ANA: Marketers Need To Step Their Game Up To Fight Lack Of Growth

“Pardon my Brooklyn-ese, but growth sucks,” Bob Liodice, CEO of the ANA, said in his keynote address for the Masters of Marketing conference on Thursday.

More than half of the 2016 Fortune 500 list posted shrinking revenues this year, he claimed, and poor leadership by CMOs is to blame, Liodice added. After praising brands such as NASCAR and Oreo for their marketing strategies, the speaker turned on the rest of the marketers in the audience.

“It boils down to a lack of effective marketer leadership,” said Liodice. “As leaders, we, as an industry, have refused to make the tough calls—calls that would take us out of the cesspool of suboptimum growth. For example, we as leaders should not accept this byzantine, non-transparent, super-complex digital media supply chain. No one can understand it.”

Liodice isn’t the first to complain about the opacity of digital media buying: the IAB announced substantive efforts to simplify mobile ad verification earlier this week.

“These depressing patterns are happening even with continued growth in media spending,” said Liodice. “Yet we keep feeding the beast by pouring incredible sums of money into this unproductive, unmanageable abyss. Remarkably, we keep doing so even though we know that only 25 percent of every digital dollar reaches the consumer.”

To solve this crisis, as well as a talent crisis the ANA describes as “looming,” Liodice urged the marketers in attendance and CMOs in general to join his organization’s latest initiative, the Masters Circle. He put forward a 12-step program, which includes initiatives such as “Gender Equality,” “Brand Safety and Ad Fraud” and “Advocacy and Self-Regulation.”

“CMOs can no longer let others do the heavy lifting,” Liodice concluded. “It is time for chief marketing officers to seize ownership of the industry’s growth agenda.”

Analysts Explain Microsoft’s Moves On Mixed Reality

As a tech and gaming giant, Microsoft is in a unique position to invest in emerging technology and right now, the company has its sights set firmly on augmented, virtual and mixed reality. Should Microsoft’s efforts be successful, other brands may soon find new opportunities to market within the virtual space.

Microsoft acquired social VR site AltspaceVR—a cross-platform service that allows users to connect in virtual environments for events and hangouts. One couple even hosted their wedding on the site, allowing all their virtual friends to celebrate.

According to a recent study by Greenlight, 67 percent said they’re interested in social VR. Of those who have already tried VR, that number shoots up to 78 percent. Social apps like AltspaceVR bridge the gap between isolation in a headset and sharing experiences with others.

Seventy-six percent of Greenlight’s respondents said they would use social VR apps at least once a week, and 28 percent want to spend time using social VR every day.

AltSpaceVR shut down briefly after hesitant investors backed out, but then came back on after a conversation with HoloLens inventor and Microsoft technical fellow Alex Kipman, who found overlap between his visions for mixed reality and social VR. The acquisition means AltspaceVR’s passionate community can keep their home away from home, and Microsoft takes a big step toward competing with Facebook Spaces.

“What the industry needs now are companies who have the pockets and the patience to innovate and develop compelling experiences and Microsoft fits that bill,” Debby Ruth, senior vice president of global media and entertainment at Magid, told AListDaily. “The HoloLens was a significant standalone AR technology advancement, and being able to leverage that knowledge base to integrate VR and AR experiences will advance the industry.”

“Right now in the US there are roughly 44 million people who state they find VR interesting and intriguing enough to consider a purchase in the next year—but few are acting on that interest. The hesitation is equal parts price, content and the early-stage headsets, but our research also reveals there is not yet a compelling use case. The emergence of social VR—AltspaceVR and Sansar for example—could help change that.”

Stephanie Llamas, vice president of research and strategy for SuperData Research, says the acquisition of AltspaceVR is not only good for Microsoft, but for the entire industry.

“Microsoft wants to compete with the big guns already entrenched in the industry, so who better to partner with than a company with so much fan loyalty their users literally revived the dying platform (almost) by themselves?” Llamas wrote of the AltSpaceVR acquisition on her blog. “Microsoft will continue to allow AltspaceVR to run on other devices as it has up until now. Like HTC Vive, Microsoft wants to forward this industry as a whole knowing that is the only way they themselves can succeed.

“Expect this to be the beginning of VR’s next wave of major funding—funding that could finally get us the shovel we need to dig VR out of this trough everyone has been dwelling on so much.”

The HoloLens is already changing the industrial sector, including medical and automotive manufacturing, by offering interactive visualization but has yet to take hold of the consumer market. To bridge this gap, Microsoft has revealed a new line of mixed reality laptops, headsets and motion controllers.

“We are standing at the threshold of the next revolution in computing—a revolution where computers empower us to expand our capabilities and transcend time, space and devices.” Alex Kipman wrote on the Microsoft blog following a Samsung presentation Tuesday. “A revolution where we immerse ourselves in virtual worlds of our choosing and we accomplish seemingly impossible things while making lasting memories with the people we love.”

Brands are already experimenting with ads within a virtual environment. Film studios like Lionsgate, Paramount, Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures create branded VR experiences to compliment theatrical releases. In a study testing the effectiveness of marketing in VR, brand recall was at least eight times more effective and resulted in double the intent to share.

