Air New Zealand Flies Across The Globe With A New Spokesbird

Air New Zealand is enticing travelers and selling the qualities of the country with a new video-led global marketing campaign.

For “A Better Way to Fly,” the brand got creative with its communication through “Pete,” a CGI character inspired by New Zealand’s national bird, the kiwi. The emblematic creature is voiced by New Zealand actor and Jurassic Park star Sam Neill.

“With any campaign, we start with understanding the market, the insights and what some of the barriers are. For us, distance is a barrier. People have a perception that it’s a really long way to fly to New Zealand. People weren’t really familiar with the product and the services we offered,” Jodi Williams, general manager of global brand and content marketing, told AListDaily. “We always look at how we can bring a story to life. An animated character is a really great way to engage audiences across any age. They can get away with saying a lot of things and add humor.”

The 77-year-old brand has previously enjoyed success with a CGI goose and, believe it or not, safety videos. It stuck with a similar formula with the animated, free spirit of Pete, a wingless kiwi-turned-spokesbird who can’t fly, but still holds his homeland up high.

In the video series, the animated birdbassador’s job is clear—sell consumers on the journey through New Zealand tourism and the brand’s in-flight perks of premier dining, wine and plush business cabins.

For the launch of its three-year campaign, a celebration took place in Culver City, California earlier this month. The airline tapped award-winning chef Michael Meredith and New Zealand-bred celebrities such as supermodel Rachel Hunter, rugby player and Game of Thrones actor Joe Naufahu and singer Gin Wigmore to share stories about the land of the long white cloud. Bottles of premium New Zealand wine endlessly flowed across the foyer and surely helped change consumer perception about Oceanian travel.

“New Zealand has some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the world, and an amazing culture and tradition,” Hunter told AListDaily. “It’s a diverse place filled with happy people. As soon as you get off the plane, you can immediately feel it.”

In addition to its celebrity spokespeople, the airline carrier had experiential tech stations for guests to get a better understanding of the country, including a Microsoft HoloLens demo of in-flight options, a VR demo and a conversation with Sophie, the artificial brand ambassador. However, the chatbot Oscar, which launched earlier this year, did not make the trip.

The global campaign was launched in North America and will emphasize gaining consumer awareness, specifically in California and Texas. Over the next six months, it will hit second legs in Canada, Europe, China, Japan and South America. It’s the first time the carrier has taken a single approach across markets around the world. The carrier will be activating a multi-level marketing strategy and campaign with a “hero, hub and help” approach, Williams said.

The “hero” is the initial piece of content that’s designed to drive awareness and cut through the market. The “hub” layer tells more specific stories of Air New Zealand’s product and services. The final stage of “help” entails detailed information that potential consumers would want to know before making a purchase decision.

“You get awareness driving down to relevance. We actually overlay our content marketing strategy over the purchase funnel,” Williams says. “People like and adhere to the domestic travel experiences. Air travel doesn’t have the best reputation, so we asked, ‘How do we communicate that Air New Zealand is a great premium product and service?’ When people are going through the purchase-decision process, they often have four-or-five destinations in mind. For us, people first need to consider the destination—so it’s about selling New Zealand and Australia—and then hopefully have them to fly with us.”

Through June this year, 325,000 visitors arrived in New Zealand from the US—a 26 percent increase year-over-year, according to TNZ Active Considerer Monitor and TNZ arrivals data. Williams says research indicates 27 million Americans are interested in holidaying in New Zealand, which means huge potential for them to further tap into demand.

Considering its geographic location, Air New Zealand has to leverage platforms like WeChat and Weibo just as much as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat via paid media across digital and social to get the message out.


“It really becomes quite a complex campaign. You end up with a big content matrix, where you’re looking at every channel. That’s the sheer growth of channels that we’re seeing across marketing,” Williams says. “Ultimately, we hope that we’re keeping it entertaining, engaging and simple for the consumer as we try and get those key Air New Zealand messages conveyed.”

Williams said that if they were launching a marketing campaign three-to-five years ago, they’d have a 90-, 60- and 30-second ad. Now they end up in the neighborhood of 30 pieces and complement them with other strategies.

“We do a lot in influencer marketing and give them a very specific job to do,” Williams said. “There are some smaller elements to this campaign. Our focus is definitely on paid, getting reach and really working on social and partnerships in order to extend that reach. We’re a small airline, and therefore the approach we take to marketing can often be quite innovative, quirky and different in order for us to get that cut-through and extend reach.”

“A Better Way to Fly” is ultimately banking on equity the brand has built with its popular safety videos. Since 2009, the airline has produced 15 separate installments starring the likes of Betty White, Chrissy Teigen, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Katie Holmes.

“Safety videos were very boring and functional before us,” Williams says. “We turned the category on its head and people started to pay attention. We now have over 108 million views on our safety videos. Customers are still enjoying them and asking when the next one is coming out. We’re very proud of that—it does a fantastic job for us. It’s gone from being a safety video to a global marketing campaign. The value it gives us far exceeds any kind of traditional advertising that we do.”

Williams says finding the balance between being cheeky, entertaining and informative is critical to maintaining brand relevancy. 

