Upfronts 2017: Gaming And Other Trends For The TV Ad-Buying Season

Television pilots season is almost to an end, and you know what that means—the Upfronts are just around the corner. Held in New York each year, the Upfronts are a gathering of TV networks who proudly display their accomplishments and plans for the future before potential advertisers. This year, trends are already starting to emerge that will shape TV programming and the marketing thereof.

Appealing To Digital Natives

Since the dawn of the entertainment industry, every marketing executive’s goal has been to tap into “what all the kids are doing.” The difference now is that “all the kids” are digital natives—requiring a more interactive approach to marketing the next big TV show.

Cartoon Network is leveraging the Upfronts season to appeal to their digital native audience across multiple platforms with a slate of digital and mobile content. The network’s plans include six new series, seven returning shows and more than 20 original mobile and console games.

“This generation of kids is the creator and maker, and all about participation,” Jill King, ‎senior vice president of marketing and partnerships for Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang, told AListDaily. “We want to break new grounds and deliver new ideas to kids for them to creatively express themselves. A good example is The Powerpuff Girls activation of the avatar maker, called “Powerpuff Yourself.” Within the first week, we had 12 million avatars created. I say that very proudly because I think that’s a great example of us really speaking to them.”

Let The Games Begin

As esports continues its upward trend, and profitability, networks like ESPN and others will no doubt continue this trend—if not take it to a new level.

“For the Upfronts this year, I’m expecting to see two things,” SuperData CEO, Joost van Dreunen told AListDaily. “One—a heavier emphasis on esports as it has become a more established content category, and two—a more prominent place for game-related content. Gaming video content is proving to be a key driver for the adoption of new distribution and business models among younger audiences. I expect there to be a focus on the blending of gaming culture and more established TV programming. [We have already] seen mainstream shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon [that] regularly feature video games and VR technology. The next step is to build programs around these new technologies and audiences.”

Nicole Pike, director of games at Nielsen agrees that esports will be an effective way for advertisers to branch out into new demographics.

“I believe advertisers will start taking a closer look at esports programming, primarily as a way to diversify their efforts to resonate with younger viewers,” Pike told AListDaily. “Given the prevalent use of ad blockers during streamed esports broadcasts, TV could be a more viable way to reach this audience via traditional advertising. That being said, sponsorship remains the more authentic way to be noticed in the eSports space.”

(Editor’s Note: Nicole Pike’s quote was added on April 12, one day after the original publishing of this piece.)

More Of What Works

It may seem like common sense to keep doing what works, but there’s always the case of the “favorite” show not getting renewed. Thus far in Upfronts season, many network announcements have favored existing, successful franchises over a complete overhaul on programming. While there will be plenty of new shows to go around, expect more lifestyle shows and original dramas, because that’s where advertisers are spending.

AMC’s networks host 34 percent of ad-supported original shows based on live, plus three-day ratings among adults ages 18-to-49, according to Ed Carroll, COO of AMC Networks, per Broadcasting Cable. “When you look at the share of audience for high quality drama, you will find that AMC represents about a third of it. Between AMC and FX, those two networks would represent almost half of it.”

Speaking of FX, hit shows like The Americans, Fargo and Archer aren’t going anywhere, as made evident at the network’s Upfront event. Walmart, Booking.com and Almond Breeze will be integrated sponsors for Food Network when Iron Chef returns as Iron Chef Gauntlet.

Volkswagen, Walmart and Popeye’s will sponsor Food Network Star, which comes back for another season once Iron Chef Gauntlet concludes.

Good News, Bad News

Potentially good news for TV advertisers is the stability of produced content, as opposed to sites or videos that could be deemed offensive. While more brands pull their money out of YouTube, some of that may be funneled into this year’s fall lineup instead.

The bad news is that while the Upfronts will have no shortage of programs and promises, there is one group who may be absent—the writers. As the Writers Guild of America noted in its letter to ad buyers, the networks won’t be able to promise full seasons of their scripted series for next season in the event of a strike.

Should a strike occur and continue for over a month, fall season TV could be pushed from late September to October, affecting ad purchasing decisions.

Cartoon Network Is On A Multi-Platform Quest To Capture Kids’ Attention

Cartoon Network is leveraging the Upfronts season to make a multi-platform splash beyond just the television screen with a slate of digital and mobile content featuring six new series, seven returning shows and more than 20 original mobile and console games.

As the viewing habits of kids evolve by each passing day, Turner’s youngest brand is focused on cracking the code to reimagine TV and engage with fans through true total consumption.

