Marketing Stories To Read This Week–January 13, 2020

We’ve searched for the latest must-read marketing stories so you don’t have to. Here’s what’s happening in the industry this week, from taking another look at generational stereotypes to 2020 marketing challenges.

3 Key Factors Of Brand Partnerships That Boosts Creativity

Planning a brand partnership? Keep these three factors in mind. They’ll help ensure your partnership is worthwhile for all parties involved.

Why it matters: Brand partnerships may seem rote but there’s a number⁠—in this case, three⁠—of factors that separate killer brand partnerships from partnerships that should have been killed.

The Voice Of Blind People Hasn’t Been Heard’: Inside The Fight For Audio-Described Ads
The Drum

Advertising has largely ignored the blind. P&G wants to change that with audio descriptions.

Why it matters: There’s an untapped audience not being adequately served by marketers. As the article notes, “if a company produced an audio description of its next ad for British TV, it would immediately reach an extra 2.2 million people.”

What’s Top Of Mind For CMOs Right Now?

Six chief marketing officers share their priorities for 2020, including digital transformation and channel growth.

Why it matters: Here’s what your competition is planning for 2020. Aren’t you a little curious?

Your Data-Driven Marketing Is Harmful. I Should Know: I Ran Marketing At Google And Instagram

The map is not the territory: marketers run the risk of relying too heavily on data that they forget the human represented by it, including their emotions and needs.

Why it matters: “The reality is that marketers have long understood the need to build and foster meaningful emotional connections between businesses and customers. The quality of these connections helps to define the world’s most iconic brands.” What we know is that quality suffers when taking human activity in abstraction.

The CMO Role Is Evolving Rather Than Going The Way Of The Dinosaur
Chief Marketer

The death of the CMO has been greatly exaggerated, being borne out of creative roles that typically diverge from left-brained, analytical data-crunching. But the tide may be turning and one needs only to point to the fact that Coca-Cola recently revived the CMO role after two years without, a bellwether for smaller brands that are wrestling with the changing nature of the position.

Why it matters: The increasing influence of data-fueled technologies has been blamed for the untimely demise of the chief marketing officer, but the case can be made that more data is empowering CMOs, and is not an existential threat. By changing mindsets around data, the CMO can incorporate new technologies and “not only […] survive but thrive.”

Hulu To Debut New Ad Formats In 2020 Focused On Letting Users Make Choices, Transact With Advertisers
Tech Crunch

Hulu is unveiling new ad experiences that would allow viewers to engage with brands and have more input in determining which ads they are served.

Why it matters: Hulu’s new ad formats are a direct response to confronting the problem of disruptive ad experiences. The hope is that these ads are “less disruptive, more engaging, and more functional.”

The Story Of Casper Shows There Is No DTC ‘Revolution’
Marketing Week

The DTC revolution will not be televised. In fact, it may not have happened at all. DTC brands entered the fray touting a “different model for marketing,” but the distinction dissipated once the startup-phase ended, finding many DTC brands shifting from their direct distro models to traditional retail channels.

Why it matters: The very premise of DTC has been gut-checked for some time, as we covered during SXSW last year. Mark Ritson’s latest piece is a no holds barred missive to marketers that “most of [DTC brands’] touted disruption and success was bullshit.”

How To Market Taboo Products

Marketing taboo products can be a tricky business. You run the risk of offending consumers or making light of serious social issues. At the same time, the “friction”
from discussing taboo topics can be a major advantage.

Why it matters: Some of the most lauded campaigns from the past year push the boundaries of what’s socially addressable in public. Danielle Sabrina’s tips for marketing taboo products ‘the right way’ can help you position your brand to take advantage of the taboo nature of difficult-to-discuss products.

Opinion: Under The Influence—The Dishonest And Wasteful Practice Of Influencer Marketing
Ad Age

Should marketers say ‘farewell’ to influencers and get back to the brass tacks of marketing? Has the drive for word-of-mouth authenticity once promised by influencers run out of gas? Kevin Twomey makes the case against influencer marketing.

Why it matters:
Due to the difficulty of proving the ROI of influencer marketing, coupled with a swell of dishonest behavior from influencers and the prospect that by 2022, $15 billion will be spent by brands on marketing with influencers, marketers should take a long, hard look at their marketing mix.

The Great Sucking Sound: Automation Has Made Media Harder


Turns out, automation when it comes to media buying has not necessarily cut down on the number of humans it takes to manage it. In fact, in myriad ways, media buying has perhaps gotten harder.

Why it matters: Marketing automation has long been sold as a way to reduce costs and simplify processes for marketers, but is that really the reality? Clearly, not with media buying—but how many other processes are facing similar fates?

Only 28% Of Marketers Focus On Data Quality Reports: Nielsen

MarTech Advisor

More data, more actionable insights? According to a new report from Nielsen, perhaps only 28 percent of marketers may actually be concerned with the quality and accuracy of the data they use.

Why it matters: This can be summed up in one sentence of Nielsen’s global head of analytics, Matt Krepsik: “Marketers are seeking greater accountability in today’s increasingly omnichannel landscape, yet we learned through this study that their investments in media are often driven by perception versus reality.”

Micro-Influencers Trends: Platform, Format And Compensation Practices


Some highlights from MarketingProf’s micro-influencer trend report, which may be of no surprise to anyone: micro-influencers largely prefer Instagram to activate their brand collaborations, they want compensation in the form of actual payment (not swag, exclusivity, etc.) and Instagram Stories—with their ability to direct action toward a brand—are the format of choice.

