Report: Appearing Next To Competitors Deemed Most Threatening To Brand Safety

In 2017, brand safety was a big issue among marketers. Brands like Verizon appeared next YouTube videos by groups like ISIS. At that time, around 90 percent of those surveyed by GumGum—an AI company with a focus in computer vision—felt the problem was severe. Now, in GumGum’s “Brand Safety Crisis: One Year Later” report, only 60 percent of marketers felt brand safety was a big problem when it came to their marketing efforts in 2018.

GumGum—along with Digiday—surveyed 274 industry professionals in brands, agencies, online publishing and technology providers between October and November of last year.

Many respondents were satisfied with the way platforms handled the issue. Some brands even took matters into their own hands and created their safety measures and hired people specifically for the task. However, the enemy has changed. In 2017, bad news was the most common type of threatening content respondents said they were exposed to. A year later, a competitors’ branding was the most brand-unsafe content.

Some brands got proactive and felt they needed to tackle the issue themselves. The report highlighted Bank of America and GroupM, a media investment group, as examples of such brands. “A lot of media clients we work with have someone who in their job description is to be the de facto brand safety officer,” explained Joe Barone, managing partner of brand safety for GroupM in the report. Barone added these specialists tend to “emerge from companies’ existing marketing teams.” Despite the effort, only 5 percent of the industry professionals surveyed feel these specialists have helped a lot. Around 63 percent believed they’d helped a little and 31 percent these specialists have been of moderate help.

In 2017, around 28 percent of respondents believed a competitor’s branding was the biggest issue. A year later, it became the most substantial dilemma—around 63 percent of marketers think its the most common brand-unsafe exposure. This concern isn’t new to the digital space though, competitor’s branding has always been a problem.

“It’s the same thing that exists in traditional television,” said Blake Sabatinelli, CEO of publisher Newsy in the report. “In other words, the fear of being grouped with a competitor is not exactly a new one for brands — in fact, it’s one of the oldest. But it’s never been a more pressing concern than it is now.”

Bad news lost its top spot and turned into the least worry. These findings show social platforms are doing a decent job in vetting bad news and marketers seem to agree. In the past 12 months, Facebook and Twitter were ranked as the highest in improving on brand safety. Approximately, 45 percent of respondents believe the latter is the most brand safe. Publisher platforms are worrisome to many marketers, about 45 percent of them feel these platforms are the most unsafe for brands. Further, 65 percent think the display ads on publisher sites are the most unsafe types. In response to these attitudes, around 55 percent of marketers have turned to direct relationships with publishers they trust to prevent these problems.

There are also new problems marketers will start to face, such as “deepfake” a form of visual content that uses AI to create genuine-looking fake videos. Some organizations, such as DARPA—the technological research division of the U.S. military—spent $68 million on “deepfake” detection tools. Also, platforms like Facebook and Google have been efficient in detecting and eliminating this type of content.

The solution to these brand threats? The report concludes it takes the correct technology. Image recognition tools and natural language context detection will be essential to alleviating these problems. However, the majority of marketers aren’t using these tools, but ones who are have seen “impressive results.”

“It’s absolutely true that we need to move beyond a semantic analysis of brand-safe content or even what’s starting to be called sentiment analysis,” added Barone.

Domino’s Uses AI To Reward Points For Photographing Any Pizza

Domino’s is now giving pizza fans points for any pizza they purchase—even if it’s from a competitor. The company is launching the new rewards program right before one of biggest pizza consuming days of the year, the Super Bowl. Additionally, it’s the first time Domino’s will use AI  to recognize pizza, its part of the brand’s constant investment in consumer technology.

On February 2, Domino’s will start awarding rewards points for all pizzas a customer eats through its Points for Pies program. Consumers need to download the latest Domino’s App, then sign up for the Piece of the Pie Rewards loyalty program, and will need to use the pizza identification feature to scan their pies. Once they earn 60 points consumers can redeem a free medium two-topping pizza from Domino’s.

Domino’s CEO Rich Allison will also appear in his first TV commercial for the brand on February 2.

