Ticketmaster Considers Replacing Tickets With Facial Recognition

For as significant as live experiences have been for both consumer and entertainment brands, data on in-person attendees has been paradoxically scarce. With an investment in and a partnership with event facial-recognition startup Blink Identity, LiveNation, Ticketmaster’s parent company, is trying to break into the black box of live event data.

“In the live music industry, the average fan buys between two to three tickets per transaction for a show,” writes Cherie Hu for Billboard. “But there is currently no widely-adopted method of determining who actually walks into the venue, or where those tickets go after that initial transaction—meaning that venues and ticketing companies have historically gathered accurate data only for around 1/3 to 1/2 of concertgoers.”

LiveNation, as revealed in its earnings report for Q1 2018, is hoping to address this data gap.

“It is very notable that today we announce our partnership with, and investment in, Blink Identity which has cutting-edge facial recognition technology, enabling you to associate your digital ticket with your image, then just walk into the show,” the company wrote in a statement.

While paper-free ticketing is a direct application of Blink Identity’s technology, LiveNation and Ticketmaster see other possible uses for such granular attendance data. In a statement to AListDaily, a Ticketmaster representative claims the facial recognition data will permit the company to gather information on individual attendees, opening all attendees up to personalized messaging, even in-venue.

“It’s part of what we’ve tried to redefine Ticketmaster as over the past several years. And one of the reasons why we do think it’s more successful now is, we’re willing to look at outside technologies, outside partners, how it is we can bring them in and enhance the overall fan experience, make things more effective for the venues,” said Michael Rapino, LiveNation’s CEO, on its earnings call. “Whether this becomes the solution for everything or whether this becomes interesting product for a number of clients is to be determined.”

Though some biometrics privacy laws bar companies from profiting from the information they collect (such as facial scans), Ticketmaster believes it can use the technology to build attendee profiles and provide them with relevant offers and product tie-ins.

Blink Identity’s facial recognition will be installed in Ticketmaster Presence systems at the company’s corporate buildings and several LiveNation venues to test its capabilities “soon.”

Report: Rampant Inequality In Brand Mascots

Despite recent strides in balancing representation in advertising, other aspects of the marketing mix have a ways to go to achieve equity. A new study by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Jel Sert on representation in brand mascots reveals just how widespread the issue is.

“Mascot images convey notions of who matters more in society,” the report reads. “Like representation in film, television, and other forms of mass communication, gender and race representations in the familiar images seen in brand advertising send subtle messages about which identities have the authority to confirm value on a product.”

On the gender front, brand mascots are twice as likely to be male than female, with fully 25 percent of female mascots presented as gender stereotypes—such as cooking in kitchens—compared to just 16 percent for men. Additionally, male mascots were 57 percent more likely to be depicted as carrying authority than female mascots.

“A sizable portion of mascots promote body standards for women and men that are difficult to achieve,” the report reads.

In terms of appearance and sexualization, the differences in treatment of male and female mascots diverge significantly. Female mascots were eight times more likely to be portrayed in sexually revealing clothing than men, and were 25 times more like to be portrayed as partially nude. One in ten men were displayed as having “unusually large muscles,” while one in five women were displayed as either “skinny” or “very skinny.”

“The widespread sexual objectification of girls and women in US media has been linked to higher rates of body shame and hatred, eating disorders, lower self-esteem, depression, lower cognitive functioning, impaired motor skill development, compromised sexual functioning, lower grade-point averages, lower political efficacy, and lower engagement in social and political activism,” the report reminds. “In short, product mascots commonly reflect and reinforce gender stereotypes.”

On racial lines, the divide is even more precipitous.

“People of color constitute 38 percent of the U.S. population, but only 15.2 percent of mascots,” the report reads. “This underrepresentation of people of color as mascots looks similar to numbers in other forms of media.”

