For Mobile World Congress, Google Goes Global On AR, Voice

As thousands of marketers and executives prepare to fly out to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, Google has been busy preparing too, expanding its slate of voice and augmented reality offerings for a global audience.

Augmented Reality

Google is expanding its push on augmented reality, announcing that ARCore, its AR development kit, will become publicly available at Mobile World Congress this year.

“Developers can now publish AR apps to the Play Store, and it’s a great time to start building,” writes Anuj Gosalia, Google’s director of AR engineering. “ARCore works on 100 million Android smartphones, and advanced AR capabilities are available on all of these devices.”

Additionally, Google is expanding augmented reality support in a slew of international markets, beginning with China on devices by Huawei, Xiaomi and Samsung.

Google is also tying its AR efforts with its Assistant, launching a preview version of Google Lens (not to be confused with Snapchat’s Lens) for English-language users. Rather than apply 3D stickers on real-time camera views, Lens will allow users to create events and contacts, and highlight text, from previously taken photos.

“Smarter cameras will enable our smartphones to do more. With ARCore 1.0, developers can start building delightful and helpful AR experiences for them right now,” Gosalia writes.

With other brands’ AR activations garnering favor among both press and consumers, it is indeed a great time to start building.

Voice and Zero-UI

Nick Fox, Google’s vice president of product, announced today that the voice-powered Google Assistant will support more than 30 languages by year’s end, accounting for 95 percent of Android’s install base.

The Google Assistant will also become multilingual later this year, furthering efforts to make voice search and zero-UI control more seamless.

“With this new feature, the Assistant will be able to understand you in multiple languages fluently,” Fox writes. “If you prefer to speak German at work, but French at home, your Assistant is right there with you.”

Google’s other announcements, such as its partnerships with mobile device manufacturers and the release of its Routines feature, are likewise not particularly groundbreaking, but serve to further the company’s efforts to further ubiquitize its voice platform.

“We’ve been focused on making the Assistant useful throughout all parts of your day,” Fox writes.

Mobile AR In Focus As Billions In Consumer Spending Anticipated

Updates to Apple’s ARkit and Google’s anticipated ARCore launch at Mobile World Congress are creating a shift in the mobile marketing landscape. As mobile AR comes into focus, the medium is expected to generate $5.4 billion in direct consumer spending by 2021, according to new estimates by SuperData Research.

“The rise of mobile AR provides a valuable new medium for marketers to create experiences,” Carter Rogers, senior analyst at SuperData told AListDaily. “Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore have expanded the addressable audience for high-quality mobile AR into the hundreds of millions.”

Investors have taken notice, especially following the success of mobile AR products like Pokémon GO, which has earned $1.8B since its launch in 2016. SuperData reports that investments in immersive technology grew 40 percent year over year in 2017, with 51 percent of the year’s total going to AR and mixed reality (MR).

This is good news for Google, which is planning a major push for mobile AR on Android devices at Mobile World Congress this year, sources told Variety. With the release of Google’s ARCore framework, third-party developers will finally get the green light to create mobile AR experiences for Android devices.

First announced in August, Google said it plans to bring ARCore to 100 million phones in the near future. In the meantime, AR stickers on Pixel phones are serving as a proof of concept.

Games drove 91 percent of mobile AR revenue in 2017, according to SuperData’s new report, Nowhere To Go But Up: The Future of XR. The cost of AR and MR headsets will remain high for the next few years, which shifts consumer interest to the smartphones already in their hands.

Targeted mobile ads proved particularly effective last year. Google AdWords delivered the highest ROI across both Android and iOS platforms in 2017. Just as brands took full advantage of Pokémon GO traffic, location-based advertising on mobile AR creates new opportunities for brands to get creative with personalization.

“Revenue from ads has the potential to be massive [on mobile AR],” said Rogers. “Roughly three in five mobile AR users want to see content featuring real locations and landmarks. This presents opportunities for location-based ads to be utilized in a similar manner to existing services like Yelp and Google Maps.”

