AdAge: Digital

Advertising Age - Digital
Advertising Age - Digital

Google Launches Ad Campaign #OnGoogleMaps

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Small Agency Conference Video: Advice on Investing in Tech

Sean McInerney, VP-technology at Huge, has some thoughts on small agencies' approach to tech investing that you really ought to hear. Recorded at Ad Age's annual Small Agency Conference, which took place this year in Nashville.

Also from the conference, Barton F. Graf's Jeff Benjamin delivered 3 brisk tips on surviving advertising and Kastner & Partner's Brandon Rochon explained how small agencies should invest in start-ups.

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Facebook's Subscription Plan Gives Publishers Hope at Last

Credit: Illustration by Tam Nguyen/Ad Age

Facebook's plan to let publishers sell subscriptions on its platform is renewing some of its media partners' optimism about their future together.

Campbell Brown, head of news partnerships at Facebook, confirmed at an industry event this week that the social network will let publishers set up paywalls on the content they publish using Instant Articles, which let Facebook users read without actually visiting publishers' sites.

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Chipotle and RZA Hype a New Music Program While Virginia Store Is Cleaned

Chipotle is hoping a musical and visual online experience can help the company bounce past yet another PR hit.

The chain called on the Wu-Tang Clan's RZA to help create and introduce Savor.Wavs, a microsite that assembles music and visuals based on visitors' picks from the Chipotle menu.

That includes the meat and dairy, even though RZA is a vegan.

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Google Search Embraces the Feed -- but Don't Call It Social

Years ago, Google built a social network separate from its prized asset, web search. The effort failed. Now the company is trying again -- only this time, it's turning its search engine into something that looks a lot like the news feed of a social network.

The Alphabet Inc. unit is introducing a tailored feed of news, entertainment and myriad web content based on users' searches, YouTube video views and other personal information. It's an expansion of an older mobile service called Google Now. Yet some new bells and whistles -- information from local trends and an ability to "follow" public figures, for instance -- give Google's search feed a similar feel to the algorithmic stream of Facebook's News Feed. That feature has helped Facebook capture online attention like few other companies.

"We want people to understand they're consuming information from Google," Sashi Thakur, a Google engineering VP, told reporters. "It will just be without a query."

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Hashtags' Boom in TV Commercials Is Over

TV advertisers have vastly expanded their attempts to drive people to their websites but are rarely pushing hashtags anymore, according to a study of more than 500,000 commercials since 2012 by, which closely tracks ads on TV.

The biggest change was the increase of brands urging customers to visit a domain, CEO Sean Muller said. Monthly spending for ads that included .com, .net or .org extensions was around $1.66 billion for national ads in 2014, according to estimates. By January of this year, that monthly spending grew to nearly $3 billion.

Marketers' interest has grown with improvements to their websites and the chance to better engage consumers there than in the past, Muller suggested.

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Sound and Maybe Fury: Facebook Turns Up Volume on Video Ads, Spins It as Good News

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SodaStream's Futuristic Case Study Lands a Top Spot in This Week's Viral Video Chart

In a futuristic world, "Big Bang Theory" star Mayim Bialik lectures young campers on the peculiar "Homoschlepiens," an isolated group that drank water only out of plastic bottles. Then, Bialik says, "mankind evolved," thanks in part to SodaStream, which takes tap water and sparkles it without polluting bottles.

"Who Are The Homoschlepiens?", running a little over two minutes and following Bialik's case study into the species, is one of this week's top viral videos coming in third, with over 13 million views. (The video also stars "Game of Thrones" actor Kristian Nairn, who was featured in last week's viral list.)

Samsung, again, had three top-ten videos. Volvo Trucks placed sixth, with "The World's Largest Unboxing." That spot showed a truck-obsessed 3-year-old who gets to "unbox" and ride in the Volvo's VNL semi. It's objectively adorable.

