Alphabet’s Ad Revenue Still Unhindered By YouTube Backlash

Google and YouTube parent company Alphabet reported $27.7 billion in ad revenue for the fourth quarter of 2017, despite rising concerns about brand safety. In fact, roughly 85 percent of Alphabet’s earnings for the last quarter came from advertising.

Over the last year, advertisers on YouTube have lashed out against the company for displaying their brands next to extreme or offensive content. YouTube responded by removing certain videos and enacting stricter guidelines for what type of content can be monetized by creators.

During the company’s fourth quarter earnings call, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai assured investors it was working to stop abuse on the platform, and that a few weeks prior it had “announced changes to advertising on YouTube.” Pichai was referring to a new task force of 10,000 employees that will moderate and review videos that could be in violation of YouTube policy. Working alongside machine learning software, the new team will enforce stricter criteria on the channels earning money from ads. YouTube’s newly-enacted changes also restrict monetization to those with at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time in the past 12 months.

Amid struggles to balance the needs of advertisers with users and content creators, Alphabet revenue climbed to an all-time high of $32 billion from $26 billion last year and exceeding analyst predictions. Google’s cost per click (CPC) declined 14 percent during the fourth quarter, which the company attributed to the rising number of searches made on mobile devices.

YouTube isn’t Alphabet’s only brand safety concern—in August, Google issued partial refunds to hundreds of marketers who fell victim to ad fraud. The company dominates the search engine market, but has traditionally been a walled garden, leaving advertisers to hand over their budgets and hope for the best.

In response to growing demands for transparency and fraud protection, Google became TAG Certified Against Fraud last year and is reportedly developing a tool to provide more transparency in the future. Google also joined the “Ads.txt” project developed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau in 2017, which provides a mechanism to enable content owners to declare who is authorized to sell their inventory.

Alphabet remains the largest seller of online advertisements in the world, followed by Facebook. According to eMarketer, Google will account for 42 percent of US market share for digital ads this year.

Google Expands Ad Muting Tools, Letting Users Dodge Retargeting

With the launch of Chrome’s native ad blocker quickly approaching, Google is now expanding its ad muting tools as well. Users can now opt out of retargeted “reminder” ads for specific websites if they choose to.

Google account owners have been able to mute individual ads since 2012, but with this latest update they will be able to silence a website’s reminder ads for 90 days. In its current state, users will only be able to avoid retargeted ads on DoubleClick ads on third-party websites and apps, but Google promises to expand the feature to YouTube, search and Gmail ads in the coming months.

Though this may seem to work against the interest of its advertisers, Google claims this new feature is part of its ever-growing efforts to deliver more relevant ads to its consumers.

“Reminder ads like these can be useful, but if you aren’t shopping for [a website’s products] anymore, then you don’t need a reminder about them,” wrote Jon Krafcik, Google’s group product manager for data privacy and transparency, in an announcement.

Though the advertiser may miss out on occasional impressions, users moved to delve into Google’s ad settings to explicitly opt out of a retargeted ad weren’t a likely conversion to begin with. And since the ads are simply not served in the future (as opposed to blocked outright), the advertiser won’t pay any extra for the increased ad muting.

In addition to letting users mute specific advertising retargeters, Google is expanding its individual ad muting tool, “Mute this Ad.” The feature is now device agnostic, meaning that any ads a user mutes on their phone will likewise stay muted on their desktop, and vice-versa. Additionally, the company plans to expand the tool to more of its ad network.

“Mute this Ad” isn’t just a consumer tool, however. Google acts on its ad muting metrics, promising to remove ads from its network when too many people declare them irrelevant.

“Millions of people use Mute this Ad on a daily basis, and in 2017, we received more than 5 billion pieces of feedback telling us that you mute ads that aren’t relevant,” Krafcik wrote. “We incorporated that feedback by removing 1 million ads from our ad network based on your comments.”

“The momentum we’ve seen with this tool is really encouraging,” he added.

Worldwide Digital Game Sales Reached Nearly $10B In December

Worldwide digital game sales reached nearly $10 billion across console, mobile and PC in December, according to SuperData Research’s monthly digital game sales report highlighting the purchasing trends outside of physical copies sold. Game sales grew 17 percent year-over-year, and revenue for the entire holiday quarter increased 19 percent from 2016.

