Walmart Announces New Display Self-Serve Platform

Walmart announced a new display self-serve platform launching later this year that will enable advertisers to activate and manage display campaigns with automation capabilities powered by ad-tech company Thunder.

Walmart acquired Thunder’s IP and technology, which will offer creative versioning, testing and optimization to help advertisers increase their return on ad spend (ROAS).

“While we expect our largest suppliers to adopt automation technology fastest, we are building this new platform to scale for Marketplace sellers and suppliers of all sizes,” the company said in a press release.

The news follows the retailer’s media business rebrand, from Walmart Media Group to Walmart Connect, with an expanded vision comprising three strategic areas.

First, Walmart is growing offerings across its digital properties—Walmart.com, pickup and delivery and the Walmart app—which saw nearly double the amount of revenue and more than double the number of advertisers last fiscal year.

The company is also launching new omnichannel capabilities that enable advertisers to reach its millions of in-store shoppers each week. These include media activations on in-store TV walls and self check-out screens with nearly 170,000 digital screens across more than 4,500 stores. Walmart’s stores and digital properties see 150 million weekly visitors.

Lastly, Walmart has partnered with The Trade Desk to launch a demand-side platform for suppliers and their media ad agencies to drive performance outside of Walmart’s proprietary sites using first-party shopper data.  

Walmart’s first major attempt at competing with Amazon, Google and Facebook came in 2019 when it held an event to pitch its ad business to hundreds of companies including Unilever, NBC Universal and Mattel. Since then, it has launched various in-house ad solutions like its Advertising Partners program, Sponsored Product Interface and Performance Reporting Dashboards.

To keep up with shifting consumer behaviors during the pandemic, in September Walmart unveiled a new modern store design focused on digitally-enabled shopping experiences. The retailer’s new exterior and interior signage reflects the Walmart app icon, and its stores now include self-checkout kiosks and contactless payment options.

COVID-19’s Impact On Travel Ad Spending

US air travel in Q4 was down more than 60 percent compared with the previous year, while overseas air travel was down nearly 90 percent through November compared with 2019 according to the International Air Transport Association.

The ongoing fallout of COVID-19, including travel bans and quarantines, has caused the airline business to bleed money and marketers to scale back ad spend. When the crisis hit, the travel industry reduced its ad spending by nearly 50 percent during the first two weeks of March from a year prior, according to MediaRadar. By mid-April, spend was down 93 percent year-over-year.

A resurgence in spending occurred in the summer months when travel’s TV ad spend gradually increased. For example, in July, iSpot.tv data cited by Skift showed that the US travel industry spent $33.9 million on TV ads, more than double compared with the $15.4 million spent in June. Despite the slight increase, travel TV ad spend was still down 77.8 percent from the year prior.

In October, eMarketer revised its travel ad forecast to show that US travel digital ad spend would drop by 41 percent YoY to just $3.24 billion, making travel account for just 2.4 percent of digital ad spending. The $3.74 billion the researcher forecasted for travel ad spending in 2021 barely exceeds the industry’s spend in 2017, which was $3.64 billion.

Though the US Travel Association doesn’t expect travel spending to return to pre-pandemic strength until 2024, travel companies are now planning for the possibility that consumer demand will rebound amid the vaccine rollout.

According to Tripadvisor’s latest research, 77 percent of travelers worldwide say they will be more likely to travel internationally if they receive the vaccine, rising to 86 percent for travel domestically. In the US, those figures are 69 percent and 80 percent, respectively.

Twenty-six percent of respondents globally say that they would only travel to destinations that required visitors to be vaccinated before travel.

Vaccine or not, the data indicate the travel industry could see a sign of hope as 47 percent of travelers globally say they’re planning to travel internationally in 2021, including 45 percent of US travelers.

The road to recovery will be arduous as officials urge consumers to avoid travel and airlines’ debt mounts. Delta reported a $12.4 billion loss for all of 2020, the largest annual loss of the history of the airline. But as people start planning summer vacations, Delta’s chief executive Ed Bastian said the company expects bookings “to start opening up again.”

Bastian expects international travel will take another 12 to 18 months to fully recover, and  business travel to be only 25 percent to 50 percent of what it used to be by the second half of 2021.