Closing Pandora’s Box: IAB Tech Lab To Standardize Mobile Ad Verification

Working with brands like Google, Pandora, Nielsen and comScore, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has announced the limited release of its effort to reduce the bloat of mobile ad verification services.

The IAB Open Measurement Working Group describes the problem on its website, asserting that because different advertisers depend on different verification service providers for their mobile ads, app publishers are forced to integrate multiple code libraries (SDKs) in their products.

This, according to the IAB, is a problem for everybody:

  • Ensuring compatibility between different SDKs slows down app development and updates, making app publishers less productive and user experience worse.
  • Multiple sources of data can create disputes between partners over revenue.
  • Ad buyers and sellers are limited in their choices based on their verification SDK choices.
  • Fragmentation in collection causes difficulties in gathering reliable data at scale.
  • Specific verification SDK requirements can delay business deals by weeks or months while developers integrate new software.

All of these complications create an environment where everyone suffers—users from less stable, more bloated apps, developers from hours of busy work keeping up to date with every third-party verification SDK and advertisers from system incompatibilities and inconsistent data.

The IAB’s tech lab hopes to solve these problems in one fell swoop with its Open Measurement SDK, a standardized measurement and verification tool it hopes will be integrated into every mobile app. So far the SDK provides only viewability data, but as Pandora announced in a blog post, the group is working to add more measurement capabilities in the future.

Only time will tell if this standardization ends up closer to Nielsen’s efforts than Esperanto, but the size and stature of the brands behind the project lends it promise. Version 1.0 of the SDK is slated to release this year.

Positivity Improves Marketing Effectiveness; Industry Fights Ad-Supported Piracy

Consumers favor brands that take a stance on stereotypes, according to a new survey by Choozle. Thirty-six percent of the 500 respondents reported liking brands more if they ran ads that broke traditional gender roles. Furthermore, 25 percent claimed they would be more likely to buy from a gender-progressive brand.

“The increase of personalization with the help of third party data has created an increase of gender bias in digital advertising,” said Andrew Fischer, CEO and co-founder of Choozle. “With the increase of acknowledgement of gender stereotypes and representation we, as an industry, should strive to create an inclusive ad experience that meets the consumers’ needs.”

Ace Metrix has also released its report on the top-rated video ads for Q3 of this year, tracking a common theme of compassion, philanthropy and self-empowerment that played well with audiences.


Meanwhile, Telaria has released its latest study on connected TVs and streaming, finding that more than half of consumers find watching ads a fair trade-off for low-cost content. These ads work well, too: over 50 percent of weekly connected TV users report researching or purchasing advertised items.

TAG has released a study on the pervasive issue of ad-supported piracy sites, finding that despite drastic action by the digital advertising industry the problem still persists. Copyright-infringing content hosts earned an estimated $111 million in ad revenue last year, though steps taken by the marketing industry have reduced their income by as high as 61 percent.

“We have not won the war against ad-supported piracy, but the battle is joined, and we are making good progress,” said TAG CEO Mike Zaneis“Despite the advances made, there is more work to be done, as companies work together to protect their brands against the interrelated challenges of ad-supported piracy, fraud, malware and lack of transparency.”

According to TAG’s estimates, infringing content accounts for $2.4 billion in lost revenue for content creators.

Snapchat’s ad revenue forecast for the year has been lowered due to slowing user growth rates and marketer worries about its “experimental” ad products, according to a new report from E-Marketer. The study suggests that the platform’s global revenues will only reach $774.1 million this year, down from their March prediction of $900 million.

However, eMarketer still claims that Snapchat will surpass Twitter in US ad income next year, with their 2018 predictions being $1.18 billion and $1.16 billion, respectively.

Also contributing to Snapchat’s reduced growth is the slow adoption of their Spectacles sunglasses. According to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, the AR-integrated glasses have sold 150,000 units since their launch in November of last year.

The global digital games market will hit a value of $100 billion by the end of 2017, a new report by Juniper Research indicates. Driving this growth is the rising trend of free-to-play games on PC, allowing developers to use in-game purchases and advertising.

Research and Markets also released a new report on the global gaming market, predicting a compound annual growth rate of 7.63 percent over the next four years. The report tracked not just video game sales, but also gaming peripherals and even board games.

IDC has forecasted massive growth in the virtual-and-augmented reality marketplace, predicting a 56.1 percent compound annual growth for VR/AR headsets. By their reports, AR headsets will account for more than $30 billion in revenue by 2021. Their report described early growth predictions for VR as “unrealistic,” but attribute the high growth rate to the increasing affordability of head-mounted displays.

Their research indicates that while VR headsets will drive growth in the near term, AR will jump from 10 percent to 25 percent of market share in 2020 and 2021.

A new survey by Simply Measured revealed new information on the top problems faced by agency employees. Measuring ROI was by far the largest concern at 61.4 percent, followed by “tying social to business goals” at 35.5 percent.

While consumers are still wary of facial authentication on smartphones, fingerprint scanners are becoming more and more common. Research by Counterpoint indicates that over one billion phones with fingerprint scanners will be shipped in the next year. This figure is due in part to increased efficiency and declining cost of manufacturing the sensors.

