The Great Privacy Revolt

DuckDuckGo is an Internet privacy company that “empowers users to seamlessly take control of their personal information online, without any tradeoffs.”

Over the years, DuckDuckGo has offered millions of people a private alternative to Google. And it seems as if consumers are using it. The site is currently averaging more than 50 million search queries per day, which was far beyond what I thought it’d be.

As companies large and small, not to mention government agencies, are hacked, consumers of all ages are becoming increasingly aware that their growing dependence on technology has come at the expense of their privacy. It’s estimated Google trackers lurk behind 76% of web pages and Facebook’s on 24%.

In the past, consumers almost haphazardly shared data without thinking twice but it seems that’s changing and forcing marketers to rethink the experience.

Why it’s hot:
Consumers are turning to more technologies that safeguard their privacy. The DOJ is probing Google’s search engine dominance. Germanys highest court ordered Facebook to stop harvesting user data. All of these happens are contributing to a larger privacy revolt, especially with younger generations.

According to a recent GenTech study only 29% of 19- to 24-year-olds view technologies such as AI and machine learning algorithms as positive interventions. Instead, most wish to maintain a sense of autonomy in their decision making and have the opportunity to freely explore new products, services, and experiences. It’ll be interesting to see how marketers adapt to create experiences for consumers in the future.

Hollywood will never be the same

Amidst theater closings and lockdowns, Universal Pictures released Trolls World Tour via video-on-demand a few weeks back. Well, AMC Theaters, which likely would’ve offered the movie if they’d been allowed to open, wasn’t too happy with that. As a result of the incident, and Universal’s CEO floating the idea of more VOD releases AMC has decided to no longer show any Universal films.

The film was released via iTunes and Amazon Prime Video and viewers were charged $20 to watch the film during a 48-hour rental window.

NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, spoke in a Wall Street Journal piece on Tuesday, and mentioned the movie made some $100 million in premium VOD rentals in its first three weeks. Theaters typically take about 50% of box office sales, depending on the deal, while in this case Universal retained about 80%.

Does this signal the end of theaters altogether? Most likely not. But wait. Plot twist. On May 4, 1948, the Supreme Court made a game-changing decision that one company could not own both a film studio and theater chain. Basically, back then major studios controlled nearly everything about moviemaking. Today, that decision is being reviewed and could potentially be reversed or amended, which means big changes for an industry that already has a lot up in the air.

Why it’s hot:

While there is value in the theatre experience, it’s easy to see why a studio, especially someone like Sony, would love going vertical. Think about all the at home theatre equipment you could cross promote to enhance DTC viewing. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

 

Facebook comments have a significant impact on advertising activities

The folks over at Hackernoon recently asked themselves a question. “Do comments under your advertising posts help you produce the best bang for your buck?”

They decided there’s only one way to find out and put $1,000 of ad dollars down letting the Facebook A/B testing tool find out.

Hypothesis:

  • Nobody reads comments before clicking on ads. Going further they assumed that comments (doesn’t matter good or bad) could have a positive impact on the ad. It could get higher relevance rankings, which in turn could result in a lower CPM and cost per click.

Prediction:

  • Bad Comments (Version A) group would give a lower cost per install (CPI) than No Comments (Version B), because nobody actually reads the comments.

Settings:

  • Budget: $150 a day, campaign budget optimization, Highest value or lowest cost bid strategy
  • Countries: USA
  • Language: English
  • Duration: 7 days
  • Total budget: $1,000
  • Optimization strategy: App installs

Results:
Comments make a real difference and are of critical importance to users. Looks like customers read comments before clicking on ads and bad comments give the impression of a product before visiting a landing page.

Why it’s hot:
Comments matter. Facebook users read comments and when comments are not pleasant, it results in a higher cost per conversion. While the first touchpoint with your customers is Facebook Ads, the second is the comment section under the ad.

Google’s DeepMind AI can now beat humans at 57 Atari games

Google subsidiary DeepMind has unveiled an AI called Agent57 that can beat the average human at 57 classic Atari games.

The system achieved this feat using deep reinforcement learning, a machine learning technique that helps an AI improve its decisions by trying out different approaches and learning from its mistakes.

In their blog post announcing the release, DeepMind trumpets Agent57 as the most general Atari57 agent since the benchmark’s inception, the one that finally obtains above human-level performance not only on easy games, but also across the most demanding games.

Why it’s hot:

By machines learning how to play these complex games, they will attain the capability of thinking and acting strategically.DeepMind’s general-purpose learning algorithms allow the machine to learn through gamification to try and acquire human-like intelligence and behavior.

