Royal Caribbean CEO Explains How Virtual Reality Is Changing The Cruise Industry

Even though the first new class of Celebrity cruise ship in 10 years won’t set sail until next fall, media was invited to experience the Celebrity Edge at the brand new Innovation Lab at Royal Caribbean headquarters in Miami, Florida. This marks the first time that any company in the cruise industry has used virtual reality to design an entire ship. The Innovation Lab, which is home to the largest CAVE (cave automatic virtual environment) in the world, allowed Royal Caribbean to create every inch of the ship in virtual reality before a single steel rivet was hammered at the STX shipyard in France.

The room-sized CAVE allows for a dozen people to step into a 3D replica of the 2,918-passenger ship, wearing 3D glasses to be fully immersed in the environment. Wall-sized displays bring the ship’s many rooms and decks to life from floor to ceiling, allowing a navigator to virtually stroll down corridors and through verandas.

Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, told [a]listdaily that while virtual reality simulation has been used before, it’s been on ad hoc occasions.

“What we’ve done with Celebrity Edge is decided that technology is such a powerful tool that we want to use it for all aspects of the vessel,” Fain said. “This is the first ship where everything has been looked at three-dimensionally, and we have been able to harness all that power. The advantage is that it democratizes the process. In a normal design process, there are only a few people like the architects, designers and a few executives that can draw lines. Most people cannot look at a blueprint or a two-dimensional drawing and have a real understanding of the spacial relationships. One of our most powerful weapons in the fight for greater innovation is our people. They are imaginative, but they’re also knowledgeable and they’re motivated to try and find new and better ways to do things.”

Celebrity Edge balconySome of the new things the Edge class ships will introduce to the industry include an infinite veranda stateroom, which uses French doors to extend the room into the balcony space. This increases the stateroom size by 23 percent and brings guests to the “edge” of the ocean view. Shifting the room design also increases the bathroom size by 20 percent.

“The beauty of being able to do these things in three dimensions is you get a true sense of scale,” Fain said. “That helps us to visualize taking this from a concept and actually designing the room to exploit the extra space.”

Another innovation on the Edge is a tennis court-sized Magic Carpet cantilevered floating platform that can move up and down the side of the ship’s 15 decks providing a variety of dining experiences for guests at different times of the day. This concept underwent many iterations as designers decided to expand the number of decks this platform could traverse.

“Being able to actually see it in 3D was eye-opening,” Fain said. “It inspired us to expand this platform in new ways. And it really helped us to understand how much better we could connect ourselves with the ocean. Part of what makes the Magic Carpet work is the fact the whole side of the ship is more openly connected to the ocean.”

While VR is being used behind-the-scenes to design ships, Celebrity is also using augmented reality to allow guests to explore ships. The new Celebrity Cruise app can be used on ships to learn more about the thousands of art pieces that adorn each vessel. Celebrity also used AR technology at the press event to unlock additional photos and information in each of the mock-up suites and rooms they designed inside the Innovation Lab.

“When you scan the piece of art, it will tell you who the artist is, what their background is and what other work they’ve done,” Fain explained. “Those kinds of visualizations are very powerful.”

Celebrity Edge Pool

While the Wow band and app debuted two years ago, new features like augmented reality and upcoming additions like facial recognition allow Celebrity to improve the customer experience as technology advances.

“We’ve had the benefit of two year’s head start and the infrastructure and connectivity has grown,” Fain said. “We’ve chosen to go to a more open source platform because the pace of change is extraordinary. I believe that the pace of change that we experience today is slow compared to what we will experience tomorrow, so you need the flexibility and the speed that open source technology gives you.”

Fain said that, by the end of this year, 15-to-20-percent of Royal Caribbean’s fleet will have this new open source Wow band technology and half of the ships will use it by the end of next year.

“We have to assume that a lot of our guests are not particular tech savvy, and the purpose of this technology is to improve the vacation experience for all of our guests,” Fain said. “We want to make it so that the guest has a better experience. One of the issues that people have when they travel, in general, is that it takes them out of their comfort zone. The beauty of technology is it helps you do everything from plan your vacation at home through the app and navigate the ship and shore experience during your vacation. Technology allows us to better understand our surroundings—even before we get there.”

Celebrity Edge is slated to set sail from Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades starting December 16 on alternating seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean voyages. Celebrity Beyond, the second Edge class ship, will launch in spring 2020. Two additional ships will be built with anticipated launches in 2021 and 2022.

How Roblox Is Discovering Future Game Developers And Entrepreneurs

Although Roblox has been around for over a decade, it’s probably one of the biggest success stories that you’ve never heard of, especially if you happen to be over the age of 13. That’s because the social, gaming and development platform, where players can come together using almost any device, has a very unique audience: kids who like to code.

As it turns out, this is a tremendous market that’s continuing to grow. Similar to the game Minecraft, users are encouraged to head out and express their creativity. But instead of fighting enemies and building structures, kids with an average age of about 10-12 (although they can be as young as five or six), can build entire games and experiences. Some of them may be mundane by adult standards, with a high school simulator being among some of the top ranked experiences. Other games include surviving a natural disaster, but they all have one thing in common: they’re all playable cross-platform. That means a mobile phone player can interact in the same game experience as someone using a desktop computer, a gaming console or even a VR device.

Tami Bhaumic, vice president of marketing, Roblox
Tami Bhaumik, vice president of marketing, Roblox

“Roblox has seen rapid growth over the past two years,” Tami Bhaumik, vice president of marketing at Roblox, told [a]listdaily. “We’ve had a 330 percent year-over-year growth period, 48 million active players, and over 22 million games with 1.7 million developers on the platform and we’re continuing to grow. We have about 200 people in the company and we plan on doubling our size in the course of the next year to focus on making sure that the platform is robust with features that help our developers create compelling games.”

