‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author J.D. Vance has raised $93 million for his own Midwestern venture fund

Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, Silicon Wadi, Silicon Fen and now — Silicon Midwest?

With countless articles talking about millennials moving (PBS & MSNBC) from classic, major, urban cores, there’s a lot of talk of smaller cities experiencing a renaissance (ex. Columbus and Detroit).  And with this influx of people, some venture funds are following.

This tech crunch article covers famed midwestern author, J.D. Vance’s Nayra Capital which has raised $93 million focusing on midwestern startups/organizations.

Why it’s hot: 
As new big-city advertising folk, we often forget about burgeoning and occasionally remote pockets/populaces of individuals that are changing the landscape of the country each day.

I think as marketers it’s interesting to pay attention to what challenges and solutions are being addressed and creative across the country and likely worth taking a look at what comes out.


pandora voice

Pandora is launching a series of interactive voice ads featuring Doritos, Ashley HomeStores, Unilever, Wendy’s, Turner Broadcasting, Comcast, and Nestle.

“For example, the Wendy’s ad asks listeners if they’re hungry, and if they say “yes” the ad continues by offering a recommendation about what to eat. The DiGiorno’s pizza ad asks listeners to say “yes” to hear the punchline of a pizza-themed joke. The Ashely HomeStores ad engages listeners by offering tips on getting a better night’s sleep. And so on.

“The company believes these types of ads will be more meaningful as they force listeners to pay attention. For the brand advertisers, voice ads offer a way to more directly measure how many people an ad reached — something that’s not possible with traditional audio ads, which by their nature aren’t clickable.”

Why it’s hot:
With loads of fraud in the digital media landscape, it’s interesting to see Pandora developing a new way of ensuring eyeballs and ears. I also think it opens the door for interesting ways to serve and target consumers.

Amazon’s Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Sellers Puts Consumers at Risk



‘In fact, Amazon’s China business is bigger than ever. That is because it has aggressively recruited Chinese manufacturers and merchants to sell to consumers outside the country. And these sellers, in turn, represent a high proportion of problem listings found on the site, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation.”

The paradox of choice is an interesting phenomenon in which the number of given choices, in any scenario eventually passes a certain threshold and leads to dissatisfaction. Personally, lately, I’ve felt this way about Amazon.com scrolling through pages of low-quality crap with 1,000s of reviews claiming something deserves 5 stars…

Why it’s hot: 
Amazon often seems completely invincible, but this story feels like a good illustration of what I perceive to be an interesting weakness – too much junk.

I’ve personally become a bit jaded on purchasing things off Amazon and wonder how they hope to combat some of the shopping ‘spam’ (?)

Netflix Experimenting with new viewing formats

When streaming services introduced the ‘Skip Intro’ button, it was a wonderful way to streamline binging, but seemingly, recently they asked – “Why stop there?”

Streaming services are now experimenting with playback speeds and skipping different types of content all together…

Skipping content: 
“Seth Meyers’ first-ever comedy special Lobby Baby hits Netflix Nov. 5, and it’s a gamechanger. The revolution is not in the Late Night host’s jokes or performance, but courtesy of stand-up comedy’s ongoing disruptor: Netflix.

A little over halfway through Lobby Baby, Meyers addresses the elephant in the room and prepares the audience for a set of jokes about Donald Trump. But for the first time ever, he offers at-home viewers a chance to skip the political jokes entirely.”
Article – Mashable

Speeding up content:
Netflix is letting some people speed up or slow down their shows as part of a new test.

The company says that some users will be given the option to speed up films or TV to 1.5 times their normal speed, as well as slowing them down 0.5 times.”
Article – Independent 

Why it’s hot? 
The streaming wars are heating up and beside best in class content, services are doing what they can to stand out.

Ex. Hulu has the ‘Random episode generator’ Article – Mashable

Interesting to see how people are changing the viewing experience itself to differentiate themselves.

Budweiser Launches Campaign To Find New NWSL Sponsors

“Last summer, Budweiser encouraged fans to support the National Women’s Soccer League with the #WontStopWatching movement, which encouraged attention all season and not only during high-profile events like the World Cup. Following the success of that campaign, Budweiser is now calling on sponsors to step up and support NWSL.”

The campaign which I first came across on Instagram is interesting because one brand egging on other brands feels like a new trend.

