Therapeutic Mobile Apps Make Stress Relief Child’s Play

More adults are turning to puzzle games to exercise their brains and perhaps delay or stop the cognitive deterioration that may come with age. Mobile game developer MobilityWare, recognizing the growing trend of grownup-style children’s activities as extremely popular ways to relax, focus and relieve stress, responded to it by acquiring Critical Hit Software in 2016. This brought ColorArt: Coloring Book for Adults, Jigsaw Puzzle and other franchises to an audience of over 200 million mobile game players.

Dave Yonamine, founder and chairman of the board for MobilityWare

“We’ve had an eye on the trend for a while,” Dave Yonamine, founder and chairman of the board for MobilityWare, told AListDaily. “Jigsaw puzzles and coloring books are two forms of recreation that start in childhood but endure for a lifetime. While the popularity of jigsaw puzzles has been steady, that of coloring books ebbs and flows.”

Yonamine then recounted some of the events that led to the acquisition of Critical Hit Software. “We had the option of building the app from scratch or buying an established player,” Yonamine explained. “Building it ourselves wasn’t the preference, and we ultimately acquired jigsaw puzzle and adult coloring apps that really tapped into the trend. One of our employees—a woman in her 30s—told me an anecdote about attending her book club and hearing a half-dozen 30-something-year-olds raving about a mobile jigsaw puzzle game they were addicted to on their iPads, which happened to be the one that we acquired.

“One of the great things about acquiring Jigsaw Puzzle and ColorArt—and the trend for these games in general—is that the audience for these games overlaps very nicely with our existing user base of Solitaire players. We can get the word out about Jigsaw Puzzle and ColorArt to the right audience just by marketing to more than 200 million people already playing our Solitaire game. Chances are, they are the very same people that enjoy jigsaw puzzles and adult coloring activities.”

No matter what you call it, the trend appeals to practically every walk of life, from baby boomers to millennials. “These games have such a cross-generational appeal, and who doesn’t love a good jigsaw puzzle?” said Yonamine, when asked if one generation was taking more to these types of play than others. “But that nostalgic draw is definitely more acute for older generations. People in their 30s and older are the ones who most gravitate toward these games. The ‘Ah, to be young again!’ allure is a lot less alluring to those who are actually young.”

In a statement discussing the regressive play trend, MobilityWare CEO Jeff Erle said, “These fun and inexpensive activities take less energy than jogging or yoga, are easy to pick up, and can be done alongside other things without being obtrusive.”

When asked to further expand on why so many people would choose children’s activities at a time when there are so many other forms of entertainment (including video games) and therapy around, Yonamine said, “The cool thing is that these things aren’t mutually exclusive. The numerous mobile games capturing the interest in children’s activities by adults is the perfect intersection of technology, video games and therapy. In a way, it’s the best of all worlds. Adults can tap into their nostalgia but through modern technology and in a video game format—two things that are familiar to many adults today. As for other therapeutic options, playing a game of Jigsaw Puzzle is a lot less expensive and more accessible than seeing a therapist.”

However, there is still the matter of how some may regard the tactile feel of books and puzzle pieces as part of the therapeutic experience. We asked Yonamine how coloring and puzzles translate as digital activities.

“It is true that the experience will vary from the physical to the digital format,” Yonamine explained. “For one thing, cleanup is a lot easier, since you no longer have to pick up dozens of puzzle pieces. But there’s also a convenience factor to having these activities take digital form. They are accessible at a moment’s notice with a swipe of your phone. At the end of the day, the expectation with doing jigsaw puzzles and coloring is to do something relaxing and fun, and that should be true in whatever format you do it in.”

Given how there are studies that indicate that there are psychological health benefits to these activities, we asked Yonamine if MobilityWare was presenting ColorArt and Jigsaw Puzzle as therapeutic experiences. “No and yes,” he replied. “We would never claim that the apps are themselves therapeutic, but we definitely highlight the therapeutic nature of these games in our marketing collateral, e.g. by positioning the game as a great stress reducer or a way to relax. It’s not the only way of presenting these games though, and we certainly highlight other things as well, such as the nostalgic aspect of these apps, ease of use and the social features that allow players to share the puzzles with friends and family.”

So, after coloring and jigsaw puzzles, what could be the next big trend in therapeutic play?

“We’re good, but not that good!” Yonamine exclaimed. “We don’t know what the next big thing will be, but ‘what’s old is new again’ is very true of what we are generally seeing on the App Store right now. The game styles and mechanics of yesteryear are having a resurgence in the charts. I think that we will only be seeing more and more of that.”

Samsung Galaxy S8 Sells 5 Million; Nintendo Tops April Game Sales

This week in marketing news, Samsung is off to a nice start with the Galaxy S8, Oculus hopes to solve a VR focus problem and Nintendo races to the top spot.


