Netflix And Google Bring ‘Stranger Things’ AR Experiences To The Masses In Print Ads

Netflix went old-school with a twist, running three ads for Starcourt Mall, the hangout mecca in Stranger Things season three. The print ads, featured prominently in The New York Times, are activated with Google Lens for a more immersive, AR experience.

Netflix upped the ad game for Stranger Things in the July 11th print edition of the New York Times. The print ad, featuring iconic, brightly-colored ’80s styling, went deeper than the printed word. Readers who applied Google Lens over the paper got several augmented reality (AR) snippets of scenes from the fictional mall which is central to the plot of season three. 

In a Google blog post, the company explained, “It’s 1985 in Hawkins, Indiana, and summer’s heating up. School’s out and the newly opened Starcourt Mall is center stage. Romance blossoms and complicates the group’s dynamic, and they’ll have to figure out how to grow up without growing apart. Meanwhile, danger still looms beneath the surface in Hawkins. For those adventurous enough to look beneath the surface, they’re bound to find a lot more than they bargained for.” 

Just like most of the other prominent Stranger Things season three brand activations, the ads have the nostalgic ‘80s feel to them, complementing the aesthetic of the show, and they certainly look perfectly strange in the contemporary newspaper with the faded colors, neon special effects and outdated hairstyles of the “models.” 

Google is reinforcing how organizations such as museums, magazines and retailers can employ Google Lens to overlay digital information on everyday objects, bringing fun and functional AR to brands and consumers.  In May 2019, the company upgraded Google Lens with new artificial intelligence (AI) features which allows it to recognize objects with a smartphone camera, like visual language translation of signs, audio reading of text, video demonstrations of recipes, etc. and is now trying to make full use of it with Netflix’s original Stranger Things providing  all the necessary hype. 

Amazon India Pushes Prime Day Online Sales With Virtual Reality-Based Booths

Amazon India is giving shoppers a virtual reality-based (VR) experience for Prime Day, allowing them to enjoy products in life-size, at 360-degree views and in real-life situations. Amazon Prime Day Experience Zones are available in-store at select malls for customers in Delhi NCR, Bengaluru, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata from July 6 to July 16.

Through VR, Amazon will transport customers to the world of Prime Day, where they can inspect everything from the fit of a dress on a 360-degree hologram to the intricacies of jewelry and the inside of a fridge.

While in the virtual world, visitors also have the ability to walk through its streets and play games. Utilizing brick-and-mortar in this way allows Amazon to enhance customers’ immersive shopping experiences, with the goal of increasing online sales. 

Free and open to all visitors, the Experience Zones will be available for hundreds of new products launching on Prime Day. Amazon also partnered with brands such as Kate Spade, Nestle and Samsung LG, to launch over a thousand new products on Prime Day (July 15 and 16) available in India first to Prime members.

The company’s international efforts to build hype around Prime Day will extend to social, too. Those who visit the designated Experience Zones and take a selfie with the Prime Day wall as the backdrop have a chance to win prizes. Entrants must post the photo on social media with the hashtag #AmazonPrimeDay and #DiscoverTheJoyOfMore.

Sprint’s Chief Marketing Officer Roger Solé On 5G, Data Privacy And CMO Visibility

Sprint’s CMO, Roger Solé, has a lot on his plate. He leads all the mobile service provider’s products, services, advertising and branding initiatives, customer acquisition and customer retention. Solé came to the company from TIM Brasil, where he served as a chief marketing officer. His list of accomplishments at Sprint includes the launch of several innovative programs such as “Switch And Save 50 Percent,” the $1 iPhone promotion and “Sprint Open World.” 

Solé sat down with AList to discuss innovation in telecom industry and beyond, and meditate on the challenges CMOs face in today’s reality. 

People have been talking about 5G for quite a while already. What else is important to add? 

