IIf Augmented Reality holds so much more promise than Virtual Reality, are investments in developing VR-specific devices like Oculus Rift just a waste of time and money—especially when mobile phones can be used for both AR and VR?
In the conclusion of my recent conversation with content delivery network (CDN) provider Limelight Networks' Charlie Kraus, we'll get answers to that question—and learn why when it comes to both AR and VR, it's voice that's the killer app.
Mobile is where it’s at again this year, though we quibble with its definition these days.
For instance, Facebook says nearly 80% of its ad revenue come from mobile advertising. But in our humble opinion, just because an ad is experienced on a mobile device doesn’t mean it’s “mobile.”
Small wonder then, that as in year’s past, most of our top pics for 2015 bring something more to “mobile” – by in fact, relating to place, or the specific capabilities or key functionality of the device in which they are consumed.
Here's 10 of our favorites from the year that was.
This wildly popular (and widely spoofed) holiday campaign from UK retailer John Lewis includes a mobile app featuring augmented reality that lets you point your phone toward the moon to unlock daily facts about each phase of the moon. There’s also a game in which the player has to avoid obstacles and collect power boosts to get a specific item up to the man on the moon.
Despite the fact that we're never ones to require any additional prompting to drink Coke Zero – we live on the stuff – this year’s “drinkable advertising” caught our notice. The campaign’s TV spots featured Coke Zero being poured from an onscreen bottle – before migrating to viewers’ mobile phone screens before transmogrifying into a coupon.
What’s not to love about the World Wild Life Fund’s “Last Selfie” promotion with Snapchat, which takes advantage of the fleeting, transient nature of Snapchat snaps with short ads that show just how quickly an endangered species can be wiped off the planet. Powerful, and perfect for the platform. In just its first week, consumers posted 40,000 tweets about the initiatives to 120 million timelines. And in just three days, WWF reached its fundraising target for the entire month.
This year, Guess's special mobile ad units enabled users to snap selfies and then “try on” sunglasses via augmented reality, complete with pointers on which styles work best for your face shape. The user takes or uploads a selfie, adjusts the placement, applies from a wide selection of sunglasses and can even share the image for feedback from far-flung friends via their social platforms. Add a "buy" button and this could be m-commerce magic instead of just promotion.
How do you get shoppers into store locations during the Easter season? Launch an augmented reality Egg Hunt for the chance to win store gift cards. Here’s a brick & mortar retailer (in Australia) that refused to shy away from mobile and instead embraced it to enhance the retail experience.
This summer, the online music streaming service rolled out a "Found Them First" microsite that lets users see which musicians the system knows they heard before the artists became megawatt sensations. Users can then build and share a playlist built on those early discoveries. In exchange, Spotify will offer them a new playlist with other new acts they might help “discover” as well.
MINI USA is big on short online films featuring its cars, so it made since that the brand would be among the first to take 360-degree video for a test drive. Two such films, “Backwater” and “Real Memories” are definitely worth a gander—and could mean big things for the road ahead.
Let’s face it: You’re not quite you when you’re hungry, are you? Which is why the latest installment of Snickers’ long-running "You're Not You" campaign includes a mobile app that enables consumers to create images related to their particular hunger symptoms and share them socially. The key isn’t to show off what kind of hungry you are, of course. It’s about calling out family and friends for acting “snippy,” “loopy,” “cranky,” “confused,” “spacey," or ... insert your own adjective here.
Yes, I’m still fixated on this VR initiative from Qantas, which enables you to go on a eight-minute, 360-degree virtual vacation to Hamilton Island. In fact, it was really hard to decide between this and our #1 pick this year. It is, after all, either instant justification for the VRevolution, or a sure sign of the Apocalypse. Once companies start producing VR content like this that lasts not minutes but for hours on end, the human race may just opt out of the “reality” part of the equation all together—at least when they aren’t physically going to these amazing locales.