“Advanced” video advertising—with interactive elements such as overlays, clickable content and more earn a higher click-through rate, according to Innovid’s 2017 Global Video Benchmarks Report. The study compares advanced video advertising with static pre-roll ads to determine any differences in effectiveness. Mobile click-through on interactive video has the greatest click-through rate compared to any other format or device, Innovid reported, and a 57 percent lift over desktop.

Mobile Momentum

Less than a month on the market, Samsung has sold more than five million units of its new Galaxy S8 smartphone, the company confirmed. “Although we cannot provide detailed figures, the sales are going smoothly around the globe. The combined sales already are beyond five million units,” an unnamed Samsung official told Korea’s The Investor

While that’s great news for Samsung—who’s still recovering from its Galaxy Note 7 disaster—the company has a long way to go before it topples iPhone sales.

Apple shipped 21.5 million iPhone 7 units and captured six percent market share worldwide in the first quarter of 2017, according to estimates by Strategy Analytics. Global smartphone shipments reached 353.3 million units in the first quarter.

Millennials On The Move

When young consumers take a vacation, they mean it, according to research by Expedia Media Solutions. While baby boomers literally want to see the world through sight-seeing (48 percent), 57 percent of both millennials and Gen Z vacationers took “relaxing” trips last year. Relaxation was the main reason for a vacation across all generations at a total of 55 percent, followed by sight-seeing at 45 percent.

Getting A Handle On Header Bidding

Mobile channels are highly conducive to header bidding, according to PubMatic’s Q1 2017 Quarterly Mobile Index. Android delivered 71 percent of all monetized mobile app ad impressions served across PubMatic’s platform in the first quarter, up from 39 percent a year prior.

Data Insecurity

Seventy percent of consumers lack confidence that their information is private and secure, according to a recent survey by Consumer Reports. Of the 1,007 consumers polled, 92 percent think companies should be required to have their permission before sharing or selling their online data. In addition, 65 percent of American respondents do not trust the government to protect consumer interests.

Focusing In VR

The global VR content creation market is estimated to reach $41.01 billion at the end 2023, according to estimates by Occams Business Research, growing at a rate of 89.8 percent CAGR.

The complexity of the human eye presents many challenges for developers to recreate natural vision in virtual reality. Oculus Research, the VR and AR research and development division of the company, announced a new display technology called the “Focal Surface Display.” The new technology aims to improve the “vergence-accommodation” conflict that plagues VR headsets today.

Oculus Research published a paper and will present the research on the focal surface display at the SIGGRAPH conference this July.

Number One Nintendo

Total video game spending in April—including hardware, software and accessories—grew 10 percent from last year to $636 million, according to the latest NPD report. April marked the first time the video game industry experienced two months of consecutive growth since November 2015, for which it can thank Nintendo.

Mario Kart is the top-selling racing franchise in the US, and the latest title did not disappoint. Despite being on the market just two days in April, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was the top-selling video game that month with more than 460,000 physical units sold. (With digital sales added, the total is more than 550,000 units.) Nintendo also led in hardware sales, with Nintendo Switch at number one followed by NES Classic.

Rounding out the top five on the April charts are Persona 5 in second place, followed by The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildMLB 17: The Show and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands.

Unsurprisingly, GTA V—coming in at number sixcontinues to hold its own among the top ten, thanks to continuous updates and an engaged following. (Note: digital sales were not included for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Persona 5 or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.)


‘Alien: Covenant’ Marketing Taps Into Fear, Love And Creativity

Alien: Covenant invades US theaters May 19 and fans are ready to face their fears thanks to a series of creative marketing campaigns by 20th Century Fox. Appealing to a wide variety of fans, these campaigns delve deeper into the film’s story, Alien franchise lore and even makes light of the fact that most characters probably won’t survive.

The official Alien social media accounts held a death bracket, allowing audiences to vote on who they think will survive the on-screen ordeal. Unsurprisingly, Daniels (played by Katherine Waterston) and android Walter (Michael Fassbender) were voted most likely not to be turned into an alien incubator.

Daniels is the main character of Alien: Covenant, and Ripley is a hard act to follow . . . err, precede, technically. 20th Century Fox highlights this heroine’s tenacity and will to survive with a special trailer and the sponsored Twitter hashtag, #SheWontGoQuietly.

Speaking of hashtags, Alien: Covenant didn’t stop at one, but several sponsored tags leading up to the film’s premiere, each accompanied by an alien emoji. Tags range from the obvious (#AlienCovenant) to defiant (#SheWontGoQuietly) and of course, horror (#XenoEvil and #RunHidePray).

20th Century Fox celebrated Alien Day (April 26, a nod to planet LV-426 from the original film) with a free Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR 360-degree experience called Alien: Covenant In Utero.

Androids called Synthetics have always played a major role in the Alien universe, for better or for worse. Michael Fassbender returns as David, as well as a new model called Walter—powered by AMD, Ryzen and Radeon technology—a perfect example of product placement that fits seamlessly into a film’s lore. Those who visit can check out all 16 models ranging from therapists to teachers, marines and chefs to romantic companions.