That said, I’ve never seen it this direct, in that Budweiser is boosting the NWSL sponsorship contact information and directing calling upon brands to sponsor the league.

It all feels a bit on the nose but is such a unique format that I personally give it a pass.

Why’s it hot? 
1. It’s funny to see another manifestation of Budweiser aligning itself with ‘progressive movements’ and communities

Ex. Budweiser x Brooklyn & Immigrant Superbowl Spot
“Budweiser has the potential to create a strong brand association with female sports fans and broader women’s rights movements. (Marketing Dive) 

2. It’s also just another (clever) manifestation of cause marketing and virtue signaling

Rise of Klarna – a New Debt trap?

According to the Financial TimesKlarna’s “pay later” customers do have a 20% higher purchase frequency and expense-rate than customers who pay immediately. 

Whoa – so what is this thing?

“If you’re over 30, you’ve probably never heard of Klarna. It’s a new form of digital payment pitched at people who “wanna cop some new gear but can’t wait until payday”, as JD Sports puts it.

At Asos, when buyers reach the checkout, they are asked to pay with a debit or credit card, PayPal, or “pay later with Klarna”. It says Klarna lets you “sit back and relax. Klarna will notify you when payment is due.”

Essentially Klarna has taken the access provided by layaway and credit cards and made it more user-friendly and accessible.

Why’s it hot? 
Because it’s Fintech, it’s growing its customer base, and recently received $460 Million in funding.   The ability to drive consumers towards bigger carts is huge, but are there some valid ethical concerns?

Additionally, Klarna is becoming its own eCommerce platform as a centralized hub for their partner retailers – the data implications will be interesting to pay attention to.

Google Stadia Pre-order Opens Soon


Stadia, Google’s video gaming platform that was announced earlier this year, will be taking pre-orders starting November 19th.

What is Stadia?
A ‘streaming platform’, but for video games.  The processing of the game is entirely in the cloud, removing the need for bulky hardware consoles – and needless to say, the video games themselves.

Just like you would stream Netflix across TV, Desktop, Laptop or Mobile, stadia will allow you to play the same video game across and device with Google Chrome Browser functionality.

The full capabilities won’t be available at launch, but it’s still big news.

Why is it hot? 
Because running a streaming platform for something that requires precision and minimal lag (video gaming) is a prime example of Google flexing its server network.  Additionally, while it’s not breaking news, it’s still a very scary/threatening prospect to any organization that profits from selling anything physical gaming-wise.

Lastly, it’s a system that will greatly benefit from the low latency of 5G.  And anything 5G related should be paid attention to.

Amazon’s main rivals secretly funding critical ‘grassroots’ campaign

Politically and socially Amazon has its vocal enemies, but now it’s business rivals are ‘secretly’ getting into the action as well…

“Since it launched 18 months ago, ‘Free and Fair Markets Initiative’ has accused Amazon of stifling competition and innovation, endangering the lives of its warehouse workers, data breaches and an over acceptance of government subsidies.

At its launch, it claimed to have grassroots support from average US citizens. According to reports from the Wall Street Journal, this was not the case, and Walmart, Oracle and Simon Property Group are in fact secret funders behind the campaign.”

Article (The Drum / WSJ) 

Why it’s Hot:
2019 is a very weird time to be alive – particularly when you have Walmart secretly donating to an organization calling out the labor practices of an even bigger corporation
I think it’s hot because there is obviously a growing demand for ethical companies and it’s always interesting how massive corporations are duking it out.

Refinery29 acquired by VICE Media  + Pop Sugar acquired by Group Nine
+  Viacom, NBC Universal, Fox and Univision create new audience buying platform OpenAP

Hot: A bunch of media offerings are consolidating.

MediaMonks acquires boutique agency Firewood 

Hot: Because Media Monks is reinventing the content production model and now going upstream.


‘People who will change the world’: why Vice Media is investing in the future of influencers

With so much content available in the today, it’s hard to be a publisher.  The models that financed these massive organizations are (no more) changing.

Needless to say you can’t sell print advertising like you used to and you can’t really even sell enough of O&O digital traffic compared to social media giants.

Ex. In an new initiative between Vox Media and NBC called ‘Concert’, 40 sites bundled together offer advertisers 122 million unique users each month – Facebook, a single entity – 2.2 billion in April.

