AI, Connected-Devices And Biotech: Inside Amy Webb’s 2024 Emerging Tech Trends Report Panel At SXSW 2024

“Today, this is the worst our tech will ever be.” – Amy Webb, SXSW 2024: Featured Session: Amy Webb Launches 2024 Emerging Tech Trend Report

The world we interact and engage with, the industries we operate within and the geopolitical space bringing it all together through policy are rapidly changing due to the incredible advancements we’ve witnessed in three major ‘trends,’ each co-evolving with the others in dynamic, uncertain ways.

Those trends are AI, the connected ecosystem of ‘things’ and advancements in biotechnology, says Futurist Amy Webb; and they’re primed to disrupt just about everything. Webb notes that we must think through the implications of riding the wave—while steering it away from something resembling Dystopia.

But we shouldn’t confuse these types of trends with those in fashion, for example; ephemeral blips on the cultural radar (see: Stanley Cups and 90’s fashion anomalies like exposed thongs). The trends described here are—according to Webb—“long-term patterns that indicate a direction of change over time.”

And a lot is changing. Fast.

The queues to get into Webb’s featured panel at SXSW started on the 2nd floor of the Austin Convention Center (note: the panel was on the 4th floor), with some lining up as early as three hours before be the first to hear insights from the Future Today Institute’s 17th edition of its Tech Trends Report, and a deep dive into 16 different reports covering tech, science and industry-focused trends.

As CEO of the Future Today Institute and professor at the NYU Stern School of Business, Webb’s projections are an annual affair that helps us disambiguate the complexities of tech’s impact on society and business. There was even a countdown on The Future Today website, ticking down the minutes until it was published online.

Webb began by addressing what everyone was feeling but couldn’t put into words: Fear, uncertainty and doubt about what she says is the experience of a transitional generation witnessing the convergence of trends from every aspect of human life, influenced by a technology supercycle, or a period of tech expansion with wide-ranging implications.

“At FTI, we’ve been tracking trends in each of these categories: AI, biotech, and the connected ecosystem of things—But what’s interesting is that a couple of years ago, they started converging. Those convergences have created a flywheel of big leaps, AI-enabled tech breakthroughs that were intended for hospitals and sports created a consumer market for things like smartwatches and rings; and once that flywheel got spinning, it created a new value for consumers. It created more practical utility, that led to more funding, which attracted talent.”

The trends have become entangled, cross-sectional and convergent, and we’re all inched up to and peering from the precipice. Especially business leaders, who Webb notes, “are now making decisions out of fear and FOMO” as their scope for planning for these eventualities is shrinking rather than being augmented; it’s hard to augment what’s hard to grasp, after all.

Webb intends to resolve that indecision and FOMO through Strategic Foresight, defined as the “disciplined and systematic approach to identify where to play, how to win in the future, and how to ensure organizational resiliency in the face of unforeseen disruption.”

According to Webb, the motivators for decision makers will need to change if companies want to survive the coming supercycle, primarily used as an economic definition to characterize a period of prolonged economic growth driven by various factors and marked by increased demand for commodities and higher asset prices.

Tech supercycles are similar explosions of growth in society and commerce where tech is the driver; in the past, these were typically brought about by a singular ‘General Purpose Technology,’ far-reaching technological advancements that can transform society radically—think electricity, the internet, and the steam engine.

“This is the most complex operating environment I’ve seen in 20 years of business,” says Webb, a 20-year SXSW attendee and trusted source of things that will come to pass. “The wave of innovation that’s coming is so intense and so pervasive, it will literally reshape human existence…”

As Webb makes clear, this tech supercycle is different than those of the past.

The foundation of it is undoubtedly the General Purpose Technology we lovingly call AI, but interwoven within this paradigm shift are the two other aforementioned GPTs—Connectables and Biotechnology—and some clear nightmare scenarios are apparent.

In Webb’s discussion of the state of AI and where it’s heading, three main core concepts came up: Accountability, Concept to Concrete, and Unsecured AI.

In terms of accountability and AI, Webb notes that there really isn’t any right now. And there probably won’t be in the near future. She points out that ethics teams still aren’t stakeholders and the future path is paved with speed and scale that incentivizes more bias, not less, drawing attention to the fact that text-to-image LLMs (Large Language Models) have had, and continue to have representation issues—either through the erasure of one representation, like female CEOs, or in the opposite direction like racially-swapped founding fathers—an outcome of human interference to avoid the former (known as RLHF-ing, or Reinforcement Learning with Human Feedback).

Drawing on the continuing tendency for AI to do awful things, from Tay to recent issues, Webb says that it’s the incentive to move faster and farther rather than with deliberation that’s leading to these problems. “All those promises of ethics teams and responsible AI resolving issues of bias; it’s still not table stakes. Fixing the problem is challenging and enormous because the models have already been built.”

Her next subtrend, Concept to Concrete, represents a shift from providing AI with instructional prompts for literal answers to conceptual prompts for assisted thinking and moving from LLMs to LAMs (Large Action Models).

This shift means that we won’t be asking for an outcome based on a prompt, but rather, the model itself will predict what to do based on understanding human intention.

Finally, unsecured AI represents the move towards more unrestricted, open models, as opposed to what we currently experience as ‘walled gardens,’ which are limited in their operations but secure. But at a certain point, Webb notes, the closed models will run out of content to train on, while open models pose risks like racist AI, or an AI without ethical mooring.

The future slowdown of AI due to content (ie: training against all available public information on the internet) has a workaround. And it’s clear that to move from LLMs to LAMs, such a move will be necessary to bring us more predictive models that rely on behavioral information–information from us, about our movement, emotions, wants, and needs.

The need to gather more information about our behavior brings us to the next interconnected trend in the supercycle: Connectables or the world of connected devices.