Google and Oxford create ‘The A to Z of AI’ explainer

As machine learning and artificial intelligence usage proliferates in everyday products, there have been many attempts to make it easier to understand. The latest explainer comes from Google and the Oxford Internet Institute with “The A to Z of AI.”

At launch, the “A-Z of AI” covers 26 topics, including bias and how AI is used in climate science, ethics, machine learning, human-in-the-loop, and Generative adversarial networks (GANs).


The AI explainer from Google and Oxford will be “refreshed periodically, as new technologies come into play and existing technologies evolve.”

Why it’s hot:
AI is informing just about every facet of society. But AI is a thorny subject, fraught with complex terminology, contradictory information, and general confusion about what it is at its most fundamental level.

Have no fear, sports fans. The Marble Racing League is here

Where do sports fans turn when every major league across the country, and even the world is cancelling seasons? The Marble Racing League. What else would you expect?

The company’s now-viral marble races, which appeared on ESPN’s 2019 ‘The Ocho’ programming, started in 2006 as a YouTube channel called “Jelle’s Knikkers,” which is Dutch for Jelle’s Marbles.

  • Jelle’s Marble Racing has seen a 339% increase in YouTube views and >999% spike in subscribers in the last week as fans tune in for the Rojo Rollers and Savage Speeders.
  • A video of an old Marble League sand race went viral, racking up 33.3 million views, almost 781,000 likes and landing on ESPN’s SportsCenter.

The league plans to continue with its two weekly uploads through the end of the current Marbula One season. Once a champion is crowned, Jelle hopes to prepare the studio for the upcoming Marble League 2020 season, which will begin in May/June.

Why it’s hot:

With seasons cancelled and teams closing down facilities, it’ll be interesting to see how other outlets or organizations thrive. Or will nostalgia take over and people consume old school content? It’ll be interesting to see.

The Network Effect

Andreessen Horowitz, the notable VC firm who had early investments in the likes of Facebook and Lyft recently announced ” The Marketplace 100,” a ranking of the largest and fastest-growing consumer-facing marketplace startups and private companies.

They determined the rankings by looking at US credit card data to understand where consumers are actually spending their money.

Here are the key takeaways from the Marketplace 100:

  • Four marketplace startups– Airbnb, Doordash, Instacart, and Postmates– account for 76% of consumer spending.
  • Travel, food, and groceries are the largest categories.
  • Emerging categories include celebrity shout-out services, streetwear sites, fitness memberships, and even car wash providers.
  • Some marketplaces are growing really fast—3x to 5x year-over-year.

Why it’s hot:
Collectively, millions of individuals and small businesses make a living operating on these platforms, where hundreds of billions of dollars of goods and services trade hands each year. By possessing powerful network effects, marketplaces can become huge economies themselves.

Would you give up a kidney for Super Bowl tickets? Some would

Some football fans would be willing to do anything to score tickets for the Super Bowl — even if that means giving up internal organs. According to a new poll conducted by Ticketmaster, which was reported by Reuters, some fans say they would give up organs or sex, and even end relationships if it meant they could receive a ticket to the biggest event of the year.

The survey, which polled 3,200 NFL fans over the age of 18 within the final two weeks of 2019, was split up into 100 people per team by gender. Nearly half of those surveyed said they would buy season tickets if they became rich, and 16% said they had broken up with someone over their alliance of the other team.

Nearly 75% of those polled considered themselves “avid” fans, which explains why would they would go to such lengths to score tickets. Other things they’d give up:

  • 35% said they would give up drinking for a year to attend a Super Bowl game that featured their team
  • 14% said they would give up sex for 12 months
  • 7% actually admitted they would donate a kidney or leave their partner if it meant they could score tickets to the big game day.

Currently, tickets are up-for-grabs on Ticketmaster for anywhere between $5,000 and $37,000 per seat. On the secondary market, ticket prices have just moved north of the $4,000 get-in mark.

Why it’s hot:
From crucial officiating mistakes to team scandals, to domestic violence, the league is no stranger to mitigating criticism. Yet, fans are still willing to stick with the brand. The NFL generated about $15 billion this past season and is on track to hit $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027. The brand is basically impenetrable.

Aviation Gin used a viral moment in a brilliant way

It’s the holiday ad that caught fire for all the wrong reasons: A young woman is gifted a Peloton bike and proceeds to vlog her fitness journey over the course of a year. The ad went viral almost immediately, sparking criticism about Peloton’s unhealthy depictions of body image and marriage.

