CMO Council: The Search For Brand Safety Is Frustrating Marketers

In a digital age where programmatic advertising is the norm and consumers are one ad away from a boycott, marketers are feeling the heat to secure brand safety.

The CMO Council has released a new report, “Brand Protection from Digital Content Infection,” that examines a loss of trust among marketers and the digital advertising space.

When the world’s largest advertising platforms—Google and Facebook—are in the news issuing refunds or fixing embarrassing algorithms, 50 percent of marketers are now analyzing contracts and setting their own guidelines.

“There is a ton of frustration out there right now,” Liz Miller, SVP of marketing for The CMO Council told AListDaily. “I think marketers are just tired of compromising with the customer experience because that’s how they’re defining advertising now.”

Miller recalled a time some 25 years ago when marketers and publishers had detailed conversations about where ads would be placed and how many people would see it. She likened the dawn of programmatic ad spend as a new frontier where marketers had to learn as they go.

“When we started in the Wild West of programmatic and digital, we allowed the platforms and the systems [to] define our customer experiences. Now in the age of the customer where the customer is actively defining where their journey starts and stops and which path it will take, we as marketers can’t afford to allow the platforms to define where it sits in the [customer] journey—we have to define that.”

Of the marketers engaged in programmatic advertising buying, 52 percent are focused on risk and reputation management across ads placed on social media sites. Seventy-two percent of CMOs are facing pressure from their bosses to secure brand trust, the report found, especially when it comes to where ads are appearing.

While 78 percent of respondents say the top negative impact of bad digital ad placement is that it hurts brand reputation, 67 percent believe that adjacency has undermined brand qualities and values. Half say that it has impacted brand affinity.

Surprisingly, only 34 percent of respondents are worried that a negative ad will alienate core consumers. When The CMO Council surveyed consumers, however, 88 percent said that they would think differently about a brand or would stop doing business with it after a negative brand association.

“Negative” is completely objective, however—aside from some obviously offending topics, defining what constitutes a safe brand association will be up to the marketer.

When it came to ensuring that advertising was in a safe place on the web, the CMO Council study found that 67 percent of marketers believe that it is the agency and the buyer’s responsibility to keep their brands safe.”

Fifty-percent of marketers hold the digital ad networks and 49 percent hold digital media channels themselves responsible for securing brand safety and adjacency, The CMO Council found.

“It’s really going to put a lot of added pressure on the agency to ask those hard questions both from the publisher of the network, but also the marketer,” said Miller. “I think we all know in this dynamic that sometimes we marketers—when we go to the agency—don’t give the full strategy. We’re not giving them the guidelines or overlying strategy. We’re not answering the questions of who we want to be associated with and who we [don’t].

“I think what you’re seeing is more and more questions being asked and frankly, more pressure being put on the agencies. So my prediction would be that the agencies are going to have a really rough year.”

Chinese Comic Books Infiltrate North American Market

Tapas Media and Tencent Animation and Comics (Tencent AC) are looking to reach English-speaking consumers by bringing a library of popular Asian franchises into the North American market.

The indie book and digital comic platform is partnering with Tencent AC to take advantage of the United States’ $1.08 billion comics market and $28 billion book market by distributing a series of comics with crossover appeal and potential, including titles like Fox Spirit Matchmaker, Book of Yaoguai, Cupid’s Chocolate-ing, Jack Of All Trades and Zombie Brother.

Chang Kim, CEO of Tapas Media, told AListDaily the North American market is starving for unique stories and content that will resonate with them.

“One only needs to look at the current content war being waged by some of the largest companies in the US to see how true that is. Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google—they’re all focusing significant resources and effort toward either creating or acquiring new and original content, and they’re doing it at a blistering pace and cost,” Kim said. “Fortunately for Tapas, most of the focus in those battles are centered around video. We play the game much closer to where the seeds of the next generation of great stories will actually come from—and that is with indie and professional writers and comic creators.”

Kim says his San Francisco-based brand partnered with Tencent AC because of its wide reach in games, films, music, social networks, esports and of course, animation and comics. The global content powerhouse is deemed as a reliable partner because of its significant resources and global vision.

“We work closely with many different global content partners and we value each and every one of those relationships,” Kim continued. “However, it’s natural that some partners will have more resources to devote to international expansion than others. So, with that in mind, one of our goals with Tapas is to act as a gateway through which international content creators can connect to Western readers. Once we bring partners through that gateway, we will work closely with them to provide opportunities where they can build their brand and increase their market share in the West.”

