The Spinner And The Faustian Bargain Of Anonymized Data

For the price of just $29, everyone can harness the power of targeted messaging and use it to persuade a chosen target to quit smoking, commit to a relationship, stop eating meat—virtually anything. It’s called The Spinner.

By surreptitiously sending a cookie to someone via a link, that individual becomes part of a small target set of lookalikes that receive 10 pieces of content and 180 impressions intended to convince them of something.

Of course, what The Spinner is doing, as marketers know, isn’t a new tactic. The company, while incorporating some proprietary tech, is using existing targeting tools that have been developed by Facebook and Google.

Spinner’s CEO, “Elliot Shefler” just presents it in a way that the average consumer can understand and utilize without needing to know the in’s and out’s of programmatic distribution.

Shefler closely guards the details about his operation and was reluctant to provide his own background information and contact info to AList. According to him, The Spinner employs about 10 people for its consumer product and partners with a British agency for nameless larger brand clients.

The Spinner, which launched in April 2018, has sparked some interest among users looking to sow seeds of influence among their relationships.

“Every day we have many requests with many different messages and goals,” said Shefler in a call with AList.

He also vehemently believes in the power of using this targeting and social media to persuade.

“Definitely, there are some success stories,” said Shefler, citing an example of a client who wanted their son to not quit college by delivering content about college dropouts.

“If the message is tailored to the recipient and you repeat it frequently enough—very powerful.”

The Spinner


In a post-Cambridge Analytica environment, an increasing number of consumers are becoming more concerned about how targeting tools and consumer data could be leveraged outside of the scope of marketing purposes.

According to a study by Janrain in 2018, 57 percent of 1000 consumers surveyed cited the Cambridge Analytica scandal as the reason they shifted their opinion on concern around data privacy and security.

The conversation prior to this moment, however, has been concentrated on personal data and the responsibility of protecting and effectively managing the data of individual consumers. While GDPR has gone a long way to hold accountable companies to protect this data, should we also be worried about anonymized data and targeting if it can be used by anyone for any purpose?

Grouped into little factions based on our interests, our purchase histories, our political beliefs, our jobs, we’ve been assuaged by the promise of our user data not being personally identifiable by third-parties, and therefore not susceptible. (Never mind that this has already been proven untrue.)

As Shefler is quick to point out, a key difference in what he provides with his expertise isn’t about using his technology to reach the broadest swath of potential customers, but rather about honing in on those you already have a relationship with.

“The value is in retention, not in the acquisition,” he said.

He related a story about one insurance company he was commissioned work on, where he would target the insurance agents at the company to “brainwash and manipulate” them and change the perception of the company itself with the goal of retaining those agents.

“We planned a similar campaign with a big pharmaceutical company that was targeting doctors (not patients—doctors) with articles about the benefits of a certain medicine.”


Shefler himself does not have any social media accounts, in part it seems to guard himself against the very tools he is monetizing from and also partly because of the nature of his work. It is hard to tell if this is pragmatism or paranoia—if he has truly seen what lurks beneath the hood.

In an email following our call, he used the common adage of those in tech—“If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product”—as an answer to his philosophy on privacy and when pressed about whether he feels the same targeting tools he leverages for The Spinner could be vulnerable to possible misuse, his response was matter-of-fact:

“I would prefer using the word “effective” instead of ‘vulnerable.’ The answer is: highly effective.”

MWC Barcelona 2019: New Keynote Speakers Confirmed

The winter season is officially here… the weather is frosty and coats and scarves are officially part of our closets. And so, the preparations for MWC have also commenced! GSMA is busy gathering some of the biggest names in mobile to speak in Barcelona.

