Royal Caribbean’s Branded AI ‘SoundSeeker’ Sets Travel Brag Posts To Music

Royal Caribbean International has released an AI tool called SoundSeeker that turns vacation photos into musical presentations. Not only does the tool create a vacation album ready for sharing on social media but allows followers to envision their own cruise experiences.

The web-based AI program analyzes three user photos based on factors like the backdrop, facial expressions, colors and mood, then matches each picture with music, “virtually DJing life’s most brag-worthy moments.” The custom soundtrack generator was developed with the help of Berklee College of Music, which used music theory to account for pitch, tempo and instrumental combinations.

After a minute or so, SoundSeeker presents the finished product as a kaleidoscope video that can be downloaded or shared over social media. Each video bears the Royal Caribbean logo and a call to action for viewers to create their own.

SoundSeeker taps into a growing trend among young social media users—travel bragging. The practice of seeking the perfect Instagram shot that exhibits an exotic lifestyle has become an important part of the travel experience. In fact, a December 2017 study by and Expedia found that 32 percent of US travelers aged 18-29 frequently track the amount of interaction on their vacation posts for bragging purposes.

“SoundSeeker is the latest proof point of Royal Caribbean innovation and how we focus it on delivering unexpected, memorable experience,” Jim Berra, chief marketing officer of Royal Caribbean International said in a statement. “People of all ages crave new ways to share their best experiences on social media.”

SoundSeeker is the latest effort by Royal Caribbean to develop and utilize emerging technology as a way to connect with its cruise guests on an emotional level. The cruise line has not been shy about integrating technology into its cruise experiences from the internet of things to 360-degree tours. Royal Caribbean has taken a special interest in the “millennial” traveler in recent years, adding satellite internet access, Xbox One play areas and partnering with social media influencers.

Thoughts? Continue the conversation at @alistdaily.

Consider ‘Style’ When Marketing To Gen Z And Millennials, Report Says

VidMob revealed the results of its State of Social Video study, which surveyed 1,000 16 to 24-year-olds (Gen Z) and 1,000 25 to 34-year-olds (millennials) across the US in May about their media consumption habits and advertising preferences. The findings illustrate where younger audiences are spending their time and that they consider style one of the most important aspects of their representation.

Essentially, the younger the audience is, the more time they spend watching videos. The Gen Z participants surveyed said that they spent 41 percent of their time watching videos which comes out to about 25 minutes for every hour of time spent consuming digital media. Meanwhile, millennials reported that 33 percent of their time, or 20 minutes out of every hour, was spent with video.

Young audiences spending over half of their video viewing time on social media apps on mobile devices, with YouTube being the most prevalent platform, followed by Snapchat and Instagram. More specifically Gen Z respondents said that 59 percent of their video time was through social apps, which is 5x more time than the time spent with linear television and twice as much than with streaming services such as Netflix.

However, the study points out that the Stories features on both Instagram and Snapchat have gained exceptional popularity. Millennials mostly watch Stories on Instagram, although Snapchat is a second-place winner, while the reverse is true for Gen Z but at a slimmer margin.

The most popular video types for both demographics are How-to tutorial videos and hacks, which appeals to almost half of both audiences, but many—especially female Gen Z Snapchat users—also report that they turn to Stories to see comedy. The study also states that one in four people from both groups actively seek out videos for services and products they’re considering for purchase.

According to a related VidMob blog post, “Younger audiences engage with content that resonates with their personal style.” To this end, brands need to think about personalizing video content in a different way. Instead of thinking about age, gender, ethnicity or life stage, the company suggest emphasizing style because young audiences value “vibe over their tribe.” More specifically, they’re looking for styles that best match their individual tastes, optimized for social viewing on mobile devices. Respondents said that this was more important to them than celebrity or influencer endorsements and age/life stage topics.

With that being said, the report also notes that Gen Z tends to be swayed by influential people, images and colors more often than millennials. About 41 of Gen Z participants said they felt more positively toward ads that they thought were visually beautiful compared to 32 percent of millennials.