SuperData Research attributes December growth to an increase in premium PC, console and mobile game purchases.

Nostalgia Wins Big

Call of Duty: WWII had the best quarter of digital unit sales ever for a console title, launching as the number one console game for December.

“This was the right time to return to the series’ original World War II setting,” Carter Rogers, senior analyst at SuperData, told AListDaily. “Gamers were getting tired of each successive entry going further into sci-fi territory, culminating in relatively poor sales (for a Call of Duty game) of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. For longtime fans, Call of Duty: WWII was a nostalgic return to form. For many younger gamers, this was their first WWII shooter, since the last major WWII Call of Duty released in 2008.”

Still Stealing The Spotlight

Grand Theft Auto V set another record month in December, SuperData reported. With the release of its “Doomsday Heist” update, GTA V Online broke its previous revenue record back in June 2017, making it the title’s best month to date for its multiplayer segment. Users reached 22.7 million across console and PC in December—the highest player numbers for the game since 2013.

Player Well-Known

Microsoft launched a port of Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) onto Xbox One consoles in December, and players responded by purchasing over two million digital copies. The game holds the number five spot on PC and number three for digital console sales in December.

PUBG has spawned a popular new genre much in the way that Doom spawned first-person shooters. Inspired and named after the 2000 film Battle Royale, this free-for-all game mode pits massive amounts of players against one another—up to 100, in the case of PUB—and the winner is the last one standing.

Other game publishers are riding the battle royale wave of success, including mobile PUBG clones Knives Out and Rules of Survival—each experiencing successful launches in December.

The biggest competitor to PUBG is currently Epic Games’ Fortnite Battle Royale, which earned $89 million in December. Epic Games’ entry into the Battle Royale arena continues to gain traction with gamers, but at the expense of its massive online battle arena (MOBA) title, Paragon.

Fortnite‘s success will certainly be Paragon‘s loss,” Rogers explained, and also mentioned Epic has moved some staff from Paragon to support Fortnite, as the former made $862,000 in December, while Fortnite earned $89.1 million. “[So] Epic has a good reason for doing this. Paragon has never been able to break into the top tier of MOBAs.”

‘Insidious: The Last Key’ AR Activation Resets Purpose Of ‘Beauty’ App

Augmented reality filters have become a popular method for marketing the latest film releases. To promote Insidious: The Last Key—which opened January 5 and has so far earned over $126.7 million worldwide—Sony Pictures Entertainment used a beauty app a bit differently, making users appear possessed, ghostly or transport them into “The Further,” a dark spirit world from the movie franchise.

The BeautyPlus app is normally used to make users look more appealing. The developer uses facial recognition and AR to “try on” makeup or enhance photos.

The MakeupPlus app overlays a makeup look inspired by the film’s ominous lighting and demonic elements. The look features smoky eye makeup, white contact lenses and bloody lips. The beauty ensemble is finished not with blush, but a pierced throat courtesy of Key Face—a new demon from The Last Key. 

Ironically for a makeup partnership, none of the Insidious beauty filters feature its infamous Lipstick Face demon.

BeautyPlus developer Meitu first partnered with Sony Pictures last fall to promote The Emoji Movie. Three filters inside the BeautyPlus app overlaid a crown of poo emoji, devil horns and a devil emoji or a halo with dueling angel and devil emoji.

“We are continuously working toward expanding on the app’s extensive features and integrating with even more brands to engage with our users,” said Fox Lui, head of international business at Meitu, in a release from the company.

To support the AR campaign, Sony is also working to release a 10-day series of teaser trailers and themed chat stickers.



Starbucks Cashless Payments Will Have Ripple Effect For Brands

When Starbucks announced the launch of its first cashless location, it didn’t just make headlines on the merit of its innovation. The rise of cashless payments has also created a data gold rush for marketers.

“Data is clearly the biggest upside to all these trackable transactions,” said Debby Ruth, senior vice president of global media and entertainment at Magid. “Going cashless really provides the opportunity to get a better understanding of your customers and build relationships, especially if it makes sense with an app.”

