, which has been losing ground to mobile devices for years. The Pokémon Company International reported that launch day sales exceeded 10 million units, a 150 percent increase from the last Pokémon games (Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire in 2014), making them the best selling titles in Nintendo 3DS history. Not only is the franchise turning things around for the 3DS, but it could also mean success for other augmented reality games and devices.

But how impactful is the long-term success of the franchise? To understand what Pokémon’s success means to some of Nintendo’s other products, [a]listdaily spoke with SuperData Research CEO, Joost van Dreunen.

Super Mario Run releases for Apple devices this week, but with a controversially high price tag of $9.99. We asked van Dreunen if the success of the Pokémon games on 3DS could influence the plumber’s success on mobile, and he replied: “The success of Pokémon Sun/Moon will have a positive albeit moderate impact on the expected sales of Super Mario Run, because it keeps Nintendo and all of its major IP top-of-mind.”

Although Super Mario Run is expected to be a standalone success on mobile, Nintendo clearly hopes that the attention gained on mobile devices will lead to console sales, where players will have “deeper” game experiences. Specifically, Super Mario Run and Pokémon Go should keep Nintendo in people’s minds when the Nintendo Switch releases in the spring. However, van Dreunen explained that the recent success of Sun and Moon did not put the 3DS handheld back on the map compared to mobile devices. “With the announcement of the Switch for early 2017, many prospective customers will probably hold onto their money until then, and more likely extend the lifecycle of the current audience,” he said.

On the other hand, 3DS users have a strong likelihood of becoming early Switch adopters. “The Switch is an effort by Nintendo to merge its home console and handheld into a single device,” said van Dreunen. “Early indicators suggest that there exists a strong overlap between the current consumer base that owns a 3DS and the prospective Switch audience.”

The larger question is whether or not this year’s success of the Pokémon franchise can be repeated, since the 20th anniversary celebration and the launch of Pokémon Go are both unique events. Van Dreunen expressed optimism for the brand’s continued growth.

Pokémon will continue to be a strong brand for years to come,” he said. “It is currently valued at around $2.1 billion in terms of its ability to generate revenues across all of the games and licensed properties. Given the recent successes and the upcoming lineup, that is not likely to change any time soon.”

So, what’s the secret to the ongoing success of Pokémon after 20 years? “Its ability to cross-promote itself across different media types (TV shows, film, games and card games) in combination with its extensive history has allowed the franchise to develop an incredibly strong emotional relationship with many consumers,” said van Dreunen. “Moreover, as people look for quality content on mobile devices, it is uniquely positioned to benefit from a generation that grew up on the franchise and now are adults with the spending ability to match.”

Google Details New ‘Star Wars’ Sticker Campaign For ‘Allo’ Messaging Service

Google has launched a sticker pack for its new Allo messaging service from Lucasfilm’s December 16 movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The collection includes characters Jyn, Cassian, Darth Vader and K-2SO from the new film, as well as stormtroopers, AT-ATs and the Death Star.

Amit Fulay, group product manager for Allo at Google, told [a]listdaily one of the key principles behind the stickers in Allo is that they should be more than just cute artwork, but actually helpful in driving the conversation forward.

“We crafted our stickers around some of the most common things we all tend to say in chats—like ‘running late’ or ‘let’s get dinner,’” Fulay said. “With the Rogue One stickers, you can see this idea of using stickers as a way to say things in chat. It’s not just about showing the characters of Star Wars, but having them say something or do something that you can identify with and could use in chat.”

Fulay said Google partnered with Lucasfilm because the Star Wars characters are so iconic and people really identify with the story, and they wanted to bring that to Allo.

“We partnered with Disney directly to co-develop exclusive animated stickers and a co-marketing campaign to showcase the stickers in fun way to diehard fans of Star Wars,” Fulay said. “We worked together to choose an artist to design the stickers, and our creative team worked with Disney and the artist on the designs.”

Fulay said the goal was to include a mix of well-known and loved characters like Darth Vader, along with newer characters unique to the Rogue One film.

Star Wars is certainly a story with large appeal to all types of people,” Fulay said. “But we also know that there’s a close affinity between people who love Google products and people who love Star Wars, so we thought this would be a great fit.”

Most of the Star Wars stickers feature animation, which Fulay said brings an additional layer of liveliness and delight to stickers in Allo. “Our animated stickers in Allo, such as the Julio the Bull sticker pack, are incredibly popular,” Fulay said.

Star Wars is just the latest offering for Allo users.

“We’ll continue to add more stickers over time, both through partnerships like the one with Star Wars and from independent artists,” Fulay said. “We don’t have immediate plans for a series with Star Wars but will continue to look for opportunities to bring new stickers to Allo.”

Stickers were a critical part of the design of Allo from the very beginning, according to Fulay.

“We focused on creating unique artwork that you could only find in Allo by working with independent artists around the world to create artwork that can resonate both globally and locally,” Fulay said. “We have unique sticker packs for India and Brazil, for example, and will continue to create more locally focused packs over time.”

From the outset of Allo, Fulay said the goal was to create a smart messaging app that can help you say more and do more right in your chats. To do this, Google applied its deep expertise with things like machine learning, search and natural language understanding to create an app that goes beyond just text. One example is the Google Assistant in Allo, which can help you with restaurant recommendations. Another example would be helping you find the perfect emoji, without having to scroll through hundreds of options.

“We’re focused on both being more assistive and helpful in your chats, but also helping you be more playful and expressive and fun,” Fulay said. “We’re at an exciting time for innovation in messaging. With advancements in language understanding and machine learning, we can now do so much more in chat beyond just sending text or photos. With Allo, we’ve really focused on applying technology to help you express yourself more fully and get things done, right in your chats.”

Google continues to expand the offerings of Allo. The company has released three updates since launching the app a couple months ago, bringing in new functionality like Smart Smiley, which makes it super easy to find the right emoji or sticker for what they’re trying to say.

“We also brought the Google Assistant in Allo to new languages,” Fulay said. “We launched Hindi and Brazilian-Portuguese last week, and will be adding more languages over time. We’ll continue to keep innovating and improving the app at a fast pace.”

Fulay said Google continues to receive user feedback on Allo, as it discovers how people are using the app.

“We did a lot of testing and research before launching, found that people tend to do a lot of scrolling and searching when it comes to stickers and emojis,” Fulay said. “That insight drove the development of Smart Smiley, since we knew there was a real need to solve discovery.”