According to SuperData’s report, locations and landmarks were by far the most requested element in mobile AR by consumers at 58 percent. The next most-requested element was “celebrities” at 24 percent.

Apple won’t be attending Mobile World Congress this year, but its own mobile AR efforts will be on indirect display through developers. A recent update allows ARkit to detect walls, vertical planes and improved horizontal plotting. The camera now displays real object in 1080p to match superimposed high definition AR objects, creating a more seamless mobile AR experience.

Worldwide spend on augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is expected to hit $17.8 billion in 2018, a 95 percent rise from last year, according to research firm IDC, and the technology is expected to make a big appearance at MWC.

NBCUniversal Expands Adtech Team; Ford Appoints North American President


NBCUniversal is expanding its slate of advertising technology and measurement experts, bringing on Ed Kozek as its first senior vice president of ad tech, Pankaj Kumar as senior vice president of measurement and innovation. Additionally, the company is hiring Brian Norris as senior vice president of sales for its Audience Studio.

“More accurate and precise measurement is critical to the health of the ecosystem in so many ways, [whether that’s] properly measuring cross-platform consumption through initiatives like Total Audience Delivery [or] advanced targeting of custom audiences through Audience Studio,” Mike Rosen, NBCU’s executive vice president of advanced advertising and platform sales, said to AdExchanger.

Previously, Kozek worked at The Weather Company as senior vice president of ad product and engineering, where he worked on the company’s proprietary audience and data platform. Kumar most recently served as head of media sciences for Comcast Cable, and Norris as vice president of media sales for Dish.

Ford Motor Company, after ousting previous North America president Raj Nair over inappropriate conduct allegations, has appointed Kumar Galhotra as his successor.

“Kumar is an incredibly talented executive with a special feel for product and brand. He is also a seasoned leader who knows how to drive a business transformation,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global markets. “Kumar is the right person to lead our North American business to new levels of operational fitness, product and brand excellence, and profitability.”

Galhotra has been with Ford for close to 30 years, and has been Lincoln Motor Company’s chief marketing officer since last year.

Glassdoor has hired James S. Cox as chief financial officer, along two further executive promotions to strengthen the recruiting site’s global growth efforts. Christian Sutherland-Wong has been promoted to chief operating officer and Samantha Zupan as vice president of global corporate communications.

“[James’] leadership, vision and rich expertise in both public and private financial matters will prove invaluable, particularly as Glassdoor continues to experience significant business expansion,”  said Robert Hohman, Glassdoor CEO.  “Under Christian and Samantha’s leadership, Glassdoor will continue to scale as a global business to deliver on our mission of helping people everywhere find jobs and companies they love.”

Cox has served in executive finance roles for over 20 years, most recently serving as CFO at Lithium Technologies, and before that at Advent Software.

Workfront, an enterprise software provider, has appointed Heidi Melin as CMO, seeking to strengthen the company’s existing customer relationships and expand brand awareness.

“We need a person who is a modern, revenue-centric marketer, who has the knowledge and experience to help Workfront become known globally as the Operational System of Record for managing modern work, and someone with experience in the complexities of marketing to large, global companies.  Heidi is that person,” said Alex Shootman, Workfront’s CEO. “She also happens to be one of the most experienced B2B marketers on the planet.  Her leadership will be a driving force in the ongoing success of our marketing efforts and will play an integral role in creating demand for Workfront and our products.”

Prior to joining Workfront, Melin served as CMO of Plex Systems, Eloqua, Polycom and Taleo in the past.

Jeff Kirwan, president and CEO of the Gap clothing brand, has announced his departure from the company, citing a failure to meet the company’s growth expectations.

“While I am pleased with our progress in brand health and product quality, we have not achieved the operational excellence and accelerated profit growth that we know is possible at Gap brand,” said Art Peck, Gap Inc’s CEO. “As we move into the brand’s next phase of development, Jeff and I agreed it was an appropriate time for a change in leadership.”