“Your brand needs to keep moving. You have to actively manage your brand. You need to be aware of your customers and their changing needs. You need to be real, genuine, open and honest,” she says. “I think that Air New Zealand has always been like that. We have a real authenticity to our brand. We’re very fortunate that we have this mix and can still be a little cheeky.”

‘Assassin’s Creed Origins’ Sets Up And Revitalizes Franchise

As the tenth game in a long and extensive franchise, Assassin’s Creed Origins serves as a prequel from a story perspective and a reboot for fans when it comes to gameplay. That’s why Ubisoft, having taken a yearlong break from the series (Assassin’s Creed Syndicate released in 2015), is putting heavy emphasis on the lore and gameplay aspects as its main elements when presenting the massive open world of ancient Egypt.

The game launches in October for consoles and PC, with extra graphical enhancements for the Xbox One X and PlayStation Pro, and focuses on the character Bayek, the last of the Medjay—an elite paramilitary force that protected parts of Egypt for the pharaoh. He travels across Egypt during the Ptolemaic period, and his adventures will eventually lead to the formation of the Brotherhood of Assassins that fans are familiar with.

Virginie Cinq-Mars, lead lighting artist for Assassin’s Creed Origins at Ubisoft

“It’s the root of all the lore, the organization, the rituals and how the tenents of the Creed all came to life,” Virginie Cinq-Mars, lead lighting artist for Assassin’s Creed Origins at Ubisoft, told AListDaily.

Not only does the game recount the start of the secret organization and its belief system, but it also features famous historical figures such as Julius Caesar and Cleopatra—along with ancient cities such as Memphis and Alexandria—while showing how the endless war against an Illuminati-like enemy called the Templar began.

Although it was preceded by months of ongoing speculation, Origins was officially announced at E3 in June with a trailer, a gameplay demonstration and an early demo for attendees to try on the show floor. The demo, which puts players into Bayek’s weathered sandals and lets them control his pet eagle Senu, has also been generating hype at Gamescom.

Cinq-Mars said that it has been Ubisoft’s longtime dream to bring the Assassin’s Creed franchise to Egypt, and it was the ideal setting to show the beginning of the Brotherhood, given its rich history that spans thousands of years. The location and time period also happens to be one that was heavily requested by fans.

“We try to recreate this pivotal moment in history, when the Egyptian Empire was at the height of its grandeur, but was also at the beginning of its demise,” said Cinq-Mars.

Although the story is fictional, the Assassin’s Creed franchise prides itself on maintaining a high degree of historical accuracy for its large open worlds. But Origins takes players back thousands of years, and much of the artifacts and landmarks have been destroyed through conflict, looting or neglect. Cinq-Mars explained how the development team had to rely heavily on historians to depict the massive setting as accurately as possible.

At the same time, Cinq-Mars emphasized how “the franchise needed modernization and we wanted to put our efforts into that. That’s why we switched to a quest system and revamped the combat system as well.”

With the new quest-based story system and revised combat, there is plenty for both new players and existing fans to enjoy.

“We’re having tons of positive feedback,” said Cinq-Mars, discussing the player reaction to the demo. “People are happy about the new setting, the new combat system and the hero Bayek. They’re excited to play as him and his eagle Senu.”

However, Assassin’s Creed is one of Ubisoft’s longest-running franchises, and that sets up a lot of expectations from fans. Cinq-Mars explained that the team worked to integrate the Assassin’s Creed DNA into Origins so that fans would still feel a sense of familiarity with the game, despite its all-new setting, characters and gameplay.

“People love our settings, the level of detail we can achieve, the diversity and the historical periods that we want to develop,” said Cinq-Mars, remarking on what keeps Assassin’s Creed fans coming back for more. “They can learn things from it too, not just fight.”

She also said that players like taking on the personas of the different assassins, donning their robes and following their rules.

“We try to stay true to the brand and all the important aspects of it.”

Oculus, YouTube, NBC Hire New Senior Marketing Leaders

Oculus has brought on executive Rebecca Van Dyck as their newest chief marketing officer, according to Business Insider and TechCrunch.

Van Dyck previously worked for Facebook as vice president of consumer and brand marketing, and before that was senior marketing director at Apple. Van Dyck will be replacing Liz Hamren, who left Oculus in April to join Microsoft’s VR project.

YouTube has created a new position—vice president of brand, media and experiences—and tapped Tom Blessington for the role. Beginning in mid-September, Blessington will oversee brand strategy and marketing campaigns across all of YouTube’s revenue streams. Previously, Blessington was managing director at Wieden + Kennedy Portland, a job he has held since 2006.

NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises has named Karen Barroeta as their new senior vice president of marketing and creative of Telemundo Networks.

Prior to her new position, Barroeta held the role of senior vice president of marketing and creative for NBCUniversal International Networks Spanish Latin America, where she oversaw marketing communications efforts for the Syfy, E! Entertainment and Telemundo Internacional channels.

VidCon, host of the annual online video conference in Anaheim, California, has appointed company founder Hank Green as chairman of the company, and Jim Louderback as CEO. As chief executive, Louderback will focus primarily on growing the conference year over year.