Why it matters: The trend has shifted from focusing on macro-level influencers, to engaging “micro” influencers, which have a more engaged following—that is, until they are overleveraged by brands, too.

How Brands Like Unilever, McDonald’s And WPP Are Responding To Australia’s Bushfire Crisis

The Drum

The Australian bushfire crisis has triggered numerous responses from brands, many well-intentioned of course, but also many that appear to be a little opportunistic as well. It is not a good look to leverage tragedy to try to sell more product. On that note, this article offers insights on why and how brands can get involved on issues like this in real, authentic ways.

Why it matters: With brand activism on the rise and younger consumers looking for social responsibility from the brands they buy from, it is imperative brands get this right.

How To Grow A Brand Beyond A Buzz Moment

Business Of Fashion

Brands, big or small, can do with some advice on how to capitalize on a time when your brand is accidentally or purposefully of the moment. Buzz is great and all, but how can you turn it into longevity?

Why it matters: Lightning strikes. Look at Eggo and Stranger Things. Gigi Hadid and 40-year-old sunglasses brand Le Specs. It’s worth entertaining how you would respond if your brand was unexpectedly thrust into the conversation.

Google Chrome Will Drop Third-Party Cookies In 2 Years


“We are confident … mechanisms like the Privacy Sandbox can sustain a healthy, ad-supported web in a way that will render third-party cookies obsolete,” said Justin Schuh, director of Chrome engineering.

Why it matters: “These changes will affect Google’s business buying ads across the open web, often known as its DoubleClick business, a Google spokesperson confirmed.”

Fuelling The Influencer Machine: The Hidden Network Turning People Into Stars

Business Of Fashion

Exploring the impact of the influencer marketing machine.

Why it matters: The state of influencer marketing shows strong growth. In-depth knowledge of how influencers operate is imperative for marketers who may run these campaigns in the future.

5 Steps To Secure Your Customer Data


Blake Morgan makes the case for continually revising and re-evaluating your company’s data privacy policies and strategies.

Why it matters: Stats show that consumers expect responsible data handling and clear communication around how companies comply with data regulations.

The Timing Is Right For Brands, Streaming And The New Heartland


Get to know the “New Heartland.”

Why it matters: Brands and media buyers have misconceptions about a new subset of viewers, and overlooking this important segment will cost them.

3 Ways VR/AR Became A Reality For Brands At CES

Ad Age

A special report from Ad Age covering the VR/AR technology at play at CES, as well as implications for marketers.

Why it matters: While still an industry in its infancy, VR/AR is set to hit the mainstream. Learn how 5G will affect how marketers use the technology as its adoption becomes more widespread.

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation: Subverting The Stereotypes

The Drum

Research director Wex Eathorne breaks down five trends based on Opinium Research’s Most Connected Brand study which indicates that “[generational] differences are driven by fundamental social, cultural and technological changes.”

Why it matters: Understanding the influences behind generational attitudes toward brands goes a long way to unseat stereotypes based on how consumers view their relationships toward them.

Marketers Ignore True Brand Impact At Their Peril


“Just because a commercial garners views does not mean there is brand impact.” Dig in to learn what really drives brand impact.

Why it matters: Learn why and how captured impressions are distinct from how people are impacted by your brand.

It’s Time For Brands To Stop Climate Grandstanding And Listen To Consumer Needs


Is a preponderance of “purpose” throwing marketers off the trail of what really matters?

Why it matters: Even purposeful pedestals can be cloying to consumers and miss the point of connecting, rather than preaching, to people over shared environmental concerns.

Your Challenge For The 2020s: Make Marketing More Accessible

Marketing Week

A challenge to every marketer for the new decade: “do what [you] can to ensure marketing feels possible, accessible and full of potential.”

Why it matters: We all need a challenge in 2020.

Editor’s Note: Our weekly reading list is updated daily. This installment is updated until Friday, January 17. Have a tip? We’re looking for must-read articles related to trends and insights in marketing and media. Let us know at

Instagram, Growth Hacking And Personalization: Three Trends That Shaped The Decade

The past ten years have been a wild marketing ride. Although it’s hard to be hyper-critical reflection while the paint still drying, it seems we’ve weathered one of the most turbulent and pivotal decades in the last fifty years, rivaling the 1980s, in terms of innovation, social upheavals and rapid change.

As marketers, the period from 2010 to 2020 has completely transformed the way we conduct business. The promises of the digital world finally caught up to and in some ways superseded its physical limitations. Smartphones took over the world, social media reached a global audience and the rise of streaming and personalized content services fundamentally changed our relationship with government, the media and our neighbors. 

But like the black goo in the movie Prometheus, these innovations have warped and mutated almost everything they’ve touched. It’s also been a decade of rampant disruption, and the flipside to all this has been the rise of a whole new set of problems caused by new technologies, including culture wars to fake news and declining consumer trust.

To close the book on the last ten years, I’ve picked three of the broadest trends that shaped marketing over the decade—from the maturation of the sharing economy to the disintegration of the CMO role.

The Instagram Decade

The rise and (higher) rise of social media is easily the most significant trend of the 2010s. As hard as it might be to believe in 2020, when almost every marketing plan begins and ends with a social component, at the beginning of the decade most marketers didn’t know what to do when it came to social media.

It’s an understatement to say it was a decade of revolutionary change for social media. But, while Facebook and Twitter’s position at the top of the pile remains curiously unchallenged, there has also been a proliferation of new platforms including Snapchat, Vine, Pinterest and TikTok. However, if you could point to the one brand that defined the past decade, it would be Instagram. Launched in 2010 and acquired by Facebook in 2012, the photo-sharing app has grown like wildfire, ending the era with over a billion regular users and an estimated market value of $100 billion.