For those people of color actually represented, a significant majority were depicted as racial or ethnic stereotypes. Two-thirds of mascots of color were portrayed with oversimplified cultural markers, reinforcing simplistic and harmful societal expectations. By comparison, only 3 percent of white mascots could be characterized as an ethnic stereotype.

Mascots of color were vastly over-represented in depictions of service, appearing more than twice as often preparing food as white mascots, and none whatsoever were shown eating or drinking.

“These representations reinforce notions of people of color as working to serve others, and white people as consumers,” the report adds. “The findings are stark.”

To solve these problems, the Geena Davis Institute put the impetus on marketers—it recommends seriously considering if one’s mascot upholds or challenges stereotypes. Though mascots on their own only possess a minuscule influence, the effect of “harmless” stereotypes adds up.

“Corporations can be a powerful force for interrupting and challenging gender and racial stereotypes by creating mascots that include these groups more often, and by portraying them in more positive, complex, and ultimately humanizing ways,” the report concludes.

Report: Top Public Game Companies By Revenue In 2017

Newzoo has revealed the top 25 public companies by game revenue in 2017, illustrating the growth of mobile gaming worldwide and a strong Chinese market.

The top 25 public companies, as determined by game revenues, generated a total of $94.1 billion in 2017, a 29 percent increase over the previous year. To illustrate the sheer earning power of these brands, the top 25 captured 77 percent of the $121.7 billion global games market.

Still On Top

Tencent is the number one gaming company in the world for the fifth year running. The Chinese brand earned $18.1 billion—15 percent of the global games market and outpacing the next highest company by over $7 billion. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Tencent now owns Riot Games (League of Legends) in addition to its already massive library of mobile titles.

Newzoo attributed Tencent’s domination of the Chinese market to “smart, diverse investments” which allowed the company to retain a firm grip on both PC and mobile social platforms in 2017. Tencent owns the most popular social media platform in China, making it “the perfect gateway to reach the multiple hundreds of millions of gamers in China,” Newzoo market consultant Tom Wijman told AListDaily.

Tencent also benefits from restrictions set forth by the Chinese government that does not allow foreign companies to publish games in China without a local publishing partner.

Sony, which comes in second on the list at $10.5 billion in 2017, not only develops its own AAA titles but owns the PlayStation Store publishing platform—taking a cut of every transaction.

“While the industry has been announcing the ‘death of single player’ games for years, Sony is still releasing multiple single player titles for PlayStation every year which boost their game sales,” said Wijman. “Last year it was Horizon: Zero Dawn and Uncharted, and so far this year it’s God of War, etc.”

Sony, Apple, Microsoft and Activision Blizzard round out the top five companies—unchanged from last year.

Mobile Movement

Mobile accounted for 46 percent of revenues earned by the top 25 companies, compared to 41 percent in 2016. Interestingly, 13 out of the top 25 companies earned the majority of their revenues through mobile gaming last year.

Apple and Google both had a record year in terms of game revenues, earning $8.0 billion and $5.3 billion, respectively. Apple is now the third-largest gaming company in the world, illustrating the advantage of owning its own game distribution platform.

Even traditional game publishers are investing in mobile, with great success. Bandai Namco, Konami, Sega, and Square Enix, now earn more through mobile games than console, Newzoo observed.

Konami, known for its popular console franchises like Metal Gear and Silent Hill, now earns more than four times as much on mobile than it does on console with titles such as Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links.

Mobile-first Chinese publishers Perfect World and 37 Interactive joined the top companies list for the first time at number 23 and 25, respectively.

While mobile is driving most revenue growth in the industry, it’s not driving the entire industry, Wijman said. “PC still has a massive contribution—even if it’s only as the most innovative platform in the industry. Esports, VR, cloud gaming, all these innovations that will shape the industry in future years started on PC. Console games are still massively popular in established, mature gaming markets such as North America, Europe, and Japan.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated to include statements not received before publishing time.