Branded content sales/production have provided a new revenue source, but oftentimes, much of the large media budgets meant to push the content, goes to driving engagement on social.  That’s where kids get their news/content these days anyway. 

So can publishers sell their clout/influence even? Not really – many brands aren’t cool/known by Gen-Z even. 

Why it’s hot?
Soo Julian … what’s your point? My point is that it’s all about the platform and personalities – not the publisher’s brand/voice.  Which is why this move is smart by VICE. By leveraging their global network, production expertise, and still large audience, VICE can begin to be a seen as/develop a platform for really cool personalities (influencers) and their perspectives.

Let’s see if they can build this past one Singapore tourism board activation.

ICYMI: Facebook has a dating app now


(Sex) Dating apps are a big business – take Tinder for example:
– 5.2 million average subscribers in the Q2 2019, 1.5 million more than last year.
– Revenue for the three months ended June 30 rose about 18% to $498 million, above expectations of $489 million.

So what does one need for a successful dating app?
A unique take on dating (JSwipe, Hinge, Happn, Feeld), decent user experience and above all – liquidity (like any social network).

Initial twitter reaction is roasting Facebook, but that’s typical.

Why it’s hot: 
Similar to AirBnB expanding into experiences (for example) – this feels like a great example of a company making really smart use of it’s existing infrastructure and making a really smart service expansion.

32-Year-Old Raises $10 Million Series B To Lower Hospital Readmission Rates With Mobile Patient Management

“Chronic disease continues to drive up healthcare costs and is the leading cause of hospital readmissions. Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is becoming a fundamental tool for decreasing readmissions, improving outcomes, and reducing the overall cost of care. Hoboken, N.J.-based HRS provides an RPM platform that allows health systems and home care agencies to reduce hospital readmission rates by up to 80% while improving patient and caregiver satisfaction.”

Why it’s hot: 
At MRM we know full well the complicated nature of the healthcare industry, but huge opportunities lie in the intersection of technology and health (Duh).

I really like this product because while most RPM products are dependent on hardware, ‘Health Recovery Solutions’ is mostly focused on software that can run on most devices.

Timberland Pro campaign seeks more trade workers to help communities rebuild and thrive

Over the past few years, some workwear brands have quietly found themselves in the midst of streetwear / high fashion. One could attribute this to their roots as go-to blue-collar brands with an authentic, organic story, but the challenge has been keeping that original spirit/authenticity alive.

Separately, brands are more than ever being pressured into standing for something.

So in this campaign, I feel Timberland has found an initiative that does both.

“By 2028, more than three million skilled trade jobs will go unfilled, according to Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute — the social impact arm of the National Association of Manufacturers. Timberland Pro wants to help close the skills gap by championing the trades and providing support for the next generation of skilled workers through two new spots as part of the campaign with The Martin Agency, along with new partnerships.”

Why it’s hot: 
I believe this campaign does a great job of taking on a social cause truly authentic to a brand – an opportunity we should always be on the lookout for.

MGM Resorts acquires 50% stake in group operating boutique NoMad hotels


Millennials are killing everythingor maybe it’s the DTC brands … or just eCommerce.
Either way, another industry feeling the heat of late is hotels. There are many reasons, but one noteworthy reason is AirBnB (and their competitors).

One report from Morgan Stanley found that 42% of Airbnb customers had replaced a traditional hotel visit with the digital service.”

But why?  Besides VRBO and AirBnB often offering better price points, they often offer more social, authentic and unique experiences/spaces.

In response, many popular hotel organizations have been striking partnerships and acquisitions of boutique hotel lines – and often taking on the initiative themselves.

In addition to the article above, here are three other recent movements … 

Why is it hot? 
Boutique hotels are much closer to providing authentic and unique travel experience vs. standard hotels – making them a strategic choice for attempting to recapture or keep millennial travelers.

This is hot because it’s interesting to think about how different industries are maneuvering their offerings in a world full of disruptors and changing behaviors.

JCPenney Partners with thredUP in New Business Model Expansion

Image result for thredup

In 1999, our supreme leader, Jeff Bezos suggested that physical storefronts would survive only if they could provide at least one of two core features: entertainment value or immediate convenience. (Business Insider)

BUT this article is about a third need, likely born or emboldened by social media – the growing demand for unique (Hello streetwear) or customized (Ex. AE Studio) items. Something thrift shopping provides, along with the entertaining thrill of the hunt, all with an eco-friendly twist (separate conversation). 

