TikTok Surpasses 2 Billion Downloads After Strong Quarter

This week in social media news, TikTok surpasses 2 billion downloads, Instagram launches a new live donations feature, WhatsApp increases its group video chat participant limit from four to eight, Facebook announces a virtual ceremony for the graduating classes of 2020 and TikTok rolls out an interactive donation sticker.

TikTok Surpasses 2 Billion Downloads

Sensor Tower reports that TikTok and its Chinese version, Douyin, have exceeded 2 billion downloads on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Why it matters: The milestone makes TikTok the first app after WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger to top 2 billion downloads since Sensor Tower’s data analysis started in January 2014.

The details: In January 2020 TikTok surpassed 1.5 billion downloads. Now, Sensor Tower data shows in the quarter ending on March 31 TikTok was downloaded 315 million times, the highest amount of downloads for any app in a quarter. Comparatively, WhatsApp saw 250 million downloads in Q1 2020. To date users have spent nearly $456.7 million on TikTok, 72.3 percent of which has come from China; US TikTok users have spent about $86.5 million to date. In India TikTok has been downloaded 611 million times, accounting for 30.3 percent of the app’s downloads.

Facebook Reports 3 Billion Total Users Across Its Platforms

Facebook’s latest earnings report reveals double-digit increases in users and revenue, namely 2.6 billion monthly active users (MAUs) to date.

Why it matters: Despite the increased engagement, Facebook expects it will lose some of this added momentum once pandemic restrictions are relaxed, and warn of slowing ad growth as a result of COVID-19.

The details: Facebook reported revenue of $17.74 billion in Q1. In the last three weeks of Q1, it says it experienced a significant reduction in the demand for advertising and a decline in the pricing of its ads. Facebook also added 105 million users in Q1, a 10 percent increase year over year.

LinkedIn Reaches 690 Million Members

Microsoft’s Q3 2020 performance report shows LinkedIn increased total members from 675 million in January to 690 million for the quarter that ended March 31.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a dramatic lift in engagement on LinkedIn, with the platform reporting 4 million hours of content watched on Linkedin Learning in March, a nearly 50 percent increase month over month. In addition, LinkedIn Live streams are up 158 percent since February.

The details: Microsoft says LinkedIn sessions are up 26 percent for the quarter while revenue is up 21 percent.

Google Makes Video Streaming Platform Google Meet Free To Everyone

In a product updates blog, Google announced that it’s making Google Meet, its video conferencing platform, free for everyone, with availability rolling out over the coming weeks.

Why it matters: Up until now, access to Google Meet was limited to paying G Suite customers. 

The details: Google says Meet’s peak daily usage has grown 30x. As of the week ending April 24,  Meet’s daily meeting participants exceed 100 million. Now, up to 100 people can use Google Meet at one time, for up to 60 minutes. Users can sign up to be notified when the free version of Meet is available.

Google emphasized the security of Meet, noting it provides a strong set of host controls and denies anonymous users to join meetings. Meet users, Google says, can also enroll their account in Google’s Advanced Protection Program to prevent phishing and account hijacking.

Snapchat Is Working On AR Campaigns With New Brands

Snapchat is using its Snap Camera webcam to create new integrated augmented reality (AR) campaigns with brands like Universal and L’Oréal.

Why it matters: Downloads of the Snap Camera app jumped 30x since the beginning of the pandemic, plus 75 percent of Snapchat’s daily active users now engage with AR content every day.

The details: Snapchat partnered with Universal to promote its “Trolls World Tour” movie via AR-enabled Trolls masks available on Snap Camera. Recently, L’Oréal released eight custom branded AR lenses on Snap Camera, available for one week in a dedicated “beauty” section on the platform’s opening page. With these lenses, users can virtually try on different looks on screen.

YouTube Tests “Products In This Video” Tool 

YouTube is testing a tool called “Products in this Video” that would detect and show which products are mentioned in the video with visual elements overlaid on the video and below it.

Why it matters: The tool would provide more specific product matches and enable a simpler way to shop products through links.

The details: As per YouTube, “For example, in a ‘top 10 smartphones in 2020’ video, some viewers will see an icon on the video, along with more information below, listing the phone models included in the video.”

Instagram Rolls Out Live Donations Feature

Instagram has announced a new donation feature for Instagram Live that lets people raise money in real-time for nonprofits.

Why it matters: Live Donations is the latest effort from Instagram to help support communities affected by COVID-19. In March, the platform said it was rolling out its stories’ donation sticker in more countries.

The details: With Live Donations, users can see how many people are supporting your fundraiser and the amount of money raised in real-time. The feature also provides a breakdown of your donors and individual contributions. Users can thank donors by tapping “Wave.” Live Donations can be accessed by tapping the camera in the top left of the feed or by swiping right in the feed. In addition, Instagram partnered with a Brazilian illustrator to create a custom “I Donated” sticker, accessible after you’ve donated to a nonprofit fundraiser on Instagram Live or stories.