Consoles Are Still Kicking

Growth in the mobile sector is impressive, but gamers aren’t ready to put down those controllers just yet. The big three platform companies—Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo—accounted for 57 percent of all console revenues in 2017.

Nintendo’s revenues rose by 98 percent year on year in 2017, driven by its Switch console.

Together, Sony, Microsoft and Nintento continued to outperform the global console market, earning an increasing share of revenues through third-party sales in their online stores.

Google I/O 2018: Shoppable Photos, Playable Ads, Ignorable Notifications

I/O 2018 the annual conference about all things Google, is in full swing for the next three days, and a number of announcements likely to shake up the marketer’s job description have come out of it already. Here’s what you need to know.

Google Lens Goes Shoppable

Though Google Lens, the company’s augmented reality camera app, has been publicly available for a year, Google is fully integrating the app into Android phone cameras, and adding a slew of new features as well.

Most prominent of Google’s additions to the Lens app is its real-time recommendation and shopping features. In the next few weeks, Android users will be able to scan objects like books, clothing and furniture to see reviews of the objects posted online, as well as a fully shoppable list of similar products.

“Much like voice, we see vision as a fundamental shift in computing and a multi-year journey,” said Rajan Patel, director of Google Lens. “We’re excited about the progress we’re making with Google Lens features that will start rolling out over the next few weeks.”

Though Google has not yet announced any plans to monetize the feature, it seems likely that marketers will be able to promote their own products through Lens in much the same way they can with Google search and Shopping.

App Ads Get Easier, Smarter

For app marketers, Google announced a trio of features designed explicitly to make ads for apps more effective.

The first allows app advertisers to retarget consumers with personalized content from the app itself, tying AdWords and app content together.

“70 percent of users decide whether to install an app based on how much they’ll use it,” said Sissie Hsiao, Google’s vice president of product and mobile app advertising. “To provide users more helpful information, we’ll launch a beta that allows developers to surface relevant app content within ads.”

For mobile games marketers, Google Play Instant is being expanded to allow users to play games directly through the ads themselves without needing to download anything or navigate through the Play store, easing the passage through the decision funnel.

Lastly, Google is standardizing its in-app ad viewability standards in conjunction with the IAB Tech Lab, cracking down on fraud and providing more reliable and scaleable measurement tools. Additionally, Google is providing native support for several rewarded-app metrics, including opt-in rate, consumption rate and rate of reward use.

“With these insights, developers can finetune their rewarded ads, addressing questions such as: ‘Do more users opt-in when the ad is shown after Level 1 or Level 4?’ ‘Which type of rewards do users prefer — coins or lives?’ ‘How often do people use their rewarded items?'” Hsiao writes.

Digital Wellbeing: Good For People, Bad For Marketers?

With concerns over the harmful effects of social platforms specifically and technology in general ever increasing, Google announced a substantive effort to ensure its tools promote “Digital Wellbeing,” which may well negatively affect the efforts of marketers.

“We’re dedicated to building technology that is truly helpful for everyone,” the company writes. “We’re creating tools and features that help people better understand their tech usage, focus on what matters most, disconnect when needed, and create healthy habits for the whole family.”

Google’s YouTube app already allows users to set custom “take a break” reminders, which will urge users to do something else after a set duration of video watching. Soon, however, this functionality will expand to all Android apps, which may well directly reduce the amount of ad impressions marketers can expect on Google phones.

Additionally, the Gmail Priority Inbox update will hide “nonessential communications,” such as marketing emails, to keep focus on personal communication. Furthermore, for both email and other apps that send notifications, Google will allow users to further customize when apps notify them, which, again, may lead to fewer ad impressions as users open apps less frequently.

Google Assistant Will Streamline Food Ordering In Latest Update

Google Assistant will soon be able to place food and drink orders with brand partners like Starbucks, Domino’s Pizza, Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera.