“Instead of advertising during Sunday’s game, we decided to invest in a breakthrough program that rewards everyone who loves pizza as much as we do,” said Art D’Elia, Domino’s senior vice president and chief brand officer in a statement. “We know everyone is asking themselves, ‘Did Domino’s just say they will award points for eating ANY pizza? Even from a competitor?’ You read that right; oh yes we did!”

The company’s internal team created the software that scans the pizza and the AI will identify the image as pizza so that points can be awarded correctly. They’ve also accounted for people trying to cheat.

“It will be running the pizza identification process and is already smart enough to identify all pizza, even if it is a homemade English muffin pizza, a pizza with a hotdog stuffed crust, or a high-end artisan pizza. It can even identify if it’s a dog’s squeaky pizza toy,” stated Dennis Maloney, Domino’s chief digital officer.

Last November, Domino’s launched a New Pizza Chef to their mobile app using AR. The feature allows customers to pick their crust, cheese, swirls and toppings. The virtual creation could be made into a real pizza and delivered to the user.

Domino’s also tested various new ways to order a pizza, including a voice-recognition ordering platform, and in 2014, they launched a virtual ordering assistant, DOM, that acted as the voice of the Domino’s Tracker.

Ad Block Survey Shows Marketers, Consumers Frustrations

A new study by Visual Objects finds that a growing number of consumers are downloading ad blockers much the chagrin of marketers. Research shows the majority of respondents who use ad blockers (51 percent) find video ads the most annoying when browsing online.

The company surveyed 500 consumers who use ad blocker plugins on desktop or mobile. The study included research from Statista finding nearly one in three computers use at least “one form of ad blocker, a number that has doubled since 2014.”

According to the survey, “Over half of respondents (51 percent ) say they are most frustrated by some type of video ad. This statistic includes both videos that appear before content loads (21 percent) and ones that interrupt streaming (30 percent)”

Visual Objects revealed the number one reason people download ad blockers was to “limit interruptions online.” Around 22 percent did so to “increase control over browsing experience,” and 18 percent use it to “eliminate unuseful or irrelevant ads.”

“The sheer volume of ads will actually impact the website experience, particularly the loading time or even functionality,” said Kyle Deming, founder of the web services firm Wojo Design, to Visual Objects.

Around 64 percent of respondents only block ads on their desktop, making mobile a more susceptible platform. The study found its just easier to install on laptops or desktops. Ad blockers began to appear in 2003 and around 65 percent of those surveyed have used an ad blocked for at least a year. There were fewer long-term ad blocker users, about 27 percent have used one for a least five years.

My impression was that [ad blockers] have become popular only recently because users are becoming more tech-fluent,” Deming added. “Installing an ad blocker used to be a really tech-savvy move.”

The study highlighted Google as an example. The company’s Chrome Web Store offers ad blocker apps that are user-friendly. They noted mobile ad blockers are far more scarce.

However, in terms of mobile advertising, experts believe brands should focus their ad spend on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

“By going directly to the platform, you can avoid being stifled by ad blockers,” said Spencer X. Smith, founder of AmpliPhi Social Media Strategies, in the Visual Objects report.

According to a study in 2017, around 615 million devices use some form of ad blocking.

Gartner’s ‘Predicts 2019’; Anticipates Major Changes By 2022

In a world that’s changing quickly due to shifts in technology and consumer behavior, it can be overwhelming for marketers to keep up. Gartner’s new report titled, ‘Predicts 2019: Marketing Seeks a New Equilibrium’ tries to understand and anticipate future trends affecting chief marketing officers and marketing teams.

The firm’s analysts predict six major changes in the next three to four years. By 2022, CMOs will reduce their investment in CX by at least 25 percent and re-route that money towards profitability.

Content creators, like influencers, will gain even more power. It is believed they’ll produce over 30 percent of their digital content with the help of AI content-generation tools.

In 2022, Gartner says, brands that incorporate user-level control of marketing data will reduce customer turnover by 40 percent. The emergence of CDPs is an example of that; the system enables better use of first-party data to drive content and individual-level ad targeting. Additionally, this will increase the brand’s lifetime value by 25 percent in 2023.