The profitable company recently raised $92 million in venture capital funding led by Meritech Capital Partners and Index Ventures. As the platform expands its features, which includes virtual reality development for the Oculus Rift and soon the HTC Vive, the ultimate goal is to help these growing game designers become entrepreneurs someday, selling the worlds they create in Roblox on the open market. Roblox also debuted a new toy line from Jazwares earlier this year, featuring action figures inspired by user-generated content.

In discussing the company’s origins, Bhaumik said that, “Roblox was formed about 10 years ago, and the idea of it was to build a physics engine. As we developed the company, what we realized was that our users and players could create games that were more inspiring and creative than anything that we could build. So, we are a 100 percent user generated content company. You can say that Roblox is a little bit like YouTube for gaming. We don’t produce any content; we are a technology platform that enables content development for games. Every month, we have about 48 million active players, globally.”

Bhaumik continued by describing Roblox as “a virtual amusement park for kids. Kids are able to run around to different experiences and different social engagements. In the game, you’re able to chat with one another, play with friends, and create games together. So, it’s a very social platform in addition to all of the things that we do from a creation standpoint.”

Roblox_MeepCityThis amusement park isn’t just for playing around. Kids are discovering a passion for coding and they’re learning to make money from their talents. Bhaumik explained that “about two years ago, we developed a monetization strategy where we would allow kids to buy virtual currency called robux. What you can do with it is buy things such as avatar clothing and special powers within games. Our developers get to choose what kind of experience they have for monetization in their games and we do a revenue share with them.”

That might sound pretty straightforward, but these kids have the potential to make a serious income from the Roblox platform. “Some of our developers are making over $50,000 a month and they’re really discovering new careers,” said Bhaumik. “They might start on our platform when they’re ten, and we’ve seen some of these kids grow up and become legitimate game developers. Some of them we’ve hired internally and some of them have gone on to create their own unique studios and hire others on their platform. It makes us very proud to see a lot of these developers paying for their college tuition, buying cars, or buying homes and discovering new career paths.”

When asked about how the company initially got the word out and grew, Bhaumik said: “When our CEO and founder, David Baszucki, started out it was all about allowing kids to develop their own experiences. From the very beginning, it was about having kids develop games for other kids. We barely spent any money on user acquisition—it was all viral. It’s young developers making games for their friends.”

Given the company’s success over the past decade, we asked Bhaumik if there were any plans to go beyond word-of-mouth. “We like to say that we’re the best secret around because the virality of Roblox is so authentic. It’s friends sharing with other friends, and there’s nothing that’s more powerful. Our philosophy is that we don’t buy a lot of our users—we provide the toolsets to make sharing easy. We’re very lucky to have a lot of very excited video influencers who love to play Roblox and stream it on YouTube and Twitch. Providing support to them and teaching tools that allow them create better experiences and more easily share and stream content is something that we’re focused on.”

Bhaumik also stated that being cross-platform has been a tremendous asset. “You have an Android, he has an Xbox, and I have an iPhone,” she said. “We can jump into a game together and play. That’s something that’s not necessarily available out there [for others].”

So, what are the next steps for the Roblox platform? “One of the great things about Roblox is that the creativity with our players and users is unlimited, given our cross-platform capability,” said Bhaumik. “I think our goal is to continue focusing on that immersive experience and making sure the players can come together anywhere at any time. Our focus is on building and maintaining a strong foundation by improving our tools and the overall experience. We have a very large focus on continuing to improve our mobile experience and we have international aspirations for global language localization this coming year. We are global company, but I think there are a lot of things that we can do to better support our player and developer communities using language localization.”

Another point of focus is remaining relevant in the fast-changing world of game development. “We have a very strong developer relations program and department,” said Bhaumik. “Their goal is to talk to developers and get their feedback so that we can continually be on the cutting edge. We have our ears to the ground as to what’s new and what’s on the horizon. We take a lot of that feedback and bring it back to our product development and engineering groups to continually evolve the platform.”

Although Bhaumik doesn’t go into detail about the funding, she does discuss how developers stand out on the Roblox platform, which is indicative of what might be in the future for this unique community.

“As users progress through the Roblox system, going to different experiences and games, they naturally discover our studio product and maybe start to edit code, eventually creating their own unique code,” she explained. “Our founder, David Baszucki, likes to say that it’s a little bit like the American Idol for the developer community. We can find the best and the brightest because they naturally bubble up. That’s why I think our platform is so compelling. It’s because we’re not throwing millions of dollars at anything to focus on one game or platform. Game content and developers naturally bubble up based upon the playability and popularity of the gameplay. There’s a natural progression that incorporates and propels that engagement.”

Why Creators Like Jimmy Kimmel And Brands Like Banana Republic Are All In On 360-Degree Content

Over one billion people around the globe will regularly access augmented and virtual reality content by 2020.

With an immersive experience storm predictably looming, a cavalcade of brands and creators are aligning allegiances to satisfy in what’s looking to be an insatiable appetite for VR content.

Earlier this year, Jimmy Kimmel was the latest to jump on the VR train by inviting fans to his desk in a near-two-minute, 360-degree experience that gave viewers an inside look at what it’s like to be a guest on his show.

Annie Lukowski and BJ Schwartz, co-heads of Vanishing Point Media, a Los Angeles-based VR content production company that produced the 360-degree project for Kimmel and has also done the same for Banana Republic, Stan Lee’s Comikaze, Jeep, Teen Vogue and USA Network, joined [a]listdaily to share why brands are increasingly diving deep into the immersive content format.


Why was the collaboration with Jimmy Kimmel a good fit for the Vanishing Point Media company profile? How was the partnership formed? What details can you share about how it was received from post-publishing till now? 