Brent Hyder, currently Gap’s executive vice president of global talent and sustainability, will serve as interim chief executive while the company begins searching for a replacement.

Nestlé USA has promoted Steve Presley to the position of market head and CEO. The company’s current CEO, Paul Grimwood, will be leaving the company in 2019, and will transition to serve as a non-executive chairman until then.

“[Steve’s] powerful combination of deep commercial and financial expertise provides continuity and makes him ideally suited to lead Nestlé USA in the changing consumer marketplace,” said Laurent Freixe, Nestlé’s executive vice president and head of Zone Americas. “Steve’s experience will prove invaluable in continuing to pursue new internal and external models to increase the speed of innovation, capitalize on M&A to seed our innovation machine, and create new income streams and capabilities.”

Presley has been with Nestlé for over two decades, most recently as chief finance and strategic transformation officer for Nestlé USA.

20th Century Fox Distribution has named Greg Drebin executive vice president of worldwide marketing—a promotion from his previous senior role as senior vice president of worldwide marketing. With the new title comes expanded responsibilities: Drebin will now oversee Fox’s TCFTVD and Fox Networks Group Content Distribution’s research divisions.

“Greg has been instrumental in showcasing our content around the world,” said Mark Kaner, President of Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution, to Deadline. “He has not only elevated our creative and strategic marketing, but he has developed new processes and structure to make us the preeminent global marketing partner for our clients.”

Prior to signing joining Fox in 2014, Drebin served at Warner Brothers as senior vice president of marketing for international television.

The Rest Of The C-Suite

(Editor’s Note: Our weekly careers post is updated daily. This installment will be updated until Friday, February 23. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at editorial@alistdaily.)

Amber Kirby has joined Virgin Holidays as its marketing and customer experience director.

“I’m really excited about continuing to grow a much-loved British brand with an award-winning in-house team, whilst simultaneously tackling other business priorities such as a loyalty initiative and improving the digital experience,” Kirby said.

Kirby previously worked at Boots as global brand director of its skincare division.

Adtech vendor Codewise has appointed John Malatesta as chief revenue officer.

“John’s world-class experience in building, managing and scaling ROI-efficient marketing, sales and operations engines at such companies as IBM, Sun Microsystems, Accenture, Oracle, Kaspersky Lab, and Socialbakers, will help us reach and win more customers and revenue and, most importantly, help us deliver an even better experience to our current and future customers,” said Codewise CEO Robert Gryn.

A doctor in economics, Maladesta previously served as CMO for Socialbakers.

Dedren Bailey has joined Live! Casino and Hotel as vice president of marketing.

A 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry, Bailey most recently worked at Harlow’s Casino Resort and Hotel as director of marketing.

Otter Media has made a number of additions to its executive team, bringing on Andy Forssell as COO, Sean Kisker as chief strategy officer, Jennifer Cho as CFO and Alan Beard as chief brand officer.

“Andy, Sean, Jennifer, and Alan are skilled executives with great instincts. They each bring a strong point of view, knowledge and vast experience,” said Tony Goncalves, CEO of Otter Media. “This exceptional team will lay a solid foundation for us to continue to build and evolve Otter’s leadership in the digital media space.”

J. Crew, signalling a focused transition toward digital, has hired Adam Brotman as its first-ever chief experience officer.

Before joining the fashion retailed, Brotman spent almost a decade at Starbucks, most recently as executive vice president of global retail operations and partner digital engagement.

Michael Roytman has been added to Forbes’ invite-only Technology Council, a platform for thought leaders in the business technology field.

“I’m honored to be a part of the Forbes Technology Council and recognized among this community of leaders and pioneers in technology,” said Roytman. “A data science-driven approach to cyber security can benefit organizations of all sizes, across all industries, and I look forward to sharing my perspective on that approach through the Forbes media channels.”

Roytman is currently chief data scientist for Kenna Security, responsible for building the company’s core analytics functionality. He has also been named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30.

