‘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.

IAB, 4A’s Ad Terms And Conditions Updates Offer Long-Form Video Guidelines

For the first time in nine years, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) have updated their advertising terms and conditions for long-form digital video content. These changes, developed over the past year by a joint agency group, seek to clarify advertiser-publisher negotiations on subjects from high-level brand safety concerns to granular ad cancellation policies.

The new terms and conditions apply to all long-form digital video, which it defines as professionally produced digital content that lasts eight minutes or longer and is served ads dynamically, rather than including ads directly in the video itself. The addendum consists mostly of fairly dense legalese, but contains a brief checklist on the first page that breaks down the updated ad buying process.

“Video continues to grow as both a driver of revenue and ROI for buyers and sellers alike,” said Randall Rothenberg, CEO of IAB, in a released statement. “Coupling that with the scarcity of long-form video puts pressure on the marketplace—and makes transactional guidance an imperative.”

The addendum adds guidelines for canceling unified, up-front and scatter ad buys, as well as covering implementation of viewability and fraud measurement controls to digital ads.

The updated advertising terms and conditions are still entirely voluntary, but the IAB and 4A’s promise that adhering to their guidelines will “markedly reduce the delay and expense inherent in preparing multiple, custom agreements,” especially for advertising newcomers like small businesses.

Though the IAB is currently taking public comments on the addendum, businesses need not comply with any guidelines with which they disapprove.

“As the media landscape continues to evolve with the convergence of TV and digital, there’s a need for faster, more agile processes,” said Marla Kaplowitz, president and CEO of 4A’s. “This addendum for long-form video will enable buyers and sellers to begin with a common point of reference, which they can choose to evolve or refine based on their own needs.”

The draft for the update will be available for public comment until February 5.

4 Digital Marketing Campaigns People Watched In 2017

With ad blocking on the rise and ad viewability an ever-increasing concern, brands are on the hook to produce digital campaigns consumers are willing to seek out, and not just sit through.

Swiss Army Man: Meet Your Best Friend Manny

The marketing campaign for A24’s Swiss Army Man took movie fans on as much of a journey as its marooned protagonist.

Featuring an AI chatbot, a ragdoll-tossing interactive website, unorthodox influencer activations, a user-generated blog, a real-life scavenger hunt and, for obvious reasons, free pizza, the campaign aligned not just with the movie’s tone, but displayed a fundamental understanding of its themes and message as well.

The campaign got so much traction that it even ended up interrupting Daniel Radcliffe with a text in the middle of rehearsal for a different movie. Like Manny in the movie, the digital marketing campaign was a real multi-purpose . . . tool . . . guy.

Heineken: Worlds Apart

Where A24’s digital campaign impressed with its sheer number of spinning plates, Heineken’s “Worlds Apart” activation’s strength comes from its simplicity.

Described by Fast Company as “the antidote to that Pepsi Kendall Jenner ad,” the video demonstrated the power of respectful, measured treatment of social issues, and racked up close to 15 million views in the process during a time of which some brands can’t get out of their own tone-deaf ways.

The video works in part because it keeps the brand in the back seat—both in the video itself, and its underlying message. Heineken never implies that its beer is the tool that can bridge ideological gaps, and it lets the strangers in its ad do almost all of the talking. At the very least, it proves the uniting power of furniture assembly.

Ted Baker: Keeping Up With The Bakers

Part of the problem with shopping for clothes online is the difficulty in getting a picture of how well the clothes might fit, and part of the problem with video advertising is the lack of opportunity to impulse-buy. Ted Baker solved both these issues in one fell swoop, producing a shoppable 360-degree VR experience, letting potential customers get up close and personal to the clothing and directly purchase anything that strikes their fancy.

Framing the video as a ’50s sitcom, Ted Baker used its social channels to promote the promotion as well, creating limited-time Instagram Stories for five different “channels,” drawing consumers back on a daily basis to, well, keep up with the Bakers.

Casper: Staycation Hacks

When it comes to producing exciting content, mattress companies have a bit of a tougher time of things than other lifestyle brands.

Casper leaned into this challenge, giving up on making laziness sound shareable but acknowledging that many people are going to stay in bed anyway. With its Staycation Story Hacks website, those who are fans of staying indoors don’t have to miss out on the social media attention that vacationers get.

The campaign fits with Casper’s values, gave them free press and social media attention, and most importantly was simple enough that their marketing team didn’t have to stay up too late.

Untethered VR Is Here, But Wires Aren’t The Problem

A number of untethered VR headsets have been unveiled this year with the hope of stimulating consumer adoption. Mobile and untethered VR may be the next step in the technology’s evolution, but experts agree that tethered isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“VR is definitely going in the direction of untethered, more than mobile,” Stephanie Llamas, VP of research and strategy at SuperData, told AListDaily. “However, on the gaming end, there will be continued potential for tethered devices for some time. Gamers will be more likely to want to add VR as an accessory to their gaming devices, but mainstream consumers will want to consume VR on standalone devices, looking at them as entertainment hardware rather than accessories.

“It will be a long time before untethered VR devices can render to the level of gamers’ expectations and contain enough content to give them replay value. So until that time, untethered devices will be most popular among those looking for entertainment that doesn’t require so much processing power,” said Llamas.

Mobile VR lacks the processing power and interactivity of VR powered by a desktop computer. To find the “sweet spot” between price and power, 2017 has seen the announcement of untethered VR headsets like Oculus Go, Vive Focus and Pico Goblin.

“Aside from the usual suspects making untethered [VR headsets] such as Oculus and HTC Vive, there are companies that are finding interesting ways to skirt tethering without actually removing it,” added Llamas. “With their recent product reveal, Magic Leap is notable in that the headset is tethered to a small, portable base, so it’s almost as ordinary as wearing headphones attached to a cell phone. Another company is TPCast, which has been available as a wireless solution for the Vive [in China] for more than a year.”

AfterNow founder and industry veteran Philippe Lewicki told AListDaily that the future of VR will eventually be untethered, but position tracking is more important than removing wires.

“The future is six degrees of freedom (6Dof),” explained Lewicki, with “degrees of freedom” referring to position tracking and the number of ways an object—such as a VR headset—can move within a 3D space. “Tethered headsets give a great VR experience because they are 6Dof, [while] the current mobile and untethered headsets only give you three degrees of freedom (3Dof). That’s a significant downgrade and is not the future.”

Much of today’s VR offerings simulate experiences in 3Dof—changing the camera view as users move their heads side to side or up and down. VR with 6Dof means that a user’s position is not only tracked by where they are looking, but how they are moving, including up and down and side to side—creating a more lifelike experience.

“It will take a bit of time, but 6Dof will arrive on mobile,” said Lewicki, who noted that Oculus and HTC will be releasing their 6Dof headsets at a competitive price point.

In the upcoming year, Lewicki predicts more interactive experiences for VR that are real-time and location-based.

“We are anticipating better screen quality, 3D room scanning and low network latency for real-time experiences,” he said. “It’s going to be an incremental improvement for VR. Its likely that AR will steal the show for a bit with Magic Leap and Hololens.”