“These are exciting, but uncertain times for CMOs and marketing leaders. From the promise of data and analytics to the lure of CX and everything in between, marketers have vast opportunities to set themselves apart from the competition, but equal challenges to overcome in order to do so,” said Charles Golvin, senior director and analyst at Gartner in a press release. “Finding the right balance to successfully leverage marketing technology and emerging trends will be critical to marketing’s success over the course of the next couple of years.”

By 2023, the prediction isn’t promising for anyone in a marketing analytics team. The analysts believe around 60 percent of CMOs will cut the size of the department in half because of “failure to realize promised improvements.” That year there will be a 25 percent increase in response rates because of autonomous marketing systems. It’s predicted those systems will deliver 55 percent of multichannel marketing messages “based on marketer criteria and real-time consumer behavior.” Consumers already have short attention spans and in four years it’s expected they will watch 20 percent fewer minutes of video ads per day. To curb the loss, brands will have to create short-form video ads.

Gartner’s prophecies come from four key “forces”:

  • Behavioral Change Gartner found 44 percent of consumers would be more inclined to use a virtual personal assistant app if they knew their private information remained in the device.
  • Regulatory Pressures Regulations like GDPR are changing how companies can use customer data.
  • Organizational Shifts Internally, marketing leaders are hiring more data experts and investing more in CX, making expectations higher in these areas.
  • Disruptive Automation Brands want to be efficient and as marketers implement automation in new areas, the innovation will have a “disruptive impact” in the industry.

SuperData Releases Year In Review; Predictions For 2019

SuperData published its 2018 year in review report on digital games and interactive media. This year in review is the first from the gaming market research company since being acquired by Nielsen last year,

According to SuperData’s report, digital gaming grew 13 percent globally and earned approximately $119 billion. Mobile saw the most significant increase making around $61 billion last year. Also, free-to-play games gained popularity, VR/AR bloomed in enterprise and gaming video content (GVC) continued rising in influence.

Fortnite was the top free-to-play game (F2P) last year, earning around $2.4 billion and gaining a huge audience. Twitch streamer Ninja became gaming’s biggest influencer, while also partnering with Red Bull and appearing in a Samsung commercial. Users viewed Ninja’s channel for 218 million hours. According to the report, it was “watched more than the second- and third-most popular channels combined.”

In 2018, the report found the GVC market reached $5.2 billion in total revenue. Its audience increased to reach 850 million views. Twitch beat YouTube as the highest-earning platform, earning 1.6 billion. SuperData also revealed GVC is crucial to a game’s success, stating online videos impact “what 46 percent of U.S. PC and console gamers under the age of 25 play.”

SuperData’s report says the VR market made $6.6 billion in revenue compared to $4.5 billion in 2017. Last May, Oculus Go sold one million devices and proved standalone VR headsets were more profitable than other VR tools. Social media, like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram, assisted in driving consumers towards AR and increasing user numbers up to 1.1 billion.

These growing numbers also helped encourage enterprise investment in VR. Finding that training is the biggest driver for using VR in business, like surgery and operating vehicles. The report also highlighted that Walmart bought around 17,000 Oculus Go headsets to train employees last year. SuperData predicts enterprise to be a significant consumer for AR/MR headsets and it’s forecasted to account for 85 percent sold this year.

The report ends with predictions for 2019. SuperData expects more multiplatform games this year as well as digital games revenue in the neighborhood of 128.8 billion. Cloud gaming should also take-off, and it could massively effect gaming hardware, pushing this generation’s console’s to become outdated sooner than later.

App Annie’s ‘State Of Mobile’ Covers Mobile Marketing; Predictions For 2019

App Annie—app analytics and market data platform—released the state of mobile 2019 report. It analyzes how markets evolve through mobile such as statistics on how many downloads happened worldwide, consumer spend and how much time an average user spent on mobile. It’s vital information on mobile due to the increasing investment in it—around 65 percent of digital ad spend was put into it last year.

When it comes to mobile marketing the report found paid ads do lead to an increase downloads, more advertisers are using ad platforms to acquire users and App Store Optimization practices such as description changes evolved in 2018.