Startup investor Bain Capital Ventures has appointed a new partner, Adam Levin, to expand its Boston-area investment team.

Adam brings a unique blend of capabilities, having served as a venture stage investor, growth stage investor and operator in a fast-growing startup,” said Mike Krupka, Bain Capital Ventures managing director. “His experience across enterprise and SaaS markets will help us deepen our founder relationships in one of BCV’s strongest investment areas.”

Most recently, Levin served as vice president for Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors, where he specialized in software and enterprise companies.

Business-growth software provider Epicor has appointed Colleen Langevin as CMO, completing the company’s round of executive appointments targeted toward global growth.

“Colleen brings extensive marketing leadership experience coupled with a customer and growth-oriented mindset, and a recognized track record of raising brand profiles,” said Epicor CEO Steve Murphy.

“”From artificial intelligence (AI), big data and blockchain, to Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT)—business leaders are striving to identify the digital transformations they can make that will have the biggest impact on enhancing employee and customer experiences and drive growth,” Langevin added.

Before joining Epicor, Langevin held the same position at CLEAResult, another business management software provider.

Job Vacancies 

Product Manager – APIs Ayzenberg Pasadena, CA
VP, Sales & Marketing The Washington Times Washington, DC
VP of Marketing, Card Services Chase Wilmington, DE
VP, Worldwide Marketing Partnerships Paramount Pictures Hollywood, CA
Director, Global Creative Marketing (Global Series) Netflix Los Angeles, CA
VP, Brand Strategy MGM Resorts Intl. Las Vegas, NV

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

Consumers Prefer Apps To Mobile Web For Ecommerce

Mobile shopping apps saw a major increase in sales last quarter, according to a new study by adtech firm Criteo. The findings support previous studies that consumers are more likely to purchase from shopping apps than mobile web.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, advertisers across the world saw a 46 percent increase in app transactions. Across the 5,000 retailers that participated, the conversion rate for shopping apps was 21 percent. This is more than three times higher than the standard six percent conversion rate seen on mobile web.

North American retailers accounted for 67 percent of in-app mobile purchases. The study found that in most world regions, mobile now accounts for more than half of online transactions.

In-app purchases accounted for 66 percent of mobile transactions for retailers who generate sales on both mobile web and app. Omnichannel customers generate 27 percent of all sales, Criteo found, despite representing only seven percent of all customers.

Non-app transactions are still becoming more popular on mobile devices, but only on phones. Smartphone transactions in the US increased by 13.2 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2016 while tablet usage declined a whopping 26.5 percent.

Shopping on work computers (you know who you are) is still commonplace, as desktop usage continues to dominate during work hours, especially from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The practice slipped a minor 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter.

Criteo suggests targeting US mobile consumers on nights and weekends, and desktop users during work hours.

Sporting goods led mobile non-app sales in the retail category at 44 percent, followed by fashion/luxury and health/beauty at 40 and 38 percent, respectively. High tech trailed behind at 20 percent.

Even when consumers make a final purchase on a desktop computer, a quarter of sales are attributed to mobile discovery. The study found that 26 percent of desktop sales were preceded by a click on a mobile device. This was four percent lower than the previous quarter.

Fifteen percent of desktop transactions are preceded by clicks on another desktop. That means 41 percent of post-click desktop transactions originated from another device.

Combining intent unlocks the ability to capture more dollars per shopper, the study suggests. Average order values increase 17 percent for matched shoppers, especially in the fashion/luxury, health/beauty and high-tech categories.

Branded Video Engagement On Facebook Driven By Food And TV In 2017

Branded video engagements on Facebook increased by nearly a third in the last quarter, according to a new report by Shareablee. Ranging from do-it-yourself instructional videos to comedy, the findings show that even relatively new brands can drive engagement on the platform.

BuzzFeed, driven primarily by its Tasty brand, ranked as the top branded video creator on Facebook in 2017 with 11.6 million engagements. Turner ranked number two with 11.2 million engagements, per Shareablee.

