Dedicated Fan Community Made ‘Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy’ A Reality

It’s been several years since Crash Bandicoot had his own console game, which many feel is a major oversight, considering how the twirling character was largely regarded as one of the original PlayStation’s unofficial mascots for some time. But you can’t keep Crash down, and he’s making a comeback with the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, which is being published by Activision and is releasing for PlayStation 4 and Pro on June 30. As the title suggests, the compilation includes remastered editions of the first three games from the Crash Bandicoot franchise, giving both new and old fans a chance to dive into the games that started them all.

“These were iconic, groundbreaking and beloved games that came out on the PlayStation One over 20 years ago,” Kara Massie, producer on N. Sane Trilogy, explained to AListDaily during the game’s E3 showing. “Last year was Crash’s 20th birthday and he was the early mascot of the PlayStation. All these games have been lovingly remastered from the ground up for PS4 and PS4 Pro.”

Massie was joined by Nicholas Ruepp, executive producer at Vicarious Visions, the studio that’s remastering the trio of games: Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back and Warped. When asked how impactful the PlayStation 4 Pro’s capabilities were to the remastered games, Ruepp said that the 4K console system was instrumental. “That’s why a lot of the embellishments and additional features that we put in weren’t in the original games—the hardware was the limiting factor,” Ruepp explained. “The visual fidelity is stunning, and that wouldn’t be possible without the PS4 Pro.”

Fans get to see Crash look better than ever before, and pre-ordering the game gets them three different PlayStation theme packs. However, fans were in for some bigger news from this year’s E3. Crash’s sister Coco, who made her first appearance in the second game, would be a playable character throughout the remastered trilogy, meaning that players can choose her as the main character instead of Crash. Starting her levels with a sly wink, Coco brings a renewed sense of style to the classic games.

Both Massie and Ruepp sat down with AListDaily at E3 to discuss the inclusion of Coco and why, after 20 years, fans still can’t get enough of Crash Bandicoot.

[Left] Nicholas Ruepp, executive producer at Vicarious Visions. [Right] Kara Massie, producer for Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

How have fans reacted to the news that Coco will be a playable character throughout the trilogy?

Ruepp: The fan response has been overwhelming. The team was emphatic from the very beginning that they wanted to do the trilogy justice and deliver it as a love letter to fans.

Massie: Now that some of the gameplay footage is being released by some of the fans here at E3, they’re seeing all of Coco’s movements and animations, which are being spread all over the internet just as we expected and wanted. We’ve been very pleased with the fan response.

How does Coco’s personality compare with Crash’s?

Massie: She is very different from Crash, and you can see it in the way she moves and acts. Crash is a little more haphazard and whatever comes, he’ll take it. His arms flail when he runs, he hits boxes with his arms, and he belly flops and throws his face at things. He’s not very thoughtful. Coco is more thoughtful and she’s the brains behind the operation—demonstrated by how she hacks into Cortex’s computer in the second game—and you can see it in how she moves and acts. She has a cheeky wink before she starts some of her levels and she’s definitely sassy.

What inspired having Coco be a playable character throughout the game?

Massie: I think it was just natural, and as Nick said, the desire for it came from the team. They thought it would be fun and she’s a lovable character. Also, she’s quite different from Crash. The fact that she was playable in a few levels in the third game kind of made it a no-brainer for us to see what it would take to make her playable across all the games.

How have you been engaging with fans to celebrate Crash and let them know about announcements such as Coco’s inclusion?

Massie: That’s very important to us and the community is really strong. I don’t think these remasters would exist if it weren’t for the fans. It was the voices of the fans calling out to bring Crash back that was the impetus behind this whole project. We knew we had to do right by these fans, and we’ve been bringing them along the journey with us by releasing footage while development is in progress. Another thing we’ve been doing is releasing logs and interviews—anything that we can do to let them know what we’re up to, what our feelings are about the project, and showing that we really care and that we’re hearing them.

Then there are fun things, like how we had a contest a few months ago. We asked fans to design an idle move for Crash—an animation that plays when Crash is standing still in the game—that would make it into the game. I think we got over a thousand entries within two weeks. Some people were filming themselves dancing, along with professional animations and kids’ drawings. There were so many ideas, and it was amazing to see the love for this brand.

How would you describe the essence of the Crash Bandicoot brand?

Massie: It’s joyful, and that’s one of the key things for me. You can’t help smiling. Just watching people play here at E3, people are always smiling. Even if you’re struggling with some difficult section, there’s so much joy and humor that it’s a good feeling. The game is challenging, but it’s always joyful.

Why do you think Crash Bandicoot has remained such an enduring brand for the past 20 years?

Ruepp: The gameplay is intrinsically fun and that’s the essence of what’s made Crash stick for so long and brought so many fans over the past 20 years into the games.

Massie: The gameplay is compelling, and we’re still seeing it today. Even if you succeed, there’s a little something for everyone—completionists, speed runners and so on—there are always ways to improve. It’s also difficult to put down as well as a fun game to watch. You tend to be on the edge of your seat while watching your friends and family play, passing around the controller. Interestingly, it’s a social game and the character (Crash) is a little irreverent and Coco has a bit of cheekiness too. I think people relate to them—they’re relatable cartoon characters and people love that.

Nokia Technologies Is Rebranding With Virtual Reality At Cannes

If there was ever an event for a marketer to announce a rebrand with a futuristic campaign and messaging, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity has to be on the short list.

Nokia Technologies is throwing its name in the imaginative and artistic hat for showing off all things cool at the week-long, French Riviera-based fest by demonstrating the future of virtual reality advertising and e-commerce with its own digital health VR spot “Healthier Together.”

