Marketing In The Digital Age: How To Close The Leadership Gap

Originally published at AW360.

Marketing has always been both a left-brain and right-brain discipline.

From a left-brain perspective, marketing is all about the data and quantification of results and measurement of ROI.

At the same time, marketing is a creative, right-brain pursuit. It’s about storytelling, emotion, connection, and a beautifully crafted message.

But now that we’ve entered the digital age, left-brain marketing activities have become super complex. We’re creating massive volumes of data. The data sources are fragmented. And the technology required to bring it all together involves complicated algorithms and analytics.

It can feel completely overwhelming and out of reach for many marketers. But there is a contingent of marketers who are thriving in the digital age and racing ahead of their competitors.

And they’re coming from companies of all sizes and across all industries.

Introducing the Customer Experience Quotient

Microsoft Advertising, in partnership with Advertising Perceptions, recently studied more than 200 marketers from companies of all sizes and industries. We found that the marketers in this study fell into two camps: those obsessed with understanding the customer decision journey and those focused on driving performance and ROI.

We also found a third camp comprising approximately 20 percent of the marketers in our study who are outperforming everyone else. These marketers are experts in both understanding the customer journey and using that knowledge to market to the customer journey. This expertise is what my Microsoft Advertising colleagues and I call Customer Experience Quotient (CXQ) maturity.

I recently got the chance to talk through this study and the insights we garnered from it at Advertising Week APAC. Here is how I unpacked some of this data and showed how you can improve your CXQ maturity to become a high performer.

Here’s what the high-performing marketers have in common

We discovered that high-performing leaders share three key commonalities that are helping them excel at CXQ marketing: the right talent, the right resources, and the right data and technologies.

  1. High performers use agencies

The first commonality is that they are not doing it alone. They’re engaging outside experts for their data strategy and technology. They’re giving agencies access to first-party data and asking agencies to get third-party data and deliver one view of the customer. Among the agencies we spoke to, 72 percent are getting access to all their clients’ first-party data.

  1. High performers have a designated CDJ lead

The second thing we found is that 91 percent of high performers have someone designated to lead the customer journey effort–and the rest plan to have one in the next year. This role has complete visibility across all customer touchpoints. This person also has the authority to drive decisions and improvements across the customer lifecycle to influence and optimize the customer journey.

  1. High performers prioritize data & technology

Finally, high performers prioritize data and the application of technology. Seventy-eight percent say that combining first- and third-party data is essential. They’re also much more likely to be experimenting with emerging media and are investing heavily in digital media.

Below, I’ll break down what these marketers are doing in terms of data strategy, marketing performance, technology, and privacy and personalization.

High performers inform customer-centric marketing with data

The go-to sources for first-party data for high performers include organic search data, site analytics and site visitor data, CRM data, and call center and ad-serving data. However, high performers realize that only 54 percent of the full customer picture is included in their first-party data and that they need third-party data to see what customers are doing and buying outside their channels. To fill in the gaps, they are looking to third-party data providers, market researchers, location data companies, and data management platforms.

Virgin Australia is a great example of this. They worked with Adobe and Microsoft to bring their first-party data together with third-party data on the Microsoft Advertising Network. As a result, they discovered that the Microsoft audience was willing to spend about 5 percent more, yielding an 18 percent YOY increase in revenue.

High performers are optimizing marketing performance

Seventy-three percent of high performers believe they have an excellent understanding of when their customers are mostly likely to purchase, as compared to just 23 percent of lower performers. High performers are applying data to map the customer journey and using that knowledge to create and personalize customer touchpoints along the journey.

On average, these marketers are enjoying 45 percent greater ROI on ad spend than their counterparts. They are driving sales, aligning purchasing processes to customer preferences, improving shopping experiences, and creating new touchpoints (which generate more insights).

They’re also using this data for dynamic and personalized ad creative and custom recommendations and cross-selling opportunities. Meanwhile, lower performing marketers are still focused on customer/segment targeting, media planning and behavioral insights.

High performers are mastering the right technology

You cannot have effective marketing these days without strong technology enablement. There’s simply too much data. Both high-performing marketers and agencies in our study are using cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud solutions, to help them map and market to the customer journey.

Cloud solutions

Marketers must be able to combine data sources in the cloud, to action on the data. The top performers in our study are nearly twice as likely to use cloud data solutions. In addition, 73 percent of high-performing marketers are using martech partners, and 68 percent are using data management platforms (DMPs) to implement more sophisticated customer journeys.

