Winter Olympics Make Sponsors Bring Their Marketing A-Game

The Olympics serve as one of the most visible global marketing stages for brands that have budgets to splurge, and the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea is an 18-day sports showcase giving sponsors a platform to introduce and emphasize particular verticals from their brand’s portfolio.

The spirit of the games also aligns with 360-degree brand marketing missions that support athletes and competition with human progress.

“The Olympics are a special moment in time where the world comes together to celebrate human achievement,” Alex Changhead of sports marketing for Samsung Electronics America, told AListDaily. “It provides both a global and local platform for our brand to engage with consumers, which is immensely valuable. Our primary goal is to drive brand engagement, whether that be through digital content featuring Olympians or experiential activations showcasing our technology.”

In addition to Samsung, the other 10 official sponsors in the Olympics Partner Program this year include Coca-Cola, Alibaba Group, Intel, Bridgestone, P&G, Panasonic, Visa, Toyota, Omega and The Dow Chemical Company.

Making The Marketing Leap To A Global Stage

For a brand like Bridgestone, the tire marque has partnerships across many sports, including the NFL centering on the idea of “Clutch Performance.” But for the PyeongChang Games, the brand is activating what it’s labeling as the first truly global marketing platform in company history.

“We believe in the power of sports to unite, excite and inspire people across all borders—and there’s no better example or bigger platform for that than the Olympic Games,” said Philip Dobbs, CMO for Bridgestone Americas. “Our worldwide partnership is a strategic global investment designed to push our business forward, showcase our commitment to being an outstanding corporate citizen and tell our brand story.”

Dobbs said the Olympics provide the brand “incredible” marketing value because Bridgestone has goals during the games to grow business in both new and existing markets.

“We know brand awareness and reputation are determining factors in brand preference and choice for consumers, and the Olympics offer a powerful platform for quality engagements with consumers,” Dobbs said.

Bridgestone began its marketing journey in the summer by announcing Team Bridgestone USA and by striking a union with US Figure Skating for its first federation partnership. By November, the brand had already launched the marketing campaign across television, social media, in-store touchpoints and the digital brand experience “Bridgestone Performance Institute” featuring Olympic and Paralympic athletes Amy Purdy, Ashley Wagner, Elana Meyers Taylor, Erin Jackson, Evan Strong and Nathan Chen.

The marketing was also recently complemented with an Olympic-themed retail promotion, honoring the parents who drive the dreams of young athletes as well as with an onsite activation program in South Korea that hits on a series of marketing, athlete and education initiatives.

“The partnership provides opportunities to engage directly with fans around their passion points—to educate them not only about our innovative products and technologies but also about what we stand for as a company,” said Dobbs.

In addition to accumulating marketing cache, attaining shared value and a competitive advantage to perhaps be leveraged across their targeted regions, Dobbs said Bridgestone is likewise committed to leaving a positive legacy in each Olympic host city and wants to use their Olympic partnership to engage its 140,000 employees around the world.

“We learned a lot at Rio 2016, our first-ever Olympic Games,” said Dobbs. “Now our company can leverage the Olympic rings in more than 200 countries worldwide.”

Stick To Sports—Not Social Issues

Albeit mostly reserved for athletes, the Olympics also serve as a podium for those that choose to comment on social issues. When sponsors were asked if they will be taking any specific stances related to the current social climate in the world, especially in the US with the #MeToo movement, diversity and other social issues—marketers offered a mixed bag of responses.

Ricardo Fort, VP of global sports partnerships for Coca-Cola, said the company will not be using the games for any messaging other than amplifying the marketing around the “pleasure of drinking Coca-Cola.”

Coca-Cola instead used the Super Bowl stage this year to talk about diversity with a 60-second ad featuring people of different races, nationalities and geographic regions. The message was clear—that Coke is “for everyone,” as one person in a wheelchair took part in a daredevil-like athletic contest.

“The Olympic Games have become an important part of how we talk about our brand,” Fort said. “The Olympics are recognized for being very inclusive, it’s something that our company and brand stand for. Each company needs to consider their brand values and stance on certain issues.”

“The Olympic Games have become an important part of how we talk about our brand. The Olympics are recognized for being very inclusive, it’s something that our company and brand stand for. Each company needs to consider their brand values and stance on certain issues.”—Ricardo Fort, VP of global sports partnerships for Coca-Cola

Samsung is using their brand marketing position, “Do What You Can’t,” to “support anyone who faces barriers and has the courage to overcome them,” Chang said. Samsung is sponsoring Team USA members Chloe Kim (snowboarding), a first-generation Korean-American whose parents immigrated to the US to realize their American dream, and Gus Kenworthy (freestyle skiing), who is competing in his first Olympics since coming out.

Dobbs said Bridgestone will be operating under the message of “Chase Your Dream,” which aims to empower people everywhere to overcome adversity and persevere in pursuit of their goals.

“The spirit of the Olympic movement is all about bringing people together in celebration of sport—and the Olympics present a unique opportunity to support sport as an agent of positive social change,” Dobbs said. “We respect and recognize that there are an array of important topics generating conversation today, and very much look forward to honoring the sense of peace and unity that the world comes together to celebrate every Olympiad.”

Stephanie Joukoff, Intel’s director of Olympics marketing, said that the brand won’t take a stance on any issues outside of sports because “our platform is about delivering amazing experiences through Intel technology, and helping fans experience the games like never before.”