The VR campaign premiered Monday and is designed to immerse viewers into the home environment and have them experience its soon-to-be-launched portfolio of digital health products along with the family. It’s described as “an evolution of digital advertising allowing consumers to discover, interact with and make purchases within a VR experience with the first industry e-commerce component.”

Following the $190 million acquisition of health gadget maker Withings last May, “Healthier Together” is part of a new strategy for Nokia Technologies to rebrand its digital health products.

The Cannes-launched campaign was created using the Nokia’s OZO+ camera and software—a $40,000 VR rig that’s making brands and professional creators rethink storytelling. The spot includes Nokia-branded smart watches, connected scales, blood pressure monitors and other consumer-focused health devices.

Rob Le Bras-Brown, chief marketing officer at Nokia Technologies, joined AListDaily for an extensive interview to talk about how they plan on leveraging VR as a company.

Why was the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity the ideal place to reveal this activation? 

Cannes Lions unites communities in marketing, entertainment, communications, design and tech talent from across the world. VR cuts across, and is exciting to all of those disciplines. So in that regard, it was a natural place to launch this initiative. Moreover, Cannes Lions has set aside an entire track around healthcare communications and tech. “Healthier Together” is our campaign to support the launch of the new Nokia digital health products where we’re using our own OZO VR technology to show people how easy it is to use these products in a real home, with a real family. Cannes Lions offered not only a great programmatic fit, but also a great place to highlight to some of the most creative minds in the industry how VR can enhance a brand strategy.

What are the trends and strategies that you’ll be monitoring at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity? 

We’ll be focused on how companies are embracing and incorporating VR into their branding and marketing efforts, which is exciting and inspiring for us. We’ll also be playing close attention to new introductions and innovations in digital health. At a higher, strategic level, we’ll be looking out across the range of technologies and discussions with an eye toward trends that relate to connectivity, which is, of course, at the core of the Nokia brand and our product offerings.

Rob Le Bras-Brown, CMO at Nokia Technologies

Why is Nokia positioning the brand with new digital health products and solutions? What went into the rebrand of this specific portfolio?

The Nokia brand enjoys over 95 percent global awareness and is universally synonymous with trust, reliability and quality. So these new digital health products are a natural fit for the brand, and the overall Nokia portfolio. If you look back at Nokia’s business, we’ve been about helping people connect and we continue today to create the technology that connects the world. Whether it’s our phones, our network business, or VR, we connect the world. Our digital health portfolio is built around that same premise. Our wearables, the Healthmate App or the other products in the lineup, connect seamlessly together, providing actionable insights and helping families and friends be healthier together. The rebrand is one more step toward Nokia’s goal to help bring the human family closer together.

How is discovering and interacting with and making purchases within a VR experience the next frontier for brands?

Because it’s inevitable. Over time, messaging and commerce always converge in the channels available to marketers—look at social media as a recent example. VR will be no different. I believe we’ll see increasing initial forays into providing a purchase experience within VR in the relative near term, but there will be other experiments as well—and that excites me. Marketers are just now starting to discover and explore the potential for VR in advertising and branding. I think the most crucial piece in the immediate future is for CMOs to get curious, to get their arms around what VR can offer them. Whenever a new technology comes around, the calling for a CMO should be to ask “how can that technology support and complement their brand?” After a time, there will come the realization that sound branding principles always apply and the focus shifts to using whatever the new technology is to build on magnifying the impact of those principles. For example, we know that strong brand creative is a precursor to strong emotional connection between the brand and the consumer. Brand equity and loyalty are created through affinities that arise from shared values, common experiences and a host of other intangible and emotional connections we have with the brands that resonate with us. VR is, at its core, the ultimate connective, immersive technology. I believe that CMOs will quickly find ways to use VR to deepen the emotional connection with their consumers by creating content that enables them to not just “watch” the brand, but also “experience” it. I think you’ll see that type of content emerge next, with exploration into driving purchase following closely behind as we have a better understanding of what experiences consumers will find most engaging.

How do you envision VR advertising developing in the future?

To date, efforts to market and reinforce brand values using VR have fallen broadly into three categories. One is brand leadership through association with and use of futuristic technology. Two is promotion and exploration of specific products through hands-on interaction and virtual tours. Three is augmentation of and further immersion into an existing brand identity by creating content that allows consumers to experience the brand and its values, rather than just illustrating them. The results have yielded immersive experiences ranging from Louis Vuitton putting viewers in the middle of Fashion Week in Paris, to Red Bull strapping viewers to the wing of an acrobatic barnstormer, to Hyundai enabling service members to view the Super Bowl “with” friends and family. Over the course of the next year, I think the industry will see a dramatic expansion and experimentation in how VR is used in advertising. There will always be a place for VR to deliver a particular product to consumers in a new and different way, but the real revolution will come in how VR is used to create experiences that deepen consumer connection to brands. Moreover, as we start to build these experiences, because of the enormous analytical capabilities of VR, we will be able to gain an understanding of which elements consumers find most engaging, and which elements they wish to interact with. As we better understand these, and other factors, marketers will be able to surgically tune and personalize content that highlights brand values while allowing consumers to immerse and move through experiences that are inherently interesting to them.

Do you believe VR has a viable e-commerce component? How else can you explore this area in the future? 