Okay, there's rarely a moment when a large TV screen is much out of arms reach these days. So maybe this is the solution to a problem that few will ever face. But it's still hard not to dig the Pizza Hut Blockbuster Box - a pizza box that's also a movie projector. Throw in a cold one and this could be the best thing to happen to pizza since pepperoni.
I keep thinking Oxford Dictionaries was only pranking us by naming this emoji as its 2015 Word of the Year.
Not the word “emoji,” mind you. Literally this symbol – “tears of joy.”
But for those who have been doing their best to resist letting lose with their emojis, myself included, the year’s prankvertising-slash-stuntvertising videos proved "mischievous" doesn’t always have to be "mean," at least not all the time
A look at some of our favorites from what seemed (mostly) like a kinder, gentler year in branded pranks:
Let’s not forget that Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” and Always’ Effie-winning #LikeAGirl campaign are really prankvertising – putting young people on the spot to ask provocative questions in an effort to prove a point. Heck, I pull pranks on my daughter all the time, but rarely (okay, never) so successfully. This summer’s “Unstoppable,” timed perfectly around the hype around CBS’s girl power-themed ‘Supergirl,’ may end up describing this campaign. And “Choose Beautiful” is just that: beautiful.
Would it kill Samuel Adams or Sierra Nevada to pull this prank on one my outbound vacation or inbound business flights? Carlsbad did, in this prank pulled on some very happy Londoners on their way home from holiday, as the Brits say. A nice little souvenir that’s sure to put some fun on tap at home.
Sometimes pranks are well deserved. This noteworthy effort from Y&R Moscow used technology to scan cars to see if they had disabled stickers. If they didn’t, and the driver pulled into parking places designated for the disabled anyway, a holographic image of a wheelchair-bound man accosted them on the street. Surely a sign of signs to come.
Even in a year with some pretty monumental Supreme Court decisions on personal liberty, this is pretty powerful stuff – a prank to make passersby come face to face with their own snap judgments about age, race, sexuality, gender, religion and love. Projects like this makes me proud to be in this business.
Longtime readers know I’m partial to horror movie promotional pranks like “Devil’s Due” and “Telekinetic Coffee House” but this one from Jaguar New Zealand may just take the cake. Not only does it play off all the hype around augmented reality, but it's spot on from a positioning standpoint – nothing can simulate what it’s like to drive a Jag, right? – and it drives it all home in unforgettable fashion. Hat tip to Rick Wootten for finding this one.
Let's just say I was into the "Internet of Things" before it was much of "a thing" at all.
Never mind that a survey this year finds 87% of consumers say they've never heard the term. In my 2005 book BRANDING UNBOUND, I wrote extensively about the Internet of Things (or, IoT), and such coming innovations as "smart clothes" that would one day routinely monitor heart patients and alert doctors of impending heart attacks.
And intelligent homes, buildings and stores that will react to, and even predict, your every command—setting temperatures and lighting to your liking, and offering up goods and services based on your personal preferences.
Then there was the personalized content streamed direct to your car. Designer clothes that tell the washing machine, "don't wash me, I'm dry clean only." Medicines that warn users of dangerous interactions. Cars that get "upgrades" remotely via mobile software. And frozen dinners that tell the microwave oven how to cook them to perfection.
Nest, Tesla, Pandora, Proteus Digital Health's "smart pill," the Apple Watch and the Polo Tech Shirt notwithstanding, this world of pervasively interconnected services and solutions remains in its earliest stages. And yet, as far as the brand experience goes for these companies and others, it is beginning to create meaningful differentiation that is shaping consumer expectations with each new day.
When Tesla recently faced a recall nearly 30,000 Model S cars because of overheating issues with their wall chargers, the company was able to fix the issue by simply update the software in each care remotely, eliminating the problem without owners needing to go to their dealerships. What have other car brands have to compete with that?