StitcherAds has announced a new product, offering automated integration between Facebook and Instagram ads and retail buying behavior. The company attributes as high as 27 percent of in-store customer visits to paid social-media engagements.

According to Nielsen data, digital video ad spending growth is rapidly outpacing that of linear television. Digital video has increased by 26 percent this year, as opposed to TV’s much more modest figure of 3.6 percent.

Despite the massive growth, digital’s share of the market remains much smaller, at only $9.3 billion for the first half of 2017, compared to TV’s $61.1 billion.

Sponsored content on social media can bring as high as $1.4 billion for top local TV stations, research by Share Rocket suggests. According to their research, which analyzed 210 television markets over 12 months, the top 20 markets alone are worth $747 million for social media value.

Despite higher satisfaction rates for streaming services than TV providers, cord-cutting has diminished in the last year, according to a recent J.D. Power study. The percentage of consumers who claim to want to drop their cable provider has dropped from 9 percent in 2016 to 8 percent this year. The research indicates that streamed and scheduled programming are not mutually exclusive–average consumption of TV has increased from 16.6 hours per week in 2015 to 17.4 in 2016.

WineAmerica, a national association of American wineries, revealed their latest economic impact research. Their data indicates that the wine industry has contributed $220 billion to the American economy this year, through direct wages, supplier contracts and induced impact.

LottoGopher Wants To Digitize Lotteries With William Shatner

If you have plans of testing Lady Luck and winning the lottery in your lifetime, say no more to the corner store because you might be banking cash straight from your computer.

LottoGopher, an online messenger service that allows consumers to order and manage state lottery tickets online, is looking to disrupt the $70 billion US lottery market with a practical service that provides a digital solution to a pivotal point—eliminating what could sometimes be a painful process purchasing lottery tickets.

James Morel, president and CEO of LottoGopher, told AListDaily that it was to time to alleviate the consumer journey with a zero-effort, streamlined method.

“We wanted to make the experience fun and without hassle. It’s the modern way of doing things,” Morel said. “We’re filling out the lottery space where people don’t want to deal with the difficulty. We’re a nimble tech firm, so we’re also filling a space that the state lotteries are maybe too slow to operate and take on.”

Similar to the systems set-up in Europe, LottoGopher eradicates the paperwork and presents a digital dashboard set-up that carries your purchases, winnings, winning numbers and potential strategies. It’s designed to distinguish ever misplacing paper tickets, remove travel and introduce new areas such as public pools, automated private groups crafted to appeal to office pools and gifting via email.

LottoGopher is currently only available for California residents for jackpot games like Powerball, Mega Millions, SuperLotto Plus for a $12-per month, or $99-per year membership. The public company has plans of expanding to over 20 states over the next year.

To help them scale, they signed William Shatner as their company spokesperson to potentially provide the Midas touch.

“LottoGopher is a brand new and brilliant idea using the inventions of today,” Shatner told AListDaily. “It’s a very popular activity to buy a lottery ticket with hopes of instantaneous riches—everyone is prone to gambling. Everyone knows it’s a gamble, but they’re willing to gamble on the esoteric fact that they might win millions.”

Shatner says he was specifically intrigued by the brand because he deemed it as a social-first company of the future. It also aligned with his personal business plan—Shatner’s one-year deal includes company assets that extend in perpetuity.

“LottoGopher is something that should take the country by storm. It’s revolutionary,” Shatner said. “I don’t know whether there is ever a right time—as if it were a slot and you’re coming out of it like a greyhound. When the opportunity is there, you either grasp it or you don’t. I’d rather explore what is happening.”

Shatner says LottoGopher is in the same position to bloom as Priceline, a brand he famously helped skyrocket as a spokesperson at the turn of the millennium, because he believes it really works.

“You can be idly thinking ‘let’s take a gamble with these numbers that I’ve got in my mind right now.’ It’s instantaneous,” Shatner said. “It’s an idea that should be popular the same way Uber and Netflix became popular overnight. These are disruptive industries taking what was there before, and changing it.”

Morel is making Shatner a pivotal part of his brand’s marketing strategy, which includes a TV commercial, paid media on digital and social channels, a small-scale influencer campaign as well as radio commercials running in small-to-mid markets in California.

Demographics for lottery buyers range across a wide variety and mostly mirrors the demographic of the state, so Morel had to find someone who appealed and spoke to Gen X/Z, millennials and baby boomers all the way to octogenarians. Shatner will also be serving as a chaperone guiding the entire LottoGopher digital experience and describing its services online with his legendary voice.

“Mr. Shatner was literally first on our wish list for a spokesperson,” Morel says. “He brings certain credibility to us on the public market side because he’s known as a good stock picker. He has such an interesting career and he’s so many things to people of all ages and backgrounds. He’s very funny, all-around talented and a smart guy with crossover appeal who speaks well to the product in a way where people can understand it. I’m not saying Shatner drove Priceline’s stock prices, but you do associate him with the brand as the Priceline Negotiator. He’s very legendary in marketing and public stock stories.”

The Los Angeles-based brand is also backed by board of director Kevin Harrington, formerly a Shark Tank judge and inventor of the infomercial, who joined the start-up because of its “massive potential.”