Instagram’s effect on marketing has been profound. Getting over an early reputation as a repository of food pics and selfies, the app has since gone on to redefine the relationship between brands and consumers. A state of affairs that anyone who has people queuing for a selfie at the Eiffel Tower or witnessed the punters lined up for brand activation at Coachella can readily testify to.

By encouraging its users to post authentic snapshots of their lives, Instagram has also been the main driving force behind the can of worms that is influencer marketing. Since emerging in 2013, spending on influencer marketing had hit almost $8 million by the end of the decade, but it remains a channel that is fraught with uncertainty. By the end of 2019, over-exposure to influencer techniques and an explosion of superficial, inauthentic content, faked results and declining conversion rates seemed to be blowing the bottom out of the influencer bubble.

Big Data, Growth Hacking And The Death Of The CMO

In the past ten years, marketing has gotten a lot more complicated. In the heady days of 2010, when programmatic and real-time bidding was still a very new technology, most media buying moved at a relatively stately pace. CMO’s had to concentrate on choosing a message, figuring out a media strategy and seeing what stuck.

By 2015, the world had changed. The introduction of ever more sophisticated artificial intelligence and martech produced ads that now moved in real-time, while machine learning meant that campaigns could be tweaked on the go. What’s more, the increasing adoption of media led to customers demanding two-way conversations with their favourite brands. The end result? Marketing departments suddenly had to think and move faster than they ever had before.

Around the same time, the marketing manager was also expected to do more. The rise in growth hacking from 2010, with its emphasis on long term growth over short term customer acquisition, extended marketing into almost every part of the business. Not only was the CMO now a vital cog in the product development cycle by the middle of the decade, but data and optimization had come to rule almost every department. The key to business is customer retention through seamless omnichannel experiences. To succeed, c-level marketers had to become a jack of all trades, juggling technology, analytics, creativity and brand.

If this sounds overwhelming to you, then it won’t surprise you to find out that chief marketing officers often have the shortest lifespan of the average c-suite. At the dawn of the 2020’s many companies including Uber, McDonald’s and Johnson & Johnson are doing away with the role, and instead, spreading marketing responsibilities around the boardroom. 

Engagement, Personalization And The Ascent Of Content Marketing

If you wanted to get a laugh from a room of marketers in January 2010, then the best way would have probably have been to tell them that the next decade was going to be a renaissance for content marketers.

Much of the industry viewed it as an appendage of search marketing and most of the output was unashamedly keyword-based. In fact, the only thing most marketers worried about was how to pump it out quicker and reduce costs further, as illustrated by a report from the Content Marketing Institute in 2010 reporting that the top challenge cited by marketers was quantity based over quality based.

That was until social media changed the landscape. By the mid-2010s, the rise of blogging, peer-to-peer platforms and data-led targeting produced a more informed buying audience who were less willing to believe overly branded messaging. The growth of on-demand services, in turn, led to a more independently minded consumer and the job of content marketing changed from push to pull.

By 2017, engagement had taken over clicks and interaction as the main focus of most brand’s content marketing strategies. Creatively, the emphasis shifted from answering questions and extolling virtues to inspiring customers, harnessing audiences and building brand love. Freed from the shackles of always having to employ the hard sell, content marketing started to rival traditional publishers in terms of creativity and quality. Data-led personalization turned customers into creatives, and ever more creative use of user-generated content has strengthened the bond between brand and customer.

Heading into the twenties, content marketing largely sits at the center of most brand communication. With Generation Z now coming of age, the importance of personalized content that’s relevant and shareable won’t be diminishing any time soon.

The Social Index Helps Brands Evaluate Earned Media

(Editor’s note: AList is published by

There’s no media like earned media, and with over 3,000 users, Ayzenberg Group’s Social Index is the industry standard for measuring it. Also known as free media, publicity or (in Europe) advertising value equivalency, earned media is the exposure you receive from reactions by third parties (including journalists, bloggers and consumers) to the actions you take to create buzz for your brand.

Unlike paid or owned media, earned media is organic. In today’s environment, it’s primarily the recognition you receive, including likes, shares and comments, from the content you post on your social media channels. 

Consumers listen to family and friends in a way they rarely do to marketers. Because “word of mouth” has always been considered the most trusted (and therefore best) form of advertising, earned media’s appeal goes beyond its unpaid aspect. When people share their passion for your brand with everyone they’re connected to online, they’re acting as brand ambassadors who promote you in a way money simply can’t buy. 

Given the importance of earned media, it’s essential for you to understand its worth and how it factors into your overall marketing budget. That’s why Ayzenberg Group developed the Social Index, which has become the benchmark for measuring social performance.

The Social Index will help you track the ROI of your social media, influencer and content marketing campaigns across all major social media channels, even in an environment in which metrics for engagements such as Value per Click (VPC), Value per View (VPV) and Value per Share (VPS) are constantly changing. 

Ayzenberg Group’s Social Index team strives to assemble the most data points possible for precise engagement metrics. Compiled from decades of media research, expertise and AI-driven technology, the Social Index provides the most accurate and up-to-date measurements for specific industries. And with the Social Index’s API, these metrics become even better suited to your needs.

Quick to set up, the Social Index API is a simple tool you can use to bring real ROI values to your platform, internal reporting system or analytics dashboard. Updated daily, the index works with your tools and processes to give you the most precise values available for your social media investments.

