Appocalypse Now

Remember life before apps? Sure, it was liveable. But it was also a time when we owned paper maps, knew phone numbers and recognized the dating potential of next-door neighbors.

What would happen if all the apps in our current app-run world suddenly just … blipped out?

That’s exactly what Apple imagines in “Appocalypse,” a video that kicked off Apple’s annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier this week.

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Why It’s Hot

While the video made me laugh, it pointed out how utterly attached to my iPhone I am. These tools we have at our fingertips are time savers but what if they did go away? Could I even read a map at this point? Have we forgotten how to talk to people? In the end, it’s a good reminder not to forget about human connections. But I’ll still be clutching my iPhone closer today.

Once a Mother, Always a Giant

Strapping a GoPro to your dog is so 2015. These days, to get the best pint-size footage, you have to strap Snapchat Spectacles to your kid!

And that’s just what Cutwater did for its new Mother Day’s commercial for Brawny, which was shot from the point of view of children wearing the socially connected eyewear.

The San Francisco agency hired director and producer Karen X, enlisted four real families and shot in their homes over two days. The glasses have no playback function, so the creative team had to capture as many “happy accidents” as they could—all in 10-second bursts.

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Why It’s Hot

Along with Brawny’s new brand positioning, a campaign focused on mothers makes sense. Not to mention that it’s a natural fit with wearables, allowing for some fun to be had with new technology.The only thing missing is an Elmo lens.

The Truth Is Out There

Following the backlash against YouTube and the struggle against fake news on Facebook, The New York Times is positioning itself as a truth leader.

If you thought The New York Times’ ad campaign featuring the tagline, “Truth. It’s more important than ever,” has been all about defending itself against President Trump’s “fake news” attacks, think again. Facebook and Google are also in the Times’ crosshairs.

“We believe that we’ve got a very credible story, not just about the importance of journalism, but about why journalism is a relationship with people,” said NYT CEO Mark Thompson, speaking to a few hundred marketers packed into Midtown Manhattan’s Times Center this morning for the first of two weeks’ worth of NewFronts events. “And if you can crack the code on that relationship, engage them, encourage them to pay, we can offer an environment and an engaged audience, which is very different from random bits of news on Facebook, social media or Google. It’s safer for brands.”

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Why It’s Hot

The walled gardens of Facebook and Google are in danger of crumbling as brand safety moves to the forefront of the conversation. While the Times does rely on Facebook tools and distribution, it is differentiating itself as a destination for those who are serious about their news consumption.

Smile, You’re On Amazon Look

With the addition of a camera, Amazon’s new Echo Look device can now see and hear all. The device is a sort of standalone selfie machine so users can take full-length photos and videos of themselves specifically for the sake of checking their fashion choices in the morning.

The new home assistant answers to commands like “Alexa, take a picture” and “Alexa, take a video” – for the latter, users spin around accordingly to get shot from all side, taking selfies while keeping their hands free. Videos shot with the hands-free selfie stick can be recorded or viewed in real time. At the very least, it’ll let you make sure no one’s adhered a Kick Me sign to your back before leaving the house.

It’s an interesting and unexpected addition to the company’s wildly successful product line. There’s no built-in display here, but users can see what it sees on their handset. The device also works with the company’s Style Check, a feature of the Echo Look app, which uses machine learning to compare different outfit choices, awarding them an overall style rating.

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Why It’s Hot

  • This brings up a whole mess of privacy issues. What data will this collect? Will it always be recording?
  • Amazon will be able to increase fashion sales by allowing brands a direct link to their customers.
  • Playing into the selfie culture could put this device in every millennial fashion blogger’s home. Phase one, complete.

“That Place Where Coke Tastes So Good”

McDonald’s new commercials don’t appear on the brand’s YouTube, Facebook or Twitter pages. And they never even mention the name McDonald’s, preferring instead to name-check Coca-Cola and Google.

It’s all part of a sly campaign by Omnicom agency We Are Unlimited to appeal to teens and twentysomethings, who prefer word-of-mouth and their own research about products and brands to corporate messaging, according to a writeup of the campaign in The New York Times.

The campaign does, however, feature a celebrity, the actress Mindy Kaling, who in several TV spots urges viewers to Google “that place where Coke tastes so good.” Kaling is wearing a yellow dress against a red background in the minimalist ads, but beyond those McDonald’s brand colors, she doesn’t actually say the name of the fast-food chain.