It absolutely does. With the launch of our “Healthier Together” VR spot, we’re showing what’s possible today, and I believe that VR will quickly provide a viable e-commerce component that brands will turn to and explore. VR allows for previously unimagined and unique ways to help consumers discover, compare and move to purchases. To date, a consumer has had to disengage to complete a transaction. Now we’re on the eve of transactions within the experience itself.

Now that the Nokia OZO has been on the market since November 2015, what are the insights and data that you can share about the camera? What are the marketing successes and challenges that you’ve experienced?

While we announced the camera in November 2015, the product actually came to market in Q1 2016. It simply amazes me how in just over 12 months, the camera, and now the software, have become a mainstay for professional content creators. In particular, OZO has become the “go to” for multi-camera livestreaming, from Coachella, to UEFA, to product launches and especially mission-critical projects like Obama’s farewell speech, or Hyundai’s Super Bowl spot. The volume, breadth and quality of recorded content that has been created with OZO is a testament to its success. OZO has been used to create myriad content ranging from music videos, short stories, education, documentaries and behind the scenes footage, including the Star Wars franchise. I love it when we’re introduced to a new VR piece that was made with OZO and we had no idea it was coming. It’s gratifying and delightful to see the market appreciate and maximize the potential of the OZO products and this is the reward that the Nokia team in the Bay Area and Finland like the most. Like all new technologies, the tipping point and velocity of adoption are challenging to predict and these elements will be what ultimately dictates the potential for VR in the next few years. It’s great to see head-mounted displays (HMD) starting to take traction in the mainstream—growth here will be critical to encouraging the continued production of content. But there is of course a chicken-and-egg tension—our industry needs to create compelling content to drive interest and engagement in the medium; this will help fuel HMD sales. This is not a challenge unique to OZO—it’s a challenge for the VR industry. Collectively, we need to accelerate populating both sides of the ecosystem to generate maintain consumer enthusiasm and momentum. For our part, at Nokia, we keep pushing the technology envelope. At NAB this April, we announced OZO Reality, our vision for virtual and mixed reality and introduced solutions that work seamlessly across the three critical elements of production—create, deliver and experience. For creators, we announced the new OZO+ camera, the next generation of our award-winning camera that advanced image quality dramatically and works alongside the new OZO Creator with depth mapping. But great content needs to get delivered to as many eyeballs as possible and for this, we announced OZO Deliver, a view-dependent, rendering technology that enables content to be streamed much more efficiently over existing networks. Finally, the content needs to be experienced as the creator intended—for which we offer OZO Player SDK, and OZO Audio. This continuum of products works perfectly together with our partners’ products along with the full production path offering capabilities that I believe brand managers and advertisers should find incredibly exciting.

Where does VR stand in Nokia’s overall marketing strategy? How are you planning for further growth in the vertical?

VR is a stand-alone business unit within Nokia Technologies and we’re investing significantly in developing industry-leading capabilities and IP—both in hardware and software—targeted to the professional community. We like to say that “there’s VR, and then there’s OZO Reality.” Our vision for OZO is extremely exciting and we’ll continue to innovate and offer advancements to the marketplace. What is critical to our success is our continued partnership with creators and producers, who give us direct, candid, insightful feedback about what they love, what they want improved and what they want next. This direct customer feedback and input helps us focus on what matters to this nascent industry. Recently, we haven’t just been marketing our VR products—we’ve been using them, too. I’m very proud of the fact that for the launch of our new digital health products, our VR agency partner Brandwidth embraced the OZO+ camera and OZO software products to create our “Healthier Together” VR ad. I believe Nokia has a responsibility to experiment and lead the way with VR.

Which Nokia product are you most excited about this year? Why? Do you see any challenges with how the market will respond to it? Are there any exclusive plans—like influencers, paid social, content marketing—on how you’ll be reaching the right audiences for the product?

I’m excited about the new Nokia digital health lineup. At launch, we’ll offer the world’s broadest range of consumer digital health products that work seamlessly with one app, Nokia Health Mate. We’ve been working on this for a year, so it’s a big deal for us to finally see our baby get to the marketplace; we’re delighted with the response of our retail partners. What really motivates me, though, is that these aren’t just gadgets—they’re beautifully designed and engineered connected devices that inspire the individual to take control of their own health, and in doing so, we have the potential to positively affect the wellbeing of society as a whole. We believe in the possibility that the human family can live healthier together, and I can tell you that gets me and the team at Nokia out of bed every day with a bounce in our step. Within our VR offerings, OZO+ is one of my favorites but I think OZO Deliver is a very powerful product and an exciting enabler for VR on existing networks. Creating wonderful VR content doesn’t benefit anyone if it can’t be efficiently delivered to the consumer. By their nature, VR files are really large. VR cameras generate a lot of data and moving that data over a network to a display screen requires a lot of bandwidth. Fortunately, Nokia knows a thing or two about connecting people, and we’re driven to create the technology that connects the world. Part of our marketing program is to partner with customers on exciting new content. There will be a paid media campaign and we will continue to offer customer testimonial content and work with influencers who are credible and accretive to our brand. We’re continually exploring new partnerships for content of all types, including entertainment, advertising, training—but also the unexpected. We just partnered with a hospital in Helsinki for the first ever neurosurgery in mixed reality. The hospital livestreamed a real operation on a brain to over 200 remote surgeons and layered in computer graphics to aid in the explanation and learning of the procedure.

How are you using social data to better connect with consumers? 