How Does The Social Index Work?

Ayzenberg Group uses an integrated approach combining scientific methodology, statistical precision and a technical algorithm to produce the most precise values available for social media. It takes social network data related to the costs of reaching certain audiences as a starting point and then applies layers of knowledge, experience, math and machine learning that are the core of its proprietary formula. 

With a focus on actual engagement and not just passive impressions, the Social Index provides up-to-date earned media values for metrics across major social networks, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube and LinkedIn. These values have become key reporting metrics for hundreds of companies, helping them understand the overall effectiveness of a campaign quickly and efficiently. 

The Social Index includes premium values for specific industries, providing the most precise numbers possible. It is a continual work in progress, updated daily and pulling from a variety of data points for industries that include automotive, entertainment, beauty and fashion, consumer electronics, food and beverage, healthcare, travel and leisure, gaming and financial services. 

Vincent Juarez, principal, media director at Ayzenberg and one of the creators of the Social Index, stresses these industry breakdowns are a critical and differentiating element of the index. “As a company with a long history in paid media, we know that our baseline values were just the first step. Our plan has always been that once we had more information from the industry in addition to a programmatic way to monitor changes in pricing on the platforms, we would revise our method and produce a nearly real-time Index,” he notes.  

According to Ayzenberg Group’s VP of product & technology, Chris Strawser, “As a marketing agency, we have nearly 30 years of experience analyzing the experiences and connection audiences have with brands. The methodology behind the Social Index grew out of that consumer journey, the power we predicted social media would have on that path and the need for brands to define the equity they were building through social speech. 

“The Social Index was built to provide precise brand social media valuation, and we use the wealth of our own campaign data for some of the most prestigious brands in the world in tandem with trusted third-party sources as inputs to our calculations. This process, combined with our expertise in consumer and audience analytics, forms the basis of a methodology that we feel confident in defending.”

The Social Index can be accessed at AList (, which is introducing products and services designed to empower marketers with the tools they need to succeed in today’s social environment.

5 Video Trends That Will Take 2020 Marketing To New Heights

Marketers will spend $102.8 billion dollars a year on video ads by 2023, making 2020 an important year to ramp up video marketing efforts. At a time when consumers are inundated with video content across all touchpoints, creating engaging videos is a must for captivating the attention of a fragmented audience while also yielding important conversions. Ahead we’re sharing five of those trends to consider in your next video strategy meeting.

1. Video Ads on Streaming Platforms

A host of over-the-top (OTT) streaming services like Netflix and YouTube TV have become favorites of cord-cutters over the last few years with the number of cord-cutting households jumping another 19.2 percent in 2019. By 2022, nearly 25 percent of households will ditch traditional television. These platforms mirror the ad loads of traditional television, which means video marketing opportunities will only continue to grow in 2020. With the ongoing rise of YouTube influencers, too, brands will have the ability to attract younger demographics on the platform. The benefit of ads on these platforms is that they offer more targeting features and the content itself is easier and less expensive to produce.

However, while OTT accounts for about 30 percent of television viewing, ad spend is at a mere three percent, mostly due to the strong competition among brands for consumer share of time. OTT providers must deliver granular insights into where ads are being shown in order for marketers to increase their OTT budgets.

2. Mobile-First Video Content

Over half of video content is viewed on mobile, with 92 percent of mobile video viewers sharing videos with others. To reach these mobile users, marketers should consider taking a mobile-first approach to content in the new year. Instagram, for example, is exclusively on mobile which encourages marketers to create content for this type of viewing experience only. 

The challenge will be holding consumers’ attention and driving impact. Google explored ways to do this when the giant partnered with Ipsos to conduct a study involving 1,519 smartphone users aged 18-34. Ninety-eight percent of the group reported using smartphones to watch video content.

3. 360-Degree, AR/VR Videos

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and 360-degree videos will go far in making your video marketing efforts stand out in 2020. A study from Magna found that the majority of consumers who found 360-degree videos entertaining intend to interact with brand videos in the future. The study also found that these interactive videos, favored most by early tech adopters, saw a seven percent purchase intent increase on smartphones. To achieve optimal brand metrics with 360-degree video marketing, marketers should balance the content’s entertainment value with branding.

A number of brands have already integrated VR and AR, most notably within Snapchat. As part of its holiday campaign, Gucci sponsored an AR-enabled Snapchat portal lens that transported users to a Gucci-filled virtual beach where they could interact with the brand’s products.

Adidas hosted a gamified AR experience at its flagship store in Paris. Using their Adidas app, in-store shoppers were able to point their cameras at digital displays. What appeared was a virtual ocean in which a whale swam around and collected ocean debris. Then the experience showed viewers how the brand converts plastic into shoes.

4. Shoppable Videos

It’s been shown that consumers retain 95 percent of a message relayed in video compared to 10 percent when reading it via text, making shoppable videos a necessity for brands to support the consumer journey and reach their ecommerce goals. Engaging with creative to create ads in shoppable videos, then, will be another sweet spot for marketers in 2020.

Examples of effective shoppable content includes YouTube’s “TrueView,” campaign which allows marketers to connect viewers directly to their products and provide information that brings them closer to making a purchase. Similarly, Instagram launched shoppable video posts in 2018 for business profiles, giving users the option of shopping directly from the post or viewing shoppable items in the designated “Shop” button.

TikTok confirmed this year that it’s testing shoppable video posts, making it possible for influencers on the platform to link social commerce URLs within their posts. With the rapid growth of TikTok, this could be a strategic and lucrative way to reach Gen Z.