BJ: Annie and I met at USC film school. We had a friend, and fellow student, who was a producer on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and when he found out what we were up to, he contacted us. We had a conversation with some writers and producers. At first we actually talked ourselves out of the gig. We tried to help them figure out what they wanted and how they could do it at a lower cost.
Annie: We thought they didn’t want to work in VR, but a month later they realized they wanted to do a VR production, and they again reached out to us. It was important for us to help them find the best fit, because the medium is still so new, we want everything with it to be a positive experience.
BJ: We really want to make sure that the content out there is good so that people catch onto the VR trend and get interested and excited for it. As a filmmaker, it’s most important that people engage and like your content.
Annie: It’s really rewarding when you see people interacting with your work, and in the end, that’s what we really hope to achieve as filmmakers, and we think we did achieve this with the Jimmy Kimmel Live experience.

When working with brands like Banana Republic on 360-degree content, what are you helping them accomplish? Why are they creating such videos in the first place?

Annie: Banana Republic is such a fantastic, well-respected brand, and I think it’s great that they wanted to try something new and experiment. They seemed to be curious about this new technology, so they just went for it. It’s a great way to interact with potential customers because they have to look all around, and receive a much higher level of engagement.
BJ: It was just a really fun way to introduce their summer line. There was this beautiful woman who you were accompanied by, and she would show you all of the different clothing in this beautiful city, Charleston, South Carolina. The viewer would be presented with a cool effect where she seamlessly switches dresses and scenery, allowing the viewer to intimately explore their brand.

Why is it imperative for brands to use 360-degree video and VR for their integrated marketing strategies?

Annie: Firstly, it’s fashionable.
BJ: You don’t want to ignore the hottest media out there.
Annie: People are underestimating how many people want this, and how important this interaction between the technology with the brand and the audience is.
BJ: People identify immediately after they interact with the VR ads.
Annie: When people are watching VR they aren’t paying their bills, or cooking dinner—they have a headset on, and all they are watching is your content. That’s great for filmmakers and advertisers. There are so many different ways to get the audience involved.

What have you learned along the way about creating engaging VR experiences?

Annie: As narrative filmmakers, we’re definitely very focused on what our audiences are looking for. We don’t come from a tech background, or advertising background—we think. First and foremost, what do people want to watch? How do we get them? And what do we need to do? Because if the content is not compelling, it doesn’t matter what medium you’re using. So we are able to know what the audience is looking for, how they will engage with it and what we need to do to get to that level, is easy to achieve through our knowledge from being narrative filmmakers.
BJ: I think just really stressing that you can’t replace experience. We’ve had a lot of experience learning about what affects people and what people enjoy watching just by being around people and giving them material. And so after seeing students who are new to VR, and people who are new to this material, who want to be more engaged with it, work with it, you can see that the years of experience are just so important in making the content the best it can be.

BJ Schwartz and Annie Lukowski
BJ Schwartz and Annie Lukowski

What needs to happen in 2017 for the industry to take the next step?

Annie: Distribution. We don’t always have that much narrative content. People watch this material because of the dripping, jaw-dropping content.
BJ: They have to know what happened. The medium will affect what it is, but we want them to be talking about the content and the ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen next but I have to find out.’

How would you describe the current consumer appetite for VR content? What kind of an experience works best for the platform?

BJ: The appetite is definitely large and growing.
Annie: And hungry. But the hardest stumbling block is definitely the distribution. The headsets, the technology, the app store.
BJ: Yeah there’s no appetite for dealing with that. Once we get through that hurdle, then it will be a much clearer answer to what people are looking for.
Annie: As for the platform, we’re big supporters of first person and third person—interactive and non-interactive work.
BJ: As a general matter, people come wanting experience, as in an adventure. But they leave being most struck by intimate moments. You take people to a place they’ve never been, or a place they’re dying to go. There is nothing more powerful in VR experience than someone making eye contact with the viewer. There are a wide range of things that work, but there are some things that are particularly amazing.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Nailed It! 5 Brands That Demonstrate The Power Of Meme Marketing

Brands try to speak internet with young consumers in a way they understand, but sometimes that comes with disastrous or awkward results. Today, however, we highlight brands whose meme game is on point. Howbow dah?


While the right message can entertain or educate, using too many buzzwords like “bae” or a ton of emoji can have the opposite effect—instead of a brand that “gets them,” young consumers may see the post as a father desperately trying to impress his kids with bad jokes.

Denny’s Twitter game has been on fleek for quite some time now, and recently they tried their hand at a meme known as “zoom.” Users are directed to an area on a photo with tiny text that leads them to another area of the photo, and so on, until a joke or other message is revealed. In the case of Denny’s stack of pancakes, users are directed to three corners of the image before reading, “has this distracted you from overwhelming existential dread lol.” Well, apparently it did, because the Twitter post quickly blew up like a stack of hotcakes.


Luxury brand Gucci is appealing to affluent millennials with the help of popular social media creators, using comparison memes like “me vs. the guy she says I shouldn’t worry about” and variations of “that feeling when” (TFW).

“Visual artists now create memes as a unique form of communication, seeding their ideas across the internet,” Gucci says on its website for the campaign. “To launch the new Le Marché des Merveilles collection of watches, Gucci commissioned international artists curated by [Italian designer] Alessandro Michele to develop original imagery. The images were then given to a new class of viral creators already famous on Twitter and Instagram to turn into new memes. The result is a curated collection of captioned art designed to help viewers express themselves online.”


Memes are popular because they convey a sense of understanding about certain situations, no matter how small. From awkward moments at school and pet ownership to relationships and politics, the world says it with a meme. Nickelodeon uses images from its TV lineup to convey ideas that young viewers can relate to, such as trying to sleep, misbehaving when the parents aren’t home and studying for school.