Cartoon Network, which boasts a mobile portfolio of 44 apps and 400 free-to-play online games, is using its cachet as the number one video-on-demand choice in TV to push into hiring indie game developers to translate hit TV shows into games, and also to create original games with show writers.

Later this year Cartoon’s flagship app will get an expansion to Chromecast with at least nine more games being added to its slate. It will be complemented with two integrated game consoles.

Jill King, ‎senior vice president of marketing and partnerships for Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang, joined AListDaily to detail how they are creating new ways of developing content and telling stories that converge creativity and technology.

TURNER CORPORATE PORTRAITS
Jill King, SVP of marketing and partnerships for Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Boomerang

How are you innovating the brand through marketing?

Our overall brand promise, position and strategy is to engage with kids at the intersection of technology and creativity. That’s at the core of our DNA. This generation of kids is the creator and maker, and all about participation. We want to break new grounds and deliver new ideas to kids for them to creatively express themselves. A good example is The Powerpuff Girls activation of the avatar maker, called “Powerpuff Yourself.” Within the first week, we had 12 million avatars created. I say that very proudly because I think that’s a great example of us really speaking to them. I think it speaks to the insight that we know, that they want to see themselves reflected in an IP that they love. So that’s one way of doing it. We launched the series. It was a good look for the franchise. We really wanted to give new fans, and existing ones for The Powerpuff Girls a cool chance to see themselves reflected in it. I think that was marketing engagement that really was successful for us.

How has your content development strategy shifted?

Our chief content officer, Rob Sorcher, fundamentally changed the way we develop IPs. People would create shows, and then a game, and digital content would follow after. Now, at Cartoon Network Studios, which is also the case for some properties on the Adult Swim side, a multifunctional team of creatives are thinking about the digital side as they are coming up with the stories. An example of that is Mighty Magiswords, which launched as digital content and became a series much later. From a marketing standpoint, what’s important to us for that shift is that we are launching IP, like the February-launched OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, like never before. Because if we’re going to get out there and be in front of the kids, we have to be where they are. So we’re developing more native content everywhere where children are. The old days of telling them to “tune-in” and watch live are gone. For us, it’s about driving affinity from the first day and putting the IP in front of them. That’s definitely a key strategy and shift for us.

How was that the case for OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, which was originally a video game?

Our approach to content development and IP is multi-platform from the very beginning. For OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes, our team almost open-source developed it. They had game jams around the country and invited game developers to come and iterate with them and come up with different ideas. It allowed them to influence a real concept for the show. By the time that show hits the air, we’ll have more content than ever before.

What kind of content and experiences are kids currently consuming?

I would say it’s a mix of gaming, self-expression and short-form video. Behind-the-scenes and the “making-of” is big, too. It certainly depends on the kid and the age, but what we’ve learned is that you have to deliver in different ways. This way, we allow for them to understand and participate by giving them ways that they can express themselves.

How do you leverage the fact that you’re an all-animated network versus live TV?

With animation, there is almost a deeper experience for kids because it’s such an artistic form. You can create a concept of different worlds and environments through animation more so than live action. That gives us an opportunity to go deeper with stories. Our CN Sayin’ App asks kids to upload video and we put them on the air. The whole idea is that we are a network for kids, and we want to see themselves reflected. When we do have live action on the air, it’s our fans and the kids who are watching Cartoon Network. It’s something that’s important for this generation of kids.

How are you introducing “different worlds” to your experiences?

Mighty Magiswords and OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes are the two fruits of this new development process, approach and strategy. For Mighty Magiswords, kids are able to open their app, watch a TV show, collect swords and play games. We had a really big learning from that. Almost 35 percent of kids who tuned in to watch a show participated in this multiplatform experience. We took those learnings and applied it on-air during weekends for ‘collectathons’ where they could tune in to collect digital prizes. We know that it’s now a behavior that is second nature to this mobile generation.

What are you looking to accomplish in OTT with your deal with Warner Bros.? How is OTT changing your programming approach?

We wanted to be in that space, so we jumped in it. That was our first foray into an OTT-type product. This creates options for both us and our consumers, where they can get deeper libraries as a result of subscribing into that kind of service. The linear channel is still there. A lot of people are thinking it’s replacing it, but it’s not. It’s about creating options. We haven’t formally announced results yet, but we’re thrilled about it. I think it matters. The future is bundled, and unbundled—but I’ll leave it at that.

What are the branded content avenues advertisers are trying to take advantage of?