The report found App Store Optimization (ASO) made a few changes last year. In 2017, 49 percent of description updates was the most common form of ASO—it was still the most standard method in 2018— but there was a small decline to 46 percent. Icon change was 30 percent of ASO updates and the least common way was a name change at 24 percent. In the U.S. this data is relevant to both games and non-gaming apps.

In addition to these updates, the report found publishers can gain more power through these updates using videos, screenshots, keyword bank and promotional text (both on iOS). Publishers can capitalize on traffic using major events such as Black Friday or even an app launch. In 2018, there was significant growth in the number of ad platforms used in both iOS and Google Play. The report believes it’s “an indication of maturation in the industry.” Games saw a bigger increase than non-gaming apps. In iOS, it grew 25 percent and Google Play saw a 45 percent growth. Apps also saw an increase, iOS used 25 percent more ad platforms and Google Play utilized 20 percent more. According to App Annie, advertisers can boost coverage by using more ad platforms to find the best advertising ROI.

It seems there is a payoff to investing in paid ads to get users to download your app. Last year, around four of every 10 downloads from among the top 100 apps and games were driven by paid ads.  In the U.S., total download from paid ads grew 10 percent YoY across both app stores. They also found around 20 percent of top iOS game downloads came from paid user acquisition compared to Google Play.

The state of mobile report predicts 60 percent more apps will monetize through in-app ads, competing for a chunk of the $250 billion digital advertising market. They also forecast consumer spend in mobile gaming will grow to 60 percent market share across all platforms. Furthermore, they believe consumers app store spend will grow about 5 times as fast worldwide in 2019.

Marketing Automation Survey Reveals Need For Experts

Many marketers need to find ways to close the loop and plenty still need skilled talent to successfully use marketing automation at their organization. These were key issues found in a marketing automation survey report—the first of its kind.

The recent study by CleverTouch, a British marketing automation consultancy, surveyed 200 marketing directors, heads and CMOs from a variety of regions in the U.K., U.S. and Europe, Africa and the Middle East (EMEA). The biggest takeaway: these companies need more experts. The survey found 40 percent of respondents believe the lack of skills and competence is stopping them from fully succeeding in its marketing automation strategy.

The press release stated the worldwide survey “reveals a gap in the perceived benefits of marketing automation in contrast to the reality of adaptation.” Marketing automation is supposed to maximize efficiency and increase revenue, but the survey found 48 percent of respondents use marketing automation recruiting specialist talent. To get employees to understand and master the company’s marketing automation tools, 49 percent of respondents rely on vendors and 48 percent recruit specialist skills.

Furthermore, the survey found 33 percent of organizations use external consultants to cultivate marketing automation skills and only 13 percent keep its delivery strictly in-house. Despite these findings, 70 percent of companies without marketing automation technology intend to train and educate their staff on it.

Many organizations realize sales and marketing delineation is becoming an antiquated process and nurture the growth of their alignment. Marketing Automation is a big asset to help combine these forces and the survey found 44 percent of respondents use it for lead generation, 41 percent use it for lead nurturing campaigns and 40 percent use it for account-based marketing. Nonetheless, there are still certain attitudes and judgment towards each department. Around 31 percent of respondents see their marketing department as equals to the sales department. On the flip side, 28 percent of those surveyed see marketing as a “change agent and driver of new thinking.”

When it comes to competing technologies, the survey revealed 31 percent of respondents say customer relationship management (CRM) is more valuable to their organization than marketing automation. Around 51 percent believe they’re both equally important.

In a response to the survey, CleverTouch launched a “War for Talent” campaign to get more people interested in marketing automation. The campaign’s site states the 120 percent growth in the technology calls for more experts. They also highlighted the U.K.’s high unemployment rate as a pool to tap into in order to train more people on marketing automation. Essentially their goal is to kill to birds with one stone: open a new career option and relieve the issues many companies are facing.

Expert Predictions On The State Of VR And Marketing In 2019

If your entire understanding of virtual reality and augmented marketing came from science fiction films, you’d be sorely disappointed with the progress current platforms have made up to the current year of 2019. But, for those of us living in the here and now, you’re just waiting for the technology to become easier to use and for the ubiquity of AR and VR in marketing and advertising.