5. Data-Driven Videos

Nearly half of consumers say they want videos to reflect the products and services relevant to their specific interests or needs when it comes to informing their purchases. Personalization is by no means new to marketing, but data-driven personalized videos will be a hot topic in 2020, mostly because personalization makes brands more memorable to consumers. One way to start is to target a specific audience via Facebook custom audiences or YouTube’s custom match feature which uses Google account data for ad targeting and measurement across search and YouTube.

In addition, last year YouTube launched a skippable option for short-form branding ads called “TrueView for Reach” giving marketers the ability to use its custom intent audiences and leverage users’ search history. On the other hand, using data about which viewers skip YouTube ads could be beneficial for evaluating the success of video ads.

The Challenging Thing About Mentorship Is All Of It

Originally published at AW360.

Article takeaways:

  • Mentorship isn’t a walk in the park
  • Some steps to finding a mentor
  • No one reached their fullest potential in a vacuum

The word “mentorship” induces yawns, cringes and raised eyebrows, indicating that it may not be the thing we’d all rather dive into. It is the esoteric cherry-on-the-cake achievement for extroverted juniors and networking gold medallists, mentoring is something many would do, if they truly understood the long-term benefits.

My college peers and professors sprinkled in lukewarm encouragement to, ‘find a mentor’ when I graduated, but I didn’t quite know where to start. Was I supposed to march up to the author I stalk on Instagram after a high-powered luncheon and let her know that I bought her exact pair of Sam Edelman flats because it made her look like a powerful ballet dancer? Ask her to coffee? Mojitos? Do I write a 12-page manifesto on why she should mentor me?

Back then, mentorship was a word that symbolized the meaningful, professional relationships that help form and inform a career. It was about taking real, measured efforts to stay connected with those who had been floating in the treacherous waters of advertising long before us, and those entering after us. It was about forming friendships with people who had a unique perspective unlike our own; shaped by their personal decisions, failures, and successes.

As fate would have it, the minute my LinkedIn announced that I had graduated and snagged a coveted position at a data-driven New York City advertising agency, a coffee date invite from a college student hit my inbox. My heart did a happy dance. Real people wanted my advice! And I could give it!

Here’s the thing; mentorship is scary, in the same way, any other relationship is scary – we don’t want to come off needy, naive or socially inappropriate. And, mentor relationships take work, time and commitment – valuable resources we have already depleted. Like all relationships, mentorship is a hefty investment for all involved. A give and take.

So why do it?

Recently I participated in a panel discussion and coined the phrase, “radical mentorship” – a concept by which you eradicate all fear and doubt surrounding mentorship and dive straight into finding the mentor/mentee networks that will enrich your entire career journey.

First things first, radical mentorship is for everyone. Introvert, extrovert, ISFJ, ENTP, intern, CEO – everyone should be participating, and in their own way. Not everyone is a fan of attending speed-networking sessions, mumbling pleasantries in between crackers and lining their pockets with crafty business cards. You may meet your mentor/ee at the mandatory company fire drill or the boring reception buffet at your cousin’s wedding. Since they are anyone, you can meet them anywhere.

Make the first move. That means, think about how to bring value to the relationship. Really enamored with an executive’s opinionated LinkedIn post? Share that ASAP. Attended a dynamic panel with talented people you admire? Approach them afterward to say thank you. Don’t know what to say? Be genuine about it and keep it short. Radical authenticity is a good step towards radical mentorship.

Be yourself. Chemistry matters. You want to be learning from and/or teaching people who have similar interests. If your pithy, perfect emails are hitting a wall – don’t take it personally. Maybe that person is overwhelmed with their inbox and truly unavailable to invest in a new connection right now. That is OK. That email headline was still a Cannes-worthy gem.

Stay humble and pay it forward. Recognize that no matter how far up the ladder you climb, there will always be a younger, faster, version of you waiting to usurp your position. I say that with less doomsday prediction, and more precautionary realism. Be kind and generous. We can all learn something from everyone. You’d be surprised at how other people’s thoughts can change your perspective.

Do the things. Get on LinkedIn. Join that networking non-profit. Set up that early AM coffee. Hold out your hand. Tweet a compliment. Make it to that fundraiser. Write a congratulatory email. Action has the power to change the course of a relationship. Rather than mope about your lack of network, do something to change it.

And most importantly, realize this; no one reached their fullest potential in a vacuum. We are all a part of something greater than ourselves, connected by our passions, fears, aspirations and Mad Men dreams. In a fast-paced, whirlwind industry that is sometimes cruel in its nature, building a strong network of mentors and mentees confident enough to support and inspire each other is critical. Just go for it. How radical would that be?

Why Brands Can No Longer Let Influencers Grade Their Own Homework

Originally published on ION.

(Editor’s note: AList is published by To get up to speed on the rapid changes affecting the influencer marketing landscape, click here.)

The number of sponsored Instagram posts that included the hashtag #ad rose 48 percent to more than 3 million in 2019. A stat that indicates influencer culture is here to stay. However, the industry has an influencer fraud problem that it needs to address if it’s going to keep reaping ROI from social platforms. A recent study from Cheq found that influencer fraud will cost marketers $1.3 billion in online ad spending in 2019. 

Below we’re breaking down key statistics surrounding influencer fraud according to social media platform, the indirect implications of the matter and why data transparency is critical to curbing the effects.

Consumers have generally placed a great amount of trust in influencers, and as a result, marketers have put their trust in influencers. That trust comes because, for now, influencer marketing is showing results. Data shows that nearly half of people make a purchase online after seeing an influencer promote it on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, and about three-quarters of people trust social media to help them make a decision on buying a product or service. 