WhatsApp Launches 8-Person Group Video Chat Feature

WhatsApp’s group video and voice calls now support eight participants, up from four, the company said in a blog post.

Why it matters: WhatsApp reports that over the last month, people on average spent over 15 billion minutes talking daily on WhatsApp calls.

The details: To utilize the new higher participant limit, users need to update to the latest version of WhatsApp.

Facebook To Broadcast Virtual 2020 Graduation With Oprah Winfrey

On May 15 at 11 a.m. PST, Facebook is broadcasting a live #Graduation2020 with a commencement address from Oprah Winfrey, and additional celebrity appearances and performances. The virtual ceremony will acknowledge US high schools and colleges by name, state by state, including photos and videos of graduating classes. The ceremony video will be shared on Facebook Watch, with highlights posted to Instagram’s eponymous account.

Why it matters: Facebook’s virtual activation will give both Facebook and Instagram grads a reason to celebrate graduation on social media despite schools being closed throughout summer.

The details: In addition to a commencement given by Oprah Winfrey, celebrities like Jennifer Garner, Awkwafina, Lil Nas X and Simone Biles will “share words of wisdom for the class of 2020,” and Miley Cyrus will perform her song, “The Climb.”

Facebook and Instagram are also adding a variety of creative tools to help grads celebrate the occasion, including a virtual graduation hub and custom filters on Facebook, as well as a grad countdown sticker, AR effects and grad-related songs added to the music stickers on Instagram.

TikTok Introduces Donation Stickers

TikTok’s new in-app feature Donation Stickers, enabled by fundraising platform Tiltify, lets users raise funds for their favorite charities within their videos and live streams. TikTok plans to match the user donations made through the feature until May 27.

Why it matters: TikTok is the latest social platform to beef up its donation feature amid coronavirus.

The details: TikTok’s interactive Donation Stickers can be embedded directly in user videos and in TikTok Live streams. Upon tapping a Donation Sticker, a pop-up window appears where users can submit a donation without leaving the app. The hashtag #doubleyourimpact will be automatically added to videos and live streams that use the donation feature.

Facebook Named Leading Platform For Consuming Coronavirus News

A survey from Flixed among over 1,000 people about their media consumption found that a majority of people are getting their news content from Facebook. 

Why it matters: As Facebook told The New York Times, the platform has seen an “unprecedented increase in the consumption of news articles,” with US traffic from Facebook to other sites experiencing a 50 percent increase.

The details: More than a third of respondents (35.8 percent) named Facebook as their primary social media platform for discovering coronavirus news, followed by Twitter (17 percent), YouTube (16.3 percent) and Reddit (12.4 percent). Those who identified Reddit as their primary coronavirus news source, however, were the most likely to say their mental health had worsened. 

Snapchat Announces A New Way For Brands To Advertise

Snapchat’s new offering, First Commercial, lets brands buy the first commercial any user sees before the first Snapchat show they watch that day, as reported by Adweek.

Why it matters: According to Snapchat’s vice president of global agency partnerships David Roter, First Commercial comes after Snapchat noticed “a good amount of marketplace demand for a premium takeover” over the past year.

The details: First Commercial will be available on shows like Snap Originals, Good Luck America, Nikita Unfiltered, Complex’s Hot Ones and NBC’s Stay Tuned. First Commercial will initially be offered through direct sales then programmatically. AT&T is one of the first brands to have tested the feature.

Facebook To Introduce Virtual Dating On Messenger

Facebook is working on a new video calling feature that will allow Facebook Dating users to video call over Messenger.

Why it matters: Facebook’s announcement comes after many rival dating apps have pivoted to video as a result of the coronavirus pandemic to provide a safe alternative to real-world dates.

The details: With the new video calling feature, online daters can invite a match to a virtual date and the recipient can either accept or decline the invitation. If they accept, the users will be connected in a video chat powered by Messenger.

TikTok Launches Gift-Giving Program Called Small Gestures

Together with its brand partners in beauty, music, gaming and more, TikTok is launching a new program called Small Gestures that lets users send gifts for free to friends and family amid the pandemic.

Why it matters: With the program, TikTok’s brand partners like Adobe, Pandora and DoorDash can remain top-of-mind for the platform’s Gen Z audience.

The details: TikTok is offering Small Gestures for free to all users to send gifts up to three separate times. Gifts include a three-month membership to Adobe Premiere Rush, a one-month free DashPass subscription from DoorDash and a 90-day trial subscription to Pandora. Other brand partners involved include Fitplan, Square Enix, REBBL, Talkspace, Skillshare, The Bouqs Co., Alo Moves and Fluent Forever. Users can browse the partner offerings by searching for “Small Gestures” on the Discover page and clicking the purple banner.