During its annual I/O conference on Tuesday, Google announced several new updates to Google Assistant, including the ability to order food for pickup and delivery. These partnerships continue a growing trend of AI and Zero UI integration into the consumer experience.

Some partner restaurants including Starbucks and Panera have granted Google Assistant access to their third-party apps so that users place orders with a voice command. If you’re a creature of habit, Assistant will remember previous orders.

Google Assistant, including the AI found on Google Home devices, already communicates with multiple third-party apps like Domino’s Pizza and Dunkin’ Donuts with the command, “Hey Google, talk to [brand].” This new update will save time by recognizing a brand’s name in the command and speaking to the app directly such as “Hey Google, order my usual from Starbucks.”

Domino’s Pizza introduced ordering through Google Home back in 2016. In April, the company introduced “Dom,” an AI assistant that takes pizza orders over the phone.

Dunkin’ Donuts integrated Google Assistant into its mobile app beginning in March. Google did not specify how voice ordering updates might differ from its previous interactions, although the most likely answer is that consumers will be able to bypass the phrase “Hey Google, talk to Dunkin’.”

Google is also experimenting with Duplex—an Assistant skill that can place phone orders and make appointments with surprisingly human-like inflections.

Consumers will soon be able to use Google Assistant with more than just restaurants. Google’s AI can also speak with appliances connected to the Internet of Things.

Later this year, Google Assistant users will be able to control their Whirlpool smart appliances directly instead of asking Google to speak on their behalf. KitchenAid and Maytag brands—also owned by Whirlpool—will be enabled as well.

Additionally, Google Assistant is now live on LG’s AI TV lineup. Users can check the weather, ask questions and control home devices. Those with other Google Assistant devices can also send commands to the TV such as changing the channel or adjusting the volume.

Google I/O 2018 will continue through May 10.

Deadpool 2 Comes To 7-Eleven In Augmented Reality

Combining standard movie-merchandise snack food branding with high-tech content marketing, 7-Eleven and Deadpool 2 are joining forces to bring “the merc with a mouth” to convenience stores nationwide.

“Our collaboration includes exclusive products and an amazing in-store augmented reality experience that is among the first of its kind at any retailer,” said Sean Thompson, 7‑Eleven’s senior vice president and chief customer officer, in a statement.

In addition to standard cobranding fare such as collectible Slurpee cups, a limited-time Slurpee flavor (Monster Mutant Red Dawn) and Deadpool-embossed chimichangas and sour candy, 7-Eleven is adding augmented reality features to its 7Rewards loyalty app.

“Fans can interact with Deadpool and have fun experiences in the 7‑Eleven app, unlocking different experiences each week exclusively in the stores nationwide and in Canada,” said Gurmeet Singh, 7-Eleven’s chief digital and information officer. “The fans will also be able to share their interactions with Deadpool inside a 7‑Eleven store with family and friends.”

The convenience store chain will place scannable codes, which it refers to as “zapcodes,” in its locations throughout North America, which users can scan to unlock as-yet unannounced interactive activities featuring the costumed anti-hero, with new ones promised as the film’s May 18 release date approaches.

Additionally, 7-Eleven is releasing a selfie filter on its loyalty app, promising users the ability to “watch the mad scribbler take over with his red marker.”

None of these AR activations require any sort of product purchases, or even relate to any products that 7-Eleven sells—the campaign hopes simply to drive up store visits.

To promote the partnership, the convenience store chain is making another first, playing video advertisements in movie theaters in 13 markets around the US.

Beyond the augmented reality features and movie merchandise, 7-Eleven promises additional content as Deadpool 2’s release date approaches.

“With Deadpool, you learn to expect the unexpected,” Thompson added. “7‑Eleven has a few more surprises planned as well, both inside and outside the store and when you least expect it. Stay tuned.”

Brands Invest In Experiential To Meet Demand For Consumer Experiences

Brands, especially in retail, are investing in experiential marketing to meet consumer preferences for experiences over possessions.