I don’t think a lot has actually been [said] yet. Because remember, the first objective of 5G is to enable all the IoT, the Internet of Things world. Maybe it’s not advertising, in the common sense, but the fact that anything can be connected to the [internet] means that an ad can be on anything. You could have real-time, AI-based, personalized machine learning that’s everywhere. I don’t think it’s been thought of like that. What IoT brings is a new kind of the digitalization of all the economy. It’s not just a few sectors, but it really brings a revolution to everything connected. Everything online, all the time, with everything. And working in parallel to that that is AI and automated devices. This brings an absolutely new world, and advertising is going to be part of this revolution. 

I don’t think it’s necessarily specific of advertising, but all the companies that lead you there [to the connected world] are already in development. Digital advertising is already influenced by AI, by microtargeting. So just imagine if you bring it everywhere. I think it’s going to be more personalized and, therefore, more relevant. 

And maybe it’s not going to be seen as advertising. It’s going to be seen more like a service. That is definitely a little bit like paid search has been. Because people don’t really hate paid search. It provides you a value, and, non-intrusively, you have all of those alternatives that the vendor has [sponsored]. But they’re not, necessarily, seen as traditional advertising.  

Is there any marketing technology that you’re specifically investing your time or money in?

Obviously, Artificial Intelligence (AI). Because now, we’re talking as enablers of the industry. I think we’re going to enable amazing new experiences with organic targeted advertising—everywhere. As users of advertising, there’s nothing specific that we’re all thinking about 5G, but what we are doing is leaning in to see what makes sense. 

One of the most relevant goals is to translate the logic that we have today in digital advertising into traditional advertising. That is still very relevant. Especially upper funnel brand building, which all companies really need. We have these lower funnel customers (that are usually more price sensitive) who are ready to switch, and these customers are easier to target because they are already aware.

The top of the funnel is more challenging—and right now harder to measure. For these people, you need to capture their interest and their imagination through upper funnel brand-building exercises. The problem with this kind of advertising is the old saying of, “Hey, I know my advertising works, but I don’t know which half.” And the other half is rubbish. That’s the part we need to change. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of seeing this as traditional TV or radio, we need to see this as just one more upper funnel media that’s connected, just like any other digital, to the same stack, where you can understand who is actually looking at this, watching this and what’s the actual reaction.

There’s been always this problem in putting too much attention on attribution at the end of the funnel. We are building these multi-touch attribution models where we are able to understand what is the real effect of each beat; and that’s digital only. But how do you integrate upper funnel digital into traditional media? Because when people are watching the Super Bowl, and there’s an ad and, maybe, it’s relevant–for brand building purposes. But today, you don’t really know, and that’s what’s been bothering the industry. 

As a CMO, I’m not really focused on just doing brand advertising, I need to deliver the business results. And I also run pricing offers, promotions. Things are connected, and, actually, I don’t care about building branding, unless it has effects on the other side. 

For traditional media, what we’re working on right now is trying to connect them and plug them into this mentality of multi-touch attribution, and there are promising tools. We’re experimenting with closed-loop models. The outcome of that model is that we’ll know if a specific ad generated traffic in a store. And then from the store, we already more or less know from the traffic how we come back. So you actually get sales per ad. That’s the goal. 

For that kind of granular information you need integration with either [HTV] cable companies or smart TV. You get the information of who sees what, and then you need some geolocation capabilities to connect that same audience with where they are. It’s a complex method, but ultimately, I absolutely need this. I need to show  our CEO, “Hey, I’ve invested $100 million, and [these are] the customers we brought.” Because every time I tell him, “I need more money,” he says, “Okay, but what results are you going to bring?” I, and other CMOs, cannot just say, “I don’t know,” forever.

Do you think that as customers realize more about where their data is going, they will want to take back their data? 

We are totally concerned with that. Because the marketer will always find a way. No matter what the public allows, some marketers find other ways. The [disclosure of] what Facebook was doing, for us, was a shocking surprise. That’s where it all started. Internally, they [Facebook] have that saying of, “Do it first, even if we break things.” So now they broke a few things and they understood that, and need to re-approach it. Now they are trying to be ultra-compliant, which makes sense. But they were a startup. 

