It’s Not Just Screens: A Look At E3’s Coolest Activations


Sandwiched between the big-screened, live esports broadcasts and hours-long lines of gamers waiting to play, a few vendors engaged the new flow of E3 visitors with activations that were less digital blitz and more physical.

Nyko Technologies invited attendees to play games while testing new controllers from the comfort of a large, branded ball pit, an activation the company had wanted to execute for years. “With opening up to the public this year, it’s the perfect opportunity to have something that’s so engaging and interactive,” said Nyko exhibitor Surabhi Srivastava. “We wanted to have a slide that goes into the ball pit, but there were a lot of waivers around the design.”

Fans who played the “Super Mario Odyssey” demo walked away with Cappy, Mario’s new co-star.

Sonic Mania brought people into the game with a trampoline, a large ring hovering from above, and a green screen. Those who fit the criteria to play get on the apparatus (18+, under 250 pounds, not pregnant) and dared to do the #SonicRingJump entered a sweepstakes to win $1,000, and walked away with a four-second video.

Enormous, detailed displays were in no short supply, with large character replicas acting as guardians to the game lines—most notably, Super Mario Odyssey‘s Mario and Cappy, his new manipulative accomplice, and several large dragons, including the beast at Monster Hunter World.

For a transformative experience, the physical installation showcasing PS4’s Yakuza 6: Game of Life, was a standout, bringing attendees through Tokyo’s red-light district.

Returning to the perimeter this year, a lone watcher from Horizon Zero Dawn investigated crowds at the entrance.

Most other brands centered their showcase around the experience of the games. Many players were rewarded with specialty swag; Mario players walked off with a Cappy visor, Sonic players got posters, and others reaped the reward of not having to wait in line anymore.

Apple Promotes Success Stories With TV Program ‘Planet Of The Apps’

Planet of the Apps—Apple’s first original TV program—debuted on Tuesday and the first episode can be viewed for free through iTunes or the official website. Hosted by Zane Lowe, app creators pitch their ideas Shark Tank-style to a panel of four entrepreneur judges—Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gary Vaynerchuk. To promote the show, Apple is focusing on the story behind the story and what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Over the course of the 50-minute show, contestants on Planet of the Apps explain their concepts and vie for the attention and financial backing they need. If chosen, these developers will be mentored on how to strengthen their app for a chance at real funding. So Apple picked judges who understand the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, if not app development itself.

Entrepreneurial Eyes

First and foremost, Apple is marketing its show’s credibility through its casting. They may not be app developers, but they know a thing or two about what makes a good idea, and how to turn that idea into a reality.

Jessica Alba co-founded eco-friendly retailer The Honest Company while Gwyneth Paltrow is a writer, food critic and founder of lifestyle brand Goop (derived from her initials). is a seven-time Grammy-award-winning entertainer, TV producer and founding shareholder of Beats Electronics. Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur, adviser and angel investor. Even the host Zane Lowe is a Grammy-nominated entertainer and TV presenter.

The official Planet of the Apps social media accounts have been posting spotlights for each of the judges and Lowe that highlight what strengths they bring to the table. On Apple Music, viewers can watch a series of featurettes that talk about each of their views on the subject of entrepreneurship.

Feeding An Ecosystem

Planet of the Apps is Apple’s first step into branded content—helping others by helping itself. The ideas that gain the most traction have a shot at winning $10 million in funding and a top spot on the app store. Excited app developers mean more apps, and more apps mean more shared revenue for Apple.

“I was very interested in the idea that the whole thing could happen end-to-end under the Apple umbrella—that it could be sort of contained within their ecosystem, [and] that there was a real privacy element to it and control,” Paltrow told Entertainment Weekly, “from a supply chain kind of all the way from the beginning to the end, and that there weren’t going to be commercials. So, it was really a way to celebrate content, creativity, entrepreneurship, and I felt there was a lot of kinship between the DNA of the show—which was to find someone great and amplify what they’re doing—to the DNA of Goop.”

Currently, Apple takes a 70/30 split with app developers (70 percent to developers), but recently offered to take lower cuts if apps are sold as a service. Apple will now take a smaller cut of money from app developers if customers stick with their subscriptions for longer than a year, Phil Schiller told The Verge in a pre-WWDC 2016 interview.

Apple CEO Tim Cook told investors in January that he hopes to double Apple’s services revenue over the next four years, helped in part by selling and distributing content. He highlighted that the developer community has earned a total of $60 billion, as the company has provided new ways for developers to earn revenue.