Like any brand, we strive to engage with our fans and customers where they are and importantly—where they want to be. It’s our privilege to be a part of this conversation and we know that we have to earn the right to be invited in and engaged with. Therefore, we’re conscious of the need to add value to the conversation. In our digital health business, we have massive amounts of data that we’re able to anonymize, aggregate and synthesize into fascinating and compelling insights. In VR, the promise for marketers and brand owners is that they can finally find the holy grail of understanding exactly what their customer is looking at and engaging with. They could literally know what their fans are looking at, or not looking at. This can finally allow brand marketers to curate and design their content with the precision they’ve dreamt about.

How do you plan on evolving the overall Nokia narrative through marketing for the rest of this year? What kind of digital and social messaging can we expect?

You can expect to see social messaging that builds on these platforms and works through the customer journey, from discovery, right down to the last three feet and clicks. The narrative at Nokia is crisp and aligned—so our focus now is all about activating it. At Nokia, we create the technology that connects the world and in so doing, enable the human possibilities of technology in a connected world. This is the perfect complement to our mission at Nokia, where we’re focused on designing technology that brings the human family closer together. Our new Nokia health products are a perfect example of this vision coming to the market. Complementing that is our continued innovation in VR and the extensive library of content that has been created with OZO that helps the human family “feel together.”

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Community Engagement Lifts ‘LawBreakers’ To New Heights

LawBreakers is the debut competitive game developed by Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski’s studio, Boss Key Productions. In it, players battle each other in a world where they can defy gravity while using specialized roles (classes) to unleash special abilities on one another. The game launches on August 8, but E3 2017 attendees got a chance to play an early version of it, including the newly announced PlayStation 4 release, from the show floor.

Dan Nanni, lead designer at Boss Key Productions

“We’re showing off almost the entire game,” Dan Nanni, lead designer at Boss Key Productions, told AListDaily at E3. “We’ve released eight of our nine roles, showed off three game modes, and five or six maps. Here, we’re doing Blitzball, which is a mode we did in our closed beta, but our biggest announcement is our PS4 launch. The game is live on the show floor with the PS4 for the first time and it will be in parity with the PC.”

Up until the announcement, LawBreakers was regarded as a PC-only title. We asked Nanni if awareness from the PC side carried over to the console audience. “I think in some cases, awareness is awareness, but there are console players who aren’t cross platform gamers and don’t follow PC gaming,” Nanni replied. “We expect LawBreakers to be new to a lot of people, so we have to drive awareness across the different platforms, which helps us on the PC as well.”

So, does Boss Key have to essentially start from scratch with the PS4 audience? “I don’t think of it as starting at square one because a lot of people have been asking for a console release for a while,” said Nanni. “So, it’s bringing those people into our fold and telling them that we’re supporting them with the console version of the game. But we do have to work on getting the rest of the console players who might not know anything about us to buy into the game. We’re developing the games in parity. So, it’s not a port over to the PS4—everything will come in for both at the same time. But the game will maximize what the console can do, just as it maximizes what the PC can do.” To underscore the point, LawBreakers will be enhanced for PlayStation 4 Pro support.

In addition to the PlayStation 4 release, Boss Key also announced the Deadzo Deluxe Edition, which will include character skins, weapons skins, weapon stickers and profile icons for $10 more than the base game price. Discussing the Deadzo Edition, Nanni said that it was about “giving our players a chance to invest a little more to get unique cosmetic items, but there’s no additional gameplay that comes out of it. The base game gives you everything you need.”

We then asked Nanni what was the key to getting players to pre-order games. “I think it’s just getting them to believe in the game, and that’s the reason we’ve been doing all these betas for so long,” said Nanni. “We’re gamers ourselves, and we feel that we’re making a game for both ourselves and the community. Our players have given us feedback and we’ve changed the game accordingly. We’re going to keep on iterating and making the game that they want because even though we think it has a solid foundation, we need our players to make it better. We think those players are going to be here for the long term.”

That community engagement will carry over into the upcoming closed beta, which will be hosted on PC via Steam starting June 28. On June 30, it will switch over to an open beta, allowing anyone to sign up and play until July 3. Not only will this give players a chance to try the game before buying, but it gives early adopters a chance to share their opinions and shape that game even after it releases.

It’s that sense of identity and uniqueness that will help LawBreakers stand out from the crowd of shooters on both the PC and PlayStation 4 platforms.

“You just have to be your own game,” said Nanni. “At the end of the day, we made our game in our own little vacuum. When we started, we wanted it to be different from other games, but we took bits and pieces from things that we really liked to make our own experience. I think what sets us apart is the fact that we are a different style of gameplay. The verticality, the gravity, the gunplay, the different roles and game modes make for a completely unique experience. Some things might remind you a little of this or that, but in the end, it feels like its own experience.”

When LawBreakers was first announced, it was intended to be a free-to-play game, but as development continued, Boss Key decided to make it a premium title. We asked Nanni if there were any regrets over that decision.

“Not at all,” Nanni responded. “That’s not to say that you can’t make this into a free-to-play game, but thinking about free-to-play kept stalling our creative process. We would find something that we really liked, and then we’d have to pause and think how we would turn it into a free-to-play experience. How would we maximize the value of the game and still fund the studio so that we could keep on making content? It paused iteration and slowed things down, and the moment we pulled that away and said it would be a premium title, we didn’t have to worry about grinding people into oblivion or getting them to spend more money. We could focus on making the best game that we could, and the question became, ‘how much can we make by the time we launch?’ Not ‘how do we get them to spend money by the time we launch?’”

Considering how Gears of War became a much-played esport, we asked Nanni about how Boss Key was hoping to foster esports adoption for its game.