Now, they are a big company and they need to behave like [one]. Being multinational, one of the biggest in the world, the world is going to ask them for responsibility and compliance in how they use data, especially if that data is misused by political groups.  If companies don’t comply with what the customers expect from [them], they need to rearrange things. 

Can you talk about the CMO’s accountability to the board and the CEO? You are responsible for the budget and data. And often today, CMOs are replaced with chief revenue officers, what’s that trend?

There’s a huge pressure on the CMO, and you have to justify the budget, which is huge, usually. But honestly, once you get your budget, then you are held accountable to a lot of things in the company outside [of your direct] control. Somehow, you are seen as a chief revenue officer, meaning you are the first person after the CEO who needs to be responsible for bringing the revenue home, and this is a huge responsibility. The budget piece, ultimately, concerns me last because it’s an OpEx. It’s an expenditure that I actually control. What [primarily] concerns me is showing results. Traditional media is the big offender there because it’s sometimes so difficult to show how it works. That’s why I’m so obsessed about being able to performance-manage all the media. When you can show results, then you are in a good place with the board or the CEO about how you’re using the resources. 

Where most of the pressure comes is not there [showing marketing campaign results], actually. It’s the pressure on sales. Meaning bringing new customers and losing less of our base. In other industries that might be, literally, sales of products. But, in telecom, because you have subscriptions, it’s really how many subscriptions you bring (meaning new customers or new families) and how many you lose. And then how you manage the existing ones, and everything together gives you the revenue. 

Revenue of new customers, revenue of customers that you lose, and then, the revenue of those who stay and how much it all grows. And this is difficult because revenue is not something that you can 100 percent manage. You do things to get better, but ultimately, someone spends wherever they want. And if someone wants to leave–they leave, and if someone doesn’t buy an add-on, they just don’t. And it depends, sometimes, on many factors, like what your competitors are doing exactly,  disposable income, how the economy is going. There are other substitutive products that are happening and the new business models are being created. 

You cannot manage the world. I cannot really control revenue in the way that the board or the CEO usually wants, which is with [more] certainty. Revenue is always so uncertain; it depends on so many things that are not necessarily in your control. And that’s the tough part of the CMO [job].  They are asking so many things [over which] you don’t really have total control. And that’s why a lot of [CMOs] get fired very quickly because, “We don’t know why. It must be you,” [is often an easy excuse]. It’s easy to fire the CMO. But it’s not easy to grow revenues. Maybe the next one is going to give you more. And that’s why you see that some of them are replaced by chief revenue officers. I think that shows that those companies associate the CMO with revenue, and that’s always a super hard spot to be in. 

How have you gone through your career as a marketer, especially as you’ve moved up? And how do you recommend letting go of micromanaging things and looking at the bigger picture, instead? 

Because of the huge expectations, unfortunately, you are not able to give up on [all] micromanagement, especially with the CEOs that we have had at Sprint. They are micromanagers themselves and they expect you to know everything and you generally don’t. There are certain things you still need to know. 

Maybe once a month, I do a full report on what’s going on, summing up several different key pieces. I try to help connect the dots and keep everything moving forward. There are key projects you need to be very involved in to ensure they are done right, because you know that others, like the CEO, are watching carefully. Then there are other projects that might really excite you that you want to be part of. You have to balance it all out. 

That’s also why the CMO job is complex because you need to go through the execution while also never losing sight of the big picture strategy. If you lose that, you are not a CMO. You need to know where the industry is going, where your company is going, and then what are the things that actually demand your critical attention. And you need to be creative while also leaning on your team and the rest of the organization because [marketing] is in the middle of so many interactions. You also need to think about how to bring the other areas [of the organization] that support the company, like IT, to the big picture vision.

What do you think is the key issue facing marketers in 2019?

Going back to my concerns, it is that it should be consistent. Understanding the relevant performance metrics and performance management in digital. It’s an area where there’s still a lot of dark spaces. I think it was Procter & Gamble CMO saying that, “I also don’t understand what happens with 30 percent of my digital advertisers.” There’s been a lot of criticism about some of the way it’s being measured. 