Kicking off the program at one of its Seattle locations, Starbucks’ cashless pilot store won’t accept cash for purchases for an unspecified period of time—except for tips.

This tech is coming at the right time. Consumers may still break out the plastic when they want to pay, but swiping is going out of style. PwC predicts that by 2019, there will be over a billion global mobile proximity payment users and that 85 percent of transactions will be near field communication (NFC)-based.

With an app ready to take on the transactions, Starbucks is a good test case scenario for a transition to cashless: Mobile payments comprised 36 percent of the brand’s total US transactions in the third quarter of 2017. Making high-traffic locations cash-free would allow the Seattle-based company to increase this figure.

“It’s a pretty seamless experience from a user perspective,” Ruth said. “[Starbucks is] smart by using all the gaming techniques like setting goals and getting points. Those sorts of advantages really would increase purchase amounts and frequency of purchases.”

Offering cashless transactions through a mobile app also cuts out the middleman, allowing brands direct access to valuable marketing data.

“They don’t have to rely on the credit card companies or banks because they’re in between,” said Ruth, adding that apps may not be for everyone. “Even if you’re reliant on the credit card companies, I think it’s more important than ever when you’re negotiating to use their services to include data in that.”

Total card payments in the US grew from $5.65 trillion in 2015 to $5.98 trillion in 2016, according to the 2017 Federal Reserve Payments Study. The annual report found that US consumers are not only using cards more but are making larger purchases when they buy. Total card payments increased at an annual rate of 7.4 percent by number and 5.8 percent by value from 2015 to 2016.

Cashless payments offer convenience to consumers and safety for businesses against would-be robbers, but digital transactions are not without risk. Identity theft and fraud affected over 15 million US consumers in 2016, who lost over $16 billion—even with the transition to EMV chip readers.

Still, Ruth notes the risk is a worthwhile one for those marketing the brand.

“As long as marketers are in the data chain, I think it’s a real boon.” she said.

GDPR Explained: What To Expect On May 25

Scroll to the bottom to watch Part I of “GDPR Explained.”

May 25, 2018 should be circled, circled again and circled once more for good measure in bright red marker on every marketer’s calendar. It’s the day the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect. After that, any company that processes European personal data—even if it does not exist in Europe itself—can face massive fines and even jail time if it’s found to be in breach of the law.

According to Forrester’s predictions, 80 percent of GDPR-affected firms will not comply in time and risk shelling out as much as €20 million or 4 percent of global revenue for the year, whichever is higher. Of those companies making an active effort to comply with the new law, 77 percent expect to spend more than $1 million on completely overhauling the way they handle data.

User Rights

On a fundamental level, GDPR completely shifts the legal status of people’s personal information. As of May 25, EU citizens will legally and permanently own any identifiable information about themselves, such as race, sex, location—just to name a few. Any company that wants access to their information will have to ask for consent in clear and plain language and must specify exactly how it will use that information.

In essence, companies will only be able to borrow personal information. GDPR introduces a policy known as “the right to be forgotten,” meaning that if a person withdraws their consent, the company must completely erase any and all of their personal data “without undue delay.” Furthermore, people will have the right to know exactly what about them is being collected, how it’s being used and how long the company will store the information.

And because it’s the people who own their data, companies can’t say that any information they have on someone is proprietary. If a user asks, a company is required to give them a copy of its records and has no recourse if that user chooses to share that information with its competitors.

Company Responsibilities

Not all of GDPR’s provisions center on reacting to the changing wishes of EU citizens—large portions of the law establish concrete guidelines for how companies can interact with the data that they get their hands on, all of which value security and privacy over all else.

A central tenet of the law is called “privacy by design,” which mandates that companies take data privacy into account at all stages of any project that involves personal information. This means that firms will not be allowed to tack on data privacy features to existing systems; they will have to rebuild them from the ground up with data protection in mind.

But even with the best security systems, breaches can still occur due to circumstances outside of a firm’s control. To account for this possibility, GDPR requires companies to take a highly proactive approach to their data security: they are permitted to collect only the information they need and give access only to those people who need it. Additionally, companies must delete personal data as soon as it stops being useful for the purpose they originally obtained user consent for.

To ensure compliance, companies will also be required to keep detailed records on the types of data they collect, what they do with it and what systems they use to handle that data.