Southwest Airlines Co. CEO Gary Kelly anticipates domestic business could be in the range of down 50 percent to 60 percent by the end of this year, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Transparency will be critical for rebuilding consumer trust. For companies, means continuously updating travelers with their latest health and safety measures in line with pandemic protocols, as well as encouraging them via special deals to travel locally.

“Transparency is the currency of character right now. We talk so much about consumer confidence, but really when you get right down to it it’s about trust and if we earn and maintain the trust of the consumer we’ll have their confidence when it comes time to travel, Brad Dean, chief executive of Discover Puerto Rico told Skift.

Emarketer: The Pandemic Accelerated Ecommerce Sales By Nearly Two Years

The pandemic accelerated ecommerce sales by nearly two years, according to eMarketer. At the height of 2020, the researcher anticipated total ecommerce sales would reach $674.88 billion. By the end of the year, it added $100 billion to the figure, making it $794.50 billion.

That finding is part of a more comprehensive roundup of how the pandemic changed eMarketer’s 2020 sales forecasts for various industries in retail and ecommerce between February and November.

Consumer electronic ecommerce sales in particular were strong as people worked, learned and socialized from home. Emarketer initially expected sales here to be $150.10 billion, but has since revised that to $179.35 billion.

Another positive shift compared to pre-pandemic estimates happened in furniture and home furnishing ecommerce sales, which eMarketer anticipated would reach $76.80 billion, but now forecasts it to be $92.32 billion.

Health, personal care and beauty ecommerce sales also grew significantly. The researcher’s previous forecast was $58.70 billion, but now it sees it reaching $73.52 billion.

Emarketer expected food and beverage online sales to be $32.20 billion, but as shoppers flocked to digital grocery shopping, it raised its forecast by 41.3 percent to $45.47 billion.

Click-and-collect sales also surged in popularity, causing the researcher to revise its forecast in sales this year from $50.66 billion to $58.52 billion.

Negative shifts were observed for sales in brick-and-mortar retail, auto retail, digital travel and apparel retail. The most dramatic downward adjustment that eMarketer made was for in-person retail sales. First anticipated to reach $4.946 trillion, it’s now down to $4.711 trillion—a $234.50 billion loss.

Digital travel sales were initially expected to reach $215.74, but now sit at $115.27 billion. Apparel retail was in line to reach $483.40 billion in sales, but eMarketer says it will be $394.89 billion.

LEWIS: Ecommerce, Engagement And Entertainment Helped Top Global Brands Succeed In A Turbulent Year

A successful digital marketing strategy proved itself to be a valuable requisite for resiliency during disruption. Yet many brands struggled to harness some of the core tenets of digital marketing this year. That’s according to LEWIS’ annual Global Marketing Engagement Index, an analysis of the world’s 300 largest public companies from Forbes Global 2000 list.

The report reveals that ecommerce, entertainment and engagement were the winning trio for successful brands worldwide this year. As consumer behavior fluctuated, marketers who embraced empathy, value perception and data stayed ahead of the game.

Overall, the average LEWIS Marketing Engagement Tracker (MET) score—developed  between November 9 and November 25—for the Forbes top 300 has stayed consistent with the 2019 average (56 percent vs. 54 percent).

However, the firm observed significant shifts within digital marketing metrics. For one, website reporting metrics remained the lowest scored topic on average, with all industries scoring lower than previous years in terms of optimum tag management and engagement tracking—both essential for addressing changing consumer behaviors.

While video consumption surged 60 percent globally during the pandemic, many companies are still not fully utilizing video content on their webpages. In fact, the average Forbes 300 company scored 30 percent in this area, reports LEWIS.

“Visual storytelling remains an untapped opportunity. Some brands do this really well, Nike for example. However, there is so much more we can do as marketers. It’s not just about putting out a video, it’s about the story you tell. Situational fluency is the key to success. You must know what’s going on in the world, how your brand connects to that and show versus tell,” Noah Dye, senior vice president of client engagement, LEWIS US, tells AList.

More people flocked to online shopping than ever before, yet 76 percent of companies weren’t running search engine marketing ads when LEWIS’ research was conducted.