Performance in digital. You’ve got the Google stack, a Facebook stack. These aren’t connected. And there are vanity metrics, too. That’s why it’s difficult to have the multi-touch integration because things don’t talk to each other. And then you’ve got all of this display world, where  you are unsure of how many people really see them. That puts a lot of questions about performance in digital advertising. And then on traditional, it’s always been difficult to measure, and that is how we really get into performance management. 

If we could connect all of this, then you would be able to show [the value of] what you do, what it brings to the company in terms of revenue. That’s how you would be able to connect it to the aspiration or what people expect from you, in terms of bringing revenue. 

The other concern is really integrating this strategy with tactics It’s critical to always have a vision and then turn that into specific tactics and initiatives. These are the two things CMOs need to be the most concerned about. 

“5G Is Going To Democratize The Industry,” Verizon Media’s Jeff Lucas On 5G And The Next Stage Of The Mobile Revolution

For an industry that should know a thing or two about the dangers of getting carried away by a good promotion, advertising often feels like it’s susceptible for a ride on the hype-train. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself at Cannes Lions, then I guarantee that, whether you’re knocking back rosé on the Croisette or listening to a talk in the Pavilion, at some point someone will pipe up about the magic bullet that is going to change everything. 

In previous years, this MacGuffin was everything from programmatic to Blockchain, but in 2019, the panacea is 5G. Sure, it’s only been rolled out in a few cities in South East Asia and the United States, but already, the super-fast mobile network’s ability to get marketers fired up is only matched by confusion about its actual potential.

Most advertisers and marketers haven’t seen it in action yet, so it’s hard to know what it’ll do. On the one hand, the lightning-fast speeds promise marketers the ability to connect with their audiences on a new, more personal level, while simultaneously offering nothing at all. On a tactical level, 5G is undoubtedly going to be something that marketers must grapple with in the next few years. But what, exactly, can it do now and how should brands prepare themselves?

If there is one company that knows how 5G actually functions, it’s Verizon Media, currently embarked on a massive rollout of the technology across the U.S. To get a fix on what these applications look like and what they mean for marketers, I sat down with Verizon Media’s head of global client solutions, Jeff Lucas at Cannes Lions. Over coffee, we had a wide-ranging discussion about the implications that 5G will have on brands and how the technology will change the way companies will look at digital creativity.

At this early stage, what does 5G mean for marketing departments?

From what we’ve seen so far with 5G, the possibilities really are going to be endless. It opens up so many doors, and the applications can extend as far as your imagination. We just don’t know what all the possibilities are yet.

I think the best way to think of it at the moment is as a supercharged software kit. You know how tech companies give people new software development kits (SDKs) and they, in turn, create all these incredible applications? I believe 5G will roll out in a similar way. We’ve been one of the first companies to connect through the technology, and we’re only just starting to scratch the surface of what can be achieved.

Things move pretty quickly in the mobile space. How fast will 5G take off? 

Things are moving very quickly. In Southeast Asia and Scandinavia, there has already been a lot of progress, but 5G networks need a whole new infrastructure from [those of] 4G and 3G, so I imagine it’s going to be another 18 months or so until we see widespread adoption in the United States. 

From a device standpoint, all the major manufacturers are looking to realize 5G ready smartphones by the end of the year, so I imagine you’ll be seeing a large number of consumers using it by the end of 2020. It’ll undoubtedly be the standard within the next three years.

What do you think will be the effect on consumers once 5G becomes commonplace?

I think the effects are going to be huge. You currently notice the speed difference when you move from a 4G to a 3G area, and I think the jump in speed will be that again. The massive increase in processing power means that 5G removes a lot of the latency that comes with mobile data, so experiences that once had a lot of drag associated with them, like downloading a movie or streaming a live sports game, will now happen almost instantaneously.

No doubt, this is going to have a massive knock-on effect with consumers. If you think that people already expect a mobile experience that is instantaneous, then you can imagine how much worse that is going to get [in the future after 5G adoption]. They’ll really notice when they’re not operating on 5G speeds.