Audi created a space exploration vehicle called the Audi lunar quattro, which received its very own short film. This little rover isn’t just a fancy prop, however, as the manufacturer has designed it for a real mission to the moon.

Reebok created a special two-pack of shoes called the Alien Stomper and is giving away a pair this summer. A stop-motion animated spot sees both shoes duking it out in the style of Ridley vs. the Xenomorph queen in Aliens.

Actor Jussie Smollett (Empire) who plays Ricks in the film took over Entertainment Week’s Snapchat and Good Morning America‘s Periscope channels to discuss the film and answer fan questions.

Snapchat received its very own, animated lens in which users can don a Xenomorph head or be attacked by a face hugger. Facebook hosted a filter of its own, in which users can pose next to an alien.

Influence marketing was a successful strategy for the marketing team, partnering with social media creators to celebrate the film’s release and the franchise as a whole. Adam Savage (Myth Busters, Tested) had fun trying on costumes, testing weapons and recreating blood vomit effects while cosplayer Angela Bermúdez recreated Daniel’s look from the film.

Talented photographer and cook Christine McConnel created multiple homages—highly detailed, mostly in edible form and all impressive. Dancakes whipped up some of his specialty branded pancakes and several artists contributed sponsored posts, inspired by Alien: Covenant. Even Adult Swim got in on the fun when Rick and Morty answer a distress call.

Between Alien Day, Mother’s Day and every other day, audiences have been prepped and ready to return to Ridley Scott’s universe of intergalactic terror. From what we’ve seen, they’re in for one heck of a ride.

Trust, Security And Other Key Themes From Newfronts 2017

Digital Content Newfronts is notorious for its live concerts, celebrity partnerships and sizzle reels galore, but beneath the “sexy,” brands got serious about a few key messages for would-be investors.


In a time when fake news is a very real problem, The New York Times stood by its century-old commitment to seeking the truth and “dared” brands to partner with them with the slogan, “Truth+Dare.”

“There is value in high-quality journalism,” Sebastian Tomich, senior vice president of advertising and innovation at The New York Times told AListDaily. “It’s about what you can do with that in a daring fashion, and what makes the things that we do with advertisers special. Those were themes that we kept reiterating throughout the entire show—we don’t market ourselves as a transactional media business, where you come to us just to make a generic VR film, video or podcast. You come to us because you want to do groundbreaking work.”


It’s no secret that YouTube has lost quite a few advertisers who cite a lack of control over what messages are being displayed next to their brand. Susan Wojcicki, YouTube CEO, was quick to address concerns during the company’s Newfronts presentation.

“The last several weeks have been challenging for some of you, and you’ve told us to do better when it comes to ad placement,” she told the audience. “I want you to know that we have taken your feedback to heart. We work hard every day to earn our advertisers’ and agencies’ trust, and we apologize for letting some of you down. I’m here to say that we can and we will do better.”

Security has been a common thread among presenters at Newfronts this year who are taking advantage of the situation to assure potential investors of their trustworthiness.

“Who you trust your brands with is more important than ever,” Andrew Sugerman, an executive VP with Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, noted during Disney’s presentation.

Connected To Young Audiences

Disney has traditionally been a hit with the kiddies, but it’s so much more than toys and cartoons these days, especially with a digital-first generation. Much of Disney’s new digital content is family-friendly, with the overall goal of appealing to connected young consumers. Along with the sheer volume of major brands under the Disney mantle–including Marvel and Star Wars—the company includes more than 300 social media channels, reaching more than one billion followers combined.

“This extends our stories to the platforms Gen Z and millennial audiences are on every day, with diverse editorial voices that integrate top creators and influencers,” said Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media in the pitch to marketers and agency execs.

Many brands are ramping up their social media video presence across the board, especially with livestream content. This connection to young audiences became a frequent talking point from brands as they assured marketers of their understanding in this demographic.

“Condé Nast was one of the first companies to invest in premium digital video at real scale, and as we’ve built our next-gen network, we’ve gained deep insight into millennial and Gen Z audiences,” said Dawn Ostroff, president of Condé Nast Entertainment during her presentation. “As mobile has become the new primetime among younger audiences, our digital video network now outperforms some traditional television networks.”

Improving The World

Whether it’s improving our own lives or the lives of others, personal empowerment—especially among women and minorities—was a hot topic at Newfronts this year.

The Never Settle Show, hosted by Mario Armstrong, is a program for and about entrepreneurs, airing live each week from eight different platforms allowing audiences to comment and ask questions in real-time.

Popsugar, also appealing to entrepreneurs, is hosting a new show called Failing Forward in which women share difficult moments that helped propel them forward.

Meanwhile, Awesomeness outlined plans to launch Awesomeness News, focused on “socially conscious” issues, such as politics, the environment and social justice, through a lens for Gen Z viewers. Awesomeness News will be available on all AwesomenessTV platforms.