But at the same time, both groups find repetitive ads annoying, with over a quarter of Gen Z stating that they tuned them out. Almost half of millennials recommended that brands keep their videos short, while 66 percent of Gen Z didn’t mind longer videos. Additionally, 23 percent of Gen Z respondents also said that getting the right music should be a priority for brands.

Snap Q2 Earnings Tout Ad Revenue Growth And Programmatic Prowess

Snap, Inc. reported healthy ad revenue growth for the second quarter, placing a strong emphasis on programmatic ad marketplace while continuing to underplay backlash over its app redesign.

Despite an overall loss of $353 million, Snapchat parent company Snap, Inc. earned $262 million in Q2 2018—an increase of 44 percent compared to the same quarter last year. Three-quarters of that revenue was attributed to programmatic ad buying, the company boasted.

Once again, the subject of Snapchat’s unpopular redesign was broached, but the company doesn’t appear concerned. In fact, despite GDPR and user backlash, the app increased global DAU by eight percent YoY and only lost one percent each in North America and Europe compared to Q1.

CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel reminded investors that they are building a new Android app from the ground up, which has recently entered a testing phase. Reconnecting with Android users will be a “higher focus” for the company, Spiegel explained, admitting that they will continue to change the design based on user feedback.

The company has been rather busy this past quarter bulking up its advertising marketplace which appears to have paid off. Despite a lower user base, Snap managed to increase its average revenue per user (ARPU) to $1.40 in Q2.

Programmatic advertising revenue is up 485 percent YoY, the company told investors. Q2 marked the debut of Snap Kit, a suite of tools that allows brands to integrate Snapchat logins, Bitmoji integration and Lens Explorer. Story Ads, Lenses and Filters are now available programmatically, as well.

The app faces mounting competition from the likes of Instagram, Facebook and—more recently, YouTube—as Snapchat’s own Stories feature is copied time and again. Instead of panicking, Snap, Inc. has focused on long-term growth.

In addition to beefing up its advertising marketplace, Snap, Inc. is fostering influencer talent. The brand recently announced its Yellow incubator program and just last week began testing “Storyteller” ads that promote popular creators across Discovery and Stories sections.

Disney’s TV Ad Revenues Offset Viewer Declines During Q3 Earnings

Disney reported a total revenue growth of seven percent to $15.23 billion in its third-quarter earnings. A major chunk of its earnings came from the international blockbuster movies, particularly Avengers: Infinity War and Incredibles 2, both of which are breaking box office sales records, even after adjusting for pre-release marketing costs.

But it wasn’t all good news. Consumer products and interactive media revenues dropped by eight percent to $1.0 billion and the segment operating income fell by 10 percent to $324 million due to lower income from licenses and retail store sales. However, decreased licensing revenues from the Spider-Man and Cars franchises were partially offset by gains from Avengers-based products.

TV Viewership Declines, But Higher Ad Sales Compensate

Media networks that fall under the Disney umbrella include ESPN, Freeform and ABC, all three of which reported decreased ad revenues due to declining subscribers and viewership numbers. ESPN, which was impacted by having one less NBA Finals game, was able to compensate with higher affiliate revenue growth and other factors.

Even so, revenues from Disney’s cable networks grew by two percent to $4.2 billion, but its operating income decreased 5 percent to $1.4 billion due to losses at Freeform and BAMTech, the latter of which are related to higher content and marketing costs and technology investments.

The company also assured investors that the subscriber decline seems to be slowing. Even though there are fewer traditional TV subscribers compared to last year, there is a marked growth in digital subscriptions.

Changing Channels

Disney saw losses with its investments in channels such as A&E and Hulu. Even though Hulu saw higher subscription and advertising revenue, these gains were partially offset by higher programming and labor costs. With this information, Iger announced that the company remains enthusiastic about launching a direct-to-consumer (DTC) media platform to compete with Netflix, Amazon and others by emphasizing its iconic brands over providing a huge volume of content.

“In this year of unprecedented consumer choice, brands matter more than ever,” said Iger. “Our incredible portfolio of high-quality, in-demand branded content uniquely positions us to strategically and successfully navigate this increasingly dynamic marketplace. We’ve always believed we have the brands and content to be extremely competitive and to thrive alongside Netflix, Amazon and anyone else in the market.”