“Kevin has seen, built and sold many businesses. He can say, ‘hey, this is a great company and let me tell you why.’ People buy into that,” Morel said. “We work hand-in-hand on many of our marketing initiatives. When you’re communicating a message, you need to have different voices. He’s the mechanic of our benefits.”

Before migrating to other states, LottoGopher first needs to hit the winning numbers with consumers in California, which has four drawing dates a week across 22,000 retailers where lottery products are sold. Morel says there are specific state laws that need to be analyzed in order to structure the service properly and scale accordingly. As a third-party operator, there is no licensing required from the state, and the state does not endorse LottoGopher either.

“I guess you can ask that to many branches of government—‘why don’t you just put it online?’” he says. “The way that their systems are set up right now is what they’re comfortable with. There hasn’t been a migration over to digital. We’re trying to bridge the gap. People want a digital experience. For some reason, state lotteries really have not made that move.”

Digitizing the lottery system has been discussed at large since the late ‘90s, and just Illinois, Michigan and Georgia have done it to date. There is a market to tap into—57 percent of the adult population purchased lottery tickets last year, Morel says.

In the meantime, his team’s goal is to meet cost-per-acquisition goals and lifetime-value goals. Once they have those two divisions gelling, then they’ll expand.

“You can’t play guessing games in multiple jurisdictions until you’re solid in the first one. In any new venture, your marketing mix is not optimized—you have to iterate and tailor channels. We’re going to take our marketing with a silo approach and factor demographics and psychographics. The marketing message should appeal, saying, ‘we provide this.’” said Morel. “We’ll also be looking at creative and what the messaging is when ads are served to particular groups of people so the journey resonates with them. Is it the fantasy of buying a mansion? Or the desire to quit your job? Or do you love to play family birthdays? There are different motivations for everyone.”

Lenovo Details ‘Star Wars’ AR Game Setup And Launch

Lenovo has partnered with Disney Interactive for Lucasfilm’s Star Wars augmented reality gaming.

Star Wars: Jedi Challenges launches Nov. 3 for $199 and comes with the new Lenovo Mirage AR headset, which works with any Android or iOS smartphone, along with a replica Luke Skywalker lightsaber and tracking beacon.

The system uses inside-out tracking cameras located inside the headset to pick up the light from the tracking beacon. This provides a fixed point and leverages the light from the lightsaber to understand where the player is moving so the glowing saber stays calibrated atop the physical object.

Star Wars has always been based in AR from the first movie 40 years ago with the HoloChess,” said Matt Bereda, vice president of global consumer marketing at Lenovo. “You’ve seen holograms of Princess Leia and Obi Wan Kenobi in the films, so it’s very natural to bring a lightsaber duel or to play HoloChess or a strategic combat game within this experience.”

Jedi Battles launches with three games, including the lightsaber duel that features classic villains from the franchise like Darth Vader, Kylo Ren and Darth Maul. The lightsaber features haptics, so players will feel when the sabers touch in battle.

The experience includes the HoloChess game that Obi Wan and Luke played aboard the Millennium Falcon in Episode IV, and a strategic combat game based on the Battle of Hoth and other ground-force battles from the franchise.

“You can defend your towers with different characters and mount an offensive against your foe—and you can build your characters up over time,” Bereda said.

Bereda anticipates that the app will open new levels of monetization opportunities for Lenovo. Characters and even entire games can be added over time.

“While we’re not integrating content from The Last Jedi at launch, because this is an application, we can send updates to increase the number of experiences or add new content,” said Bereda. “If there’s a bad guy who shows up in the next movie, they could make an appearance in this game. There’s an opportunity to extend this app to be even richer over time.”

The phone rests across the player’s eyebrows with the screen facing down on the ground, where it projects down and then mirrors the images out in front of the player. Spectators can see the AR action through the outside of the lens, and the player can see his or her surroundings in the room during the physical combat.

Lenovo’s new gaming platform was part of Disney’s fan-focused D23 event in July, and the company demoed the AR gameplay at German consumer electronics show Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin. The product also received a marketing push as part of Disney’s Force Friday II event in September.

“Right now we’re working through planning details for the ABC properties to leverage and integrate Jedi Battles into the Star Wars shows,” said Bereda, detailing US holiday exclusives in the works with launch partner Best Buy. “There are a number of marketing opportunities that span into traditional media and on the digital side.”

Lenovo is targeting core Star Wars fans at launch and leveraging excitement around AR and the lightsaber. The company will work with influencers and hardcore Star Wars fans to build that buzz as the campaign expands to the more casual Star Wars fan environment.

Lenovo is also planning a Best Buy nationwide push for Jedi Battles on Oct 28 and 29. Since the full app won’t be available for download until Nov. 3, a hands-on demo version will be featured.

Even as VR hardware prices come down, Bereda sees a great selling point with Jedi Battles beyond the Star Wars brand.

“The key with this is that the set-up is minimal,” Bereda said. “I’m not putting up sensors around the room like HTC, or programming a PC. I download the app, put my phone in the headset, turn on the beacon and lightsaber and play.”