Adult Swim is a huge opportunity for us. Advertisers come to us because they want the same people who make content for us, to make it for them, too. A really good example is our partnership with Carl’s Jr., where we made a Rick and Morty branded content piece. It was a really cool example because we came up with the idea and aligned the content. The fans loved it and were engaged. What that told us was that people were super hungry for Rick and Morty content. It literally broke the internet for us because fans were so excited. What makes branded content work is when you understand the objectives and messaging and give the creators complete creative control and freedom—and we worked with a partner who did that.

What is one marketing strategy that is of focus and emphasis throughout the remainder of this year?

We learn from kids every single day. What we bring to the table, especially, is reach and relevance because we connect with huge amounts of kids across our linear and digital platforms. We have over 135 million app downloads, but we still need to tap into communities outside of our ecosystem. It’s more about working with best-in-class partners as it relates to innovation and technology. We have a really dynamic ecosystem. I think that for kids, it’s about giving them the opportunities to express themselves. If you we give them tools to express themselves through our content, then they are going to evangelize for us. For us, it’s about being with them, and being ahead of them, too, by learning from them. I think that is a key business practice of ours because it’s this generation that is shaping the future of consumption habits. So that is our strategy—to turn our IP over to kids.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Snapchat Could Be The Next Big Social Gaming Platform

Playing games on social media is nothing new, but some platforms lend themselves more naturally to the idea. Snapchat begun as, and still is, a kind of game in itself. Friends send disappearing messages back and forth complete with emoji, stickers, drawn images and captions that keep the conversation going, thus creating a more sophisticated form of texting.

This winter, for example, Snapchat users were playing a game in which females posted Stories or adorned their profiles with fruit emoji, each one with a hidden meaning as to their relationship status. A blueberry meant she was single, a pineapple meant “it’s complicated,” and so on. The only rule was not to tell boys what the fruit meant. Once the boys figured it out, they started their own secret game using animals. This type of user-generated game—much like Twitter’s hashtag games—is the type of engagement that Snapchat is known for.

Naturally, brands want to tap into that engaged audience in fun and interactive ways. Over the last year, the app has hosted a number of playable ads which proved popular with users. Under Armour’s It Comes From Below game starring Cam Newton was a big hit, with 20 percent of Snapchat users swiping up to play on the first day the ad was run. Those who did spent an average of 78 seconds playing the game and 19 percent of users who played shared the game with one or more friends, per Snapchat.

Gatorade embedded an entire, 22-level video game into the app to celebrate tennis champion, Selena Williams, proving that branded ads aren’t limited to just one format.

Snapchat has been experimenting with a number of games playable within the app, such as World Lenses—a way to add virtual elements to a user’s environment such as sparkles, colors, a virtual flashlight and clouds puking rainbows. Perhaps inspired by the success of Pokémon GO (and its many business partnerships), this update laid the groundwork for what would become playable lenses such as Santa’s Helper and a playable Kraft Macaroni and Cheese filter.

Analysts predict that the global social online games market is expected to reach $17.4 billion by 2019, growing at a CAGR of 16.1 percent. In the United States, the industry is expected to surpass $2.4 billion by 2020 EoY. Snapchat users are already playing games on the platform, and brands are finding success through playable lenses and advertisements.

Skybound Interactive Exec Explains Virtual Reality Game Plan

Skybound Interactive is taking a patient approach when it comes to virtual reality gaming. The interactive division of Skybound Entertainment, which is best known for The Walking Dead, has released its first original VR game, Giant Cop.

Dan Murray, president of Skybound Interactive, discovered the indie game from Other Ocean Interactive on a trip to the Philippines, where he was visiting an art team that works on multiple games. The actual Oculus Touch game was developed in Newfoundland, Canada.

“I was struck by how fun it was, and it had a strong narrative component to it and a unique voice, which I thought would be exciting for Skybound fans,” Murray told AListDaily.

Now that the game has shipped for Oculus Rift with Touch support as a timed exclusive, Murray said versions will be released in the future for HTC Vive and PlayStation VR. There are also bigger plans for the IP outside of gaming.

“It starts as a game first and then the conversation is organic as we bring the idea to the rest of the company across all of the different departments so they can see the potential behind the IP and see how we can partner up and add value,” Murray said.

Skybound is using its network of 1.7 million Skybound Insiders to market the $24.95 game, which received a marketing push at EGX Rezzed through Influencers and press. Also, Facebook-owned Oculus, which helped defray some of the development costs in exchange for a timed exclusive window, is also cross-promoting the title.