Sonic The Hedgehog

A recent newcomer to the meme trend is a variation of “what in tarnation.” The meme gained popularity with animals wearing cowboy hats, but quickly evolved beyond that idea to anything rhyming with the phrase. Sonic the Hedgehog got in on the fun with an image of character, Fang the Sniper—a thief and treasure hunter from the franchise.

Another meme surfaced when Sonic assumed the role of “salt bae.”

New South Wales (NSW) Police

Being in law enforcement or associated with the government is never easy, but especially not in this turbulent social climate. The New South Wales Police Department in Australia have found a way to connect with citizens in a fun way—through memes. From speeding tickets to pineapple on pizza, the NSW PD is giving its citizens a healthy dose of giggles alongside cautionary warnings and news updates.

NSW police meme

In fact, a number of government offices have stepped up their social games to lighten the mood. The TSA has created its own Instagram account to share pictures of confiscated items, as well as answer questions about what is allowed in luggage. The posts help spread awareness of TSA safety rules, as well as assure the public that yes, they take away more dangerous items than bottled water. Sharing pictures of their service dogs doesn’t hurt morale, either. Awww, doggos. Launches All-In-One Desktop App For Gaming Community is a social community tool for those in the gaming industry, whether they’re players, content creators, developers or audiences. The platform helps them connect with each other to discover content and game that they might be interested in.

Last year, SplitmediaLabs, makers of the XSplit broadcasting software, acquired was acquired along with the tournament management service, Challonge, and the overlay service, Strexm. The first result of that acquisition was revealed at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in the form of a new desktop application that streamlines both content discovery and creation.

Sean Fee, chief product officer, SplitmediaLabs
Sean Fee, chief product officer, SplitmediaLabs

“What we’ve built here as a desktop app that integrates everything Player has but with the additional feature set of being able to stream from the app itself and create content,” said Sean Fee, chief product officer at SplitmediaLabs. “It’s a content creation platform with community tools embedded into it.”

The app is divided into three different sections, the first being Connect, where users go to meet with others players and post updates, which are then organized into different feeds. Then there’s Create for making content and Discover for finding streams, videos and other content along with player groups in addition to posting game reviews. Social updates can be cross-posted to other channels such as Facebook, Twitter or Twitch. But Fee explained the benefits of posting to the platform. “The beauty of Player is that everything is gaming related,” he said. “Anything about gaming goes.”

There are over 50,000 games with their own pages on the platform, and each one is curated by the community, which also creates the custom game pages. Users can also customize their profiles from the desktop app and connect multiple accounts from Twitch, YouTube, Steam and others. “We pull in their game library and their content [into the profile] and we allow them to cross-post to every kind of platform that a gamer might use,” said Fee. “You could put a link on your profile so that users can find you on those other services.”

The streams and videos users find in the Discover section are based on their individual profiles and tastes. However, there is a Featured area that manually updates with high-quality content. However, the ultimate goal is to build machine learning into the system so that the platform can learn about the users’ interests as they interact with the platform.

“One of the things that we think is a major issue in the market right now is discoverability,” said Fee. “Discoverability is really tough. It’s hard to get noticed as a content creator, game developer or player. So, one of the things that we want to do is help people find what they’re interested as quickly as possible and enhance their overall game experience by having them less spend less time making mistakes in terms of choosing games that don’t suit their personality. We want to make the platform feel personalized. If you’re into anime, it’ll feel like an anime community. If you’re into first person-shooters, it’ll feel like an FPS community. We tailor the experience to the kind of player you are.”

Eventually, users will be able to discover the games and content that best suit them according to criteria such as genre and platform, and the ratings are dynamic according to the user’s profile. Meaning that, if you’re not a big fan of MOBA games, it’ll show scores from people who think similarly. “You’ll be able to see the highest rated first-person shooter for PS4 that suits your personality profile,” Fee explained. The system is still in its early phases, but it will improve with time. Desktop App - Transparent worked with XSplit to bring content creation tools into the application.

“We think that one of the main problems with existing solutions, including XSplit Broadcaster, is that it’s hard to get started,” said Fee. “Creating content is quite a daunting task because you have to buy a bunch of equipment, get the software, and then learn the software. Then you have to start creating your content, and it might look kind of crappy at the start because you don’t have a graphic designer. After all that, you have to try to grow an audience.”

Fee continued by stating, “What we’ve seen over the years is that there’s a high amount of churn—users will usually give up after two or three weeks of streaming because they don’t think they’ve achieved what they thought they would. Or they think it’s too hard to keep on using the software. So, what we’ve built here is the easiest tool to get started with.”

Encouraging a stronger content creation community involves a web-based application, with custom overlays designed by Strexm, which opens opportunities for partnerships. “One of the things that we’d like to do is to work with partners on creating overlays that are themed for events that can have the audience engaged. Fans of certain eSports events can show off their badges for the teams that they support during streams, for example. I think there are a lot of opportunities for us to partner in the eSports space and the developer space for games that are launching. We will definitely be adding some audience engagement elements into this product.”

Once users create a video, all they have to do is edit it using the simple tools inside the app. Additionally, tools are built into the application for easy streaming and automating alerts. With ease-of-use, hopes to foster growth by targeting specific users.

“I think where we are going to see some major growth and traction is in the space of new streamers and the mid-tier streamers who do this casually,” said Fee. “They’re not the hardcore guys who have an expensive rig and separate screens to do advanced stuff. We hope that, at some point, we will develop into that market, but the part that is suffering the most is with the newcomers and people who have been doing it for about six to twelve months but haven’t gotten the support that they need to push their streams to the next level and make it look more professional.”

