Annapurna, Paramount Shake Up Marketing Suite; Harlem Globetrotters Expands Partnerships Team


Annapurna Pictures has hired Michael Pavlic to the position of president of creative advertising, where he will oversee all marketing efforts by the studio for its upcoming films.

“Mike and I worked together for years at Sony where I was able witness his intrinsic dedication, intelligence, and kindness firsthand,” said David Kaminow, Annapurna’s president of marketing. “Those qualities, along with his incredible eye and ingenuity with creative ad campaigns, make him one of the best in the business, and I am looking forward to working alongside him once again.”

Pavlic, prior to signing on with Annapurna, worked at Sony Pictures as president of worldwide creative advertising.

Paramount Pictures has announced several promotions in its marketing department, after significant corporate structure changes in 2017. Irene Trachtenberg has been appointed head of worldwide marketing, Beth Pinker to senior vice president of field publicity and targeted marketing and Susannah Steinberg to vice president of field publicity and targeted marketing.

“These promotions are well-deserved acknowledgements of years of hard work and dedication by a team of people who are among the best at what they do,” said Rebecca Mall, co-president of domestic marketing, in a press release.

Phil McCarn has joined The Harlem Globetrotters as vice president of global partnership marketing, to build strategic alliances for the team as it enters its 92nd season of play.

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Phil to the team,” said Howard Smith, president of the Harlem Globetrotters. “Given his more than 20 years of experience and relationships, we anticipate his efforts will bring invaluable experience to the Harlem Globetrotters and expand our partnership initiatives to new levels.”

McCarn joins the Globetrotters from IMG College, where he worked as a sales leader for the Georgia Tech IMG sports marketing team.

Gimlet Media has announced the hiring of its first-ever chief marketing officer, Jenny Wall. In addition to overseeing all marketing efforts by the company, Wall will also handle audience growth.

“Jenny brings over two decades of entertainment marketing experience, with a proven track record for sparking cultural moments through stories that matter, from House of Cards to The Handmaid’s Tale,” Matt Lieber, co-founder and president of Gimlet, said in a statement.

Prior to signing on with Gimlet, Wall served at Hulu as head of marketing, overseeing the launches of The Mindy Project, Casual and The Handmaid’s Tale. Before Hulu, Wall worked at Netflix as vice president of marketing.

Taco Bell is expanding its executive team, bringing on Julie Felss Masino as brand president, a new role devoted to in-store sales growth and customer relations.

“We are proud of the momentum the Taco Bell brand has seen globally, and the continued growth here at home,” said Brian Niccol, CEO of Taco Bell. “We are expanding our leadership team and are excited to bring on Julie as Brand President to continue our success and innovation, with a renewed focus on technology and greater access to the brand for consumers.”

Masino joins Taco Bell from Mattel, where she led the company’s Fisher Price toy division. Previously, she spent over a decade in various leadership positions at Starbucks and served as CEO for Sprinkles Cupcakes.

Volkswagen of America has appointed Duncan Movassaghi to the position of senior vice president of sales, where he will be responsible for sales region management,

“We are excited to welcome Duncan to his new position. His strong automotive and sales background combined with his experience within the Volkswagen Group will be an invaluable asset as Volkswagen seeks to grow in the U.S. market,” said Derrick Hatami, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Volkswagen of America.

Movassaghi has been with the Volkswagen group since 2010, most recently holding the position of managing director for Skoda UK.

The Rest Of The C-Suite

(Editor’s Note: Our weekly careers post is updated daily. This installment will be updated until Friday, January 12. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at editorial@alistdaily.)

PromaxBDA, an entertainment marketing trade association, has brought on Jennifer Ball as head of marketing.

“Jennifer’s strategic, creative and background will provide leadership and inspiration to the association and its members as we enter a new and exciting time in our industry,” said Steve Kazanjian, PromaxBDA’s president and CEO.

Ball joins the organization from Univision communications, where she worked as executive vice president of marketing and content partnerships.

Glamour magazine has a new editor-in-chief for the first time in 16 years, as Samantha Barry is replacing the retiring Cindi Leive. This appointment indicates a shift in focus toward digital-first content.

Before leading Glamour, Barry has held roles for BBC World News and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and most recently as a social media executive producer for CNN.

Spotify’s chief content officer, Stefan Blom, will be stepping down from his position, as reported by Recode. This news comes just after the company reportedly filed for an unconventional IPO with the FTC, and may hint at looming trouble for the company.

Fox Networks Group has hired Colin McLeod for the role of general manager for its UK division, replacing Jeff Ford, who is shifting to a consulting role.