WhatsApp Sees 70 Percent Reduction In Virality Of Highly Forwarded Messages

After introducing a new restriction earlier this month, WhatsApp says the spread of “highly forwarded” messages sent on the app has decreased by 70 percent globally.

Why it matters: The new restriction will help mitigate user concerns in India where viral hoaxes about the coronavirus pandemic have been circulating on WhatsApp.

The details: On April 7, WhatsApp rolled out an update that restricts users from sending “frequently forwarded” messages more than once to a person or a group, down from five. In 2018, WhatsApp introduced a similar limit that restarted users from forwarding a message to over five people or groups at once, leading to a 25 percent drop in message forwards in two years.

Facebook Adds New Features To Workplace Platform

Facebook Workplace announced several new features to help businesses better navigate the impact of the pandemic based on feedback from users.

Why it matters: As stay-at-home orders remain in effect, professional work apps must tailor user experiences and features to teleworking.

The details: Facebook says the two main areas where they’ve learned organizations need support are communicating critical information with their entire business in real-time and having the information accessible to everyone, and ensuring employees feel supported and listened to during coronavirus. To help with the former, Facebook Workplace is launching Knowledge Library, “a single place to create, store and share static content like working from home advice or HR . . .” In addition, Facebook has created “Draft for,” a feature that lets users draft posts on behalf of executives who can review, approve and publish. To support employee wellbeing, Facebook Workplace has introduced “Safety Alerts” to enable companies to send standalone alerts that provide updates or context on an incident without requiring a response. A new Q&A-style post has also been created to enable quick feedback to employees.

Facebook Rolls Out Several New Video Chat And Live Features 

With real-time video usage at an all-time high, Facebook is rolling out a video chat tool called Messenger Rooms and several other features to help users stay connected on Facebook Live and Instagram Live.

Why it matters: According to Facebook, between WhatsApp and Messenger, over 700 million accounts participate in calls daily. In addition, video calling on Messenger and WhatsApp more than doubled in many countries. 

The details: Users can start and share Messenger Rooms through Messenger or Facebook via the news feed, groups and events, with the ability to join from mobile or desktop. They can also invite anyone to join the Room, even if they don’t have a Facebook account, as well as lock a Room if they don’t want anyone else to enter.

Facebook also said it’s expanding WhatsApp group voice and video calls with up to eight people.

After seeing a surge in views of Facebook Live and Instagram Live videos in March, Facebook is reviving “Live With,” a feature that lets users add another person into the live video, and giving Pages the ability to charge for access to events with Facebook Live videos. To help raise money, users can add a donate button to Live videos. Those who have a spotty connection have the option to listen to the audio-only on Facebook Live videos. Lastly, gamers can livestream games from their phone to Facebook using the platform’s new dedicated gaming app, available on Google Play.

Most Ad Buyers Have Now Paused Or Adjusted Ad Spend Due To COVID-19

Eighty-two percent of ad buyers have now paused or adjusted ad spend, according to the next phase of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) COVID-19 survey, which compares changes to ad spend and buyer perspective for the period of March to June. 

Those respondents who were undecided about pausing ad spend in IAB’s March survey have chosen to pause spend by mid-April. A breakdown shows that in March, 16 percent were undecided about pausing activity whereas in April, just three percent were undecided. The amount of respondents who said they paused advertising increased from 24 percent in March to 37 percent in April.

Other insights reveal 73 percent of buyers are shifting messaging and modifying or creating new creative assets: 54 percent are modifying existing creative assets and 19 percent are planning to modify or create new assets. Twenty-seven percent of buyers say they’re leveraging the same assets used pre-coronavirus. Among buyers that are shifting messaging, about 60 percent say new creative in some ways reflects the crisis.

Additionally, brands are increasingly adopting a “we’re all in this together” tone of solidarity for ads, with mission- and cause-related messaging growing from 41 percent in March to 53 percent in April. Performance messaging has also seen growth, going from 28 percent in March to 34 percent in April. 

Creative and messaging challenges have impacted news buyers most as nearly half have canceled or paused ads due to irrelevant or inappropriate creative. Some news buyers (24 percent) are reforecasting an increase in display spend, with a similar amount (29 percent) looking at new key performance indicators (KPIs) such as consumer engagement and sentiment. 

IAB found that a majority of buyers (45 percent) had allocated budget to sports in their original 2020 plans. Among those, sports represented 25 percent of their overall 2020 budget. Despite this, 43 percent of originally planned sports budgets will remain unused. Those who are allocating sports ad spend also indicate a shift to Q3 and Q4 of 2020.