Lionsgate And Unity Unleash ‘Jigsaw’ VR Experience

As just about every horror movie franchise demonstrates, killing the main villain doesn’t necessarily end the series. That’s certainly the case for the Saw series, which will be launching its eighth movie Jigsaw on October 27.

It’s been seven years since the previous movie released, so Lionsgate is promoting its return as a major event. This includes a VR escape room experience within a physical escape room that debuted on Thursday at the New York Comic Con.

Julie Shumaker, VP of advertiser solutions at Unity

The VR experience, which involves making a gruesome life or death decision and solving a puzzle, gives users a first-hand look at what it’s like to be one of Jigsaw’s victims. After escaping the trap, players can tour shrines that showcase props from previous Saw movies, then it concludes with the Jigsaw trailer. It was designed in partnership between Lionsgate and Unity, and also marks the official launch of Unity’s Virtual Room ad unit.

“We partnered with Lionsgate to launch Virtual Room, which is an IAB ad experience in VR,” Julie Shumaker, vice president of advertiser solutions at Unity, told AListDaily. She was joined by Unity’s head of VR strategy Tony Parisi, and Agatha Bochenek, Unity’s head of mobile and VR/AR advertising sales.

“There are several points that we’re really excited about with the partnership, with the first being that it’s the first of its kind,” Shumaker continued. “It takes the work the IAB Innovation Lab established—standards which help an industry grow—and adopt things that can be measurable. You’ll see that in a variety of Unity VR games.”

Shumaker explained that the Virtual Room is an ad experience that allows brands to better use the Unity VR platform, which is quite extensive, considering how roughly two-thirds of all VR experiences are built on Unity.

Although Lionsgate is one of the leading film companies to pioneer VR, with multiple activations to its credit, Shumaker said that what sets the Jigsaw experience apart from previous VR promotions is the sense of scale Virtual Room offers.

“With Virtual Room, Lionsgate has taken advantage of deep immersion,” said Shumaker. “In essence, the consumer goes into the Jigsaw Virtual Room and it has its own narrative. The difference here is that it’s scalable. It’s a self-contained immersive experience that can be surface through a variety of Unity VR apps.”

Tony Parisi, head of VR strategy at Unity

“So far, all of the early innovations and experimentation with brand content in VR and AR has been around crafting a one-of-a-kind experience that is delivered as an app,” Parisi added.

He cited Audi’s R18 race car experience as a prime example of a deeply crafted VR story.

“The idea behind the VR ad unit is that you would encounter those experiences within some other application. You would come to a natural stopping point—between chapters in a cinematic experience or between levels in a game—and you’re offered a chance to opt into an experience, and then you go in there for a limited time. It’s snack-sized content, but true to the brand and takes full advantage of the immersion, and delivered into multiple applications.”

According to Parisi, if you have to download an app for a single VR experience, then it has reached its limit. Motivated users will try a lot of different things, but that’s different from presenting a brand experience to someone while they’re in the midst of doing something else.

Bochenek explained that the Jigsaw VR experience goes far beyond a location-based escape room.

“We’re distributing our ad inside of two key apps that are built on Unity,” said Bochenek. “One is the Samsung internet VR app, which is the main 360 video app that all Gear owners have. It will be the first interactive experience in that app.”

Gear owners will be able click on the Jigsaw experience in the Featured section to experience it. Samsung also benefits by pushing the boundaries of its video app with interactivity.

“We’re also distributing in an app call Nanite Fulcrum, which is on both the Samsung Gear and Oculus Rift,” Bochenek continued. The VR comic book app lets its users jump into panels. “We’re going to have a special panel at the end of comic book app that allows you to go into this experience. That’s the massive distribution that we’re talking about that’s unique to this product. It’s a standalone, very scalable product that you can use for a variety of advertisers and brands.”

Agatha Bochenek, head of mobile and VR/AR advertising sales at Unity

Bochenek also said that Lionsgate didn’t have a specific VR plan for Jigsaw, so the partnership enabled them to develop it closely together. The experience features that voice of Tobin Bell, who plays Jigsaw in the movie, and Lionsgate provided assets from the entire Saw franchise to be brought into VR—giving the experience an authentic feel.

The Saw franchise, with its deadly escape room theme, may be the perfect partner to debut something called a Virtual Room, but Parisi reminds us that “room” actually means environment. It doesn’t necessarily mean that users will be trapped within four walls.

Shumaker said they’re excited to showcase the Virtual Room’s scalability.

“[Virtual Room] is a sandbox in which a brand can tell its story and have consumers interact with content and almost go on individual journeys,” she said. “For example, let’s say it’s a cinematic VR mountain climbing experience, and the user has an opportunity to take a break and maybe earn some unlockable content by going into a branded Virtual Room—and let’s say the Virtual Room is an energy drink. We don’t anticipate that the brand will make it about drinking that drink. We believe that it would take advantage of Unity Virtual Room to take users on an achievement-based micro-experience, where they get their achievement and get back to the VR mountain. What we love about Virtual Room is that no matter what fiction you’re in, you have moments of natural breaks.”

Unity has found that people are always seeking interesting and new content, whether that means exploring the extras for a movie or reaching the next level of a mobile game.