The desktop application is currently in closed beta and users can sign up for access. Fee assures users that, “when this thing launches to the public, it’s going to be perfect. Despite it not being under the XSplit brand, it has the reputation of XSplit integrated into it. It gets credibility right away as an XSplit product, and we don’t want to release anything unless it’s top-notch.

We want to help people create content, help them get discovered, and help them connect with each other and have meaningful experiences in gaming. We’re not game developers, but we’re really passionate about the space.”

Why The Wonderful Pistachios Brand Is Targeting Gamers

Wonderful Pistachios is clearly targeting gamers with its latest “Get Crackin’” campaign. The company has invested $55 million in marketing, which kicked off last October and included a Super Bowl LI spot that introduced Ernie the Elephant, voiced by WWE superstar, John Cena. Cena’s latest project with Wonderful Pistachios brings Ernie into the video game realm with the free-to-play Destroy Ernie’s Evidence experience on

A new game unlocks clues every two weeks, bringing to life locations from Ernie’s eight TV commercials. Gamers can enter to win prizes such as $10,000 in cash, four Coachella VIP Passes for 2018, an African safari for two, $5,000 in Stubhub credit, $5,000 in Airbnb credit and 10 Nintendo Switch consoles with launch titles. The first game challenges players to unscramble texts on Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman’s phone, and new games will be released and playable through June 30, 2017.

Since introducing the character, Ernie’s influence has already led to Pistachios’ sales volume increasing by more than 35 percent, according to Adam Cooper, vice president of marketing at Wonderful Pistachios. Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds is part of The Wonderful Company, a privately held $4 billion company, which also has top brands that include Wonderful Halos, Fiji Water, Pom Wonderful, Justin Wine and Teleflora.

Cooper explains why the company is targeting gamers with this massive new campaign in this exclusive interview with [a]listdaily.

Can you talk about this video game activation?

To support our biggest integrated Get Crackin’ campaign, Ernie the Elephant is unveiling a series of interactive games that challenge pistachio fans to crack open the mystery from a night of mischief with the Squirrel Sisters. Destroy Ernie’s Evidence offers pistachio lovers the chance to cover up incriminating footage captured on-camera from the night before. Ernie will be featured in the game in a variety of different situations, touting the health benefits of pistachios while gamers search for hidden clues. Snacking while gaming is often full of notoriously unhealthy options but pistachios go with any occasion including gaming, whether solo or in a group, plus they’re so good for you! Throughout the game, Ernie will remind pistachio fans to Get Crackin’ for every snack occasion, whether it be on-the-go or while playing a wildly interactive gaming experience.

Why did you decide to target gamers?

We know that gamers are snacking mindlessly while playing video games and we want to be a healthy yet tasty snack option. Americans are snacking more than ever before, and it’s never been a better time to call out mindless munching of nutrient-poor, energy dense foods and start snacking smart. Pistachios are a great snacking alternative to greasy snacks like chips. In fact, Wonderful Pistachios are in-shell and may slow down consumption time while snacking. The empty shells may serve as a visual cue reminding snackers to eat mindfully during a marathon gaming session. Pistachios are a good source of protein and fiber in every 49-nut serving, so gamers can Get Crackin’ without the guilt.

What did you learn from the Angry Birds campaign about the gaming audience?

The Angry Birds campaign was an effective integrated campaign for Wonderful Pistachios, and it achieved clear success in terms of awareness, homepage traffic, Facebook fan acquisitions and most importantly, sales. Through this activation, we learned that the program successfully converted online players to fans and customers directly translating to increase in sales.

What were your goals with releasing the video game levels in a staggered fashion?

After introducing Ernie the Elephant to the public, we wanted pistachio fans to get to know him as a fun-loving character. The video game was created to engage fans and make Ernie’s story more exciting. We decided to unlock chapters of the game at different times to pulse Ernie throughout the spring and summer while offering fans the opportunity to connect with Ernie. Smaller narratives allowed for a larger story to be told while highlighting the unique prizes for consumers throughout the journey.

What does working with John Cena, who is also a big gamer and recently helped Nintendo promote Switch, bring to this campaign?

John Cena is known for many things, and now as the voice of a pistachio-loving, health-conscious, computer-generated spokes-elephant. We knew John would be the perfect partner to help drive awareness to Destroy Ernie’s Evidence and spread the word about healthy eating and how snacking on Wonderful Pistachios can fit into one’s everyday lifestyle including gamers who need energy to fuel an all-day gaming marathon.

Richard Sherman is another big gamer. How does tying into his personality and fan base cross over with your audience?

One of the most common times to snack is while watching live sports games, and people often indulge in unhealthy options. Football continues to be a huge focus for the brand and Super Bowl LI was our third time being part of the big game. Wonderful Pistachios’ partnership with Richard Sherman demonstrates our commitment to healthy eating through a series of online digital videos educating an estimated 21 million football fans about the nutritional benefits of pistachios.

As one of the smartest players in the NFL, Seattle Seahawks cornerback, Richard Sherman is able to educate fans on the benefits of pistachios compared to unhealthy, salty snacks like nachos or crackers. Just like video gamers, Richard looks for smart snacking options that will fuel him on game day and keep him focused to endure any battle that may come his way.

What demographic are you targeting with this video game activation and how does this fit within your normal target audience?

Our brand is uniquely positioned to take advantage of reaching a broad demographic of consumers who are already eating salty snacks such as potato chips. We look at the snacking habits of our target demo, and our goal is to reach “snackthusiasts,” who are intentional in their choices, their rituals and lifestyle, whether they are snacking at home or on-the-go.