The promise of connectables, says Webb, isn’t that they’ll necessarily make our lives easier: it’s the data that matters and there’s a wealth of it that can be leveraged, especially with AI-first hardware, to learn from us in ways impossible to do with content scraped from our social posts or articles. Webb says that ‘face computers’ like the Apple Vision Pro, in her view, are “designed to read your intentions.” And why wouldn’t a LAM use that data for a more hyper-personalized experience?

“That’s why we are about to be surrounded by millions of sensors that are always on, and always on us. They are around us and can collect multiple streams of data at once. The internet of things, the home of things, smart cars, smart offices, smart apartments… sensors everywhere […] this is the network of interconnected devices that can communicate and exchange data to facilitate and fuel the advancement of artificial intelligence,” explains Webb.

“Data from connectables gives AI the data that it needs, but as we advance all these systems and platforms, they’re becoming a lot more power-hungry. We have heard about semiconductor chip shortages and challenges,” says Webb. Adding to this resource shortage plaguing fabrication are the limitations inherent with the chips themselves and you can extrapolate some interesting conclusions. “Moore’s Law is starting to fail; we’re hitting limits. It may be possible to get smaller and smaller things on the chips, but it’s also getting more and more expensive,” says Webb.

We need limited materials for AI’s advancement that have us, at least currently, stuck. Here’s where biotechnology fits into the equation.

“Biology processes information in a way that silicon can’t. In other words,” says Webb, “if we’re trying to build machines that can think and behave like we do, we literally need to make them more like us.

The first subtrend of biotechnology, according to Webb, is materials science: AIs are already using the language of biology to make predictions to enable design—for example, EVO, which describes itself as “a long-context biological foundation model based on the StripedHyena architecture that generalizes across the fundamental languages of biology: DNA, RNA, and proteins,” is “capable of both prediction tasks and generative design, from molecular to whole genome scale.”

Webb: “DeepMind built an AI tool, same basic concept: generative biology. It found 2.2 million new materials, 380,000 of them are now in a lab being developed that can potentially power future technologies.” And that’s phenomenal, but as Webb notes, there’s something else at play: “So we can generate new biology, which means new therapeutics, new ways to manage climate change, new ways to deal with the global food shortage… but the question I would ask you is, “does this help our semiconductor chip problem? And that takes me to the final trend.”

“Sometime in the next decade, AI will be working with Organoid Intelligence or OI,” Webb says. “Biotechnology will move us past silicon-based computing systems,” by becoming faster, more efficient, and more powerful. It sounds like science fiction, but Organoid Intelligence is already here: researchers are using biological materials like brain cells for information processing from teaching a biocomputer to play Pong to training it to detect a specific voice among many.

So what does this mean for the future? What scenarios can we predict from the symbiotic progress between AI, connectables and biotechnology?

In listening to Webb, it’s easy to draw a comparison to ‘Black Mirror.’ For AI, Webb asks us to consider whether an open AI model in the hands of bad actors—or maybe even unprompted—could create a deep-fake conflict with global impact, even causing the next World War. For connectables, what if our feedback becomes so hyper-personalized that it feeds into a social credit system and limits individual freedom based on our self-reporting? Or does our work for us, but produces hallucinatory results in the process? For Organoid Intelligence, there are concerns about where we are getting the stem cells to build biocomputers; will they be ethically sourced? Or will they be developed in Special Economic Zones where international law doesn’t apply and the regulations around biotech experimentation are unregulated?

“Tech isn’t bad or good,” says Webb. So why highlight the most catastrophic scenarios of our current tech supercycle? “Without intervention, that is what I see coming at us.”

Watch a full VOD of the SXSW panel and read the full Tech Trends Report courtesy of Future Today Institute.

New Report: Most CMOs See Value, But Not A Game Plan For AI

A recent report by Sprout Social and The Harris Poll reveals that most marketers are ready to embrace AI and ML tools as a part of their creative arsenal, but many are unsure of how to proceed. In this post we’ll look at some of the new tools in the works at Google and how marketers can leverage AI effectively.

According to a recent report by Sprout Social and The Harris Poll, as much as 97 percent of business leaders believe that AI and ML tools will help them analyze social data more efficiently and 86 percent see AI and ML implementation as critical for long-term business success. 

Source: Sprout Social

Yet many leaders see significant barriers to using those tools for marketing, with most pointing to internal issues such as their organization’s lack of experience in organizing AI and ML integrations, a lack of training or a basic understanding of how AI and ML tools can be used, and resistance to change among stakeholders.

Source: Sprout Social

Google Plans New AI Enhancements For Marketers 

Google’s recent event, Google Marketing Live 2023 showed how much the company is wagering on AI becoming the marketer’s new best friend. Here are some of the biggest takeaways on upcoming or experimental AI integrations:

Marketers will be able to ask Google to generate recommended keywords, headlines, descriptions, images, and other assets.

Google clients may soon be able to use generative AI to create ads that are highly customized to address the specific requirements of each part of the search journey, connecting Search and Shopping ads into a seamless experience. This is an expansion of tools introduced last year, now allowing marketers to target the full funnel with new customization options.

Source: Google

Google is integrating generative AI with automatically created asset functions for its Performance Max campaign options. This connects a user who searches for “How to calm teething, cranky baby” with an ad that shows an original, AI-generated headline that targets critical keywords based on natural language analytics with ML-powered precision.

Google’s new Product Studio allows marketers to create custom product scenes instantly, using generative AI to adjust backgrounds and settings, as well as optimize resolution.

Source: Google

How Marketers Can Make Sense Of It All

Generative AI is complex—but using it to meet your needs doesn’t have to be. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you look at AI integration.