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Facebook's WhatsApp Partly Blocked in China Amid Censorship Push

Facebook's WhatsApp messaging service has been partially blocked in China, following a censorship crackdown by the government.

Multiple WhatsApp users in China reported experiencing intermittent outages from Monday night Beijing time. By Tuesday morning, users had taken to social networks such as Twitter to report that photos as well as audio clips -- a favored format in the country -- were not being delivered.

WhatsApp is not responsible for the blockage, according to a person familiar with the matter. The company declined to comment.

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Is Peppa Pig a Bigger Threat Than ISIS Video? Brand-Safety Crisis Exposes a Relevance Problem

Isis videos may be in the rearview mirror for some advertisers, but what about Peppa Pig?

Brand safety worries have subsided for marketers who've moved back to YouTube despite the lack of ironclad guarantees that their ads will never again appear with terrorist or hate videos. But the controversy has exposed a relevance problem that might be even harder to address -- with ads showing up on children's videos, for example, when kids aren't brands' target.

A spring of discontent

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'Ad Tech Armageddon:' Sizmek Acquires Rocket Fuel In $145m Deal

Sizmek said Tuesday that it has agreed to purchase Rocket Fuel in a $145 million deal. The move comes just one day after Rubicon Project snagged nToggle for $38.5 million and as an expected ad tech consolidation looms.

Randy Wootton, CEO of Rocket Fuel, previously told Ad Age in a April 2016 interview that consolidation in the industry was imminent, going as far as calling it an "ad tech armageddon."

"There are 4,000 ad tech companies in the Lumascape," Wootton previously told Ad Age. "Four thousand ad-tech companies all trying to get their little piece. A lot of them are public, but there isn't a lot of money out there for these ad tech companies to come out and build their next new thing."

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Augmented Reality: Marketing's Trillion-Dollar Opportunity

As traditional revenues from television advertising are beginning to erode, a new trillion-dollar industry is emerging that mandates brands be omnipresent. Within this decade, augmented reality is going to change the way the always-connected consumer works, shops and plays. Once contextual marketing seamlessly transitions to commerce, it will be trusted brandsand the savvy marketers who manage themthat help consumers augment their world with tailored experiences to enhance their daily lives.

Last year, American adults set new records of media consumption by ingesting 10 hours and 39 minutes of media per day. As pervasive as media is today, new technologies are seeking ways to connect and empower consumers continuously throughout their 17.2 waking hours per day. According to Citi GPS, digital reality is quickly growing into a new trillion-dollar market with annual revenues of $692 billion expected by 2025.

Most people believe augmented reality means adding something to the real world that isn't there. (Think of the millions of players who spent over $1 billion collecting Pokmon Go eggs on their phones). But just as much opportunity can be found in using AR to subtract items from view and help consumers focus on specific retail products lost in the panoply of visual clutter.

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Microsoft, Google Back Strong Net Neutrality; AT&T and Verizon, Not so Much

Microsoft and Google pleaded with U.S. regulators on Monday to preserve strong net neutrality rules, while AT&T and Verizon Communications backed weakened oversight and said Congress should settle the issue that's burned for more than a decade.

The tech pillars and the broadband providers are trying to sway the Federal Communications Commission, which is moving toward gutting rules against interfering with web traffic. Monday was a deadline for comments on the FCC proposal advanced by Republican Chairman Ajit Pai entitled "Restoring Internet Freedom," which already has attracted more than 8 million comments.

The rules passed by an Obama-era, Democratic-led FCC bar broadband providers from blocking or slowing data -- to hinder rivals, for instance, or to favor affiliated services -- and from setting up "fast lanes" that would cost more. Under Pai's proposal announced in April, the FCC would end its claim to strong legal authority to enforce the rules, and the chairman asked whether the FCC should retain the ban on paid fast lanes.

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Google's Quantum Computing Opens New Front in Cloud Battle

For years, Google has poured time and money into one of the most ambitious dreams of modern technology: building a working quantum computer. Now the company is thinking of ways to turn the project into a business.