Social media usage also soared, giving brands an opportunity not only to communicate brand values through influencers, but to also share statements from their leaders about important issues such as COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement. Despite this, LEWIS found that two in three Forbes top 300 chief executive officers had no active social presence. Including CEOs lacking public facing accounts, 78 percent of the Forbes 300 CEOs were missing from social media conversations.

“The pandemic has driven us all online. If executives don’t see this, brands could fall behind. CEOs set the tone for an organization. They must listen to both internal and external audiences. If they are missing from social, or not truly engaged, they risk missing important conversations about their brand,” Dye says.

The importance of a visible CEO shouldn’t be undermined, as LEWIS found companies using CEO thought leadership platforms to provide quotes for the media performed better overall. 

The organizations analyzed used data to inform their fluid marketing strategies, as US data usage jumped 38 percent in March alone compared to the previous year. Additionally, consumer facing industries scored highest on user experience, with financial services companies earning 15 percent higher than the average Forbes 300 company.

For nearly all industries, website security scored high (82 percent) across the board, with the exception of the entertainment industry, where website security scored 23 percent less than the average Fortune 300 company. Still, one in three companies had site issues that could lead to a hack if not fixed.

“Always remember that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Brands must listen. Respond quickly. Be human. Customers will make their preferences known, but if you’re not listening, you’ll be left behind.”

Media Assurance & Transparency Still A Global Issue With Rizwan Merchant

On this 239th episode of “Marketing Today,” I speak with Rizwan Merchant, CEO at Media Merchant. Merchant is the first guest from Pakistan and brings over a decade of experience in the Pakistani Media Industry. Today, we talk about the 2016 ANA Transparency Report and how these issues are still present today, four years on.

We start our conversation with the exploding media industry in Pakistan, which has gone from less than $100M in advertising expenses to over $550M in just ten years. With that massive growth has come a plethora of problems, not only in Pakistan but also for marketers worldwide. Merchant has seen “exactly what goes on behind the doors.” Merchant then takes us through the ANA Transparency Report that came out in 2016, which identified a myriad of problems and fraudulent practices among the agencies that bridge the gap between the media houses and advertisers. The advertisers have forgotten that “agencies are there in the business to make money as well,” so their intentions may have nothing to do with the benefit of their client. Advertisers are still losing boatloads of money because of their inability to structure contracts for themselves. Merchant says, “the easiest way to plug that financial outlet is to start paying the media directly instead of going through the agencies.”

Merchant suggested that the best way to battle this problem is for clients “to upgrade their knowledge when it comes to the media supply chain.” Another problem now is that “many agencies have started to own the media that they are pushing to advertisers.” It seems if there is money to be made, agencies will find a way. The onus is on marketers to be smarter and more vigilant.

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Rizwan currently lives in Pakistan, part of Southeast Asia, and is a growing market with a booming media industry. 1:45
  • The Pakistani media industry has grown from less than $100M in advertising expenses to $550M in the last ten years. 2:30
  • An accountant by education, Rizwan joined Mediacom on the finance side when he returned to Pakistan in 2004. 3:35
  • In 2015, Rizwan started his media audit agency, Media Merchant. 5:10
  • The ANA Transparency Report identified problems with the rebates received by the agencies based on advertiser money. 6:00
  • Principal transactions came up in the ANA Transparency report, showing that agencies were buying inventory through holding companies. 6:50
  • Agencies were found to be selling free inventory they received from the media houses to their marketing clients. 7:15
  • Advertisers were found to be trusting agencies blindly, a failure on the part of the advertisers. 7:47
  • Rizwan identified multiple problems that didn’t come out in the ANA report. 8:15
  • Media Buying Houses came into existence by providing the agencies with multiple suggestions that acted as a financial bomb. 9:20
  • The agencies exploited the lack of connection between the advertising clients and the media outlets. 11:50
  • While there are specific rules and regulations in different countries, this is still a problem all over the world. 12:24
  • With media outlets being drained of their finances, their ability to create content is greatly affected. 14:30
  • The relationship between the media and advertising industries the opposite of what it should be right now. 16:00
  • As a result of the ANA report, guidelines were created to guide the creation of the contracts. 17:34
  • The main problems are found in the governance of the agencies within the creation of the contracts. 19:24
  • The creation and execution of one’s own media plan make it hard to do their own homework. 23:28
  • Marketers and financing departments should act as the custodians in the creation of contracts. 24:05
  • The best thing that marketers can do is stay up to date on policies and control the abundance of fraud amongst agencies. 26:20
  • Agencies are in this to make money, and because of that, Rizwan does not blame them for the problem. 29:41
  • The Big 4 financial institutions do not know the media industry and therefore are less effective when it comes to auditing services. 32:10
  • A desire to challenge himself has shaped Rizwan as a person as he has taken on many different positions throughout his life. 34:20
  • Patience is a virtue that Rizwan wishes he had learned earlier in his life. 36:16
  • Fragmentation in the Pakistani social-economic classes inspired Rizwan to start a soccer league for over 10,000 kids to earn money and skills. 38:15
  • Digital marketers have the opportunity to connect directly with consumers in a way that has never existed before. 40:26
  • A lack of knowledge threatens marketers as agencies are the ones that provide them with information. 41:50