Pre-, Mid-, Or Post-Roll? Here’s Where Your Video Ads Work

Cisco predicts that 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic will consist of video streaming and downloads by 2019, and brands are investing in the content type like never before. Not all video ads are created equal, so which are the most effective?

Studies Show. . .

Seventy-six percent of viewers skip pre-roll ads simply because they had become conditioned to do so, according to a recent study by Magna, and only 10 percent of those surveyed could still recall the brand after the ad was skipped.

However, if viewers opt to watch pre-roll ads, they have a 78 percent completion rate, according to Ooyala. Still, of the three types of ad placements, YuMe found that pre-roll ads were considered the least intrusive. Only 17 percent of mobile device users feel that the ad interrupts the content compared with 60 percent on outstream and 72 percent on mid-roll.

Ooyala also found that mid-roll ads have a 90 percent completion rate since users are already invested in the content. Mid-roll accounts for more than 33 percent of digital video ads in apps, online and through video-streaming boxes like Apple TV.

Post-roll, while the least engaging, still boasts an impressive 65 percent completion rate, per Ooyala. Calls-to-action after a video has played can be more effective, since users aren’t afraid to miss anything. Post-roll impressions have grown 74 percent YoY as of April 2016, so consumers aren’t necessarily running away as soon as their video has ended.

So, which ads are right for your brand? It depends entirely on the message. Across the board, shorter ads have higher completion rates . . . so long as they are entertaining.

STRIVR Labs Is Leveraging Virtual Reality To Train Sports Stars

Derek Belch is a former Stanford football player and graduate assistant coach for the Cardinal team. During his time at the university, he studied and graduated with a journalism degree and returned to Stanford after attending business school at USC to earn a masters in virtual reality.

Shortly after toiling with the revolutionary and emerging tech in school at the heart of Silicon Valley, Belch founded STRIVR Labs, a VR performance training platform that is aiming to unlock the untapped potential of athletes and businesspeople through practice.

Derek Belch, founder and CEO of STRIVR Labs

Now the one-time college kicker presides as the CEO for the Palo Alto-based start-up, which has quickly developed into one of Fast Company’s 50 “Most Innovative Companies In The World,” is netting investments from sports icons like four-time Super Bowl winning signal-caller Joe Montana and is working with forward-thinking sports franchises who want to make sure their big-ticket players are in prime position to perform at optimal levels.

Teams like the Dallas Cowboys, a cavalcade of franchise players like Andrew Luck and brands like BMW are lining up to use virtual reality in order to eliminate any blind spots, and improve at their crafts.

“[Former 49ers coach] Bill Walsh used to talk about preparation all the time, and at its core, STRIVR is a preparation tool. Seeing things happen in virtual reality helps prepare you for when those things happen in real life,” Montana said in a statement when his investment was announced in March. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a quarterback or a worker on a factory floor—repetitions are important. STRIVR delivers the ability to get repetition and get experience in a way I haven’t seen before. STRIVR believes in the idea that virtual experiences can impact real world behavior. They are helping people perform better at their jobs, no matter what that job is. The opportunity in front of them is enormous.”

Belch joined AListDaily to shed light on how VR can find a foothold in training brands and sports franchises.

How is STRIVR Labs differentiating itself from other VR companies?

For the last two years, we’ve been doing a mix of training and experiential brand work. We’ll continue to do both because the ecosystem plays into each other. Long term, we want to be a leader in human-performance VR. We’re also currently working behind the scenes with three Fortune 100 companies using VR to train their employees, and almost 25 sports teams.

How are you marketing your platform?

The players don’t like for us to talk too much about what we’ve done, but Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer came out in the media and sang our praises on how he’s incorporated VR into his practice routine. Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor talked about it, too. So there’s some stuff out there. I don’t like to be quoted because I don’t want to attribute their success to STRIVR Labs. We’re just one part of it. We do not have any true consumer products or an offering today, but we will eventually. We have done a lot of work with different brands, like Gatorade, Visa, Pepsi, Lowe’s and Bank of America, and how we can use VR as part of their campaigns to put it in front of consumers. Or in-arena activations like a virtual hockey goalie simulator for the Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. It’s not something we’re selling to put in your living room, but it’s an awesome way for teams to build fan-engagement tools through experiential marketing.

Why are major sports leagues and franchises trying to solve marketing problems through VR?

It’s a great question. Right now, it’s about staying at the forefront of technology and being viewed as innovative. Studies show that brands are viewed more positively by consumers as a result of using VR, as opposed to just watching something in 2D. Long term, we’ll be able to see how data plays out from tracking where exactly consumers are looking at. . . . We’re very friendly with brands like NextVR, but we do not do what they do. They’re trying to solve the live VR sports broadcast problem, and we’ll see where that goes over the next decade. I could see the VR lines blurring in the long term. They are a complementary component to what we do, and we complement what they do in the VR ecosystem. We talk about them very positively, and vice versa.