Focus on function and ease-of-use: Just like any other MarTech tool, AI can become just another toy that no one uses—or uses to a fault, allowing quality assurance to fall behind. AI should amplify the value of your existing strategy by taking over tasks that don’t require human insight. Repetitive, administrative tasks that drain productivity and don’t require human originality are AI’s forte.

Work on merging human and AI creativity in unique ways: While 100 percent AI-created campaigns can be useful—the most successful ones are powered by a human understanding of their audience. AI tools, like Google’s, can spark new creative paths for great campaigns and add the heft of analytics to any strategy—but a marketer’s insight and experience are always needed to develop the parameters for AI tools to work within. Think of AI as an assistant that will boost your productivity but not do your job for you—at least not yet.

Exploit AI’s best feature—data and speed: Google’s new tools present lots of great new options for marketers to streamline creative production. However, they also offer a broad range of analytics and targeting optimization tools that represent the best of AI and ML capabilities. AI is still evolving, but its capacity to speed up normally slow processes and drive efficiency is stunning—especially for marketers. AI tools can help you glean deeper insights from social, fine-tune audience segments, and develop a more impactful marketing strategy by showing you real-time trends that show what content is engaging audiences.

Watch the full Google Live Event here.

AR Ads: A Sleeping Giant For Brands?

As platforms battle for the attention of brands in an era of uncertain marketing budgets, their differentiation efforts have shifted markedly towards solving ROI-related problems for brand marketers—like boosting audience engagement and providing granular performance metrics. That led to a new release of AR advertising options from Meta and Snap. Below, we’ll look at what’s new and how marketers might benefit.

AR Is Everywhere: Meta And Snap Want Marketers To Care

Meta and Snap are rolling out new advertising options designed to position AR—traditionally an underutilized but often performant advertising tool as a new solution for audience engagement and analytics visibility. As tracking cookies disappear and consumers resist app tracking in increasing numbers, marketers are scrambling for deeper audience insights, Snap and Meta are hoping that marketers concerned about metrics and audience engagement will see AR as a cross-platform marketing tool as well as a new landscape for branded content creation built for lean, cookie-less times.

AR marketing is already growing at a stunning rate. According to Statista, by 2025, global AR ad revenue is projected to grow to $6.68 billion, up $1.36 billion in 2020. 

Part of this may be marketers’ lower confidence in traditional marketing segments—like streaming. According to Nielsen, just 42 percent of marketers believe that their streaming budgets deliver on ROI, and only 54 percent are confident in any digital channel providing the performance they seek.

Those concerns may have contributed to the AR marketing boon.

According to Statista, 37 percent of marketers who are aware of the marketing applications of the Metaverse said they would spend between 10 and 25 percent of their budget on Metaverse marketing and advertising, including AR, in 2023. Another 30 percent stated they would spend between five and nine percent of their budget on metaverse marketing and advertising. Respectable, but not a landslide of investment. Those numbers may lift if Meta and Snap’s most recent reveals of new AR advertising options at the recent IAB NewFronts land with marketers.

Meta and Snap have reason to be optimistic. According to Shopify, referencing a joint report by Deloitte for Snap, 75 percent of all consumers will likely use AR in their daily lives by 2025, with 76 percent stating that they expect and desire to use AR as a practical tool in the future. In addition, per the report, consumers who interacted with products that were connected with AR experiences showed a 94 percent higher conversion rate than those consumers who did not.

That good news is backed up by recent research—but with a caveat.

While a recent survey found that 70 percent of consumers stated that they wanted more AR-driven ad experiences, and 74 percent stated AR ads capture their attention better than static ads, much of this may have to do with AR’s newness.

“We conducted eye-tracking experiments that demonstrate AR advertisements indirectly increase consumers’ attitude toward the ad through an increase in curiosity and attention toward the ad,” reads a 2020 joint report from The University of Richmond, Hunan University, and Donghua University. “However, these effects only hold when consumers are unfamiliar with AR ad technology; as consumers become more familiar with AR ad technology, its serial effect through curiosity and attention on attitude toward the ad diminishes.”

More recent studies have shown that AR ads perform better in terms of ad reception, brand perception and purchase intention. Still, research also shows that context and powerful content—even when AR ads are not new to the viewer—unlock AR’s full potential to engage users.

When combined with social experience, more recent studies state AR deepens and intensifies the impact of the ad when the content facilitates social sharing, hence enhancing the social nature of consumers’ human interactions online. 

That makes AR a powerful tool for marketers—and an opportunity for Meta and Snap.

What Snap’s And Meta’s New Ad Options Mean For Marketers

Snap has been a long-time player in the AR space, but starting in 2021, the brand began broadly promoting its leadership in the AR space as a reason for brands to delve into the possibilities of AR advertising. And rather than promoting the use of AR as an add-on to add campaigns, Snap promoted its AR and VR hardware in tandem with its brand marketing options, presenting enterprise AR rooted in Snap Lens use as a new, separate content experience.

At the recent IAB NewFronts, Snap leaned heavily into content, announcing new options for brands to work with influencers via the Snap Collab Studio, reserve priority video ad placement via First Story, and leverage sports content to reach new audiences through Snap’s sports partnerships. Each component of Snap’s new offerings is integrated with the company’s push to get its AR tech out to more brands by making integrating AR components into ads on any platform easier.

Meta’s IAB NewFronts announcement showed that the company is aggressively attracting marketers seeking to solve measurement issues. The company announced the integration of AR with Reels ads and Facebook stories at the event, along with enterprise-grade analytics options specifically for AR. 

“After you run your ad, you can analyze your results with metrics for augmented reality ads, including Instant experience view time and Effect shares,” a FAQ read. You can also create an AR Experience engagement custom audience to retarget people who engaged with your ad.”