That’s not to say companies haven’t tried: Google Glass, AR and VR advertisements have all come and gone and mostly failed to penetrate the zeitgeist (with the exception of Snapchat’s AR Lens and Instagram’s copycat, face filters). For consumers and even brands, the threshold of ease and ubiquity hasn’t been crossed, but when it does, the changes to the marketing industry will be massive.

To that end, we’ve gathered experts from across the virtual reality and augmented reality industries to answer some questions about the state of these technologies and what might happen in 2019.

What changed in VR and AR over the course of 2018?

Jason Yim, CEO and executive creative director, Trigger: 2018 was a year of democratization for AR, starting with Snap opening up its Lens Studio, Facebook joining the fight and the year ending with web AR finally becoming a viable platform. Not only was there more AR content available for the consumer, but it would also be easier to reach and experience.

Rick Rey and Andy Vick, co-presidents of VR/immersive entertainment, STXsurreal: [What changed was the] enthusiastic adoption of dedicated VR devices like the standalone Oculus Go and PlayStation VR—which don’t require a PC to deliver high-quality VR experiences. It’s clear that there is a passionate (and growing) “casual” audience out there for premium VR, and it’s only going to grow as hardware prices come down and the quality of VR content goes up. Now with big Hollywood talent actively engaged in the space, we think premium scripted entertainment in VR can be a major driver of adoption.

Brad Herman, CTO and co-founder, SPACES: Hundreds of location-based VR entertainment destinations have opened all over the world.       

Micah Jackson, CEO, Angeles Vista Creative Ventures: I feel that 2018 was a year where lots of groundwork was done for the future of VR. However, the overall interest cooled off a bit. Borrowing a “Wall Street” analogy, I’d say 2018 was a year where the VR market was correcting itself. We saw a lot of small studios close and a lot of major players like The Void, SPACES and Dreamscape emerge.

Chris Reese, CEO, VRX: In addition to the Vive Pro coming out, there were many more titles that came out for VR. Location-based VR arcades are still struggling to find a sustainable business model, but some have. The greatest issues are in the areas of equipment durability and licensing. Unique, multi-player experiences such as Disney’s Void and virtual escape rooms seem to do the best. Additionally, we saw technology take a leap to high-quality HMD-only devices like the Oculus Go, freeing the user from the PC tether.

Ricardo Justus, CEO, Arvore Immersive Experiences: User adoption went up, great games were released that are more solid full experiences and games of their own instead of the more experimental stuff of 2016 and 2017. Certain titles achieved great success and explored the medium in completely new ways. Also, a great market opened up in the form of fully immersive location-based entertainment, showing that beyond being interesting for home use, VR can become a great form of out of home entertainment.

What are some broad expectations you have for these technologies over the next year?

JY: Web AR will become standard across all browsers. Allowing consumers to access “light” AR features without downloading an app and directly from any webpage or even social media. This will broaden the adoption of AR, and encourage users to try more powerful app-based experiences.

5G will enable “heavy” AR experience over-the-air for consumers with high-end devices, paving the way for everyone else to catch up in 2020. AR HMDs [head mounted displays] will gain significant traction in the Enterprise market, but will still be too early for consumers.

RR and AV: We believe we’ll see the adoption of hardware continue to trend up as the quality of products increases and price points drop. That, in combination with larger mass-marketing campaigns from the manufacturers, will drive overall awareness to a new level that goes far beyond the “early adopter” audience.

There will also be a continuation of breakout content that utilizes the unique attributes of immersive tech in new and interesting ways. This will ultimately lead to even larger adoption as the behavior for VR will become more commonplace.

BH: VR Headsets will get lighter, higher resolution, and more evolution of wireless technology. The start of the 5G revolution’s impact on VR will show up.

MJ: I believe 2019 will be an exciting year for VR. With the release of the upcoming Oculus Quest and Magic Leap headsets, I think mass audience interest in VR will rise.