One important thing to note is that we found that while agencies are being entrusted with client data, when we compared agencies with marketers in their adoption of cloud technology, we found that agencies have room to improve. While agencies are using DMPs and martech partners more than marketers, just 50 percent of agencies are using cloud data solutions, as compared to 55 percent of all marketers.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

As a former philosophy teacher, I find AI fascinating. As a marketer, I find it essential. High performers are twice as likely to use AI technologies as low performers. High performers are using AI to help them engage with customers in a more human-like way through chatbots, digital assistants, and cognitive services such as natural language processing and visual recognition.

When we look at the high performers in our study, cognitive services are giving them the biggest bang for the buck, with 88 percent listing cognitive services as delivering an improvement to customer engagement (as compared to just 29 percent of low performers).

Machine Learning 

Machine learning, a subset of AI, is an essential marketing tool. High performers are using machine learning to achieve two times greater sales and revenue lift. Machine learning is helping high performers be more efficient by going through data, detecting patterns, and enabling predictive models. Machine learning also helps to reduce marketing grunt work such as lead scoring and A/B testing.

As we look to the future, 45 percent of high performers intend to increase their use of AI vs. just 10 percent of low performers—a worrisome trend that will widen the competitive gulf.

High performers are protecting privacy and data

Finally, high performers are very concerned about customer privacy and data protection. In fact, high performers are 4.5 times more worried about consumer backlash when it comes to privacy and data protection than their counterparts.

To deal with privacy, 50 percent of high performers have abandoned cookie strategies to rely on first-party data. They are reducing the data that they collect. Also, they’re not afraid to have frank conversations with customers and are up front with what they’re doing with data, why they’re doing it, and how it benefits customers.

So, how are you going to close leadership gap? 

If you boil it down, to be a high performer you’ve got to have a data strategy, you’ve got to have the right technology, and you’ve got to find a partner to help you.

For starters, I recommend that you figure out where you are on the CXQ maturity model. Prioritize the collection and unification of high quality, first- and third-party data. Use smart technologies like the cloud, AI, and machine learning to help you make the most of your data and to create more engaging customer experiences. Look for solutions that have AI and machine learning capabilities built in. Foster trust and protect your brand by doing everything you can to safeguard data and privacy. And remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Rely on partners like Microsoft Advertising to help you.

Marketers Lack Confidence In Adopting New Mobile Tech Features

Marketers don’t feel prepared when it comes to implementing tech features that support mobile advertising, according to a new study from WBR Insights. While consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with technologies like augmented reality (AR), chatbots and mobile pay, 52 percent of respondents said they lack the ability to support these features. 

The findings show that retailers have been slow to adopt features that would improve mobile customer retention. For example, 41 percent of those surveyed said they only have a desktop website whereas 15 percent have all three tools to optimize customer retention—a desktop website, progressive web app and ecommerce app. 

Marketers would be wise to invest in mobile as a sales channel given that 29 percent of respondents said they’re making over half of their sales through mobile and 65 percent make at least a quarter of their total sales through mobile channels. 

As more consumers come to expect a streamlined, personalized shopping experience, retailers are forced to adjust their strategies to include technologies that are on the cusp of becoming mainstream. Still, the data revealed that marketers face challenges in incorporating tech features. When asked how prepared their organization is to roll out artificial intelligence (AI), AR, virtual reality (VR) and voice recognition, only nine percent felt they’re currently able to support these features. Less than half of respondents, namely 39 percent, said they’re close to being able to support these features.

Though marketers are ill-prepared to deliver deeper interactivity via advanced technologies, that’s not to say they don’t see the value that these features will create for customers. Within WBR Insight’s findings is a separate study from Vibes, “How New Tech is Creating Seamless Mobile Shopping Experiences” that shows which technologies are top-of-mind for advertisers. The three technologies that hold the most potential for improving customers’ mobile ecommerce experience, the respondents noted, are mobile payments (60 percent), chatbots/AI (48 percent) and the ability to order with same day delivery of goods and services (47 percent). Similarly, the current most broadly adopted new mobile technology is mobile payments followed by progressive web apps and chatbots/AI. 

As for technology that marketers have no interest in adopting, 63 percent of respondents named biometrics followed by 47 percent citing integration with wearables.

As technology improvement initiatives gain traction, so too do impediments to updating engagement strategies. The most commonly reported challenges that marketers cited when adopting new mobile technology are budget, lack of internal resources and lack of executive buy-in. In addition to budget resources lagging the advancement of mobile strategies, marketers are uncertain about which features to prioritize due to a lack of clarity about what their unique situation requires. 