Executives from Daimler AG & Mercedes Benz, Microsoft, Niantic Inc., United Nations, Sprint, Vimeo and more are among some of the keynote speakers confirmed. These leaders will be in Barcelona at MWC19, discussing the future of mobile.  They represent a wide variety of operators and organizations across the technology ecosystem:

  • Chuck Robbins, Chairman and CEO, Cisco
  • Dieter Zetsche, Chairman, Daimler AG and Mercedes Benz
  • Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner, Digital Economy and Society, European Union
  • Thomas Bach, President, IOC
  • Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft
  • John Hanke, Founder and CEO, Niantic Inc.
  • Hiroshi Mikitani, Founder, CEO and Chairman, Rakuten
  • E. Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General, Smart Dubai
  • Amina  Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, United Nations
  • Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO, Universal Music Group

The conference will address key topics such as the evolution to 5G, connectivity, immersive content, AI, digital wellness, and digital trust, among many others. In addition to the keynote sessions, the conference will include a series of focused track sessions that explore specific subjects in greater depth. For more information on the keynotes and the conference, visit here.

Further updates for the event, including new exhibitors, sponsors and programs have also been announced. For more details on new exhibitors, sponsors and partners, check out the latest press release.

Shutterstock Launches ‘It’s Not Stock’; First Campaign In Six Years

Shutterstock, a New York-based technology company that serves as a cornucopia of assets for marketers and creative professionals, hasn’t had an ad campaign in six years. The company’s new campaign aims to highlight the quality and variety of the brand’s stock photography library.

The campaign, “It’s not Stock, it’s Shutterstock,” launches in January and invites the subscribers to take another look Shutterstock as not just a mine of images, video clips, music tracks, services and tools, but the source of endless creative inspiration. The platform’s users will notice six new categories, which will include “Fierce to Friendly,” “Bold Background,” “Sunshine Style,” “Home Sweet Home,” “Another Dimension” and “The Look of Love.”

The campaign ad, in its turn, features the fetching Jack Russel terrier dressed in a casual business suit and a shirt, with a message that reads, “Furrystock. Fashionstock. Fetchingstock. It’s Notstock. It’s Shutterstock.”

There’s also a stern-looking sphynx cat with the message that reads, “Fiercestock. Meowstock. Wildstock. It’s Notstock. It’s Shutterstock.”

The “It’s not stock, it’s Shutterstock slogan was designed to draw attention to the high variety and quality of the Shutterstock library items, contributed by over 550,000 artists, musicians and photographers, and to highlight the convenience of the search tools offered on the site.

The company’s chief marketing officer, Lou Weiss, said in the campaign press release, “Creativity is now mission-critical for businesses of all sizes. Customer expectations are simply too high­– companies with mediocre advertising or visually dull websites are being left behind…. Our campaign is a celebration of the amazing artists who contribute these incredible assets to our platform and highlights the extraordinary value that they bring to creative endeavors every day.”

Shutterstock’s last major campaign came after a rebranding for the company six years ago. The brand’s now ubiquitous “O” was placed around objects like giraffes in high-quality photography–much like a camera’s viewfinder.

The “It’s not stock, it’s Shutterstock” campaign will launch across digital and social channels in the US, UK, Canada and Australia this month and will begin in mainland Europe, Latin America and Asia in the spring.

AList Shares Shutterstock Launches 'It's Not Stock'; First Campaign In Six Years

Shutterstock Launches 'It's Not Stock'; AList Shares First Campaign In Six Years

Digital Marketing World Forum Lands In New York Next Month

The Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Conference & Expo arrives in New York next month (November 7-8) for the North American leg of its industry-leading events series.

Taking a two-day residency in the Hudson-side Javits Center, #DMWF will welcome more than 800 members of the digital marketing community to foster valuable new connections and actionable learning thanks to expert-led agenda.

#DMWF is proud to confirm support from its platinum sponsors Shutterstock and Crimson Hexagon; gold sponsors Lab Cave, Social Chain, SEMRush, Talkwalker and WatConsult; and silver sponsor Accelo, alongside more than 40 exhibitors.

Ticket-holders will gain full access to an action-packed agenda split between two central and complementary themes—Data, Disruptive Tech & UX (DDX), and Content & Social Media Marketing (CSM)—each track boasting a lineup of more than 80 digital marketing experts from globally-recognized brands.