Both men have worked at the company for some time—Green from the beginning in 2010 and Louderback as editorial director for the last three years. Prior to that, Louderback was CEO of online video network Revision3 and general manager of Discovery Digital Networks.

Jodi Allen has been hired by Hertz Global Holdings to serve as their newest chief marketing officer. Additionally, Murali Kuppuswamy has been brought on as executive vice president and chief human resources officer. The car-rental conglomerate, which owns the Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty brands, reported a loss of $474 million last year, a trend Allen and his cohorts hope to reverse.

Prior to her latest position, Allen has been general manager for P&G’s hair care division for the past three years, and before that was general manager for P&G brand and marketing in North America, overseeing a $4 billion media budget. Kuppuswamy previously held the role of chief human resources officer for Baker Hughes before it was acquired by General Electric.

Green Man Gaming has appointed Paul Turner as executive vice president for performance marketing. In the role, Turner will be responsible for driving international traffic to the PC-game distributor’s storefront, increasing revenue, and managing merchandising.

“Paul’s 15 years’ experience at the forefront of digital marketing innovation working in forward thinking industries including online gambling and digital retail is a highly valuable addition to our Executive team as we ramp up our internationalization plans,” said Paul Sulyok, CEO and founder of Green Man Gaming.

Most recently, Turner held the title of head and marketing director of online sports-gambling site Sporting Index, where he led efforts to rebrand the company and launch their mobile site.

Closing out a contentious selection process that has gone on since Uber CEO Travis Kalanick left the company in June, the ridesharing service has finally selected Dara Khosrowshahi as their latest CEO.

Khosrowshahi beat out candidates like former General Electrics CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt and HP Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman for the position. Khosrowshahi will attempt to turn the company around after numerous controversies regarding sexual harassment and criminal business practices.

Prior to his new role at Uber, Khosrowshahi was president and CEO of Expedia, a job he has held since 2005. He is also on the board of directors for The New York Times Company.

Twitter has a new leader of its human resources team, expanding the role of CMO and head of communications Leslie Berland to include the new title “head of people.” The position has been empty for nearly six months, after Renee Atwood left the company in February.

Alongside Berland, Jennifer Christie has also been brought onboard to Twitter’s HR team as vice president of human resources.

Before joining Twitter, Berland held the position of executive vice president of global advertising for American Express, as did Christie, who was senior vice president of human resources at the credit card company.

(Editor’s Note: This post will be updated daily until Friday, September 1. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at

Job Vacancies 

Head of Brand Marketing Eventbrite San Francisco, CA
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Make sure to check back for updates on our Jobs Page.

IBM Guides Tennis Through The Digital Age With Ace Innovations

When tennis fans think about Tuesday night’s US Open competition, they’ll probably focus on how the 36-year-old Roger Federer, who is still recovering from a back injury, defeated the 19-year-old American Frances Taifoe in a five-set match. However, the event was also exciting from a technical standpoint because it was where IBM announced Watson Media, a cognitive learning platform that aims to shake up how digital content is created and presented to audiences.

IBM has renewed its longstanding partnership with the USTA, which started 28 years ago (long before there was the internet), and it will continue to help lead the organization through the digital era by preparing for the next phase. That includes dealing with the information overload that comes with being a sport that features multiple events and must deliver content to a global audience within a short time frame.

“The reality is that we’re a pop-up event,” Lew Sherr, USTA’s chief revenue officer, said at a media presentation held at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Tuesday. “We exist here for three weeks, and then we revert back to being a public park where people can rent courts, and most of what you see here is closed up and stored for a year.”

He then likened the US Open to packing an entire NBA season into a few weeks while broadcasting it to 201 countries and territories.

The Next Phase Of Digital

Based on the Watson cognitive learning platform, Watson Media offers a set of solutions that are targeted at the media and entertainment industry to solve key challenges. Specifically, it makes sure customers are happy with their platforms and products, improves operational efficiency and helps them monetize in new ways.

In the case of events like the US Open, Watson is being put to work in a variety of ways, including the Slam Tracker, an analytics tool that provides deeper insights into matches. But most notably, it helps create and organize highlight clips (Cognitive Highlights) from an ocean of footage and a multitude of matches to identify the best moments to put on digital platforms and social media. It does so by measuring and recognizing three criteria: point score (and at what point in the game it is), player gestures and crowd cheering.

“Heineken, for example, is able to distribute highlights over Twitter,” said Sherr. “We’re getting smarter and smarter about finding ways to connect our partners in a different realm—not just on-site with signs on the court and booths with giveaways. It’s about how we can leverage these platforms to reach hundreds of millions of people, and that changes the game for all of us. We think of ourselves much differently.”

Another means of engagement is through the Cognitive Concierge, which uses natural language capabilities to help users find what they’re looking for. For example, users can tell it that they’re hungry and it will help make recommendations. Users can also ask questions like where to buy tickets and what those tickets give access to. In addition to being a great feature for fans, it is also a means of generating revenue for the USTA. American Express is one of the sponsors for the Cognitive Concierge as part of its fan experiences at the US Open.