Zou Zhengyu, general manager of animation and comics for Tencent AC, said that Tapas Media is one of the conglomerate’s most important overseas partnerships, and that the deal will be “key in helping to connect the global marketplace to the freshest and most popular comic IP from China’s growing content industry.”

The titles, officially rolling out this month through the Tapas App, were chosen as ideal flagship candidates after both parties closely reviewed Tencent AC’s comic library and considered comics with crossover potential that had great art, a universal theme and story arc that would translate well across borders, in addition to already being a hit in China.

Furthermore, Tapas, which has over two million users who have read over two billion pages of content since being founded in 2012, also has plans to expand from self-publishing comics to more premium content.

“While it may seem like Tapas is only more recently expanding into premium content, it’s actually something that has been core to what we’ve set out to achieve since day one. Our vision is ultimately about bringing those two sources together under one platform,” Kim says. “On one hand, we will always stay true to providing a stage that can lead to financial support for indie creators, and on the other, we will continually search the globe for the best premium stories we can find, whether they come from a small studio in Malaysia or a top US publisher. That’s our vision.”

To date, Tapas has published more than 23,000 creators. Kim says it was the perfect time for the global comics platform to localize and distribute the franchises.

“There is major disruption taking place in how content for Western audiences is being created and distributed,” Kim explained. “Relatively new media companies are allocating billions of dollars for the creation of content because the traditional channels are crumbling under their own weight of risk aversion and antiquated production methodologies.”

Netflix, for one, is spending $6 billion on original content with no stop in sight and straddling the strategy with $1 billion in marketing. Kim says consumer tastes are moving too fast for the traditional channels to keep up.

“The minute they think they have something, something new is already taking its place,” he says. “But again, most of this taking place in the realm of video, such as video-on-demand services. For novels and comics, Tapas is really the only truly disruptive force. So, whether or not the industry is ready for it, we do think the readers are. And at the end of the day, that’s what really counts.”

Magid On The Rise And Future Of Core Esports Viewership

Esports awareness and viewership are on the rise—up 20 percent since 2013—according to Magid Associates, a media consulting and research company. Core esports viewership is increasing at an even higher rate, says Magid, and it shows no sign of stopping.

Core esports viewers are defined as those who watch streamed esports content at least once a week.

Mike Vorhaus, an executive of Magid Associates, attributes this “hot trend” to the wide use of competitive gaming in pop culture, but also to the fact that esports content doesn’t necessarily require one’s undivided attention.

“I think in terms of watching [esports] on a computer, phone or digital device, it’s good multitasking content,” Vorhaus told AListDaily. “You can watch someone playing League [of Legends] or Overwatch or whatever it is they’re playing and you can be doing something else.”

Multitasking could explain how the average core esports viewer finds time to watch 6.7 hours of live esports content in a typical week, and another six hours watching highlights or recordings of esports content.

Over the past six months, 52 percent of core esports viewers have watched more esports content than the previous six months, according to data made available to AListDaily. In addition, nearly half (46 percent) of those surveyed expect to spend even more time watching esports over the next six months.

Esports viewership skews 73 percent male, but Vorhaus sees more women getting involved.

Hearthstone is well known [as a game] that women have engaged with. League of Legends is actually not that all-male either. I think these are games that are more story oriented, more fantasy oriented or somewhat more casual like Overwatch,” explained Vorhaus. “I think you’re finding those [games] played by women because they’re accessible, they’re not violent, their friends are playing it, etc.—and so it makes them somewhat interested in watching the professionals play these games on Twitch or over a stream. In all those cases, we see roughly a third of the fans are women.”

Overall, the most dedicated fans were found to be more educated and earn more money. According to the company’s findings, 65 percent of core esports viewers have graduated from college, compared to 44 percent of all esports viewers. Fifty-seven percent of core esports viewers also make more than $75,000 a year, compared to 49 percent of all esports viewers, Magid notes.

One thing about fans is consistent, however—over a quarter of viewers don’t want their viewing interrupted. Twenty-eight percent would prefer to purchase an ad-free subscription service rather than deal with an ad-supported platform.

“The data shows that people are willing to pay cash for this stuff,” said Vorhaus, recommending that marketers offer a subscription and/or an a la carte purchase of the stream or competition. Additionally, he said he would recommend putting time and effort into sponsored content that is creative. “Not just terrible, boring and intrusive 60-second TV ads.”

Vorhaus predicts that as the esports industry continues to grow, so will the value of its professional players.