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Why It’s Hot

  • This campaign knows its audience. By allowing its target breathing room to do their own research, McDonald’s maintains some authenticity. With a wink.
  • Aligning with an influencer is always a strong move.
  • Bold move by McDonalds to purposefully leave out its own name while name dropping another brand. Win win for both Coke and that fast food chain where it tastes so good.

No Sleep ‘Til Ford

Ford Spain has made a mind-blowing futuristic baby crib that lets you record your baby’s favorite sleepytime car ride and simulate it, complete with engine noise, at home—so your baby can fall asleep without having to take a drive every night.

The Max Motor Dreams baby crib is a novel way to advertise the Ford Max family car range. The bed comes with slick wood panel accents (recalling the Woodie station wagons that were the preferred family vehicle of yesteryear), “restrained” engine noise machine, a brilliant LED streetlight simulator, and soft movement.

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Why It’s Hot

  • Great way for Ford to show thought leadership outside of their category.
  • Provides a shareable idea, which resonates with not just car customers but with all parents.
  • Draws alignment between a car manufacturer and families.
  • Drives web traffic, as they claim the prototype will be manufactured if enough interest is shown. Users can sign up on microsite, which also houses Ford’s other products: the cars.
  • I wish I had one of these two years ago!

Japan: Keepin’ it Weird

Japan, long lauded as the country for all strange ideas, has put forth a creepy one. Family Romance is a company that will “rent” you friends to make your social media life really pop. You can browse catalogs of models and hand pick your entourage for perfect Facebook photos and Instagram selfies. The site, once translated, points to all of the super practical and not at all outlandish ways you can utilize the service. Including hiring “wedding representative attendance” for your very special day. I honestly thought this was a satire site, reminiscent of a Black Mirror commentary on how we value our online selves. But as it turns out, Japan has long been offering friend rentals and this is just the next iteration.

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Why It’s Hot

In a way it’s a sad commentary: if you have to rent friends to star in your curated social media life, is anyone actually paying attention?

Chipotle- “What E.Coli”?

So we remember that whole E.Coli outbreak at Chipotle a few years back, yes? Chipotle is attempting to scrub up their brand by appealing to families. They are launching an unbranded series on iTunes, which aims to educate kids on where their food comes from. The series comes from the creators of Yo Gabba Gabba and guest stars include professional chefs (Amanda Freitag and Duff Goldman) and Top Chef winners (Michael Voltaggio). The series also features a number of musicians including Wayne Coyne, Biz Markie, Neon Trees, and Portugal. The Man. The series will also kick off a partnership with Discover Education to offer education online around health and science related to food.

Why It’s Hot

This is an example of a company creating content that doesn’t explicitly feel like a commercial. They are courting the YouTube generation, who are micro-influencers on their own. Working with the right kind of influencers can hopefully help to earn back some brand equity. That and lots and lots of hand washing.

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AR in action: Sephora

Bridget Dolan and her team at Sephora’s Innovation Lab, based in San Francisco, were a year into developing a new virtual reality tool for the retailer’s mobile app when the technology used to power the experience saw a breakthrough.

“When it comes to augmented and virtual reality, it can only be successful if it’s truly useful,” said Dolan, Sephora’s vp of the Sephora Innovation Lab. “We weren’t interested in just buzzy. A lot of things like technical accuracy and timing had to come together, and there was a time last year when, during testing, we hit a tipping point.”

Sephora’s team and its technology provider, augmented reality platform ModiFace, had pushed facial recognition technology to a new point of sophistication. After months of development, the technology can break down one virtual makeup application into a step-by-step layering process, while maintaining critical accuracy and reaching mass scale.

In its mobile app, Sephora as fleshed out its augmented reality offerings with newly launched features. The Virtual Artist tutorial tool currently offers steps to perfecting a nighttime-perfect smoky eye, eyeliner three ways, brows three ways, contouring and highlighting. When in the tutorials, users see a video play in the bottom right of their screen that reflects their face shape and skin tone. As each step is completed, the product and instructions on how to apply it appear over their image.

The AR tool in the app also new features thousands of eyeshadow shades, as well as new “expert looks,” which feature full stylist looks at once.

Through the AR experiences, an “add to cart” option lets the testers dump every product that appears in the video into their mobile carts.

“Our time, money, effort and energy goes into teaching clients,” said Dolan. “To achieve new looks, you need to try new products, and if we can make you feel confident, you’ll be more engaged overall. It’s really about that halo effect, and we’re seeing sales through the app.”