Will this be counterbalanced by the fact that 5G will allow marketers to be more nimble in their media tactics?

Actually, I think 5G has the power to really change media as we know it. If you look at the direction of travel when it comes to innovation in adtech, you’ve seen a non-stop progress towards consolidation. Most platforms are becoming more streamlined and creating a place where a single message can be disseminated through a one-stop shop. 5G is going to supercharge the process, opening up more channels and allowing them all to be managed through one DSP.

We’re already seeing this happening. We have one client, a quick-service restaurant, who has thousands of outlets and wanted to talk with us specifically about how they could deploy 5G as part of their business. Each one of their outlets has a video message board, and they wanted to be able to run different campaigns on them in a second. Now, it’s true that this is something you could already do, but the extra connectivity that 5G brought allowed them to be able to use them in a whole different way. We can run a campaign, deliver it instantaneously and see receipts coming in at the same time, speeding up the decision process.

It has taken something that was very latent, an in-store campaign, and brought it into a reactive digital space. Marketers are going to be able to use similar tactics over the entire advertising mix.

Is 5G going to give marketers a lot more data to play with?

Yes, It’s not only going to allow marketers to consolidate all this information into one or two channels, but it’s also going to increase the channels that you can receive data from, revolutionizing how marketers use media. Where once you had thousands or even millions of data points to work with on a campaign, in the near future you will be able to work with trillions. All done with privacy and in a way that is data-safe–that is very important.

How will 5G help brands connect with customers?

This technology is dissolving the barriers between channels, but on the other hand, it’s also dissolving the boundaries between content and experience. Our Hypezilla, which was created by our RYOT studio, is an excellent example of this. Launched on Yahoo Play, it uses 5G technology to create a live augmented reality experience. You have voice, action and animation, all happening simultaneously. 

That is just one example, but I think 5G is the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to a lot of these digital/augmented reality experiences; be it smart mirrors in clothes stores to driverless taxis. 

This sounds exciting but doesn’t creating AR And VR experiences like this require a level of investment most SME’s can’t match?

I’m not too sure about that. I think 5G is going to be so widespread that it really is going to be for everyone. Right now, we’re a large company, and we have the resources to really play in this space, but any advantages we have are always going to be shared with the wider industry. In fact, one of the big things we’ve always said about RYOT is that we’re committed to working with everybody!

In the long run, I think 5G is going to help smaller shops to be even more competitive. The vast increase in processing power is going to allow small teams to do even more work at a better level of quality. Take animation; my brother worked on King of the Hill; first as an editor and later as a voice actor and as a writer. Over the years he worked on that show, the way technology changed that industry has been nothing short of profound. It used to be that you could tell where a computer had animated something and where a human had animated something, but over the years it has become harder and harder to tell the difference.

I think 5G is going to accelerate and democratize these processes. it’s going to allow something that once took a team of 50 people to do to be done by, say, a team of five. The cost savings are going to be amazing.

In summary, what are the main points marketers need to know about 5G?

I think the main thing is that it’s going to add a whole new set of tools to the tool kit. It is not only going to shorten the distance between data and experience, but it’s also going to vastly improve the quality of those experiences.  

Gen Z Crave A Shopping Experience That Fuses Physical And Digital

Despite Gen Z’s penchant for technology and easy access to shopping online and via social channels like Instagram, the demographic is leading the return to brick and mortar. With a desire for experiential retail and personalized shopping, they are headed back into stores in far greater numbers than their Millenial peers—according to a new report by Ubimo.

The data suggests that the generation of true digital natives, who are expected to comprise 40 percent of all US consumers in 2020, isn’t necessarily looking to spend all their time in stores shopping. The data suggests they prefer supporting brands that fuse an interactive, in-store experience with convenient online shopping.

Given that 80 percent of Gen Z said they not only shop in store but actually look forward to it, immersive experiences for this generation are key for driving foot traffic. Almost two-thirds of Gen Z want to touch, feel and experience products before making a purchase. Additionally, 53 percent of Gen Z are willing to travel up to 30 minutes from home to pick up their purchase from a physical store—a sharp contrast to the instant gratification ethos Millennials live by.