“I don’t think it’s out of the question that three-to-five years from now, some of these [esports] teams could be selling for hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “I think the value of these teams is going to skyrocket [and] I think people are going to be surprised at how valuable these teams are.”

For Beauty Brands, Augmented Reality Is A Growing Part Of The Company Makeup

Beauty brands are merging the real world with the digital one at an increasingly higher rate, and activations through emerging tech such as augmented reality are turning into pivotal players in helping legacy makeup brands reach millennials and Gen Z.

Looking for a new concealer, foundation or shade of lipstick? Rather than trudging into a brick-and-mortar and making it a half-day event to find a new product that’s going to add more color to your life than an Instagram filter, tech-savvy consumers are taking to mobile for beauty on their own terms.

As makeup mavens take to tech and mobile, marketers are looking to tap into the modern millennial mindshare with their omnichannel strategies.

“Today’s consumers expect their shopping experience to be fun, effortless and tailor-made to meet their momentary aspirations, moods and desires—wherever they are,” Esohe Omoruyi, senior vice president of global open innovation and digital services for L’Oréal, told AListDaily. “Services are an important part of this modern consumer journey—and it’s especially true for beauty, where personalization, advice and the possibility to try products is key.”

Earlier this summer, L’Oréal integrated its worldwide makeup brands and collections into YouCam Makeup, an AR beauty app. The move builds on the 2014 launch of their own virtual makeup app, Makeup Genius from L’Oréal Paris, which has been downloaded 20 million times worldwide.

Omoruyi says L’Oréal’s omnichannel approach opens opportunities to develop stronger relationships with consumers at every touchpoint, learn more about their aspirations and grow their business both online and offline.

L’Oréal is the number one beauty brand in the US and accounts for roughly 19 percent of America’s $56.8 billion dollar industry, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute.

“This strategy allows integrating L’Oréal products and brands into the daily routine of our consumers—it can be a chatbot helping you selecting a beauty gift for your friend, a hairbrush that can recommend products based on the texture of your hair, a virtual makeup experience or a personalized foundation tailor-made for you at our counter,” Omoruyi says. “Technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence and augmented reality allow us to be where consumers expect us to be—online and offline—and to offer them personalized services which enhance their daily beauty experience.”

True-to-life, virtual try-ons offer convenience and eliminate the mess of testing physical products in stores. To further find out how millennials interact with virtual events as part of their digital lifestyle, L’Oréal went to the Cannes Film Festival with YouCam earlier this year to bring the 64 best film-inspired looks. They paired the activation with livestreamed tutorials.

“These new kinds of highly interactive events are only possible because of the most advanced AR technology,” Alice H. Chang, CEO of Perfect Corp., the parent company of YouCam Makeup, told AListDaily. “Engagement in this type of content is dramatically higher than any normal post or video coverage from Cannes, as users feel more personally involved by trying red carpet looks on their own selfies. We’re encouraged by how much users enjoyed participating.”

Chang says AR takes the convenience and ease of online shopping—quick searching, easily narrowing down product choices—and brings it to the experiential physical space—actually touching and feeling the product.

“AR connects the dots to create a very unique experience that cannot be replaced by any other channel,” she says. “Try-before-you-buy gives customers greater confidence in the purchase decisions. The impact of AR try-outs on cosmetic sales is real.”

According to an independent consumer report conducted by YouCam in July, mobile AR try-ons drive two times more conversions for beauty products, and Gen Z users are 10 times more likely to purchase beauty products after using YouCam Makeup.

“With 73 percent of today’s customers shopping both online and offline, we know there are benefits to shopping in each channel,” Chang says. “Retailers can take advantage of AR technologies to combine what consumers love best about the physical world with the endless possibilities of the digital world. AR and 3D technologies have the potential to bring the best of the digital world into the physical retailer.”

Retailers like Sephora are trying to bridge the gap between digital and physical commerce by driving personal connections and enhancing the consumer shopping experience.

Sephora Studio, a digital-and-mobile-first, small-format concept store launched last month, and it is all about high-tech beauty upgrades. The flagship Boston location is designed to be a larger part of the upmarket brand’s omnichannel strategy.

Jennifer Halpainy, Sephora Studio’s store director, told AListDaily that the studio supplements its existing store strategy by enhancing the shopping experience.

“The studio is uniquely differentiated from the rest of the fleet because of its emphasis on driving personal connections,” Halpainy says. “This is fostered not only through the small format and easy access clients have to the beauty advisors, but also through the new digital features that will allow for customized recommendations—both self-guided by the client using the many digital tools and with the help of the pros.”