Metrics available for Meta AR instant experience ads include “Effect Share” which allows marketers to see how many times a viewer shared an effect from an ad across the Meta ecosystem—allowing marketers to track the impact of a new AR component separately from other content.


Meta’s new integration of AR means that product views and e-commerce can “grow up” on Facebook and Instagram with the same powerful AR effects that consumers find on e-commerce sites. Meta could provide brand marketers with new ways to A/B test e-commerce strategies, as AR tools could let audiences connect with products without leaving their stories stream. In addition, the AR integration could allow creators to create and sell branded Web 3, like NFTs, via a live shopping event while allowing consumers to interact with or examine the new work before purchasing. In addition, the ability to track Effect shares allows marketers to get a clear view of how much (or how little) AR moves the audience engagement needle.

Snap is making it easier for brand marketers seeking to engage audiences with new types of content to integrate AR experiences with campaigns on their platforms. At the same time, Snap is opening up new options for brands to connect with “Snap Stars,” who can create AR-driven branded content for the platform’s younger-skewing audience. That means brands can leverage the full range of Snap’s creator-friendly tools—like Snap Lens—to build content that can work for social commerce strategies with add-ons like Shopify.

Three Ways Brand Marketers Can Optimize The Value Of AI And ML Tools

A recent survey by Sprout Social found that 71 percent of marketers have begun to integrate AI and ML tools into their workflows, and 82 percent of these marketers report positive results from adopting AI and ML tools. In this post, we’ll look at three ways brand marketers can leverage AI and ML tools to optimize their marketing strategy.

Automate Repetitive, Productivity-Draining Tasks 

From generating alternative headlines from keyword lists for SEO blog posts to rewriting meta descriptions to conform to character count best practices, repetitive, tedious tasks can be automated with AI. According to Sprout Social, 61 percent of marketers surveyed stated that delegating tasks that don’t require human insight or experience improved their productivity.

But using a bot for mundane tasks like generating headline versions is just one aspect of AI’s value. More powerful versions of ChatGPT, for example, can generate Python scripts that allow marketers to automate data collection on a particular topic from an open source, free-to-access public website like NYC open data, for example, to enrich your first-party or third-party audience insights (be mindful of copyright laws). With deeper insights into your data, you can pull insights from findings to create more accurate portraits of the content and messaging that resonates with your audience. 

Optimize Content Targeting Efforts

The Sprout Social report also revealed that just under half of social marketers using AI and ML algorithms to analyze user behavior, demographics, and preferences saw higher content engagement rates and conversions. That’s a powerful testament to the power of AI, but marketers can do even more with AI tools, provided they’re willing to dive into the code side of things. A competent developer can use any powerful AI tool to create a customized paraphrasing tool that can allow you to update preexisting content quickly to reflect changes in SEO strategy or a change of format when retargeting ad copy, for example, or an email stream. 

Stretch Your Marketing Spend

According to the Sprout Social report, 55 percent of marketers who have not yet adopted AI and ML tools plan to test them in the next six months. But using AI and ML options incorrectly—or an extended onboarding period when attempting to adopt new tools—can drain productivity and drive up costs. There’s also the fact that many organizations are just not equipped to integrate the most advanced and efficient AI tools into workflows. While a survey conducted by KPMG US revealed that two-thirds of US executives surveyed in March 2023 believe that generative AI will have a high or extremely high impact on their organization in the next three to five years, 60 percent stated they were a year or two from being ready to implement AI across their organizations. That means marketers seeking to use AI and ML tools may be on their own. 

One of the easiest ways to use AI—and demonstrate its value to your organization—is to use it to optimize your marketing budget. That means leveraging AI to identify opportunities to generate buzz and inspire consumers to share free content that can be reshared across social channels. Here are three ways to do so:

Make AI Content Creation Tools Accessible To Influencers Who Will Boost Your Brand

Leverage AI to automate the generation of videos, images, or ads, allowing content creators to easily edit, adapt, and create high-quality content and share it with their networks. Monitor interactions and direct your spend toward influencers who are consistently delivering the most valuable engagement. 

Use The Right Prompts To Repurpose Premium Content

Leveraging AI to build content portability by using specific prompts to explain complex concepts to audiences with different professional knowledge gaps is also possible. Those methods of delivery can be adapted for repurposed content so that a single article can reach multiple audiences as an infographic, a longer post, or a short, informative quiz when edited for tone and audience.

Use AI To Streamline Workflows By Automating SEO Operations With The Right Data

There’s much more to SEO than just search engine magic. Google’s latest algorithm changes and the demise of the tracking cookie means that your first-party data is more valuable than ever when creating and sharing content. Getting SEO right means understanding what your audience is doing with your content on a day-to-day basis, even when your keyword research might suggest otherwise. AI tools can help you scan your existing content and identify opportunities to insert trending keywords and shift tone or emphasis to take advantage of a new engagement trend, such as a news item that is shifting focus toward your brand.

Back To The Future: How Marketers Can Embrace “Phygital” Customer Engagement

A recent Newzoo report reveals that consumers spend more leisure time in digital spaces than in physical leisure activities. However, an emergent flavor of consumer interaction—phygital engagements—is creating new links between physical and digital social, entertainment, and commercial interactions. Phygital spaces also present new opportunities for brand marketers to reach audiences with engaging experiences. 

Defining Phygital: Purpose-Driven Mixed Reality

Phygital spaces are “everywhere spaces”—agile, often autonomous gateways for new interactivity that can be tailored for almost any environment or device, creating a secondary space for interactions wherever the consumer might be. These potential points of contact between consumers, brands, platforms or products (digital or physical) optimize immersion, personalization, and granular consumer control over their interaction with specific technologies that use context to scale impact. Phygital spaces are usually designed to foster intense engagement, with user-experience features focusing on amplifying brand messages by delivering a unique, valuable interaction at a certain touchpoint.