“For an organization like ours, we’re in the business of growing the game of tennis,” said Sherr. “We’re not in the technology business, and we’re not even in the events business. As an organization, we exist to grow the game of tennis, encourage people to play and improve the quality of life . . .  As an organization, our goal is to be the greatest sports and entertainment event in the world—and certainly in tennis, we are the spectacular slam—and there’s a responsibility to provide technology that allows folks to do that.”

Kirsten Corio, USTA’s managing director of digital strategy, added that, “We have to deliver content in near real-time across the suite of digital platforms—across, the official website, as well as the US Open apps that we’ve continually innovated to bring more features to life for fans, giving them all this data at their fingertips.”

To this end, the US Open app offers push notifications so that fans know when highlights or information about their favorite players are up.

How Watson Enhances Media

The US Open attracts over 700,000 people each year, and that doesn’t include the digital audience. Sherr recounted how when the event first began, sponsors such as American Express were entirely local to New York City. As time passed, national and international brands such as Emirates Airlines and Mercedes-Benz joined.

“We view ourselves a global property like the World Cup or the Olympics,” said Sherr. He also stated that IBM’s technology allows the USTA to engage with fans all over the world, and that engagement has created revenue opportunities.

David Kulczar, senior offering manager for Watson Media

David Kulczar, senior offering manager for Watson Media, told AListDaily that the platform was bringing five core solutions to events. These include Cognitive Highlights, automated closed captioning (which is key to video production, especially as they cover more channels and events), automatic content search and discovery for clips that span decades, personalized recommendations like the Cognitive Concierge and logo identification.

Logo identification may be of particular interest for brands.

“If I were an advertiser, I could understand when my product placements are in frame and whether it’s working,” said Kulczar. “They can know for certain at what point it was in frame and for how long. That’s another key solution where we can help people monetize and understand the value of their ad spend.”

Kulczaralso said that Watson is learning more about the fans themselves through activities on the Fan Insights and Audience Insights applications. “We’re looking at consumer habits and trying to use those habits to help us identify how we can better appeal to consumers within a fan experience inside a stadium,” he said.

The long-term goal for Watson Media is to expand fully and be widely accepted in media and entertainment looking to other verticals. “Every major industry uses video, and I think they can all benefit from the automation solutions that we’re bringing to market,” Kulczar explained.

Engaging With The Right Language

Cognitive Highlights form a strong foundation for how AI platforms can engage audiences, but Noah Syken, IBM’s vice president of sports and entertainment partnerships, discussed the power of natural language recognition.

Noah Syken, VP of sports and entertainment partnerships at IBM

“Part of the Watson capability is to understand natural language—understand how people talk,” Syken told AListDaily. “From a marketing standpoint, we’re using this already to understand what kind of language that is going to resonate with certain audiences, and interacting with audiences using the right language. If athletes understood who their fans were, how they communicated and what’s important to them through natural language, they could put content out there that resonates more strongly without having to guess how to interact. That notion of language recognition, understanding the intent of language and applying that to marketing capabilities and fan interactions—whether it’s the USTA or Roger Federer—I think the same capabilities apply.”

Syken also noted how the Cognitive Concierge as a powerful way for brands to connect with audiences.

“For many years, American Express has been a sponsor of the US Open and the fan experience,” said Syken. “But the USTA wants to offer new products and solutions to Amex, so there’s the notion of making the fan experience even better and more personalized, delivering more value to fans and partners.”

According to Syken, Watson Media aims to give media companies more value from their content. A part of how it can help do that is by providing a deeper level of understanding of the content within the media as Watson creates highlight clips, automatically sorts out the best ones and cross references them according to various topics. Syken suggested the sponsors might want to integrate their brands with the conversations that arise from that kind of organization.

“With tons of video happening out there—that deeper understanding of what’s happening within the videos, and connecting particular brands with particular flavors of content that go to a deeper level than search intent is one way to think about sponsor opportunities.”

Perhaps Sherr summed up the importance of Watson Media best.

“It’s not just the lobster rolls and champagne that we try to monetize here at the Open; it’s trying to find ways to monetize those digital experiences. Or, if nothing else, deliver more value and bring folks in and let them experience the event with the hope that they may want to come here on site.”

VC And ‘FarmVille’ Creator Says VR Needs ‘Constant Reinvention’

Do you recall the glory days of Facebook when friends and family gathered on the social media platform to hoe and plough each other’s harvest on FarmVille? Now all they seemingly do is proliferate fake news, but that’s a big bag of manure we won’t unpack in this field.

Amitt Mahajan, the co-creator of FarmVille and formerly the chief technology officer and director of engineering for Zynga, has moved on to greener pastures since creating the game that swept social and mobile platforms by storm.

He exited his post from the video game developer in 2011 and founded Toro before selling the automated mobile app marketing company to Google.

Mahajan then quickly transitioned into being a serial technology entrepreneur and investor. He founded Presence Capital, a venture capital firm focused on the verticals of virtual and augmented reality start-ups, in 2015 with an inaugural fund of $10 million.

He is now a managing partner of the San Francisco-based VC, and has already invested in 35 companies that are bringing new experiences of communicating, working and playing in the VR and AR markets, including Baobab, STRIVR, Harmonix, TheWaveVR, Bigscreen, Resolution Games, Scope AR, and others.