“Colin’s blended background offers a well-rounded and hugely valuable experience to our business, and we have no doubt he will step into the role and immediately have an impact,” said Diego Londono, COO of Fox Networks Group Europe and Africa.

McLeod is a veteran of NBCUniversal, spending ten years at the network, most recently as managing director for the UK and emerging markets.

Job Vacancies 

Product Manager – APIs Ayzenberg Pasadena, CA
VP, Digital Media & Content CBS Films Los Angeles, CA
VP, Brand Partnerships Warner Bros. Entertainment Group Burbank, CA
Sr. Director, Partner Marketing Paypal San Jose, CA
Director, Digital Marketing and CRM TOMS Los Angeles, CA
Director of Global Strategic Marketing  Johnson & Johnson Raritan, NJ

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

CES Marketing Activation Standouts: Foreo Stunt, Intel Drone Lights And Personalized Spotify

The phrase “Hey Google” is this year’s CES marketing activation frontrunner.

You encounter these words on a digital video board as you head out of McCarran International Airport and into Sin City for the 51st annual CES. Several hotels across The Strip later, you see the same message on the monstrous video walls outside of the casinos.

Once you take a trip to the Las Vegas Convention Center to Google’s exterior cavernous exhibitor space, a giant gumball-like vending machine has “Hey Google” emblazoned on it as it greets comers and goers. Even the city’s monorail, which has two trains crossing in opposite directions throughout the day, is wrapped up with the ad phrase.

Historically, brands like Apple, Amazon and Google skip the dog and pony show that is CES, but the latter is making a surprise appearance this year to tell the competition that it’s serious about reshaping consumer behavior on digital assistant products.

Google’s branding push and coming out party is perhaps a warning shot to Amazon and the rest of the digital assistant pack that “1A” of the world’s advertising duopoly is taking voice seriously this year. Smart speakers were a popular gift over the holidays, as Amazon’s Echo Dot was the top-selling product across all categories on Amazon, and appear to be a big platform focus in 2018.

Turner Network Embraces Robotic Art

Turner is considerably increasing its presence at CES again this year. In addition to expanding—and sponsoring—the Sports Zone with a live ELEAGUE Street Fighter esports event and bringing TNT’s entire Inside the NBA studio and team to Las Vegas for a live show, the network is also hosting an invite-only event at the Aria Wedding Chapel in C-Space, where it will be displaying “Markers” and the world debut of ArtBots, a robotic graffiti platform created by artist Scott Peterman.

The art installation sources trending topics and fan imagery from social media and is conveniently holding court at Turner’s ad sales meetings location—exhibiting to its current and potential clients how the network is thinking toward a more creative future.

Over the course of CES, ArtBots is generating robotically drawn murals that aim to mirror Turner’s ability to connect with consumers through a massive piece of fan art. Inspired by classic plotter-and-dot matrix printers, the ArtBots platform uses technology that’s already available and blows it up to scale.

Turner said the installation brings visions of consumer art and content to life, and channels the roots of CES when products were not necessarily intended for commercialization, but instead introduced for inspiration and innovation.

First-Hand Experience With Automated Cars

Lyft has big plans to enable self-driving developers and car manufacturers to plug into its million-plus per day ride network. The ridesharing company is partnering with Aptiv at CES to demonstrate a fully automated, end-to-end ride-hailing experience.

Consumers can ride around the Las Vegas Strip area all week for more than 20 pick-up and drop-off locations. The experience is specifically set in complex driving environments amidst busy streets and pedestrians instead of the usual controlled situations of parking lots.

It’s another demonstration of the future of mobility at work and offers a glimpse for the commercial applications of scalable, automated-driving technology.

Also getting in on the self-driving and autonomy action are Pizza Hut and Dominoes.

Both of the pie makers are partnering with Ford and Toyota, respectively, during CES for a self-driving pizza delivery cars.

Which begs the question: who do you tip?

Spotify Shows Personalization Capabilities

Spotify is at CES to show that it’s serious about bringing consumers of the streaming service, artists and advertisers all together under the banner of culture. At the C Space in Aria, the brand is demonstrating personalization, user experience and machine learning models through art and sciencen with curated playlists and time capsules that take users back to songs of yesteryear.

Spotify, which reportedly filed for IPO last week, is trying to build moments for marketers to tap into with sponsorships of playlists and concerts that deliver value for brands throughout different moments of the day.