As sponsored posts and ad spend on Instagram stories surge, so too does a brand’s confidence in an influencer’s ability to reach a certain audience or boost follower count. Still, 63 percent of marketers and brands admitted to having personal experience with influencer fraud in past campaigns. 

Experts note that the root of the influencer fraud problem is a lack of data transparency. In his research, Roberto Cavazos, PhD., professor and economist at the University of Baltimore, who with Cheq conducted the study, “The Economic Cost of Bad Actors on the Internet: Fake Influencer Marketing in 2019,” notes that the need to demonstrate influencers’ reach to a large audience is so compelling that some business have been created for the sole purpose of selling followers. Cavazos cites a study from Paquet-Coulson that showed these “click farm” clients pay about $49 for every 1,000 YouTube subscribers, $34 for the same number on Facebook, $16 for Instagram and $15 for Twitter. Cavazos believes that influencer fraud isn’t necessarily a platform issue. “It’s a contracting and transparency issue—basically in many instances, marketers do not know what they are buying and there are few incentives for sellers to be fully transparent. It’s not the platform, it’s the mode of transactions (buying services of influencers that is the problem),” he tells us.

Much of the suspicious activity in influencer marketing is performed via automation in the form of bots, pods, falsified sponsored posts and fake accounts. Bots mimic community management tasks such as commenting and following/unfollowing people, potentially making up to half of the engagement levels on sponsored content fake. Pods allow influencers to exchange engagement on each other’s posts. There are also instances of influencers promoting fake sponsored posts on behalf of brands that they’re actually not working with. 

Fake accounts have also taken the influencer world by storm. In the first quarter of 2018 alone, there were over 583 million fake Facebook accounts, according to the platform’s first “Community Standards Enforcement Report.” Similarly, in December 2017, Twitter identified and suspended 6.4 million suspicious accounts every week. Many Instagram accounts have audiences comprising 20 percent bots. 

There are ways that marketers can mitigate fraud and gain more transparency when working with influencers. 

“Marketers are worried about fraud on any platform, but there is more fraud awareness on Instagram because it has the most upside for influencers to inorganically grow their numbers. With more budget projected in 2020 towards influencer marketing, marketers should use a trusted, third-party source for a more detailed view into an influencer’s performance, that’s in addition to relying on influencer self-reporting on marketing platforms,” says Erick Schwab, co-founder and co-CEO of Sylo. The third-party verification platform was created to ensure that influencers aren’t “grading their own homework.”

Half of marketers cited that the ability to spot fake followers was a primary challenge of influencer marketing, and brands still get duped. One study found that influencers enlisted by Ritz Carlton comprised 78 percent fake followers and 39 percent for L’Occitane. Micro-influencers, who have between 50,000 and 100,000, often have nearly 20 percent fake followers, according to a Points North Group study.

In May, the Influencer Marketing Council (IMC) released “Fraud Best Practices and Guidelines,” marking the first major initiative to define influencer marketing industry standards on a platform-by-platform basis. Best practices include checking bot-induced spikes in follower count, follower to engagement ratio and confirming that the origin of an influencer’s engagement matches their audience’s location. 

On the importance of third-party verification, Schwab notes, “it delivers a trusted partner to verify audience authenticity, health and performance through ongoing independent observation and assessment of an influencer’s platform interactions, demographics and growth to predict campaign performance. During campaigns, it provides sophisticated detection for invalid, purchased performance for more accurate measurement.”

Despite the prevalence of influencer fraud, 67 percent of brands plan to increase their influencer marketing budgets in the next 12 months. And that’s because marketers see few immediate options with the same ROI.

“While there is significant influencer fraud, influencer marketing is powerful and useful. In addition, there are limited alternatives right now and the foreseeable future. For example, brand created content is an approach that is plausible, but it’s costly to create and not fully tested for effectiveness—is it just TV in a different platform,”  Cavazos notes. 

That gap has left marketers aware of the problem but more likely to work to improve the business and measurement of influencer marketing rather than abandon it. 

If the issue is left unchecked, influencer fraud is predicted to cost the global economy $1.5 billion by 2020. This doesn’t account for the indirect costs associated with the problem, such as decreased brand trust. For relationships between influencer and customer to be symbiotic, brands must look for the aforementioned signs and demand data transparency from potential collaborators.

Nintendo Continues Travel Theme With Southwest Airlines Partnership

Nintendo has partnered with Southwest Airlines in a continuation of its travel-themed Super Mario Odyssey marketing. The video game has remained consistent in its approach to marketing both the Nintendo Switch console and latest Super Mario game, even after a successful launch of both products a year and several months ago, respectively.

Southwest Airlines is hoping the famous video game character will strike a sense of wanderlust into the hearts of consumers just in time for spring and summer travel. The partnership makes sense, considering the very first trailer for Nintendo Switch showed what gameplay could be like during air travel.

The Nintendo Switch console combines at-home and mobile play, so travel has been an ongoing theme from the very beginning. Ahead of its March 2017 launch, The “Unexpected Places” campaign hosted pop-up locations—not at game stores or malls, but places like the desert of California and the snowy peaks of Colorado.

Since its announcement, Super Mario Odyssey marketing has centered around a theme of travel and adventure. Ahead of its October release, a special tour bus drove from California to New York, stopping at events along the way to offer demos, prizes and photo ops with Mario. The tour culminated in a launch celebration at the Nintendo New York store, where the first 200 attendees could purchase a copy of Super Mario Odyssey.