Adding Fox Networks Group

Iger went into detail about its upcoming acquisition of the Fox Networks Group and how the addition of its channels, IPs and brands will impact the company’s upcoming SVOD service plans. He explained that Disney’s growth strategy will be served by adding the international properties Fox currently holds, which include 350 channels that reach 190 countries and licenses such as Avatar, X-Men, Deadpool, Kingsman and many more. That’s not taking into account Fox’s substantial investment in European pay-TV company Sky, which it is seeking to acquire.

MillerCoors Abandons Two Hats Beer Brand; Unable To Attract Millennial Tastes

After just six months of marketing heavily to millennial drinkers with its youth-focused Two Hats brand, MillerCoors decided to pull the plug on the self-described “good cheap beer.” It seems, despite an aggressive “Wait, What?” digital campaign that leveraged influencers across YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram, the brewery was unable to impress millennials, who are drinking fewer alcoholic beverages overall.

Those who do drink generally show a far greater preference for spirits and wine—consuming about 42 percent of all wine in the US in 2015 according to a report from Wine Spectator—the latter of which has been marketed as inexpensive, fun and even health-conscious beverages.

MillerCoors launched Two Hats in February, specifically targeting 21- to 24-year-old consumers who think that beer is too expensive and doesn’t taste very good. This demographic has been particularly difficult for the beer industry to engage with compared to older generations. Beer consumption for this audience has fallen by 3 percent over the past 15 years, but the company felt that it was imperative to reach out, as they will comprise about 40 percent of legal-age drinkers by 2020.

To address this audience, MillerCoors collaborated with alumni from The Remix Project, a Chicago-based incubator program, to help adjust the tone of the campaign. Using the message, “Good cheap beer is coming… so stop your wine-ing,” MillerCoors launched a campaign that relied heavily on digital, influencer, social and experiential marketing to reach drinkers on mobile phones, tablets, streaming devices and gatherings such as music festivals, street fairs and sporting events.

The campaign included content such as shareable memes and gifs on social media platforms, including College Humor, Facebook and Instagram. In total, the company said that its campaign included over 200 short spots developed in partnership with Spotify, Snapchat, YouTube, BleacherReport and The Onion.

Its debut videos on YouTube featured the spectacular destruction of wine bottles, shots and mixed drinks in an effort to encourage young consumers to try beer. The brewer also partnered with influencers, including Scotty Sire and Zane Hijazi, who made branded videos and Instagram posts, in addition to planning a video series with College Humor that was estimated to reach 29 million viewers. Meanwhile, social media posts leveraged occasions ranging from Earth Day to LGBT Pride Month and first job scenarios.

On the experiential side, MillerCoors invested in a large-scale sampling campaign to try to get millennial drinkers to switch over to beer. Partnering with Spotify, the company hosted tasting parties featuring musicians such as Shallou, who played alongside a string quartet.

This extensive campaign seemed to be working at first, with the company reporting in April that Snapchat engagements were higher than the industry average and consumers were watching branded YouTube videos two times longer than average. However, the run ended in August after the company reported both volume and profit declines in its second quarter. Two Hats will be removed from stores by 2019.

Although MillerCoors will continue to reach out to young drinkers in the future, it decided to focus its spending and attention on its Coors Light and Miller Lite brands, both of which appeal to an older demographic, in addition to the Mexican import beer Sol. But, perhaps all adult beverages should be worried about losing young drinkers, as the generation after millennials may end up with a preference for cannabis over alcohol after more states decriminalize the substance.

Thoughts? Continue the conversation at @alistdaily.

On Brand: Unilever’s Aline Santos On The Importance Of Brand Purpose

When 2.5 billion consumers use and trust your products each day, it is a brand’s responsibility to be mindful of how it shapes the world around it. This is a core ideal for consumer goods company Unilever.

Aline Santos, global executive vice president of marketing and head of diversity and inclusion at Unilever told AList that the proof is in the results. She explains that when the company employed non-stereotypical ads, they yielded 25 percent more branded impact.