Intel, a long-term technology partner through the 2024 Olympics, is instead looking to offer a glimpse of the future for the games through “Experience the Moment,” which is highlighted by 30 live and on-demand virtual reality experiences. The brand is also looking to flex its marketing muscles in esports, drones and 5G, while further engaging B2B prospects and customers.

“Our primary goal is to accelerate the adoption of leading technologies through this amazing global platform and ultimately, drive growth to our business,” said Joukoff.

Intel’s partnership is rooted in the idea that technology can transform the Olympics experience for fans and athletes alike. Joukoff said this is a unique opportunity that extends beyond a traditional sponsorship and allows Intel to integrate it’s tech into the games.

“Success for us is bringing new, amazing experiences enabled by Intel technology to the games, which will drive growth for Intel,” Joukoff said. “This is our first Olympics sponsorship, so we will be using this opportunity to test and learn for the next few games.”

A Message For The Non-Sponsors

Once the Olympics get underway and competition reaches its crescendo, brands and social media managers alike may get patriotic and be tempted to offer congratulatory salutations to athletes, perhaps even joining in on an official hashtag or two in celebratory revelry.

However, unless your brand has a thing for lawsuits, marketers from small, medium and large companies should think twice before wishing to provide social media commentary. In fact, they should stay away from anything that suggests authorization, sponsorship or an official connection to the Olympics altogether, according to Fara Sunderji, a partner at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney who advises brands in the development marketing of campaigns.

Similar to how the NFL protects its trademark for the Super Bowl that forces brands to generically refer to it as the “Big Game,” the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) are enforcing “Rule 40” in order to protect the value it brings to the official sponsors that sign steep checks. This includes prohibiting unofficial sponsors from using the Olympic rings, the official logo, the official mascot or hashtags incorporating trademarked terms in connection with commercial promotions.

“Excluding the official sponsors and the brands that got Rule 40 waivers, the best guidance is to be careful,” said Sunderji. “You can’t directly or indirectly associate your brand with the Olympics. At the same time, you can take advantage of it. It just requires creativity, like stars-and-stripes imagery conjuring the ‘home’ team or imagery of selective sports that are popular. It depends on the excitement, and where your brand fits in.”

“Excluding the official sponsors and the brands that got Rule 40 waivers, the best guidance is to be careful. You can’t directly or indirectly associate your brand with the Olympics. At the same time, you can take advantage of it. It just requires creativity”—Fara Sunderji, a partner at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney

Sunderji said unauthorized brands cannot use #TeamUSA, #Olympics #GoForTheGold #PYEONGCHANG 2018 or any other USOC branded hashtags. Both committees have pages of guidelines and rules to sift through that outline the policy, she said, which trickles all the way down to athletes, who cannot share videos on their personal social channels showing the “field of play.”

One brand that has already carried the creative torch and carefully stepped around policies is Planet Fitness. The gym franchise operates a location near Olympia, Washington, and it released a social media video that promotes the business and depicts real “Olympians” from the state capital.

A brand like Ralph Lauren, which secured a deal with the USOC to introduce a wearable heat concept integrating fashion and apparel innovation, is not dealt the same hand as other unofficial sponsors. The same goes for The North Face, which has a deal in place as an official competition uniform partner for the US Ski, Freeski and Snowboard teams under the marketing mantra “Never Stop Exploring.”

“Social media posts are a form of advertising,” said Sunderji. “If you have a branded social account, more likely than not [the posts] are considered advertising. What you can say and do on that account is much different than what individuals can from their personal accounts, so be creative, and careful.”

The Lines Between B2C, B2B Sponsors Begin To Blur 

One of the trends that Fort and his cohorts at Coca-Cola, an Olympics sponsor since 1928, are particularly monitoring this year is the shift between Olympics partners who are promoting to consumers, and the ones of which are B2B sponsors.

Sponsors like the Alibaba Group, Intel, Bridgestone, Panasonic, Samsung and The Dow Chemical Company all operate in B2B capacities.

“Sponsorships and marketing is our bread and butter—we do it every day. But I’m interested to see how this particular Olympics will play out from a consumer-first, marketing communications standpoint,” said Fort. “Coca-Cola is a meaningful part of people’s lives, and because of that, they feel more attracted to the brand. We can drive the growth of our business and sports partnerships because of this.”

From the IOC, FIFA, European soccer clubs and other international leagues, Fort, who led the task of defining Coca-Cola’s Olympics marketing strategy, negotiated contracts and made sure rights were delivered, said there has been an overall industry-wide shift in sports from B2C sponsors to B2B.

“The profile is changing, and it could affect the engagement of people in many countries,” said Fort. “It will particularly be interesting and critical for us to see how that changes the way regular people consume the Olympics and other global events.”

In the meantime, Coca-Cola will focus on the strategy at hand with more than 200 executives from marketing, sales and respective agencies that are tasked with handling the execution at scale. The total beverages company has had a specific Olympics-based team in South Korea dedicated to the marketing development of their sponsorship for the last three years.

Fort said the months leading up to an event like the Olympics are just as important as the marketing executions during it. Coca-Cola relies on its analytics partners to measure the impact of their marketing spend based by countries, which include how many customers are promoting its brands, referencing an internal tracker for their brand image, the conversations that are being created in social media, and all the way across to sales volumes.

“We see a lot of impact in our business in a larger window in the months leading up to the event, and of course during it too,” he said. “Consumers pay more attention to our marketing, they like the brand more and they drink more of our products.”