With $100,000 in prizes, fans have the chance to win prizes such as a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Coachella Tickets or an African Safari. With such a wide variety of prizing opportunities, Destroy Ernie’s Evidence is relatable to every kind of demographic.

What are some of the positive effects pistachios have on gamers playing for long hours or late at night?

As one of the lowest calorie and highest protein nuts, Wonderful Pistachios offers gamers a healthy and delicious alternative to typical unhealthy salty snacks. With pistachios, consumers can have it all. They are able to satisfy cravings for something savory and crunchy without compromising their healthy eating goals. So, whether you’re helping Ernie solve his mystery or pulling an all-nighter with your fellow gamers, pistachios are the smart choice to keep you going.

What advantages does introducing Ernie to a Super Bowl LI audience open up for extending this campaign, which is continuing through these free-to-play games?

The Super Bowl is the second highest consumption occasion for Wonderful Pistachios, and our integrated marketing campaigns target this high consumptions time across all of our marketing platforms. The Big Game was a perfect platform for Ernie to remind consumers to snack smart and enjoy pistachios as an alternative to typical sports snacks. Whether you’re playing in the big game or destroying Ernie’s evidence, pistachios are the healthy snacking option.

Space Camp And Interactive Theater: This Week In Game Promotions

Whether you’re navigating the reaches outer space or the crowds of Austin, Texas video game marketing is having a busy week, indeed. Mario Sports Superstars launches exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS on March 23 and Super Mario Run finally becomes available for Android on the same day. In the meantime, one of Bioware’s most iconic franchises finally gets a new release.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Bioware and EA’s space opera returns with a new adventure about humanity searching for a home. Bioware has been rather light on the marketing trail, perhaps trying to avoid the mistakes of No Man’s Sky by naming specifics about its many gameplay possibilities. Fans have been treated to a number of trailers teasing characters, story and gameplay, but most details have been kept close to the chest.

Since story is king for fans of the Mass Effect series, Bioware went to work sharing this new world without giving too much away. Leading to the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda, BioWare set up a promotional website whereby players could participate in a mock training program for the Andromeda Initiative, which included listening to recruitment pitches, reading the history of the Mass Effect universe, or watching mission briefings. Briefings included an orientation video, an introduction to several locations and dossiers on the game’s main crew members.

Bioware also teamed up with six YouTube creators from around the world to participate in an authentic astronaut training experience at the European Astronaut Centre. A sweepstakes was also held through the official Bioware Store to win a diecast replica or remote control version of Nomad ND1 vehicle, along with collector’s editions of the game and more.

The largest source of hype has originated from the players themselves as they streamed gameplay online. A Play First trial was made available through EA Access and Origin Access five days before Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s launch date, offering up to 10 hours of full gameplay to explore. Progress transfers over to the full game after purchase.

Collectors can get their hands on a limited edition Loot Crate filled with exclusive Mass Effect goodies. In a surprise cross-promotion, those playing Rock Band 4 can purchase a Normandy Bass and character outfits based on the iconic N7 armor.

SXSW And SXSW Gaming

Last week marked the 30th anniversary of SXSW in Austin, Texas—an annual get together to celebrate music, film, video games, tech and entertainment galore. Twitch and Reddit partnered together for the first time to host a livestream of the event, and there was a stage showing Reddit’s signature “Ask Me Anything” sessions, celebrity guests and more. Twitch also partnered with the SXSW Gaming Expo again as the official broadcaster of the event’s SXSW Gaming Awards and opening cosplay contest.

As with PAXSXSW Gaming offers fans the unique opportunity to meet developers, attend panels, try new games before they come out and show off their mad cosplay skills. Here are a few announcements from the show:

Guardians Of The Galaxy: A Telltale Series: Telltale hosted a one-of-a-kind premiere event in which an early version of the first episode of Guardians of the Galaxy was played at the Paramount Theater. Audience members were able to influence the story from their seats by using their mobile devices to help decide what happens on the big screen.

TellTale Guardians of the Galaxy Game Rocket Character

Sonic Forces

Sonic 2017 is now Sonic Forces, Sega revealed, along with a new trailer illustrating a bit of the fast-paced gameplay.

The event was an opportunity to honor outstanding achievement in the video game industry, and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End dominated with five awards, including Game of the Year.

The SXSW Gaming Award-Winners are:

Excellence in SFX
Battlefield 1: Electronic Arts / EA DICE

Excellence in Musical Score
DOOM: Bethesda Softworks / id Software

Excellence in Technical Achievement
Battlefield 1: Electronic Arts / EA DICE

Excellence in Visual Achievement:
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End: Sony Computer Entertainment / Naughty Dog

Excellence in Animation:
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End: Sony Computer Entertainment / Naughty Dog

Excellence in Art:
Firewatch: Panic Inc. / Campo Santo

Excellence in Convergence
Batman: The Telltale Series: Telltale Games


Excellence in Multiplayer
Overwatch: Blizzard Entertainment

Most Memorable Character
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End: Nathan Drake

Most Promising New Intellectual Property
Overwatch: Blizzard Entertainment

Most Fulfilling Community-Funded Game
Starbound: Chucklefish Games

Excellence in Gameplay
DOOM: Bethesda Softworks / id Software

Excellence in Design
Dishonored 2: Bethesda Softworks / Arkane Studios

Excellence in Narrative
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End: Sony Computer Entertainment / Naughty Dog

Matthew Crump Cultural Innovation Award
That Dragon, Cancer: Numinous Games

Gamer’s Voice Multiplayer
Arena Gods: Supertype

Gamer’s Voice Single Player
Owlboy: D-pad Studio

Fan Creation of the Year
Brutal Doom 64: Sergeant_Mark_IV

Trending Game of the Year
Overwatch: Blizzard Entertainment

ESports Game of the Year
Overwatch: Blizzard Entertainment

Tabletop Game of the Year
Arkham Horror: The Card Game: Fantasy Flight Games

Mobile Game of the Year
Pokémon GO: Niantic

Video Game of the Year
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End: Sony Computer Entertainment / Naughty Dog

ESports, Cause Marketing And Other Must-Read Marketing Stats

This week, video viewership is up, video game sales are down and we examine how different generations view cause marketing.