“This is more of a long-term play,” Murray said. “We’re not a marketing agency or a traditional publisher, we’re a partner on content. We have a lot of plans to support and share this game with all of our fans. We do a lot of internal communication with our fan base.”

Skybound Interactive is also working with Starbreeze and Overkill on The Walking Dead shooter for PC and consoles, as well as The Walking Dead VR game demo, which has made the rounds of trade shows and public conventions over the past few years.

“It was an extension to the PC and console first-person shooter and the VR component was something they wanted to pursue as a test case for some of their ambitions,” Murray explained. “We were cool with that, but we also wanted to bring it to fans so we made an Overkill’s The Walking Dead bus and drove it around to our Walker Stalker conventions.”

Murray said that first step into VR is now being polished for an IMAX version, but the team is also working on the next iteration of The Walking Dead VR experience as well.

“We have a lot of different ideas, and we want to do something really big with Starbreeze, but the focus right now is on the PC and console game,” Murray said. “We have some other game ideas for The Walking Dead that are different as well, but that’s something to talk about soon.”

Murray sees room for both home-based and location-based VR games as the company explores virtual reality.

“It makes perfect sense to deliver something over-the-top and exciting to take advantage of the more powerful hardware for the premium experience inside of a location, which is not very different than what the movie theater experience is versus your 4K TV at home,” Murray said.

When it comes to VR gaming, Murray said the company is working on a bunch of unannounced projects, but the key is in looking at titles that will innovate and deliver something fresh and exciting.

“Our business model is to partner with creators around an IP,” Murray said. “Traditionally we did that with comic books and extended the universe outward. We did a SuperFight card game and YouTube series and a 505 video game and all kinds of other merchandise around it. That same philosophy is important for us to be thinking about licensing things like we did with The Walking Dead. We wanted to reach out to the indie gaming community and find developers that have strong IPs and things they want to develop.”

That holds true for all video game platforms, including virtual reality.

“There’s been so much activity around VR as a medium since Oculus entered the market, and it’s something that the gaming community has been familiar with for over a decade,” Murray said. “It’s still early days, especially in the home. We’ll continue to see the hardware get better and more affordable and more consumer-friendly. It’s going to take a while for the home environment to become the leading location for where people can experience VR. Location-based entertainment centers are very much a recreation of the arcades that I grew up with. They have the ability to introduce VR to more people, as well as bring people together socially.”

How Brands Can Avoid Being Tone Deaf

(Editor’s note: [a]listdaily is the publishing arm of the Ayzenberg Group, the parent company of [a]insights.)

Marketing is a brand’s voice to the world, and just like our human voices, misunderstandings can occur with disastrous results. A well-intentioned marketing campaign can either inspire or completely insult an audience, illustrating the need for communication’s most powerful tool—listening.

“The voice of the people on social media is stronger than the voice of any brand. That’s why it’s so important for brands today to listen,” Talin Koutnouyan, associate director of analytics and insights for [a]insights, told [a]listdaily. “As humans, we grow up learning to read people, understand their motives and social cues. Those skills are what keep us from experiencing embarrassment in social settings. The same is true for brands—they must observe, listen and respond accordingly to build meaningful and strong connections with consumers.”

The word “authenticity” gets thrown around a lot by marketers, but when a brand’s message results in public outrage, it becomes clear how important that idea really is, especially on social media.

“Without authenticity, you don’t get resonance,” says Larry Hitchcock, who handles strategies and partnerships at Ayzenberg. “People will disregard or even stop listening and not be able to receive any of the messages if they feel like there’s a falseness or something disingenuous about it. We do this just as people talking to each other interpersonally—when someone is not being truthful, not being authentic or doesn’t know the cultural language or the cultural behaviors, we tend to dismiss them as not in our group. Not all branders recognize how highly trained the audience is at sussing out that authenticity or whether a campaign represents tone alertness, or tone deafness.”

A recent study found that fewer than three percent of millennials’ purchasing decisions are influenced by traditional advertising such as TV news, magazines and books (traditional media sources) and only one percent said that a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more. Examples of authentic brand messages include “Taste the Rainbow” from Skittles and Taco Bell’s emoji engine that created fun images based on Twitter messages from the fans.

Both campaigns celebrated audience interests through humor and understanding as opposed to traditional campaigns. Knowing what will be perceived as authentic versus forced or fake is a challenge not easily overcome. To tackle this dilemma, experts stress the importance of using the right tools to know an audience before sending a campaign out into the world.