Alphabet Inc.'s Google has offered science labs and artificial intelligence researchers early access to its quantum machines over the internet in recent months. The goal is to spur development of tools and applications for the technology, and ultimately turn it into a faster, more powerful cloud-computing service, according to people pitched on the plan.

A Google presentation slide, obtained by Bloomberg News, details the company's quantum hardware, including a new lab it calls an "Embryonic quantum data center." Another slide on the software displays information about ProjectQ, an open-source effort to get developers to write code for quantum computers.

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Government 'Cyber Troops' Manipulate Facebook and Twitter

Governments around the world are enlisting "cyber troops" who manipulate Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to steer public opinion, spread misinformation and undermine critics, according to a new report from the University of Oxford.

Adding to growing evidence of government-sponsored efforts to use online tools to influence politics, researchers found 29 countries using social media to shape opinion domestically or with foreign audiences. The tactics are deployed by authoritarian regimes, but also democratically-elected governments, the authors said.

"Social media makes propaganda campaigns much stronger and potentially more effective than in the past," said Samantha Bradshaw, the report's lead author and a researcher at Oxford's Computational Propaganda Research Project. "I don't think people realize how much governments are using these tools to reach them. It's a lot more hidden."

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Rubicon Makes a $38M Buy to Fix Header Bidding's Unspoken Problem

Rubicon Project said Monday that it has acquired nToggle for $38.5 million in a move to bolster its header bidding tech and differentiate itself as consolidation in its sector looms.

The 23-person team at nToggle will join Rubicon Project and the company itself will close.

NToggle used machine learning to automatically filter out available impressions that weren't relevant to marketers making ad buys through header bidding tech -- culling as much as 80% of the flood.

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Why Marketers Are Betting on Bots

Credit: Illustration by Gabriela Zurda for Advertising Age

Since she began working for the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas hotel in January, Rose has received dozens of marriage proposals. And so much for "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas": Some guests who found her help indispensable when it came to free drinks or planning outrageous evenings continued to text her long after they split town. There's only one difference that separates Rose from the hotel's 5,000 other staffers: She isn't human.

The Cosmopolitan launched Rose, a chatbot, with its core agency R/GA last winter to better interact with customers in a fun and playful way. Accessible via text, Rose functions as both a concierge and a housekeeping aide in guest services. But her missives are anything but robotic. One guest recently called her a "sultry siren"-she often uses the kiss emoji. When once asked about free champagne, she replied, "Do I look like a sugar daddy?" The hotel purposefully branded Rose to engage in a cheeky way in keeping with its slogan, "Just the right amount of wrong."

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In China, Bots Are Chatty Online Shop Assistants

China, the world's biggest ecommerce market, knows what its consumers want: super-friendly customer service. That's why its ubiquitous chatbots, working in tandem with real customer services agents to drive sales online, are a chipper lot. On Nike's and Apple's shops on Alibaba Group ecommerce platform Tmall, chat bots say "Hello," out themselves as robots and offer to answer questions or pass customers on to a human.

Apple's smart assistant introduces itself as TIMI and then adds, "I serve you wholeheartedly!" (Incidentally, it says it doesn't know when the iPhone 8 is coming out.)

China's emphasis on real-time customer service is something that sets it apart from the West. It was a factor in Alibaba Group's ability to make China comfortable with ecommerce, and a reason why Alibaba beat out eBay in the early days of online shopping in China, said Michael Zakkour, VP of the China and Asia Pacific practice at consulting firm Tompkins International.

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AT&T Plans Major Changes After Buying Time Warner

AT&T is planning major changes to follow its planned $85.4 billion acquisition of Time Warner, including a redefined role for CEO Randall Stephenson, as the telecommunications giant morphs into a media company.