Month over month trends reveal traditional media channels continue to decline, with linear television remaining relatively flat. Digital ad spend is showing growth as digital product agility has benefitted search, social and audio.

This marks IAB’s second buy-side survey, fielded April 15-21 among 294 participants spanning media planners, media buyers and brands, both incumbent and direct-to-consumer. The first phase of IAB’s buy-side survey was fielded March 18-24.

The State Of Digital Marketing In Q1 2020

Visits to brand sites generated by organic search fell 15 percent year over year and phones accounted for 52 percent of organic search visits in Q1, according to Merkle’s Q1 2020 Digital Marketing Report. The report explores how search ad spend levels trended by industry amid the pandemic, the state of organic search and paid social and why Amazon ad spend may rebound sooner than later.

Google search ad spend grew 11 percent year over year in Q1 2020, down from 16 percent growth in Q4 2019—the lowest growth Merkle has seen in the last eight years—while clicks rose nine percent and cost per click (CPC) increased two percent. Microsoft search ad spend grew to 18 percent year over year in Q1 2020 while clicks fell 11 percent year over year. Microsoft CPCs grew significantly due to a drop in traffic from phones in the past year.

After generating 29 percent of Google Shopping ad clicks among participating brands in Q4 2019, Google Local Inventory Ad (LIAs) generated just 23 percent of Shopping clicks in Q1 2020, the lowest rate physical advertisers have seen for the format since Q3 2018. LIA click share dropped to zero by the end of Q1.

The pandemic has negatively impacted travel search budgets as Google search ad spend by travel advertisers fell 21 percent year over year in Q1, down from a 17 percent growth in Q4 2019; whereas retail Google search spend grew 13 percent in Q1.

Overall, desktop click share in Q1 fell one point to 32 percent while phone click share rose from 61 percent in Q4 2019 to 64 percent in Q1 2020. Phones produced 44 percent of total search ad spend in Q1, up from 38 percent in 2019.

Google and Microsoft saw opposing trends for device click share. Phones generated 67 percent of Google search ad clicks for Q1 while they generated 23 percent for Microsoft. Desktop share of Google clicks was 29 percent in Q1 while the same for Microsoft was 71 percent.

Excluding Instagram, Facebook ad spend grew 19 percent year over year in Q1, up from 15 percent in Q4 2019. Ad spend on Instagram grew 39 percent year over year in Q1, up from 38 percent growth in Q4 2019. Instagram accounted for 27 percent of total spend and 34 percent of impressions across both platforms for brands running ads. In addition, Instagram stories ads accounted for 22 percent of Instagram spend and 28 percent of impressions.

As a larger share of commerce has moved online amid the pandemic, ad conversion rates have improved and retailers’ ad spend has held up better for Google search. Organic search visits produced by Google decreased 13 percent year over year in Q1 and 16 percent year over year on mobile devices; Bing and Yahoo saw greater declines, with organic visits down 26 percent on Bing and 27 percent on Yahoo. 

As the pandemic unfolded, Merkle also saw organic search grow 53 percent year over year for essential retailers while organic clicks fell 31 percent for apparel and specialty merchandisers.

Amazon Sponsored Products spend grew 67 percent year over year in Q1, with clicks growing 87 percent and CPCs falling 10 percent. Sales from Amazon Sponsored Products ads increased 70 percent year over year in Q1, allowing advertisers to hold return on investment (ROI) roughly flat compared to 2019. Sponsored Brands spend ballooned to 118 percent year over year, with clicks growing 43 percent year over year and CPC seeing 52 percent growth year over year.

Merkle predicts Amazon ad spend investment will rebound as the giant stops limiting the fulfillment of non-essential products and as sales and inventory for brands start to pick back up.

Design For Transformation With Chobani’s Leland Maschmeyer

During this 205th episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Leland Maschmeyer, the chief creative and strategy officer at Chobani.

On the show today, Maschmeyer shares what he’s doing at Chobani and tells us about this unbelievable creative organization he’s now leading at the company. We talk about recent campaign work as well as his philosophy on design and business and the intersection between those two things. 