Data, Disruptive Tech & UX

On DDX, attendees can join Google’s head of analytics – consumer, government & entertainment sector, Kevin Hartman, to learn about the power of UX in elevating offline customer experience (CX) and ROI, swooping over how to measure the impact of CX and the new technologies enhancing it.

Meanwhile, a panel featuring marketing leaders from POPSUGAR, and UNICEF will reveal a glimpse into the industry’s future, focusing on the technologies set to revolutionize consumer behaviors across the globe.

Never more important in today’s climate of consumer privacy, Mozilla’s head of paid media, Justin Terry, leads a session tackling the role of ethics in data marketing, including how to align paid media strategies to your brand’s strategy with diligence paid to best practice.

Other brands represented on the DDX track include Samsung Electronics, Sunglass Hut & Oakley,, La Maison Hubert, Reuters, HSBC Bank USA, SVSound, Live Nation, Verizon Wireless, TOD’s Group, National Geographic, Casper and more.

Content & Social Media Marketing

On CSM, delegates can take an unmissable lesson in ‘Digital Diplomacy’ from the United Nations, thanks to a session exploring how to handle a social media crisis from Charlotte Scaddan, information officer of the social media team of the UN Department of Public Information.

Experts from Shutterstock Custom, WeWork, Great Big Story and Sports Illustrated will converge their wisdom in a panel predicting the future of content marketing, including the new technologies and types of content that will engage the changing browsing habits of the consumer.

And who better to deliver insight into effective storytelling that cuts through noise than Robert Monek, executive producer, digital & social media, Disney ABC? Monek will explore the impact of the rise of ephemeral content on platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, among much more.

Other brands represented on the CSM track include Subway Restaurants, Social Chain, World Bank Group, OXO, NYSE, Island Records, Mattel, Gerber US at Nestlé, CNN, Condé Nast, Dell, NBA, Coty Inc, Sage Software, Grubhub, Amnesty International USA and more.

For the full agenda or to register for your pass, head to the #DMWF North America homepage. Register to attend before November 2 and you will secure your ticket at the Advanced Rate, offering lowest price available ahead of the event.

Majority Of Marketers Believe Digital Media Landscape Has Become Too Complex, Study Finds

With brand safety a major concern, marketers must maintain a fine balancing act when executing campaigns. Whether the issue is choosing between reach and relevance or achieving high performance at the possible cost of brand safety, marketers are challenged with trading off between these different priorities. It’s no simple task, and a study conducted by Sizmek found that well over half of marketers feel that the media landscape has become too complex.

Sizmek surveyed over 500 brand marketers, asking about their current activities, priorities and challenges. When discussing the trade-offs between targeting the right audience and contextual targeting, the majority of marketers said that trying to do both negatively impacts the performance and scale of campaigns.

Key takeaways from the study include:

  • 61 percent of marketers believe the digital media landscape has become too complex
  • 81 percent believe that targeting both audience and context negatively impacts campaign performance and scale
  • 77 percent are using artificial intelligence to scale up their campaigns; 81 percent plan to increase AI use
  • 64 percent said brand safety solutions negatively impact performance
  • Only 61 percent of brands employ third-party brand safety solutions
  • 76 percent want more transparency

Sizmek found that brands are taking responsibility for safety, putting themselves ahead of demand-side platforms, ad tech vendors and media buying agencies. That is likely why organizations have developed brand safety guidelines for their agencies and partners to follow. Meanwhile, media buying agencies top the ‘secondary responsibility list’ followed closely by ad exchange networks, showing that brands expect all parties to participate in the effort.

To this end, brands are taking a number of steps to better ensure brand safety, seeking more transparency for their digital display inventory. At the same time, many reported that they’re seeking to simplify the process by reducing the number of vendors in their supply chain, prioritizing those that offer good value.

“The complexity and fragmentation of the digital ecosystem is clearly a burden for marketers, resulting in a desire to reduce the number of partners they work with and to get more value from those they do,” the Sizmek report states. “Consolidation will in fact make it vital to find the right partners—those that can meet diverse and sometimes competing needs in an efficient, cost-effective and transparent way.