Given that customers across all generations crave an experience that blends physical and digital, marketers must optimize mobile shopping to replicate a purchase process that closely resembles the shopping experience within a brick-and-mortar store. 

The digital survey was completed by 100 senior retail executives.

Mobile Plays Major Role In Back-To-School Purchase Decisions, Study Finds

For consumers preparing for back-to-school season, smartphones play a number of important roles in the process from price-checking to photo references, according to a new study by AdColony.

AdColony’s first Back to School shopping survey reveals consumer sentiment in regards to purchasing decisions included buying for oneself. Data shows moms are more likely to go back-to-school shopping for their children than dads, at 62 versus 32 percent.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they prefer to shop both online and in-store, while 25 percent said they prefer to shop online. Seventy percent of these online shoppers turn to their smartphones, the study found. Mobile advertising is influential to consumers during this time. Just over half (53 percent) said they have purchased something on their mobile device directly from an ad. Seventy-five percent said they would purchase something on their mobile device directly from an ad if the product was relevant to them.

Even those that shop in-store use their phones, AdColony found, and the most popular reason (55 percent) is to compare prices. Shoppers also used their phones to receive special deals and promotions (47 percent), take a picture for reference (41 percent) and look up product reviews (40 percent).

Smartphones are also considered an essential school supply, respondents indicated. Nearly all (90 percent) are planning to buy a smartphone for students in middle school, high school or college. Even 20 percent were planning to buy one for their elementary school child.

The National Retail Foundation (NRF) predicts record-level spending of $80.7 billion for back-to-school in 2019, based on its annual consumer survey. College students planned to do 45 percent of their shopping online, and of all online shoppers, a majority are planning to take advantage of sales and free shipping.

The study was conducted via AdColony’s platform and compiles over 1,200 responses from North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia-Pacific and Central and South America. Respondents were roughly 50/50 male vs. female with ages ranging from 14 to over 75.

Holler’s Branded Stickers Generate Millions Of Views For Snickers

Snickers reaps the sweet fruit of its first sticker messaging campaign, launched in partnership with messaging tech company Holler (formerly Emogi). The campaign resulted in over 42 million views from tens of thousands of participants who included the branded, animated images and stickers within their messages across multiple platforms. 

According to the Holler case study, with the help of branded stickers, the candy brand was able to turn 61,318 consumers into brand advocates, and the creative content received a total of 42,888,113 impressions.

Per Holler, the most successful sticker, was “Excited,” driving the highest level of impressions and engagement. And in terms of demographic, the campaign reached the 25-34 age group the most, while the 35-44 demographic showed the most active engagement with the content. 

It’s not just cute fun at play here. According to consumer research, it’s not surprising that content and stickers that provoke feelings of excitement lead to higher engagement. Holler is using data, indicating that people who are excited are more likely to make purchases, to inform their business strategy and brand partnerships. 

AList shares Snicker' First Messaging Campaign

“By targeting people at a time when we know they are more likely to be influenced by a Snickers message, this allows us to deliver Intelligent Reach through a tailored message based on their online signals, and deliver Intelligent Conversion by providing a compelling offer when they are most susceptible. Given our findings that light buyers are even more susceptible to purchase when in an excited mood state, if we can identify and target these buyers we can use digital implementation to improve brand penetration,” Holler said in the report. 

Gary Arora, Global LaunchPad Lead, Mars Incorporated said in a press release, “Working with Holler is one of our first forays into the messaging space, which we’re very excited to dig into further. We saw incredible results from our first campaign, garnering 42 million views and converting 61,000 brand advocates across the platform. We are thrilled to be part of our customer conversations in an authentic way, and at the perfect moment in time. When folks are talking about needing an afternoon pick me up, Snickers will be there.”  

Although the partnership with Holler was Snickers’ first messaging initiative, the company has been relying on mobile technology and social media in general in its marketing efforts. For example, Snickers recently launched its debut micro-gifting campaign which allows fans to send a personalized message and gift redeemable for a Snickers bar at Walmart stores nationwide. 

EMarketer: US Cord-cutting Households Will Soon Catch Up To Traditional Pay-TV

The number of cord-cutting households continues its upward climb in the US and may soon match—then overtake—households with traditional paid-TV subscriptions, eMarketer predicts. If the analyst firm is correct, nearly 25 percent of households in the US will drop traditional TV by 2022.