“It’s our nature to search and click,” said Shumaker, and Unity believes that consumers will be delighted by the ability to tap into a brand’s Virtual Room for a side journey from within a VR experience.

Shumaker explained that the IAB Innovation Lab research has produced reliable and replicable VR ad experiences, which now gives brands Lionsgate more confidence in developing experiences.

“That’s why Unity wanted to commit behind this ad standard,” she said. “It’s very hard for a brand to know its long-term strategy when it’s a one-off. Did it work? Did it not work? What did it work compared to? We’re excited about the fact that brands will be able take advantage of this ad product—the Virtual Room—and create some parity with their campaigns in what they’d expect the results to be.”

As the Jigsaw campaign demonstrates, it will be very easy for brands to port VR experiences to other apps built in Unity.

“It’s at the core of what we care about for our developers,” Shumaker said. “We put great tools in their hands to democratize content development, we enable their success by making money through advertising, and we solve hard problems like how to do the future—which is currently VR and AR. This launch means a ton to Unity because it captures all three of those. The apps are built on Unity, the Virtual Room ad is built on Unity, and it’s being distributed to Unity developers to make them money.”

Hyatt Underscores Unity During Tense And Turbulent Times

Whether it’s supporting natural disaster relief efforts or speaking out against violence, racial tension and unrest across America, brands are increasingly aligning their messaging and motives behind causes activist consumers care about the most.

It’s part of the complex career for today’s marketer, who often has to painstakingly juggle decisions between paid media budgets and political stances. In the wake of this week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, top marketing and media executives went public and wrote a letter calling for gun safety laws.

Fifty-seven percent of consumers will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue, according to a June report from Edelman.

Hyatt is highlighting its vision of promoting unity and understanding by celebrating its fiftieth anniversary with Come Together, a branded-content short film that documents the story of how the Hyatt Regency Atlanta was among the first hotels in the city to open its doors to civil rights leaders who were looking to congregate for the 11th annual Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967.

At a time when others weren’t as welcoming, Hyatt opened its doors and underscored that a message of understanding transcends politics. Earlier this year in an Oscars ad campaign, Hyatt celebrated cultural differences by featuring a woman wearing a hijab.

Now, the hospitality brand is commemorating “Hotel of Hope” and its history of inclusivity by collaborating with spoken word artist Tarriona “Tank” Ball and director Simon Benjamin for the film as part of the next chapter for the hotel chain’s “For a World of Understanding” campaign.

“When people come together and allow their commonalities to supersede their differences, they cloak themselves in a suit of armor, galvanized by openmindness,” Ball says in the two-and-a-half-minute spot. “We cannot walk a mile in one another’s shoes until we get close enough to put them on. And we cannot step foot in this new world of understanding until we all acknowledge.”

Sandra Cordova Micek, senior vice president of global brands at Hyatt, and Debra Goetz, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Hyatt, joined AListDaily to explain why amplifying a message of hope and inclusion is reassuring in such troubled times.

Why is it important now more than ever for brands to take a stand and promote a message of unity? 

Cordova Micek: Hyatt is a 60-year old company, and our purpose—caring for people so they can be their best—has always been our north star. It guides how we engage with guests, how we interact with colleagues and owners, developers, suppliers and vendors and how we operate our business. It’s our purpose that continues to differentiate us in the marketplace and what our 100,000 colleagues around the world deliver on every day. We believe it’s more important now than ever to show each other care and understanding.

Sandra Cordova Micek, SVP of global brands at Hyatt

Why is it critical to focus brand marketing centering around diversity and inclusion? What have been your primary learnings from that messaging? 

Cordova Micek: It was important for us to focus on those key tenets because it’s at the core of our business and everything we do. We’re committed to engaging our diverse community to make sure they feel included and understood. This ranges from the way to engage with them to the meaningful and trusted experiences we provide. The events that took place at Hyatt Regency Atlanta 50 years ago created a tradition of inclusion acceptance and understanding that the brand still celebrates today. Come Together, which is inspired by those events, encourages people to unite to truly understand one another, regardless of politics, culture, race or religion. This story is a natural expression of our ‘World of Hyatt’ platform, which is built on the simple idea that a little understanding goes a long way. The biggest learning for us is that this story still resonates with people around the world today, beyond our Hyatt family. It’s been remarkable to see how the message of understanding is just as relevant today as it was in 1967.

What is Come Together designed to accomplish from a brand marketing standpoint for Hyatt? 

Cordova Micek: The Hyatt Regency brand has a rich history of bringing people together to build community and share unique ideas and new perspectives. From its inception, Hyatt Regency has been truly innovative—from architecture and design to meetings and conventions. In fact, Hyatt Regency Atlanta—the first in the Hyatt Regency portfolio—was the first atrium-style hotel designed by the legendary John Portman . . . The film celebrates the incredible brilliant things that can happen when groups come together and shows the world Hyatt’s purpose—caring for people so they can be their best.

Debra Goetz, SVP of marketing and communications at Hyatt

What insights can you share from the “World of Hyatt” brand platform? What’s the rollout and targeting strategy looking like for the rest of the year?