Mobile World Congress Takes A Wide Look At The Digital Ecosystem

Mobile World Congress is not necessarily about brokering deals or concrete applications of marketing, like counterpart conferences dmexco and Cannes have proven to be. The global gathering is designed to give marketers a chance to track the evolving spectrum across everything from mobile to martech, AI and everything in between.

“MWC is about the broader digital ecosystem, which is increasingly mobile and playing out on an array of connected devices,” Dr. Daniel Knapp, senior director at global information company IHS Markit, told AListDaily. “These developments provide a macro-environment in which marketing is taking place in the future.”

“We have a strong belief that mobile is the primary mechanism to achieve all these goals,” said Michael O’Hara, CMO of the GSMA, the trade organization that puts on MWC. “We’ve been through a period where ‘mobile is everything’ and ‘mobile is the next element,’ and now we want to talk about what mobile can do.”

Last year at MWC, Google announced a pivot from mobile-first to AI-first, and direct applications from brands have slowly been heading toward nascent platforms like voice ever since. Knapp expects this development to further be filled with substance and applications across the industry at the gathering this year.

After anticipated AI announcements at MWC, marketers will begin to understand the direct applications they can apply to their brands.

“Voice is a hot topic, but marketing budgets are still minuscule,” said Knapp. “We will see many buzzwords being thrown around, but direct applications for marketers will be far and few between.”

Facebook is one of the 2,300 companies participating at MWC. According to a DigiTimes report, the social media giant will enter the global smart-speaker market this summer by launching two models codenamed Aloha and Fiona. Both will have 15-inch touchscreens. Although no confirmations have been made, using the global stage in Barcelona to give Amazon Echo a run for its money in the voice-activated assistants market would make sense—especially since Amazon Echo isn’t as well-established overseas. Apple jumped into the smart-speaker market earlier this month as well with HomePod.

At MWC, other brands like LG, Samsung, Sony, Ericsson, HTC, Huawei and Nokia are just some of the mobile megaliths champing at the bit to potentially carry the torch toward AI. Most of these companies had cavernous booths and significant presence at CES just a few weeks ago teasing an arsenal of brand developments in that realm. The developments should be more substantiated in Spain.

According to Rob Gallagher, research director of consumer services for Ovum, AI will need to permeate everything from consumer and enterprise IoT, to self-optimizing networks and support systems, smart devices and digital assistants. He warned, however, that not all demos at MWC will be genuinely intelligent, or even useful.

“While AI has great potential to drive usage, spend and operational savings, companies must truly put consumers’ interests first if they are to succeed,” said Gallagher.

Virtual And Augmented Reality Moving Away From Apps, Toward Web

While brands have taken advantage of virtual and augmented reality to showcase products or provide immersive experiences, marketers still find that making users download an app for an experience is one step too many. It’s like they’re asking their customers to download a commercial.

Google, Mozilla Microsoft and others are taking out that middleman by developing ways to access VR and AR directly through web browsers. And it’s happening relatively quickly.

WebVR is the Application Programming Interface (API) that enables Chrome, Firefox, Edge and other browsers to work with VR headsets, and though this tech came out just last November, it’s already going to work for brands.

Pepsi used WebVR and the brand’s Google’s partnership to create “Pepsi Go Back,” a web-based experience that complements the “Pepsi Generations” Super Bowl commercial. Users can step into old Pepsi commercials using their desktop computers, VR headsets or mobile devices.

Following this trend, brands can expect augmented reality for web to follow once WebXR is adopted. The API is currently in an experimental phase through custom browsers and viewers, but is expected to start appearing in mainstream browsers sometime later this year, and developers hope a cross-platform standard will be adopted shortly thereafter.

But even with browsers offering WebVR and experimental support for WebXR, brands have been slow to take advantage of them. That may be because quality web-based experiences are still relatively new.

“Distribution for WebVR is largely desktop based, whereas brands have been more excited about 360 video on mobile and VR on headsets,” said Vince Cacace, CEO for the Vertebrae advertising platform, which launched its web-based AR ad suite last fall. “We see WebAR as much more powerful, as it is more of a reality today compared to WebVR due to the quality of the experience . . . Brands realize the challenges in making consumers download an app to have a marketing experience, which is why WebAR is gaining steam so fast.”