He joined AListDaily for a video interview to offer his thoughts on what makes virtual reality an enticing industry.

On the VR experiences his venture capital fund is most excited about . . .

“At Presence Capital, we look at a lot of different areas of VR investment. The ones that we’re really excited about are things that use VR to solve problems for businesses. We have traditionally done a lot of work in content. But one of the things we’ve been looking at a lot more recently this year is using VR for training for situational awareness. We invested in STRIVR, which came out of Stanford, and they basically focused on building simulations for quarterbacks and sports professionals. They’re using that to essentially replace more expensive training. But as you can imagine, that same form of technology can be used to solve problems in the corporate world as well. We’re really excited about VR being used for things like that.”

On how VR will influence marketing and advertising . . .

“The way I think VR is going to impact the future of marketing, and potentially brand advertising, is that it allows you to take a small space and turn it into an unlimited show room. Amazon is famously called ‘the everything store’ and that’s because they have a virtual storefront and they’re not limited by space. They can hold any amount of anything. You can imagine that VR allows that same possibility to exist for people who are selling goods. I think there is an opportunity there. On the other side of it, I think there’s this idea of being able to put people into situations, where you get to experience what it’s like to use a product without actually having to go and experience it. Brands could control the way that experience works because they’ve built the VR experience.”

On the marketing challenges of VR . . .

“I think that there are a couple of things that will be a problem. First, it’s the availability of the headsets. They are pretty big set-ups now. They’re not really easy, even if you have the Samsung Gear VR; it’s kind of hard to use. Then getting a lot of people [to experience it] is pretty difficult as well—even if you have an on-location event. You have to clean it, there are just a lot of logistical issues in physicality getting the VR devices into people’s hands. I think that problem will be solved. I think eventually we’ll have VR headsets or glasses and everyone will be able to get around to that eventually.”

On how VR can offer better social experiences . . .

“Social for VR is going to be really important. It’s a topic I think about a lot—what the future of VR is going to look like when you incorporate all of the social stuff Facebook announced at F8 this year. I don’t think we have yet seen the final form of social VR. I think we’re just in the nascent stages. A lot of it’s built for PC or console VR, which is not very distributed yet. I think there’s going to be a future where we all have VR on our phones by default, and we tend to use it. But there’s a couple of interesting things that Facebook did that, if I were a developer or someone that wants to potentially be on top of VR as a platform, I would pay attention to. The first is that they have backward compatibility. Not a lot of people have thought about social that way. Facebook has been a lot more conservative about how much distribution they give their new app platforms. But given how important this is for them, I think they’ll probably be a little more open. It could be a potential way of getting a lot of users really quickly for folks that build on it early.”

On VR sustaining long-term growth . . .

“VR is new and it’s shiny and it is kind of exciting, so people are pretty eager to try it, and that’s great in the short term. But I think in the long term, just with web advertising or with social games or mobile games—or any of the stuff that’s come before—after a while the newness kind of wears off. Then you have to basically find something that’s compelling and interesting. You have to do the hard work of creating compelling narratives and stories. Folks that are doing that right now are building up a lot of that knowledge and expertise. In the future, when it’s a lot more competitive to actually get people’s attention, they’re going to have the expertise to create compelling experiences to make that happen. Just like on the web, you’re going to have to stay on top of new developments and new tricks. It’s a constant reinvention. What worked for web advertising when it started is very different than what works today. Just like any other media, it’s a continuous education process and a continuous reinvention process to stay relevant and actually use the medium to its fullest.”

Film Marketing On Social Gets Creative And Interactive

Long before they hit the big screen, films are tested by audiences on social media—where hype is born, controversies are debated and previews are shared across the world. Since engaging social media audiences goes far beyond the occasional trailer or screenshot, film marketers are getting creative with interactive content meant for sharing.

Social marketing is an important vehicle for Sony Pictures, according to Josh Greenstein, the movie studio’s president of worldwide marketing and distribution. It was the first film studio to buy advertising on Instagram, one of the first to buy ads on Facebook Messenger and first to advertise a full-length trailer on Facebook, Greenstein said on a panel at CES 2017.

Last year, it also became the first company of any type to use a Snapchat 360-degree video ad to promote Don’t Breathe.

The advantage of marketing through social media is instant feedback, for better or for worse.

“It’s about listening to the audience,” Greenstein said. “It’s about customizing content for the audience. We’re able to speak to the audience in ways that we’ve never been able to do.”

Social media games are quickly becoming the go-to marketing tactic for film and television, especially retro-themed endless runners (looping levels that don’t end unless the player fails to avoid obstacles).

To promote IT, Stephen King’s classic horror tale rebooted by New Line Cinema, players can sail Georgie’s infamous paper boat through the sewers in a 16-bit game. Points are earned for collecting red balloons—another iconic image from the book and film—all while avoiding obstacles like Pennywise the Clown. The game is available on Snapchat or can be played on the dedicated website.

Wonder Woman also got her own 16-bit game ahead of the theatrical release, challenging players to navigate Diana through No Man’s Land—a dangerous World War 1 battlefield from the film. Warner Bros. also created a Snapchat lens that places the hero’s iconic tiara on users’ heads.