In the past week alone, several brands have announced plans to begin or grow experiential efforts. Recent studies have shown that a majority of young consumers value experiences over material possessions, and brands are feeling the pressure.

During NewFronts, Vice Media announced the acquisition of Villain, a company that produces over 300 events a year. Vice already hosts a number of events including its Noisey Nights concert series and Broadly women’s leadership event, but Villain—who has produced events for clients like PepsiCo and RockStar Games—will further the brand’s focus on consumer experiences.

Millennial female-facing publisher Refinery29 is continuing its experiential push, as well. During its NewFronts presentation, the company announced that it would double the number of locations for its pop-up event 29Rooms. This summer, San Francisco and Chicago will be added to its existing New York and Los Angeles installations. Refinery29 also announced a new touring event series that features battling DJs called “Beauty and the Beats.”

Travel brands are in a strong position to reach consumers through experiential efforts. The global travel market reached $1.6 trillion in 2017, according to Deloitte, attributing this upward trend to consumer preferences for experiences.

Moxie, Marriott’s hotel chain that caters to young travelers, is investing in partnerships that create experiences for both its guests and staff working on-site. Moxie has partnered with comedy improv theater group Upright Citizens Brigade, which will host improv workshops in the hotel bar as well as create custom employee training videos. The workshops will debut on May 20 at Moxy New York Times Square.

Concept stores are a staple in New York City, with brands like Sony offering spaces for guests to explore, interact with and share on social media.

Legacy department store brand Macy’s also plans to integrate experiences into its customer journey. Macy’s has acquired Story, a concept store in New York City that will refresh its theme and products every four-to-six weeks. Rachel Shechtman, Story’s founder and chief executive officer, has also joined Macy’s, Inc. as brand experience officer.

Report: Mobile Commerce Declines As Shoppers Prefer Ease Of Computers

Consumers are purchasing less physical items from their mobile devices and opting for desktop computers instead, says Forrester Research.

The percentage of online sales made via mobile phones declined from 43 percent in 2016 to 36 percent in 2017, according to a report called “Mobile Shopping Is Stalling, But Don’t Panic” made available to AListDaily.

Forrester Research found that US adults are increasingly turning to home computers to do their shopping instead of mobile phones, despite considerable investment by retailers in the platform.

In 2016, 21 percent of US online adults with a mobile phone said they purchased physical goods on mobile phones at least weekly, but in 2017, that figure fell to 16 percent. In fact, the percentage of US online adults who said they don’t even own a mobile phone more than doubled from five percent to 11 percent between 2016 and 2017.

When asked why US adults steered clear of mobile shopping, the most popular answer at 51 percent was that using a computer is “easier.” Respondents are also creatures of habit, with 46 percent saying that they are used to making purchases on a computer and therefore do not engage in mobile commerce.

“Digital business executives should carefully analyze the objectives that they have for their mobile investments and recognize the limitations of the mobile channel,” wrote Sucharita Kodali, Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst for ecommerce and channel strategy.

Kodali attributes slow mobile commerce adoption to cumbersome mobile sites, requiring too many keystrokes to complete a purchase. The report also warns retailers not to assume that these trends will change as younger users become consumers.

“There are few ‘no PC’ households in the US,” Kodali said, “and we don’t anticipate that changing as young children are becoming accustomed to larger—not smaller!—screens.”

As for other countries, however, mobile commerce is anticipated to thrive. Less access to computers will most likely translate to mobile commerce, Forrester noted, especially in countries like India and China.

IAB Announces NewFronts West

The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has announced the creation of NewFronts West—an extension of its annual New York event—that will debut this fall in Los Angeles.

NewFronts West will run October 9-10 at NeueHouse Hollywood, where digital content creators will showcase advertising opportunities to marketers. Registration for presenters will open this Summer.