Ubimo examined brick and mortar locations of four of the largest direct-to-consumer (DTC) digital native brands—Amazon’s 4-Star stores, Everlane, Casper and Warby Parker—and compared them to their traditional counterparts. All four brands saw an average of 45 percent lift—defined as the percentage of demographic compared to their percentage of the entire population—at stores among Gen Z shoppers while Millennials accounted for one percent of the lift. 

Digital-born brands are increasingly entering the physical retail space to attract Gen Z shoppers and thereby out-performing their older counterparts. Casper, for example, currently operates 20 locations and plans to open 200 more in the coming years. The company’s stores include an immersive set-up to showcase its mattresses in cozy cabins. The brand also operates The Dreamery in Manhattan, where visitors can take a 45-minute nap on a Casper mattress, accompanied by pajamas and refreshments, for a fee. Industry giant Mattress Firm attracts only 12 percent of the foot traffic that Casper stores do.

Similarly, fashion brand Everlane is targeting Gen Z through its physical presence as the store saw a 110 percent lift. Ubimo’s analysis found that Everlane shoppers also frequent Nike, H&M, and Adidas at notable rates.

The insights serve as a reminder to brands that neither digital nor brick and mortar practices alone will satisfy Gen Z’s unique shopping preferences. Marketers should utilize location intelligence and analyze the actions of their customers in physical stores to guide their business strategies. 

Red Bull Launches First Web AR Experience With Twitch Gamer ‘Ninja’

Red Bull introduced an augmented reality (AR) lens that lets gamers virtually compete with professional gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, the most followed gamer on Twitch. Via the app, fans can invite his avatar into their homes for an AR experience. The immersive marketing initiative is an extension of Red Bull’s “Win with Ninja” campaign in Germany.

Anyone can activate the Ninja AR lens without having to download the app, making it instantly accessible. Fans can either visit the page with their smartphone or scan the quick response (QR) code with their camera app. Using the WebAR lens, gamers must send Red Bull pictures of how they hang out or play with Ninja’s avatar in their gaming room. The photos will be entered into a raffle for their chance to win a gaming session match against Ninja at Lollapalooza in Chicago in August. The raffle runs until June 30.

In addition to the possibility of gaming with Ninja, fans can scan the code under the flap of the limited edition Ninja Red Bull can—which launched in April— to win one of 2,500 Ninja headbands, 17,500 Red Bull gaming sticker sets or for a chance to be one of the five who will win a trip to the US to meet Blevins.

The AR lens comes after Red Bull launched its Win with Ninja US campaign in conjunction with the branded Ninja Red Bull can featuring pictures of Blevins. To enter the US sweepstakes, fans were to upload a video creatively showcasing how they game for a chance to be flown with their partner to a Red Bull gaming event.

Red Bull introduced the limited edition can to Blevins on the set of his photoshoot for The Red Bulletin, the brand’s digital magazine, via drone delivery. The 28-year-old Detroit native, who has neon aqua-blue hair, is best known for streaming Fortnite: Battle Royal and Apex Legends with record-breaking numbers of viewers, and famously streaming with Drake in 2018. Blevins has since been recognized as the global gamer with the most social interactions and boasts more than 45 million gaming followers across platforms domestically and abroad.

Red Bull’s partnership with Ninja echoes the commodity-turned-lifestyle brand’s commitment to marketing to young urban professionals via experiential campaigns. In 2018, the company transformed bus shelters into vending machines to introduce Red Bull Plus, a healthier version of the drink. Red Bull Energy Drink is available in over 170 countries worldwide.

Report: App Fraud Increases Alongside Mobile Consumption

Mobile app brand safety violations have grown 194 percent YoY alongside of increased mobile users and corresponding ad budgets, according to DoubleVerify’s ‘Global Insights Report.’

The report measures key media quality and performance trends on brand safety, fraud, viewability and performance to assess how advertisers can adjust strategies to achieve an efficient return on investment (ROI) on digital investments.