Goetz: Come Together is an extension of our recently launched World of Hyatt platform, which is built on a simple belief that a little understanding goes a long way, and further underscores the amazing things that happen when groups come together. Understanding is at the root of everything we do, so the ‘World of Hyatt’ platform is naturally woven through all of our efforts. This includes the content we create and share, the partnerships we forge and the activations we execute across all of our sub-brands. Another example of putting empathy into action this year is our collaboration with non-profits Learning AFAR and No Barriers USA. Through this program, we provided 11 underserved Chicago-area high school students and one educator the opportunity to attend a life-changing 10-day trip to Costa Rica designed to help them better understand themselves and the world around them. This fall we will help them share their story, and celebrate their experience. We will continue to find ways to share incredible stories of caring for people to be their best.

How is your marketing budget shifting to constantly tweak brand strategy based on consumer habits? Are there any new marketing platforms you plan on testing?

Cordova Micek: Our marketing strategy continues to evolve with the media landscape and with how our guests consume the news. For example, our Hyatt Regency guest is a business traveler who is both ambitious and has an entrepreneurial spirit, so partnering with a leading news site like The Atlantic, which offers a mix of tech, culture and business news, makes strategic sense. This thinking goes much deeper than a marketing strategy—as a hotel brand, it’s the way we approach our business. We recognize that there are several different types of travelers out there with their own set of needs and priorities, and we’re constantly developing and refining our existing brands—which each have a unique personality—to cater to these diverse audiences. We also make sure we’re through with strategic acquisitions like Miraval for the wellness-focused traveler, and even the creation of new brands when warranted, like our newly launched brand The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, which endows guests with social currency.

Come Together debuted on The Atlantic. Why are marketers increasingly partnering to work with publishers? What do digital collaborations underscore for Hyatt? 

Cordova Micek: We chose to work with The Atlantic because we felt like it would be the ideal partner due to the type of content it features and its focus on creating understanding in the world through the stories they share. Through our partnership, we were able to provide additional insight and research into the events that inspired the film. Digital partnerships such as these allow us to tell additional layers to the stories around our brands in an authentic way. The Atlantic also included an in-depth written profile and video interview on Xernona Clayton, a civil rights leader who was in attendance at the 11th Annual Session of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at Hyatt Regency Atlanta 50 years ago, as well as interviews with Ball. In addition to the content hub on The Atlantic’s site, there are a series of banners that are running within the site. The effort is also supported with targeted paid social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

What are some other verticals and platforms that Hyatt would like to experiment with in the future for their marketing mix? 

Cordova Micek: Whenever we launch a campaign or initiative, we always like to experiment with new platforms and mediums which can best tell our story and best reach our audience. Because Come Together had a very timely message and featured engaging, highly shareable content, a digital campaign was the perfect medium to spread the message of understanding in a space where our audience is engaging and sharing. As another example, when we launched ‘World of Hyatt’ it was important for us to foster understanding within our own community and amongst our colleagues. We literally gave our colleagues the opportunity to see the world through another’s eyes by offering eight Hyatt colleagues across the globe Spectacles by Snap. to offer them new perspectives. These stories were then woven together and shared internally and externally through social media and other channels.

What are the big shifts in marketing that are currently shaping the hospitality industry?

Cordova Micek: The ability to create rich and engaging content where both our existing and new guests are will continue to be a primary focus in the industry. For us at Hyatt, it’s all about creating content that allows us to understand our guests and each other. One way we’re connecting with people is through storytelling. These ownable and relevant moments allow us to tell our brand’s unique voices in a way that only our brands could tell. A large majority of our consumers are consuming their content online and through social, so we want to make sure that’s where we are and our message is resonating with them in an authentic way.


Google Pixel 2 Is Going After Busy Millennials

Google has officially unveiled its latest line of “AI First” products, including the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones. In a saturated smartphone economy, Google is competing against not only its biggest rival, Apple, but ironically, other Android phones, as well.

Gartner reported that 86 percent of all smartphones sold in the first quarter of 2017 ran Android, compared to 13 percent that ran iOS. While that bodes well for Google—especially after acquiring part of HTC’s smartphone team in September—Google phones haven’t even made the list so far.

Pixel 2’s Helpful AI

To make its shiny, new smartphones stand out, Google is focusing on the smart and not the phone part of its name. Ahead of the big event, video ads across the web promoted its video chat app Google Duo instead. Making calls on the Pixel 2 is implied, so the brand glossed over this function during the reveal and instead appeals to the hustle and bustle lifestyle of today’s young consumer.

The Pixel 2 offers up-to-the-minute updates on a user’s schedule without unlocking the phone and Google’s continuously learning AI assistant, which is available to inform, remind and will even cast messages to a Google Home device.

Discovery Boosts Buying Power

Discovery is a growing trend for e-commerce, and Google may be tapping into this market with its Google Lens. The imaging software recognizes text, images and people, and uses machine learning to identify, elaborate or utilize the desired information. While the Made By Google event did not specifically demonstrate a link to purchases, the implications are obvious.