Why are sports franchises adopting VR with hopes of changing their fortunes?

We’re still in early adopter mode. There’s a long way to go. Less than a third of the NFL is using it. There are teams that have tapped other companies, too. We anticipate STRIVR Labs’ NFL team count to jump to 10 or 11 this year. I think the idea of using VR to get more reps from a mental standpoint is unequivocally valued across the board. Then the question is, “Do I have to change my current pattern or behavior on-and-off the field to actually integrate this?” A lot of teams just aren’t ready for that. Furthermore, especially at the quarterback position, the best signal-callers are veterans, and have been doing this for a while. They are pencil-and-paper guys. Are they really drawn to VR? Some are, and some aren’t. Over the next few years, as we see a younger wave of players come into the league, you’re going to see VR adopted even more.

Monday Night Football hosts wear VR headsets

The NFL is already using technology with Microsoft Surface tablets on the sideline as the “official tablet and PC operating system of the NFL.” Is digital savvy being welcomed by old school regimes?

From how teams train to the ways in which they call their plays, the NFL is without a doubt a copycat league. VR in the league is something where in five years, it’s going to be everywhere. It just takes some time. You have to remember that until a decade ago, NFL teams were watching game tape and breaking down film on VHS. The digital adoption took a while. For something like VR, we’re talking about changing a player’s routine, and the way coaches coach. It’s different.

How can training and practicing in VR become the next big thing for professional athletes?

On the surface, using VR to get more practice and repetition from a first-person vantage point hasn’t evolved conceptually. Over the last year or so, we’ve had a ton of innovations under the hood at STRIVR Labs, and now we’re looking at how you can use it as a real training and assessment tool that goes beyond just watching plays in VR. One of the things our teams are going to be creating moving forward are quizzes and assessments where we can truly measure whether or not you’re doing things right or wrong, and how fast you’re reacting and learning.

How can VR be positioned as a practice replacement?

Even running a tech company, I’m still a little old school at heart. We’re never going to replace physical practice, nor should we try to. What we’ve already seen with players who are injured and can’t or shouldn’t practice, or it’s a short week for Thursday Night Football, they’re using VR to stay on top of their game. Coaches are even admitting to their players using it. Which is cool. It’s great for us. Some of our skeptics who may not be buying into it for whatever reason right now may be calling us when their players get hurt. We’ll get there. It will just take time.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

The Earned Media Value Of Top Companies For Q1 2017

Editor’s note: Robin Boytos is the director of analytics for Ayzenberg Insights. AListDaily is the editorial and publishing arm of the Ayzenberg Group, the parent company of Ayzenberg Insights.

Which companies are killing it on social media? We’re taking a look at how companies are engaging their audiences with social media content and what kind of ROI they’re getting every quarter at Ayzenberg Insights. 

We compiled a list of companies using industry rankings of the world’s most valuable brands and measured the performance of their company’s social media pages with Ayzenberg’s Earned Media Value Index. The earned media revenue was calculated using public social media engagement data, excluding the top five percent of posts on Twitter, 12 percent on YouTube and 20 percent on Facebook on the assumption that these posts utilized paid media.

What is EMV?

Earned media is the extended value of paid, organic social or influencer activity. EMV provides the value of virality on social content—engagements are valuable.

Rates are assigned to a like, comment, share, click and various other metrics through extensive research of the value of each of these metrics with an emphasis on how much this would cost to buy through programmatic buying on social networks. Earned media can be looked at from this perspective: if we stopped all organic social activity, how much paid media is needed to achieve the same earned media results?

Breaking Down The Top 10 Brands By EMV

Disney “The kids brand.” Disney is one of the best to leverage UGC on Instagram, which that along with a large variety of content and high quality assets drove up their Instagram earned media revenue—pushing them into the top 10. Disney also capitalizes on where their Gen Z viewers consume content through YouTube.

H&M and Forever 21 “The cool brands.” For fast fashion companies H&M and Forever 21, Instagram plays to their sweet spot by highlighting trends, usage of models, celebrities and the popular social media trend: knolling.

Red Bull “The action brand.” Instagram drove up Red Bull’s earned media revenue with rarely any Red Bull branding at all. This brand is all about appealing to extreme sports and adrenaline-pumping activities.

Starbucks “The tasty brand.” Starbucks lets their product speak for itself with solo focus on their tasty food and drinks. Instagram taps into the millennial and Gen Z infatuation with food pictures and complements the product with cheerful, vibrant colors.

Nike “The athletic brand.” Nike promotes aspirational and athletic content that embraces the lifestyle of “just do it”.  Nike is able to translate their branding into clearly themed pictures on Instagram.

Audi “The sleek brand.” Instagram is the driving force of Audi’s EMV by incorporating high-resolution shots of their cars from all angles and backdrops. Audi beautifully ties together art and adventure.

