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Published: 16 Oct 2017

Pedigree’s Face Filters Help Users Adopt Dogs

Face filters – which overlay graphics onto users' faces – have become a common way of promoting brands and causes. To mark National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, Mars-owned dog food brand Pedigree has added further functionality to its face filter by turning it into an adoption platform for dogs.

The Pedigree Adoptable Facebook Mask (created by BBDO New York) is available through Facebook's Camera Effect augmented reality (AR) and face recognition platform, where face filters are referred to as masks. US users can simply shake their heads to switch between different dog masks. When they see a set of canine features they like on their own face, they can nod their head and Pedigree will help them find a future selfie buddy by showing dogs with similar faces up for adoption near their location.

As Snapchat and Facebook push cameras as the primary social interaction tool, marketers must consider how they can stretch camera-based experiences beyond one-off moments. Image-recognition user interfaces like this simple shake-or-nod mechanism are the first step towards layered interactions.

Pedigree's initiative also shows how brands can add meaning to banal moments and nudge consumer behaviour to highlight their own core values. This playful experience draws attention to Pedigree's animal welfare commitments without preaching to consumers.

To read more about unlocking new engagement moments, see Third Spaces: Targeting the Transitory. For the latest on AR, see State of Mobile: Augmented Reality Special.

Published: 13 Oct 2017

Starbucks’ Storytelling Success

Starbucks has launched the second season of its documentary series Upstanders, featuring stories of "extraordinary courage in unexpected places". The 11 short films cover issues such as immigration, racism, drug abuse and poverty by focusing on "untold stories of courage and extraordinary acts happening across communities in America today", according to Howard Schultz, Starbucks' executive chairman.

In Brands Take a Stand, we discussed how previous Starbucks attempts at purposeful marketing – including misguided engagement with the Black Lives Matter movement – forced the brand to listen to its audience and learn from its mistakes. The result was the successful first season of Upstanders, which debuted last year on YouTube and a dedicated app that now boasts 19 million users. According to Schultz, the first run of Upstanders episodes reached more than 60 million people.

With the second season, Starbucks is expanding its distribution channels: the series will stream on Amazon Prime as well as Facebook's new Watch platform. As we discussed in Reimagining Human Connectivity, consumer appetite for long-form, lean-back video content is growing. In the next 18 months, we'll see this trend fuelling the rise of "brands as studios", with marketers aiming to create content that can compete with the best of Netflix, rather than other brand advertising.

Underpinning this will be a strategy of seeking "uncommon partners", which we explore in Unlocking Internal Innovation from our latest Macro Trend, The Work/Life Revolution. US beverage brand Gatorade, for example, has just launched its own scripted series in partnership with LA-based media firm Awesomeness TV (see Capturing Cord Cutters: Advertising Week New York 2017 for more).

Published: 10 Oct 2017

Dove Faces Backlash Over ‘Racist’ Facebook Ad


Unilever's global personal care brand Dove has experienced a strong backlash against a racially insensitive Facebook ad. The video for its body wash showed a black woman shrugging off a T-shirt that matched her skin tone – turning into a white woman in the process. The ad has since been pulled.

While the visual was intended to show that the product works for many skin types, it conveyed connotations of racism and colourism, provoking strong reaction. Despite slow and steady social change, definitions of beauty still remain centred around white features. Black bodies are still largely excluded from beauty ideals, while soap and detergent ads even have a racist legacy of depicting black people as dirty.

Dove's oversight suggests that no one along the ad's creative path saw a problem with it – or, if they did, may not have felt empowered to voice their concerns.

Marketing and advertising teams in particular need to reflect the diversity of the audiences they are hoping to connect with, as expressed at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia on October 6. Apple's vice-president of diversity and inclusion, Denise Young Smith, stressed the importance of bringing in staff members from all backgrounds. "Representation and mix contribute to the outcome of any situation," she said.

We address the benefits of culturally inclusive teams in great detail in Diverse Talent, Superhero Staff, part of our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution. For more on what to do in the aftermath of such advertising missteps, see Surviving Marketing Fails.

Published: 5 Oct 2017

Condé Nast’s LGBTQ Community Incubator


Global media giant Condé Nast has just announced the launch of Them – a digital media and community hub for the LGBTQ community. The platform will go live on October 26 2017.

Under Teen Vogue's digital editorial director Phillip Picardi's lead, Them will cover current events from an activist point of view, highlighting community leaders and cultural figures across pop culture, fashion, art and politics. It will also be targeted at non-LGBTQ allies, who are keen to learn how to do right by the community.

A third of 16- to 22-year-olds in the UK now identify as gay or bisexual (Ipsos Mori, 2017), while in the US, LGBTQ spending power is estimated to be $917bn annually (Bloomberg, 2016). "We're hoping we can show you storytelling that proves that Them is about all of us," Picardi told Business of Fashion.

Narratives will be arranged around a weekly video multimedia story, with writing, podcasts and infographics enhancing core stories throughout the week. In this way, the platform aims to extend the relevance of its content beyond the 24-hour news cycle.

Further catering to the community it hopes to build with this content, Them will also create physical experiences such as book clubs and partnerships with queer designers on capsule product lines to benefit charities. Burberry, Google and Lyft have already signed on as brand partners.

To learn more about the LGBTQ community's impact on the media landscape, see Next-Gen Beauty Marketing and Marketing to LGBTQ Consumers. For more on how Gen Z connects through digital content, see our pop-culture infographic The Five Es of Gen Zee.

Published: 2 Oct 2017

MailChimp Explains Marketing Automation

Email marketing service MailChimp has launched the Second Brain campaign to explain its automated marketing offers to potential clients.