Expedia Transports Mobile Users To Destinations In 360-Degree Video

Expedia has partnered with the San Antonio Tourist Board to create a virtual mini-vacation across its websites. “My Day In San Antonio” allows users to choose from a variety of hot spots around the city such as The Alamo, the zoo and even a Tex-Mex dinner. Once a location has been chosen, the user is transported there via a brief 360-degree video. The ads may be viewed in a browser or with a VR headset for further immersion. On mobile, the ads respond to multiple phone sensors including the gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer.

Wendy Olson Killion, global senior director at Expedia Media Solutions joined AListDaily to share insight into the campaign and which travel industry trends marketers need to know.

Expedia 360Expedia Media Solutions is the company’s advertising arm and the team responsible for Hawaii’s facial recognition campaign, “Discover Your Aloha.” We asked Olson Killion why 360-degree video was chosen to showcase San Antonio as opposed to other technologies available.

“[360-degree video] really puts the consumer in the mindset of being in that destination,” she told AListDaily. “It’s in between beautifully-produced video and true virtual reality, but it gives the consumer control. They can control what they want to look at when they want to look at it. In this instance, there are hot spots that they can click on throughout so they can kind of choose their own travel adventure as they are doing this. The output is a kind of personal itinerary that [users can] book if they wanted to. I think the difference is really that immersive control and personalization of that experience.”

While Expedia is no stranger to 360-degree video experiences—having produced ads for Australia and Norway—”My Day In San Antonio” is the first interactive ad of its kind for the company.

“We’ve never used this technology for any other campaigns or any other cities,” Olson Killion said. “We are always looking for ways of pushing the technology just a bit beyond the bounds. ‘Discover Your Aloha’ was the first in class to use that facial recognition software in a browser. Now we use gyroscopes and accelerometers on mobile—we’re always looking for different combinations and different ways of using technologies . . . we are a technology company first and foremost in the awesome world of travel.”

“My Day In San Antonio” launched on May 1 and will run through September. It may be too early to share metrics, but Expedia Media Solutions is ready to take on any challenges that pop up along the way.

“The feedback has been really good,” said Olson Killion, “[but] we always look to and learn and optimize. If we see something in the campaign where the results aren’t as strong as we would expect, we would look at what we’ve learned from the campaign thus far and optimize it based on data and other hypotheses. We always want to make sure we’re getting good results for every partner.”

Travel brands have proven to be eager adopters of new technology and Expedia plans to stay at the forefront of marketing trends, especially as they appeal to young consumers.

“We definitely feel that VR and AR are going to be more accessible and more affordable, allowing marketers to bring [virtual travel] experiences to life, raising awareness for their products and destinations,” explained Olson Killion. “One of the other big trends we see is personalization through data. Data is very, very important to us. Consumers are expecting content experiences that are personalized to their needs and travel brands will need to use data such as sophisticated targeting in combination with new technologies to create personalized offerings, itineraries, etc. that appeal to specific audiences.”

Could virtual reality vacations replace the travel industry? Olson Killion doesn’t think so. “[VR] can help educate, it can inspire but it can’t replace the authentic feel of being in a destination and really doing some of these experiences.

“I love my job, I love what we do, I love the space and being able to marry technology with travel for the betterment of the world—it’s really cool.”

Branded Content Favors Stories Over Traditional Ads

While product placement is still very much a thing, a rising trend in the marketing arena is for companies to produce their own branded entertainment. These companies are trading in static ads and traditional commercials and instead telling compelling stories in line with their brand’s message.

Nutella, for one, is timing a weekly web series with the holiday season in Spread the Happy. This feel-good show tells the stories of individuals who make the world a better place by spreading kindness to others. The first episode is about Brooklyn, a three-year-old girl who strikes up a sweet friendship with their garbage man. Aside from a fade-in title at the beginning and an image of Nutella spread at the end, these stories don’t feature the product at all. “You’ll notice that these are not ads—it’s a webseries brought to consumers by Nutella so we’re not trying to brand it,” Eric Berger, marketing director for Nutella USA told Adweek. “We’re just generally trying to spread happiness and inspire others to do the same.”

Cap’n Crunch teamed up with Funny or Die last week to create a comedy series called The Earliest Show. Ironically airing in the middle of the night, the campaign tells the story of a talk show host who goes through a very public break-up. Aimed at millennial males, The Earliest Show stars Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, House of Lies) and Lauren Lapkus (Orange Is the New Black). Aside from purposely wacky infomercials for Cap’n Crunch and a cooking tutorial, parent company Quaker wanted to focus on the story and original concept by Schwartz.