Vertebrae integrates AR experiences into website banner ads, and Cacace points to its partnership with Lionsgate to promote the movie Jigsaw as an example of how some of the major technical challenges of WebXR— including face recognition and positional tracking through mobile devices—are already being addressed. The promotion works similarly to a Snapchat Lens or Facebook filter, except that it’s not limited to a specific social platform. Some users were rewarded with coupons to see the movie in theaters.

“Given the targeting opportunities afforded by the immense scale of mobile Web, we were able to help Lionsgate make all the specific audience-based buys they desired,” Cacace told AListDaily. “The web is best for shorter AR experiences that provide utility—i.e. trying on glasses, putting a car in your driveway, a chair in your living room, a character mask on your face, etc. Apps offer room for longer-form entertainment, at the cost of making users download an app.”

However, the principal research scientist on Mozilla’s mixed reality team, Blair MacIntyre, explained that there’s still some ways to go. Unlike VR, web-based AR must overcome a wide variety of diverse platforms. Development tools such as ARKit from Apple and ARCore from Google may eventually establish standards for mobile device viewing, but things become more complicated when trying to find common ground across the different headsets, which do all the heavy lifting for these experiences.

For example, MacIntyre said that Microsoft’s HoloLens is technologically different from ARKit and ARCore, as are viewers that being developed by Magic Leap, Meta, Daqri and others—which all use different methods for sensing and interacting with the world.

Shrenik Sadalgi, director of next generation experiences at Wayfair, one of the earliest adopters of augmented reality technology, agrees that there needs to be standards set for the most common features across all AR and VR platforms. But he also said there is a risk that each browser will support the features they believe are important and handle things in specialized ways. That being said, he doesn’t think that apps will be completely left behind.

“With web, you sacrifice performance to gain a wider audience, and ease of development,” said Sadalgi. “So, it depends on what your application does. If it’s a game, you can expect a user to take the time to install it, to be rewarded with a grand experience. If it’s retail, you’re probably looking to develop the experience quickly, reach a wider audience and can work around the lower performance.”

Tony Parisi, the head of VR/AR strategy at Unity Technologies, doesn’t think a post-app era will happen anytime soon either.

“I’m not sure we will ever get to a place where everything AR/VR is done with web browsers,” said Parisi.

Although Parisi acknowledges the clear advantages web browsers have, such as having no download and install process and easier discovery without having app stores act as “gatekeepers,” there are still many scenarios where native apps are more appropriate. These situations are motivated by two primary factors: performance and features.

Even though HTML and JavaScript have significantly improved, native applications still maintain an edge in that they give developers full control over major aspects of performance. This is especially important for VR, which requires high frame rates for a comfortable experience. Parisi also added that browsers may take years to catch up with surfacing native features from each platform. For example, location services were available on mobile phones for years before they were included in browsers.

Additionally, monetization is an issue that premium experiences will need to take into consideration.

“Mobile app stores and desktop game distribution systems like Steam provide clear ways for developers of certain types of applications to make money—in particular, games,” said Parisi. “In contrast, the web does not have an established pay-per-download model. It was originally built on a foundation of advertising, with a bit of in-app purchase and subscription layered in over time. So, the store model, which can be seen as an encumbrance for some developers, is actually a major benefit for others, depending on the business model.”

However, MacIntyre pointed out how the web has one major advantage over other platforms, and that’s the emphasis on privacy and security. Mozilla expects that as AR and VR technology progresses, privacy will become an increasingly important element.

“The web platform goes to great lengths to ensure web pages cannot access data on the computer or private information such as user location, the video camera or microphone without user permission,” said MacIntyre. “So, especially for short quick-and-dirty experiences that some brands might want to create, users might be much happier visiting a website than installing an app.”