Snapchat lenses have complimented many a movie release from X-Men Apocalypse to Atomic BlondeSponsored lenses immerse users into a film’s world, are easy to use and most importantly, encourage sharing.

Sometimes you just have to give social media users something to talk about. Ahead of its theatrical release, Legendary Films and Warner Bros. pulled out the big marketing guns for Kong: Skull Island. Giant footprints appeared around Los Angeles in March, perfect for sharing on social media. Those who tweeted “#(city)lovesKong” had the chance to win an early screening in their home town.

To help celebrate the legacy of King Kong and the film’s new characters, Legendary turned to Pinterest, where it shared images and promoted video. After seeing ads on Pinterest, men said they were 15 percent more likely to watch the movie in theaters, and 24 percent more likely to list Kong: Skull Island as their “first choice” for films to go see, according to a case study.

Inviting fans to create their own custom promotional art is another way film marketers are encouraging engagement on social media. For Atomic Blonde, users could upload their own images, pick an alias and look like a spy in the film’s theme of black, white and neon pink. For every Atomic Blonde alias image shared on social media and tagged #AtomicBlonde, Universal offered to donate $1 to the It Gets Better Foundation, supporting LGBTQ youth.

For Annabelle: Creation, fans could insert the possessed doll into existing photos or take new ones with a webcam. The images could then be downloaded and shared across social media channels.

Facebook Fights Fake News By Blocking Ads From Pages That Spread Misinformation

Facebook Pages that “repeatedly” share stories that have been marked as false by third-party fact-checkers will no longer be able to buy ads on the site, the social platform announced.

While ads to promote fake news are removed from the site once flagged, Facebook has taken it one step further by punishing repeat offenders. The announcement did not specify how many offenses are considered too many, although it does say that once the pages stop sharing fake news, they may become eligible to purchase ads again in the future.

According to an official blog post by Facebook product managers Satwik Shukla and Tessa Lyons, this latest update was designed to prevent people from monetizing false information. Sensational posts—especially those politically motivated—often direct readers to a site that earns money through advertising.

Earlier this year, Facebook partnered with independent, third-party fact-checkers like Snopes, Associated Press and Fact Checkers to review flagged stories on the site. Those determined to be misinformation are marked as “disputed” and rank lower on feeds. Users are notified of the disputed status before a story can be shared. Sharing disputed stories is still possible, but Facebook hopes this warning will help deter the unintentional spread of misinformation.

According to a Pew Research Center survey from December, 64 percent of US adults said false news stories had caused a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current events and 23 percent said they have shared a fake news story whether knowingly or unknowingly.

“People told us that Related Articles gave them more context about topics and that having more context helps them make more informed decisions and about what they read and what they decide to share,” Lyons told TechCrunch. “Seeing Fact Checker’s articles in Related Articles actually helps people identify whether what they’re reading is misleading or false.”

This tactic assumes that readers will take the time to fact-check on their own, and that seeing Related Stories that all mirror the original story’s claim won’t result in confirmation bias. Of course, readers must also trust Facebook and the third-party fact-checkers as well. Those who don’t may interpret a disputed story as an intended cover-up.

Such was the case with a fabricated story about Irish slavery in the US, published by a site called Newport Buzz. A disclaimer on the site’s About page says, “If we ever do anything that resembles ‘real’ journalism, it was purely by mistake.” When Facebook marked the story as disputed, several readers took that to mean that Facebook was trying to hide the truth. The result was not fewer shares, but a whole lot more.

“A bunch of conservative groups grabbed this and said, ‘Hey, they are trying to silence this blog—share, share share,’” Christian Winthrop, the site’s editor, told The Guardian. “With Facebook trying to throttle it and say, ‘Don’t share it,’ it actually had the opposite effect.”

This was especially prevalent during the presidential election last year when hundreds of fake news stories circulated across the world. After Donald Trump was declared president, many wondered if the viral spread of fake news on Facebook contributed to the outcome—especially since these stories allegedly outperformed mainstream journalism on the social network.

Although CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that Facebook influenced the election, his company is nonetheless feeling pressure to keep hoaxes away from its readers. Forty-seven percent of teenagers name Facebook as their go-to source for news, according to a recent study by Common Sense Media.

“The bottom line is, we take misinformation seriously,” Zuckerberg said. “Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information. We’ve been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We’ve made significant progress, but there is more work to be done.”

QuakeCon Builds On Bethesda’s VR And Esports Business Strategy

Nikita “Clawz” Marchinsky took home the two top prizes at the inaugural $1 million Quake World Championships competition at QuakeCon this year, winning both the individual and team competitions (playing for Team 2z) featuring id Software’s Quake Champions game. Esports and virtual reality were two key marketing messages at the three-day Dallas fan fest, which attracts over 12,000 gamers annually.

Pete Hines, vice president of marketing at Bethesda Softworks, told AListDaily that this year’s ESL tournament is the first step in an esports roadmap that includes the $75,000 DreamHack Denver Quake Championship and the $350,000 Quake Champions Invitational at DreamHack Winter in Sweden.