Brand purpose is a fundamental element [of marketing],” said Santos. “If you have a brand that does not have a purpose, people are not going to be interested in talking about stain removal for long—you have to have something behind stain removal to talk about. Purpose is the biggest enabler for us to create content that people seek out.”

After a year of implementing a purpose-driven marketing strategy, Unilever decided to share the information with others. Introduced in 2017, the UnStereotype Alliance includes brands like Unilever, Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble—companies that normally don’t “sit together,” but unite under a shared goal.

Today, Unilever has a new goal for itself—to change stereotypes not just in advertisements but in the content it supports with advertising dollars. The company has also presented a number of Hollywood studios and producers with the opportunity to co-create “unstereotyped” content. This way, Santos explained, the company would feel more comfortable investing advertising dollars in content that shares its marketing values.

Dove, for example, signed a three-year partnership with Cartoon Network and animated show Steven Universe in April. The partnership includes six animated short films that focus on self-esteem and body confidence.

“More and more, our consumers are moving from TV and interruption advertising into something else that they can curate. We want to be part of this content in a way that is more progressive.” Launches Tinder-Style Matchmaking Experience For Car Buyers aims to position itself as a matchmaker with its “We Met on” brand campaign. Using a dating app-like Matchmaking Experience on both the company’s homepage and mobile app, the car selling platform is using artificial intelligence to connect potential buyers with their ideal vehicles. It is also complementing the experience with a “How We Met” brand campaign that features scenarios where people of various backgrounds and interests found their dream cars.

Described as the “Tinder for car shopping,” the app and homepage allows users to input their preferences across 15 different criteria. The AI then searches through thousands of listings to deliver 20 matches that best suit the potential buyer’s tastes, sentiments and location. In a dating app-like style, users can choose “like” or “don’t like” for each recommendation to further refine results so they find the right one.

The Matchmaking Experience was created in response to a company study that revealed that car shopping is one of the least pleasant things people have to do. Respondents said that they would rather go to the DMV, attend jury duty, clean toilets or have long phone conversations with their in-laws than shop for a new vehicle.

But the app could help change that perception. According to a press release, the Matchmaking Experience pilot program conducted in early July yielded extremely positive results, with an 87 percent increase in return visitors, a 225 percent increase in email leads, and twice as many page views per visitor compared to the traditional search experience.

“We’re treating people like human beings with distinct emotional nuances, not just site users, as we build a more relevant, personalized car-shopping experience,” chief product officer Tony Zolla said in a statement. “Early-stage car shoppers don’t know what they’re looking for. In fact, an overwhelming majority are undecided on make and model, yet nearly all online car search experiences force people to select make or model as the first step in their journey.”

The app experience is accompanied by an ad campaign that similarly romanticizes finding the right car. For example, the campaign’s first TV spot includes a cowgirl who finds a pickup truck with lots of horsepower, a labradoodle owner who connects with a hybrid, and a crew team that expands with a bigger SUV. Additionally, content partnerships with companies such as Tinder will help to solidify the connection between matchmaking and car buying. is planning a multi-channel effort across TV, digital, social and program integration for its campaign, putting matchmaking and personalization at the center of it.

In a press release, chief marketing officer Brooke Skinner Ricketts said, “Our new omni-channel campaign tells the story of how creates chemistry that endures long after shoppers find the car of their dreams. We’re rekindling the emotional connection that sometimes gets lost between the dream and the drive, and we’re injecting fun back into car shopping.” isn’t the only company that’s looking to take away the pain of car shopping. Automaker Hyundai partnered with Amazon to launch a digital showroom in July, which let potential buyers browse, learn about and select vehicles without having to interact with salespeople.

Programmatic Ad Buying Grows Steadily; Amazon Top Spender

A recent study conducted by MediaRadar examined the state of programmatic ad buying in Q1 2018. It found that three-quarters of all brands tracked placed programmatic ads during the timeframe, keeping the format on a steady growth path even with concerns about brand safety and transparency.