In the event of a data breach, companies must notify GDPR regulators within 72 hours, and in severe cases will have to inform every person whose information was exposed. If the company is found to be at fault, any other organization that entrusted it with personal data can also be penalized.

Data Protection Officers

For companies that collect data on a large scale or process information deemed to be “special” under GDPR—information about medical or criminal records, union membership, religious or political beliefs, race, ethnicity, genetics and biometrics and sexual activity and orientation—Data Protection Officers (DPOs) are mandatory.

DPOs are specialized attorneys intended to be internal watchdogs at data-processing companies. GDPR requires DPOs to educate company executives on what they need to do to stay compliant and, in the case of intentional disregard for the law, blow the whistle on offenders.

These attorneys don’t necessarily need to be in-house. If a DPO can feasibly do their job off-site or as a consultant, companies can contract out the position to a qualified freelancer.

Companies that need to hire DPOs will also be required to conduct something called a “Data Protection Impact Assessment” (DPIA) on the information they process. If a security breach would likely cause a “high risk” to those whose data has been collected, firms must work individually with GDPR regulators to ensure that the information stays safe.

The General Data Protection Regulation is a landmark bill, the first update to the EU’s privacy laws since 1995. Though the full scale of its effects is unknown, organizations such as the Interactive Advertising Bureau have already established industry standards and best practices for those businesses seeking to stay compliant.

New TAG Guidelines Require Ads.txt Adoption

The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) has released updated compliance guidelines for its anti-fraud and anti-piracy programs. Among them is a new requirement that publishers implement the ads.txt standard to become TAG Certified Against Fraud.

Founded by the ANA, 4A’s and IAB, TAG offers marketers a way of verifying companies as legitimate members of the digital advertising industry.

Ads.txt is the Interactive Advertising Bureau Tech Lab’s answer to inventory sales fraud. Publishers add a text file called—you guessed it—Ads.txt to their web servers that lists all of the companies authorized to sell ads on their behalf. This allows buyers to visit the text file and ensure they are purchasing from valid third parties.

For marketers hoping to purchase from multiple publishers, IAB Tech Lab released a web crawler last year that speeds up the process.

TAG CEO Mike Zaneis says these new guidelines will “put teeth” in the ads.txt initiative by requiring publishers to adopt it as a Certified Against Fraud Seal prerequisite. In addition, the new requirements will move the ad buying and publisher communities “from support to action.”

In addition to the new Ads.txt requirement, direct ad buyers must complete TAG Registration, be a TAG member in good standing, have a designated TAG compliance officer, attend annual anti-piracy training, comply with and fully operationalize TAG’s Anti-Piracy Pledge and employ pirate mobile app filtering for all advertising displayed in a mobile app environment.

Publishers hoping to receive the TAG Certified Against Fraud seal must also meet the TAG Registration, good standing, compliance officer and training requirements, as well as ensuring that their properties do not block or unduly restrict the use of anti-piracy software. Based on the degree to which publishers host user-generated content, additional requirements may apply.

These new requirements will go into effect and be subject to TAG enforcement on July 1. New applicants for the TAG Certified Against Fraud seal will be will be evaluated against the updated guidelines. Companies that currently hold the Certified Against Fraud and/or Certified Against Piracy Seals, however, must come into compliance by that time.

It is estimated that marketers lose around $7.2 billion per year to ad fraud, piracy and malware. Last year, Proctor & Gamble—a company that spends over $7 billion per year on advertising—announced that it would no longer buy media from companies who are not TAG certified.

A March 2017 report by Forrester says that programmatic media and video are the primary causes of ad fraud spending “wastage.” If the problem is not addressed, that number may grow to $10.9 billion by 2021, the company warns.

Thus far, studies have found TAG’s Certified Against Fraud and Certified Against Piracy Programs effective against criminal activities. A December study conducted by The 614 Group tested the theory that using only TAG Certified channels would reduce or eliminate invalid traffic when compared to the industry average. Running impressions through TAG Certified channels resulted in a reduction of invalid traffic by 83 percent.