While not quite proactively ordering new supplies, Amazon's Dash devices, WalMart's Hiku roll out this week, and Red Tomato Pizza's refrigerator magnets mean all you have to do is push a button or swipe an empty container to have laundry detergent, groceries (or piping hot Pepperoni Pizza) heading your way, without ever having to take out your mobile phone, activate an app and enter an order.
Netflix even recently released DIY instructions for building a push button that dims your lights, orders food, silences the phone and fires up Netflix queue.
Factor in product innovations—such as the Nike+ Running System (which runners found so compelling that the brand's already enviable share of the running shoe category skyrocketed from 48% to 61% in its first 36 months); Prada's continuing refinement of retail technologies (which identify what garments you pick up and instantly showcase runway video and accessories on the nearest store display); or new Johnnie Walker bottles that let you create personalized gifting experiences, and interact with brand promotions, using your mobile phone—and it's easy to see that brands that leverage IoT technologies stand to benefit mightily while those that don't may fall evermore behind.
Yet even big winners will need to tread carefully.
LIFE AS A POP-UP AD?
Even back in 2005, I warned that interconnected everything means you can run, but never truly hide.
Or, as techno-anthropologist Howard Rheingold tells me in the book, "A world in which you are connected infinitely is a world in which you are surveilled infinitely."
Yes, online ads and street side billboards that call out to you on a first name basis, offering exactly what you're looking for—even before you realize you're looking for it—will have their place. Much of this will seem quite magical—at rightly so. But brands and media partners must be careful to resist the temptation to personalize pitches to the point of creeping consumers out.
Or putting them in danger.
One need not look beyond recent news reports on automobile software systems being hacked from afar to understand personal information is not the only thing put at potential risk in this interconnected world.
As I write in the book, as marketers (and as consumers), you and I will face decisions our predecessors could never imagine about what is acceptable—perhaps even moral—when anything and everything is possible.
As brands we exist to serve our customers and their needs, not the other way around.
Ultimately, that may mean recognizing that consumers should be able to control how "smart" they want their "smart products"—and advertising aimed at selling them those products—to be.
Perhaps they even need control over deciding which "Things" (and the associated data) that they want to be part of this "Internet of" —to better serve them, in the ways they want to be served—even if that sometimes means less, instead of more, of what we hope to sell to them. Even while making what we do sell them more profitable.
The brands that get this balance just right will not only attract consumers. They'll gain their loyalty and their trust.
Perhaps that's where the true power of the IoT is waiting to be found.
READ MORE FROM THE '2015 MOBILE MARKETING PREDICTIONS—FROM 2005' SERIES:
If you thought Poo-Pourri's first video was outrageous, just wait til' you see what Grandma has to say about it all.
In the latest from Suzy Batiz and her Addison, TX-based "spray-before-you-go" bathroom spray demonstrates once again how to market sensitive products by being as up-front and flagrant about it as you can about it.
Clearly, this isn't for every audience.
But Batiz (full disclosure: a past client) knows how to reach the hipper, hard-to-reach 18-35 audience she's after to round out her base of fun-loving women 38 to 64. This new video may even be a, er, slam dunk with all her constituents.
Either way: Who knew bleeping out an everyday word like "flush" could be so fun?
Can a new TV show about a female superhero aspire to create positive messages for girls and women as well as (or better than) a certain viral video from a feminine products brand?
In just the last few weeks, Procter & Gamble's viral sensation "Like A Girl" won the GoodWorks Effie, which is designed to recognize marketers for effectively using their platforms for "purpose-driven' campaigns. That is to say, campaigns that accomplish some social good, beyond (just) promoting the brands behind them.
As most everyone in the world of marketing and advertising knows by now, the video, for P&G's Always brand, explores the meaning of the phrase "like a girl" - and how to redefine it. It's powerful stuff, and since its debut last summer, it has generated nearly 60 million views—and has been likened to some of the best work coming from Unilever's long-running "Campaign for Real Beauty."