Intel Lights Up Las Vegas

Intel is bringing a nightly drone light show this week over the Bellagio fountains featuring over 250 Intel Shooting Star drones sparkling in the sky. The experiential marketing move, which plays to the tune of Kygo’s song “Stargazing,” marks the first time that drones have flown over the famous fountains on the Las Vegas Strip.

In a different kind of light show, Intel also set a new Guinness World Records for simultaneously flying the Most UAVs from a single computer indoors when it flew 100 of their mini-drones during Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s opening keynote.

Foreo Fakes A Stunt To Announce New Product

Beauty brand Foreo activated an ‘Area 51’-inspired experience outside of The Sands to promote its latest beauty product UFO, a device designed to eliminate paralysis from sheet masks.

The experience began with four “paralyzed” people. Cars with caution signs arrived to put CES attendees on notice. Once outside The Sands, the motorcade came to a stop and paparazzi swarmed the vehicles as scientists and security officers stepped in. They inspected the paralyzed people around the caution tape, and three aliens arrived to announce UFO.

BMW Brings Real And Virtual Worlds Together

The screeching sounds coming out of the BMW cars drifting in the outdoor racetrack reverberated throughout the crisp air as hordes of consumers cross-crossed convention halls.

The German car manufacturer arrived at CES with a marketing program designed on showing both the real and virtual worlds of racing.

BMW debuted VR@Retail, a new tool that aims at enhancing the retail experience for consumers in an immersive environment. The automaker also hosted a virtual experience through for the PlayStation game GT Sport, where the top five daily finishers were invited to the BMW Ultimate Driver CES Showdown at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Gibson Gets Groovy

Also outside the Convention Center in a cavernous tent was Gibson Brands, which brought a groovy vibe and sound to consumers who were looking for a reprieve from the inside noise, much like American Greetings did last year.

Over 70 custom guitars decorated the Gibson Custom Shop Guitar Art Gallery, and music performances occurred throughout the week.

Cheetos Creates Dance Move To Rally US Curling Team Support

Cheetos has created a new dance move called “The Curl” with the hopes of becoming a viral sensation—or at the very least, bring awareness to the USA Curling team.

The dance was released ahead of the USA Curling team’s competition in February, taking advantage of football fans gearing up for SuperBowl LII. Curling—a team sport played by two players on a rectangular sheet of ice—doesn’t get the kind of attention other sporting events do, despite being an official sport of the Winter Olympics since 1998. Cheetos called it “one of the country’s most underappreciated sports.”

Cheetos enlisted YouTube singer/dancer Todrick Hall to help create a curling equivalent to a touchdown dance. Fittingly, the activation also includes Washington Redskins tight-end Vernon Davis and football Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.

A music video called “Teach Me The Curl” depicts Cheetos mascot Chester the Cheetah, Hall, Davis and Tomlinson teaching the US Curling team how to perform the dance move.

Dance sensations seem to pop up every couple of years, and Cheetos hopes to be the latest. In fact, the Curl bears a strong resemblance to the music and lyrics of the 2011 Cali Swag District hit single “Teach Me How to Dougie.”

The song and dance move, both created by Hall, taps into multiple demographics across music, dance, football, curling and fans of Cheetos snacks. On Hall’s channel alone, the video gained over 65,000 views in one day. Social media posts about the activation have also gained traction thanks to shares by curling teams and fans.

To completely seize on its promotional momentum, Cheetos will release limited-edition Winter White Cheddar Curls, available starting February 12. The new snack is prominently featured in the music video, complete with Chester the Cheetah curling on its package.

Falling in line with tongue-in-cheek food marketing trends, such as campaigns as Wendy’s savage Twitter account and KFC launching a chicken sandwich into space. Even Taco Bell started offering wedding services at its quick service locations. Cheetos calls its food marketing “mischievous,” promoting its cheese-flavored snacks with mobile games, branded accessories and line of luxury apparel. Most recently, the brand partnered with Regal Theaters in December to offer “Cheetos popcorn”—flavored popcorn mixed with crunchy Cheetos—at participating theaters across the US.


 USA Curling Team

Nissin Enjoys Its Cup Noodles Niche With ‘Final Fantasy’ Players

Square Enix and Nissin Cup Noodles’ latest team promotion is for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT, a new squad-based brawler game releasing January 30. But this is far from their first campaign together—the brands discovered their shared demographic interests a few rounds ago.

“There’s a strong synergy between Nissin and Final Fantasy in terms of who our fans are, our brand personalities and our authentic Japanese roots,” Jaclyn Park, director of marketing for Cup Noodles told AListDaily. “This partnership sets us up to continue to explore win-win[s].”