Additionally, MediaRadar found that, of the top 50 programmatic spenders, 94 percent were brands that were in the top 50 in 2017; these include Walmart, Microsoft and Verizon. Native programmatic ad buying is helping to drive growth, and spending on native ads placed programmatically increased by 10 percent year-over-year. Programmatic solves native’s two biggest issues, scale and an intensive sales process.

“The growth of native programmatic ads is two-fold,” MediaRadar CEO and co-founder Todd Krizelman told AList. “Native is up as a whole as more brands are finding the benefits of placing these ads, and the technology programmatic companies have to place native has also gotten better.”

Newcomers to the top 50 programmatic spenders include Progressive Insurance and Gap. Meanwhile, the top 10 companies comprised about 37 percent of the total spend for the group. Amazon ranked at the top at the top of the list, accounting for 10 percent of the total ad spend, which is 1.5x more than the second-place spender Microsoft.

The top 10 programmatic advertisers according to the MediaRadar study are:

  1. Amazon
  2. Microsoft
  3. Wayfair
  4. TaxAct
  5. Charles Schwab
  6. Weight Watchers
  7. Sprint
  8. Coors Light
  9. Geico
  10. Dell

Krizelman stated in the report that, “Despite concerns over transparency, advertisers continue to invest in programmatic. It is the preferred method for transacting media for many advertisers and it doesn’t appear to be changing.”

According to forecasts from eMarketer, $46 billion will be spent on programmatic advertising by the end of this year, with 82.5 percent of digital display ads in the US purchased through automated channels.

Starbucks And Alibaba Partner For Integrated Coffee Delivery Service In China

Starbucks and Chinese retail and tech conglomerate Alibaba Group announced the formation of a strategic partnership to create a coffee delivery service in China. With pilot programs launching in Beijing and Shanghai in September, the initiative will leverage partners such as the on-demand food delivery platform while “Starbucks Delivery Kitchens” are planned across Hema supermarkets for order fulfillment.

Ultimately, the two will expand the delivery service to cover 30 cities and 2,000 stores by the end of the year in addition to using Alibaba’s network of brands—including Tmall, Taobao and Alipay—to establish a virtual Starbucks store for personalized online experiences.

In a statement, Starbucks Coffee Company CEO and president Kevin Johnson said, “Thanks to the elevated customer experience delivered by our over 45,000 partners, Starbucks is growing and innovating faster in China than anywhere else in the world. Our transformational partnership with Alibaba will reshape modern retail, and represents a significant milestone in our efforts to exceed the expectations of Chinese consumers.”

With this program, customers will be able to buy beverages using either the Starbucks app or Alibaba’s suite of mobile apps, which include Taobao, Alipay, Tmall and Koubei. Additionally, customers will be able to send coffees to friends and loved ones through the “Say It With Starbucks” social gifting platform, and plans are underway to integrate the Starbucks Rewards program into all systems.

In combination with other initiatives, the partnership with Starbucks is another step in Alibaba’s broader New Retail plans to reshape China’s retail market by merging online and offline platforms.

The New Retail Strategic Opportunities fund was launched in 2016 and has been making strides in transforming retail using artificial intelligence and other technologies. For example, it partnered with clothing brand Guess in July to launch an AI-driven concept fashion store in Hong Kong.

Alibaba has also been investing heavily into out-of-home, putting $2.23 billion into Focused Media, a company that operates outdoor digital screens in Singapore, Hong Kong and China. The company currently claims to reach 200 million Chinese consumers across 300 cities with plans to grow that number to 500 million people in 500 cities.

The e-commerce giant also put $867 million into the physical home goods and DIY retail store chain Beijing Easyhome Furnishings in February, making it the fourth major investment it made into brick-and-mortar type retail stores. The other three include hypermarket (mega-sized big box stores) operator Sun Art, the InTime shopping malls and rival offline electronics retail giant Suning.

E.W. Scripps Q2 Revenues Driven By Political Ads, OTT Subscribers And Podcast Advertising

US broadcasting company E.W. Scripps reported $283 million in total revenues during the second quarter of 2018, up 31 percent year-over-year. Its earnings come as the company executes its comprehensive plan to improve its short-term operating performance, which includes mergers and acquisitions and organizational restructuring as it sells its radio assets. However, a major driver came in form of boosts in political ad revenues and retransmission on its over-the-top (OTT) subscription platforms.