Also fueling the interest in VR will be premium, location-based VR centers like the Void, Dreamscape and SPACES. This “perfect storm” combination of new hardware and experiences should reignite curiosity in VR for the next couple of years. 

CJ: I anticipate we will see increases in display resolution. The screen door effect is still an issue at HD resolutions. I’d also like to see more improvements in kinetic controllers and AR integration.

RJ: With the release of true stand-alone devices with six degrees of freedom inside-out tracking like the Oculus Quest will change things a lot, as with these devices VR is no longer an “accessory” to a PC or console but becomes the device/console itself. I expect a lot will change with the market and possibilities with this category.

What do you believe VR/AR can do for marketing and advertising?

JY: People have made their purchase decisions based on small, static, 2D photographs since the Sears catalog in the early 1800s. AR will completely change all that. In the near future, we will come to expect an accurate, life-size, 3D preview of every object. And while consumers can already drop an AR couch in the living room to see how it fits, a year from now they will be dropping an entire volumetric 3D commercial into their living room trying to sell them a new couch.

RR and AV: Marketing dollars help introduce consumers to new tech and allow creators to fund their experimentation in unique ways.  We’ve already seen this impact over the last few years, and we see a massive potential to do it bigger and better now that the content creation process has gotten more sophisticated. It just takes the right brand with a vision and eye towards innovation.

While consumers can already drop an AR couch in the living room to see how it fits, a year from now they will be dropping an entire volumetric 3D commercial into their living room trying to sell them a new couch. —Jason Yim

BH: It’s not the medium, it’s the message. If you want to deliver a message in an immersive and all-encompassing way then VR is the best way to do that. If you want to activate your message on mobile phones and mix the real world with digital then AR is right for you. Just look at all the amazing work being done in 2018. 

MJ: If done well (and tastefully) VR and AR could be the most immersive and engaging forms of advertising we’ve ever seen. I’m actually exploring this angle myself at the moment. If you allow people to engage with brands and products in three dimensions, I believe it will have a much greater impact than traditional media. In the future, I believe VR/AR marketing will play a major role in introducing consumers to products and getting them to engage with them willingly. As people skip Youtube commercials, scroll past mobile ads and stop watching live television, VR may be the only qualitative advertising platform.

CR: I anticipate we will see increases in display resolution. The screen door effect is still an issue at HD resolutions. I’d also like to see more improvements in kinetic controllers and AR integration.

RJ: The ability to create actual living experiences with XR that go beyond traditional storytelling, where you bring people into actual immersive story worlds can be a powerful tool for marketing, especially when talking about companies that sell a brand experience.

Do you think we can expect to see a marked difference in the amount of AR and VR advertising in 2019?

JY: We expect a big increase in 2019 in AR advertising. Web AR and new platforms will provide additional channels for the advertiser on top of Snap and Facebook/Instagram. While brands that experimented in 2018, will commit to larger campaigns that deliver content across many AR platforms instead of just one. An AR strategy will take its place next to a brand’s web, mobile and social strategy.

RR and AV: As the immersive space continues to mature in 2019 there will be more innovative brands jumping in and pushing the envelope. The benefits that come with treading new ground will pay off nicely if properly executed because the end consumer is growing tired of the more traditional interaction with brands. Experiential activations will be even more crucial to breaking through the noise of the digital age.  The companies that choose to wait on the sidelines will have to play catch up, but at the risk of looking like, they’re late to the party. 5G will also start to become a part of the conversation. The telcos need to find strong use cases for this exponentially more powerful pipeline. Hopefully, AR can play into this evolution along with the tetherless VR headsets.

BH: I think that the smart marketers will continue to do what they have always done, make compelling messages for their clients. AR and VR continue to provide a best in class experience and reaction that can’t be achieved with other platforms.

MJ: I’m sure the headset makers will increase their spend on advertising next year, which will benefit the VR industry overall. I’m optimistic that the interest in new hardware will trigger an appetite for content, which will, in turn, make VR/AR advertising more viable. However, I’m not sure we will see much of an increase in AR/VR ad content overall. As the new headsets enter the market and people buy them, then we’ll begin to see the increase in ad-supported VR content.