Maschmeyer shares that he built Chobani’s internal agency out of a desire to transform Chobani into a creatively-driven culture. Creativity was critical for Chobani’s growth plans. He says, “Change requires going through periods of destruction, periods of learning, periods of being unknown.” They never wanted to separate their agency from the rest of the organization. Maschmeyer says that his desire to do the best creative work possible has always been at the intersection of design and business. We talk about the strategy they devised for the “Almost Milk” campaign, its visual style, and the campaign’s emphasis on usage and occasion. Throughout this conversation, Maschmeyer highlights the critical importance of creativity and how that drives decisions at Chobani.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Leland shares some background from his early years. 01:25
  • How Leland got his start and the path to his role at Chobani. 02:56
  • How Leland started one of the best internal agencies in the world. 05:11
  • Why Leland’s approach works for him and whether he would recommend it to other companies. 16:23
  • Leland’s experience finding talent. 19:38
  • Chobani almost never goes outside the company for creative work. 23:01
  • Leland comments on the state of agencies in today’s world. 23:48
  • Advice for someone just getting started building their in-house agency. 26:36
  • All about the oat milk Almost Milk brief. 28:43
  • The rich and graphic visual style of the Almost Milk campaign reminiscent of Norman Rockwell. 33:57
  • The focus on usage and occasion in the Almost Milk campaign. 35:50
  • Is there an experience in his past that defines who he is today? 37:32
  • What is the advice Leland would give to his younger self? 40:03
  • Are there any brands, companies, or causes that Leland follows that he thinks other people should take notice of? 41:03
  • Leland’s take on the top opportunities or threats facing marketers today. 43:00

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation, and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

Yes, Gaming Is A Good Place For Brands To Invest Right Now… But Do It Right

Orginally published on AW360 by Mike Murphy O’Reilly.

While professional sports have gone dark in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s one form medium that is growing and helping both athletes and fans alike to fill the void — Gaming. From casual to competitive, everything from playing themselves, watching influencers, to competitions moving online, gaming consumption has grown across all areas. With people being driven inside their homes, many are finding a thriving, positive community in a world that is increasingly confusing and negative. If this is any indication of the future, online gaming and streaming platforms are about to become a lot more popular, providing brands with direct access to a growing global audience.

For brands that have flirted with the idea of investing in gaming or esports in the past, many are now seeing it as a viable option to spend marketing dollars. But for brands that take the plunge, it’s important to do it right. Here are a few things to consider when investing in gaming.

Have some purpose

Gaming thrives on community, and now is the perfect opportunity for brands to capture the hearts and minds of fans by doing something that helps those in need. Gamers have shown that when done right, they will engage with a brand that makes an effort. Instead of logo slapping a Streamer for some impressions and capitalizing on a global pandemic, consider doing something more meaningful. Whether it’s providing a unique experience or content to give people a reason to smile, or being more philanthropic by matching charity donations on a Streamers broadcast, now is the time for brands to galvanize the gaming community for good.

Consumption is surging so choose the right platforms

Within the past couple of weeks, gaming platforms and major games are seeing record-high usage. The popular platform Steam hit an all-time high of 20.3 million online users. Counter-Strike Global Offensive hit one million concurrent players for the first time in its history despite being released 7 years ago. And Activision’s Call of Duty: Warzone attracted 6 million players in its first 24 hours. In addition, the number of fans watching influencers on live streaming platforms like Twitch are expected to continue climbing. With a multitude of platforms and channels, things can be a bit confusing for new marketers in this space. It’s important to understand that Gaming is just like traditional sports with different demographics, opportunities, integrations, price points and more. Spend the time to understand what is right for your brand and which platforms will deliver the right audience and exposure.

Professional athletes are making the shift online

With the MLB, NHL and NBA sidelined for the foreseeable future, teams and individual athletes are looking at esports for their professional and personal usage. The NBA’s Phoenix Suns recently announced they would be playing the remainder of their games in the NBA 2K virtual league and airing them on Twitch. NBA players like Luka Doncic, Josh Hart and Devin Booker are passing the time they would have spent on the court playing video games at home and streaming about it.  Just like esports teams, professional athletes migrating online are poised to bring their droves of fans with them. This gives brands a way to use existing brand ambassadors and sponsorships to enter this space without needing to completely rework their marketing strategy. Similarly identifying athletes who love gaming but may not be known for it, give brands an opportunity to do something unique with influencers endemic to the gaming and esports industry.

This isn’t a fad, it’s a movement and brands have a role to play long term

Gaming will be here for the long term. Esports is expected to earn over $1.6 billion in revenue by 2021, and the majority of that growth stems from brand investments.  Over 600 esports sponsorship agreements have been signed since 2016, and though the majority of them have been made by endemic brands, non-endemic brand sponsorship and advertising is also on the rise (think Coca Cola, Red Bull, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and McDonald’s). Amid this flurry of activity, there are countless opportunities for additional brands to get involved in the ecosystem whether its casual gaming or hardcore esports.

While the current professional sports suspension has left fans looking for other means of entertainment, esports and gaming provides a real opportunity for brands to engage with a new and ever-growing audience.  Esports could be one of few bright spots in the sporting world, connecting existing fans and gamers with traditional sports fans, professional athletes and brands that want to reach them. But take the time to understand the different platforms, games and opportunities to find the right fit for your brand.