The Los Angeles event will differ from its East Coast cousin in length—running two days compared to five in New York—but what NewFronts West lacks in time will make up in home advantage. IAB hopes that hosting NewFronts in the entertainment capital will attract brands, celebrities and media buyers native to the area.

“We also expect to see even more out-of-the-box programming in the mix, taking full advantage of emerging formats ranging from virtual reality to podcasts,” Anna Bager, IAB’s executive vice president of Industry Initiatives said in a statement. “This represents yet another vital marketplace from IAB, designed to encourage growth across the industry.”

IAB’s announcement comes just as NewFronts wrapped last week. The annual presentation revealed a number of trends in the digital entertainment space including a demand for brand safety, original content and a hybrid approach between digital and traditional TV ad formats.

NewFronts is attracting new players, which indicates a growing interest in the annual competition for ad dollars. Last week’s presentations included the usual powerhouses such as Disney, Hulu and Viacom but also included first-time appearances from Twitter and ESPN.

Twitter unveiled 30 new content and renewal deals during its NewFronts presentation that included NBC Universal, ESPN and Viacom.

Disney-owned ESPN announced a new daily version of its popular SportsCenter program that will run native to its mobile app. The curated edition of SportsCenter will be hosted by Scott Van Pelt and other SportsCenter anchors, focusing on highlights, previews and top plays.

Another trend from NewFronts this year was niche OTT to complement existing programming. Refinery29 has announced plans to launch Channel29, an ad-supported niche OTT service aimed at millennial women. Condé Nast Entertainment is creating a dedicated OTT channel for Wired, which will launch later in 2018. Next year, OTT channels for Bon Appétit and GQ will follow.

Report: Adidas, Sports Apparel Dominate Social Media Brand Visibility

After releasing its logo recognition platform in 2017, martech firm Brandwatch is showing off its capabilities, releasing a comprehensive report of brand visibility in social media in 2018. The biggest winner? Adidas.

According to Brandwatch’s “2018 Brand Visibility Report,” Adidas’ logo has appeared in 6.6 million Instagram and Twitter posts per between December 2017 and April 2018.

“To put that into context, that’s 154 new images every minute, or three new images every second,” the report reads.

The sportswear brand far and away leads its competition, with Nike, in second place, appearing in “just” 5.1 million posts per month, and bronze-medalist Google in a paltry 3.9 million posts.

Brandwatch’s findings found that tracking social media visibility can often be difficult for brands, especially when considering image spread.

“Every image included in this report contained a brand’s logo, but hardly any included a mention of the brand in the Tweet or post,” the report reads. “On average, only 20 percent of images contain written references.”

By breaking down its results by company revenue, Brandwatch reveals a handful of brands punching above their weight, earning broad social reach without the monolithic advertising budgets of Coca-Cola or McDonalds.

“Puma, Under Armor, BBC, Vans and Louis Vuitton, come out favorably, generating high volumes of images online despite relatively small revenues,” the report reads.

Brandwatch credits a variety of reasons for these underdog successes, such as BBC’s tendency to watermark all its content, Vans’ targeting of image-interested growing markets and Louis Vuitton’s focus on high-profile influencer strategy. For sports-sponsoring brands like Puma, small choices like placing its logo on jersey sleeves can lead to greatly improved brand visibility.

Athletic apparel brands like Puma and Adidas naturally have a leg up on social visibility. According to Brandwatch’s research, sports apparel logos appeared, on average, in three times as many images as the next-most-popular category, technology.

“Imagery changes dramatically based on the industry a brand is in,” the report reads.

Social visibility drops off precipitously from there, with sports apparel’s 3 million images per month average dropping to 1 million for technology, 800 thousand for entertainment and just 410 thousand for retail.

To compile its report, Brandwatch tracked 300 separate logos curated from the Fortune 500 and Interbrand’s Best Global brands, and over 100 million images posted on Instagram and Twitter between December 1, 2017, and April 1, 2018.