So here we are in the midst of the retail apocalypse (for some – shout out TJ Maxx) and many are trying to figure out how to survive.  

I don’t personally believe this alone (or anything) will save JCPenney, but at this point, it’s worth a try…

Disney’s new Streaming Service

Disney recently announced it’s new streaming offering – and it’s pretty competitive.
It combines Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+ for $12.99 a month.

The success of the package is interesting when you consider two interesting statistics.
1. 47% of Consumers Think There Are Too Many Streaming Services to Manage
2. The average American subscriber watches 3.4 services ($8.53 each)

Even with 3.4 subscriptions, the monthly total still comes in substantially lower than most cable packages – so the question is, will people put up with feeling overwhelmed and subscribe to one more?  If not what does Disney need to do?

Why it’s hot:
This is a big moment in the battle for streaming eyeballs and important to keep an eye out for as advertisers.

‘Claw is the law’

“If you think about it, LaCroix is just a virgin White Claw”

For years we’ve contemplated craft beer’s impact on big beer – and thought long and hard about Aeperol Spritzs and Natural wine, but this summer, a new trend has made itself (very well known) – Hard seltzer.  (Forbes, Esquire, Business Insider, Bloomberg, Yahoo Finance)

“The category, currently worth $550 million, could grow to reach $2.5 billion by 2021, said Sean King, an analyst at UBS. That implies an annual growth rate of 66% and a jump in consumption from 14 million cases in 2018 to 72 million cases in 2021.” (BI)

“Hard seltzers will continue to take share from: 1) wine & spirits (especially vodka/soda, as hard seltzer in cans is more convenient), 2) non-beer drinkers who don’t like the taste/calories in beer, and 3) domestic light beers, plus Corona Premier/Michelob Ultra drinkers,” (Yahoo)

Why it’s hot:
It’s hot because it’s a pretty monumental trend in the beverage world

To me, this is one of those ‘it was all so obvious’ sort of things, where key players noticed the continually growing health and wellness mentality colliding with peoples love of drinking.
+ It feels reminiscent/parallel/likely related to the success of La Croix and development of ‘Bubly’ by Pepsico.

Chase commits to AI after machines outperform humans in copywriting

“Chase is getting more creative with its marketing language—by tapping machines to write it. The bank announced Tuesday it has signed a five-year deal with Persado, a New York-based company that applies artificial intelligence to marketing creative.”

Welp …. ummm… hmmm…

Article Link
Agency Link

Why it’s hot: 
The conversation around automation continues to evolve – and it has countless implications.
At a SUPER high level, relative to our industry, it feels important to consider how our value proposition can remain unique in a world in which writing copy can be automated.

Area51, Memes, and brands

AREA51 Memes:
The internet is a funny place – full of overlapping references that can be challenging for the casual fan to appreciate and brands to activate against (without ridicule).

Recently a joke event page was made pushing people to ‘storm area 51’ (This phenomenon dates back to at least 2016 Ex. Tool @ Home Depot) 

Brands, particularly ones focused on the ‘youths’ all took a shot at getting on the joke.
LINK: We regret to inform you that brands are storming Area 51 memes – Mashable

Why it’s hot: 
If you try to please everyone, you’re going to please no one – something mass-market brands are / will continue to struggle with against smaller niche brands.

It’s interesting to pay attention to where brands will go.  Take for example Slim Jim’s recent success hiring a man who ran account making fun of slim jims are their new social media manager.

The WeWork for therapists

With increasing dialogue and concern about mental health in America, Alma, the recent recipient of $8m in funding, is aiming to improve the experience for both therapists and patients.

Providers can apply for membership then book rooms, flexibly – at their own convenience.
Additionally, “Alma provides members with a suite of services, such as billing, scheduling, and tools for treating patients over video chat”.  It also gives providers a place to create community. 

On the patient side of things, “Alma has a “matchmaker” on staff who specializes in mental health counseling, and is devoted to pairing patients with professionals that suit their specific needs.”

Why it’s hot:
As the idea of seeing a therapist and discussing mental health becomes increasingly normalized in society – few entities are doing anything to simplify and bring some level of uniformity to the experience.