According to the latest pay-TV forecast from eMarketer, cord-cutting households will jump 19.2 percent in 2019 to 40.2 million this year, while pay-TV households drop 4.2 percent to 86.5 million. Satellite providers will see the largest decline in subscriptions this year, eMarketer predicts, dropping 7.1 percent.

US consumers are not only subscribing to fewer traditional pay-TV but watching less of it when they do. EMarketer cited its April 2019 forecast in which US TV time would drop three percent in 2019 to an average of three hours and 40 minutes. While this decline is felt across all age groups, it is especially true among viewers 17 and younger, who will watch an estimated 10 percent less traditional TV this year.

Viewer losses to traditional TV providers may be a self-perpetuating problem, according to eMarketer forecasting analyst Eric Haggstrom. 

“As viewing time and the number of TV households drop, networks will have to sell ads at higher prices to account for lost viewership,” Haggstrom said. This, combined with rising programming costs, are making it more difficult for cable, satellite and telco providers to turn a profit on subscriptions, he explained.

“It seems that they are willing to lose customers rather than retain them with unprofitable deals,” said Haggstrom, noting that consumers are forced to pay higher prices for internet in order to raise profit margins.

Subscribers often drop services when prices rise and promotional deals don’t get renewed, and thus the cycle begins again.

Several traditional TV providers have responded by offering their own OTT programming including Disney, ESPN, HBO, Showtime and STARZ, but price point may still cause hurdles for consumers looking for the best deal.

A March 2019 report by Hub Research found that 36 percent of respondents would drop an existing OTT service before subscribing to another one and 24 percent said they already had “too many.”

EMarketer’s observations are aligned with a 2018 study by Magid, which found that eight percent of pay-TV subscribers were “extremely likely” to cancel and not get another one in the subsequent 12 months. By comparison, this number was six percent in 2017 and 5.7 percent in 2016.

Kmart Australia Launches AR Campaign, Taps Country’s Growing Interest In Tech

Kmart Australia launched a mobile augmented reality (AR) ad campaign that lets consumers see its furniture and home decor products in real-life context. The campaign taps into Australia’s growing interest in the technology, as well as the retailer’s pursuit of digital engagement.

The mobile ad campaign, created by OmniVirt and launched August 1, is being served programmatically across a number of websites including Buzzfeed and Apartment Therapy. Selecting the display ad allows consumers to virtually place 3D rendered merchandise into their environment using their mobile device’s front-facing camera. No app download is required.

The budget retailer campaign continues a trend of brands using augmented reality to close the “imagination gap” between visualizing a product and purchase. Similar campaigns and dedicated apps have been employed by IKEA, The Home Depot, Pottery Barn, Overstock and Lowe’s, among others.

Kmart Australia, a subsidiary of Wesfarmers, unrelated to the US chains, reported an eight percent revenue increase in 2018 and “strong performances” in the sale of home merchandise. The brand attributed this growth to its expanded online channels and 10 new retail locations opened throughout the year.

“With more new stores opening across Australia and New Zealand, the growth of our online business and expansion into new markets, we are on a mission to improve the Kmart shopping experience for all our customers, who are at the heart of everything we do,” the company stated In a June 2019 job post for a head of digital marketing.

In a sign that it’s a digital-first road ahead for the brand, one of the key responsibilities listed in the job posts is the expectation to “transition the marketing model to fully embrace digital engagement with [Kmart Australia] customers.”

The Australian government has invested time and resources into the development of AR, VR and 3D web technologies through a dedicated laboratory. In March 2018, Australia’s federal research agency—Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)—announced The Immersive Environments Lab dedicated to this purpose.

The country has also attracted global technology brands in recent years with Alibaba, Dialog, Square and Cybergym establishing regional headquarters in Victoria.

In 2018, Magnify World Expo was held in Melbourne for the first time as part of the Victorian Government Digital Innovation Festival. AR and VR are expected to become a $150 billion market across all industry sectors, according to Magnify World head of innovation Matt Coleman.

“We think there’s going to be around a $1.6 billion AU ($1 billion USD) revenue opportunity for new companies and corporates in the Australian market over the next two years,” Coleman told ZDNet. “It’s much bigger than everybody thinks.”

AI-Powered Machines Will Now Write Marketing Copy At JPMorgan Chase

Chase announced a five-year deal with artificial intelligence (AI) leader Persado to power its creative marketing capabilities after a pilot saw a boost, as high as a 450 percent increase, in click-through rates in messages created by Persado’s Message Machine versus human copywriters.