Right around the same time, we also saw the release of a six-minute trailer for CBS-TV's new show "Supergirl" from Berlanti Productions—the team behind "The Flash," "Arrow," and the upcoming "Legends of Tomorrow" on CW.
Based on the character in DC comics, the series follows Kara Zor-El, the preteen cousin of baby Kal-El, as she is rocketed to Earth in the moments before the planet Krypton explodes (or the surviving Argo City becomes contaminated, depending on your origin story of choice).
Through the peculiar dynamics of space-time, Kara arrives on Earth many years after Kal-El has grown up as Clark Kent, finding herself in awe of the man (and hero) he has become. As she enters her twenties, Kara must forge her own path, and decide if and how to best use her own considerable gifts to make a difference in the world.
Just as with "Like A Girl," the trailer instantly broke the Internet. In just its first week, it had generated over 10 million views—though no exclusively to fanfare.
Commentary on one side included the usual fanboy outrage, as well as criticism likening the trailer (not without merit) to some of the rom-com tropes parodied in a recent SNL spoof for a "Black Widow" movie, based on Scarlett Johansson's character in "The Avengers."
On the other side: Viewers who looked past the cliches and saw something more promising. (A leaked video of the full first episode seems to have put reviews decidedly in the positive column, with some indicating the worst elements of the trailer are only minor facets of the show.)
'The World's Greatest Heroine'
One can't help but find star Melissa Benoist utterly captivating here.
But as a marketer who has written extensively about cause marketing in books such as THE ON-DEMAND BRAND and BRANDING UNBOUND; as a lifelong genre fan; and, I should add, as a husband and father, I see lots of potential for something that is not only a blast to watch, but something that can make a difference.
This optimism has a lot to do with Greg Berlanti, whose "Flash" has balanced unabashed exuberance with unexpected heart. The Season One finale is chock full of both, served with enough Easter Eggs to fill a master's thesis.
That show, based on another DC property, follows a young Barry Allen and his origins as The Fastest Man Alive. And it toys with our understanding of the character, as well as themes and story lines shaped through 70 years of mythology (including a pivotal moment in the character's history—a moment he handled to disastrous effect in the comics, and tackled in another, more painful and poignant way in the show), in compelling ways.
"The Flash" and "Supergirl" will not feature crossovers for some time, if ever, due to the fact that they air on separate networks.
But press reports indicate they do exist in the same universe. And it is not lost on Berlanti (or fans) that within the mythology, Barry and Kara are bound by a shared destiny at the center of a cataclysm that has been amply foreshadowed in "The Flash."
A Force for Good—or Not?
"Supergirl" is clearly aimed at teenage girls, far more than even "The Flash" or "Arrow," which have found footing with both sexes—and all ages.
So how can "Supergirl" do some good this fall?
1. Play Up the "Girl Power" Ethos.
This appears to be built into the equation.
Just look at the show's (brilliant) tagline: "It's not a bird. It's not a plane. It's not a man....It's Supergirl." Throw in Rachel Platten's "Fight Song," and the trailer makes an unambiguous statement. Even better: Despite hints to the contrary, word has it that despite hints to the contrary, the pilot at least avoids indicating that Kara needs a love interest to complete her.
This kind of roll model is not without precedent.
Decades ago, Wonder Woman became a symbol of female empowerment, inspiring Gloria Steinem to feature the character on the cover of the first issue of Ms. magazine. That was three years before Lynda Carter hit prime time as the character, in a version of the heroine pulled from one of the more prominent of DC's alternate realities. And it was 40 years before psychologist Amy Cuddy took to TED to share research with 26 million viewers that striking a Wonder Woman pose for two minutes every day can help women build self-confidence. (Read more on this amazing history here.)
This didn't happen through didactic, "After-School Special" moralizing.
It happened through the simple act of portraying a powerful force for truth and justice who just happened to be a woman.