“I would love for LawBreakers to be an esport, but it depends on the community to tell us that it’s an esport,” said Nanni. “I’ve worked for companies that have fallen into the esports trap, where they put the cart before the horse. They were trying to create something that the community hasn’t asked for yet. What we want to do is create a game with a very strong foundation in competition, making sure that skill is the primary reason you come to fight and win, not because you pressed some game ending button—[you won because] your skill was better than someone else’s. That’s what we want to foster. If after some time, our players want us to support it as an esport, we’ll do it. We’re talking to the right people, but we won’t do it until the community lets us know it’s ready.”

Did E3 Work? 2017 Attendees Weigh In

E3 experienced some growing pains this year, offering public access to over 15,000 video game fans and filling the Los Angeles Convention Center until it was bursting at the seams. For those in attendance, the general consensus seems to be that E3 “worked,” but not without significant room for improvement.

For members of the press, getting to back-to-back appointments can already be a challenge, running from one end of LA Convention Center to the other. This year, extra attendees meant longer lines for demos and human obstacles at every turn. “Off-the-record conversations also had to be relocated due to the abundance of freestyle vloggers documenting the show floor with their mobile phones,” reported game developer, Rami Ismail.

While many booths had guests standing in line for a good hour to test out the latest games, Bethesda’s booth had a staggering five-hour wait.

Crowds aside, recent attacks around the globe had other guests concerned about safety.

On the other hand, several attendees reported having a great show and enjoyed interacting directly with the fans, especially publishers and online creators.

“We had an exceptionally productive [E3],” Mario Kroll, founder of Uberstrategist (Atari’s agency of record) told AListDaily. “[It was] probably the most successful in 20 years of attending despite no booth. Heard similarly from others.”

Twitch, the streaming giant that brought its own esports arena to nearby L.A. LIVE, told AListDaily via email that each night, its activation was “filled to capacity.”

“It definitely was a good move for us to open the doors and bring the consumers in. The response has been very positive,” Dan Hewitt, vice president of media relations and event management for ESA told AListDaily. “Every single E3 is different than the previous one. And it’s because we literally start from zero and look at every aspect of the event to ensure that we’re still hitting our marks for our attendees and our exhibitors. If you’re wondering ‘what is E3 going to look like in 2018,’ I can tell you that it’s going to be a remarkable event full of high energy and high investment.”

Mars Explores Retro Gaming For M&M’S Caramel

To celebrate the launch of M&M’S Caramel, Mars, Inc. did a one-day M&M’S takeover of Times Square in New York City. During the May activation, fans with mobile phones could download the Blippar app on Android and iOS phones and unlock the M&M’S ARcade through Times Square billboards. The app includes a suite of retro-inspired augmented reality games featuring M&M’S characters and candies and is available for anyone to play.

Michelle Deignan, senior brand manager for the M&M’S brand, told AListDaily that the introduction of M&M’S Caramel Chocolate Candies marked one of the company’s biggest product innovations ever, so they needed to launch it in an innovative way. It took years to develop the technology and machines required to get the soft caramel ingredient into the M&M’S brand’s signature hard candy shell.

“We explored augmented reality technology to create the first-ever M&M’S ARcade gaming experience,” Deignan said. “Much like the traditional caramel flavor, the M&M’S ARcade taps into a nostalgic feeling and brings back memories of a classic old-school arcade in a fun, unexpected way.”

In partnership with Blippar, the brand created three vintage arcade games—Caramel Cannon, Caramel Crawl and Square Smash—that were inspired by M&M’S Caramel and are featured on the home screen of the M&M’S ARcade experience.

The objective of the Caramel Cannon game is to use the arrows to move the cannon left and right to avoid the falling caramel square and tap the center button to shoot them. Once a caramel square has been shot by the cannon, it will splash on impact.

When playing Caramel Crawl, the player presses the arrows to move around the space until they hit a wall. The user needs to collect Caramel characters and the more they collect, the longer the snake extends. When the Caramel character is collected, he bursts into a quick cartoon animation.

For Square Smash, the player needs to smash as many caramels as fast as they fall from the sky before they hit the ground. They use their fingers to hit the caramels while avoiding any M&M’S characters, which will result in a loss of 10 points.

“We’ll continue to educate fans about the gaming opportunity through social media content and promotional events,” Deignan said.

Deignan explained how the M&M’S brand has always been focused on entertaining fans through moments of fun. With the rise in popularity of gaming, especially on mobile devices, she thought that a nostalgic gaming experience focused on M&M’S Caramel would give the brand an opportunity to reach both new and existing fans while raising awareness for the new product at launch.

“The success of Pokemon GO has certainly increased mainstream awareness for augmented reality experiences, but the technology is still in its infancy,” Deignan explained. “We established a partnership with Blippar, since it gave us access to a built-in user base that has adopted the innovative technology and we think the M&M’S ARcade activation gave us an opportunity to engage fans in a fun, new way.”

While the Times Square activation gave thousands of fans the opportunity to use their phone to turn static Times Square billboards into vintage arcade game experiences, the Blippar games will connect with a much broader audience. M&M’S fans can access the games through the Blippar app by holding their phone or device up to a package of M&M’S Caramel. The national campaign will also be supported with TV commercials, print, digital and large-scale outdoor advertising executions.

The brand has been actively using tech in its promotions. Earlier this year, M&M’S kicked off a Bite-Size Beats  program, the first ever user-generated TV ad for the brand, which mixed the M&M’S Spokescandies with Incredibox beatbox technology to give fans the opportunity to get creative and share their own beat. The brand also partnered with art-fashion-media icon VISIONAIRE to release a virtual reality interactive film in collaboration with contemporary artist KAWS. The film is available to view in virtual reality and on YouTube. Last year, in celebration of the brand’s 75th anniversary, M&M’S also used virtual reality technology to give fans an inside look at the “residences” of the six spokescandies.