“This isn’t just a one-off,” Hines said. “We have other big events planned this year, and we have a whole suite of things planned for next year. And it’s not just for the top-level players. We really want Quake Champions to be a thing where folks can compete at lots of different levels. We want that element that is the equivalent of a weekend warrior, so that you’re not going to practice every day, but you enjoy the skill-based aspect of it and you want to enter a tournament every now and then or get some friends together and compete at a local amateur level. We want to have the amateur, semi-pro and pro levels so a player or team can come from out of nowhere and work you’re their way all the way up to the top to compete against some of the best players in the world. We want to create a competitive scene that doesn’t always have to mean playing for a million dollars and going up against the best players.”

Outside of esports, QuakeCon has evolved into a major marketing vehicle for not only id Software’s game, but the entire catalog of Bethesda console, PC and VR offerings. When Zenimax acquired id Software nine years ago, Hines said the parent company didn’t want to change QuakeCon unless it was for the better.

“We worked with the volunteers and the fans to figure out how to make this celebration of gaming and competitive play and esports better,” Hines explained. “QuakeCon has become a great place to show press and fans new content we have coming out, including hands-on with games like Quake Champions, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. Timing-wise it’s a great point in the calendar between E3 and PAX West to connect with fans and press and show everyone what we’re doing.”

QuakeCon remains a draw for sponsors as well. AMD was the lead sponsor for both QuakeCon and the Quake World Championships, while companies like 5-hour Energy, Alienware, Filthy Casual, Razer, Corsair and MSI all had booths at the event.

“QuakeCon is now in its twenty-second year and we’ve established relationships with brands like Alienware, AMD and 5-hour Energy, so esports is an opportunity for us to widen the pool,” Hines said. “We’ve talked to lots of non-endemic brands, whether it’s snack food or beverages, and they all understand and see that this esports is a growing business. It’s very nice to be able to talk to them about Quake Champions as an esport from the standpoint because Quake was the original esport. We’ve always been doing this type of competition, and while there are other games right now that are bigger and more popular and have bigger prize pools, Quake was the game that started it all.”

QuakeCon also served as a hands-on marketing opportunity for this fall’s VR titles, which includes Skyrim VR for PlayStation VR (launching Nov. 17), Doom VFR on PlayStation VR and HTC Vive (shipping Dec. 1) and Fallout 4 VR for HTC Vive (releasing Dec. 12).

“Whether it’s mobile games, VR, console or PC, our studios are always looking at how our game experiences can be good fits,” Hines explained. “In the case of Bethesda Game Studios’ Fallout and Skyrim, these franchises are known for immersion and giving the player a sense of place where they get to explore these worlds and do what they want and completely lose themselves. VR is another incredibly immersive way to bring those experiences to players. Even if you’ve played these games before, playing it in VR is a very different immersive experience in a post-apocalyptic wasteland or in this hidden dungeon. In the case of id Software’s Doom VFR, VR gives you that experience of being a badass marine and a better sense of scale when you’re facing these huge demons. You can’t get that level of scale playing the game on a monitor or TV.”

QuakeCon, as well as upcoming events like PAX West, offers Bethesda the opportunity to get gamers into these VR worlds first-hand.

“You really have to put it on and try it and see for yourself to understand how powerful VR is,” Hines said. “We can talk about what the combat is like in Doom VFR and show you trailers, but you still don’t really get it until you play it. So having it here for folks to experience and taking it on the road to other shows is a big part of helping to spread the word.”

‘Ark: Survival Evolved’ Marketing Focuses On Rewarding Its Players

After two years entirely in early access, Studio Wildcard’s Ark: Survival Evolved finally—and officially—launched for consoles and PC and went gold doing so. How do you promote the premiere of a game millions are already playing? Cater to the players, of course.

Ark: Survival Evolved begins with a man or woman waking up naked on a mysterious island. Freezing, starving and alone, each player must learn to hunt, craft items, grow crops, build shelter and tame animals. Players can even train, ride and hunt dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts while attacking or defending themselves from other players. As each player advances in the game, they gain access to more advanced weaponry and armor, creating new opportunities for multiplayer challenges and building just about any kind of world they choose.

An evolution event leading up to the game’s official launch helped players progress faster in the game, speeding up the time it takes to earn experience points, hatch new creatures and more.

Studio Wildcard has created a massive community through its streaming and modding communities. Built in Unreal Engine, Ark: Survival Evolved not only allows but encourages players to tinker with the game and make it their own.

“Since partnering up with Epic and opening up our Ark Dev Kit in July of 2015, we have seen over 2,500 different mods enter our Steam Workshop,” the developer wrote on its website. “It is an understatement to say how much we truly appreciate and value our modding community and want to do more to help facilitate the progress of mods, as well as modders.”

Earlier this year, Studio Wildcard introduced Sponsored Mods, which pays a $4,000 stipend toward 15 projects each month to help support creative modders within the community. Each project has the chance to be included in the official game. The first to accomplish this is Ragnarok—a fantasy-themed DLC released for free today.

One mod in particular—a competitive, battle royale mode for the game called Ark: Survival of the Fittest—allowed Studio Wildcard to dip its toe into the esports arena. However in September, the developer stopped development on the project in favor of the main game.