Netflix Takes Top-Earning App Spot; Consumers Prefer Political Brands

2017 Mobile Market Rundown

Sensor Tower has released its annual mobile app spending report, revealing a healthy, growing market. Spending on mobile app stores continued to grow at a brisk pace last year, with revenue from Apple’s App Store and the Google Play Store increasing by 34.7 and 34.2 percent, respectively. Despite similar growth rates, however, Apple continues to vastly outstrip its mobile competitor, earning $38.5 billion to Google’s more modest $20.1 billion.

According to Sensor Tower’s data, first-time installs increased much more rapidly for Google than for Apple, the figure growing 16.7 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively. This is likely a byproduct of Google’s higher adoption rate in developing markets.

The statistics for mobile games follow a remarkably similar curve: an overall 30 percent growth in revenue across both platforms and an overall 14.6 percent in first-time installs, most of which came from Android phones.

Overall, Netflix took the top spot for individual non-game app revenue, earning $510 million in subscriptions. Tinder held the number two spot, up from position 4 in 2016.

For mobile users, social media still dominates. According to data by eMarketer, 74.7 percent of mobile internet users accessed social media on their phone, and 82.5 percent of social media users accessed their accounts on mobile at least once per month.

Facebook unsurprisingly dominated the mobile social network userbase last year, with 1.54 billion users, or 62.2 percent of all social network users. Instagram had 594 million active accounts last year, making up 24 percent of all social network users.

Consumers Believe Taking A Stand Matters

New research by Sprout Social indicates that, despite the potential for missteps and mistakes, brands have more to gain than lose from maintaining a coherent political stance. Among survey respondents, 66 percent want brands to take a stand on difficult issues, and 58 percent are happy to see brands post about them on social media.

Though this tendency is more prevalent among liberals (78 percent of liberals and 52 percent of conservatives), the majority of consumers on either side of the political spectrum expect brands to weigh in. For those that do, rewards are notable: 44 percent reported a greater purchase intent, and 52 percent reported increased brand loyalty.

The Future Of Martech

Marketers are continuing to bring media buying in-house, according to research by Centro. Among the 153 ad executives surveyed, 81 percent planned to bring at least some aspects of programmatic advertising in-house in the next year, and 59 percent planned to stop outsourcing their programmatic purchases to third parties.

When asked for their reasoning, 59 percent of the respondents claimed a wish for more control, 41 percent hoped for an increased revenue stream and 39 percent sought greater transparency.

A forecast by Dentsu Aegis Network predicts that ad spending in the Asia Pacific region will grow by 4.2 percent in the coming year, measurably higher than the expected global growth rate of 3.6 percent. Much of this growth will come from digital media channels, which Dentsu predicts will account for 38.3 percent of total ad spending by the end of 2018. Programmatic spending will increase by 23 percent, as mobile video and social ads continue to eat up more of the digital pie.

“The latest ad spend forecasts show a market in transformation, but not recession. The challenge for brands is to navigate an uneven economic outlook alongside a rapidly evolving tech and innovation landscape. In many markets, disruptive innovation – from mobile, voice activation and new ad tech players – is still providing new sources of growth and we forecast this trend will continue into 2018,” said Jerry Buhlmann, chief executive of Dentsu Aegis Network.

Despite expected growth in the digital market, research by Kantar Millward Brown indicates increasing penalties to neglecting more traditional channels. According to its data, there is an increasing divide between marketer expectations and reality when it comes to multichannel marketing—89 percent of marketers believe their campaigns to be integrated, while only 58 percent of consumers share that opinion.

“Consumers feel overwhelmed by advertising from all angles while marketers struggle to make the most of ad formats and channels to best reach consumers, and the latest AdReaction report unveils a disconnect between how marketers and consumers perceive campaign success,” said Duncan Southgate, global brand director for media and digital at Kantar Millward Brown.

According to Kantar Millward Brown, well-integrated and customized campaigns are 57 percent more effective, but just 46 percent of the ad campaigns it tested were sufficiently integrated.

Voice Marketing At CES Sets Tone For Year Ahead

While voice-assistant devices have the potential to become the preferred human-machine interface, the question remains whether there’s sufficient demand for consumers to incorporate the emerging AI into their homes and daily lives while receiving deals, sales and promotions.