Pinterest and Amazon are also utilizing image recognition with AI, although the desired effect, like funneling discovery into purchases, is much more obvious in their presentation to consumers. Google, instead, frames its technology from the angle of being helpful whether a consumer hopes to buy or just to learn through the information provided.

Even the Pixel 2’s locked home screen detects music and displays the artist and title, offering an additional way in which YouTube can build (and repair) its relationship with the music industry.

Millennials On The Go

The Pixel 2 is also designed for the traveler. Previously, those planning a trip might take the time to learn the local language, but Pixel Buds—Google’s answer to Apple AirPods—act as an automatic translator in 40 different languages. As brands rethink their strategies to appeal to millennials on the go, this feature could come in handy.

In addition to local weather, translation and Google Lens, the Pixel phone is marketed heavily to the photographer. While a number of examples were shown of everyday life, the most stunning photos were always captured while traveling.

Rather than say the Pixel works great for millennial travelers, Google showed it by teaming up with Instagram influencer Tim McGurr, aka 13thWitness. McGurr was tasked with shooting a trip to New Orleans. The footage shown during Google’s event was captured entirely on the new Pixel 2 without rigs, attachments or photo enhancement.

To encourage as much photo-taking as possible, Google is offering its Pixel users unlimited storage on the cloud, including 4K video.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

Google focused its marketing efforts on innovation and making things simpler, but also took cues from its competition. Augmented reality stickers, eliminating the earphone jack and biometric security are just some of the ways Google is implementing competitor features with a twist.

Apple may be doing a lot with AR, but Google still has the advantage of virtual and mixed realities. The smartphone-enabled Daydream VR headset has been updated to Daydream View with better optics, over 250 VR apps and a partnership with IMAX to watch select 3D movies for free.

The internet giant hasn’t cornered the market just yet but may stand a chance if it can keep up with manufacturing demand.

Disney Digital Network’s Strategy Is Designed Around Stories

Andrew Sugerman, EVP, Publishing and Digital Media, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media

With the launch of the Disney Digital Network, the global conglomerate is giving audiences a steady dose of wholesome entertainment—to the tune of 6,000 pieces of content a month.

Andrew Sugerman, executive vice president of publishing and digital media for Disney consumer products and interactive media, joined AListDaily to discuss a new age for the house of mouse. Digital content reaches millennials and Gen Z but above all else, he said, the brand’s focus is on what it does best—tell stories.

“Storytelling is literally in our DNA,” Sugerman said. “It’s where we start and finish each day at Disney. With Disney Digital Network, we have the opportunity to both extend The Walt Disney Company’s stories in new ways, but to also share them every day through digital platforms. When we look at how best to create new narratives around our library of timeless stories we think about reaching today’s audiences on the platforms where they are—that’s on mobile, that’s on social and that’s ‘in-feed.’”

Not every digital platform is created equal, Sugerman explained, adding that the Disney Digital Network listens to viewers about what to watch, and where.

“We consider each platform’s capabilities—what works well on one platform may not resonate on others. We also think about which formats work best to tell each type of story—short-form videos, Boomerangs, gifs and more. Most importantly, in order to reach a digital-first audience, we have to make our content relevant every day and we achieve this by tying Disney stories to current trends through our highly agile and responsive social editorial newsroom.”

Disney has always fostered new talent through its TV shows and films. Now in the digital era, the brand utilizes influencers who are already celebrities in their own right.

“One key component of Disney Digital Network is our portfolio of Maker creators, who are digital and social media creators and influencers,” said Sugerman. “In working with this new generation of digital storytellers, we chose a ‘quality-versus-quantity’ approach where we only work with a small set of creators whose creativity and areas of interest align with our editorial properties (including Oh My Disney, Babble and Polaris), align with our brand and brand safety guidelines, and have deep and meaningful relationships with their audience.”

Even the new Mouseketeers got their start as Maker creators, said Sugerman, but weren’t chosen according to online popularity.

“These creators were chosen for their genuine abilities and talent as choreographers, singers, actors and performers—although they had varying levels of social followers,” he said. “In partnership with other influencers in our network, we’re helping this new talent to grow their following while bringing their skills and capabilities to Disney. They created the majority of the content for the recently launched Club Mickey Mouse because we wanted the content to feel right and familiar for the audience we’re targeting—the Gen Z audience, also known as the creator generation.”

Walt Disney was all about using the latest technology to entertain audiences from the first full-length animated film to animatronics in the parks. The Walt Disney Company even filed a patent for a projected augmented reality system. Sugerman says that the company is driven by innovation, but not for innovations’ sake.

“As storytellers, we continue to evolve with our audience in how and where they consume content and the teams across Disney continue to innovate the art of storytelling by leveraging new technologies, new content formats and new platforms to deliver compelling content experiences,” he explained. “We’re always experimenting with new technology and looking at ways we can partner up to bring our stories, content and brands to new platforms and technology.”

“Whether it be embedding content experiences in messaging platforms, leveraging AR and VR to deepen engagement or bringing storytelling to life through voice interaction on intelligent personal assistants—there are so many opportunities we could pursue, but it’s important for us to focus on what works best for us as a brand, and most importantly, what works for our stories. We only want to pursue the technology and platforms that are additive to storytelling and do not get in the way of the story.”