Starbucks began a similar campaign in September with Upstanders, an original series that aims to inspire positive change amidst cynicism in the United States. The series features ten stories told in written, video and podcast formats about “ordinary people doing extraordinary things to create positive change in their communities.”

Going a different direction, Chipotle’s Love Story animated campaign focuses on two entrepreneurs whose judgment is clouded by competition and processed food ingredients. The message is that the company cares more about what goes into their food than how they sell it. Love Story is the third in a string of short films by the restaurant chain that share a theme of quality food products.

Geico took a similar approach with its web series about its sponsored eSports players, Team SoloMid (TSM). TSM’s New Neighbor is shot in mockumentary-style and explores how a professional eSports team living in a house to practice deal with an overly enthusiastic neighbor. Aside from a deliver of Geico “swag” at the beginning of the first episode, that’s the last you’ll hear about insurance. Geico saved plugs for separate, mini ad spots in which different team members would discuss an insurance offering while their neighbor interrupts in the background.

Branded entertainment puts control back into the hands of marketers and if successful, elicits an emotional response from the viewer. A recent study by Television News Daily shows that original branded content outperforms traditional pre-roll ads. These stories also generate an average of 86 percent brand recall among consumers—a much higher number than the 65 percent with pre-roll advertising.

Astro Gaming Cranks Up Its Style With Adult Swim And Cartoon Network

Astro Gaming has been the official headset for PAX conventions for the past eight years, but the recently concluded PAX West stands out because of the partnership that was announced between the audio company, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network. To promote the new line of products, Astro revealed special limited edition headsets and themed speaker tags at PAX West featuring the shows Rick and Morty, Adventure Time and Steven Universe. Additionally, Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland was at the event to meet fans and sign autographs.

Cristopher “Soup” Lee, Astro Gaming’s director of partnerships and licensing, spoke to [a]listdaily about revealing the partnership with Adult Swim and Cartoon Network at PAX West, and how it marks the start of bigger things to come.

Cristopher "Soup" Lee, Astro Gaming director of partnerships and licensing
Cristopher “Soup” Lee, Astro Gaming director of partnerships and licensing

How did the partnership to create Adult Swim and Cartoon Network-themed speaker tags come together?

We’re huge fans of Adult Swim and Cartoon Network, and Rick and Morty is a personal favorite. When we found out that the Adult Swim and Cartoon Network creators and crew were fans of Astro, it was only natural for us to combine our forces and work on something really special together for the Astro headsets.

How did you decide on which TV shows to feature with the PAX West limited edition headsets?

We wanted to feature them all! Adventure Time, Steven Universe and Rick and Morty are all such amazing shows that appeal to a wide variety of different fans and gamers; we wanted to get something out there for everyone who loves those shows, and there’s no better event than PAX to do it! These limited sets were just the beginning—we’ve got even more stuff planned for the future.

How do the Astro Gaming, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network brands match together?

We have a lot in common, actually. Sound is important to our fans; whether you’re gaming, watching a show or listening to music, Astro products deliver on that premium audio experience. We’ve worked very closely with both the Cartoon Network and Adult Swim teams to create these tags using their amazing art and iconic characters so fans can customize their Astro headsets and have the best of both worlds (sound and style), whether on the go with A38s or at home gaming on A40s. We also brought Justin Roiland, the co-creator and voice of Rick and Morty, out to PAX West for a meet and greet and signing to continue to tell that story of how closely we work together on these products.

What does it mean for Astro to be the official headset for PAX?

We’re family. Astro has been the official headset of PAX since 2008, so we’ve had a long and strong relationship with Penny Arcade for not only West but all the PAX shows for many years. In addition to the 300+ headsets we provide for the PC Freeplay area at PAX, we also have our headsets featured in over seven different partner booths at West. PAX has always been a great way for us to engage with our fans directly and let them experience the quality and comfort of our products while also delivering an immersive audio experience with partner games and content at the show.

AT_LE_A40What are some of the products that were shown?

PAX West is the official unveiling of our partnership with Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. We’ve got Rick and Morty, Adventure Time, and Steven Universe limited edition speaker tags, A40 TRs, our Mixamp Pro, brand new headset stands, as well as our licensed mod-kits and we’re also demoing the upcoming A50 wireless headsets that you can experience in our booth which feature the all new A50 mod-kit system and new charging base station for PC, Xbox and PS4.

How many different ways were there for attendees to experience Astro Gaming audio products at PAX West?