One brand in particular that will likely not strike any chords with consumers, yet, is still making a strong push at the Olympics as a sponsor is The Dow Chemical Company. The Michigan-based B2B multinational chemical corporation is using the Olympics as a platform to demonstrate its materials, scientific acumen and sustainable solutions.

Although the company is not sponsoring Olympics athletes, it’s the official technical partner of the USA Luge team, using science to help the team redesign their competition sleds. The brand’s solutions will also be found in various Olympic venues, like precision temperature management of ice rinks, waterproofing coatings, insulation and sealants in buildings and also in the paint used to mark the Olympic Lane from Seoul to PyeongChang.

“We’re seeing excellent marketing results across our areas of focus,” said Louis Vega, VP of Olympics and sports solutions for The Dow Chemical Company. “Our investment in these areas has proven to be quite successful across our business units.”

From a B2B marketing stance at the Olympics, Vega said Dow brings business revenue impact while showing its science and solutions; it’s applied across industries and geographies and reaches new audiences to grow market share.

Another B2B Olympics sponsor that has C2C and B2C sprinkled in its company DNA is the Alibaba Group. The Chinese multinational conglomerate is looking to leverage the games as the ultimate platform to drive awareness and engagement for both its core-and-emerging audiences.

To do that, the company is debuting “To the Greatness of Small,” its first advertising campaign at such a scale to share the story of its brand ethos since being founded 19 years ago. The marketing hits on the narrative of Alibaba’s brand positioning of supporting small businesses and using their tech to help “underdogs” succeed in global marketplaces.

“We see the Olympics as an unprecedented platform to build brand awareness, connect with new audiences and demonstrate the impact of our technologies and innovations—when the entire world is watching,” said Alibaba Group CMO Chris Tung. “There’s tremendous value in leveraging our relationship with the games to showcase our technology and innovation to a global audience.”

Alibaba’s company mission is to serve two billion consumers and support 10 million merchants and small businesses around the world. Tung said their Olympics partnership supports their global goals and will help accelerate plans to reach those lofty ambitions.

The IOC also turned to Alibaba to help transform the games for the digital era by using their cloud technology. Tung said the partnership allows for the brand to share their tech and demonstrate to small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups and businesses how the Alibaba Cloud helps other businesses.

Alibaba had a similar presence earlier this year at CES in Las Vegas by sharing its ecosystem of AI, IoT and cloud-powered tech.

“We’re focused on using PyeongChang as an opportunity to listen, learn and build relationships that will ensure the success of our long-term strategic alliance with the IOC and the Olympic family,” said Tung. “While we’re expanding awareness and understanding for our brand, we also hope to inspire Olympic fans around the world to achieve their own greatness, no matter how small their dream might be.”

GameStop Finds Replacement CEO; Paramount, Fox Appoint Senior Execs


Video game retailer GameStop has named Michael Mauler as new CEO, ending a three-month search for a replacement after previous chief executive J. Paul Raines departed the company for medical reasons.

“Mike has been part of the GameStop senior leadership team for many years, where he has played an integral role in creating and driving the blueprint of our diversification strategy, successfully managing our international operations and growing our core business segments,” said Dan DeMatteo, GameStop’s executive chairman.

Mauler has been with GameStop for over 16 years, most recently in the role of executive vice president and president of its international business.

Paramount Pictures is bringing on Liz West as executive vice president of marketing communications for international theatrical marketing and worldwide home entertainment, Variety reports.

“As our slate expands and our business grows we are looking to make sure we have a strategic, lifecycle approach to our movies and integrated consumer-facing communications across these areas,” said Mary Daily, Paramount’s president of international marketing. “Liz, who is a known strategist with the invaluable combination of both international theatrical and home entertainment experience, is the perfect executive to help lead these efforts.”

Before achieving her mouthful of a title, West most recently served as vice president of global publicity for the Walt Disney Company.

Jeff Hughes has joined Fox Networks Group as president of its digital consumer group, where he will oversee digital strategy and operations for all of the company’s brands.

“Jeff has a unique combination of technology expertise and senior management experience, which, along with his insight into the needs of consumers, makes him the perfect executive to lead our digital team,” said Brian Sullivan, president and COO of Fox Networks Group, to Variety.

Hughes spent five years as CEO of Omnifone, a UK-based music streaming platform, before joining Fox in 2016.

CEO Laurent Potdevin has resigned from his position at Lululemon Athletica, citing failure to adhere to the company’s standards of conduct.

“While this was a difficult and considered decision, the Board thanks Laurent for his work in strengthening the company and positioning it for the future,” said Glenn Murphy, executive chairman of the board. “Culture is at the core of Lululemon, and it is the responsibility of leaders to set the right tone in our organization. Protecting the organization’s culture is one of the Board’s most important duties.”

Celeste BurgoyneStuart Haselden and Sun Chloe will assume Potdevin’s responsibilities in addition to their current positions as the company searches for a replacement.

British telecommunications company Sky has hired Debbie Klein as its first-ever chief marketing and corporate affairs officer, where she will expand the company’s Bigger Picture social good program.

“We are delighted to welcome Debbie to Sky,” said Jeremy Darroch, Sky’s CEO. “She is an outstanding leader, who has an excellent track record and I know that she will be a great addition to our leadership team.”

Klein previously worked at Engine Group’s Europe and Asia Pacific offices as their CEO.

Hudson’s Bay Company has tapped Helena Foulkes as its next CEO, filling a position left vacant since October of last year.

“The world is changing very rapidly,” said Richard Baker, Hudson’s Bay’s chairman, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “We were looking for a transformational leader.”