Berlanti's first job is to entertain, not preach. But there's no reason the show can't redefine what facing danger and demonstrating heroism "like a girl" can mean.
2. Grant Viewers a Whole Lot Less "Cat"
Calista Flockhart's "Cat Grant" character could make for an outstanding rival, so long as Kara's view of "girldom" counterbalances Grant's worst stereotypes.
I'm not (just) talking about the "Devil Wears Prada"-esque elements in general—which are freaking painful to watch. I'm talking specifically about a certain (overly-long, overly-precious) moment between Kara and Cat, after Grant has dubbed Kara's alter-ego "Supergirl":
KARA: We can't name her that.
CAT: 'We' didn't.
KARA: Shouldn't she be called 'Super Woman'?
CAT: What do you think is so bad about 'Girl'? I'm a girl. And your boss. And powerful. And rich. And hot. And smart. So if you perceive 'Supergirl' as anything less than excellent, isn't the real problem you?
Kara seems to take this not as the narcissistic blather of a preening ass clown, but as words of wisdom. Or at least the trailer seems to play it that way, with Kara immediately proclaiming she's all-in.
This character will either provide Kara with a model for what not to be, or a simplistic and negative template for how powerful women establish dominance.
Berlanti's track record—along with word that the show has less of the trailer's most irksome elements—give me hope.
3. Extend the Platform
Find advertisers who don't just fill ad space with empowering commercial messages. Find partners who leverage the storytelling in ways that can be extended into digital initiatives that encourage girls to start being "super" in their own lives, through public service and/or by identifying and building on their own strengths to shape their futures in positive ways.
Which is a way of saying that while the show can't be pedagogic, perhaps extensions can.
A Real Cliffhanger
Will "Supergirl" transcend its cliche-tinged trailer to become a positive cultural influence?
Will consumer brands from the likes of P&G, Unilever and others recognize the potential of this platform, and leverage it for "purpose-driven" campaigns aimed at girls?
And will CBS avoid screwing up a show that CW would ride to long-lasting success?
Time will tell if Kara Zor-El soars high—or bites Kryptonite dust—on these and other scores.
Can someone who has never worked in advertising really cover it?
Or is it even better that way?
In the conclusion of my recent "exit interview" with legendary New York Times ad industry columnist Stuart Elliott, we discuss what it was like to cover such a idiosyncratic industry without much first-hand experience in the business.
How did being one step removed hinder - or help?
As Elliott says goodbye to the Times, we'll get his views on that topic.
And we'll try one last time to get his predictions for what's next in the world of advertising. His response is worth noting even for those of us who do work in this crazy, wonderful industry.
By now, we're all familiar with the rapid rise of the Internet, the mobile revolution, the emergence of social media and more.
But beyond the technological changes and what they mean to the way we connect with consumers through new platforms, there is the impact of societal changes on how we reflect consumer sentiment back to them.
After 25 years of covering the advertising industry for the New York Times, Stuart Elliott says he never could have predicted that television advertising would be so much less lily white, a little less nuclear family.
In part three of an expansive "exit interview" I conducted with Elliott just weeks after he announced his retirement in December - he points to how ad agencies used to pretend they were bigger, until that became a liability, and why brands had better keep up with demographic trends, or risk being left behind.
Content marketing may get a lot of buzz these days - but it's as old as advertising itself.
In part two of my conversation with longtime New York Times advertising columnist Stuart Elliott, we continue to talk about how social media has paradoxically fueled growth in television viewership - especially for events like the Super Bowl.
But as part of this wide-ranging farewell Q&A with Elliott - who retired in December after nearly 25 years of covering advertising for the Times - we get into sponsorship advertising, as well as so-called content and video marketing.
Surprise: None of this is future-forward at all. Indeed, it's a return to the golden age of advertising. But while it sideswipes the problem of ad-skipping technologies and an ever-expanding universe of digital distractions, it comes with some considerable challenges of its own.