Sephora’s mobile and digital strategy is built around the idea that when people know how to use a beauty product, and what tools are needed to complete a look, they’ll be more likely to buy it. They’re far from the only beauty company to realize that augmented reality could be the answer to selling beauty products online, where customers are typically expected to make decisions off of a few photos. Brands like CoverGirl, Rimmel London, Shiseido and OPI have launched augmented reality apps to let customers try on products using their phones.

“Beauty brands are constantly faced with the challenge of creating a connection between physical products and customers,” said James McCrae, head of digital strategy at Blue Fountain Media. “However, brands should only commit to something like AR if they’re going to keep investing.”

Source: The Glossy

Why It’s Hot

Sephora turned what could have been just a fluff application into a way to sell more products through its mobile app. By pivoting off of a customer need, tutorials, they found a use for AR that would increase sales. With more users making purchases directly from their mobile devices, giving them the same experience they could get in store keeps loyalty high.

Facebook Rolls Out Messenger Day

After several months of testing, Messenger Day, Facebook Messenger’s answer to Snapchat Stories, began officially rolling out Thursday to iOS and Android users worldwide.

Messenger Day allows users to curate photos and videos in a single destination and choose who to share their Messenger Day creations with and, just like Snapchat, everything disappears after 24 hours.

Facebook began testing the feature as early as last September, when it was spotted in Poland, and testing was expanded to Australia last October.

Head of product for Messenger Stan Chudnovsky announced the launch of Messenger Day in a Newsroom post, saying that more than 5,000 frames, effects and stickers are available for use, and emphasizing that users have complete control over who sees their content:

Of course it’s up to you if you want to share your day with everyone you talk to in Messenger or just your closest friends and family. You can customize how you share by tapping the “more” icon and then choosing “Everyone Except” or “Custom.” If you share something to your day that you decide you want to take down, just tap the image at the top of your inbox, and then tap the three dots at the bottom-right-hand corner of your image and select “Delete.”

Chudnovsky also provided a guide for Messenger users looking to get started with Messenger Day:

  • First make sure you’ve updated your Messenger application so you have the latest version.
  • Open Messenger, and tap on the camera highlighted with a sun to celebrate this launch. Doing so drops you right into the full-screen camera. Or, tap the “Add to your day” button at the top of your inbox to get started.
  • Snap a quick selfie or take a photo or video of what’s around you.
  • To add art and effects, tap the smiley face icon in the top right and then tap to add to your photo or video. You can also add text over your images by tapping the “Aa” icon, and you can overlay a drawing by tapping the squiggly line in the top-right corner.
  • Once you have your photo or video the way you want it, tap the arrow in the bottom-right corner. You can then add directly to your day, save it to your phone’s camera roll, and/or you can choose to send it to a specific person or group of people. The photo or video that you add to your day will be viewable for 24 hours.
  • You can also add to your day from a conversation you’re having with a friend or group of people. After you send a photo or video, you’ll see the option to “add to your day.” Simply tap that text, and you’ll be asked to confirm you’d like to add it to your day.
  • While you’re messaging with someone, you’ll see if they have anything new from their day, too.

Why It’s Hot

By naming their offering Messenger Day, Facebook is positioning their answer to Snapchat Stories as a means to meet up with friends and make plans. The “Active Now” feature allows users to connect in real time. Facebook’s data and targeting options are the powerhouse so don’t be surprised if Messenger Day ads roll out next. Now we just need to wait and see if it catches on.

 

 

Denny’s hits a Grand Slam on Twitter

When brands embrace the meme of the moment, the result is almost always cringeworthy and cloying. But Denny’s proved this week you can serve up the syrup without being saccharine.

On Wednesday afternoon, the brand became yet another account urging you to zoom in on some aspect of a photo, only to be led on an odd scavenger hunt for more hidden messages within the image. This mobile-friendly meme has been making the rounds of Reddit, Twitter and elsewhere in recent days, with the results rarely being worth the effort.

So when Twitter users saw Denny’s taking a stab at the game with a syrup-drizzled stack of pancakes, they likely expected a payoff message along the lines of, oh I don’t know, “Eat more Grand Slam Breakfasts.” But no. That’s not what they got.

Below are the zoomed in images:

In case you’re still having trouble reading it, the line says, “has this distracted you from overwhelming existential dread lol.”

Why It’s Hot

As of yesterday, the tweet has received 85,000 retweets and more than 116,000 likes. The tweet has also surpassed the engagement seen by Arby’s iconic “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back?” Grammys post. Participating in a meme, liked the zoom in scavenger hunt, can be a gamble between being part of the joke or the butt of the joke. The punchline isn’t really groundbreaking but what it doesn’t do is better: it doesn’t try to sell pancakes. For someone to engage with something in their feed that will require several pinch and zooms, the payoff better be good.