Most recently, Foulkes was president at CVS, a company she has worked for since 1992.

Weight Watchers has tapped Gail Tifford for the role of chief brand officer, hoping to expand its global brand presence without diminishing its heritage.

“Drawing on 20 years of proven brand-building experience, Gail will build on that heritage to develop the next evolution of the Weight Watchers brand that will inspire healthy habits that fit into everyday life,” said Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman. “Her global mindset and successful track record with rolling out disruptive technologies in support of a greater brand purpose are tremendous assets as we look toward the future.”

Tifford most recently worked at Unilever as its vice president of media for North America as well as vice president of global media innovation. While at Unilever, Tifford created the company’s first digital disruption roadmap.

Tammy Golihew has joined Amazon Studios as its director of publicity, Deadline reports. In the role, Golihew will oversee promotion of Amazon’s slate of original programming, such as the upcoming Jack Ryan show.

Golihew joins Amazon from Warner Brothers TV, where she served for twelve years, rising to the rank of executive vice president of scripted marketing and communications.

Turner Media has made a pair of executive promotionsMarie Hughes and Michael Tatum as senior vice presidents of strategic media planning and Turner brand experience, respectively.

“As Turner continues to evolve to meet the needs of an ever-changing media landscape, it is important for our organization and its leadership to evolve simultaneously so we’re in the best position to support and market our brands, and protect and enhance our company’s reputation,” said Molly Battin, Turner’s global chief communications and corporate marketing officer. “Marie and Michael are best-in-class brand strategists and marketers, and I’m delighted to congratulate them on their well-deserved promotions.”

Tatum has been with Turner since 1996, while Hughes first joined in 2014 from Horizon Media.

The Rest Of The C-Suite

(Editor’s Note: Our weekly careers post is updated daily. This installment will be updated until Friday, February 9. Have a new hire tip? Let us know at editorial@alistdaily.)

Twitter’s director of augmented and virtual reality, Alessandro Sabatelli, has announced his departure from the company (characteristically, in a Tweet).

“It’s been an incredible ride and I’ve had the great pleasure to work alongside some amazing people! Together we managed to ship product while having fun,” he wrote.

Before joining Twitter, Sabatelli was CEO of IXOMOXI, an entertainment technology startup.

After 18 months as CMO at A&E Networks, Amanda Hill will depart the company, the New York Post reports. In May, Hill will transition to Harrods, where she will  serve as CMO and chief customer experience officer.

Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts, has resigned from his post, citing “an avalanche of negative publicity” after accusations of sexual misconduct came to light.

“The Wynn Resorts team and I have built houses of brick,” Wynn said.  “Which is to say, the institution we created—a collection of the finest designers and architects ever assembled, as well as an operating philosophy now ingrained in the minds and hearts of our entire team—will remain standing for the long term.”

Three Sony Pictures executives are stepping down as the company undergoes corporate restructuring, the Los Angeles Times reports. Home entertainment president Man Jit Singh, worldwide networkds head Andy Kaplan and TV marketing president Sheraton Kalouria have all departed Sony Pictures.

“Our decision to rethink the way we operate these units was driven by our goals to streamline Sony Pictures’ business operations, making them nimbler and better aligned with a rapidly-evolving industry,” said Sony Pictures CEO Tony Vinciquerra in an internal memo.

Phivida, cannabinoid-infused product manufacturer, has hired Michael Cornwell as its CMO.

“Michael’s depth of experience is evidenced by his proven success in building exceptional lifestyle consumer brands at Red Bull, Samsung and Microsoft,” said Phivida CEO John Belfontaine. “Phivida will seek to continue adding world class senior executives to its management team in an effort to capture a leadership share of the global CBD industry.”

Previously, Cornwell has served as CMO for both Samsung and Microsoft, and marketing director at Red Bull Canada.

Brian Kirkland has joined Choice Hotels as its chief technology officer.

“The introduction of the choiceEDGE platform showcases that Choice is at the forefront of innovation and built to effectively handle the volume on digital channels for the future,” said John Bonds, Choice senior vice president of enterprise operations and technology. “Brian’s expert leadership and extensive technology experience was crucial to the overall success of the initiative.”

Prior to signing with Choice, Kirkland held senior roles at companies such as GoDaddy and Media Temple.

Consumer healthcare provider Performance Health has appointed Jeff George CEO.

Jeff George is a highly skilled and effective leader who will augment and inspire our strong executive team as we continue on a path to sustainable growth through improved operations and customer service,” said Tim Sullivan, Performance Health board member.

George previously served on the Novartis Group executive committee from 2008 to 2016 as divisional CEO of Alcon.

Andrew Jordan has signed on with Interstate Hotels and Resorts as its chief marketing officer.

“During a time of unprecedented growth at Interstate, I am excited to add someone of Andrew’s caliber to lead our revenue departments,” said Michael Deitemeyer, Interstate’s CEO. “Andrew has successfully grown revenues and market share for hospitality and retail companies requiring speed, competitiveness and creativity.”

Jordan was most recently CMO at Adeptus Health, and before that held the same position at Wyndham International.

Euro Media Group has restructured its C-suite, bringing on François-Charles Bideaux as co-CEO. Current interim Patrick van der Berg will resume his responsibilities as chief financial officer as well as continue on as co-CEO.

“One of my focus areas will be to lead the group towards the mutation of our business, such as UHD, IP production, remote production, light or simplified production and different new digital services,” Bideaux said. “Key will also be to accompany our teams towards these technological evolutions and the new needs in our market in general.”