Analysis: May’s Biggest Twitter Trends

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.

At Ayzenberg Insights, I’m often tasked with understanding the conversations happening on social media. Twitter continues to be a platform where those conversations (within the parameters of 140 characters) tend to spread like wildfire.

We decided to take a look at trending Twitter hashtags and topics, in the US and globally, as they say a lot about the passions of the moment. We’re looking at the platform each month to see what we might glean from conversations, digging into post volume and length of trending.

What surfaces has some implication for brands about maximizing on the currents of conversations happening at any one time. Here’s our take on the trends for this month—stay tuned to see how these trends continue to evolve, and check out last month’s biggest trends to compare.

US Twitter Trends

Days of the week and TV shows with passionate communities regularly trend each week. Dancing With The Stars, Agents of Shield, Scandal, SDLive and Love and Hip Hop Atlanta made the top trending hashtags for another month.

A few TV shows made our list for the first time were all due to season or series finales. Titles that fell into this category: Empire, The Leftovers, Samurai Jack, The Flash and Eurovision.

While a few topics trended this month from a particular ignition point, many conversations in the US quickly shift to political or socioeconomic undertones, driving these topics into the Top 25. Joe Budden and Lil Yachty had a heated hip-hop feud over Lil Yachty’s controversial cover featuring diversity spanning race, gender and sexuality.  With a divided country on many of these topics, this sparked much conversation and in true Twitter form, turned into memes of Joe Budden. Similarly, Jimmy Kimmel shared his newborn child’s heart condition with the public, and this quickly turned to a conversation about healthcare in the US.

US Hashtag Spotlight

The hashtag of most interest to marketers in the US this month was #NationalEatWhatYouWantDay. Just like any other playful holiday, brands and celebrities find creative ways to tap into the conversation. Disney Pixar was able to capitalize on this trend with one of their most loved animated films, Up. Disney Pixar utilized a silly, playful GIF to participate in the holiday that resonated with their young-hearted audience.  This tweet received 443 retweets and 1,440 likes.

Other brands like Chipotle leveraged a simple text-only tweet to partake in the conversation. This was unique in that the language/tone of the tweet gave the brand some personality and authenticity, allowing them to get away with not needing a creative asset to attract their community. Their strategy was short and sweet, resulting in 729 retweets and 2,000 likes.

Global Twitter Trends

Similar to last month, days of the week trend regularly in multiple languages, however, this month futbol was not nearly as dominant. TV shows have encroached the global Top 25. Topics that fell in this category: Master Chef Brazil, Prison Break, Dancing Brazil, Master Chef Mexico, Vertigo, Koh Lanta, The Bachelorette, Dancing With The Stars US and Eurovision.

US politics have also made a global impact with the firing of FBI Director James Comey and President Trump and Ivanka Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

Global Hashtag Spotlight

Hashtag spotlights for global marketers this month include #loveislove and #StarWarsDay.

#loveislove was an impactful hashtag to unite the global communities on International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. The television show Shadow Hunters jumped in on the trend by utilizing a clip from their show which successfully drove 4,000 retweets and 8,300 likes as the message was true to the community.

Teen Vogue’s tweet boosted its engagements to 600 retweets and 1,000 likes. The brand took an extra step, in addition to the Pride flag gif, and created a thread with helpful articles on how to handle different scenarios that occur within the LGBT community in support of the event.

May 4, a widely known day as Star Wars day that unites fans from around the world to celebrate using #StarWarsDay and #MayThe4thBeWithYou. A few US football teams took to this trend by cleverly tying Star Wars to football.  The Texans posted this humorous gif receiving just shy of 4,000 engagements, while the Patriots related the trend back to their Superbowl wins receiving nearly 10,000 engagements on Twitter.

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How Was Your #E32017? Twitter Feedback From The Floor

E3’s first year breaking away from a gaming industry-only audience was bound to stir those tied to tradition. As we’ve been going for years, we were wondering how our readers were affected by the change. This covers only a fraction of the 68,400 E3 2017 user segment, but we consider it handy for our ongoing conversations meant to understand marketers’ sentiment.

Naturally, we tackled news consumption first.

With info going directly to the game-loving public comes more amplification and noise. As far as announcement interactivity and volume, Brandwatch has declared Microsoft the company with the most social mentions this year.

Of course, the crowd conversation was unavoidable:

Marketers may have had the advantage of connecting with core gamers, but wall-to-wall attendees affected the usual business, meaning tricky show floor navigation, missed appointments and noise. This was a year to work out the foot-traffic kinks.

While the changing crowd disrupted physical movement, the notorious tech disruption making waves in so many other industries was not a theme this year. A majority of gaming companies left VR for the entertainment industry and stuck with tradition.

Once industry folks got a chance to cross the convention floor and take everything in, we gauged whether you were able to get your business done. It still feels pretty split. We’ll have to revisit this question later.

You must have something to add if you went. Send us your feedback on Twitter @AListDaily.

Father’s Day Marketing Brings Humor And Tears, Challenges Stereotypes

Good news for dads this Father’s Day—spending is expected to reach an all-time high of $15.5 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, and there’s a good chance that includes a special outing.