“If you’re not using tools just sitting around in your creative room with the doors locked and not hearing the audience outside, you may invent or create things that once you get them outside on channels have no reality,” cautioned Hitchcock.

“It’s critical for branding efforts to incorporate listening at all stages of a campaign,” added Koutnouyan. “We are able to do this today by analyzing textual data. Text is such a prevalent form of communication and social media is the largest source of unsolicited consumer opinions. We use textual data from social media to understand the consumer’s brand and non-brand related interests, psychographics, experiences, and sentiment. The insights extracted from textual data help deliver efficacy and efficiency to marketing efforts.”

Shazam Has Ears For AR With CTO Hire; McDonald’s Shakes Up Its Marketing

From media networks to gaming, here are the week’s biggest job moves.

Remy Malan is headed to MMO developer Roblox to helm their newly created role of vice president of customers.


Intel announced the appointment of Aicha S. Evans as their new chief strategy officer. Evans will be responsible for driving Intel’s long-term strategy to transform from a PC-centric company to a data-centric company.


Shazam has its eyes on augmented reality. The music-identifying app has hired Richard Sharp as its chief technology officer to help develop the technology for the platform.


McDonald’s has made some moves in its marketing leadership. CMO Deborah Wahl is leaving the fast food giant after leading it for the last three years. She will be replaced by Morgan Flatley, the former CMO of PepsiCo. Julia Vander Ploeg, vice president of digital, is also leaving the company and will be replaced by Farhan Siddiqi, a former vice president of global digital experience at McDonald’s, who is now the new head of US digital.


Sam Toles, formerly the senior vice president and GM for Vimeo Entertainment Group, has been hired by MGM to serve as SVP of digital and new platforms.


Former Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg is headed to Verizon to oversee its fiber network infrastructures teams.


Luxury lifestyle brand Coach announced the appointment of Joshua Schulman as its president and CEO, effective June 5. In this newly created role, Schulman will be responsible for all aspects of the brand globally. Separately, the company announced that Andre Cohen, currently president of North America and global marketing, will be leaving the company at the end of June to return to Asia with his family.


J.Crew’s president and executive creative director Jenna Lyons, a 26-year veteran of the company, is stepping down from the retailer when her contract expires in December.


Electrolux announced that CMO MaryKay Kopf has decided to leave her position, effective May 1. The company has appointed Lars Hygrell, who currently is senior vice president of marketing, as her successor.


Job Vacancies 

CMO, Mixed Reality GE Waukesha, WI
Vice President, Marketing Esurance San Francisco, CA
Vice President Marketing American Eagle Financial Credit Union East Hartford, CT
VP, Marketing (Global Underwear) Calvin Klein New York, NY
VP, Marketing & Digital Channels City of Hope Irwindale, CA
Director, Marketing  Fox Deportes Los Angeles, CA
Director of Brand Content & Partnerships  Time Warner Burbank, CA
Senior Marketing Manager Apple Santa Clara Valley, CA
Sr. Manager, Creative Services NBC Universal Universal City, CA

Make sure to check back for updates on our Jobs Page.

Have a new hire tip? Let us know at editorial@alistdaily.com.

How HP Is Connecting Its Omen Brand With Esports Fans

HP is connecting its Omen PC gaming brand with esports fans through a number of new sponsorships. The traditional Silicon Valley tech giant first dipped its toes into esports through sponsorships of teams like Vitality in France and RNG in China. More recently, Omen by HP signed on as the official hardware partner for the upcoming summer Gfinity Challenger Series and Gfinity Elite Series, following a test sponsor of a Gfinity CS:GO Invitational last fall.

Josh Kocurek, global marketing manager for gaming and esports, told AListDaily that the company’s exploration of esports started around the same time it started to take gaming more seriously.

“We’ve been dabbling in the gaming space for awhile, but it wasn’t until we established Omen that we figured out we needed to approach marketing differently and esports became a part of the discussion over a year ago,” Kocurek said. “We’ve had Team Vitality and Team RNG sponsorships for over a year now, but it wasn’t until six or seven months ago that we sat down and figured out a strategy on how to approach esports and fold it into what we’re doing with growing the Omen brand.”

That Omen brand actually has a backstory. Back in September 2006, HP acquired Canadian custom-built PC company VoodooPC. After releasing some products under that line, the brand fizzled out.

“When we looked at establishing something new, we looked at what had been done with Voodoo with the tribal icon in the branding,” Kocurek explained. “We needed a fresh, clean approach to the new brand, but we did tie it back to Voodoo for PC gamers to connect with.”