“In local media, we blew away the expectations for our political advertising revenue as we saw competitive elections emerge in markets across our footprint,” announced E.W. Scripps CEO Adam Symson on the earnings call.

Scripps reported that its local media division’s revenue was up nearly 6 percent year-over-year, which includes 3.4 percent growth in broadcast time sales driven by higher political advertising dollars. To put things into perspective, political advertising revenue in Q2 was $14.9 million, more than double the revenue brought in during the second quarter of 2014, the last midterm election year.

Specifically, the company saw strong political spending in its three Florida markets due to the US Senate race there. Other areas include San Diego, with two highly competitive Congressional races, and Nashville’s trio: a local special mayoral election, the US Senate race and a governor’s race.

Based on its second-quarter results, Scripps may have the opportunity to exceed its 2014 political ad revenue dollars of $21 million by over 20 percent in the third quarter.

Growth was also generated through the Katz Networks, which Scripps acquired for $302 million in 2017. It brought in $47 million in revenue, an increase of 21 percent year-over-year. Symson said that each of its multicast channels is serving more than 90 percent of households at a time when more consumers turning to over-the-air broadcasting than ever. In fact, he stated that Katz is “attracting network sized audiences for its cadre of brand and direct response advertisers.”

Scripps president of local media Brian Lawlor added, “The strategies for their (Katz) success are straightforward: growing the audiences they’re delivering to advertisers, increasing advertising rates as they attract more general advertising brands, and expanding their national distribution and reach.”

Excluding Katz, revenues from the national media division grew by over 60 percent.

But at the same time, the company’s core advertising saw reduced revenue compared to 2017, mainly due to declines in the automotive sector and because there were fewer NBA Finals games featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers. Scripps has lost millions in core revenue over the past two years because of the NBA Finals reduction, and the loss is expected to continue with the departure of Lebron James from the team. To compensate, the company is betting that the Pistons, Nuggets, Pacers or Suns will rise up fill the space.

The good news for Scripps is that subscriptions for its OTT platforms are making a major impact, showing strong retransmission revenues, which increased by 12 percent. The company reported that its OTT subscriber base grew from zero to almost 500,000 by March, led by brands such as Newsy, which fits well with the OTT platform because of its appeal to younger audiences. Even so, Newsy is expanding to include distribution on cable and satellite networks.

“Just like scale adds value in local television businesses, we’re focused on building scale in these fast-growing national brands,” said Symson, discussing how revenue growth was directly tied to the investments made in Katz and Midroll Media. Stand out OTT subscription platforms include DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Hulu and Sony’s PlayStation Vue service.

Scripps is also seeing significant growth from podcasting networks Stitcher and Midroll Media, with combined revenues that have grown by 50 percent to date. The company explained that consumer engagement with podcasts is accelerating and advertisers are following that trend. Blue Chip advertisers including Proctor & Gamble and Coca-Cola placed new podcast ad buys during the second quarter, showing strong renewal activity in addition to more brands coming on board.

Freakonomics is one of its leading podcasts, and it gets more than 12 million downloads per month. The show also offers extra content to premium subscribers, driving more users to Stitcher Premium alongside dozens of other programs such as Wolverine: The Long Night.

The company said that it will continue to invest in these networks in the long-term while tracking multiple KPIs including the number of listeners on Stitcher and how general market advertising is growing. According to Scripps, the podcasting industry is expected to grow to somewhere between $1-2 billion, with revenue growth on track for meeting that goal.

“As we move into the back half of the year, we see significant opportunity in the local broadcast industry,” Symson said in closing, “[with] a dynamic political landscape, continued growth in over-the-top households, the promise of automated advertising to drive greater national dollars into our local stations and the potential for [mergers and acquisitions]. Today, because of the foundation we’re building with our transformation plan, Scripps is poised to capitalize on all of these opportunities.”