The bank began the pilot in 2016 with Persado’s secret weapon—the Message Machine—a platform of advanced marketing language, including more than one million tagged and scored words and phrases. The tool successfully redrafted marketing messages in Chase’s Card and Mortgage business using data science and AI, transforming them into more personalized and compelling messages to individual customers. 

Chase plans to scale its artificial intelligence efforts, widen the use of data-driven messages and create enterprise-wide omnichannel personalization in 2020.

“Machine learning is the path to more humanity in marketing. Persado’s technology is incredibly promising. It rewrote copy and headlines that a marketer, using subjective judgment and their experience, likely wouldn’t have. And they worked. We think this is just the beginning. We hope to use Persado not just in marketing, but in our internal communications to make things more relevant to employees, as well as in our customer service prompts,” said Kristin Lemkau, CMO of JPMorgan Chase in a press release.

The day Chase announced news of its Persao partnership, Lemkau also tweeted: “I’m super passionate about this. CMOs need to skill up in AI and tech if they’re going to drive growth. Our partnership with Persado is a big one to help make marketing smarter AND more customer focused.”
In 2018, the bank released a strategic update report pledging to adopt a long-term digital strategy that would allow a digital account opening process with the aim of ridding customers’ need for a branch visit. Chase’s active digital customer base has 48 million users and 32 million users in its mobile customer base, as reported by The Financial Brand. The company currently operates a traditional mobile app, Chase Mobile, Finn, a mobile-only bank meant for millennials, JPM Mobile, a digital wealth management app and ChasePay, a digital wallet.

Will We Miss Instagram Likes When They’re Gone? One Expert Thinks Better Campaign Measurement Lies Ahead

As Instagram rolled out a test to “Hide Likes” across Canada, Japan, Italy, Ireland, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia, the world paused and, well, panicked.

The effect it will have on users’ posting habits is yet to be understood, but it’s clear that brands and influencers, who monetize their content mostly in relation to the number of likes, comments and views they receive on social media, will have to adapt to this change the most.  

While Instagram wants users “to focus on the photos and videos [others] share, not how many likes [they] get,” marketers are trying to wrap their heads around the initiative. To help them understand what hiding likes really means for influencer marketing, AList reached out to an influencer marketing agency MediaKix and sought the advice of the agency’s vice president and general manager, Zoe Marans. 

The Challenge 

According to a MediaKix survey, Instagram is seen as a crucial element in the marketing strategy machine, with 89 percent of marketers finding the social media giant important to their influencer marketing strategy, and over 73 percent saying that Instagram “Stories” and posts are the most effective content formats in their strategy. 

However, as the platform transforms the way in which it reflects content performance, these numbers may shift. In fact, “Instagram’s change may pose a challenge among the influencer marketing industry on how to price sponsored posts and stories because there won’t be a public metric to standardize pricing against. This may lead to more negotiation room as brands and influencers find new ways to work together, share messaging and determine the effectiveness of ad spend,” Marans said. 

The Benefits 

It is important to note, though, that besides calling for quick adaptation from marketers, “Hide Likes” might have unintended positive consequences and help solve important social media marketing problems, such as bots and fake followers. Per Marans, because vanity metrics will no longer be the only factor determining content performance, eventually, both marketers and influencers will be encouraged to value other behavioral metrics, such as video completion and audio on/off. The change might also inspire influencers to concentrate more on quality content and not on the content they believe will gain the most likes, views and comments. 

“This will also put a bigger emphasis on transparency as brands will rely on influencers to share first-party analytics to better understand the audience they’re reaching and how sponsored content is performing. With tracking ROI being one of the biggest challenges marketers face according to the survey, this new change on Instagram may initially exacerbate marketers’ frustration if they’re accustomed to measuring performance on reach and engagement, however it may make measuring ROI easier in the long run as performance shifts to actionable metrics such as clicks and sales,” Marans said. 

The Strategy 

In terms of strategy, the agency is forecasting that if “Hide Likes” does indeed roll out globally, marketers will need to pay more attention to Stories, IGTV and Instagram Shopping, as these content formats provide actionable metrics in the form of swipe ups and purchases, which will still allow brands to track performance metrics as well as calculate ROI. 

The Future 

Marans said MediaKix predicts that Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, might be next in line to give “remove likes” a try, as “younger users are competing to get likes to boost self-esteem.”  

But despite the unease around hiding likes on social media platforms, the future of influencer marketing still seems to be bright, as Business Insider Intelligence recently estimated–again basing their estimations on Mediakix’s data–the influencer marketing industry to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022. 