Nintendo game developers Yoshiaki Koizumi and Shinya Takahashi also took a globetrotting tour of San Francisco, France, Germany, London and more, bringing their Nintendo Switch and posting photos from the official Nintendo and Super Mario social channels.

Thus far, Super Mario Odyssey has been a big win for Nintendo. The title became the second-best-selling game on Amazon for 2017 before it even launched. According to SuperData, the game went on to sell 191,000 copies, the biggest Nintendo Switch digital launch to date.

Through March 16, eligible residents of the US may enter to win Nintendo Switch prize packs and travel accommodations through Southwest Airlines’ website. One grand prize winner will receive a Southwest Airlines prize package that includes round-trip air travel for four, a $1,000 Starwood Preferred Guest gift card and a Nintendo Switch prize pack.

The Nintendo Switch prize pack includes one Nintendo Switch system, one Game Traveler: Deluxe Super Mario Odyssey Travel Case, one Super Mario Odyssey Collector’s Edition Guide and the Super Mario Odyssey video game. In addition to the grand prize winner, a total of 29 runners-up will receive a Nintendo Switch prize pack.

What Marketers Need To Know About Mobile World Congress 2018

Over 100,000 industry executives and 2,300 exhibitors are slated to attend Mobile World Congress (MWC), held this year from February 26 to March 1 in Barcelona. Marketers who go will have opportunities to experience new tech and meet the C-Suite of phone manufacturers—all while considering their brand’s vitality in the digital marketplace.

In addition to an array of announcements around smartphones, tablets and smartwatches and other areas of mobile, marketers can plan to get a better understanding around the maturation of artificial intelligence—like voice and machine learning—as well as digital transformation, AR, VR, IoT and 5G.

“This year will be about evolution, not revolution,” said Nitesh Patel, director of wireless media strategies for Strategy Analytics. “Marketers will see more demonstrations around 5G and IoT use-cases and discussion around business models as these technologies are a year closer to reality.”

As marketers look to unlock new levels of consumer engagement, advertising, media and marketing spend is gravitating more toward mobile-first campaigns and platforms and will likely continue on that path with the widespread roll-out of broadband networks.

Patel, an analyst who covers consumer mobile entertainment products and services, said MWC is designed for attendees to start new conversations and leave with fresh ideas to evolve their brands. This year, he anticipates marketers using the space to move more toward personalization as well as looking to provide strong value propositions for consumers.

“More important than any technology-based solution is how it can be deployed to address fundamental business challenges, which include improvements in efficiencies, delivering superior customer experience and strategic opportunities for revenue growth,” he said.

In addition to the ongoing rollout of 5G and wireless networks, marketers who attend MWC are also looking to learn about new opportunities to differentiate vis-à-vis competitors, not to mention which buzzwords will be in fashion over the next 12 months.

The early frontrunner for buzz-phrase of 2018 may very well be “sonic branding” because prognosticators are pointing to voice as the next emerging platform officially entering the vernacular and equation for marketers. At MWC, it is also one of the scheduled keynotes on the agenda.

Yet, as brands from all walks of life pour marketing resources into voice, Patel said it’s still the early days for the nascent space, and in the much bigger picture, we’re far from seeing it as a primary platform.

“As [voice] matures and becomes more widely adopted it shouldn’t be ignored,” he said. “For marketers, I’d position it as a mobile-first marketplace rather than mobile-only.”

Last year at MWC, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) was leading the conversation on surviving in mobile-only marketplaces in arenas including VR, AR, the connected home and tapping into AI for smarter marketing.

For the fourth consecutive year, the IAB and dmexco will continue talks around how to build a “mobile-always brand” in the 21st century. There will also be discussions later this month centering around cross-screen consumer engagement and new revenue streams that AI like voice and the connected home.

Beyond voice, Patel said that AR and VR innovations are still “rapidly emerging and maturing.”

Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, director of service provider strategies for Strategy Analytics, is expecting to continue seeing discussion around big data and machine learning at MWC as marketers look toward better targeting consumers and using data as a tool.

“The evolution of MWC will extend to data privacy issues and smart home solutions that are building a stronger platform for brand engagement and marketing to consumers,” she said.

Welsh de Grimaldo also sees the trend of the mobile operators opening up the ecosystem and business models to incorporate brands to seek market traction for offerings to consumers. An example of this is sponsored data and data rewards where users get free mobile data for engaging with brands.

“Content-based add-on bundles for mobile services are ways that brands and marketers can further work with operators and engage their target customers on the device they use the most—the smartphone,” she said.

IAB Encourages Brick-And-Mortars To Become Direct Brands

To survive today’s marketplace, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) says that brands must be able to sell directly to consumers. New research shows that growth in most consumer categories has shifted to brands focused on direct consumer relationships.

“For incumbent indirect brands, you must become a direct brand,” IAB chief executive officer Randall Rothenberg said with the company’s findings. “For upstart direct brands, you must break through the revenue and share barriers that are keeping you small. For every other company that serves them, you must help them become direct, and grow their business in that environment.”

Brands must traverse the last three miles to the head, to the heart and to the home, says IAB.

Brick-and-mortar stores are closing en masse, but it’s not because consumers don’t like or need retail products anymore. Over the last year, online channels drove 90 percent of fast-moving consumer good (FMCG) such as food and toiletry items, despite brick and mortar stores holding 93 percent of the market.

Why? “A two-way relationship is more valuable than a one-way impression,” says IAB in its new report, The Rise of the 21st Century Brand Economy.