Some examples include:

Retail Stores with augmented reality (AR) Integration: Brands like Nike and Sephora allow consumers to virtually try on items at home via mobile as well as in-store with AR kiosks.

Virtual Reality (VR) Showrooms: Audi and Volvo, among other car manufacturers, use VR showrooms that permit shoppers to customize cars and explore them through a virtual 3D environment.

Live Events with AR/VR activations: Live events like Coachella and The Essence Festival have leveraged phygital features like AR filters and VR headsets to expand their content’s reach via streaming and deepen engagement onsite. 

Gamified Experiences in Physical Spaces: Pokémon GO is a prime example of a phygital space that combines real-world exploration with digital gaming elements. As millions of users worldwide shared their experiences with the phygital scavenger hunt on social media, new, non-gamer audiences were introduced to AR games.

According to the most recent Newzoo report, A New Era in Media & Engagement, consumers are now spending nearly twice as much of their leisure time in virtual spaces—including in phygital experiences—as they are in pure physical activities.

A recent Newzoo report reveals that consumers spend more leisure time in digital spaces than in physical leisure activities.

The Phygital Shift: Why It Matters For Marketers

As people spend just over 12 hours per week on video games and virtual spaces, brand marketers have ample opportunity to reach them in lean-back mode. Yet a new kind of engagement, phygital experiences, also presents new opportunities for marketers. The report states that Gen Z consumers spend 53 percent of their leisure time engaging with game IP in other ways than playing through their consoles.

A recent Newzoo report reveals that consumers spend more leisure time in digital spaces than in physical leisure activities.
Source: Newzoo Consumer Research

The report shows nearly 70 percent of Gen Z identify as digital creators. Gen Z is leading a wave of independent creators who are not only micro-influencers within their social circles but also national tastemakers—raising the bar for the types of content and interactions consumers will expect from branded content. 

That means a brand with the capacity to share or feature user-generated content in tandem with a phygital strategy can scale a new kind of earned media value—as consumers share and interact with influencer content and share their own.

Here are three reasons brand marketers should consider integrating phygital experiences with their marketing strategy:

Consumer expectations: Immersive, powerful, and modern experiences are table stakes for consumers online. Their expectations drive engagement; exceeding those expectations with phygital experiences that provide a unique value, such as the ability to view a product at home through an AR lens, can build brand equity and accelerate conversions.

Data-driven insights: Phygital spaces are data reservoirs with plenty for everyone. When consumers engage with phygital tools, they are also connected to gateways that can lead them to shopping carts, social media, or customer service portals. Access to that level of granular data allows brands to perfect personalization efforts with new insights from each interaction.

“Everywhere engagement”: The phygital world is rapidly becoming just “the world” as AR and VR tools become more accessible via mobile. As Gen Z embraces new experiences that connect virtual spaces to physical locations, marketers can leverage access to those tools to make engagement and conversion possible almost anywhere, with the added benefit that consumers who engage are likely doing so based on interest and preference, with high intent.

Earned Media Value 101: Revisiting A Powerful Consumer Engagement Tool

Advertising is evolving as consumers change the way they interact with content. Today, influencers and user-generated content such as TikTok videos are driving consumer engagement and ROI.

That makes earned media value (EMV) an increasingly useful metric for brand marketers, not just as a campaign enhancement but as a powerful tool to lead customer engagement efforts.

How EMV Works

EMV can do the heavy lifting for marketers, amplifying brand trustworthiness and visibility when audience reach and high-quality content is in sync with brand messaging. Unlocking the value of EMV starts with the basics: developing relationships with influencers and creators, producing high-quality content and optimizing social media platform strategy.

This article will explain the concept of earned media value, how it can benefit your brand and provide tips on how to implement an effective earned media strategy.

A Primer: What Is Earned Media Value?

Earned media value (EMV) refers to the estimated financial value of the attention and exposure a brand receives through unpaid or “earned” media coverage. EMV includes any media mention, endorsement, or coverage that a brand receives through channels such as social media, traditional media, or influencer marketing.

Marketers often focus their efforts on accruing EMV through multiple categories, frequently tied to specific brand equity goals:

Authenticity And Relevance

When consumers interact with a brand’s social media content, it can increase the brand’s relevance within consumers’ most intimate social circles-creating a sense of authenticity via the “passive” endorsement of a social share. Those powerful, organic connections to individual and group identity can amplify a brand’s ability to deliver brand messages through more traditional means like banner ads to sometimes ad-resistant demographics. 

Visibility and Credibility

When a brand is featured in traditional media outlets, depending on the context, it can produce a powerful, evergreen level of visibility beyond name recognition. Savvy brands can enhance their wider relevance to new audiences by weaving a public narrative on the brand’s identity into more personalized messaging to targeted audiences—contrasting the media narrative or supporting it to cement brand identity.

Accessibility And Value

Influencers make brands more accessible to new audiences by illustrating the practical side of a product or service’s value proposition. By interpreting a brand’s appeal into “what it means for me,” influencers do the same work that agency creatives attempt to do in a 30-second ad—illustrating product or service value to a broad audience—but without the gloss that often leads consumers to mistrust traditional promotions. Since many influencers are popular because of their deep connections to their audiences based on identity, they can leverage granular insights to optimize messaging for their viewers’ specific needs. 

How Marketers Quantify EMV—And Why It Matters

There are also multiple ways to quantify EMV. Here are some of the most common categories:

Media Impressions

Media impressions are the number of times a brand’s message or story appears in the media. They’re a simple way to measure the reach of your earned media coverage, as they quantify how many people were potentially exposed to your brand through the coverage. 

While media impressions are a useful way to measure the potential reach of your earned media coverage, they don’t necessarily reflect the impact of that coverage on your brand’s reputation or business objectives. Impressions can’t connect your efforts to actual ROI until those views are contextualized with audience data.

Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE)

Advertising value equivalency (AVE) measures the value of earned media coverage in terms of the pricing of similar advertising. For example, if your brand receives a positive review in a newspaper that would have cost $25,000 for a full-page ad, the AVE for that coverage would be $25,000. Still, context matters—access to the right data is key to connecting AVE to branding or sales goals.

Social Media Engagement

Social media engagement measures users’ level of interaction with your brand’s content, including likes, comments, shares, and other types of engagement. Social media engagement can offer valuable insights into the messaging that resonates with users. Still, it can be deceptive if viewed without actionable insights that interpret activity through the lens of audience branding objectives.

Sentiment Analysis

Sentiment analysis measures the tone or sentiment of your brand’s earned media coverage and connects it to your marketing strategy. Sentiment analysis is typically conducted using natural language processing (NLP) algorithms that analyze the language used in the coverage to determine whether it is positive, negative, or neutral.

How marketers evaluate EMV matters because the definition of value depends on calculation. When data is obscured or presented out of context, strategy can fail as resources are devoted to media plans that can’t materialize results.

Social Index 3.0

Since 2017, has helped over 3,000 companies measure their EMV and campaign ROI through Social Index. And with the latest iteration, Social Index 3.0, machine learning algorithms have upgraded its data analysis capabilities. The Index uses vast proprietary and public data to help brands understand their customers and their brand’s power in the marketplace.

The Index also makes it easy for marketers to use its data to monitor strategy and enrich findings with insights from a range of data tools. Users can integrate the Earned Media Values API with their existing analytics or data reporting suite to gain continual access to fresh EMV data. 

Vincent Juarez, Ayzenberg’s Chief Media Officer, stated that The Social Index’s effectiveness in providing marketers with one of the most comprehensive tools for tracking EMVs. 

“Most platforms provide robust analytics in terms of video views, time spent, followers, likes, comments, and shares, among other metrics,” stated Juarez at the launch of the latest iteration of Social Index. “Filling the void and providing marketers with earned media or advertising value equivalents (AVEs) for platforms like TikTok provides a foundation for testing, learning, and optimizing future content efforts. It will also help standardize benchmarks to compare against other platforms.”

Social Index: Visualizer

Social Index 3.0 is introducing its latest feature, the EMV Visualizer, to help you better understand how specific KPIs perform on various platforms and locations.

The EMV Visualizer allows you to select a date range from January 2020, making it easy to analyze your historical data and enhance post-mortems. The EMV Visualizer is available for seven top social media platforms: YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Social Index 3.0’s global values allow marketers to compare KPIs across key markets, North America, Europe, the Middle East and several Asia-Pacific countries. Marketers can gain insights that inform their future content strategy and social media campaigns by selecting any two locations and comparing the differences between the areas for the same industry platform and KPI.

This means that marketers can now track their global TikTok campaigns’ performance and use the data to optimize their content strategy for the platform.

Register for your demo today.

New Report: CMOs Believe Innovative Technology Powers Brand Safety

According to a recent IAB Europe report, CMOs prioritized brand safety in 2022 and now see technical innovation as key to keeping their brands safe. But has the nature of brand safety changed in the generative AI age?

Brand Safety Dominated CMOs’ Agendas In 2022

The IAB Europe‘s Brand Advertising Committee most recent brand survey revealed that over two-thirds of respondents agreed that brand safety was a key priority for the industry in 2022. Furthermore, according to the report, 53 percent believe that the industry has done a good job of tackling brand safety over the past 12 months, a meaningful increase from the 36 percent who agreed in a similar survey conducted in 2019.

Much of that shift may be attributed to brands’ use of innovative technologies to track brand risk across multiple platforms. The IAB survey found that 71 percent of respondents cited technology innovations as critical to their ability to solve brand safety concerns, up from 65 percent in 2019. In addition, respondents cited innovations like machine learning and natural language processing as essential to their brand safety strategy.

According to the report, only 45 percent of brands surveyed believe brand safety will be less of a challenge in 2023. That may be because, despite technical advances in how brands can track and analyze brand risk, solutions may vary in quality and offer inconsistent results across platforms. Case in point: the numerous brand safety concerns that upended Twitter advertising in late 2022, causing many brands to reduce or halt ad spend temporarily.

Brand Safety Is Changing Because Of New Technologies

New platforms and technologies also mean new categories of risk for brands. For one of the world’s largest advertisers Procter & Gamble, managing risk has meant cutting as much as $140 million in digital ad spend due to concerns about brand safety in 2017 and again in 2022, in removing ads from parts of Eastern Europe. That’s because, for brands, brand equity matters much more than the reach supplied by ads. According to Andre Schulten, P&G’s CFO, in a January 19 earnings call, the company is focused on “sufficiency” in their advertising spend to grow the brand.

“I would characterize our current media spending and support spending for our brands as sufficient, which we are paying a lot of attention with each of the businesses,” Schulten stated. “And sufficiency is defined as sufficient reach, sufficient frequency. It’s not defined as dollars spent.” Schulten noted that the company’s goal was to “continue growing our brands, their top-of-mind awareness, and their equity.” Schulten stated that future reinvestment with respect to media would occur when “there is a positive return in the short term, and we can further strengthen our brands or specific innovation that is out there.”

According to Claire Atkin of Check My Ads Institute, a brand safety consultancy, the value and complexity of brand equity are becoming more apparent to brands because of consumers’ new awareness of how ads work and their role in supporting content and, by extension, ideas.