Bideaux previously held the role of head of sports production for Canal+.

Nick Fry, former CEO of the Mercedes AMG Formula One team, has joined Fnatic in an advisory capacity as head of commercial strategy.

“Having someone of Nick’s experience and stature is of significant value for FNATIC and esports as a whole,” said Wouter Sleijffers, CEO of Fnatic. “Now is the time to build on the momentum we’ve created—Nick has experience that will aid us in doing exactly that.”

Fry has held executive management positions for Formula One racing teams for 11 years.

Canon Solutions America has made a trio of executive promotions, elevating Toyo Kuwamura to chairman and CEO, Peter Kowalczuk to executive vice president and general manager and Francis McMahon to executive vice president of print solutions.

“It is with great pride and a great deal of respect that I can share the well-deserved promotions of some of our leading Canon Solutions America team members,” said Kuwamura. “These individuals are truly representative of the Canon culture, our company vision and shared values.”

Additionally, Malkon Baboyian and James Sharp, executive vice presidents of production print solutions and professional services, respectively, have retired.

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.

New ESPN+ Streaming Service Hopes To Meet Rising OTT Trends

ESPN will get its own low-cost streaming service this spring alongside a redesigned mobile app—a move bolstered by continuous drops in the TV network’s ad revenue.

During the company’s earnings call on Tuesday, parent company Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger revealed new details about an OTT service dubbed ESPN+, priced at a modest $4.99 per month. The service was first announced in December amid revenue losses for the popular sports network—a trend that continued into the first fiscal quarter.

ESPN witnessed an 11 percent decrease in advertising revenue during the first quarter, resulting from the shift of two College Football Playoff (CFP) games into its second-quarter period. ESPN ad revenue was still down seven percent, excluding those games.

ESPN+ will be integrated into the newly-designed ESPN mobile app, which places an emphasis on personalization and improved interface. Iger called the changes “dramatic,” explaining that the app will include scores, highlights, podcasts, live game broadcasts and other sports content in addition to ESPN+.

“If anything it points to what the future of ESPN looks like,” Iger said on the earnings call. “It will be this app and the experience that it provides.”

The $4.99/mo. price tag aligns with consumer demand as more and more OTT services become available. According to a recent survey by IBB Consulting, OTT users who are looking to get a premium, niche or sports-centric are willing to pay $5 to $15 for an add-on to an existing subscription.

The rising popularity of OTT and SVOD are forcing companies like ESPN to rethink their strategies. At first, the cord-cutting phenomenon was largely attributed to the high cost of cable but as more options become available, audiences value content such as originals only found on a certain provider. The same IBB Consulting study found that around 63 percent of SVOD subscribers still have cable.

A November study by Magid found that two-thirds of US households pay for at least one streaming service and an average of two. As more OTT services enter the marketplace, increased competition places even more pressure on companies like ESPN to keep audiences interested.

Companies Marketing To Kids Strategize Around GDPR Complexities

Companies have had two years to adapt to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation, which begins on May 25 and limits the amount of data companies across the EU can collect and retain on individuals. But compliance can be a complex issue, especially when children’s apps and services are involved. This is largely because the data-gathering technology was originally designed for an adult audience.

GDPR-K is a separate piece of legislation, designed specifically to address a young audience. In many ways, it mirrors the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the United States, which was passed in 2000. COPPA requires expressed parental consent before any information on children under the age of 13 may be collected. But even though that legislation has been in effect for almost two decades, compliance issues and lawsuits still arise.

“Under 13 digital engagement is an entirely different paradigm to the adult space,” Dylan Collins, CEO of the “kidtech” company SuperAwesome, told AListDaily. “Whereas adult engagement and marketing is about personal data collection by default, under 13 engagements must be done on a ‘zero-data’ basis to be compliant with COPPA and GDPR-K.”

GDPR-K is almost identical to COPPA, except that the definition of “child” is increased to the age of 16 in Germany, Netherlands and France. Although other EU nations set the age to 13, pan-European companies are likely to use 16 as the standard for brand safety’s sake.

Collins notes that the new age threshold means that many app publishers that were previously geared toward “family” or “mixed” audiences will now be considered kids’ publishers—meaning that they’ll have to swap out their adult-oriented adtech services for zero-data equivalents.

Whatever the age, parents aren’t likely to give up their children’s information, so brands will have to rely on zero-data solutions. That means all activity will have to be purely contextual—no retargeting or behavioral targeting allowed when engaging with a pre- and adolescent audience. Data, even for an audience that doesn’t have set tastes or habits, must be collected anonymously for product development and building engagement.

“It’s important to distinguish anonymous usage data with personal information,” Collins explained. “Kids have become one of the fastest growing online audiences, and you can see from recent developments by Facebook, [like] Messenger Kids, the acquisition of TBH and [Google] YouTube Kids, just how significant their influence has become.”

Collins says that the under 13 audience is also a major driver for smart speaker adoption, and children’s engagement with content is becoming increasingly important for both lifestyle and tech brands. As a result, the entire kidtech sector emerged to address issues of safe digital entertainment using COPPA/GDPR-K compliant attribution, programmatic and other zero-data methods.

The kidtech market is on track to reach $1.2 billion by 2019 with digital spending reaching 28 percent of total kid-focused advertising spend, according to the PwC Kids Digital Advertising Report 2017—which was commissioned by SuperAwesome—making it one of the biggest privacy-based digital media markets in the world. The PwC report also estimates that 10-to-20 percent of kids digital ad spend will be on compliant programmatic advertising by the end of 2018.