Stephenson will oversee a pair of CEOs who will independently manage the company's telecommunications and media businesses, according to people familiar with the matter. Stephenson, 57, will still be the top executive of the company, focused on charting the company's new course as a media powerhouse, the people said.

Stephenson will remain chairman and CEO of AT&T, the company said in a statement, denying an earlier report by Bloomberg that he would relinquish the CEO title.

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Video: See Ad Age's 'High-Quality' Meme of the Week

So it turns out the president of the United States can exercise some restraint when it comes to Twitter.

As his son Donald Jr. got pulled deeper and deeper into the Russian collusion scandal, with The New York Times publishing a series of explosive, incriminating stories, the president went curiously silent on Twitter about Don Jr.'s predicament. For more than 48 hours. Which is an eternity in POTUS Twitter Time.

Sure, he tweeted about other stuff -- like the Olympics ... and his DAUGHTER ... but nada about his oldest boy.

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Apple's Billion Devices Give Its Augmented Reality the Edge Over Google

Later this year, Apple Inc. will put augmented reality software in as many as a billion mobile devices.

Alphabet Inc.'s Google beat Apple by three years in releasing AR tools, but its features are on very few phones and haven't gained wide acceptance. By contrast, Apple can easily pair its software and devices, an advantage that will help it quickly make up lost ground, developers say.

"When they make it available, my apps will be in millions of phones," said Alper Guler, who makes AR programs. "It's a major update which enables us to push forward far further."

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New Hires at Pinterest Hint at More Video Ads -- and New Categories -- to Come

Pinterest is undergoing an ad team reboot, picking off talent from top competitors Google and Facebook, as the company looks to infuse the site with more video and expand the types of brands it attracts.

Pinterest announced Thursday the hiring of a new head of ad products Jon Alferness, a 13-year veteran of shopping and travel products at Google. The announcement follows a lesser known, but equally telling, hire of Meredith Guerriero, who last worked at Facebook on its global strategy and commercialization of programmatic ad offerings.

The latest hires round out a new ad staff that was recruited from agencies and brands. This year, Pinterest hired its first consumer goods lead from Mondelz and launched auto and entertainment verticals.

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'Game of Thrones' Season 7 Premieres on Sunday. One Major Marketer Capitalized.

"Game of Thrones" fanatics are counting down the days (three!) until the season 7 premiere, and KFC's "Lunchtime is Coming" spot played into the anticipation with actor Kristian Nairn, in character as Hodor, introducing the new chicken with rice.

KFC's ad, from BBH London, debuted at No. 4 in the weekly Viral Video chart, with nearly 14 million views. Budweiser's "A Dream Delivered" claimed the top spot, in which Star Wars actor and Marine Corps veteran Adam Driver delivers a college scholarship backed by Folds of Honor and Budweiser to the daughter of an Army veteran. That was produced by Vayner Media.

All top-five spots were new to the charts this week. And Samsung, which has claimed at least one top-10 spot every week since May 18, continued grabbing eyes with three. The tech company's videos attracted over 50 million views this week.

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Agency Acquisitions In 2017: Domino's Pizza 1, Publicis 0

Unconventional buyers for digital agencies is perhaps the biggest trend to come out of agency mergers and acquisitions in the first half of this year, according to a deals report by global marketing consultancy R3.

The cohort of so-called unconventional buyers includes Domino's Pizza Enterprises, Yelp, Time Inc., Salesforce, Periscope, Shiseido, Indiegogo, Snap, Globant, Beringer Capital and the Stagwell Group.

Meanwhile, agency holding company Publicis, which is skipping the ad industry's annual meeting in Cannes next year to help fund an AI project called Marcel, did not make a single acquisition in the first half, R3 said.

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Deloitte's Heat Wins the Global Creative Account for John Hancock and Manulife

After 32 years with Interpublic Group's Hill Holliday in the U.S., financial services company Manulife, which operates as John Hancock domestically, has hired Deloitte Digital's Heat as its global creative agency. Hill Holliday did not participate in the review.