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

Twitch Hits A New Milestone With 1.7 Billion Hours Watched In November

Amid a pandemic-driven rise in usage, Twitch keeps breaking its own record. This time, the platform hit a new viewership milestone, with nearly 1.7 billion hours watched in November—a five percent increase from October. That’s according to new data from Arsenal.gg, StreamElements’ analytics partner.

Twitch’s non-gaming Just Chatting category maintains its position as the most popular category on the platform since May. In November, the category set a viewership milestone with 228 million hours watched—a 246 percent increase year-over-year.

The second most-watched category on Twitch was League of Legends, followed by Among Us in third. While most games declined in hours watched, Minecraft and World of Warcraft saw a huge jump in viewership—60 percent and 64 percent, respectively.

Arsenal.gg also reports Twitch’s Beauty & Body Art category, which encompasses everything from traditional makeup tutorials to cosplayers and body painters, continues to see significant growth. As of the first two months of Q4, the category jumped to over 466,000 hours watched, marking a 441 percent increase in watch time from the pre-pandemic period. The category peaked in October when it saw 349,000 hours watched as a result of Halloween cosplay.

“Women are more than 40 percent of the gaming lifestyle scene, making live streaming platforms the next frontier for beauty products. Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen the beauty category on Twitch grow over 260 percent in terms of hours watched with cosmetic brands like L’Oréal, MAC, Em, Hero, and e.l.f. already dipping their toes in the water,” said Doron Nir, chief executive of StreamElements.

Among the top Twitch streamers in November were Gaules with 15 million hours watched, followed by HasanAbi in second and xQcOW in third.

Facebook Gaming also had a strong month, with 100 percent YoY growth–part of its continued momentum from Q3 when it surpassed 1 billion hours watched for the first time.

Comparatively, YouTube Gaming says it saw 100 billion hours watched this year, double the amount of hours watched in 2018. 

Listen In: Happy Holidays To A Brave New World In Media


We used to hear folks say ‘content is king,’ meaning if you had good content the eyes would follow (and where the eyes go, the brands go). But things are changing.

Ayzenberg media director Leo Hernandez helps us understand the accelerated evolution we’re seeing and how changing habits like screen-time have led to an ‘overpowering’ of the consumer. We also try to answer the following questions: What does the broadcast media landscape look like during the pandemic? How are media consumption habits changing?

There’s a lot to unpack, including what happened on Black Friday, a moratorium on Quibi and which sports managed to avoid tripping up in 2020.


About Listen In: Each week on Listen In, Bretz and a rotating cast of hosts from Ayzenberg interview experts in the field of marketing and advertising to explore uncharted territory together. The goal is to provide the a.network audience with actionable insights, enabling them to excel in their field.

How To Choose The Right Marketing Budget For Your Video Game

Early in my career I was a brand manager and very infrequently was privy to how the marketing budget I managed had been derived. As I got promoted and got more responsibility, I started witnessing how budgets were being allocated. I’ve worked at more than seven game companies now over the course of 24 years and have been exposed to a few methods. These include a percent of revenue approach, a top-down budget, a share of voice/market budget and zero-based budgeting. Below I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each method as well as the kind of video games that typically use them.