“The first thing to know is that brand equity matters. I mean, the entire idea of brand safety acknowledges that brand equity is very important,” said Atkin. “And it’s not just ‘Don’t sponsor hate.” Instead, Atkin says that brands want to be associated with “good, trusted publishers” and “good, trusted brands” – not promoting harm or misinformation is not enough to win the trust of today’s more informed consumer. 

Atkin stated that “brand safety tech companies complicated the idea of brand equity” because their tech tends to focus on an article-by-article metric rather than a larger context of relevance and messaging for the brand and its audience.

“Ad tech companies have co-opted the idea of what a key performance indicator is for a campaign,” Atkin believes. “They’ve said, we’ll get you reach, we’ll get you click-throughs, there’ll be no waste, and will keep your brand safe; they’ve made all these huge promises.”

According to Atkin, when brands go for higher view rates at lower CPMs, they can end up in some dodgy areas of the digital ecosystem, risking brand equity amid content that does not reflect or even opposes their core brand message.

As new data predicts only a mild rise of 2.6 percent in ad spend in 2023 due to inflation concerns, CMOs will likely be more judicious about where they are directing their budgets and the potential risk to their investments from content or platforms with lax or non-existent brand safety controls.

Square: New Black And Latino Retail Startups Face Unique Challenges And Opportunities

According to Square’s CMO, Lauren Weinberg, the company wants to help level the playing field for Black and Latino retail entrepreneurs. Recently, Square announced the launch of Forward, a business accelerator program designed to help Black and Latino retail entrepreneurs get access to the capital, mentorship and ongoing support that they need to succeed. We asked Weinberg about these entrepreneurs’ challenges and how Square plans to support them.

There is a lot of talk in the retail industry about increasing diversity but much less discussion about empowering diverse founders and creators with capital. What is Square hoping to accomplish with this initiative?

Square’s corporate purpose is economic empowerment, and we believe all businesses should be able to participate and thrive in the economy. However, despite leading America’s entrepreneurial boom, Black and Latino businesses still face higher closure rates and have less access to the capital, mentorship, and professional business tools they need to thrive. Knowing that Square succeeds when our sellers succeed, Forward is designed to help reduce premature closures of Black and Brown businesses and is only one step in our ongoing commitment to increase equitable access to the economy for sellers of color. We hope to provide these businesses with the foundational tools and guidance fit for each of their unique business needs to set them up for long-term success truly. Square’s products have the power to help businesses automate their operations and create new revenue streams, and we hope these business owners are able to capitalize on this potential. 

The climate is tough for startups. What are some of the standout criteria that the organization/group is looking for when selecting a startup?

Starting and running a business is one of the most difficult and rewarding things a person can do. We’re excited to review applications and look forward to choosing applicants with clear and varied business ideas who are working hard to make them a reality. We have a minimal number of requirements we take into consideration when choosing applicable candidates for Forward, including: 

  • Businesses must be a part of the clothing & accessories, health & beauty, home goods & furniture, or food & beverage sectors
  • Companies must be founded by or have a current CEO who identifies as Black/African American or Latino
  • Businesses must be based in the U.S., have publicly launched, and be in the first three years of their operation (i.e., cannot be in alpha, beta, or stealth).
  • Businesses must report a gross revenue of between $25K – $500K
  • Must be existing Square sellers or willing to switch over to Square products

Forward is fronted by some huge names. How does that increase visibility around underrepresentation in the startup world?

We’re proud to have such incredible partners in our celebrity mentors, who are all successful entrepreneurs in their own rights and all share Square’s commitment to economic empowerment. As part of Forward by Square, we are confident that they will support and inspire our inaugural cohort of businesses, helping them overcome the unique challenges faced by underrepresented businesses. 

What about marketing? It can be challenging for new BIPOC creators/brands to find and connect with audiences. How can retail entrepreneurs build their brand at the very early stages?

It’s absolutely true that marketing is one of the biggest challenges faced by business owners of color. However, a recent Square survey of Hispanic entrepreneurs also pointed out that marketing is seen as an area of opportunity. As an early-stage startup, I recommend building your brand across your social channels first because it doesn’t cost anything to create a business account. However, it’s important to be mindful that consistent and authentic content is key, especially if your targets are digitally native consumers who prefer to shop on their mobile devices. Square’s powerful ecosystem of tools can help even the smallest businesses stay in touch with existing customers, reach out to new ones, and create loyalty programs to keep everyone coming back. 

The Metaverse And Money: How Brands Are Driving Investors’ Virtual Habit

The metaverse is more than Meta; It’s an amalgamation of all the technologies and tools that allow consumers and brands to interact efficiently in virtual spaces. It has been mocked as the exclusive domain of gangly avatars and semi-creepy AI chatbots, but a practical side is bringing investors and brands to the table.

Keanu Reeves’ naysaying aside, the Metaverse offers a lot more than freaky AI avatars. Investors see it as a tool for commerce and other practical, needful things—like medical training tools and expanded educational resources for developing nations. Big brands—like Walmart—are using metaverse-adjacent technology, like VR headsets, to reduce employee training time from eight hours to 15 minutes, without sacrificing results, according to a post by The World Bank. Brands’ potential to innovate in the space is driving billions in investment

Why Keanu Reeves Is Right—and Wrong—About The Metaverse

“It’s this sensorium. It’s spectacle,” Keanu Reeves said in a recent interview with AV Club. “And it’s a system of control and manipulation. We’re on our knees looking at cave walls and seeing the projections, and we’re not having the chance to look behind us. Or to the side.”

While the metaverse may be a little of all of that, it’s also a powerful tool for consumers to interact directly with brands, influencers and multi-sensory versions of the content that they love. Its power is in its immediacy and the user’s ability to choose how intense or how little immersion with a content experience they choose.

For many investors, the metaverse is more than a place some people game: it’s a reservoir of consumer data and a potential destination for all kinds of activities that go along with gaming platforms, like live-streamed events and shopping.