He added, “Prior to WebVR, browsers could not provide compelling VR experiences using standard browsers; it’s still not possible to provide a compelling AR experience in a web browser. That will change when WebXR is implemented in most browsers. As we’ve seen with past technologies, some brands will experiment early, but most won’t commit to using the technology until it’s available in all the major browsers that their audience are likely to be using.”

Parisi believes that, at least for now, apps are still the way to go, but that will change as browsers offer more features and hit a more reasonable level of performance. Once that happens, he believes that we will see things diverge between apps and the web.

Although Parisi said that the performance gap for VR may close fairly soon, he sees plenty of complex challenges ahead, especially when it comes to augmented reality. These concerns include the browser’s interface, which hasn’t changed much from its original 2D roots. While Samsung and Google have experimented with VR web browsing, we have yet to see an “AR browser.”

He also said that we might never see a web-based business model emerge beyond the tried-and-true advertising and subscription models, but that may be OK. He believes that the app store model will continue to drive the distribution of high end VR and bespoke AR applications, which includes premium content such as games and movies and utility applications like travel services.

Ultimately, Parisi admits that, “Apps will be more practical until they’re not, because eventually developers will want to reach more consumers with less friction, and that means via the web. Once we have achieved an acceptable level of performance and features, expect to see a big movement toward web-based AR/VR experiences.”

Google, Facebook Provided Highest Mobile Marketing ROI In 2017

Singular, a mobile attribution and campaign analytics platform, has released its annual ROI Index that ranks global return on investment across mobile platforms. Google AdWords yielded the best return on investment (ROI) on Android devices in 2017, but Facebook still holds the top spot across iOS devices worldwide. For game marketers, iOS provided the highest return, but Android is closing the gap.

Ranks are Calculated based on 30-day ROI taking into account revenue, cost and fraud.

Previously, Facebook held the top spot across both Android and iOS platforms in terms of ROI, but Google AdWords took the lead in 2017. This was the case across all regions except Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). There, Google was out-shined by Facebook, Unity and Vungle at first, second and third place, respectively.

Mobile marketing ROI varied depending on whether the campaign was gaming-related. Apple’s iOS yielded 1.2 times higher return for mobile game marketers than Android in 2017. Non-gaming marketers experienced similar ROI on both platforms. Android is catching up, however, driving eight percent annual growth in ROI since 2016.

Spending on Twitter marketing increased across both iOS and Android devices last year. Compared to 2016, marketers achieved improved ROI on Twitter in 2017, especially among non-gaming campaigns. Twitter delivered the second highest ROI in 2017 across both Android and iOS for non-gaming marketers.

When game marketing performance added in, Twitter jumped from 13th to the 8th highest ROI on iOS and from 18th to the 7th highest ROI.

Marketers also increased spending on Snapchat in 2017, with positive results. On iOS, Snapchat drove the sixth highest ROI for non-gaming marketers and the 15th highest ROI across all verticals. This revelation bodes well for Snapchat, which opened its marketing API to the masses just this week.

Video-focused media sources Vungle, Unity Ads and AdColony all moved to the top five on Android in 2017. This is the second year in a row that all three earned top spots for ROI, shining a light on the effectiveness of mobile video marketing. Each of the media sources also captured a greater share of marketing budgets on both platforms last year.

Despite launching less than two years ago, Apple Search Ads has delivered high ROI for iOS mobile marketers. It’s no wonder, then, that marketers poured more money into it last year. Apple Search Ads rose from twenty-third to sixth highest-volume media source on iOS based on total ad spend between 2016 and 2017.

Apple Search Ads drove the second highest return on iOS in 2017. The platform jumped six spots in the rankings, from the 10th highest return in 2016 to fourth highest in 2016 worldwide.

History Shows Marketers Won’t Pull Ads Even If Fraud Persists

Despite a lot of posturing, history and studies show that most marketers will not reduce digital ad spending even if fraud and brand safety concerns persist.

During the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau conference on Monday, Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed challenged tech giants to stop spreading toxic content or the company would take its money elsewhere. Companies like Proctor & Gamble and Unilever have been vocal about their threats to pull digital ad dollars, but most companies can’t afford not to advertise on these platforms.