Companies such as WildWorks—which doesn’t serve third-party advertising for its Animal Jam game, apps or websites—rely on anonymous data.

“Collecting anonymized, aggregated data from our products about play time, content popularity, etc. is important in guiding design and content,” explained Mitch Smiley, marketing director at WildWorks. “Issues addressed by COPPA/GDPR like parental consent, transparency and data security are vital in how this is accomplished, so we’ve chosen to work with a third party—the Better Business Bureau’s CARU (Children’s Advertising Review Unit) program—to verify our compliance.”

Smiley pointed out that an equivalent verification service does not yet exist for GDPR, but COPPA-compliant companies may find it relatively easy to adapt. However, they may need to expand their content marketing strategy.

“Using kids’ data to serve behavioral ads or to build remarketing lists is already prohibited,” said Smiley. “This makes relevant content-based targeting—and doing the necessary audience research to know what that content is—that much more important.”

Smiley compared children’s app marketing to traditional TV campaigns, which are targeted to a specific show rather than the audience. WildWorks focuses on content targeting by staying current with popular trends, media and apps through active community engagement.

“This is a high-touch, costly approach, and we employ a large staff of moderators and an in-house community team to pull it off,” he said. “It’s definitely not as easy or cheap as letting ad networks collect millions of data points from users.”

Child-oriented platforms such as Roblox and Fingerprint use similar practices.

“Roblox relies primarily on word-of-mouth among our community to market and promote the platform,” said Tami Bhaumik, vice president of marketing at Roblox. “To the extent that it utilizes data as a means of engaging new users, Roblox limits its collection of data to what is strictly necessary and acceptable under its strict data policies.”

Specifically, Bhaumik explained that Roblox limits the personally identifying information (PII) it collects from its players to what is necessary to run a safe and efficient platform, adhering to CARU to ensure that data isn’t disseminated inappropriately, which includes preventing underaged users from sharing personal information through in-game chat.

Nancy MacIntyre, co-Founder and CEO of the Fingerprint media platform, added that information for kids products are often for getting a full understanding of user behaviors and acting on them. But since legislation such as COPPA limits online data collection, including locations and IP addresses, analytics must be handled differently, and marketers need to be “completely transparent with parents about storing any data and getting approval to do so.”

Many COPPA-prohibited data collection features such as audience building, remarketing and behavioral targeting are innate to digital advertising platforms. Smiley suggests that, in addition to having a thorough and updated privacy policy, it’s important for companies to have a strong grasp of the technology in order to properly vet third-party partners.

“Many adtech vendors will ask advertisers to place remarketing or behavioral data-collection tags on their site as a standard practice,” said Smiley. “This obviously needs to be avoided by COPPA/GDPR compliant websites and marketers.”

Collins explained that the decline of children’s television has paved the way for kids to become the fastest growing online audience on the planet, but the internet is still a fundamentally adult environment.

“Many brands are still using adult tools and technology, especially adtech, to engage with kids, which means they’re also unintentionally capturing vast amounts of personal data on children,” said Collins.

To keep engagement context-only, Collins echoes Smiley’s observations, stating that brands will need to ensure all partners in their delivery chain are COPPA and GDPR-K compliant, in addition to making sure agencies go through relevant training and certification programs. For example, Bhaumik said that Roblox is a member of the kidSAFE Seal Program, which has been approved by the Federal Trade Commission as an authorized safe harbor under COPPA.

Ultimately, engagement is key, and Collins said that brands shouldn’t just look to technology partners for compliance and brand safety, but as an effective way to engage with a young audience.

“The most successful brands in this space focus on both reach and engagement strategy with their partners,” said Collins.

Snapchat Q4 Earnings Reveal Ad Revenue Growth, Adoption By Older Users

Snap, Inc. has reported substantial growth in the fourth quarter of 2017, smoothing investor relations after a rough first IPO year. The Snapchat parent company credits its success to improvements made to the Android app and “removing friction” from its advertising business.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, Snapchat saw the addition of 8.9 million daily active users (DAU), the highest number of quarterly net adds since the third quarter of 2016. Annual revenues grew 104 percent from the prior year, but came at a lower cost than the previous quarter, according to CEO Evan Spiegel.

“In 2017, we focused on removing friction from our products, our advertising business, and our team,” said Spiegel.

Snap Ads were migrated to an automated auction last year, resulting in over 90 percent being purchased programmatically during the fourth quarter, and total advertising revenue grew 38 percent. Spiegel added that Snapchat we increased advertising impressions by over four times year over year while continuing to grow per-user engagement.

Total advertising revenue for the quarter was $281 million, an increase of 74 percent year over year and 38 percent quarter over quarter.

Throughout the year, Snapchat made a number of changes to its app that prioritize friends over publishers—a move that may have influenced the recent Facebook News Feed update. According to Spiegel, the redesign has increased the retention rate of new Android users by 20 percent over 2016 and increased the number of net additional users more than any other quarter in the company’s history.

Commonly associated with teenagers and young adults, Snapchat’s redesign is having a positive impact on older users, as well.

“Compared to the old design, core metrics around content consumption and time spent in the redesigned application are disproportionately higher for users over the age of 35, which bodes well for increasing engagement among older users as we continue to grow our business,” Spiegel said.