The top 50 media companies generated more than 35,000 total branded videos on Facebook and 96 million branded video engagements in the fourth quarter of 2017—an increase of 29 percent year-over-year.

BuzzFeed, Turner and Group Nine Media (The Dodo, Thrillist, Seeker, NowThis) drove 33 percent of all views for branded content videos posted on Facebook by the top 50 US publishers. Tasty and Group Nine Media were both founded in 2016, illustrating how new brands can engage Facebook users on a massive scale.

TV networks attracted the highest increase in engagement, with a 79 percent jump year-over-year in the fourth quarter. Adult Swim ranked number one with 2.3 million video engagements, followed by Food Network with 1.6 million. Turner’s Adult Swim, Food Network, HGTV, MTV and ESPN were the top TV networks on Facebook.

“Branded video, published socially, is rapidly becoming one of the most important new advertising formats for marketers to reach and influence their customer,” said Tania Yuki Shareablee founder and CEO in a statement. “This is particularly true in a changing landscape when it comes to how content is prioritized on Facebook.”

Engagements are defined as reactions, shares and comments. The study did not mention how many branded videos were promoted through paid advertisements.

Facebook rolled out its big News Feed algorithm change last month that prioritizes friends and family. The move continues to whittle away organic reach for brands while rewarding those who create meaningful interactions.

Users spent 50 million fewer hours a day on Facebook after the latest News Feed change, the company reported. Time will tell how the change will impact branded videos on the platform, especially in terms of organic reach. Last year, Facebook delivered the best ROI across mobile devices alongside Google.

Tencent Backing Skydance Is A Case Study For Western Marketers

With the Chinese government’s clampdown on foreign investment on entertainment, Tencent’s investment into Skydance Media becomes a prominent deal. The conglomerate took a minority stake in the Western media brand, and the investment represents a broader strategic partnership that includes the opportunity for Tencent to co-finance films while marketing and distributing merchandise in China.

How Tencent Benefits

Although Tencent’s interest may be in growing the global reach of its film division, the company can also support TV, video game and VR projects with Skydance—like the brand’s Netflix exclusive, Altered Carbon, which premiered in February.

“Our strategy is to create content natively in one division that can cross over into one or both of the other divisions, giving fans multiple touchpoints in which to experience and interact with Skydance content,” Jesse Sisgold, president and COO for Skydance Media, told AListDaily.

Sisgold also said that Tencent will have the opportunity to partner on Skydance projects on a “first-look” basis, which may include the upcoming Mission Impossible: Fallout and the next Terminator film along with all-new projects.

Although the primary goal will be to develop content for global audiences, Sisgold said that Skydance is “very open-minded” in pursuing co-productions with Tencent that appeal mainly to the Chinese market. He added that a Chinese production would be the type of project where the “story and characters authentically call for production and key elements out of China.”

Newzoo market consultant Tom Wijman explains that Tencent benefits from the fact that Skydance owns the rights to popular franchises that include Star Trek, G.I. Joe, World War Z, Top Gun and others, contributing to nearly $5 billion in worldwide box office.

How Skydance Benefits

It’s not uncommon for popular Western franchises to have large followings in China, but Tencent’s marketing through its QQ and WeChat, the dominant Chinese social platforms, and its expertise of the market, may strengthen them even further.

“So much more is handled online in China than here,” said Sisgold, comparing the Chinese market with Western ones. “This allows an effective distributor in China to leverage large amounts of consumer data and habits, and as a result employ a more focused and efficient marketing conversation directly with the project’s likely consumer—versus the scorched earth approach that often occurs with billboards, TV commercials, etc., here.”

The partnership allows Skydance to leverage Tencent’s unmatched presence in the Asian market. Given Tencent’s online ticketing platforms, social messaging apps and online video platforms, the impact of its promotion “can be instant and massive,” according to Sisgold.

“If they really activate all relevant tools at their disposal, they can go beyond really anything we experience here for a fraction of the cost,” said Sisgold.