When asked if brands would reduce their digital ad spend if brand safety, viewability and fraud aren’t resolved, 49 percent of brands and 47 percent of agencies agreed, according to a recent study by Warc.

The hard truth is that Google and Facebook are just too big to be seriously impacted by a boycott. Even after the “great YouTube boycott of 2017,” ad revenue for parent company Alphabet climbed to an all-time high in the fourth quarter.

Forrester predicts that 70 percent of companies will spend more on both mobile web and app advertising in 2018. In fact, 39 percent of companies that spend more than $5 million per month will up budgets by more than 30 percent.

This leap in digital ad spend is planned despite the risk of fraud. Of the marketers it surveyed, more than a third estimated that over 40 percent of their budgets were at risk of fraud. Only 19 percent reported taking systematic action to prevent fraud, though assigning high priority to fight ad fraud in the next 12 months was almost unanimous.

The ends may also justify the means when it comes to brand concerns. Google Adwords still has best ROI in 2017, according the Singular ROI Index released Wednesday.

Under Armour’s App-Connected Shoe Ties To Long-Term Strategy In Gaming Space

This month, the Under Armour has had professional athletes test out its new UA HOVR Phantom and Sonic sneakers, which have an embedded chip that tracks data like time, distance, cadence, and speed. All of this data is fed into Under Armour’s apps MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness.

Under Armour’s new line of sneakers that gamify running comes during a year of embracing games and gaming culture, as the brand is focusing its marketing activities at younger generations.

“As we’ve delved deeper into consumer behavior, we see the amount of time that Gen Z and young Millennials are spending on gaming,” said Jim Mollica, Under Armour’s vice president of digital marketing. “Gaming provides an opportunity beyond advertising within a specific game, which doesn’t really add that much value. Our idea was if we can appear in these gaming spaces and places and increase the value to our consumer in a cool way, and add to their experience, then ultimately that will come back to us.”

Gaming has become a staple for the brand: Under Armour has worked with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to launch an endless runner game for Snapchat, and for the launch of NBA star Stephen Curry’s “Curry 4” shoe, the company brought NBA 2K18 gamers to its Baltimore headquarters to compete on a 30-foot-high video screen.

“The amount of exposure from that streaming event completely outpaced what I thought it would do,” Mollica said. “The day it started I was getting all of these pings from people outside the company commenting about the tournament . . . I realized that these are unbelievably deep, immersive channels that also have scale.”

Under Armour can use all the help it can muster in connecting with new consumers. Like Nike, the apparel and shoe brand has struggled to keep pace with European giant Adidas. At the same time, all sports brands are facing increased competition from Amazon, while retail partners like Foot Locker, Finish Line and Dick’s Sporting Goods are struggling.

Stephen Curry’s love of video games—a common trait among many top athletes—has helped the brand further integrate digital and real worlds over the past four years. When the Curry shoes first launched, the NBA All-Star’s in-game avatar wasn’t as good as the real-life version on the hardwoods. The company worked around that with a campaign creating user-generated content.

“We did a partnership with 2K when we launched the [Curry] shoes that if you bought the real shoes and put them on, you would be at 100 power for 30 hours, which correlates his jersey number 30,” Mollica said. “We had people that were scoring 100 points in the first quarter and posting those videos across all of these amazing channels.”

The brand is integrating with opportunities in the gaming space—in May, the NBA and 2K launch the NBA 2K League, letting amateur gamers play for one of 17 NBA gaming clubs in a league format.

“This is a really interesting opportunity for a lot of brands to engage in a really deep manner to an audience that is harder to reach now than they were before,” Mollica said. “One of the things we keep seeing is the amount of time that these kids spend with our brand in these gaming environments is unbelievably high and we couldn’t get that kind of retention rate in traditional marketing tactics.”

As gaming continues to draw young consumers, Under Armour remains dedicated to remaining in the space as part of its marketing strategy. “We’ve completely gamified those communities where there are always competition challenges, recognition, encouragement, rewards and badges,” Mollica said.