One of the intended store-stopping showcases Sephora is banking on is the Digital Makeover Guide, which captures a person’s product, application and look preferences from a makeover.

“Sephora is continuously refining in-store, online and mobile experiences to ensure they are offering something that does not exist anywhere else for the consumer,” Halpainy says. “The studio is an example of that. The design re-imagines what their store looks like, where it fits into their omnichannel ecosystem and the experience they’re offering clients. We do not approach digital for the sake of adding new, cool technology. We use it to help the client. The studio integrates a variety of digital tools to optimize client experiences before, during and after their store visit.”

In addition to the physical store, Sephora is looking to secure consumer affection socially with the launch of Beauty Insider Community, a loyalty member-only mobile and online platform that launched last month to drive a deeper connection between their beauty insiders. The digital endeavor is designed to serve as a unified communal destination for the brand’s staunch supporters.

Bringing consumers true value means continuously improving the customer experience, Chang says.

“The virtual experience democratizes beauty, making brand products available for all consumers to experience products instantly,” Chang says. “It should be as effortless as looking in the mirror or taking a picture.”

Ikea Capitalizes On AR Shopping Trend With New App

Ikea has launched Ikea Place, an augmented reality application that lets customers see what furniture will look like in their home or office before they purchase it. The iPhone app was designed by the global retailer using Apple’s new ARKit technology, and all of the products in Ikea Place are 3D and true-to-scale.

Michael Valdsgaard, Ikea’s head of digital transformation, told AListDaily the app automatically scales products—based on room dimensions—with 98 percent accuracy. The AR technology is so precise that customers will be able to see the texture of the fabric, as well as how light and shadows are rendered on furnishings.

“Ikea Place helps us continue a commitment [to democratic design] in new ways,” Valdsgaard said. “The online experience partly addresses accessibility, but it still struggles to close the gap completely. Ikea Place closes the gap between imagination and reality to let everyone, everywhere, confidently experience how good design transforms their everyday lives.”

In addition to digitally placing Ikea products in a room, the app allows people to capture the setting in the app and share as an image or video with friends. They can then purchase the products directly through their local Ikea website.

Ikea Place

More than 2,000 Ikea products will be available in the app at launch, and in the future, the app will play a key role in the launch of new product lines. The products in the first release will focus on larger furniture products for the living room: sofas, armchairs, footstools, coffee tables and top-selling storage solutions that can be placed on the floor.

Ikea operates 389 stores around the world and caters to over 783 million customers, according to Statista.

The retailer built the app internally using Apple’s AR technology. Valdsgaard said Ikea and Apple are now taking the next step together to further develop AR.

“It is too early to talk about future app functions, but the purpose of Ikea Place is to give people choices,” Valdsgaard explained. “We see Ikea Place as a step on the journey to purchase, allowing people to experiment with our products in their space before they make a purchase, whether it’s online or in a store.”

Through internal customer research, Ikea found that nearly 40 percent of people have put off home furnishing purchases because of an imagination gap. AR virtually places furniture in any room to close that gap, and brands like Wayfair are leveraging the opportunities AR presents.

Many Ikea customers got their first taste of AR through Niantic’s Pokémon GO mobile game sensation last year. Apple’s unveiling of ARKit a few months ago at its worldwide developer conference further promoted the technology. And now Ikea is marketing the new app to its global audience.

“While there have been some recent successes in AR applications, we believe that this offers the greatest opportunity to cement adoption,” Valdsgaard said. “With Apple’s hardware and software platforms providing the stability needed to create a great AR experience, they have solved critical technical hurdles that help make AR a more accessible tool for real-life decision making.”

Valdsgaard said the Ikea Place app marks an important milestone in Ikea’s digital transformation journey.

“By taking away the uncertainty that can accompany furniture buying, Ikea Place will allow people to make confident decisions about how they transform their home,” Valdsgaard added. “We believe it will change furniture retail forever.”

Ikea has been selling furniture since 1943. The company has emerged in recent years as the most valuable furniture retailer brand in the world, according to BrandZ’s Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2016. Valued at $18 billion, Ikea ranks as the fifth most valuable retailer in the world, according to Statista.

Now the company’s Scandinavian design has a new marketing angle to target the millennial and younger customer base looking for affordable yet stylish furniture, according to Valdsgaard.

Ikea also taps into the massive marketing push by Apple for its new iPhone 8 and iPhone X smartphones, which will support AR with even deeper technology integration.