As a range of brands announce new tech at CES, marketers and industry insiders are bullish that the fairly nascent messaging method will strike a chord.

“Brands today need to have a representation in the audio world, or sonic branding, as I like to call it,” Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer for MasterCard, told AListDaily. “With the evolution of the smart speakers that’s coming in a big way, how the brand gets into the audio space is going to be mission critical for the future.”

Tech giants and competitors are bidding and battling for consumer attention with voice and AI interfaces, whether Google, Amazon, Cortana or the like.

Google, for one, showed that it’s game with an unprecedented marketing push and coming out party, which served as a warning shot to Amazon and the rest of the digital assistant pack that it will be taking voice seriously—this year and moving forward.

Prognosticators are predicting that it will impact business strategies as well.

“Voice will become a preferred human-machine interface in 2018,” said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research of the Consumer Technology Association, which owns and produces CES. “Moving forward, we see voice as the fourth purchase channel, along with in-store, online and mobile.”

Koenig said that during the holiday shopping season, CTA research indicated that more Americans than ever planned to use smart speakers powered by digital assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant to help them research holiday gift ideas or make purchases. Smart speakers were a popular gift over the holidays, as Amazon’s Echo Dot was the top-selling product across all categories on Amazon, as reported by the Jeff Bezos-led brand.

According to Yin Woon Rani, vice president of integrated marketing at Campbell Soup Company, using applications for voice assistants to provide frictionless brand experiences that serve the consumer will be key for voice to continue to gain momentum.

“Voice marketing is an interesting journey—it’s about delivering value in a more intuitive way for people to access content,” Rani said. “We believe that voice will have an important use case in the future, but we do not have it completely cracked yet.”

With simple propositions like “what do I make for dinner?” Yin said that the brand has been seeing positive engagement metrics with Campbell’s Kitchen app for Amazon Echo. When consumers cook, it frequently means stopping for directions on second-screen experiences.

“I’m excited about the use cases we haven’t even dreamt up yet, but brands have to balance reach,” said Yin. “The more user-centric you can design solutions, the better off you’ll be.”

Yin said that marketers need to test and iterate voice innovation philosophy focused on solving sustained business and consumers needs and repeat different pilots against it. Applying data from voice to do the work for marketers means Campbell can monitor if people are searching for specific recipes for chicken, turkey, beef, pork, seafood, pasta and of course, soup. In turn, the brand can use insights to deliver more pertinent information.

“Every time we iterate voice, we learn something new in the logic structure.” said Yin. “The first time was very hard. Our plan is to learn, iterate and scale. Voice is the most intuitive interface ever, but because we grew up in a screen-based world, we have to reteach ourselves how to talk.”

Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant is also priming itself to advance platform communication. It used CES as a springboard for its Echo smart speakers into verticals like car entertainment systems, light switches and even shower heads—electroshocks not included.

According to eMarketer, over 45 million Americans will use a voice-enabled smart speaker this year, and according to Sara Kleinberg, group marketing manager of ads research and insights at Google, 72 percent of consumers who own a voice-activated speaker have already admitted that their devices are often used as part of their daily routine.

Patrizio Spagnoletto, head of media and subscriber growth at Hulu, says that he sees these kinds of AI integrations “as a way to communicate and find out the moods of consumers.”

“AI is a tool at our disposal, and it’s on marketers to make it right,” said Spagnoletto. “It’s a tool to drive conversation. As marketers, we need to balance data with creative, real-life senses. Once you have an audience defined, you still need to answer questions. It’s about engaging the audience in personal ways.”

Rajamannar, who’s overseeing MasterCard’s efforts in such areas like their briefing skill on Alexa, said that voice-based authentications are going to play a more prevalent role in the biometric cloud moving forward as well, adding that he’s surprised by how few brands are taking sonic branding seriously today.

“We’re engaging senses with a two-way communication that were not [being engaged] before, and that’s where the big change is happening,” he said. “Voice is absolutely a key marketing area for brands moving forward.”

In the meantime, platforms kingpins are pouring resources into voice, and somewhat forcing brand marketers to take the lead as well, Yin said. Whether or not consumers are clamoring for such luxuries, specially from brands, is another thing.