Percent of Revenue Budgeting 

This is a simple method that includes a forecast of total revenue that the product or division is expected to make in the next time period. To arrive at your budget, you multiply the total revenue by the percent allocated toward marketing.

Pros: It’s very simple, very straightforward and it’s equitable. Assuming the same percentage is given to all the products, all of the titles and all the marketing goals, no single game gets more share than another, thereby preventing the need for complex analysis and saving a lot of time. The other good thing about it is that it scales. So if a product has a very large revenue forecast, the marketing budget is equitably raised because of that percentage of revenue.

Cons: It really has no recognition for differing strategies and budgets that may be required based on those strategies or differing product external factors. It doesn’t consider whether or not your product is in a very hotly contested genre or category where your competitors are trying to outspend you to make up market share.

It also doesn’t take into account a particular unique idea or marketing strategy that may be interesting to invest in. For example, let’s say you set your percentage of revenue budget and a new social media platform explodes onto the market like TikTok. When you set those budgets, you had no idea because TikTok didn’t exist. But now a massive amount of your player base is consuming content and you’ve got an amazing strategy to launch your next TikTok presence. In the percentage of revenue budget, if your forecast isn’t changing, you need to borrow that money from some other marketing tactic that you had allocated funding to. So you need to make one part of your marketing campaign suffer to be able to afford this new marketing tactic.

Typically used for: Premium AAA console blockbuster game launches where marketing campaigns are relatively short and spending is compressed.


Top-Down Budgeting

Top-down budgeting is when senior management from a very heavy finance background dictates how much you have to spend.

Pros: It’s fast and fairly predictable, which means your marketing team can plan for it and be ready to execute it very quickly. This method is advantageous when your competitor is slower to agree upon budgets because it enables you to get to market quicker than them, thus allowing you to take share of voice.

Cons: This approach removes any of the agency that marketing team members might have. They are not given a voice in the process and thereby could become discouraged from doing their best work because they feel their input wasn’t taken into consideration.

It also really doesn’t change with goals. Let’s say your goals change midstream, you have to ask the people that are doing the top-down budgeting for more money. For instance, let’s say the game is outperforming three months after you’ve been given your budget and it’s 20 percent over forecast. You then have to go back to the senior management team and beg, borrow and steal, or say, my games taking off and I need more money to fuel the fire. But you’re not the one that necessarily has a voice in that process.

Lastly, like with the percent of revenue model, the other negative is that it’s a fixed amount of dollars. If a new tactic that you wanted to exploit emerges, you have to borrow money from other tactics that you were planning on spending to be able to afford it.

Typically used for: Self-contained games that don’t have a live-ops or post-launch monetization strategy.


Share of Voice/Market Budgeting

This is a goal-driven method using benchmarks as targets. It requires good competitive data that deeply analyzes where your competitor is spending, how much they’re spending, the tactics that they’re using and what media mixes they’re spending against. It aims to erode market share against the category leaders through impression generation and all sorts of marketing tactics to make you look bigger than you actually are. 

Pros: This is really good for products that are trying to catch up or for products that are early in their lifecycle, especially if you’ve got a really high-quality product that’s only suffering because it’s not as mature as its competitors.

Cons: It’s definitely a slower process than the percent of revenue and top-down approaches, respectively. It takes a good deal of analysis and amazing competitive intel that some teams may not be able to gather. Though one of the best tools you have for the share of voice analysis and figuring out budgets is to look at search volume, specifically on Google and YouTube. And if you’re on mobile, looking at the iTunes store search data would be important.

It also doesn’t take into consideration outliers, such as other competitors that you’re not including in that competitive analysis.

Typically used for: A game in a category where you’re not the market leader.


Zero-Based Budgeting

In this scenario, the budgeting process begins from scratch, so marketers start from $0 and build a budget that fits the strategy needed to make their product successful. This requires a very seasoned and well-rounded marketer that deeply understands their product and what is needed for their product to be successful.

Pros: It provides great agency to the marketers and the teams who created the budget. They feel responsible for the marketing dollars that they have to deploy because they were the ones that decided what that dollar figure should be.