Press Play

US digital video viewers will grow from 221.8 million to 239.2 million between 2017 and 2021, according to estimates by eMarketer. The penetration rate among internet users will increase from 81.2 percent to 83.5 percent. As the number of US adult digital video viewers grows, eMarketer estimates, the universe of adult pay TV viewers will continue to contract.


Happy Ads

Have you hugged your ad-supported internet today? The ad-supported internet ecosystem contributed about $1.121 trillion to the US economy and more than 10 million jobs across the entire country, according to a new study commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The report found that the commercial internet accounts for six percent of the US gross domestic product, and the number of jobs created directly or indirectly by the ad-supported internet doubled from 2012 to 2016.

Speaking of ads, consumers may be more receptive to advertising throughout the day if they’re feeling upbeat. According to The Receptivity of Emotions study by Yahoo, “upbeat” consumers are 30 percent more likely to engage with native video content than in other emotional states, 28 percent more likely to engage with content marketing and 21 percent more likely to engage with direct marketing.

Just ‘Cause

Cause marketing is risky business these days, but many consumers—especially millennials—make an effort to purchase from brands whose causes align with their own. A survey of 1,000 American adults by Toluna revealed that 45 percent of millennial consumers would be willing to spend time researching which causes a brand supports, and 47 percent would be willing to pay more for brands that pass the test. Baby boomers surveyed weren’t overly concerned, with 49 percent stating that they don’t think about causes when making purchases. Gen X respondents consistently walked the line between baby boomers and millennials, with 39 percent willing to research brand causes, but 29 percent agreeing with older generations who don’t think about such things.

Brands have plenty of cause for concern, as new figures by The&Partnership estimate ad fraud to cost brands nearly $16.4 billion this year. The agency calculates that roughly 29 percent of programmatic ad spending in 2016 was wasted on invalid traffic, costing approximately $7.8 billion.

Gaming Growth

The eSports economy will grow 41.3 percent to $696 million in 2017, according to Newzoo. The total market is expected to nearly triple to $1.5 billion by 2020, with the largest portion coming from sponsorships. North America is the largest demographic for eSports revenue, poised to bring in $257 million in 2017 and reaching $607 million by 2020.


The Nintendo Switch is flying off the shelves and every major retailer in the US saw an increase in their web and mobile traffic from Nintendo’s site and from searches, according to analytics firm SimilarWeb. Nintendo’s website sent 1.4 million clicks to Amazon throughout the month leading into the launch of the Switch—more than any other retailer.

GameStop and Toys ‘R’ Us traffic peaked over a 30-day period on the Nintendo Switch’s March 3 launch day, as well. Analyst firm SuperData estimates the Nintendo Switch will sell five million units by the end of 2017.

Ubisoft’s battle game For Honor debuted as the number one digital game in February, according to the latest report by NPD. The video game industry had a battle of its own last month, suffering a decline of 21 percent in spending for software, hardware and accessories for February.

PlayStation 4 was the top-selling hardware system in the month and the PlayStation 4 Slim System 500GB Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Bundle was February’s top-selling console for the fifth month running.

NPD’s Top 10-Selling Games For February (Across All Platforms) are:

  1. For Honor
  2. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
  3. Grand Theft Auto V
  4. NBA 2K17
  5. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
  6. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Seige
  7. Madden NFL 17
  8. Battlefield 1
  9. Nioh*
  10. Overwatch*

*Asterisks indicate that digital sales were not accounted for (or purchases made on, in the case of Overwatch).


Getting Suspicious

Consumers in Japan are beginning to trust online media more than traditional outlets, according to a study by Edelman. The company surveyed Japanese internet users in 2012—and again in 2017—learning that trust in search engines and social media have grown in the last five years. Trust in traditional media, however fell from 48 percent in 2012 to 39 percent in 2017.

Meanwhile, 15 percent of Twitter users may not be real, according to the study Online Human-Bot Interactions: Detection, Estimation and Characterization from the University of Southern California and Indiana University. The report also noted that, even given the research parameters, some complex bots still might have been mistaken as human, so the 15 percent figure could be a conservative estimate.

Middle On Top

Mid-roll ads, especially on smartphones, are experiencing high completion rates, according to a new Ooyala fourth quarter 2016 study. Publishers saw a rise in mid-roll impressions on mobile devices, increasing to 48 percent in the fourth quarter from 30 percent in third quarter, the report states. Long-form is also the most popular, making up 47 percent of all mobile plays in the fourth quarter.

Thomas McInerney To Run Altaba; TellTale Games CEO Passes Reigns Back To Co-Founder

Media companies saw some major personnel this week, especially when it comes to streaming video, and Yahoo’s future as Altaba becomes a little clearer.

Scott Stuber has joined Netflix to head the development, production and acquisition of high-profile feature films. This is a big hire for the streaming service, which has become more aggressive in creating original films.

After Yahoo joins Verizon later this year, its remnants will become Altaba, which will continue to oversee holdings in Yahoo Japan and Alibaba. It was revealed this week that the spin-off company will be run by Thomas McInerney, the former chief financial officer at IAC. This announcement could shed more light on Marissa Mayer’s future relationship with the company. Mayer said in January that she would step down as CEO once the acquisition was completed, and she could receive a $23 million severance package when she does, although some believe that she may remain on in some capacity.