For this promotion, specially-marked, limited-edition packages of Cup Noodles will feature characters from the game, and fans can text a photo of their purchase receipt to the brand to unlock a special “royal raiment” outfit for Noctis, a playable character in the game.

The instant ramen brand first partnered with Square Enix for Final Fantasy XV with a special Cup Noodles-themed trailer and side quest inside the game called “The Perfect Cup.” The mission challenged players to track down ingredients to add to a Cup Noodle snack—the favorite food of Noctis’ companion, Gladiolus.

Nissin teamed up again to help celebrate the 30th anniversary of Final Fantasy with limited-edition ramen packages that featured boss characters from across the game’s history, with receipts redeemable to win a Cup Noodle helmet. Those who participated in the promo were also entered to win one of 30 giant collectible forks. The two-foot-long “Ultima Weapon Fork” is made to look like an ornate sword—a staple of Final Fantasy weaponry.

“Nissin Japan’s partnership with Square Enix in that market last year was a great success based on overall program metrics, and we even saw some spill-over into the US,” said Park. “In fact, it was so successful that it spurred us to work with Square Enix here [in the US].”

For video game developer Square Enix, the ongoing partnership with Nissin offers marketing opportunities by creating value for its fans.

“We both have incredible, passionate fans, and by the way of this partnership we are able to provide a unique way for both of our fans in the US to interact with each other’s product in a way that feels like a natural extension of [Final Fantasy] history,” Ryan Lacina, director of product marketing at Square Enix North America told AListDaily.

Park endorses approaching business relationships that add an overall value to their consumers.

“Look for your brand’s natural fit with a partner, and then build something that can make one plus one equal three for a consumer,” said Park. “If you have to question whether a partner ‘feels’ right, you’re probably trying to force a relationship that isn’t quite there in consumers’ minds. Gamers, in particular, are an extremely passionate and discerning community, so anything that feels forced could do more harm than good.”

Voice Marketing At CES Sets Tone For Year Ahead

While voice-assistant devices have the potential to become the preferred human-machine interface, the question remains whether there’s sufficient demand for consumers to incorporate the emerging AI into their homes and daily lives while receiving deals, sales and promotions.

As a range of brands announce new tech at CES, marketers and industry insiders are bullish that the fairly nascent messaging method will strike a chord.

“Brands today need to have a representation in the audio world, or sonic branding, as I like to call it,” Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer for MasterCard, told AListDaily. “With the evolution of the smart speakers that’s coming in a big way, how the brand gets into the audio space is going to be mission critical for the future.”

Tech giants and competitors are bidding and battling for consumer attention with voice and AI interfaces, whether Google, Amazon, Cortana or the like.

Google, for one, showed that it’s game with an unprecedented marketing push and coming out party, which served as a warning shot to Amazon and the rest of the digital assistant pack that it will be taking voice seriously—this year and moving forward.

Prognosticators are predicting that it will impact business strategies as well.

“Voice will become a preferred human-machine interface in 2018,” said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research of the Consumer Technology Association, which owns and produces CES. “Moving forward, we see voice as the fourth purchase channel, along with in-store, online and mobile.”

Koenig said that during the holiday shopping season, CTA research indicated that more Americans than ever planned to use smart speakers powered by digital assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant to help them research holiday gift ideas or make purchases. Smart speakers were a popular gift over the holidays, as Amazon’s Echo Dot was the top-selling product across all categories on Amazon, as reported by the Jeff Bezos-led brand.

According to Yin Woon Rani, vice president of integrated marketing at Campbell Soup Company, using applications for voice assistants to provide frictionless brand experiences that serve the consumer will be key for voice to continue to gain momentum.

“Voice marketing is an interesting journey—it’s about delivering value in a more intuitive way for people to access content,” Rani said. “We believe that voice will have an important use case in the future, but we do not have it completely cracked yet.”

With simple propositions like “what do I make for dinner?” Yin said that the brand has been seeing positive engagement metrics with Campbell’s Kitchen app for Amazon Echo. When consumers cook, it frequently means stopping for directions on second-screen experiences.

“I’m excited about the use cases we haven’t even dreamt up yet, but brands have to balance reach,” said Yin. “The more user-centric you can design solutions, the better off you’ll be.”

Yin said that marketers need to test and iterate voice innovation philosophy focused on solving sustained business and consumers needs and repeat different pilots against it. Applying data from voice to do the work for marketers means Campbell can monitor if people are searching for specific recipes for chicken, turkey, beef, pork, seafood, pasta and of course, soup. In turn, the brand can use insights to deliver more pertinent information.