This may prove to be a double-edged sword as more users drive growth, but younger users may become disenfranchised with Snapchat as soon as Mom signs up. A 2016 study by Defy Media found that 30 percent of users between the ages of 13-24 prefer Snapchat because their parents don’t use it.

Emarketer predicts that the number of generation Y users who access Snapchat every month will account for 56 percent of all US Snapchat users by 2020.

Investors were clearly happy with the results as Snap, Inc. stock rose 22 percent hours after the earnings call.

Comscore Adds OTT And Console Gaming To Available Metrics

With the added convenience of over-the-top (OTT) and subscription video on demand (SVOD) across multiple devices come new challenges for marketers to avoid fragmentation and measure ROI. ComScore’s Activation expansion, which includes console gaming and OTT viewing, highlights the growing need for audience measurement across these segments as other platforms also get involved.

In October, Nielsen launched Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) Content Ratings to measure streaming programs in a comparable method to traditional TV. At launch, the new service only tracks Netflix but is expected to add Amazon Prime and Hulu sometime this year.

Megan Clarken, president of Watch at Nielsen, said that the syndication of SVOD measurement represents a big step forward in terms of moving closer to transparency within the SVOD marketplace. Netflix, in particular, doesn’t offer advertising on its platform and keeps any metrics other than new subscriptions close to the chest. The popular SVOD service even disputed Nielsen’s measurement of Stranger Things season two viewership but did not offer corrected figures.

A recent report by the Video Advertising Bureau indicates that in spite of the rise of cord-cutting young consumers, television still holds the lion’s share of content consumption. But OTT is growing, as indicated by the introduction of new services from Facebook Watch to Apple and Philo to PassionFlix.

NPD reports that SVOD had the highest year-over-year increase from August 2016 to August 2017, with almost half the population streaming video compared to traditional TV, attending movie theaters and other video viewing methods.

The comScore Activation product suite was first introduced in September and uses data to create ad targeting profiles based on demographics and cross-platform behaviors. Activation now includes digital, TV, gaming and OTT, including SVOD. According to comScore’s latest estimates, more than eight million homes view an average of 59 hours of OTT content each month.

Adding OTT and SVOD to comScore makes sense in terms of meeting the needs of today’s marketers, but also to prove its value to potential companies who may be interested in a buy-out following a settlement with activist investor Starboard in September.

Doritos Backpedals Against Twitter’s ‘Lady Doritos’ Response

Lady Doritos is the hot topic of the day—not for spicy flavor, but sick burns directed at the company on social media. In an interview with WNYC’s Freakonomics, CEO of Doritos parent company PepsiCo Indra Nooyi—a woman—said they are developing snacks for women that don’t crunch as loud, leaving the internet to wonder . . . why?

According to Nooyi, women—unlike their male snacking counterparts—do not like to crunch too loudly in public, lick their fingers or pour the broken pieces into their mouth. To meet this driving need that has come to the attention of PepsiCo, the company will soon launch a “bunch” of snacks designed and packaged for women.

Nooyi describes the female-focused snack line as low-crunch and full-flavored but less likely to stick to fingers. In addition, the snacks will be portable because “women love to carry a snack in their purse.”

It’s true that male and female preferences may vary by culture—in Japan, it’s often considered rude to show one’s teeth while smiling, for example—but the idea that women have special, more delicate snacking needs came as a total surprise to American consumers.

“Has anyone at Doritos ever met a lady?” wrote one Twitter user. “Instead of crunching noise the new Lady Doritos just say “sorry” quietly every time you bite down,” wrote another.

The official Twitter account for 30 Rock had a bit of fun with the trending topic with a shout out to the show’s main character Liz Lemon and her love for Doritos crumbs.

In fact, the only account seemingly in favor of the idea was Random House publishers, tweeting, “We don’t support Lady Doritos, but we do support the development of chips that leave less residue on your fingers. Think of the books!”

Doritos finally responded on Twitter in an attempt to smooth relations:

PepsiCo’s timing for a controversy is unfortunate, considering the praise it received for its Doritos Blaze vs. Mountain Dew Ice Super Bowl commercial. Fans were still playfully debating over who won an epic rap battle between Morgan Freeman and Peter Dinklage when “Lady Doritos” turned the conversation soggy.

The snacking giant also suffered a blow last spring when it aired a Pepsi commercial borrowing imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement. In the now infamous spot, Kendall Jenner seemingly ends strife between races by handing a police officer a can of Pepsi. The resulting backlash was so intense that even the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. mocked it. Pepsi pulled the ad and issued a formal apology.

Any brand can, even with the best intentions, miss the mark—but if we’ve learned anything from past mistakes, post those mistakes on the internet at your own risk.

Yandex Adds Native Ad Blocker Weeks Ahead Of Google

Russian-language search engine Yandex has long been referred to as the “Russian Google.” But in the area of ad-blocking, Yandex is leaving the world’s third-most-valuable brand behind, implementing a native ad blocker for messaging that doesn’t abide by IAB Russia’s standards.

The company’s troubles with third-party ad blockers reflect those of Google quite closely, with overzealous ad blocking hurting Yandex’s bottom line.

“The desire to see less advertising is understandable, but the blockers solve the problem too uncompromisingly,” the company wrote in its first announcement of its native ad blocking intentions, in December of last year. “Advertising is important and for Yandex is one of the main sources of revenue for the company.”

Google is implementing a similar native ad blocker to its Chrome browser, which will remove all ads from sites that don’t follow its Better Ads Standards, on February 15. This gives marketers the chance to test the consequences of a native ad blocker in a much smaller market (Yandex’s ad revenue in 2016 was 1.5 percent that of Google’s), and tweak their own plans before larger players implement the same.