Nissan Europe has promoted Philippe Saillard to head of sales and marketing from his previous role of vice president of sales.

USA Gymnastics CEO, Steve Penny, resigned from the organization this week amid controversy. Penny had served as both president and chief executive officer for 12 years.

The visual effects and VR company, Digital Domain, announced that Amit Chopra, the company’s executive director and chief operating officer, has been appointed to the role of CEO for North America. In this capacity, Chopra will “direct the company’s North American operations, seeking to capitalize on emerging opportunities for visual effects, virtual reality (VR) production and original immersive content,” according to a press release.

Four months after its acquisition by Warner Bros., Machinima’s CEO, Chad Gutstein announced that he is leaving the company to pursue other “entrepreneurial projects.” Warner Bros. named Russell Arons as the new general manager of Machinima, and he’ll work with Gutstein on a “multiweek transition plan.”

Warner Bros. also promoted Jay Levine to executive VP of Warner Bros. Digital Networks Group. He will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations, which include ad sales, distribution, finance, business development and planning.

Vimeo is gearing up to launch a subscription-based VOD service, and it has hired Alana Mayo, a former VP of production at Paramount Pictures, as VP and head of original development. Additionally, Kesila Childers was hired as director of content development and Kelly Miller (formerly with Hulu) as the director of content acquisitions.

Sony Pictures Animation promoted Pam Marsden to head of production. Marsden has been overseeing the company’s growth recently, which has increased its output and tripled its staff size.

Bravo Media hired Noah Samton as SVP of current production company. In this role, he leads the team that oversees unscripted shows, including The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Don’t Be Tardy… and Summer House, in addition to the upcoming Relative Success with Tabatha Coffey and Stripped.

Michael Green stepped down as executive chairman of the digital content company, Studio71. However, he will remain on the company’s board. Additionally, the company announced the hire of Michael Schreiber, the former president of Tapestry Films, in the newly created position of president of scripted content.

Kevin Bruner announced in an internal email that he is stepping down as CEO of Telltale Games, maker of critically acclaimed narrative games such as The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Batman and more. In the email, he cited the company’s aggressive growth as the reason to pass the reigns on to someone who can take the company to the next level. That person, for now, is co-founder Dan Connors, who originally served as CEO until 2015.

Sega Europe made three senior promotions to its marketing and brand team. Anna Downing, who has been with the company for seven years, has been named marketing director for Sega Europe. Rowan Tafler is now the head of brand for Sega’s Searchlight business, which works with studios to release games on behalf of independent developers. Lastly, Peter Oliver is the head of public relations for Sega Europe. In this role, Oliver will oversee the implementation of PR campaigns and corporate communications across EMEA territories and the US for the company’s core pillars: Creative Assembly, Relic Entertainment, Sports Interactive, Sonic Team, Amplitude Studios and Sega Searchlight.

Frostkeep Studios, which was quietly formed by World of Warcraft veterans Solomon Lee, Mat Milizia and Jeremy Wood last year, officially announced itself this week. The company’s first project is a team-based survival game called Rend.

The Japanese video game and entertainment giant, Bandai Namco is buying out its partners in the Anime Consortium Japan (ACN). ACN’s primary business is in licensing and streaming Japanese animation content abroad through its Daisuki website. Bandai Namco, which currently owns a 36 percent stake, said that it will spend $18.5 million (JPY2.1 billion) make ACN a wholly-owned subsidiary.

Progressive Insurance Talks About Flo’s New Animated Look

Flo (played by actress, Stephanie Courtney), the smart and helpful Progressive Insurance clerk who is featured in a multitude of “Superstore” commercials, got a makeover recently alongside her well-known cast of characters. The insurance company partnered with Adult Swim’s stop-motion animated comedy show, Robot Chicken to produce two 30-second spots to promote the benefits of the Name Your Price Tool.

The commercials debuted last week across Adult Swim, Cartoon Network and Progressive’s overall media schedule. “Air Flo,” where the character shows off her amazing dunking skills, was previewed during the NBA All-Star Weekend on TBS/TNT, taking advantage of the relevant and heightened environment. The second TV spot, called “Hustlin’ Flo” shows that she can throw down with a hip hop battle anytime.

The partnership is part of an experiment with the tried-and-true creative model, which has produced more than 150 TV spots to date. It seeks to engage with Adult Swim’s passionate fans and a younger demographic in general.

When asked how the partnership with Adult Swim came together, Bruce Perlman, integrated marketing business leader at Progressive Insurance, told [a]listdaily that, “our team had a vision of bringing Flo and our cast of characters to life in an animated way. We were interested in collaborating creatively with a media partner who we knew had animated programming, and we already had a trusted media relationship with Turner, the broadcast company for Adult Swim.”

In discussing why Progressive chose to experiment with its creative model, Perlman said that “Progressive encourages a test-and-learn philosophy, which is highlighted in the way Flo has come to life in so many ways over the years. Working with Stoopid Buddy Stoodios and the Adult Swim family on stop motion was another interesting way for Progressive to get creative with our advertising, while maintaining the authenticity of the characters and staying true to our brand.”

Perlman also discussed how Flo’s new animated look fit in with Progressive’s brand message, established by the live-action commercials. “Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, the production company behind Robot Chicken, are the experts in stop motion animation, just as we’re experts in insurance,” he explained. “Together we were able to create a network extension of Flo and our cast of characters, while keeping the tone and message of our brand consistent with our live-action ads.”

So, will we be seeing more of animated Flo in the future? “We’re always looking for new creative ways to keep Flo culturally relevant and fresh,” said Perlman. “This stop motion collaboration is a creative outlet for the brand, and allowed us to produce scenarios we might not be able to capture in live-action.”