“Consumers want things that will make their life easy,” she said. “I think voice will play a role in that. Non-screen based interactions, whether its gestural or visual, will be the next frontier of experiences. Voice is just an obvious one, and at the tipping point of scale.”

Yin is convinced that there definitely is a future for voice marketing for brands—one that is not controlled by a monopoly—but she warned that it won’t be figured out anytime soon, or even by the next CES.

“I’m glad for both big and small players trying to learn, but there is no silver bullet yet,” she said. “You will see experiences at all kinds of scale both from brands and tech partners. As marketers, we’ll be a lot smarter in one year than we are today.”

“The wave of voice is coming very big,” added Rajamannar. “If you as a brand are not in that space, you will get yourself very quickly excluded, and that’s a risk to your brand in a big way.”


CES 2018’s Top Announcements For Marketers

There’s a lot to sift through at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, from self-driving pizza-delivery vehicles to a canceled speaking engagement by Ajit Pai, and lots and lots of AI. We’re sifting through the announcements this week to bring you the biggest ones for marketers.

Kodak Cashes In On Cryptocurrency

It was only a matter of time before blockchain made an appearance at CES, and Kodak has picked up the slack, announcing an initial coin offering for a proprietary cryptocurrency, KodakCoin. The new cryptocurrency will tie into Kodak’s photography intellectual property protection platform, KodakOne, allowing users to more easily detect unlicensed use of their photos.

But Kodak seems to be hedging its bets on its own cryptocurrency as well, as it has also started to rent out Bitcoin-mining equipment to consumers. The product, Kodak KashMiner, is a 2-year contract for an up-front payment, which will grant the consumer only half of the Bitcoin mined by the machine they rent (the other half going to Kodak).

The company was famously slow to adapt to the disruption digital cameras brought to the industry, but it certainly can’t be accused of that now.

LG: Artificial Intelligence In Everything

Riding marketers’ artificial intelligence buzz, LG announced at the Consumer Electronics Show that it was going to take a stab at incorporating AI into its own devices in the next year. The company’s approach may be surprising: rather than market incorporated AI technology to consumers, LG’s president and chief technology officer Il-pyung Park hopes to keep it behind the scenes.

“We don’t want to use AI as a marketing strategy,” he said to CNET. “You can talk about AI all day, but if the customer doesn’t get any value out of it, it becomes useless.”

At their presentation, LG promised AI incorporation with TVs, air conditioners and even washing machines. They even built AI into a home robot called CLOi, but may have embraced the “behind the scenes” approach a bit too much, as it failed to respond to any voice commands on stage.

iHeartRadio: Music Bots

The digital arm of radio platform iHeartMedia, iHeartRadio, has announced a slew of cross-platform integrations, hoping to bring the service out of the car and into every other facet of their users’ lives.

The platform’s Facebook chatbot will allow users to request station recommendations based on genre, location and popularity, and promises more functionality soon. The streaming platform also now supports Samsung’s Bixby voice recognition service, the Roku app and even Garmin’s latest GPS running watch.

All this comes in addition to partnerships with General Motors and Ford to natively incorporate the service in new vehicles, meaning that iHeartRadio might score new paying subscribers from Spotify from sheer ubiquity alone.

Rokid: Improving Augmented Reality

Augmented reality and voice control have been some of the largest buzzwords on the showroom floor, and Rokid has decided to combine them into one stylish package. Rokid Glass, not to be confused with other AR experiment Google Glass, seeks to solve the problem of interacting with smart glasses by making them voice-controlled, using a proprietary AI called Melody which they introduced last year.

Despite the similarity to Google’s admittedly unstylish offering, the Rokid Glass bears a closer resemblance to Snapchat’s Spectacles, which took off early before their artificial scarcity drove down consumer interest. Only time will tell if Rokid has figured out how to pitch AR headsets to the general consumer, but with voice control as popular as it is, consumers may bite.

Circuit City Back From The Dead

After declaring bankruptcy and closing down in 2009, Circuit City is making a resurgence starting in February, promising to relaunch as a “social-focused” e-commerce site, eventually with a physical retail presence as well.

In addition to relaunching as a retail platform, Circuit City will also partner with IBM Watson to somehow incorporate AI technology into its business model.