Naturally, Twitter users couldn’t contain themselves, dragging the cringe-worthy campaign with labels like sexist, elitist, and entirely unrealistic. But as Twitter users were flaming the ad, Ryan Reynolds and his Gin-owned company, Aviation, were putting together one of the most genius spots of the year. The ad cast the same actress from the Peloton ad in a sequel that tells the story of where the Peloton Woman is now.


Why it’s hot: In a play that combined timeliness, meme culture, and a simple product message, Aviation managed to capitalize on another brand’s moment of infamy with big success. Maybe the biggest win was how fast the spot came to fruition – only 15 days elapsed between the Peloton ad and Aviation Gin’s commercial.

Planned parenthood launches tool to help navigate state abortion laws

Planned Parenthood recently launched an Abortion Care Finder tool, which provides those seeking abortions with location-specific information relating to laws and regulations, nearby health centers and different medical options. It was designed in-house by Planned Parenthood’s Digital Products Lab after the team noticed an increase in searches on its website that were variants of “abortions near me.”

When a user inputs their age, location, and length of their pregnancy, the digital portal will allow them to locate the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic, and tell them whether in-clinic procedures or abortions via medication are available. The Care Finder will also update its information when states pass new laws.

If the nearest Planned Parenthood is more than 60 miles away, the tool refers users to a map created by the National Abortion Federation that includes independent providers. Though it offers more expansive results and describes abortion laws by state in greater detail, that organization’s map does not give customized results based on personal details or exact location.

The biggest barrier to creation was, and still is navigating the ever-changing state laws, which can be hard to parse. For example, in the first half of 2019 alone, states enacted 58 restrictive laws governing abortions.

Why it’s hot:
It’s simple. They built something based on need, not just because they wanted to ‘building something cool.’

What’s the deal with space?

Under Armour. Samsung. And now Adidas. It’s the latest brand to jump on the intergalactic space wagon. The brand recently signed a multi-year partnership with the International Space Station US National Laboratory. Adidas says the focus of the partnership will be to focus on innovation and product testing in microgravity.

Earlier this year, Adidas delivered soccer balls to the ISS during a cargo mission. The balls were then tested, seeing how they reacted with gravity or air resistance distorting the shape. While those tests are still being processed, the brand said it could lead to alterations into the design of the ball such as what materials or textures are used. But is this truly research for product improvement or just another stunt? Probably, a bit of both.

The commercialization of space over the years. 

It started in 1962. Omega’s Speedmaster watch was worn by US astronaut Walter Schirra during the country’s fifth manned space mission, Mercury-Atlas 8. Aboard the Sigma 7, Schirra orbited the Earth seven times.

Coca-Cola was next in 1985 when they started designing a “space can” for astronauts to drink during missions. Pepsi got wind of the experiment and developed its own. The marketing battle became ugly, with US Senators began lobbying for one brand or the other.

Then there was Kit-Kat (2012), Red Bull (2012), Hyundai (2015), and a slew of others as of late. There’s even a new media brand, Supercluster that was built specifically to get people excited about space again.

And while technically, NASA and it’s astronauts aren’t allowed to accept endorsements while working at the space agency that may soon change. NASA is currently working with two major aerospace companies, SpaceX and Boeing, to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station. And the logos of these companies will be emblazoned on the vehicles and rockets that launch crews into space, which was taboo in the early days of NASA.

On top of that, NASA’s new committee chair is focused on figuring out how NASA can explore commercial opportunities. “Capitalism works really well here on Earth. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be embracing it in [space].”

Why it’s hot:
“Space” just might be a mandatory in the next brief while product placement in space could be the next frontier. Brand logos on the sides of rockets? Astronauts as influencers? We’ll have to wait and see.

DIY education continues to grow worldwide

Pearson published its inaugural Global Learner Survey, capturing the opinions of learners worldwide. The group conducted the study so learners in 19 countries could have their say on subjects such as the quality of their nation’s education system; careers and the future of work; and technology.

It’s the first time the world has heard the collective voice of this many learners on such a wide range of education topics. More than 11,000 people, ranging in age from 16 to 70 participated in the study.