“Every time we iterate voice, we learn something new in the logic structure.” said Yin. “The first time was very hard. Our plan is to learn, iterate and scale. Voice is the most intuitive interface ever, but because we grew up in a screen-based world, we have to reteach ourselves how to talk.”

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is also priming itself to advance platform communication. It used CES as a springboard for its Echo smart speakers into verticals like car entertainment systems, light switches and even shower heads—electroshocks not included.

According to eMarketer, over 45 million Americans will use a voice-enabled smart speaker this year, and according to Sara Kleinberg, group marketing manager of ads research and insights at Google, 72 percent of consumers who own a voice-activated speaker have already admitted that their devices are often used as part of their daily routine.

Patrizio Spagnoletto, head of media and subscriber growth at Hulu, says that he sees these kinds of AI integrations “as a way to communicate and find out the moods of consumers.”

“AI is a tool at our disposal, and it’s on marketers to make it right,” said Spagnoletto. “It’s a tool to drive conversation. As marketers, we need to balance data with creative, real-life senses. Once you have an audience defined, you still need to answer questions. It’s about engaging the audience in personal ways.”

Rajamannar, who’s overseeing MasterCard’s efforts in such areas like their briefing skill on Alexa, said that voice-based authentications are going to play a more prevalent role in the biometric cloud moving forward as well, adding that he’s surprised by how few brands are taking sonic branding seriously today.

“We’re engaging senses with a two-way communication that were not [being engaged] before, and that’s where the big change is happening,” he said. “Voice is absolutely a key marketing area for brands moving forward.”

In the meantime, platforms kingpins are pouring resources into voice, and somewhat forcing brand marketers to take the lead as well, Yin said. Whether or not consumers are clamoring for such luxuries, specially from brands, is another thing.

“Consumers want things that will make their life easy,” she said. “I think voice will play a role in that. Non-screen based interactions, whether its gestural or visual, will be the next frontier of experiences. Voice is just an obvious one, and at the tipping point of scale.”

Yin is convinced that there definitely is a future for voice marketing for brands—one that is not controlled by a monopoly—but she warned that it won’t be figured out anytime soon, or even by the next CES.

“I’m glad for both big and small players trying to learn, but there is no silver bullet yet,” she said. “You will see experiences at all kinds of scale both from brands and tech partners. As marketers, we’ll be a lot smarter in one year than we are today.”

“The wave of voice is coming very big,” added Rajamannar. “If you as a brand are not in that space, you will get yourself very quickly excluded, and that’s a risk to your brand in a big way.”


Revlon’s ‘Live Boldly’ Campaign Is On Brand For Gal Gadot

In her first major beauty deal, actress and model Gal Gadot has joined Revlon as the official spokesperson for Live Boldly, a new beauty campaign that focuses on personal strength over appearance.

Wonder Woman is more concerned with doing the right thing than what shade of lipstick to wear. But despite a swell of feminist movements in Hollywood, Gadot does not seem concerned that a makeup endorsement may be perceived as shallow or off-brand.

“Anything that makes you feel more confident, more beautiful and better about yourself has to do with [feminism],” Gadot told WWD. “There’s a big misinterpretation about the way that people view the term of feminism. I have friends—girlfriends—who have careers and they’re mothers and they do it all, and they are afraid to say that they’re a feminist.”

Gadot’s Wonder Woman seems to reflect the actress’s beliefs: alter ego Diana Prince always has her hair, makeup and clothing on point—as does Gadot in public appearances. Galdot has gained a reputation for pairing style with comfort and affordability, often wearing flat shoes to formal events. She hinted at her new ambassadorship role during the Golden Globe Awards, revealing that she was wearing around $6 of Revlon makeup.

In a behind-the-scenes video announcing the partnership, Gadot explained that she feels nostalgia toward the Revlon brand since both her mother and grandmother used its beauty products.

Revlon’s Live Boldly campaign, which launches later this month, will include a series of experiential activations and cultural immersions. Revlon says it hopes to bring women together around powerful conversations, shared experiences and a celebration of diverse beauty.

Gadot’s fans have shown an outpouring of support for the Revlon partnership so far, and the brand views her ambassadorship as “emblematic of the beauty, determination and attitude that reflects what it is for women to live boldly in today’s world,” according to a statement from Revlon president and CEO Fabian Garcia.