DoubleVerify surveyed over 1,000 brands spanning 75 countries, including North America, Latina America, APAC, and EMEA, from May 2018 to April 2019.

Emerging channels and premium inventory were also hit as fraudulent incidents rose 120 percent for connected television (CTV) and mobile apps. Brand incident rates increased slightly from 6.2 percent in 2018 to 6.5 percent in 2019. Categories with the highest brand safety violations include entertainment followed by travel, finance, pharma, and auto.

Mobile app fraud increased by six percent while desktop fraud fell by seven percent. About half of the fraud occurring on mobile apps include ad impression fraud and invalid traffic practices like hidden ads, laundering, and misrepresentation.

“Viewability across devices continued a steady climb YoY, with overall display viewability at 58 percent (2018: 55 percent) and video viewability measured at 62 percent (2018: 59 percent). This positive trend is encouraging, but still falls short of both IAB standards and advertisers’ growing demand for 100 percent viewability,” the report states. “The bright spot is mobile app, where display and video viewability topped 70 percent in both formats.”

APAC saw the lowest overall fraud rates globally whereas brand safety incident rates in EMEA were the highest, with an increase of 17 percent within the first four months of 2019.

Mary Meeker’s 2019 Trend Report: The State Of Ecommerce, Ad Spend And Digital

Mary Meeker and Kleiner Perkins released their annual internet trends report exploring insights into the state of ecommerce, ad spending and digital content trends. Ahead, we break down the most important takeaways for marketers.

Internet User Growth Slows, Digital Media Usage Rises

According to the report, there are 3.8 billion internet users which makes up more than half of the global population—a majority of those are located in China, India, and the US.

New growth is difficult when markets reach the mainstream, reflected by the decline in new smartphone shipments in 2018 (a four percent decrease compared to zero percent last year). Mary Meeker’s report notes that internet user growth is solid but slowing given a six percent increase YoY compared to seven percent last year. Digital media usage, on the other hand, increased by two percent.

Brands leading the internet market capitalization include Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple. These leaders’ revenues, however, saw a two percent dip this year.

Monitor Customer Acquisition Costs

Despite direct-to-consumer (DTC) businesses exceeding brick and mortars, growth rates for e-commerce are also declining, as e-commerce only saw a 0.3 percent increase YoY.

Context-rich data is driving innovation and personalized products and services, contributing to higher customer satisfaction. Still, brands should think of long-term growth.

“There are areas where customer acquisition costs are rising to unsustainable levels,” the report notes. Similarly, physical retail growth numbers are down as 2018 saw a 0.4 percent decrease. Customer acquisition costs (CAC), the report says, can’t exceed lifetime value (LTV) for much longer.

Ad Spending, Video Content and Podcasts

Money spent on advertising and time spent on both mobile and desktop reached equilibrium, 33 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

Though annual internet ad spending increased by one percent, internet ad revenues saw a nine percent decrease in the US. Google and Facebook remain the leading platforms for internet ads. Additionally, the 42 percent rise reflected in programmatic ad buying is negatively impacting pricing. Geolocation data-driven ads, machine learning, shoppable catalogs, and promoted social posts are driving ad share gains.

Freemium products like Spotify and Zoom are experiencing success in customer acquisition thanks to marketing efforts that act on their audience’s interests rather than the relentless pursuit of new prospects.

The report states that mobile remains the dominant medium for internet users (6.3 percent on mobile versus two percent on desktop). Online platforms YouTube and Instagram have seen the most growth in internet users. Time spent watching video has doubled within five years, with 1.5 billion daily active users across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Lastly, podcast MAU almost doubled in four years with a total of 70 million listeners. The Daily (The New York Times), The Joe Rogan Experience, and Stuff You Should Know (iHeartMedia) were the top three most downloaded Apple podcasts in the US.

Schick Intuition, Hello Kitty Launch Shoppable Mural in NYC

Schick and Sanrio’s Hello Kitty brand have erected a mural in NYC that grants exclusive access to a presale site. The activation taps into consumers’ love for social sharing during a resurgence in mural popularity.