Pearson Global Learning Survey

The survey uncovered eight key trends that learners across the globe tell us to characterize the way they seek education in 2019:

  • A DIY mindset is reshaping education.
  • The 40-year career is gone, replaced by life-long learning and diverse career paths.
  • People expect digital and virtual learning to be the new normal in the next decade.
  • Confidence in educational institutions is wavering.
  • Some young workers think you can do OK in life without a college degree.
  • Markets like China and India are leading the world in upskilling while the US and UK lag behind.
  • Learners believe soft skills will give them an advantage over automation.
  • People now cite social media and bullying as contributing factors to school safety concerns

The study also brings to light a new way of categorizing teaching into three various categories: continuous learning; distributed lifetime investment and that it be outcomes-based to deliver the skills and learning that learners and employers seek.

Why it’s hot:
Around the world, learners still place a great deal of faith in education to help them achieve success, but the way they are obtaining an education is changing. People are layering on to their traditional education by mixing and matching what works and what they can afford to get trained up for in a fast-changing economy.

All drinks are on the house

A new bar opened its doors in St. Louis, and it’s charging customers by the hour. According to Open Concept’s website, when you open a tab, you’re paying for access to the space — not the booze. The rates: $10/hr for a regular open bar, and $20 for top-shelf liquor.

The entire experience is powered by a backend technology that the bar developed and owns. Customers are encouraged to buy their time in advance on the bar’s website, though walk-ins are also accepted. (Guests are able to tip the bartenders either in advance at the door or with cash after each order.) Those who booked online will receive a confirmation code to show at the door; all customers also receive text messages at the bar alerting them as to how much time they have left on their booking.

Open Concept also uses its technology to track all of a customer’s consumption and keep the bar in compliance with legal limits.

Founder and proprietor, Michael Butler, who also moonlights as the city’s current recorder of deeds, got the idea from fundraising parties while running for office after open-bar fundraising events were successful during his campaign.

Why it’s hot:
At a time when younger generations are notoriously cutting back on their alcohol consumption, that flat guaranteed rate might be more valuable than hoping customers keep buying more the longer they stay.

Kill ’em with kindness

Last week, the University of California opened the world’s first institute to study kindness. The idea would be to pool the knowledge gleaned from researchers and house all of their insight about kindness in one place.

A few topics the institute is looking to dive deeper into include:

  • Why does a person give up his or her seat on the train?
  • Why does somebody volunteer his or her time to help someone in need?
  • How does kindness spread, and does being kind impact our brains?

Researchers even agreed on an academic definition for kindness: an act that enhances the welfare of others as an end in itself.

But it’s not all philosophical. Data from UCLA scientists has already shown mindfulness and kindness alter the behavior of genes, turning down those that promote inflammation, which can lead to heart disease or certain cancers and turning up the activity of genes that protect against infections.

Why it’s hot
As student enrollment continues to decline and people opt for nontraditional career paths, public and private higher education institutions are adding programs and offerings with seemingly little strategy behind them. Since 2012, 41,446 degrees or certificate programs have been added across the country.

UConn offers a BFA, an MA, and an MFA in Puppet Arts. One can get a degree in bagpiping from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. Even Notre Dame offers an interdisciplinary academic field called Peace Studies.

Will these new offerings drive action and shift the “is college worth it” narrative that continues to be omnipresent? The verdict is still out.

Sources: National Center for Education Studies; NPR

Louis Vuitton ventures into esports

Fashion brand Louis Vuitton and video game developer/esports tournament organizer Riot Games have announced a partnership, starting with the 2019 League of Legends World Championships.

For the Championships, Louis Vuitton is creating a one-of-a-kind Trophy Travel Case for holding the world champions’ trophy, called the Summoner’s Cup. Previously, Vuitton has created similar travel cases for other sporting events including a laser-engraved titanium case for the FIFA World Cup.

The trophy case features Louis Vuitton’s iconic logo and design, with additional elements related to League of Legends. It will be unveiled publicly at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and eventually given out Nov. 10 in the same city, where League of Legends is holding its world championship this year.

But wait, there’s more. The partnership also includes the creation of a capsule collection of clothing from Nicolas Ghesquière, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director of women’s collections, as well as in-game digital assets like champion skins.

Why it’s hot:
Louis Vuitton’s new partnership continues the brand’s embrace of digital endeavors to accompany its physical products and marketing.

The pairing of a luxury non-endemic brand entering the esports scene is not one often seen. However, it creates a huge opportunity for Louis Vuitton, especially in expanding its consumer base. With millennials said to drive about 130% of luxury market growth in the next seven years, the gaming space could be a key area for expansion.

Louis Vuitton joins others including State FarmGilletteRed Bull, and Axe to embrace the esports world. A category in which 2019 revenues are forecast to rise by 27% and estimated to top $1.1 billion.