Affirming the importance of the Chinese market, Sisgold also said it’s important to have a local partner to be effective.

“Their well-established network and massive reach among online consumers combined with their fan base around game publishing and social media responds well to our tentpole, sci-fi adventure productions,” said Sisgold. “In addition, it has valuable know-how to publish, market, and distribute films in the Chinese market.”

In exchange for its distribution strength, Tencent is complemented by Skydance’s experience producing and financing feature films, according to Sisgold. But the relationship has the potential to extend past movies, since Skydance also produces video game and VR content, with a zombie-themed World War Z game expected to release later this year. The company released Archangel, its first entry into VR, last summer.

Given Tencent’s extensive investments in the gaming space, which is documented in the Discovery Channel’s film Game Vision, Skydance’s interactive titles could benefit greatly from the partnership. At the same time, Tencent can license IPs from Skydance for its upcoming games.

“Backing from Tencent means that any Skydance product is guaranteed to be featured on QQ and/or WeChat,” Wijman explained. “Any interactive game Skydance might publish definitely has the potential to be featured there as well.”

Pandora’s Programmatic Platform A Move To Prioritize Advertisers

Pandora internet radio is taking a split on its business plan, pushing its users toward ad-free subscriptions while finally adding programmatic ad support for its ad-monetized free service. In an earnings call on Tuesday, Pandora CEO Roger Lynch announced that, at long last, certain advertisers can now purchase audio ad inventory programmatically through a private marketplace.

The change has been a long time coming for Pandora, as audio competitors have been adopting their own programmatic offerings. Spotify launched its programmatic platform back in 2016, and iHeartRadio had one in 2014.

“Last quarter, we spoke about our need to invest in ad tech, including increased focus on programmatic, which will leverage many of the strong capabilities we already have—scale, targeting and innovative ad formats,” Pandora CEO Roger Lynch said.

Once Pandora’s programmatic options become widely available, ad buyers will be able to purchase inventory on both Pandora and Spotify’s streaming services using the same tools, allowing brands to better coordinate omnichannel campaigns.

However, Lynch did not announce when the new platform will become available for all advertisers, claiming that the company needed to ensure stability first.

“Before we open the floodgates for all demand, we need to make sure that we’re understanding how all of the different systems interact,” Eric Picard, Pandora’s vice president of product management, said. “Things haven’t scaled from a volume perspective the way the market has wanted in the audio space.”

In the same earnings call, Lynch announced that the number of subscribers to the company’s nascent premium service grew by 63 percent this quarter, and is increasing its efforts to convert users to the ad-free service.

In December of last year, Pandora rolled out a rewarded-ad service, allowing users the ability to “unlock a Pandora Premium listening session” in exchange for watching a video ad.

Despite the company’s push toward a subscription business model, advertisers needn’t be worried: Pandora itself claims that its priority is its ad-funded service.

“If you look at some other services in the market, the ad-funded tier is an entry-level tier designed to transition someone to a subscription tier as quickly as possible,” Picard said. “We’re building a very healthy, sustainable, long-term, ad-funded business.”

Consumers Find Personalized Ads ‘Creepy,’ But Still Want Meaningful Interactions

While most consumers know their online behavior is used to target them with advertisements, it’s not always top of mind—until the barrage of personalized ads come in to serve as a reminder, making viewers feel uncomfortable. But there are clear incentives for marketers to continue walking the razor’s edge between delighting and disturbing audiences to meet the demand for meaningful interactions.

The key is the type of information a brand uses. Private information—such as sexual orientation, political beliefs or sensitive search topics—makes consumers feel as if someone is talking about them behind their back, according to an experiment conducted by the Harvard Business Review. More general information, such as name, general location or shopping history, is deemed less offensive.

Harvard Business Review also found that consumers don’t seem to mind brands collecting information, so long as they maintain a level of transparency. When trust levels were high, disclosing acceptable flows actually boosted click-through rates.