Gadot is actively marketing for campaigns beyond the beauty industry as well—she has been named chief experience officer for Huawei smartphones. The “New Era of Connectivity” campaign will kick off sometime this year with Gadot, a longtime user of the brand, front and center. As Huawei attempts to gain household recognition in the US, she will be “play[ing] an active role in listening to and providing ongoing ideas to inform how Huawei will bring the best experiences to its consumers,” according to the brand.

CES 2018’s Top Announcements For Marketers

There’s a lot to sift through at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, from self-driving pizza-delivery vehicles to a canceled speaking engagement by Ajit Pai, and lots and lots of AI. We’re sifting through the announcements this week to bring you the biggest ones for marketers.

Kodak Cashes In On Cryptocurrency

It was only a matter of time before blockchain made an appearance at CES, and Kodak has picked up the slack, announcing an initial coin offering for a proprietary cryptocurrency, KodakCoin. The new cryptocurrency will tie into Kodak’s photography intellectual property protection platform, KodakOne, allowing users to more easily detect unlicensed use of their photos.

But Kodak seems to be hedging its bets on its own cryptocurrency as well, as it has also started to rent out Bitcoin-mining equipment to consumers. The product, Kodak KashMiner, is a 2-year contract for an up-front payment, which will grant the consumer only half of the Bitcoin mined by the machine they rent (the other half going to Kodak).

The company was famously slow to adapt to the disruption digital cameras brought to the industry, but it certainly can’t be accused of that now.

LG: Artificial Intelligence In Everything

Riding marketers’ artificial intelligence buzz, LG announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that it was going to take a stab at incorporating AI into its own devices in the next year. The company’s approach may be surprising: rather than market incorporated AI technology to consumers, LG’s president and chief technology officer Il-pyung Park hopes to keep it behind the scenes.

“We don’t want to use AI as a marketing strategy,” he said to CNET. “You can talk about AI all day, but if the customer doesn’t get any value out of it, it becomes useless.”

At their presentation, LG promised AI incorporation with TVs, air conditioners and even washing machines. They even built AI into a home robot called CLOi, but may have embraced the “behind the scenes” approach a bit too much, as it failed to respond to any voice commands on stage.

iHeartRadio: Music Bots

The digital arm of radio platform iHeartMedia, iHeartRadio, has announced a slew of cross-platform integrations, hoping to bring the service out of the car and into every other facet of their users’ lives.

The platform’s Facebook chatbot will allow users to request station recommendations based on genre, location and popularity, and promises more functionality soon. The streaming platform also now supports Samsung’s Bixby voice recognition service, the Roku app and even Garmin’s latest GPS running watch.

All this comes in addition to partnerships with General Motors and Ford to natively incorporate the service in new vehicles, meaning that iHeartRadio might score new paying subscribers from Spotify from sheer ubiquity alone.

Rokid: Improving Augmented Reality

Augmented reality and voice control have been some of the largest buzzwords on the showroom floor, and Rokid has decided to combine them into one stylish package. Rokid Glass, not to be confused with other AR experiment Google Glass, seeks to solve the problem of interacting with smart glasses by making them voice-controlled, using a proprietary AI called Melody which they introduced last year.

Despite the similarity to Google’s admittedly unstylish offering, the Rokid Glass bears a closer resemblance to Snapchat’s Spectacles, which took off early before their artificial scarcity drove down consumer interest. Only time will tell if Rokid has figured out how to pitch AR headsets to the general consumer, but with voice control as popular as it is, consumers may bite.

Circuit City Back From The Dead

After declaring bankruptcy and closing down in 2009, Circuit City is making a resurgence starting in February, promising to relaunch as a “social-focused” e-commerce site, eventually with a physical retail presence as well.

In addition to relaunching as a retail platform, Circuit City will also partner with IBM Watson to somehow incorporate AI technology into its business model.

M&Ms Offers Touchdown Dance Contest For Super Bowl Return

After M&Ms’ three-year Super Bowl hiatus, parent company Mars seems to want its fans dancing about the brand’s return. The campaign offering: The M&Ms Super Bowl LII Dance Contest, which invites social media users to create and perform their own touchdown dance while holding packages of M&Ms candies.

Entries up to 15 seconds in length must be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tagged with #MMSuperBowlLIIDanceContest to qualify. Dances will be judged based on entertainment value, humor and originality, with the first round of voting taking place on Thursday. After four rounds, the winner will receive a “Party Pack” consisting of a large football-shaped chest filled with M&Ms candy and other branded products worth $150.

M&Ms’ video promoting the contest has been viewed over 13,000 times across social media channels to date.