Burger King Makes Out-Of-Home Ads Relevant Amid The Pandemic

Everyone is stuck at home during the pandemic making out-of-home (OOH) ads useless. Yet Burger King has found a way to make them relevant again: by inviting people to use images of the brand’s billboards during their video conferences. In return, Burger King is giving out buy-one-get-one codes for its Whopper sandwich.

To participate, fans need to download one of the billboard images from Burger King’s Twitter account and use it as the background in their video conferences. After they upload a photo on Twitter showing they used one of the backgrounds, tagging Burger King and the hashtag #HomeOfTheBillboards, Burger King will DM them a buy-one-get-one-free code. Fans can redeem the code, valid from April 28 to May 1, on the Burger King app.

Burger King’s integrated activation is a strong example of how brands can repurpose existing creative during the pandemic. In addition to increasing brand visibility, the activation will help Burger King increase its mobile app downloads at a time when apps are competing for consumers’ attention in lockdown.

Coronavirus hit the OOH industry hard: Outfront Media’s stock dropped 64 percent since late February and Clear Channel is down to under a dollar ($.45) for the first time. Before the crisis, revenue for OOH grew seven percent in Q3 2019 to about $2 billion and $6.4 billion year-to-date through the first three quarters of 2019, according to the Out of Home Advertising Association of America.

The #HomeOfTheBillboards offer is part of a larger stay-at-home push launched this week. Burger King released three television commercials that include a scannable quick response (QR) code, which users can scan to redeem a free Whopper with a purchase through the Burger King app. From now until April 30, Burger King is giving away 10,000 Whoppers.

The third push includes Burger King’s 3 for $3 Challenge, which asks customers to post a screenshot of a video call with at least two friends to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #BK3forFreeChallenge, for a chance to win one of 50 e-gift cards that cover the cost of its 3 for $3 menu. The promotion ends April 28.

SONIC App Sees Significant Lift In Downloads With RCS Pilot

SONIC Drive-In saw five times more app downloads with rich communication services (RCS) than with previous multimedia messaging services (MMS), a pilot conducted by Mobivity from January 14-17 revealed.

Backed by Google’s RCS Business Messaging, the pilot delivered interactive messaging about the SONIC Drive-In app to targeted customers across over 3,500 locations. As a result, SONIC saw five times as many app downloads versus MMS mobile messaging and a three times higher app registration rate versus standard downloads from MMS recipients. In addition, SONIC saw a 50 percent purchase rate from consumers who registered on the app.

Mobivity and SONIC ran the pilot without leveraging offers, discounts or other incentives typically used within the quick service restaurant (QSR) category.

SONIC’s RCS pilot provides an example of how brands can leverage RCS to enhance communication with customers. Given its multimedia capabilities, RCS is meant to succeed standard short message service (SMS) and streamline cross-device messaging. RCS enables companies to visually brand their messages so consumers can tell who the message is from. With RCS, brands can also send image carousels that include an embedded call-to-action (CTA) via text. Through secure mobile transactions, RCS could be a major game changer for digitally native companies to conduct business via text.

In 2018, Google announced that it would use RCS as the basis for the Android messaging platform, Chat. Shortly thereafter Samsung and Google partnered to ensure RCS works cohesively between their messaging apps across all devices.

According to Mobilesquared, two percent of US consumers could receive an RCS business message on their mobile phone at the end of 2018. By the end of 2019, the figure grew to 17 percent.

Miller High Life Launches “Wedding At Your Doorstep” Contest

Miller High Life is offering three engaged couples whose weddings were affected by coronavirus a chance to win a “Wedding at Your Doorstep.” Winners of the contest will receive a prize that includes an officiant, a photographer, beer and $10,000. Miller High Life announced the promotion on its Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages.

To enter, couples must submit a 150-word description about how their 2020 wedding plans have changed and how they plan to celebrate with Miller High Life, as well as an image, their state and age and email to marryme@millerhighlife.com. Miller High Life will rate submissions based on creativity (50 percent), detail (25 percent) and originality (25 percent). The contest is running from April 23 to May 1.

Winning couples will receive a “front porch wedding” that comes with a licensed officiant, a professional photographer and digital photo package, for a total prize value of $15,000.

Americans spent $54 billion on more than 2 million weddings in 2019 but those numbers are dropping significantly as social distancing orders remain in effect. At a time when people are forced to cancel special occasions due to the pandemic, Miller High Life’s activation could help boost brand loyalty. And, as brands reduce marketing budgets and tiptoe around coronavirus marketing sensitivities, the promotion provides the brand a simple way to collect emails for future targeted campaigns.