HP is entering the PC gaming space after companies like Dell and its Alienware brand, Razer and Asus have established themselves.

“What differentiates us from our competition is that we’re HP,” Kocurek said. “At our core, we are one of the leading desktop and laptop manufacturers in the world. We bring tons of knowledge and expertise from being around for many years and being a big player in the tech space. We have all the resources to deploy against the initiatives we’re tackling in the gaming space. Our team has a long history of working in the games industry and we’re passionate about working in the esports space. This makes us a force to be reckoned with based on goals we’ve set for ourselves in the gaming space.”

There are multiple leagues in the esports space today, but Kocurek said HP decided to partner with U.K.-based Gfinity because a big pillar the company is resting the Omen brand on is to grow the esports industry in a positive way.

“Gfinity explained the Elite Series and the Challenger Series, which is creating an environment where fans who admire pro gamers have the opportunity to work their way through the progression system to potentially be on the stage sitting next to the pros they admire,” Kocurek said. “Gfinity has done a great job making esports accessible and available to everyone. We want to work with them to get as much attention and exposure as possible.”

Part of that marketing plan will come through content creation and sitting down with players and pushing those interviews out through social media channels and getting a conversation started online.

“Esports is appealing to Omen by HP because we’re looking for places where we can come in and tell engaging, emotional stories to an audience that wants to hear and learn more about these pros,” Kocurek said.

The Gfinity series will feature Omen gaming desktops and HP will integrate Gfinity into Omen product launches in European regions.

“Later this year we’ll refresh our desktops and laptops because it’s important for people to see Omen continue to remain successful in this space with new products released annually,” Kocurek said. “We’re working with Gfinity to ensure that these competitions are running at the top caliber level.”

Gfinity has an esports Arena in London and the goal is to grow these series across other regions of the world over time.

“My role is at the global level, so we’re working with Gfinity to establish a strong presence and see where we can take this to other places in the world,” Kocurek said.

Kocurek said when he first started talking to teams around the world, the environment they practice in at gaming houses wasn’t at the same professional level as when they were competing in ESL, Intel Extreme Masters or League of Legends Championship Series events.

“When working with teams we want to make sure we create an environment as close as possible to the real league play environment so they can focus more on strategy and communication and all the things it takes to win in competition,” Kocurek said.

And from branding perspective, Kocurek wants Omen by HP to be a present force when these teams are telling stories.

“We want our products and brand to be visible when they’re doing interviews and streaming and practicing,” Kocurek added.

Bad Ads Wasted $7.4 Billion In 2016

This week, we examine the state of ads on Snapchat, the brands teenagers think are cool and why advertisers are losing so much money.

VR’s Got Company

Among virtual reality and 360-degree video markets, over 60 percent of companies involved specialize in applications, software, content distribution and core technology, according to ABI Research. The company found that there are already more than 460 companies operating in the space worldwide, with this number expected to climb. Thanks to a wide variety of uses for the medium, appeal for both the consumer and enterprise sectors will see the global market exceed $60 billion by 2021, ABI predicts. Among the VR and 360-video companies targeting specific markets, the media and entertainment category represents 35 percent.

Waste Not, Want Not

Are low-quality ads costing you money? Forrester says “yes”—to the tune of $7.4 billion last year. A new report by Forrester says that programmatic media and video are the primary causes of ad fraud spending “wastage.” If the problem is not addressed, that number may grow to $10.9 billion by 2021, the company warns. The report describes a digital advertising supply chain “riddled with problems, most directly connected to the lack of transparency in ad tech. The result is wasted time, effort, and money and lackluster ROI.”

Let’s Chat

Consumers are perfectly happy to interact with brands on their smartphones, according to a report by Vibes. The survey of 2,000 Americans found that 60 percent are comfortable engaging with chatbots, although just 22 percent have done so before. Daily notifications are fine, according to 56 percent. Consumers share they’re most likely to subscribe to alerts from retailers, restaurants and brands (50 percent), followed by weather and radio stations (37 percent) and credit card companies and other financial institutions (34 percent).

Bar Graph displaying Snapchat users frequency engaging with ads“Ad” Me On Social

Snapchat is a popular hangout for young consumers, and therefore a natural draw for advertisers. Unfortunately for ads not native to the app, Snappers just aren’t as interested. According to a study by J.P. Morgan, 50 percent of participants report interacting with sponsored geofilters and lenses, which are unique the platform. The other half, however, said they never engage in those offerings at all. Seventy-three percent indicated that they never engage with “swipe up ads,” while video ads fared slightly better with 68 percent never engaging.