For football fans, the touchdown dance is a long-standing tradition performed by members of a team responsible for scoring a touchdown. By inviting young audiences to participate on social media, M&Ms is connecting with them on an emotional level and encouraging them to tune in to the Super Bowl February 4.

A 30-second M&Ms commercial will air during the first quarter of Super Bowl LII, although details have yet to be revealed. The press release implies a focus on the brand’s characters, each based on a different color or flavor of M&M candies.

The M&Ms brand currently has six such spokescandies, each with his or her own personality. In 2012, the brand created a Super Bowl commercial called “Just My Shell” to introduce Ms. Brown, an intelligent brown candy voiced by singer Vanessa Williams. When Ms. Brown arrives at a party, Red—the red M&M—mistakes her for being naked and responds by ripping off his candy shell to dance.

The following year, Red sang Meat Loaf’s “Anything For Love” while doing things for singer/acress Naya Rivera (Glee) like paint her nails—before revealing what he wouldn’t do, like get inside a piñata or allow himself to be eaten.

2014 was the last year M&Ms appeared at the Super Bowl, this time with a spot called “Delivery” in which Yellow is delivered to a dinner party—blissfully unaware that everyone wants to eat him.

Mars may have taken a three-year Super Bowl break with M&Ms, but its Super Bowl presence has remained consistent with its Snickers and Skittles brands. Last year, actor Adam Driver (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) hosted a live commercial for Snickers with a Western theme. M&Ms will replace Snickers on the Super Bowl commercial roster, as the candy bar will not be featured this year.

Priced at more than $5 million in 2018, Super Bowl commercials have gained a reputation for their emotional impact, whether that be through humor or tugging at the heartstrings. Other brands planning commercials for the big game include Hyundai, Avocados from Mexico, Budweiser, Bud Light, Coca-Cola, Doritos, Pringles and Stella Artois.

Alienware Takes Integrative Approach To Esports Sponsorships

Dell made two gaming announcements at CES this year, including a virtual reality-capable Inspiron Gaming desktop that the company hopes will drive growth for VR adoption, which speaks to Dell’s goal of reaching gamers ranging from casual players, to hardcore enthusiasts and aspiring esports competitors.

Speaking with AListDailyFrank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware, gaming and XPS at Dell, said that the company doesn’t distinguish between casual or hardcore gamers, instead letting the players decide their designations for themselves.

The all inclusive approach is working out, as the gaming division’s revenues are up 63 percent year-over-year in its 12 focus countries, which include North America, UK, Germany, China and Japan.

Upgrading Esports Sponsorships

Last year, Alienware partnered with ELeague to integrate Tobii Eye Tracking technology into Counter-Strike tournaments, which Azor hopes will be as disruptive as instant replay was to traditional sports.

The company also hosts the Alienware League in China, which is a minor leagues esports tournament, open to the public, that acts as a test bed for recruiting aspiring pro players. The brand also announced at CES that it’s heightening its relationship with Team Liquid by launching two Alienware esports training centers—one in Los Angeles and the other in the Netherlands. Azor said that no other large corporation has done this with an esports franchise before.

These centers are inspired by traditional sports programs, and they represent a new kind of relationship between sponsor and team. Usually, team owners—some from traditional sports backgrounds—are the ones responsible for launching training centers to help their teams compete. Although a company might sponsor an existing training house with branding, equipment and technology, this is the first time a sponsor has decided build training facilities from the ground up in partnership with a team it doesn’t own.

Pro esports players will have access to coaches, nutritionists and the best gaming equipment Alienware offers. But what fully sets this sponsorship apart from others is that use of its products is completely voluntary.

Azor said that requiring teams to adapt to new mice and keyboards for the sake of a sponsorship is as a major point of frustration for esports teams. Instead, Team Liquid chose to play using Alienware’s hardware, and became one of the first pro teams to feature the brand’s gaming peripherals. The company is also including Team Liquid in its product design process and is building an esports advisory council that will participate in the company’s three-year roadmap planning for all its products.

“We think this should be the formula that all esports teams should be looking at,” said Azor. “That level of integration—of genuine collaboration—is disruptive and unique.”

Although typical esports sponsorship practices, such as exchanging dollars, assets and brands will continue, Alienware is looking to expand the industry by further professionalizing it using these facilities for training and recruitment.

“I don’t think anyone has cracked the formula for a successful corporate and esports partnership, but we’re hoping this will be it,” Azor explained. “If it isn’t, then we’ll try something new.”

Dell’s Campaign Message: ‘Everyone Is A Gamer’

But even with its expansive esports initiatives, Azor asserts that the core of the Dell Gaming brands is to appeal to all types gamers, and part of that strategy is in having fun.