Miller High Life competitor Busch Beer is running a similar social media contest that will award 250 couples who had to cancel or postpone their wedding free beer for a year. Entrants are required to post a picture of themselves on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtags #BuschWeddingGift and #Sweepstakes, now through May 1.

Denny’s Aims To Reach Gamers Amid Coronavirus

In an effort to boost its digital presence amid coronavirus, Denny’s created an account under the username Dennys247 on three major game platforms—Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Xbox and Sony PS4—to offer players discounts on food. After announcing its entry into the gaming world on social media, on April 8, the brand experienced a major lift in engagement on Instagram and Twitter. On Instagram, Denny’s saw a 26 percent engagement rate and over 81,000 impressions on about 20,00 engagements. The tweet announcing Dennys247 saw a 15 percent engagement rate with nearly 154,000 impressions and 23,000 total engagements.

Within its first 20 hours on Nintendo Switch, Dennys247 reached the limit on the number of friends. Denny’s plays around six to seven games during each two-hour gaming session, giving players the chance to earn discount codes for its Denny’s on Demand ordering platforms, a website and a mobile app for iOS and Android.

On March 16, Denny’s announced the closure of its dine-in facilities, expanding its Denny’s on Demand platforms to include new “Dine-Thru” and curbside services to cater to consumers during lockdown.  With the “Dine-Thru” service, customers can place their order with a Denny’s employee from their car then wait for the order to be prepared while waiting in a designated parking spot. Those ordering on the Denny’s website can select “curbside” at checkout, entering the make and color of their car so that a staff member can identify customers and “run your order out to you.”

Before the pandemic led to restaurant closures, on January 30, Denny’s launched its Beyond Burger at 1,700 locations accompanied by a dine-in promotion for a free burger with the purchase of a drink. A regulatory filing shows that Denny’s domestic same-store sales dropped 19 percent in March from 2019. Now, at a time when restaurants are closed until further notice, Denny’s must leverage new channels to reach customers—joining multiplayer game platforms allows it to tap into a pool of 164 million US adult gamers.

What We’re Reading–Week Of April 20th

We’re searching for the most pressing marketing insights this week. Updated daily.

5 Ways Covid-19 Has Changed Gen Z Consumers’ Preferences


In an Amplify Solutions survey of 357 Gen Z consumers aged 16-24, 76 percent of respondents said they’re using this time for personal or professional development and 37 percent of men and 19 percent of women, respectively, reported spending most of their shopping budget on online courses or digital learning tools.

Why it matters: The pandemic poses a big opportunity for traditional e-learning companies and new online course services.

Google Requiring All Advertisers To Verify Their Identity


Google is extending its certification program for political advertisers to all advertisers following an influx of bad ads seeking to profit on the coronavirus pandemic. 

Why it matters: Advertisers have 30 days to submit personal identification and business incorporation documents to prove their identity and the country from which they operate. Otherwise Google will stop serving their ads.

Selling Experiences When No One Can Experience Anything


To sell experiences amid coronavirus, advertising veteran Mat Zucker suggests enriching your brand’s digital architecture, reducing barriers to trials and reviving older buying models like option-to-purchase buying cooperative buying.

Why it matters: Consumers value flexibility in times of crisis.

Crisis Management: Marketing During COVID-19

The Drum

To emerge from crisis stronger, digital marketing expert Rumble Romagnoli recommends prioritizing communication with your team and providing necessary safety equipment when remote work isn’t possible; adapt your content to be sensitive to the crisis but don’t lose your brand in the process; offer discounts to key workers. 

Why it matters: A thoughtful crisis management strategy will ensure a business’s survival post-coronavirus.

Why ‘Business as Usual’ Is Not The Answer For OOH


Adverty CEO Niklas Bakos believes mobile, virtual and augmented reality in the gaming space can help out-of-home (OOH) advertising weather the pandemic.

Why it matters: As per Bakos: “For all its very visible strengths, OOH lacks the targeting capabilities of online, and its relatively basic metrics reflect that fact. Virtual OOH, taking advantage of the boundless imaginary landscapes console, desktop and mobile games offer us, offers both targeting and context within secure, brand-safe environments, while also catching audiences in highly engaged, focused moments.”

Roku’s Scott Rosenberg Breaks Down COVID-19 Viewership Trends: Ad Age Remotely

Ad Age

Senior VP and general manager of platforms at Roku, Scott Rosenberg, says daytime viewing and kids’ content has jumped while movie releases have created a new opportunity in movie rentals.

Why it matters: An increase in daytime viewing makes sense as viewers are looking to start their day with the most up-to-date news about the pandemic. 

How Do You Talk Sustainability And Climate During A Pandemic?


A Futerra survey found that its consumers want it to respond to climate change with the same urgency it has responded to the coronavirus. In addition, respondents said they want brands in general to talk about recycling and climate change during the pandemic.