Roblox, for example, has accelerated its music label partnerships since 2020, with artists from Lil Nas X to K-Pop stars NCT 127 launching events on the platform. Roblox is also appealing to investors as it defies inflation fears by showing a 22 percent growth in in-game purchases. That boost has perhaps piqued the interest of brands like Walmart, who launched a branded content experience, Walmart Land, which features a Livetopia experience, virtual merchandise and concerts. Roblox stock soared recently based on its strong earnings.

According to a recent report by Grandview Research, the total addressable market for metaverse commerce is immense and growing.

The Metaverse is Actually Making Money—The Old Fashioned Way

A recent report by Statista shows that it isn’t just investors that are bullish on specific metaverse properties. Consumers are using virtual spaces for gaming, interacting with content in new ways and connecting with new retail experiences. Successful metaverse companies are actually earning much of their appeal to investors by delivering services and experiences consumers want.

“Metaverse e-commerce sales alone could grow to more than $200 billion by 2030 from currently just around $20 billion,” writes Statista’s Katharina Buchholz. “Gaming is expected to grow even more, from just around $10 billion as of now to around $163 billion in 2030. The next biggest applications for metaverse revenue are health & fitness, workplace, and education.” 

The Takeaway:

Marketers may be using certain platforms to target very young consumers. Still, due to the widespread popularity of gaming, brands can reach broad audiences that include millennials and even Gen Xers and up by investing in gaming platform partnerships. Because the majority of consumers game, a marketing strategy that leverages gaming platforms’ multi-generational appeal can help brands engage new audiences with hybrid retail experiences that introduce them to products or services that they may not go looking for otherwise. That means getting back to basics – building powerful and useful content experiences that consumers want to interact with on a regular basis.

According to a recent report by KPMG, the metaverse’s potential is enormous but difficult to navigate—especially for brands seeking to create compelling content in the metaverse.

“While the outlook for metaverse’s profound and fast-emerging impact cannot be overstated, access remains a work in progress for now,” reads a recent KPMG report. “Creating immersive content is difficult, and current XR hardware and software can pose friction points for today’s early adopters and first-time users. But barriers to entry are expected to fade quickly.”

Cordless And Connected: 65% Of Gen Z Are Cord Cutters As Streaming Soars

According to recent reports by Tubi and Samba TV, most Americans are not only cord-cutters; they’re “cycling” subscriptions and turning to ad-supported free channels. Gen Z Americans are the least subscribed demographic when it comes to viewing linear TV via cable or satellite services. 

Generation Unplugged: Gen Z Has Definitively Cut The Cord 

According to Samba TV’s State of Viewership Report, linear television viewership is at its lowest level in almost two years. The report, which presents findings from the analysis of approximately 47 billion hours of linear and streaming during the second half of 2022, reveals that only 48 percent of Americans reported that their household has a monthly cable or satellite TV subscription. Consumers are also watching less linear television: Less than half of U.S. households reported watching linear TV daily throughout the second half of 2022. 

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Source: Samba TV The State of Viewership

Gen Z consumers are the least likely to have a cable or satellite TV subscription or watch television that way. The survey shows that 65 percent of Gen Z do not have a cable subscription.

“We have reached a critical turning point in television and viewing consumption,” stated Samba TV CEO and co-founder Ashwin Navin. “For the first time in history, a majority of Americans report they no longer have a monthly cable subscription and are totally unreachable by traditional linear advertising.” Meanwhile, streaming has become ubiquitous among every age group and ad-supported streaming has gone fully mainstream with significant expansion across new platforms including industry leaders like Netflix and Disney+ entering the world of ads.” 

Subscription “Cycling” Is Still A Thing

While consumers may be turning to streaming services to get their fill of their favorite shows, they are not necessarily loyal to the platform. According to the Samba TV report, consumers sign up to watch their favorite shows and then cancel their subscription once they’ve binged or watched a season. They then replace that subscription with another, and the cycle repeats. According to the Samba TV data, 29 percent of consumers have cycled their subscriptions in the last six months, and 69 percent plan to do so in the next six months. With 71 percent of those polled describing themselves as “binge-watchers,” the report states that most new shows have a window of opportunity lasting just two weeks to capture a binge-watcher’s interest and keep them subscribed.

Surprise! Consumers Like Streaming Free

More than 225 million Americans streamed content last year, according to new research from Tubi TV. As consumers remain wary of the economy and inflation persists, consumers show a willingness to trade ad views for premium, on-demand content – especially when that content is free. Just over half of streaming consumers stated that they felt most comfortable with six minutes of standard format video ads per hour, a relatively light ad load. 

According to the report, ad spend on connected or streaming channels, which rose by 33 percent from $14.2 to $18.9 billion, between 2021 and 2022. Linear TV ad spend but by only a 4 percent, from $65.7 to $68.4 billion. According to the report, which quotes eMarketer data, ad-supported VOD services will likely continue to rise if consumers’ shift away from linear TV continues and streaming services see more subscriber churn.

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Source: eMarketer

What Marketers Need To Know:

According to the Samba TV report, 93 percent of all ad impressions reach just 55 percent of American households. Gen Z is the least likely to tune in to a linear broadcast according to this data, but they still watch “network” TV. That provides a significant opportunity for marketers to reach consumers on platforms or channels where they are following their favorite shows. Gen Z still watches shows on linear TV—just on the platforms and devices they choose. According to the Samba TV report, 89 percent of Gen Z and 85 percent of millennials stream entertainment content on their mobile devices. That means marketers who know what Gen Z watches and loves can reach them wherever they are via mobile devices and present a range of creative ad formats that are tailored to the mobile experience. It also opens up new possibilities for brand partnerships as streaming channels develop new methods of engaging fickle audiences.

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