“We’re not trying to go to the moon here; we’re building fancy toys,” Azor explained. “Not every campaign has to be serious, but we try to experiment with things—to be innovative and help partners out.”

The brand launched a series of light-hearted video campaigns last fall featuring celebrities and influencers, including pro wrestler Xavier Woods, Team Dignitas, Nerdist host Jessica Chobot and Twitch broadcaster Grandpa Gaming, who is a retiree and avid gamer. Alienware chose to spotlight Grandpa Gamer as he’s the least famous of the four.

“What we’ve done is create more awareness of him, and his Twitch stream membership has gone up as a result,” said Azor. “I think we’ve also helped legitimize that gaming isn’t one specific demographic nowadays. We’ve seen female gamers skyrocket over the past ten years, and we’ve seen gaming grow up in a lot of ways.”

Azor added, not jokingly, that he wouldn’t be surprised if esports centers were someday built at retirement communities. They wouldn’t compete at the level of 18-year-olds, but he’s certain that the gamers of today will still want to game when they’re retired and have more time on their hands.

“I’m hoping that the campaign will be looked at for what it is, which is that everyone is a gamer,” he continued. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, it doesn’t matter what gender you are, or any of that stuff. The feedback that we’ve seen is that people who get what we’re doing and know who Grandpa Gaming is have been fans of that campaign and of us giving him a stage.”

Azor predicts that 2018 may become milestone year for PC gaming, as computer hardware becomes more powerful and affordable, and more companies take gamers seriously as a demographic to market to. The increased competition means that having a trusted brand will become even more important.

Audience Building Solves Many Of Today’s Marketing Challenges

Robert Rose, author of Killing Marketing

Between net neutrality repeal and looming data privacy laws, marketers must rethink their strategies by reverting to one that is tried and true—audience building.

“Paid media and advertising are fundamentally evolving,” chief content advisor for Content Marketing Institute and best-selling author Robert Rose (Killing Marketing) told AListDaily. “All the breathless deadlines about ad blockers and ad fraud are causing businesses to rethink what they’re doing from an advertising perspective.”

As world governments crack down on the use of citizens’ personal data, marketers may be inclined to worry even more—but audience building through content marketing solves a myriad of problems, Rose explained.

“If you look at all the buzz around General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a lot of people are thinking it’s horrible and that they’ll stop email marketing full stop in May because they don’t have it figured out,” he said. “It’s actually really simple to solve and content marketing and the creation of audiences is a really interesting way to solve it.”

Rose said that engaged audiences naturally want to share their information with brands they enjoy hearing from.

“Creating that permission, or the opt-in nature of what GDPR and Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) are really prescribing, is actually easily solved with a marketing approach that says, ‘we’re out to create value through the creation of content that builds an audience that wants to hear from us that wants to be subscribed to what we do.’ We’ve now created a legitimate interest, what they call LI, for communicating with that customer.”

Rose believes that businesses can turn arising challenges into marketing solutions.

“I think [ad blockers, ad fraud and data privacy] provide an immensely strong business case for the creation of owned media experiences that build audiences,” said Rose. “And together, they could be the pivot point for why businesses start to take this a lot more seriously than most do.”

Don’t have time to build your own audience from the ground up? Rose predicts that more businesses will engage in acquisition strategies this year—a risky audience-building trend that seems to be paying off.

While influencer marketing is one method of acquiring an audience, current events may leave some brands—and influencers—feeling discouraged. From marooning customers on an island to filming apparent suicides, the risk of working with internet celebrities is a daunting one. Rose compared traditional celebrity endorsements with internet influencers. With an athlete, author or film star, there is usually a governing body like an agent or association that helps guide celebrity behavior. While many social media creators are now turning to agents and managers, a majority are free to do whatever they like.

“There’s nothing governing [influencer] behavior,” said Rose. “I think what you’re going to start to see is more deals get made with influencers that have structure to them and this year may be the year that it starts to happen. I [also] think you’re going to start seeing what they call ‘acqui-hires’ where those YouTubers or influencers simply get hired or get purchased with an exclusivity where [the hiring company] can provide that governance.”

As brands venture forth into the new year, Rose predicts that challenges will be faced head on through creativity.

“I think we’re going to see a move toward how businesses can get their arms around audiences and the creation of owned media experiences,” said Rose. “Whether they be blogs or television networks or shows or publishing magazines, [businesses need] to be able to reach those audiences that they’re struggling to reach through traditional advertising.”