These Brands Are “Lit”

Generations tend to have different opinions, to put it lightly, and that goes for brands, too. These differences are illustrated by a Google study called, It’s Lit: A Guide To What Teens Think Is Cool. Comparing Gen Z to millennials, the study found that both generations think Coke is “cooler” than Pepsi and while both think Google is cool, they have different views of the company. Gen Z associates the company with “fun” and “functional,” while millennials see it as “serious” and “functional.”

The Top 10 Brands Beloved By Gen Z Are:

  • YouTube
  • Netflix
  • Google
  • Xbox
  • Oreo
  • GoPro
  • PlayStation
  • Doritos
  • Nike
  • Chrome

Wrestling Up Subscribers

Fans just bashed a folding chair over the WWE Network’s record for total subscribers following WrestleMania 33 on Sunday. Total domestic subscribers increased four percent to 1.45 million, WWE reported, with total international subscribers jumping 15 percent to 497,000 as of April 4, 2016—the day after WrestleMania last year. Paid subscribers reached 1.66 million, an increase of 14 percent, including 1.24 million domestic (up 12 percent) and 424,000 international (23 percent) subscribers as of Monday. WrestleMania also broke the attendance record for the Orlando Citrus Bowl with 75,245 fans from all 50 states. It was also made available in China for the first time (on a pay-per-view basis via PPTV’s digital platform).

So, how do many internet users actually trust ads? Check out our last marketing stats rundown.

How This Brand Hopes To Bring Clarity To Smart Home Automation

The battle for smart home automation is intensifying, as Amazon Alexa and OK Google target consumers across multiple devices. With an Amazon Echo touchscreen rumored to be in the works, startup Pan Sea Co. is releasing a $200 Android-powered touchscreen Clarity Speaker that will support both Alexa and Google voice services in June. The 7-inch device is being marketed as the central hub for the automated home, enabling users to access Google Now, Google Assistant, Alexa, entertainment services like Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, Google Play and communication apps like Skype. It’s available for pre-order at $150.

“People like the new, simple ways to interact with technology,” Dake Liu, CEO of Pan Sea Co., told [a]listdaily. “AI voice service is currently at the forefront, but not the only one that people are focused on. When people communicate with modern interactive technology, it should feel more natural than if you were just interacting with a machine. We loved the thought of people being able to see and speak to one another, so we added touchscreen into the smart speaker.”

With Clarity, users can control and manage every aspect of the connected home. Using voice commands to control Alexa or Google, or leveraging the 7-inch touchscreen, users can control a range of devices including Nest, TP-Link, Samsung SmartThings, Insteon, Ecobee, Wemo and Hue Personal Wireless Lighting.

“AI voice is evolving into the control center for the Internet of Things, a lot of IOT product will be in your home in the coming years,” Liu said. “Developing an IOT product that can be controlled by one hub was important so we could stand out in the crowd. Clarity is a great device that seamlessly connects all IOT products together and enhances your quality of life.”

Pan Sea Co. developed a special app to connect with the Alexa voice service and opened the OK Google function from the Android system. Liu said this makes it easy to switch between the two services. If consumers want to access Amazon Alexa, they would touch the Alexa app on the Clarity Speaker screen and then say the wake-up word, “Alexa,” with the instruction. For Google, you would touch the microphone on the display screen, say “OK Google” and give it an instruction.

“We don’t have detailed information about the rumored Amazon Echo, but we believe Clarity will be on the market ahead of the device,” Liu said. “Clarity is also portable and unlike Amazon Echo, does not need to be plugged in for operation. This means Clarity can be enjoyed anytime and anywhere. Finally, again as it uses the Android OS, Clarity will have access to more apps than a device on an Amazon-only platform.”

The first wave of Clarity products are going to the 1,500 backers who crowdfunded $250,000 on IndiGogo to get the ball rolling. That exceeded the campaign goal by over 400 percent.

“The crowdfunding campaign made us really identify our core selling points and areas of differentiation,” Liu said. “It has also given us a platform to reach, and be scrutinized by, tech enthusiasts and early adopters.”

The company also learned the importance of respecting all of the audiences out there and delivering a valued product to them. It employed surveys and A/B tests with this crowdfunding audience to make decisions moving forward.

Liu said the company will continue to target consumers who are looking for connected home devices, who are interested in Alexa-enabled devices, but not necessarily an Amazon product, and users who are looking to diversify their lifestyles with a stylish, yet functional connected home device.

Liu said the Clarity brand means, “Making machine communication clearer.”