Not only can attendees try our products at the Astro booth but also in the Freeplay area, as well any of our PAX West partners’ booths. We had over 500+ Astro headsets on the floor at PAX for fans to try out. As the official headset of PAX, our headsets will continue to be available for people to try out at all the other PAX shows in case you couldn’t make it out to PAX West this year.

What would you say sets Astro products apart from the competition?

Astro has always been a leader in the space. At our core we’re gamers, some of us are even former professional gamers, so when Astro came together it was to solve glaring issues with gaming headsets on the market like comfort, quality, style and communication, and we delivered. Astro has been building on that promise to give fans that premium audio experience that is immersive and comfortable.

Audio is important to us and our partners, so we work very closely with the development teams to create these products that truly deliver the best-in-class audio gaming experience for their content. With the mod-kits and custom speaker tags, fans have even more freedom to customize their Astro gear and really express themselves making these products their own. Gaming is a lifestyle and Astro will continue to highlight that story with our partners, products and fans.

YouTube Music Times Provocative Ads With Political Strife

As society endures trying times of global violence, racial tension and political turmoil, YouTube aims its latest campaign at those who define themselves by the music they listen to. The five-video initiative titled “It’s Who We Are” promotes the YouTube Music app by highlighting its audience’s diversity.

“We did a bunch of segmentation around our users and found this set of users who is really our key target market who finds and defines themselves by music,” Danielle Tiedt, YouTube’s chief marketing officer told Billboard. “We kind of leaned into characters where you really saw that juxtaposition of the way music is with you at really critical moments in your life and how it helps define you and bring these characters to life in the same way we’re also highlighting this incredible diversity of users and the music we have on the platform.”

The new series of ads are deliberately provocative, depicting characters that are the subject of much current debate, such as Muslims, racial stereotypes and the LGBTQ community. While any dialogue is brief, the focus of each video is the character and what they’re listening to. In Alex’s Theme, a teenager in a rural town dresses up in women’s clothing to Big Freedia’s “Club Now Skunk.” Afsa’s Theme, meanwhile, depicts a young, hijabi Muslim woman jamming out to “Blackalicious.” The common thread is that each character accepts themselves through the music they enjoy. After all, who hasn’t blasted their earballs to a motivating jam or fell into the melancholy embrace of a sad song after a break-up?


It’s no coincidence that these YouTube Music videos are timed with the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. YouTube admits that the purpose is to start conversations, heated or otherwise.

“There’s no doubt that they will cause controversy,” continued Tiedt, “These are exactly the kind of lightning rod identity politics that are going crazy in the world right now. One of the reasons why we’re kind of leaning into that a little bit is because at YouTube we have such commitment to this idea that everyone should have the freedom to belong. It’s really, really a core part of our mission and how we run our business and that’s part of why we’re sticking strong to characters like this because if not us, who?”

Music streaming is big business, with brands partnering with YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and more for maximum exposure. According to a new report by App Annie, music and entertainment-related categories experienced strong worldwide revenue growth across both Google Play and the iOS App Store in the second quarter of 2016.

While this celebration of diversity may be music to the ears of some, there’s no better place to find opposing and often misspelled opinions than on YouTube video comments, and the war has already begun.

Wargaming Comes to PlayStation 4

Wargaming has been very successful with World of Tanks on the PC, notching up over 100 million registered subscribers and a huge amount of revenue. Now, though, the company’s success has spread to other games and other platforms. World of Tanks has done well as the first free-to-play game on the Xbox 360, and now on the Xbox One. World of Tanks Blitz is generating good numbers on mobile. World of Warplanes is out on PC, and World of Warships launches soon. Now, CEO Victor Kislyi has announced at the Tokyo Game Show that World of Tanks is coming to the PlayStation 4.

Keith Anderson

GamesIndustry International interviewed Keith Anderson, Wargaming’s marketing and communications director for Europe, about the company’s latest moves. Anderson is particularly keen on the possibilities for World of Warships. “What we’re also looking at is opportunities to bring new players into the WarGaming family, and there’s many countries that didn’t have strong tank battalions during World War II, but had great navies, and we’re seeing uptake from these players,” said Anderson. “There’s something about images of the big ships from World War II that is just so iconic. The Warspite, the Bismarck, the Tirpitz, that’s attracting a new audience in too, so we’re really excited about that.”