But most importantly, Yandex’s implementation of a native ad blocker puts to bed claims that Google’s attempts to clean up its ad space are uncalled for or overreaching. With third-party ad blocker saturation reaching 30 percent in both Russia and the US, ad marketplaces have stepped in to prevent users dropping out, where advertisers and publishers have declined to.

Industry groups like the IAB and the ANA have long established best practices for digital ads that don’t interfere with user browsing, but their voluntary nature did not stem the tide of rapid ad blocking growth. If technology gatekeepers like Google and Yandex didn’t enforce compliance, who would?

Dmitry Timko, head of Yandex.Browser, summed up the need in a statement to TechCrunch: “Native ad blocking eliminates the need for additional ad blockers and promotes better quality advertising.”

Amazon Tops ‘Global 500’ List Of Most Valuable Brands

Diversification helped propel Amazon ahead of Apple and Google to top Brand Finance’s “Global 500” rankings for 2018, jumping from the number three spot in 2017 to become this year’s most valuable brand.

The term “brand value” is defined here as the value of the trademark and associated marketing IP within the branded business. Amazon’s brand value increased by 42 percent year over year to $150.8 billion, which allowed it to leapfrog over its competitors.

With the acquisition of Whole Foods, Amazon has expanded far beyond its roots as an online bookstore to electronics manufacturing, cloud infrastructure and now brick and mortar retail. All eyes are on the brand as it experiments with AI-powered retail through Amazon Go.

“The strength and value of the Amazon brand give its stakeholder permission to extend relentlessly into new sectors and geographies,” Brand Finance CEO David Haigh said the report. “All evidence suggests that the amazing Amazon brand is going to continue growing indefinitely and exponentially.”

Holding its number two spot for two years running, Apple rebounded to $146.3 billion in brand value, but lacks the diversification seen by Amazon. In its report, Brand Finance said that Apple has grown over-dependent on sales of its flagship iPhones, which are responsible for two-thirds of the company’s revenue. With Poor fourth quarter 2017 sales of iPhone X at only 29 million handsets, Apple may soon feel pressure from emerging brands like Huawei and will have to expand its horizons in order to become the most valuable brand again.

“Apple’s increasing focus on what are effectively luxury products may cost the brand a fair share of the global mass market, limiting the potential for brand value growth,” said the report.

Dropping from number one to number three, Google experiences relatively slow brand value growth of 10 percent over 2017 to $120.9 billion. With aggregated paid clicks rising 47 percent in the third quarter of 2017, Google online ads generated more traffic than expected, Brand Finance observed, adding that solid performance is not always enough.

“Google is a champion in internet search, cloud and mobile OS technology but, similarly to Apple, its focus on particular sectors is holding it back from unleashing the full potential of its brand,” said Brand Finance. “Google’s investments in self-driving cars and handsets still lack the scale and audacity demonstrated by Amazon’s new ventures.”

Disney is Brand Finance’s strongest brand of 2018 with a brand strength index (BSI) score of 92.3, up from 91.3 last year. Brand Finance says Disney is one of the most interesting brands to watch in the coming years in light of its recent purchase of a majority stake in 21st Century Fox, allowing it to further develop its brand for more consumers worldwide.

The Mouse House, like Amazon, is continuously expanding through acquisition and diversification. Disney has a 60 percent stake in Hulu and with the acquisition of 21st Century Fox comes Star India and Sky—granting the company even greater international exposure in the digital entertainment space.

Rounding out the top five strongest brands for 2018 are Visa, Ferrari, Neutrogena and Facebook.

Snapchat’s New Marketing Tools Are Designed To Attract App Developers

Snapchat has traditionally prioritized user interactions over brand advertising and creator relations, but after a rough first IPO year and pressure from Instagram, the company is stepping up its marketing game, beginning with app developers.

Snapchat’s new Deeplink attachment allows app developers and marketers a way to direct users to a specific place in their app. This tool directs Snapchatters in one of two directions, depending on whether they have the app installed or not.

If a user sees an ad but already has the advertised app installed, swiping up will direct them to the app in a location determined by the advertiser, such as the store or a certain level. If the ad reaches someone who doesn’t have the app, they’ll automatically be sent to the app store to install it.

When a user downloads a marketer’s app through Snapchat, post-install events can now be tracked through Ads Manager. Events can be customized in a myriad of ways to track any event specific to the app from item purchases, completing a certain level, etc.

Attribution windows are also more flexible, allowing marketers to select windows ranging from one hour to 28 days for users who viewed the ad in the Top Snap position. These windows can also be used to track how many users viewed and then swiped up instead of proceeding to an app install. These changes are designed to more effectively measure how Snap Ads drive app downloads.

Snapchat experienced modest, but less-than-impressive growth in its first year as a public company, but the “ghost” has flooded its business pages with statistics about the consumer habits of its users in a bid to change all that.

Snapchat is also trying to make amends with its top creators who have long felt snubbed by the social network. Last spring, Snapchat began inviting select creators to private meetings at its headquarters in Venice Beach to discuss partnership opportunities.

When Vine fell out of favor with marketers, its top users simply moved on to greener pastures like Snapchat and YouTube. When Facebook introduced Instagram Stories, creators made the move in favor of discovering features and a wide range of analytics. Considering the strong influencer marketing community on Instagram—Snap’s biggest competitor—the company is wise to keep its creators happy.