In one part of the experiment, shoppers were told that an advertisement was based on their activity on the site and click-through rates increased by 11 percent. Time spent viewing the advertised product rose by 34 percent and revenue from the product grew by 38 percent as a result of the transparency.

But purchase interest declines when consumers realize that their personal information is flowing in ways they dislike. Consumers felt more confident viewing ads based on information they voluntarily provided either through a form or through activity on the website. When a company claimed to have inferred the information from outside sources, purchase intent dropped 17 percent.

A new study by customer experience (CX) analytics firm InMoment found that at least 75 percent of consumers surveyed think most forms of ad personalization are at least “somewhat creepy.” And consumers don’t keep this information to themselves: one in five respondents tells friends about marketing experiences that they consider creepy, and one in 10 shares “Big Brother-type experiences” on social media, the study found.

Meanwhile, 40 percent of brands admitted that they commonly use personalization techniques that make consumers feel uncomfortable. This reflects a significant disconnect between what brands and consumers think is an acceptable use of private information—something upcoming GDPR requirements are attempting to fix.

Contrary to what this type of backlash might imply, studies show that consumers prefer their advertising to be custom-tailored, so long as it’s done right. A 2016 study by Adlucent found that 71 percent of consumers prefer this type of treatment, and 44 percent were willing to provide select personal information to receive it. A similar 2018 study by Adobe found that 42 percent of respondents get annoyed when their digital content experience isn’t personalized.

Major ad providers are each addressing the issue of personalization control in different ways. Google recently started offering a way to report an ad for “knowing too much,” as well as the ability to block individual advertisers and specific ads on Google searches, YouTube, Gmail and independent sites.

Amazon is letting brands tap into its recommendation engine technology by offering its own database service called Neptune. Amazon Neptune has been designed to handle billions of relationships and run queries within milliseconds to better understand consumer behavior. Gartner predicts that by 2020, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15 percent.

Spotify closed out 2016 and 2017 with campaigns that highlighted listener statistics in a light-hearted way that felt less weirdly obtrusive and more entertaining.

When Netflix tried to replicate Spotify’s sense of humor, the response was less friendly.

Perhaps the thought of being watched while they binge TV at home is more unsettling than knowing what kind of playlists you create.

Advances In Stadium Technology Are Opening Doors For Marketers

When it comes to stadiums, marketers have historically been limited—think Jumbotron messaging with LED ribbons or static images.

But with floods of event-friendly technological innovations and 60-plus new major sports stadiums set to open between now and 2020 around the world, more brands have opportunities to build marketing strategies to reach fans through far more innovative ways.

First, there are brand activations that directly benefit consumers—including ways to use tech to sponsor seamless logistics to the purchasing process of getting to the venue, finding the shortest line, best food options, merchandise delivery to seats and live in-game updates around scores and stats.

 Josh Veilleux, vice president of global partnerships for AEG, which owns the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the 02 Arena in England, said that marketers have to look at what’s going to enhance the consumer’s experience.

“We want sponsorships and activations to improve the stadium experience for fans, but we don’t want it to overwhelm them,” Veilleux said. “If they can provide value to the fans in a genuine way that either saves them time, increases their knowledge of the sport or event while viewing or takes them into the action, they’ll be able to reach the fans in a meaningful way.”

While in-stadium marketing is traditionally the realm of major beverage, food, entertainment and sports brands, there are also opportunities for non-endemic companies.

Last month, Impact, an Illinois-based company in the business-process optimization sector, opened a branded restaurant, in the main concourse of Staples Center. As a sponsor, Impact is looking to use the comprehensive marketing partnership and multi-year agreement to build brand recognition with key decision makers in Southern California who frequent the iconic venue.

“The marketing value lies in the name recognition that Impact will receive in the Los Angeles market,” said Don Duvall, Impact’s vice president of business development. “It is better for our sales rep to walk into an account and have the client know who you are, and having our name on the restaurant will do that.”

For mass-consumption brands like Coca-Cola, which can easily represent at global events like the 2018 Winter Olympics, the fan experience in the venue is a very small part of their marketing strategy.