Why it matters: The key to talking about sustainability during a pandemic is to avoid blaming humans, offer advice and practical actions on living sustainably and share creative stories of how people around the world are making a difference.

Glow At Home: Beauty Industry Remakes Product Pitches In The Age Of Coronavirus


Beauty brands are redirecting pitches to show how their products can be used while social distancing, with the pivot most noticeable on social media campaigns, where companies can move more quickly than with television.

Why it matters: With nowhere to go and no one but co-workers to see on Zoom, consumers need to be reminded why beauty products are still relevant amid coronavirus.

Post-Pandemic, Will Consumers Really Remember How Brands Behaved During Lockdown?

The Drum

In an Edelman report, 65 percent of people said the way a company responded to the coronavirus crisis would impact the likelihood of them buying its products in the future. Leaders like Weatherspoon’s Tim Martin and Virgin Atlantic’s Sir Richard Branson have recently come under fire for playing down the risk of the virus’s spread and for asking staff to take unpaid leave, respectively.

Why it matters: Rob Sellers, chief growth officer at ad agency Grey London thinks the market has short memories and whether consumer attitudes toward brands have any bearing on the future success of these businesses will be deteremined on a case-by-case basis.

Lowe’s Knows You’ve Gotten To Know Your Home Really Well


Lowe’s is launching a campaign during ESPN’s broadcast of the NFL Draft to highlight its community outreach and individual employees amid coronavirus as well as its work during previous natural disasters.

Why it matters: Lowe’s, a presenting sponsor of the NFL Draft, could stand to gain brand awareness with a timely, cause-driven campaign.

DTC—Throw Away (Almost) Everything You Know

The DTC companies thriving in the current climate can inform a new DTC brand playbook focused around operational changes and a serious rethinking of acquisition strategies.

Why it matters: Challenges were already stacking up against the DTC model even before the coronavirus crisis.

H&M And Gucci Top List Of Most Transparent Brands In Mainstream And Luxury Fashion

“Fashion Revolution’s 2020 Fashion Transparency Index ranks the world’s 250 largest apparel brands and retailers based on how much information they share about their supply chains, environmental practices and social commitments.”

Why it matters: With coronavirus exacerbating the structural weaknesses of the global fashion supply chain and highlighting the plight of vulnerable workers, consumers are demanding more transparency as part of sustainability concerns. In fact, some brands have “invoked the ‘force majeure’ clause to free them of their contractual responsibility to pay suppliers.”

Why Business Is Booming For Mobile Game Publishers Despite The Downturn

“Players are playing more than ever, ad inventory in mobile games is a bargain right now, acquiring users is way less expensive than it’s been in years and the monetization train is chugging for the mobile game ecosystem.”

Why it matters: All signs point to it being a wise choice to increase mobile ad spend for Q2.

EMarketer: Digital Video Will Take A Hit In The US But Could Still Grow Through The Crisis


According to eMarketer, digital video ad spend in the US could potentially grow 7.8 percent in the first half of 2020 to $17 billion. Or, it may only reach $15 billion, which would represent a 5.2 percent drop from 2019.

Why it matters: The researcher’s previous forecast predicted that digital video ad spend would grow 26 percent in 2020. The potential drop won’t necessarily translate to a cut in spending, however, as digital video offers a good brand opportunity for marketers that don’t have anything to sell right now.

YouTube Takes Criticism After Shaking Up Measurement Program


YouTube added a variety of new companies to its roster of approved vendors but also excluded longtime partner OpenSlate after it refused to sign a contract that would limit what it can and can’t report to its clients. OpenSlate clients include Nestle, GroupM and Procter & Gamble.

Why it matters: OpenSlate claims the new restrictions set forth by YouTube’s Measurement Program defeat the program’s intended purpose, to ensure ads are running in suitable environments.

How The Covid-19 Pet Ownership Boom Has Impacted Pet Brands


Since officials announced stay-at-home orders, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement reported a drop in animal intakes and surrenders at rescues. 

Why it matters: BarkBox saw a year-over-year increase in its subscription business this March. Chewy hired between 6,000 and 10,000 new employees to meet higher demand amid coronavirus and expects first quarter sales in 2020 of about $1.5 billion, a 36 percent growth from Q1 of 2019. Watch time and views on The Dodo’s YouTube grew more than 170 percent and 162 percent, respectively.

After COVID, What Behavior Changes Will Stick?


Stephen Wunker predicts that post-coronavirus, we’ll be forced to evaluate the benefits of new approaches that theoretical consideration could never illuminate, reversion to the old status quo may be slow, if it occurs at all, and the viability of working from home will have improved.

Why it matters:While it has had a terrible overall impact, COVID has been the great Inertia Breaker.”