All eyes have been on the big consultancies as they continue to encroach on traditional ad agencies' territory, particularly in media, but this could be a sign that the creative space is no safer.

"Heat's creative was by far the strongest," said Manulife Global CMO Gretchen Garrigues. "They got customer feedback on the creative they were developing [in the pitch] and it was very thoughtful and innovative. They probably benefit from the relationship they have with Deloitte because it helps them add structure to the creative side of the world in terms of research."

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Google's Answer to Header Bidding Runs Into Headwinds

Google only recently opened up its header bidding alternative to publishers selling ads through DoubleClick, but already its future is looking uncertain.

The ad-tech companies that many publishers use to plug into Google's DoubleClick and other systems say a number of factors have turned out to be likely deal-breakers.

Among them is a 5% cut that Google charges publishers for every transaction through its header bidding alternative, now simply dubbed Exchange Bidding, according to several executives with direct knowledge of the program.

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Facebook Plans a $200 Wireless Oculus VR Headset

Facebook is taking another stab at turning its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset into a mass-market phenomenon. Later this year, the company plans to unveil a cheaper, wireless device that the company is betting will popularize VR the way Apple did the smartphone.

VR hardware currently comes in two flavors: cheap headsets that turn smartphones into virtual reality players, like Samsung's $130 Gear VR, and high-end gaming rigs like Facebook's $400 Oculus Rift that hook up to $1,000-plus desktop computers.

Facebook's new headset is designed to bridge the gap -- a device that will sell for as little as $200 and need not be tethered to a PC or phone, according to people familiar with its development. It will ship next year and, if Facebook has its way, represent an entirely new category.

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Apple Is Setting Up a Data Center in China, to Comply With a Tough New Law

Apple will establish its first data center in China to speed up services such as iCloud for local users and abide by laws that require global companies to store information within the country.

The new facility, which will be entirely driven by renewable energy, will be built and run with local partner Guizhou-Cloud Big Data, Apple said in a messaged statement. Apple aims to migrate Chinese users' information, now stored elsewhere, to the new facility in coming months. The data center is part of a $1 billion investment by the iPhone maker in the province of Guizhou.

The data center was partly driven by new measures that bolster control over the collection and movement of Chinese users' data, and can also grant the government unprecedented access to foreign companies' technology. Forcing companies to store information within the country has already led some to tap cloud computing providers with more local server capacity.

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Amazon's Prime Day Generates Estimated $1 Billion in Sales

Amazon said its third annual Prime Day sales event was the biggest day yet for the e-commerce giant, with revenue surpassing its take for traditional retailing blowouts like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The 30-hour sale, featuring discounts on a broad assortment of goods, generated about $1 billion in revenue for the Seattle-based web retailer, according to separate estimates from analysts at Cowen & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.. That's triple its average daily e-commerce revenue in 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The most popular purchase during the sale was Amazon's Echo Dot mini-speaker, which was discounted by 30%. Having extended the shopping spree by six hours, it grew by more than 60% compared with the same period a year earlier, the company said Wednesday in a statement. The promotion also saw an influx of new Prime members, Amazon said.

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Bitcoin Acceptance Among Retailers Is Low and Getting Lower

Retailers were already skeptical about letting customers pay with bitcoin before the cryptocurrency's price underwent an astronomical rally this year. That rapid surge hasn't made them any more accepting. In fact, it may have done the opposite.

Bitcoin is currently accepted at just three of the top 500 online merchants tracked by the trade publication Internet Retailer, down from five last year, Morgan Stanley payments analyst James Faucette wrote Wednesday in a report, highlighting the "striking" discrepancy between virtually no merchant acceptance and bitcoin's recent gains.

"Bitcoin owners are reluctant to use the cryptocurrency given its rate of appreciation, more evidence that bitcoin is more asset than currency," Faucette said. "Way easier to trade speculatively than convince new merchants to accept the cryptocurrency."

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