CR: I think we are already starting to see an uptick in AR advertising. It’s a way to entice customers to download the company’s app so they can interact with the AR Easter eggs hidden in the product packaging. At VRX, we see huge opportunities here as well as for convention and visitor bureaus. What can be done with the technology to tell the story of a community or create interaction with local retailers are virtually unlimited.

RJ: VR is evolving more and more out of the “novelty” stage to becoming a medium of its own, which means deeper and more powerful experiences. Any brand that is interested in creating immersive communication will possibly want to turn to out of home VR.

In AR and VR, will brands be ahead of consumer adoption? Will they help drive consumer adoption?

JY: Brands will play their part in consumer adoption by filling the ecosystem with content. However, what will really change user behavior will be the maturation of the underlying technology. Each improvement will bring more users because AR itself will become suddenly more useful.

RR and AV: Brands have already been ahead of consumer adoption in virtual reality, but they have to keep the drumbeat going if they want to truly get value out of the foundation they started building. Looking specifically at brands that launched VR apps and channels – the opportunity to funnel premium content into these channels is tremendous right now, and those viewers are actively engaged and looking for more. I can’t think of a more loyal and dedicated audience than VR users.

BH: Location-based VR entertainment has always been a focus of ours, back to our use of it for marketing at Dreamworks in 2014 and beyond. As a team, we have introduced many tens of thousands of people to VR. People who don’t have headsets at home. Having a great experience in Location Based VR Entertainment is a great funnel for consumer adoption and nearly all marketing VR falls into that category.

MJ: Depends. If there is a significant increase in new users, brands will follow. However, I think major brands will take a ‘wait and see’ approach. It took years before companies like Nestle or Coke partnered with box and PlayStation to market to gamers. However, more ‘edgy’ brands have already been experimenting with VR/AR and I’m not sure it drove much consumer interest. In the end, I believe content will drive adoption and brands should be looking to partner with content creators.

CR: I think most brands are still trying to figure it out. They went through the whole 3D phase which passed rather quickly. However, we see VR and AR as here to stay. I think brands will continue to push into AR, and VR will lag behind. The challenge at the moment with VR for brands is the small adoption numbers.

RJ: I think more than anything, good content is what drives consumer adoption, not brands. If more and more compelling games and interactive experiences are released, more people will try it and adopt it.

What is your bold prediction for AR/VR in 2019?

JY: In 2019 AR will no longer “wow” the consumer, but instead it will begin to become useful. Like GPS, AR will become a powerful and useful ingredient in many applications and use-cases.

RR and AV: VR filmmaking will have its House of Cards moment where a star-driven VR movie gets on everyone’s radar – making it a truly must-see experience – and pushes forward VR interest and adoption in a huge way.

BH: 2019 is the year of whole family social fun in VR.

MJ:  My guess is that Sony will announce their next generation console and PSVR replacement at E3 2019 and Apple may get into the VR space as well. Outside of hardware speculation, I believe 2019 will be a significant year for VR content creators like me!

CR: I believe VR will move from early adopters into a heavy growth phase.

RJ: Steady growth of the home-use space, amazing new location-based experiences, and new and surprising device announcements.

Holding Companies Target MarTech; Spent $33 Billion On M&A In 2018

Consulting firm R3 Worldwide released its December M&A global league table, showing that holding groups are spending substantial amounts of money in the marketing sector, primarily on martech acquisitions. Adobe made the biggest splash of the year when the company purchased Marketo for $4.75 billion.

Although this was Adobe’s only transation in 2018, the number of acquisitions of this type was up 16 percent YoY. Overall, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the marketing industry hit $33 billion last year—up 144 percent from 2017.

After Adobe, Alibaba had largest acquisition. In July, they announced they would buy a minority stake—around 6.63 percent—in China’s Focus Media becoming their strategic investor. The company also said they would invest $511.1 million “in an entity controlled by Focus Media’s chairman Jason Jiang by subscribing to newly issued shares.”

Greg Paull, principal at R3, told CNBC, “MarTech (marketing technology) is making fringe digital tech more centralized in marketing options.”