A survey by the NRF found that 27 percent of dads would love to receive a “gift of experience” such as a sporting event and 25 percent of shoppers said that’s exactly what they were planning. So do to get dad this year? A poll conducted by Ebates found that electronics top the most-wished for list at 18 percent, followed by power tools at 15 percent and tickets to a sporting event a close third (14 percent). A bevy of brands have celebrated men and their families, too.

Dove Men+Care is celebrating not only fathers, but other men who care about those around them such as grandfathers, uncles, teachers and coaches. The ad depicts a more modern, nurturing depiction of father figures, based on a new generation far removed from the cold, unemotional dads of our decades past.

A recent study found that just seven percent of men can relate to depictions of masculinity in media, and 80 percent of millennial dads turn to YouTube specifically for key parenting topics.






Gillette touched on the softer side of dad with it’s continued “Go Ask Dad” campaign. The company brought in young men to try a “revolutionary new technology” disguised as a virtual assistant. The young men asked questions from how to tie a tie to when you know you’re in love, to which their dads answered from another room using a voice scrambler. The concept is based on data that suggests 88 percent of guys go to their phones for answers, but only 13 percent ask their fathers.

For sports fans, Father’s Day is a time to honor the family “coach,” but this takes on a whole new meaning for Lonzo Ball—the former UCLA star and projected top-three overall pick of the NBA Draft next week—whose manager is also his controversial dad, LaVar Ball. Foot Locker teamed up with Lonzo to gently poke fun at his headline-hungry father.

Courtyard, the “official hotel of the NFL,” teamed up with one family to honor their dad this Father’s Day with a personalized Hall of Fame exhibit just for him inside the brand-new Vikings voyage activation.

Buffalo Wild Wings’ new spot “Watching” gives thanks to all the fathers that showed us how to be “true sports fans.”

NFL stars Rob Gronkowski and Richard Sherman are introducing “The Jerky Tie,” made completely out of Oberto Beef Jerky. Two new spots show Gronk and Sherman creating their ties for their dads, Gordon Gronkowski and Kevin Sherman.

Hostess, Hershey And Sonic Appoint New Executives To Key Roles

Baked goods company Hostess Brands promoted Andrew Jacobs to executive vice president and chief commercial officer. Jacobs previously served as senior vice president and chief customer office at Hostess.

“I’m confident in Andy’s ability to support growth for both our retail partners and Hostess while continuing to drive our iconic snack cake brands forward,” said Bill Toler, CEO of Hostess Brands.

Candy company Hershey Entertainment promoted John Lawn to CEO. Lawn was previously the company’s COO.

“Our entire board is pleased to name as CEO someone with John’s qualifications, experience and most importantly, dedication to Hershey Entertainment and Research (HE&R) and its mission to support the Milton Hershey School,” said Eric Henry, chief investment officer of Hershey Trust Company.

Ten-year Sonic veteran Lori Abou Habib is now the chief marketing officer for the fast food chain. With her new position, Habib will lead brand strategy, national marketing, media, digital strategy and marketing technology.

“I am delighted to elevate Lori to chief marketing officer; she is a talented, strong leader who enjoys the respect of our franchisees and won the position through a highly competitive national search,” said Sonic CEO Cliff Hudson. “We were very pleased with the caliber of candidates discovered during the search and are pleased for Darin and Kim to join the team. The decades of experience these three leaders share will propel the business and the brand forward for many years to come.”

Viacom announced four internal reappointments in the company’s distribution and business development group. These include Samantha Cooper and Deena Demasi as executive vice presidents, Andrew Borak as senior vice president of distribution marketing and Sheri Weidner as senior vice president of distribution partnerships.

“These moves ensure we have the right management team and structure in place to evolve Viacom’s approach to our content distribution partnerships. With leaders like Sam and Deena now fully empowered to execute our strategic initiatives, I am confident we can cement Viacom as the go-to provider for our partners who seek more innovative and flexible opportunities to serve their customers and expand their business,” said Tom Gorke, executive vice president/head of distribution and business development for Viacom.

The company also announced that Bryson Gordon, former head of data strategy, will serve as executive vice president of a new group dedicated to advanced advertising for Viacom.

ESPN expanded the role of Connor Schell by naming him executive vice president of content, placing him in charge of all of the sports network’s content creation across television, digital and print platforms. Schell had previously produced the Emmy-winning documentary series 30 For 30 for ESPN, as well as the award-winning O.J.: Made In America.

“Connor has demonstrated keen insight into what resonates with fans, and his instincts allow him to excel at managing the creative process,” said ESPN president John Skipper. “I have tremendous confidence that he and his new team of talented executives will help us create dynamic content that will break through in a changing environment.”

As Verizon completed the acquisition of Yahoo, Tim Armstrong was announced as COO of Oath, a new subsidiary combining Yahoo’s online assets with Verizon’s AOL business. Armstrong was previously the COO of AOL.

“We’re building the future of brands using powerful technology, trusted content and differentiated data,” Armstrong said about Oath. “We have dominating consumer brands in news, sports, finance, tech, and entertainment and lifestyle coupled with our market-leading advertising technology platforms. Now that the deal is closed, we are excited to set our focus on being the best company for consumer media, and the best partner to our advertising, content and publisher partners.”

Former Twitch executive Andy Swanson is headed to gaming chat app Discord to work as their new head of publisher relations.

“Discord has a rapidly growing community of gamers who are voracious users and fans of the product,” said Swanson. “My goal is to educate and connect the game creator ecosystem, encompassing publishers and developers of all shapes and sizes, to Discord and their authentic and passionate player community to make even more connections through gaming.”