Ark: Survival of the Fittest was for us an experiment,” Jeremy Stieglitz, Studio Wildcard’s co-founder, told PC Gamer. “It started as a mod and it was pretty cool and pretty fun. A lot of these games that are very successful—like PUBG, Counter Strike or DotA—originate as mods and can switch over to standalone titles.”

A special collector’s edition of Ark: Survival Evolved is available that includes the game, a season pass with three expansion packs, leather notebook filled with dossiers on each creature from the game, a cloth map of the Ark island, a necklace, development team poster and a collectible faux wooden crate. Purchasing the game at Best Buy also includes a limited-edition steelbook.

Fans can also get a behind-the-scenes look at the official soundtrack, which is available now for purchase. Composed by Gareth Coker (Ori and the Blind Forest), the music for the game was recorded at the historic Abbey Road Studios in London.

Studio Wildcard has created and maintained a loyal following leading up to Ark‘s launch through contests and events and by supporting its modding community.

It’s now up to the players to see how the final game evolves.


How Marriott Is Marketing Categorically With Relevant Brand Stories To Reach Consumers

Marriott International is doubling down on human connection by debuting a new category marketing approach that’s designed to be a strategic differentiator in connecting consumers and associates with its classic select brands.

The four hotel chains—Courtyard, Fairfield, SpringHill Suites and Four Points—factor for more than one-third of Marriott’s 6,200 properties and will aim at aligning guests to their underlying “Golden Rule” of quality service.

“The public believes that some aspects of the travel experience can sometimes lack humanity. The Golden Rule campaign was developed to show how positive treatment to others can have a ripple effect, and the ever-increasing importance of human connections—especially in today’s hyper-connected digital environment,” Michael Dail, vice president of global brand marketing at Marriott International, told AListDaily. “We see it as a critical evolution of how we can leverage our collective strength to present a more powerful offering to consumers. The results are significant, as the campaign represents new exposure that each brand may not have otherwise seen.”

Dail said the category marketing approach is a strategic shift for the hotel brand, and that the campaign’s emphasis on emotion and the power of humanity is the shake-up society needs.

To leverage large-scale storytelling efforts sharing real-life stories from their associates and guests from properties around the globe, Marriott took to a cross-screen approach that hits all screen sizes with a media plan consisting of cinema, broadcast, in-flight and mobile. Digital-only content will complement the ad spots on both the campaign’s landing page and social media channels.

Outside of Courtyard’s NFL-specific ads, the launch of the campaign will serve as the primetime TV debut for each brand. The campaign also marks the first time all four brands will appear in cinema and Canada.

Dail said that in order to reach consumers in the hospitality industry, Marriott has to go where guests are and through the channels they prefer. With the Golden Rule, it’s doing so with brand-specific campaigns using a variety of paid, earned and owned channels.

“It’s not just about reaching consumers, though,” Dail said. “It’s equally important to have a relevant brand story that will resonate with consumers [. . .] With today’s media landscape, Marriott has to adapt and expand in terms of how we’re reaching our consumers because they’re constantly getting their news and content from multiple platforms like TV, web and social, among others. These brands will remain distinct in their own identity and we’ll continue to do individual marketing campaigns for these brands, but we realize that we’re also stronger when we come together.”

The category marketing is being complemented with a heavy video marketing strategy. Dail said that when they were developing the campaign, they recognized that they had an emotional story that was as much about philosophy as it was about physical products.

“Video is the best way to showcase human interaction,” he said. “We aren’t talking about in-room amenities or thread count, but rather, we’re showing how the most basic human interaction can create a lasting impression for our guests. With these global brands, video serves as a natural medium to transcend language and cultural barriers. The idea of humanity is understood universally.”

From learning sign language to better accommodating guests and picking up a guest when their car breaks down on the way to the hotel, Dail said Marriott designed the messaging to pay tribute to the real-life acts of their associates and highlight how they go beyond expectations.

“Our company’s mission is to be the world’s favorite travel company and with this campaign, we illustrate that each of these brands are equally and wholeheartedly committed to going one step further. It’s not just about making someone’s bed, but taking time to truly make a guest’s day,” Dail said. “This approach translates to a huge impact.”

Marriott, which has a history of reaching consumers through branded entertainment, will be using MLive, the company’s real-time marketing command center, to actively monitor for moments that epitomize the Golden Rule, as well as always monitoring on behalf of the classic select brands and their loyalty programs.

“In being able to connect with guests in real-time through MLive, we recognize and celebrate these moments of positive human interaction among our associates and guests,” Dail said. “These special interactions will become the source for the real-life video content that’ll be posted on our microsite and social channels.”

Dail said there are numerous markets globally where Marriott is leading penetration with its four classic brands. The brands that Marriott has singled out are designed for a variety of trip occasions, be it business travel, family getaways or just individual leisure destination travel.

“What’s great about category marketing is that it allows us to leverage certain channels to market to consumers who are active in the travel-booking process. They become exposed to the campaign through search and digital channels and they then make their travel decisions based on what they’ve already seen,” Dail said. “Right now, the hospitality industry is leveraging the scope of their portfolios, which creates this unique marketing challenge. We as marketers need to ensure our guests and consumers are seeing the diversity among individual brands and what they stand for.”