Pandora Introduces Dynamic Audio Ads and Sequential Messaging

Dynamic personalized ads and sequential messaging are coming soon to a Pandora station near you. In an exclusive partnership with A Million Ads, Pandora will be able to reach unique listeners in real time with customized ads.

The new addition to Pandora’s existing set of tools for marketers will enter a testing phase later this year.

With the partnership, marketers working with Pandora who want to learn how to better reach the music-streaming platform’s 81 million active listeners will gain access to two new tools: real-time personalized creative at scale, and sequential messaging and targeting.

The tool lets marketers build audio ads designed for listeners based on their gender, age and ZIP code, taking into account variables like the weather and time of day.

If marketers use the sequential messaging feature, Pandora can serve ads that tell a bit of a story to listeners or ads that reveal different pieces of information in each spot. According to Pandora, campaigns that tell stories before asking people to buy something are usually more effective than ads that just dive right in.

“We approach things from a ‘what’s good for the listener is what’s good for the advertiser’ perspective,” Lizzie Widhelm, svp of ad product strategy at Pandora, told Adweek. “We’re already the best personalized music platform, so we should be able to do that with ads, too.”

Why It’s Hot

Consumers are savvy enough to tune out ads but ads that speak directly to them? Personalization allows brands to target their customer directly within an already immersive listening experience. The customized experience is available at scale, which makes for a more effective and efficient campaign.

Spotify Campaign Highlights User Data

Late last year, Spotify ran a very cool global out-of-home campaign based around its vast trove of listener data, with headlines referencing some of the more bizarre user habits it noticed throughout 2016.

The music streaming service has now unveiled a follow-up campaign of sorts, from Wieden + Kennedy New York, that again combs through listener data, this time with an eye toward unusually named playlists.

Out-of-home placements will be up for six weeks in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York featuring the creative below, which amusingly calls out playlist names like “sorry I lost your cat” and “I don’t know how to make a playlist.”

This campaign goes a step further this time, though, with three online videos featuring musical artists Alessia Cara, DNCE and D.R.A.M., who all marvel at their songs’ inclusion on oddly named playlists—which are then acted out in absurd fashion.

Why It’s Hot

Leaning into customer behavior and spotlighting the strange ways people use the service was smart. By including actual titles from their customer data, Spotify showcases the core of its offering: customization. It’s certainly giving me incentive to spruce up my playlist titles.

Washington Post rolls out Post Cards

Just about every publisher is doing editorial-like ads in some form or fashion. But getting people to click on native ads is another matter.

The Washington Post is trying to solve for this with a new branded content ad format, called Post Cards. It’s the 10th product to come out of the Post’s Research, Experimentation & Development (RED) team.

Post Cards breaks down a branded content campaign into its multimedia parts (slideshows, galleries, text, video) and then reassembles it and presents it to users based on their consumption history on the site. Before, the Post would show the same native ad to everyone. Now, a person who has a history of being a heavy video watcher would likely be served a version of the ad that starts with video, for example. The idea is that the more tailored they are to people’s consumption patterns, the more likely they are to engage with it.

Why It’s Hot

  • Native advertising is trending up in the age of ad blockers and this is one more step in the right direction for publishers to make content more engaging.
  • By tailoring the content directly to the user, a richer experience is delivered with the payoff for both advertiser and consumer.

Snapchat opens its API doors

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Snapchat is launching its ad platform 2.0, and it’s borrowing Facebook’s strategy to catch up to its rival as quickly as possible.

On Tuesday, the messaging and media app was set to announce a new lineup of ad tech partners that could buy ads through its new automated system. Many of the partners, like Kenshoo, have been plucked from Facebook’s marketing partner program.

Last year, Snapchat launched its ads API — application programming interface — but it was a rough first generation ad technology platform, and focused heavily on creative partnerships. Now, it will open the platform more widely, including allowing agencies and brands to license its API to do their own buying — its first self-serve ad tool.

Why It’s Hot

  • With Snapchat poised to file its IPO, the platform is following the path of partnering with ad tech companies already mapped by Facebook and Instagram.
  • While the API has been in use since October, only about 100 advertisers were allowed to buy ads using the software. On Tuesday, a company spokesperson said any brand can now buy Snap ads through the API, though they have to work with one of the company’s 15 ad tech partners who have permission to sell the company’s ad inventory.
  • It remains to be seen whether this influx of new advertisers will bring low quality ads to a previously uninterrupted social platform.

Source: AdAge