The Top 25 Game Companies By Revenue So Far In 2017

Newzoo has revealed the top 25 public companies by game revenues and Tencent still reigns supreme for the first half of 2017. At $7.4 billion, the Chinese giant experienced impressive 50 percent growth year-over-year. This figure doesn’t even include the additional $1 billion or so from Supercell—which, despite being acquired by Tencent, remains a private company.

“Tencent’s robust growth was driven by the popularity of Honor of Kings, with 200 million players in China alone,” Newzoo said alongside its findings. “Tencent is looking to sustain its growth in several ways—the release of Honor of Kings in Europe and the United States, the launch of a WeGame platform that will compete with mobile app stores in China and the launch of a free-to-play version of Rocket League in China.”

Coming in at number two in the world is Sony with $4.3 billion in game revenue, growing 25 percent over the same period last year. Newzoo attributes this growth to an increase in sales through the PlayStation Network.

The top 25 public companies generated $41.4 billion in the first half of the year—an increase of 20 percent compared to the same period in 2016. A majority of this game revenue was generated by the top 10 companies, increasing 24 percent year over year to $31.4 billion. Mobile gaming accounted for 42 percent of all revenues generated by the top 10 companies, up from 40 percent in the first half of 2016.

The popularity of the Nintendo Switch has helped rejuvenate the brand, resulting in a 49 percent revenue increase and rising four spots in the top 25 list over last year. Newzoo predicts that on its current revenue trajectory, Nintendo could very well make the top 10 by the end of 2017.

Take-Two Interactive rose three spots on the list over the same period last year. The continued success of GTA V along with the revenues gained from GTA Online earned the company 44 percent growth in revenue.

Korean mobile game company Netmarble comes in at number 12, after completing a successful IPO in May. The company reported a revenue growth of 81 percent compared to the first half 2016, but the celebration may be short-lived.

“Netmarble benefitted from the release of Lineage2 Revolution in Q1, but now that Lineage’s IP owner NCSoft has released its own mobile version of the game (Lineage M), we expect Netmarble’s revenue growth to slow down significantly,” said Newzoo.

Sega regained momentum during the first half of 2017 but ultimately fell just short of the top 25 list. Zynga also fell short by a small margin, despite a strong second quarter thanks to its focus on mobile games.

The only company in the top 25 to report a double-digit decline in earnings was GungHo Entertainment. According to Newzoo, GungHo lost 20 percent of its revenues as it struggled to replicate the success of Puzzles & Dragons.

Jack In The Box’s Crave Van Satisfies Consumers’ On-Demand Lifestyle

Jack in the Box is continuing its push for delivery with the video game Crave Crasher.

For a limited time, anyone older than the age of 13 can jump behind the virtual wheel of the quick service restaurant’s Crave Van and deliver one of three new Munchie Mash+Ups (Wakey Bakey Hash, H’angry Chicken Hash and the Jack’d Jalapeño Hash) to whoever is craving it. In addition to the three missions—one for each featured meal—players can sign up for special offers through email so they can try the new menu items themselves.

“By gamifying our recent Crave Van ads with the launch of the Crave Crasher mobile and PC game, we hope to bring to life our extreme, ‘if you crave it, we serve it’ crave-crashing mentality which is characteristic of our core millennial audience—who’ve undoubtedly adopted an on-demand lifestyle,” Adrienne Ingoldt, marketing communications director for Jack in the Box, told AlistDaily.

The Crave Van is Jack in the Box’s comical way of educating hungry consumers about its recent partnership with DoorDash. Completing missions in Crave Crasher is harder than it looks. Luckily, ordering food from Jack in the Box is much easier. The entire menu is now available in more than 830 locations across 229 US cities as late as 1 a.m. (and 3 a.m. in select locations).

“The inspiration for Crave Crasher stemmed from the retro look and feel of our Crave Van advertising campaign,” said Ingoldt. “The humorous campaign reinforces the brand’s new platform by highlighting its reputation for having a menu with unique and unexpected products available around the clock. The campaign incorporates this brand truth—delivering on customers’ cravings no matter what they are and when the craving strikes—into a series of funny situations that show just how far Jack is willing to go to give customers what they want.”

Jack in the Box has been testing DoorDash delivery robots in San Francisco to explore even more ways to deliver.

Consumers were first introduced to Jack’s dedicated “Crave Squad” in television spots this April, aimed at both millennials and gamers. The company hopes that playing the new video game will inspire consumers to try delivery for themselves, but also have fun.