This method can be effective for gaining market share, driving brand awareness or winning back customers, among other goals. Maybe you’re marketing a product that’s older and you’ve moved away from the acquisition phase of the product, so now you’re trying to win back loyal customers. 

Cons: This is a 100 percent forward-looking process that doesn’t take into consideration anything that happened in the past; whereas some of the aforementioned budgeting techniques take a look at historic performance and spend and make decisions based on incremental increases to historic data.

Another con here is it’s a lengthy process that requires a great amount of debate between the marketers, the product owners and other people that have interest in that product on what goals should be set as the marketers’ goals may not be aligned with overall business goals.

This is a really challenging approach, but if done right, can be a very rewarding process.

Typically used for: Free-to-play business models, subscription-based business models and games with multiplayer online liveops support where there’s additional content being generated all the time.

WARC: Global Ad Spend Will Decline By 10.2 Percent, Or $63.4 Billion, In 2020

It will take at least two years for the global ad economy to fully recover from the pandemic as the year’s events will cause it to contract by 10.2 percent, or $63.4 billion, in 2020. Excluding US election campaigning, ad spend worldwide is set to decline by 11 percent to $552.3 billion this year.

That’s according to WARC Data’s “State of the Industry 2020/2021” report, which anticipates this year to be worse than the 2009 recession when ad investment fell by 12.9 percent, or $61.3 billion. Taking into account inflation and exchange rates, real ad market decline this year will be double that of 2009.

In 2021, global ad spend will increase by 6.7 percent, meaning only 59 percent of this year’s losses will be recovered, reports WARC.

Sectors that are hit the hardest include automotive, retail and travel and tourism. A full 17.4 percent of global losses stemmed from the automotive sector, where spend is down 21.2 percent, or $11 billion. Next is retail, with spend down 16.2 percent, or $10.5 billion. Travel and tourism brands cut ad spend by nearly 40 percent.

Next year, automotive will see a 14.1 percent increase, retail will see a 5.9 percent increase and travel and tourism will grow by 19.5 percent.

Marketers expect to invest the most in digital channels next year, with 70 percent of respondents planning to increase spend on online video, 64 percent planning to increase spend on mobile, 59 percent planning to increase spend on online search and 49 percent planning to increase spend on online display.

Traditional channels will continue to wane in 2021 as just 19 percent of marketers intend to up spend on television, 16 percent on radio/audio and 15 percent on out-of-home (OOH). Over half (54 percent) of marketers will decrease spend on print.

Year-over-year, online video is expected to be the fastest-growing format in 2021, with spend expected to rise by 12.8 percent. The second-fastest growing medium will be OOH, with ad spend rising by 20.2 percent. Social media is projected to grow by 12.2 percent in 2021.

Though investment is down for linear television, cinema, linear radio and paid search, next year all formats will see some growth. Newspapers and magazines, however, will remain down or largely flat.

Ad spend is down the least in the US at 4.3 percent, or $9.9 billion, to $221 billion. In 2021, spend there will grow by 3.8 percent, enabling it to recoup 89 percent of this year’s losses.

Though most ad money will be transacted by machines for the first time next year, just 15 percent of marketers name brand safety as one of their top concerns, followed by 10 percent for ad fraud.

Listen In: Search Is The New Advertising


One part of advertising is changing emotions to create desire for a product. The other part is getting the right product in front of consumers at the right time.

Sarah Whedon, Content Marketing Manager at Teikametrics, joins Matt Bretz in our 24th episode of Listen In to talk about the latter.

Sarah defines the Amazon ad ecosystem and articulates the challenge for enterprise brands: to strategize, build and optimize around where most shoppers make their purchasing choice. In other words, to ensure advantageous placement on the first search results page on Amazon. Sarah also shares details about her varied career path, including her background in academia and as a doula, among other roles. 

The conversation also covers how Teikametrics uses their Flywheel software to optimize ads on Amazon including structuring campaigns, automating bids and identifying keywords, as well as the Amazon marketplace’s new ad offerings in this unpredictably shifting media landscape.


About Listen In: Each week on Listen In, Bretz and a rotating cast of hosts from Ayzenberg interview experts in the field of marketing and advertising to explore uncharted territory together. The goal is to provide the a.network audience with actionable insights, enabling them to excel in their field.