“Clarity is more than just an audio speaker, it’s an entertainment system as well as a smart hub for the home,” Liu said. “The device is made to not only deliver exceptional sound performance, but users can also watch movies, video chat with others and enjoy their favorite apps from the Google Play store.”

The global voice recognition market, which also includes the growing automotive AI industry, is expected to reach $127.58 billion by 2024, according to a new study conducted by Grand View Research. The report found that enhanced devices represented half of the entire market in 2015 thanks to the increasing usage of voice recognition solutions in the home automation and consumer electronics application areas.

What Eye Tracking Teaches Us About Advertising And Consumer Behavior

All brands want to be seen, but eye tracking helps determine how effective those glances really are. The technology is being utilized by marketers and research teams to better understand human behaviors across a variety of ad types and platforms.

The Eyes Don’t Lie

A recent study by video technology platform, Teads, for example, found that users spent 24 percent more time watching video ads embedded within premium content on websites than they did watching video ads in social feeds. In addition, ad recall was twice as high for in-article video as it was for skippable pre-roll ads. Video ads embedded in premium content were found to drive purchase intent 27 percent higher than skippable pre-roll ads or video ads found on social feeds.

Another eye tracking study conducted by biometric tracking firm Sticky, ad tech firm InSkin Media and market research firm Research Now Group found that viewers need about a second of looking at an ad to have even the smallest amount of ad recall. In the study’s terminology, “gazing” means looking at an ad long enough and with enough attention to actually have the possibility of remembering it. These results aren’t terribly surprising, unless you have a photographic memory. The study determined that in order to get a second of gazing from a viewer, the ad needs to be on-screen for an average of at least 26 seconds and must be viewable for at least 14 seconds to be seen at all.

Which types of display ads are the most effective? It depends on what the consumer is looking for. Meditative conducted an eye-tracking study of 39 participants of mixed ages who were assigned certain search tasks. As they searched, participants were shown digital display ads in various sizes and positions across both web page mock-ups and actual sites.

Using the resulting data, the researchers were able to generate heat maps showing the length of time spent looking at various parts of the pages, as well as gaze maps indicating where people looked and clicked. What they found is that just because as ad is present, doesn’t mean a person will look at it.

Digital display ads were 80 percent more likely to be noticed by study participants if they were relevant to a task the searcher was currently working on, compared with ads relevant to something the searcher had looked for in the past. Out of all the ads that were served to the study participants, only 16.6 percent were actually viewed (as defined by 50 percent or more of their pixels were in view for a minimum of one second). The most-viewed ads were located above the web page compared to below—ads shown above the page were viewed 50 percent more and 87 percent longer on average.

Example of heat map (source http://www.garethspictures.com/ )
Example of heat map created through eye tracking, with red indicating the longest gaze times. (Source: http://www.garethspictures.com/)

We See What You Did There

While most studies are conducted within closed environments, technology is being tested to record eye tracking out in the world. In 2013, Google filed a patent for a system of “pay per gaze,” in which registered advertisers pay Google every time a Google Glass user looks at an ad in his/her external field of vision. The patent mentions the technology’s ability to “determine which on-screen elements draw the user eye.” The pay-per-gaze system could even track a viewer’s emotional engagement with an ad by measuring pupil dilation and retraction.

Researchers are testing a new product called SideWays that can track what products catch your attention on the shelves in physical retail stores. As soon as a customer walks up to an item, the device automatically starts tracking what he/she looks at, which could allow shop owners to cater advertisements according to interest.

Immersive Tracking

HTC has just begun rolling out VR advertisements, complete with eye tracking to measure the ads’ effectiveness. The program, still in pilot stages, is available only in China at the moment, HTC told [a]listdaily. Luckily for advertisers interested in the medium, VR has a head start on brand recall. In a recent study testing the effectiveness of marketing in VR, brand recall was at least eight times more effective across all brands with immersive VR as well as double the intent to share.

NVIDIA is studying a type of rendering based on how the human eye works. A technique called “foveated rendering” creates the highest quality imagery only at the center of your vision where your eye can detect sharp detail, while rendering low quality imagery in the periphery of your vision where your eye is not tuned to pick up high resolution details.

Combined with eye-tracking, it’s widely believed that foveated rendering is an important pathway to unlocking retinal-resolution VR rendering in the near future, meaning imagery so sharp that any additional detail would be indiscernible.

Led by medical diagnostics, the eye tracking market is estimated to exceed one million dollars by 2020, at a CAGR of 35.2 percent.