Ford “The practical brand.” Ford’s largest source of earned media value comes from YouTube, where practical information drives viewership such as competitor comparisons and customer testimonials. Ford also sees a nice lift from Instagram where they encourage their customers to “go further,” by highlighting the more rugged and durable aspects of their vehicles.

Arby’s “The clever brand.” Arby’s has seemingly mastered the art of marketing on Facebook, driving up their EMV.  Arby’s cleverly places their food as a secondary focus and integrates highly innovative concepts, which in turn receives high shares and likes. More on their strategy here.

Coke “The feel-good brand.” Coca-Cola encapsulates how the cold, refreshing taste of Coke improves everyday moments in life through humorous, “feel good” videos.


If YouTube and Instagram are done right, the earned media revenue payout can be great. With strong Instagram and YouTube strategies, these platforms launched brands into the top 10. Other general trends observed included an abundance of creative assets in the form of photo, GIFs and video. Finally, each of our top 10 had a distinguishable theme and/or brand voice.

At Newfronts, Female Empowerment Is On The Program

Women make 85 percent of all purchasing decisions and this year’s collection of Digital Content Newfronts announcements were certainly full of girl power. While lifestyle and beauty programming are popular topics and the bread and butter of some of the top publishing brands, other trends emerged during Newfronts such as activism and empowering women of color.

Political and societal strife are at an emotional high, spurring debates across the world on gender equality, racial harmony and personal identity. As a result, solidarity, entrepreneurship and self-love were especially strong themes across all female-oriented presentations.

Aligned under the theme, “We Rise. We Shine,” Popsugar announced several new projects including Failing Forwarda documentary series in which female entrepreneurs share moments when things went wrong and how overcoming it helped them move on to greater heights. Honored, the first feature film out of Popsugar Films, will tell the emotional story of friendship and loss.

“Popsugar has always helped women celebrate themselves and others,” said Lisa Sugar, Popsugar’s cofounder and president in a statement. “In a world where we need to come together, our mission is more relevant than ever. We continue to be committed to igniting optimism while driving change and building communities; in fact, making women’s lives easier, more meaningful and beautiful is our motivation for storytelling.”

Refinery29 appealed to its active audience of millennial and Gen Z women and girls with the theme, “Our Party is Women.” The female-centric brand announced a slate of new programming in collaboration with Willow Smith, Zosia Mamet, Rashida Jones, Chloe x Halle, Evan Rachel Wood and her band Rebel and a Basketcase, and comedian/actor Sasheer Zamata.

Women of color were a prominent presence at this year’s Newfronts, empowering them with everything from life advice to social activism. Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence, announced a live video partnership with Twitter to broadcast Essence Now, the first live show on Twitter targeting black women. In addition, Cosmopolitan is launching a new 10-episode Snapchat series with actress Yara Shahidi (Blackish) called Keep Calm & Yara On. The company’s Snapchat channel boasts over 11 million subscribers.

Hulu is riding the success of its female-empowerment series, A Handmaid’s Tale and renewed the show for a second season. The video-streaming service acquired exclusive SVOD rights to The Golden Girls earlier this year, a series popular with not only women but the LGBT community—a demographic with nearly $1 trillion in purchasing power.

Verizon Fios Finds Gamers A Natural Audience For Gigabit Internet

Verizon wants to take internet users to the next level the Fios Gigabit Connection. The service, which launched in April, provides download speeds up to 940 Mbps (megabits per second) and uploads up to 880 Mbps and is available in select parts of the Northeast United States, from the Boston, Massachusetts to the Richmond, Virginia areas including New York City and Philadelphia.

inline imageTo demonstrate the power of gigabit speeds, Verizon built the Fios Connected Home inside of its New York headquarters, which is a mock apartment space filled with smart devices. Yet, even with this impressive demonstration, there is one issue with marketing the service: average users don’t require this kind of speed. However, Verizon quickly discovered that there is one type of user that can’t get enough speed, and that’s gamers—particularly esports competitors. That realization led to a shift from strictly marketing the service to the general public to putting an increased focus on the gaming community.

Ray McConville, a Verizon spokesperson representing the consumer business unit for Fios
Ray McConville, Verizon spokesperson representing the consumer business unit for Fios

Speaking with AListDaily, Ray McConville, a Verizon spokesperson representing the consumer business unit for Fios, recounted how Fios became involved with gaming.

“It started at the beginning of this year, when we came out with a new flagship internet product called Instant Internet, which we’ve upgraded to be called Fios Gigabit Connection, which offers near gigabit per second speeds in both directions,” McConville explained. “We were trying to figure out how to best position the use case for something like this—but honestly, if you’re just using the internet in normal ways such as browsing the web, checking email and streaming video as a single user, it’s not going feel all that different from a 50 Mbps connection. A lot of web applications don’t require speeds like that.

“We had been positioning the use case as people having an explosion of connected devices in their homes, and when they use them all at once, they add up and put a big strain on the home network—that’s why we’re coming out with super-fast speeds. But one of the exceptions to that rule is the gaming community. That is a prime example of a singular application where you can never give the end user enough speed. That little bit of difference in lag can make the difference between winning and losing in online gaming competitions.”