For The First Time Ever, US Consumers Will Spend More Time On Their Smartphones Than Watching TV

According to eMarketer’s “2019 Mobile Marketing Trends Roundup,” this year, for the first time in history, US consumers will spend more time using their mobile devices than watching TV. Not surprisingly, smartphones dominate as the device of choice.

Smartphones will lead as the source of media consumption by consumers, claims the report. However, the analysts from eMarketer forecast that their use will plateau by 2020. The researchers explain that the anxiety around the overuse of mobile devices is increasing, and that anxiety is expected to impact the number of hours that consumers spend with their devices.

The average US adult, this year, will spend 3 hours and 43 minutes on mobile devices, which is slightly more than 3 hours 35 minutes spent on TV. Also, US consumers will spend 2 hours 55 minutes on smartphones, which makes a 9-minute increase from 2018. 

“We’ve expected that mobile would overtake TV for a while, but seeing it happen is still surprising. As recently as 2014, the average US adult watched nearly 2 hours more TV than they spent on their phones,” said Yoram Wurmser, eMarketer principal analyst.

While smartphones continue to conquer the world, tablets are certainly losing in the battle. In 2017, daily time spent by an average US adult on a tablet was 1 hour 11 and this year it dipped to 1 hour 8 minutes. The researchers also predict this trend to continue through 2021. 

Consumers spend a good chunk of their time using apps rather than web browsers, typically, spending 2 hours 57 minutes in apps compared to as few as 26 minutes on a mobile browser, the roundup informs (to maximize app user lifetime, the researchers recommend to “leverage deep linking, encourage social sharing and drive new referrals and offer discounts”).  

The most popular activity among consumers within apps is tuning in to digital audio. According to Wurmser, “Digital audio apps continue to add minutes because people are streaming more music on their phones, and podcasts have taken off in popularity in the past few years.” The trend is followed by scrolling through feeds and chatting in social media platforms. 

Per the analysts, companies like Google and Apple have introduced screen time controls, but how useful they are in ultimately changing behavior is yet to be revealed. So what are some things that marketers can do today to maximize their advertising on mobile devices? One of the key strategies is understanding personalization. As pointed out by the roundup sponsor, Branch, “From desktop to mobile web to apps to tablets, users now have more connected devices than ever. Brands that can’t respond to their users’ needs for personalization across devices will lose loyalty–and revenue.” 

TIME Magazine Puts Sponsored Content On Moon Landing Issue Cover; Launches AR-VR App

TIME Magazine launched an app combining augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), called Time Immersive app to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. To promote the app, the magazine’s most recent cover shows an illustrated homage to the original 1968 cover of astronauts from different nations racing to the moon—this time adding space startups to the mix. 

An unexpected message also appears: “Brought to you by Jimmy Dean,” is printed in small type on the cover, marking the first time since 2014 that TIME put sponsored content on the magazine’s cover. Additionally, the ad on the underside of the front cover flap reads, “Celebrating 50 years of quality sausage.” 

In 2014, TIME broke industry taboo when it ran Verizon Wireless ads on the cover of TIME and Sports Illustrated, AdAge reported. The Verizon logo and the words “For best results use Verizon. See P. 23,” appeared on the TIME cover that highlighted saving premature babies. TIME’s recent decision to run an ad front-and-center on its cover, however, could mean more sponsored covers are in its future.

The first app experience, also sponsored by Jimmy Dean, “Landing on the Moon,” allows viewers to “experience a scientifically and historically accurate cinematic recreation of the Apollo 11 landing in photo-real 3D on any tabletop at home.” The activation will include spatial sound design and a voice-over by TIME’s Jeffrey Kluger. The magazine is also giving fans a teaser of the 3D experience as a mobile web AR experience. 

TIME’s app launch coincides with Jimmy Dean’s 50th anniversary which might explain the cover’s ad tie-in. The sausage brand is commemorating its milestone with an interactive timeline of the brand’s history on its website and two short video spots posted to its Twitter. One of the 15-second spots shows the celebratory scene that unfolded in the space control room when Apollo 11 landed. The camera then zooms in on one of the flight controllers who’s seen enjoying a Jimmy Dean sausage, and the spot ends with the narrator voicing, “50 years ago, something extraordinary happened: Jimmy Dean sausage first landed on our plates. Houston, we have a better breakfast.” 

Earlier this year, TIME announced two forthcoming immersive projects. “The March” will give audiences the chance to experience the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in a room-scale interactive VR. The second initiative, called “The ISS Experience,” will be an immersive documentary series filmed around the International Space Station.