“With his brand new Crave Van, Jack crashes through any obstacle to satisfy cravings all over the world. No obstacle—not a pile of neatly stacked boxes, not a solid wall, not even the laws of physics—will stop the Crave Van from reaching a craving,” said Ingoldt. “This game is an opportunity for fans to join the Crave Squad and sit side-by-side with Jack as he crashes cravings. They can engage with the brand directly, by means of bringing the new Munchie Mash+Ups directly to hungry, 8-bit fans in need.”

In its 2017 outlook for food service, analysis firm NPD noted that price and convenience are changing the restaurant landscape.

“The importance of millennials and Gen Z will accelerate the industry’s need to be more innovative, as these cohorts are always looking for that ‘experience’—something new and different,” said NPD. “Without innovation, operators will fall out of the consideration set and risk being overlooked by a large portion of the US population.”

Jack in the Box has embraced the challenge through influencer partnerships, VR ads and infusing a sense of humor into the political landscape by “leaking” secret files from Jack.

Dell Enters VR Hardware Space With ‘Visor’ Headset

Dell is forging its own path in the virtual and mixed reality world with Monday’s announcement of the Dell Visor.

The compact device is scheduled to launch in October and will cost $349.99 for the headset alone. Dual motion controllers can be added for $99.99 or users can buy everything together as a bundled package for $449.99. It will also be offered as a featured add-on accessory for Dell’s Inspiron Gaming and XPS brands.

“Whether through Inspiron Gaming, XPS or Alienware, we will have a say in VR. At Dell, we believe that VR has applications that are limitless,” Ray Watkins, technical marketing manager for Dell Gaming, told AListDaily. “So, instead of being told how and when it’s going to happen, we will help set that pace. We have a lot of people that we work with on a consistent basis and we want to make sure that we’re giving them a device that they can use to help us bring to more applications to market.”

Watkins describes the Visor as an entry-level virtual and mixed reality device costs less than an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, and even though it might bear some aesthetic similarities to the Samsung Gear VR, the Dell Visor is not a mobile device. It connects to Windows PCs using a single cable and features front-facing cameras for augmented and mixed reality capabilities. The cameras are also used to track head movement and the two Bluetooth VR controllers, which removes the need for external sensors that other VR headsets use. Furthermore, the front visor can be flipped up, so users can switch between the real and virtual world without having to take the headset off.

Ray Watkins, technical marketing manager for Dell Gaming

According to Watkins, the Visor is for “folks who are interested in VR but want to get in at a lower price point. The companies that are currently pushing VR in the PC space—HTC and Oculus—both have products that are fairly expensive. We know through all of our market research and data that there’s definitely a sub-$400 audience, and that’s who we want to bring in to VR for the first time.”

Watkins said that the company will be taking advantage of its traditional vehicles to get the word out about the Dell Visor, including reviews, marketing activities and online advertising. The primary focus will be on gaming, and the device will be offered as an optional accessory alongside keyboards, mice and monitors for computer orders. Although there’s no word yet on whether there will be bundled pricing for systems, Watkins believes that, judging from Dell’s past practices, it is a strong possibility.

“Gameplay is obviously on the forefront because games drive most of the innovation in the consumer space,” said Watkins, discussing how the Visor will be presented to consumers. “Beyond that, there are abilities for education by having virtual classrooms, social media through virtual meeting rooms. There are a ton of possibilities for VR, and gaming and social will be the two pillars of the consumer space.”

Dell is partnered with Microsoft to host Visor-supported software exclusively on the Windows Store as opposed to selling software directly on the Dell site or through platforms such as Steam. Many of the launch titles are ported over from other platforms and they include Superhot and the zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine, with a possibility for HoloLens applications to be brought over, too.

Despite its passing resemblance to a Gear VR, Watkins pointed out that the Dell Visor is a truly a premium device.

“I don’t consider the Gear VR to be a real VR device,” he said. “It’s basically 360-degree video that’s mobile. Where I find Gear VR to be a huge benefit is on flights, where folks can watch Netflix movies and block out the outside world. We fit more in the premium space. We don’t have the same tracking abilities as the HTC or Oculus because of the way the sensors work, so the Visor sits between PlayStation VR and Oculus/HTC, but we’ll close that gap over time.”

Despite having a strong gaming focus, the Dell Visor will not be related to the Alienware brand.

“That comes down to the broadness of the Visor,” Watkins explained. “When we choose things for the Alienware brand, it specifically targets gamers and uses premium materials. By doing that, we would drive costs up way too high. By putting it into the Dell brand, it aligns with Inspiron Gaming and it can work with Dell’s general consumer products so we can all get behind it and support it. Anything you throw an Alienware moniker on is going to be gaming first, and that’s not what we want the Visor to be. We want it to be for all.”