Asked about how Europe performs when it comes to ARPU (average revenue per paying user), and Anderson has a ready answer. “We find that we have very healthy ARPU rates across Europe. World of Tanks as a game has been great for four years now,” he said. ” He went on to comment on Wargaming’s marketing approach to Europe. “For us Europe’s a very, very healthy market, it’s a vibrant market… What we’re definitely not doing is resting on our laurels. We’re driving growth very aggressively. We’ve engaged in two TV campaigns across Europe already this year, in twenty countries and in seven languages. We’ve got a massive Q4 TV campaign for Tanks planned. We’re working with YouTube Gaming right now, and investing very heavily in their new channel. And that’s not to say we’re not investing in the other channels at the same time, like Twitch, for instance. We are. It’s just that we’re always looking for new areas to grow, we’re looking for new areas to acquire new audiences.”

Anderson also talked about World of Tanks coming to Sony’s PlayStation 4. “As always, we will be adapting the game to meet the platform. So, in addition to making the most outstanding visuals on Playstation 4, we’ll have platform exclusive features, including complete dual shock controller integration,” Anderson said. “It’s a pretty awesome announcement for us to make, we’re very excited to do it. It shows our commitment to bringing our games to multiple platforms, to audiences wherever they’re going to be. In addition to that, World of Tanks on Playstation 4 will be free to play to all PSN account holders. So you will not require a Playstation Plus account to play World of Tanks.

“We’re doing exceptionally good business on the Xbox, on both the 360 and the Xbox One, but for us it’s really exciting to be engaging with Sony, to bring the game to the PS4,” Anderson continued.. “We will be having a few very good deals for PlayStation players when we make the announcement, they get a free premium tank with PS4 exclusive camo, they’ll get premium time if they’re a PlayStation plus holder when the game launches, all that kind of thing. Then for an exclusive limited time, we’ll also have two new maps on the PlayStation, which players on the PlayStation will be able to jump into and play first. So we’re very excited about this new partnership with Sony.”

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Sony Announces PlayStation Virtual Reality

Sony held a big press conference at the Tokyo Game Show earlier today, announcing many new games and finally providing the consumer branding for its long-running Project Morpheus virtual reality (VR) headset. The system will be called PlayStation VR when it hits the market at some point “early in 2016.” Sony still hasn’t provided a retail price or a more precise release date for the VR device. We do now that PlayStation VR will be connected to your PlayStation 4 console, and use PlayStation Move controllers along with the PlayStation Eye camera.

The name PlayStation VR not only directly expresses an entirely new experience from PlayStation that allows players to feel as if they are physically inside the virtual world of a game, but it also reflects our hopes that we want our users to feel a sense of familiarity as they enjoy this amazing experience, said Masayasu Ito, EVP, Division president of PS Product Business and VP, Software Design Division. We will continue to refine the hardware from various aspects, while working alongside third party developers and publishers and SCE Worldwide Studios, in order to bring content that deliver exciting experiences only made possible with VR.

There are already many developers working on PlayStation VR products, and Sony’s got some impressive titles like Final Fantasy XIV (from Square Enix) lined up. We can expect more titles and information about PlayStation VR at the upcoming PlayStation Experience, coming this December 5-6 in San Francisco.

Marketing With a Whisper

There’s a new social medium that’s gaining ground rapidly, with more than 10 million users, 10 billion page views a month, and 1 million app users every minute. That is Whisper, the Los Angeles-based startup that offers users anonymity, unlike most social media. Now the platform is reaching out to advertisers, running promos for brands like Coca-Cola, Hulu, and 20th Century Fox, and preparing a series of public service ads for the Ad Council.

Whisper CEO Michael Heyward feels that the success of an anonymous platform shouldn’t be a surprise he feels it’s a core human need. He feels there’s value in being the opposite of other social media.

“The core motivation behind sharing on Facebook or Instagram is to show everyone how awesome and cool I am, right It tends to be very ego driven,” Heyward noted in an interview with Adweek.. “The whole idea with Whisper is allowing people to share things like, “Hey, I’m 19, and I’ve never had a girlfriend.” You are probably not going to share that on Facebook.”

Whisper is putting some serious effort behind its move into advertising, hiring digital veterans Mark Troughton as president and Shelby Huston Haro as the VP of sales. The company has raised $61 million so far, and is growing its ad revenue.

“We’re being more proactive in [brand-related] conversations,” said Heyward. That includes offering brands keyword targeting, and looking at data around places and topics.

The one concern that’s been raised about “dark social” media is the potential for cyber-bullying, but Heyward has a ready answer for that.

“People have an affiliation in their head that anonymity equals bullying or saying things without accountability when those two things don’t always go hand in hand,” Heyward noted. “We’ve always been very clear that we only allow people to use anonymity as a shield and not a sword. And we have, actually, over 130 full-time human moderators combined with [automated moderating].”