In celebration of Hello Kitty’s 45th anniversary, Schick Intuition is releasing two limited edition Hello Kitty razor gift packs. A presale event will take place from June 10-24, with two ways of gaining access.

Consumers can visit the mural in person at 341 7th Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC and take a photo of a hidden QR code. Doing so will unlock access to a presale website.

Meanwhile, fans outside of New York can post a picture of their favorite “Kawaii” moment (Japanese for “cute”) on Instagram tagging the official Schick Intuition and Hello Kitty accounts, along with the hashtags #Kawaii #SchickIntuitionxHelloKitty. Schick Intuition will respond with a link to the exclusive presale event.

Schick partnered with a number of Instagram lifestyle micro-influencers to promote the activation including Maria “bbybliss” Vargas, Karen Pagtama Hickman aka “littlesweetkaren” and Messy Pink.

Exclusive pre-sale events tap into consumers’ FOMO and are becoming more common on social media. Last February, Nike hosted a Snapchat-exclusive pre-sale event for its Nike’s Air Jordan III “Tinker” shoe. They sold out in 30 minutes.

A quick Instagram search reveals over 11 million hashtags about murals—a testament to the rising popularity of the medium both for personal enjoyment and advertising.

In October 2018 Snapchat unveiled a Marker with Snapcode template that creates Lenses over existing images such as a poster or mural. The first template was “Angel Wings,” an augmented reality filter that superimposed wings onto photo subjects posing in front of a Los Angeles mural.

In an age of “travel brags” and “Insta-worthy” experiential marketing, it’s no wonder that brands are turning to murals at a growing rate to foster brand affinity and awareness.

Beer brand Pabst Blue Ribbon even created an internet holiday—National Mural Day—on May 7. The first annual event connected artists with local wall owners. As part of the celebration, murals were erected in several cities around the US.

Schick parent company Edge Personal Care has increased its focus on e-commerce in recent years, launching a flagship store in China’s retail site, a direct-to-consumer (DTC) Schick shopping site and an expansion on Amazon. In May, Edge Personal Care entered into a $1.37 billion agreement to purchase DTC shaving subscription brand Harry’s.

According to the company’s FY 2018 financial report, 100 percent of marketing efforts for Schick Hydro in the US and Canada are now digital.

Apple’s Accessibility Feature ‘Voice Control’ Launches With New Narrative Spots

At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple launched a new feature called “Voice Control” with a touching video spot in which former cyclist Ian Mackay, who was left wheelchair-bound after a bike crash, going about his day with the help of the new feature.

Voice Control allows iPhone and Mac users to fully control every aspect of their device by speaking.

The spot shows Ian directing his computer and phone to open apps, scroll and write and send messages. In place of having to click, Voice Control shows him a numbered list of options to choose from. Using the new feature, Ian is able to schedule a meet-up with his friend in the outdoors of the Pacific Northwest by selecting an area on the map on his computer then texting the location to his friend.

Known for mixing technology with emotion, Apple further demonstrated the various ways that its features help people overcome accessibility obstacles via additional narrative video spots via the company’s Accessibility page.

In one, a blind musician and father uses the Text to Speech feature to identify ingredients and cook dinner for his family. Another shows a band teacher use Live Listen, which lets her stream the classroom’s music from her iPad and into her iPhone hearing aids to hear more clearly.

In 2016, Apple used a similar approach to marketing its Accessibility features in another purpose-driven spot that shows a real editor, who has cerebral palsy, edit the same spot using the pads on her wheelchair to control the program. In it, she says, “When technology is designed for everyone, it lets anyone do what they love—including me.”

Apple has a long history of using its products to show support for important causes. For 12 years, it has been the largest corporate contributor to (RED), an organization that raises awareness and funds in the fight against AIDS. The company launched a (PRODUCT)RED line of devices as well as (RED)-themed exclusive game content.

Despite delivering its “strongest iPad growth in six years,” Apple’s Q2 earnings amounted to $58 billion, a 5 percent decline YoY, and revealed that quarterly earnings per diluted share of $2.46 are down 10 percent.