Ranking fourth in the global table, AT&T acquired AppNexus—an advertising software platform serving publishers, agencies and marketers for $1.6 million. In a press release, AT&T stated they would continue to “invest in and build” on AppNexus technology. It will merge with AT&T first-party data, video content and distribution.

“This is an important milestone in the young history of our company,” said CEO Brian Lesser in the release. “With the addition of AppNexus, I’m excited about the role AT&T will play in rethinking advertising not just for today, but for the future—advertising that’s better for brands, publishers and consumers.”

The acquisition was seen as AT&T’s OTT advertising chess move against Comcast and Google.

Accenture—ranking fifth globally and seventh overall in North America—bought martech company Adaptly in 2018. The New York-based company helps brands manage data-driven campaigns across major platforms. It was a move to strengthen Accenture Interactive’s (digital marketing division) programmatic services. However, they’ve been blamed for conflict of interest for their move into programmatic because Accenture has an auditing division that inspects its competitors.

Overall, Accenture gained eleven acquisitions for around $1.2 billion.

On R3’s North American list Cision ranked 14 with its acquisition of Prime Research. In a press release, Cision, a public relations and media software company, explains the decision as an effort to “enhance its global leadership position” in the media measurement service arena. They also outlined Cision’s goal to be the go-to provider for brands when choosing the best influencers and strategies for campaigns.

Forrester, a market research company, ranked 15 on the North American list. They acquired SiriusDecisions and Glimpzit for about $248 million.

SiriusDecisions, a B2B research and advisory firm, will aid Forrester in better serving their combined customers by expanding SiriusDecisions’ global reach, getting them into new verticals such as healthcare and extending their products to new roles like CIOs and CX leaders. It’s the biggest acquisition in Forrester’s history.

TAG: Brand Safety Initiatives Yield Higher ROI; Companies Invest Up To $7M Yearly

If you think brand safety was a hot topic in 2018, get ready for a scorcher in 2019. The Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) published a white paper that outlines the four elements of brand safety as well as predictions, challenges and strategies for the year ahead.

“Defining Brand Safety: Execution Challenges” is the second in a series of joint white papers with the Brand Safety Institute, and explores the growing concern among marketers and explains what steps are being taken. TAG interviewed a “number” of marketers and agency buyers to gauge the current environment and how leaders are planning brand safety initiatives for the new year.

Investing in brand safety initiatives results in higher ROI for some marketers, TAG found and can lead to more transparent collaboration with agencies. TAG claims that its paper was the first to quantify brand safety investment, finding that large agency holding companies spend between $3-$7 million annually on fixed-cost brand safety expenses.

Two dozen companies helped TAG define what brand safety is. They concluded that brand safety “describes the controls that companies in the digital advertising supply chain employ to protect brands against negative impacts to the brand’s consumer reputation associated with specific types of content, criminal activity, and/or related loss of return on investment.”

Four areas received the highest responses in terms of what brand safety includes: association with criminal activity, content association and adjacency, brand partners, and data privacy and security. Content adjacency or content analysis was identified as the most difficult of the four major issues to execute, in part due to the lack of market guidance and tools available.

In addition to an agreed-upon definition, marketers and agency buyers shared how they are investing in a long-term strategy. Marketer education and organization were lacking, TAG found, and there is a gap between internal structures devoted to the task of brand safety.

“If marketers get this wrong, everyone loses,” Lou Paskalis, Bank of America’s SVP of enterprise customer engagement and investment executive said in the white paper. “Brand safety is a task which is never over because it’s dynamic and multifaceted. As such, you need to build an infrastructure that ensures that you’re able to respond immediately when something new happens.”

Alongside its white paper, TAG announced the foundation of its Brand Safety Institute (BSI) Editorial Board. The Board, which includes two dozen senior executives, which will help design the brand safety curriculum for BSI’s accreditation program for corporate executives.

Brand representatives joining the BSI Editorial Board include the 4A’s, IAB UK, IAB Tech Lab, ISBA, JICWEBS, and TAG as well as Adobe, Bank of America, Facebook, IPG Mediabrands, GroupM, Oracle Data Cloud and Pandora.