Watkins also shared what VR means to the Dell brand.

“Dell and Alienware, as brands, always push gaming to the forefront,” said Watkins. “VR, unlike 3D TVs and glasses, is not a fad. It’s here to stay. So, instead of sitting back and allowing HTC, Oculus and other partners dictate to us how we do our own business, we’ll be able to get in and help drive innovations from our own point of view.”


Colonel Sanders Teaches KFC Cooking ‘The Hard Way’ Using VR

Colonel Sanders, who lives on in the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) brand, has been showing up in some of the most unusual places. Not only has he been featured in the pages of DC Comics, but he has appeared in “Tender Wings of Desire,” a Mother’s Day romance novel, a WWE activation called “Sandoslam” and numerous commercials featuring comedians such as Billy Zane, Rob Lowe, Jim Gaffigan, Rob Riggle and Norm Macdonald.

Now the Colonel is coming to virtual reality in a training experience called The Hard Way.

Inspired by the Colonel quote, “A real meal is a meal made the hard way,” the VR experience combines an abbreviated training program with a lighthearted escape room theme, all tied together using the humorous voice of the Colonel, which guides you through the five-step process of making their original recipe chicken by hand.

Press and KFC fans were invited to try out the 10-minute experience at a debut event in New York City on Wednesday. There, they had to don aprons, hairnets and plastic gloves before putting on Oculus Rift headsets.

The experience locks you in a virtual room while the voice of the Colonel guides players through the process of making fried chicken by hand. Equipment and ingredients come popping in through hidden panels and the task is accompanied by humorous moments and Easter eggs for those who follow KFC’s history.

For example, laser beams fire from the Colonel’s portrait to vaporize dropped chicken pieces, and as a robotic assistant appears, the Colonel remarks about how silly it would be for robots to make chicken—a nod to how human cooks make the food, despite how select KFC drive-thrus were once outfitted with a robotic Colonel Sanders that repeated everything the drive-thru operator said with the Colonel’s Southern accent. It then concludes in a home kitchen, where an old KFC commercial featuring the Colonel plays on a CRT television.

Although The Hard Way could easily work as a sponsored VR game to promote the restaurant brand, KFC intends to use it to supplement its training program.

George Felix, director of advertising for KFC US

“The thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that we have cooks in every single one of our KFCs that are hand-preparing chicken every day,” George Felix, director of advertising for KFC US, told AListDaily at the showcase event. “There’s a robust training called Chicken Master Certification that they all go through, and that’s a process that we take a lot of pride in because it’s different from a lot of quick serve restaurants. VR gives you an immersive platform where you can start to understand that process, interact with it, and [it can] bring a sense of pride to our team members while supplementing our training in an interesting way.”

Felix said that the Colonel believed in unrelenting quality control and that there was never room for shortcuts. The process itself hasn’t changed that much since it was created 70 years ago, and the VR experience takes users through the core five steps of inspecting the chicken, rinsing it, breading it by hand, racking it and then pressure frying it for that signature KFC taste.

And who better than the Colonel to teach someone how to make fried chicken the right way?

“Honestly, the best way to teach someone how to make the original recipe would be from the Colonel himself,” said Felix. “So, through the magic of technology, we found what we think is a fun way to bring the Colonel into the process to start instilling those values. The impetus was that everything we do has the Colonel at the core of it, so we wanted to bring him into this process using VR.”

However, the voice of the Colonel is not performed by any of the celebrity actors that have portrayed him in past commercials.

“As you know, we’ve had a number of different celebrities that have played the role of Colonel Sanders over the last couple of years in our advertising, and we plan on continuing that,” said Felix. “Whereas The Hard Way VR training simulation is something we anticipate being around for a long period of time. So, we didn’t want to be tied to one particular Colonel in a moment in time—rather, we wanted to have a timeless Colonel voice.”

As for whether The Hard Way will ever become commercially available, Felix said, “It’s currently focused on trainees and internal use. As far as the future goes, we may look at a broader consumer release. But in the short term, we’re looking for this to be a training tool for our team members.”

To that end, KFC will be looking for ways to integrate the VR experience into existing training platforms. Felix said that general managers come to the KFC headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky on a quarterly basis and franchisees periodically have meetings around the country, so that’s where KFC will start looking for opportunities to bring VR into the training curriculum.

This is KFC’s first venture into VR, and even though its purpose is for training, there’s no telling where it might lead. It might attract new talent to come work at the restaurants. Furthermore, once word of the VR training simulator gets out, it could bring new customers to its restaurants.