Direct brands like Blue Apron and Dollar Shave Club are disrupting the way consumers expect retail experiences to be. Two-thirds of all US consumers expect direct connectivity to the companies from which they buy goods and services, says IAB, and 67 percent of consumers have used a company’s social media site for servicing.

“It’s not that mass advertising won’t matter,” said Rothenberg. “It will become less valuable as more and more consumer-facing brands cross the chasm and concentrate their activity on creating, reinforcing, and extracting value from their direct consumer relationships.”

The dynamic shift from recognized, but unapproachable brands to direct consumer relationships spans across the board from grocery to mattresses.

Gillette’s share of the US men’s razors market fell from 70 percent in 2010 to 54 percent in 2016, with most of that share shifting to Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s and others.

While grocery store revenue is projected to grow about one percent annually through 2022, the market for meal kits is expected to grow by a factor of 10 times.

Direct-to-consumer mattress companies garnered more than 16 percent of the market in 2016, and are expected to have doubled that share in 2017.

Online shoe retailers sent US brick-and-mortar shoe revenue tumbling 5.2 percent, the biggest year-over-year loss since 2009. It’s hard to drive anywhere without seeing another “store closing” sign at Stride Rite, Crocs or Payless ShoeSource. Meanwhile, online-only retailers like Allbirds, Jack Erwin and M. Gemi have gained nearly 15 points of market share over the past five years.


These Are The Mobile World Congress Events Engaging Marketers

Here is what’s on our radar for Mobile World Congress, between the show’s official daily agenda and evening events.

Saturday, February 24 to Wednesday, February 28 

GSMA’s Meet & Eat / Networking Events and Lounges
Time: Feb. 24; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. / Feb. 25; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. / Feb. 26-28; 12 to 9 p.m. All times are Central European Time Zone (CET).
Location: plaça d’Europa, within walking distance from the south entrance to de Fira Gran Via Venue, next to the L9 and FFCC (Fira-Europa) stations (Map)

GSMA, the trade organization that puts on MWC, has organized a “Meet & Eat” experience to give attendees the opportunity to network or plop with their laptops outside while experiencing Catalonian culture and culinary delights. There will also be music and other performances throughout each day.

The GSMA has also arranged 10 networking events by brands like Oath, Citi and Visa from Monday to Wednesday. Each will feature complimentary food, drinks and entertainment in a relaxed environment. There are four separate networking lounges.

Sunday, February 25

MWC won’t officially begin until Monday, but apparently Samsung didn’t get the memo—the electronics manufacturer has all but confirmed it will announce its flagship phones, the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus, during an event it’s orchestrating a day before show doors open.

Mobile Lunch
Time: Not available
Location: Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, Plaça de les Arts (Map)

For the third consecutive year, Mobile World Capital Barcelona is organizing a lunch designed to unite companies, entrepreneurs and SMEs to share and explore business opportunities and ideas around mobile marketplaces.

Monday, February 26 

What You Need To Know: Augmented Advertising
Location: Hall 8.0 NEXTech, NEXTech Lab
Time: 1:30 to 2 p.m. CET

The rise of smartphone users and their desire for mobile entertainment has ushered in a new era of mobile advertising. It’s also led brands to increasingly develop augmented advertising experiences. This session will aim to explain how AR experiences lead to higher viewability, engagement and brand lift than traditional advertising.

Tuesday, February 27

How To Build A 21st Century Mobile-Always Brand
Location: Hall 8.0 NEXTech Theatre C
Time: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. CET

Its fourth time running the event, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and dmexco will lead conversation around mobile marketing, cross-screen consumer engagement and new revenue streams for AI and the IoT-connected home. Other topics include storytelling innovation in OTT, brand safety on mobile, cross-platform addressability and mobile-to-offline retail experiences.

Women In Mobile
La Bonne, Sant Pere Més Baix 7 (Map)
Time: 7:30 to 11 p.m.

This year’s female-focused event focuses on “personalization based on AI” and will feature panel discussions around how AI-based products deliver what users really want, handing out the Women in Mobile 2018 Award and a networking party to cap of the night.

Wednesday, February 28

CMO Summit
Location: Hall 8.0 NEXTech Theatre D
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. 

The day-long affair will feature 37 speakers and have multiple sessions and partner events, aiming to offer CMOs a wealth of opportunities to learn from peers and engage in discussion. Key marketing themes include maximizing exposure, protecting the brand, embracing AI, utilizing networks, creating a personalized context for audiences and staying within regulation. 

VR/AR Association Dinner
Location: H10 Casa Mimosa, Pau Claris, 179 (Map)
Time: 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. CET 

May be best for those first dipping their toes into immersive technology. Dinner is served with insights and discussion about VR and AR trends and issues affecting companies, projects and roles.

Thursday, March 1

Gamelab Mobile
Location: Hall 8.0 NEXTech Theatre B
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

This one-day, gaming-oriented summit brings mobile gaming leaders to discuss trends, opportunities and the convergence of entertainment, technology and media. Sessions will be divided into mobile gaming, mobile esports, player content, mobile VR and AR and how what prospects 5G, data, cloud gaming and IoT present. 

YoMo: The Youth Mobile Festival
Location: La Farga de L’Hospitalet, Carrer de Barcelona, 2 (Map)
Time: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CET (Monday to Thursday)

If you’re a brand considering STEM as part of a larger marketing strategy and looking inspire the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and designers to succeed in an increasingly mobile world while you’re at it, then join over 15,000 students and educators from across Catalonia at The Youth Mobile Festival.