Warner Bros. Pictures promoted JP Richards to executive vice president of worldwide marketing and chief data strategist.

“JP is a born collaborator, dynamic marketing strategist and recognized leader, not only in the digital arena, where he has led groundbreaking campaigns over the past two years, but across all of marketing,” said Blair Rich, president of worldwide marketing for Warner Bros. Pictures. “This promotion will allow us to tap into—and benefit from—his broad marketing expertise. We’ll look to him to help us understand, adapt and create strategies to the changing ways people are interacting with content, media and marketing activations at every touch point of our global campaigns.”

AMC and SundanceTV announced the promotion of Mac McKean as executive vice president of innovation, from the position of senior vice president of digital media. In his new role, McKean and his team are responsible for the development of future-focused multi-platform products, experiences and content for AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios. McKean also will direct the networks’ expanding consumer relationship management efforts.

“AMC has enjoyed tremendous success in the digital, gaming and interactive space thanks in no small part to Mac’s and his team’s talent, hard work and creativity,” said Charlie Collier, president of AMC, SundanceTV and AMC Studios. “In addition to our growing digital businesses, Mac and his team are spearheading the development of innovative products and services that will allow us to best position AMC Networks to be the content creators and providers of the future.”

Universal Music Group appointed Tuhin Roy to the newly created position of vice president of new digital business to identify and work closely with start-ups in the early-stage digital media sector to develop strategic new digital business partnerships.

“Tuhin brings an entrepreneurial orientation and an incredible wealth of experience to this role,” said Michael Nash, executive vice president of digital strategy. “I’m confident his deep knowledge of the start-up environment and investment community dynamics will magnify UMG’s efforts to cultivate the digital ecosystem, promote innovation and establish new revenue streams.”

The New York Times Company announced that Meredith Kopit Levien has been promoted to the position of executive vice president and chief operating officer to oversee the teams responsible for product, design, audience and brand, consumer revenue, advertising and NYT Beta.

According to a press release, under Kopit Levien’s watch, “The Times has nearly eclipsed two million digital-only news subscriptions, launched both T Brand Studio, a Cannes Mobile Grand Prix award-winning marketing agency, and Paid Posts, a standard setter in native advertising.”

Derrick Hatami, a former Hyundai executive, is headed to Volkswagen of America as its new head of US sales and marketing.

Andrew Saunders is headed to food-oriented digital media company Tastemade to serve as head of global brand strategy. Saunders previously worked as NBCUniversal’s vice president of content innovation and creative.

Congratulations to Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer Marisa Thalberg for winning the “She Runs It 2017 Woman of the Year” award, and CNN Worldwide, who won PromaxBDA’s “Global Excellence Marketing Team of the Year.”

(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, June 16. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at

Job Vacancies 

Director, Digital Programs, Martech & Personalization Starbucks Seattle
Director, Strategic Partnership Marketing NBC Universal Universal City, CA
New Balance Boston, MA
Director, Brand Management Warner Music Group Nashville, TN
Director, Marketing Sony Music Entertainment New York, NY
Chief Marketing Officer Gibson Brands, Inc. Nashville, TN
Vice President of Marketing Feed the Children Oklahoma City, OK
NATPE Los Angeles, CA

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

Discord Explains Its Organic Growth And Big Plans For Game Publishers

Discord, the popular voice and text chat app for gamers, recently celebrated its two-year anniversary and 45 million registered users. To continue its upward trajectory toward game chat domination, the company brought in Andy Swanson—a launch member of the Twitch Media Group.

Swanson, the newly appointed head of publisher relations for Discord, joined AListDaily to explain his transition from Twitch and the big plans in store for game publishers.

Andy Swanson, head of publisher relations for Discord

Discord recently celebrated a milestone of 45 million users, which Swanson attributes to non-traditional advertising methods like organic social media posts. “They don’t market in traditional ways like buying ads and user acquisition models,” he explained. “Instead, the team here is focused on listening to the needs of the players and communities and delivering on that. Things like 24/7 customer service, open communication between the dev team and the Discord community and a strong focus on making Discord easy to use have helped us to grow incredibly fast in a very short period of time. Seeing numbers like 8.9 million DAU and four million peak concurrent users tells us we are doing the right thing.”

When it comes to marketing to the gamer demographic, Swanson says it all comes down to community.

“Direct community engagement via platforms like Twitter are the best ways to engage the demographics that map to gamers and esports enthusiasts,” he said. “They reject ads and we kinda do, too. Superstar community managers are a powerful way to have a direct communication line to your customers and fans. Discord has increasingly become that for gaming publishers, hardware manufactures and others. It’s a sign of the times. Direct community engagement on platforms like Discord is the trend of the future.”

In his new role, Swanson will be educating publishers on how Discord maintains engaged gaming communities. Since the platform is ad-free, connecting with gamers is all about the games, themselves.

“Discord is all about making and maintaining great connections in great games,” explained Swanson. “Without the great games, we wouldn’t exist. We see Discord as a really valuable tool that keeps developers connected to our rabid community of 45 million players and gives them access to the communities of their fans. That is not a small thing. Being able to speak directly to players in an easy-to-use interactive environment is unparalleled in terms of player happiness and community growth. So, working with the developers is incredibly important to us. Keeping that conversation open and growing and evolving with the needs of the games and players is huge when it comes to our success.”

The app may be for gamers to speak with each other, but brands can use it, too. “It is a way to talk to the people playing your game and to understand them better,” Swanson added. “It is a way to connect directly to that player—and that social touch, that personal connection—can be way more beneficial than anything else.”