McConville then went into detail about why gamers are the perfect audience. “Gamers—even if they are the only ones using that internet connection—can never get enough speed,” he said. “They have a very high demand for it, and it’s a very knowledgeable group of people. They’re very passionate, and if you can reach them, they’ll advocate on behalf of you. We got into this as a means of reaching a vocal community that has a strong demand for a service like this.”

Verizon is just getting started with its video game and esports-related marketing, and it is still exploring opportunities. One of its biggest activations so far was for the launch of Halo Wars 2, done in partnership with Microsoft and professional esports player Arturo Sanchez. At the time, the service was still called Instant Internet and featured a 750 Mbps connection, but it could achieve near gigabit speeds.

“We hosted a group of professional gamers at our demo center in lower Manhattan, and the night before, we did an instant drop where we gave away 750 free digital downloads of the game,” said McConville, describing the event. “Five or six of those winners got to square-off against the pros, who were also trying out the game for the first time. There was a big social media play and it was all streamed live over Twitch. It took place on a Friday night, and even though Fridays aren’t always the best nights, it was successful because Fios was the number one trending topic on Twitter in New York City that night.”

Sanchez and his viewers were impressed by the speed, and the activation was so successful that the gamer was invited back to the Fios Connected Home demo center to host more livestreaming events, including a two-hour training session in preparation for DreamHack Austin.

Verizon connected with Sanchez through Twitter, as he was one of the first people to respond when Fios Instant Internet launched. He hosts local New York esports competitions every Wednesday, sometimes collaborating with other brands and influencers, and needs the fast bandwidth for these livestreamed events. However, the gigabit service hadn’t launched yet, so Verizon invited Sanchez to the Connected Home to try the service out and that’s how the relationship began.

While Verizon considers the possibly of expanding its relationships, the company will likely seek out more opportunities to reach gamers and partner with esports players using the Fios Connected Home. The Connected Home was built to showcase the ideal smart home using a multitude of connected devices, since (outside of gaming) there is no singular application that requires gigabit speeds. Features include a doorbell, security camera and front porch lights that are all connected to a smartphone. Inside, there are six 4K televisions simultaneously streaming different content from multiple services, along with about a dozen Philips Hue lights that can all be controlled via smartphone or Google Home. In addition to multiple tablets, a smart fridge and even a connected coffee pot, there is a desktop computer and two Xbox One gaming consoles hooked into the internet. McConville emphasized how by themselves, these devices don’t take up much bandwidth, but they all add up to a massive drain on the household’s internet bandwidth.

The Connected Home demonstrates how the Gigabit Connection might benefit real world use, allowing people to see why speed matters. McConville stated that competing ISPs have demonstrated speed in nonsensical ways such as downloading X number of photos a second. “Why is that exciting, and does it even happen that way?” McConville asked rhetorically. “In the real world, there are multiple speed bumps before that content reaches your network. That’s why we never positioned this as, ‘You can do this in X amount of time.’ Those are all theoretical, perfect world scenarios. What’s meaningful to customers is when they see all these connected devices.”

Although McConville admits that the Connected Home might be a bit over-the-top with all its devices, people who have toured the space have responded well, as many had about twenty devices hooked up to their networks. “When they saw how everything worked at the same time, compared to what they were used to at home, they were impressed,” said McConville.

Verizon is still making plans for how it will make further use of the Fios Connected Home and how it will continue promoting the Gigabit Connection service, but gaming (specifically, esports) could be a big part of it. “It’s a natural fit for us to be involved in the esports space, given how it’s one of those areas where—as they say—latency kills,” said McConville. “It makes a huge difference between winning and losing. Esports is a fast-growing space, a very social space that’s active online, and we think it makes a lot of sense for us to be involved with it. We feel that we offer the best internet service there is, and we have a very natural tie-in with the esports community.”

How Drone Racing Is Becoming A Global Brand Opportunity

Brad Foxhoven spent many years in Hollywood turning video games like Heavenly Sword and Ratchet and Clank into computer-generated feature films. These days, he’s running DR1 Racing, a global drone racing company that’s being positioned as a tailor-made opportunity for brands.

The company just added Dell to its list of brand partners, kicking off the relationship in Las Vegas last week at the Dell EMC World event at The Sands. That Micro Series event featured palm-sized drone racing using Tiny Whoops and goggles to pilot through Gotham-inspired skyscrapers.

DR1 Racing is turning this indoor series into a global TV production with title sponsor Air Hogs, which is releasing its own line of lower-priced, entry-level DR1 Racing drones this summer. The pilot for the series featured racing through the actual set of the cult favorite Fox TV show Firefly. The TV series will have a variety of racetrack settings that connect with fans, while also opening up new opportunities for sponsors. And the show will air pre-produced, allowing editors to bring the tiny drones to life in the best possible way—something that a live broadcast wouldn’t be able to deliver at this stage.