According to Ricardo Fort, VP of global sports partnerships for Coca-Cola, the brand benefits a lot more from sponsorships when it takes the message of what happens inside its venues and broadcasts it outward to as many people as possible. For example, the brand positions Coke Music TV to broadcast livestreams of music artists curated by the brand.

“We have marketing initiatives of how we serve consumers in stadiums, but in general, the vast majority of our efforts goes to whoever else is not there,” said Fort. “As a fan and as a marketer, it’s very interesting to see the capabilities. But things like VR and AR, things that can be experienced outside of the venue, are more meaningful for us than how we pay or get served inside of a venue.”

Although having a fan’s favorite player or celebrity usher them to their seat through a hologram may be cool, Cara Vanderhook, vice president of marketing and communications for Staples Center and Microsoft Theater, prefers more old-school marketing strategies. She said activations that resonate most with consumers are the ones where fans walk away with something tangible. In return, the advertiser gets more eyes on their brand as guests travel throughout the event with a physical item.

Vanderhook said these opportunities can overwhelm some. “It requires advertisers taking the time to get creative and determine the best way to push that information to consumers,” she said. “With the proper research and technology, it can be effective.”

Robert Vartan, who oversees corporate partnership sales and development for the MLS franchise Los Angeles Galaxy, said the evolving stadium experience for fans varies by property, but holistically should provide marketers with more customized and unique touchpoints to communicate their marque, mission, tagline and products.

“Any opportunity to align with a positive, lasting emotion is an invaluable asset to any sports and entertainment marketer,” said Vartan. “The future is not telling the fan how the brand will serve them—but actually showing them.”

For marketers, it’s ultimately important to know when to be reactive to an audience or proactively push beyond fans’ expectations.

“Auditing every aspect of your game-day and event-day experience is the first key,” said Vartan. “Becoming your own secret shopper and immersing in the everyday fan’s perspective will provide great results and insight.”

‘Tomb Raider’ Continues Warner Bros. Embrace Of Virtual Reality Marketing

Warner Bros has released a VR tie-in experience for the upcoming Tomb Raider film called “Lara’s Escape.” The free VR experience debuted Tuesday for Oculus Rift and continues Warner Bros.’ ongoing trend of using VR to promote its theatrical releases.

In terms of movie marketing, Warner Bros. has been an active player in the VR space, offering tie-ins for films including Suicide Squad, Justice League, Blade Runner 2049 and IT. The studio is also tapping into the growing escape room market with a branded experience at Escape Hotel Los Angeles February 22 to March 24—that experience, in partnership with IMAX, will drop guests into a tomb in which they must escape in the time allotted.

The upcoming film is loosely based on the 2013 reboot of the popular video game franchise, in which Lara Croft embarks on her first adventure. Croft’s backstory has changed several times over the history of the video game series since its first title launched in 1996, so fans shouldn’t be surprised if it changes once again for the movie.

Warner Bros. Tomb Raider movie marketing is banking on the popularity of Square Enix’s iconic character as well as the star power of Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina). Lara Croft—Tomb Raider’s titular character—is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most recognized video game character.

Tomb Raider movie marketing kicked off full swing in January with #TombRaiderTuesday—releasing new teasers and announcements each Tuesday until the movie premieres on March 16. Previous posts have included interviews with actress Alicia Vikander and inviting Instagram followers to vote for their favorite Lara Croft weapon.

“Tomb Raider: Lara’s Escape” challenges users to survive a trap-filled tomb armed with only a bow and climbing axe. The trailer offers a brief glimpse of using Lara’s bow to slide down a rope. In the style of an escape room, users embody Lara Croft as they explore the tomb with a flashlight, then use their limited tools to climb out.

At least Warner Bros. has brand recognition on their side, riding high on the game’s 20th anniversary. The studio has a reputation to uphold, however. Despite its campiness and mixed ratings, the original 2001 Tomb Raider film starring Angelina Jolie is still the top-grossing video game movie in the US.