“I think that not only showing a 70-year-old brand, but a brand that’s relevant in 2017, is something we’re always striving for. Whether it’s bringing in new customers or attracting high caliber team members who want to work at KFC, we want to be a brand that resonates with younger people today.”

Felix also explained how a technology like VR fit with a 70-year-old brand that came into existence long before computers were even an idea.

“I think that because we’re a 70-year-old brand, we have to find ways to continue making our brand relevant to a new generation of people who didn’t necessarily grow up with it,” Felix explained. “So, we’re always looking at ways to modernize the brand and bring the Colonel in using new and interesting ways. Whether it’s integrating the Colonel into DC Comics or bringing him into a VR experience, we feel that that’s exactly what he would have done if he were around in 2017.”

Felix then mused about whether the VR experience opened an opportunity for the Colonel to appear in a video game.

“You’ll have to stay tuned,” said Felix. “I think anything is possible and we’re always looking for ways to bring the Colonel to new and unexpected places.”

July Digital Game Sales Hit $7.8 Billion; SNES Classic Will “Go Gangbusters”

The worldwide digital video games market grew 16 percent year-over-year in July to $7.8 billion, according to SuperData’s monthly report. Free-to-play MMOs experienced the most growth in terms of genre, at 29 percent.

Mobile and console segments experienced significant growth last month as well—up 17 and 21 percent, respectively while premium PC grew only few eight percent year-over-year.

GTA V Steals The Spotlight

Digital growth in the US was led by the console segment, thanks to a 20 percent rise in console digital revenue year-over-year and an 18 percent increase in free-to-play PC revenue. Now that the Xbox One X and SNES Classic Edition consoles are available for pre-order, the global console segment is expected to remain on an upward trajectory.

“I have no doubt that the SNES Classic will go gangbusters,” SuperData CEO Joost van Dreunen told AListDaily. “It’s really the year of Nintendo in terms of turning both consumer and investor sentiment around. Initial appetite for the Xbox One X appears to be strong, with pre-orders on Amazon currently outperforming PS4. That’s not to be undervalued given the relatively high price point of the new device.”

In terms of software, Grand Theft Auto V held the number one console spot for July—a position held since June—enjoying the success of its most popular DLC, Gunrunning, released last month. Through its microtransactions model, GTA Online grew significantly year-over-year for the month of July across console and PC, SuperData said, although that it did not outperform its record-breaking numbers in June.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered broke into the console top 10 (at number nine) after having a standalone release on PS4 late in June and releasing late this month on Xbox One.

PUBG Battles For Supremacy

League of Legends (LoL) dominated the top of the PC charts last month, also holding its number one spot from June.

Climbing the ranks is PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), which rose one spot from number seven in June to number six for worldwide digital game revenue in July. The breakout hit sold another 1.6 million digital units last month, pushing total sales over six million, and its user base grew to 4.9 million.

While the popularity of PUBG is fueled by livestreams and competitions—ESL is hosting a tournament at Gamescom this week, for example—van Dreunen warns not to rely too heavily on esports to sell games.

“Esports has proven to be an increasingly important component, especially to digital-only game publishing,” said van Dreunen. “Despite having a positive effect on sales, esports should be regarded as a catalyst rather than a solution to mediocre game design. For games like PUBG and LoL, the competitive circuit has particularly benefitted both firms’ marketing efforts and extended the player lifecycle.”

Roblox achieved record high monthly active users (MAU) on PC, in July. Coming in at number 10 on the PC charts, the game continues its push with a sequential-month gain in MAU. “On the other hand,” SuperData noted, “monthly revenue appears to have temporarily leveled off due to a slight drop in both conversion and ARPPU.”

Gotta Catch . . . Well, More Than Last Month, Anyway

Pokémon GO returned to the top 10, enjoying a boost from their anniversary event. Pokémon GO has grown month-over-month, experiencing its strongest month of the year so far in July. Despite the uptick in revenue, however, this is still lower than the $150+ million generated last July when the game launched.

Honour of Kings held its top spot for mobile revenue, and Fantasy Westward Journey did the same at number two. Coming in at number three, however, is NCSoft’s breakout hit, Lineage M that launched in South Korea June 21. Despite launching less than ten days before the end of the second quarter, Lineage M contributed the majority of NCsoft’s ₩93.7 billion ($83.1 million) mobile game revenue. The fantasy MMO knocked Clash of Kings down the charts to number six.