“The Micro Series is a great entry point for kids and families,” Foxhoven told AListDaily. “It’s not as daunting as the bigger, faster drones we feature in the Champions Series. This is something that’s a little more approachable for the kids and the parents to participate in. They can learn to fly these drones pretty quickly.”

Beginning in August, Air Hogs will have DR1 Racing drones for $40 and a first-person view version with goggles for $100. In contrast, the Tiny Whoops, which are completely customizable, cost about $200. And when you add in the goggles and controller, the cost rises between $500-to-$600, which is still a lot more affordable than the cost-of-entry for the full-sized drones.

“Our partnership with Air Hogs is multi-tiered because in addition to being a sponsor of the Micro Series, they are also a master toy license partner,” Foxhoven explained. “We’re trying to go after demographic of kids that are anywhere from 8-to-14-year-old boys and girls that are a little more tech savvy, but also want to be more exploratory in nature and pick up and fly something that’s a little bit more technologically advanced than any other product that they’re used to.”

Foxhoven sees this young drone racing demographic crossing over with esports fans.

“What you’re seeing with these kids, and this new audience, is that they want a sport of their own,” Foxhoven said. “When they look at some of these traditional sports, whether it be NASCAR or golf or tennis, those are their grandfathers’ or fathers’ sports. They’re looking at esports as something that they can have as their own that really speaks to their generation and their core, and drone racing really fits in with that. You’re wearing a set of goggles, so it’s similar to VR. You have a controller that reminds them of a game controller and you’re racing this environment that feels like you’re in a living, breathing video game with Micro Series or Champion Series. It taps into that feeling you get from competitive racing environments like Need for Speed or Gran Turismo. The people that find competitive gaming exciting and enjoyable will also look at drone racing in that same kind of way.”

Sponsors are already lining up. Out of the gate, DR1 Racing partnered with Mountain Dew and Doritos for an event. The company also worked with Buffalo Wild Wings. And now Dell and Air Hogs are on board. Foxhoven said nine-out-of-10 sponsors or partners that DR1 Racing has signed (many of which have yet to be announced) are endemics.

“We’ve had some really sizable partners that have come in and looked at this as something that allows them to reach a new audience that is kind of now finding new ways to enjoy themselves through competition in this technologically advanced world,” Foxhoven said.

Drone racing teams are already forming for DR1 Racing events. And they’re partnering with brands that will be worn on pilots’ jerseys for the televised competitions.

“You’ll see these brands on the jerseys much like esports and even like professional racing with NASCAR and F1,” Foxhoven said. “These things that are created are going to be designed for sponsors to have visibility on hats and jerseys and drones, as well as have visibility in and around the race itself.”

DR1 Racing has over 100 countries that are signed up as broadcast partners for this year and next. Foxhoven said this means that, globally, the company has the broadest reach of any drone racing organization that’s out there.

“But it’s not just the broadcast side, it’s the digital side as well,” Foxhoven said. “We certainly stream things on Twitch. We have an ecosystem that has a live component that people can immerse themselves in this world and find it wherever they are, so they don’t have to go to broadcast and find it there. They have elements that can be found on digital as well, so both sides are really important to this audience.”

Essentially, DR1 Racing is in the early stages of creating a new sport, so Foxhoven said a lot of these features need to be specifically done in a way that’s enjoyable for the audience.

“We’re trying to do a whole bunch of things to be appealing to how people are consuming content,” Foxhoven explained. “We need to approach it really strategically so we will have the live component, we will have the in-person experience and we’ll have the broadcast component later on. So those who want to consume the races live can do that, but they can also enjoy the ‘on tape’ broadcast version later on.”

With esports events already selling out NBA and soccer stadiums around the globe, Foxhoven has no doubt that drone racing will fill up stadiums in the future.

“When you go and you witness drone racing first-hand and you feel the excitement, you see the adrenaline of the pilots that are participating, and you can actually put on these goggles and see it in first-person as well, that’s an amazing experience,” Foxhoven said. “Every person that we’ve shown this to walks away saying, ‘Yeah, I would watch that again.’”

Foxhoven said drone racing does have an advantage over many esports games.

“Drone racing is easier to understand than a League of Legends tournament or a Dota 2 championship,” Foxhoven explained. “You understand how people are racing and who’s finished first and who finished last and you get to see the pilots in action. There are a lot of appealing elements that transcend traditional sports, in general, but converge with the gaming elements.”

DR1 Racing will also expand its brand into the video game realm. The company has plans to release a game that will target the mainstream audience.

“People are not familiar with drone racing on a mass level,” Foxhoven said. “They’re coming into it new, so you have a lot of education and explanation that needs to occur. People learned about skateboarding and snowboarding through games featuring Tony Hawk and Sean White. The games got them interested in trying it out in real life and going to events, so we see a video game as a great opportunity for us to educate a broader audience about the potential of drone racing.”