In a series of bright ads created by New York-based agency Droga5, MailChimp does away with tech jargon to present itself as a 'second brain' that takes care of time-consuming tasks like email follow-ups, Facebook ad targeting and loyalty reward schemes for business owners. "When you turn it on, the MailChimp brain can do things your other brain doesn't have time to do, or can't do, or doesn't want to do," London-based actress Fliss Russell says, with an affable delivery and quirky tone that recalls the company's surreal 'Did You Mean MailChimp?' campaign from February this year.

Featuring specific, if eccentric, scenarios – like using Facebook ads to find a market for fancy meat boards outside of Brooklyn – the campaign targets small business owners who don't have marketing teams to do this work for them, and are unaware of how automation can benefit them. We explored the proliferation of automation in AI-First Engagement. While the technology presents great opportunities to improve targeting and even uncover previously undetectable engagement moments like the ones we highlight in Targeting the Transitory, some consumers struggle to understand (and therefore trust) automated communication tools. MailChimp's campaign demonstrates how marketers can ease these concerns via accessible messaging.

For more on how brands can bring consumers with them as they expand their automation toolset, see Reimagining Human Connectivity – our coverage from Social Media Week London 2017.

Published: 25 Sep 2017

Virgin Atlantic to Broadcast On-Board Comedy Festival

Jacobson will perform on a Virgin Atlantic flight

British airline Virgin Atlantic has just become the first European carrier to offer transatlantic wi-fi across its entire fleet. To promote this new amenity, Virgin will reverse the flow of on-board entertainment: instead of packaging content from the outside world for its passengers, the carrier will host and broadcast live comedy shows taking place on airborne planes.

On September 28, six US comedians will take off from London Heathrow on six separate US-bound flights. Abbi Jacobson, co-creator of broadcaster Comedy Central's show Broad City, is headliner and curator of the #LiveFromVirgin Comedy Festival. Rather than perching on a wooden stool in the aisle, the comedians will use Virgin Atlantic's on-board wi-fi to broadcast their sets in Instagram Stories and tweets.

"There have been airlines that have done movie screenings and live music, but those are all for a very small audience, for the people flying," explained Scott Vitrone, partner and chief creative officer at Figliulo & Partners, the agency behind the festival. "We want to broadcast it to the world." The #LiveFromVirgin Comedy Festival ties into an existing hashtag the brand already uses to share moments from its passengers and staff in the air.

For more on sharing live experiences on digital channels, see Retail's VR Future: Communal Digital and Rebuilding Consumer Trust: Advertising Week Europe 2017. For the latest industry insights on social engagement, look out for our coverage of Social Media Week London 2017, publishing this week.

Published: 19 Sep 2017

Unilever’s State of Innovation Report

Unilever Foundry

Unilever's tech incubator Foundry launched a report on global collaboration between brands and start-ups at marketing conference Dmexco this month. The State of Innovation predicts that corporates and start-ups will work side by side in the same physical space by 2025, with four out of five (80%) businesses saying that start-ups can have a positive impact on a large company's approach to innovation.

The report emphasises that "tech tourism" – where brands make a short-term investment in start-up-driven initiatives as a kind of box-ticking innovation exercise – is of little worth. "Collaboration can no longer be viewed as an optional extra – it's a strategic imperative," said Aline Santos, Unilever's European vice-president of global marketing. "Start-ups are now widely recognised as invaluable sources of innovation, fuelling growth and providing pioneering business solutions."

The Unilever Foundry has successfully helped scale up 48% of its pilots in the past three years. One of its latest projects is a direct-to-consumer ingredients app for Hellman's in collaboration with on-demand delivery app Quiqup. See Rapid Retail: Hellmann's Trials Impulse Groceries App for more.

Incorporating start-up strategies into your business is something we discuss in Marketing Like a Start-Up, and will be exploring in even more detail in our upcoming Macro Trend, The Work/Life Revolution.

Published: 5 Sep 2017

Adidas & Pharrell Williams: Tennis Community Work

With their Don't Be Quiet Please campaign, Adidas and musician collaborator Pharrell Williams have found a quite literal way of elevating local community voices during the US Open tennis tournament.

The campaign plays on a tennis umpire's call for "Quiet, please" at the start of a match. Williams imbues his first ever tennis performance collection with the spirit of community action, which he says can only be achieved by not being quiet. The idea is to look at tennis from a different angle, and show the role sports can play in community activation. To support this message, Adidas has placed 10 umpire chairs all over Manhattan, encouraging locals to climb on and shout about what they care about. At selected locations, guest performances from artists including Action Bronson and Young M.A will draw extra crowds.

To launch the campaign, Adidas took over Frederick Johnson Community Court in Harlem, New York. Here, Williams delivered his own Don't Be Quiet Please manifesto from an umpire chair, while Adidas tennis athletes Angelique Kerber, Sascha Zverev, Dominic Thiem and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga interacted with local youth and organisers. To give the sport an additional local push, Adidas will also partner with the NYC Parks Department to refurbish a neglected tennis court and provide a tennis scholarship programme later this year.

For more on marrying brand communications with social causes, see Retail's Activist Brands, Charity Marketing's Tech Evolution and Surviving Marketing Fails.

Published: 24 Aug 2017

Best New Brand Chatbots

Chatbots – apps driven by artificially intelligent processes that can conduct 'natural' conversations with consumers – are becoming increasingly powerful tools for brand marketers looking to engage customers more efficiently and effectively (see Invisible Marketing for more).

A new report from Juniper Research forecasts that chatbots will be responsible for cost savings of more than $8bn a year by 2022, up from $20m this year. Meanwhile, global analysts Forrester revealed last month that 57% of global businesses are either already using chatbots or plan to begin doing so this year.

Used by marketers in every industry, here are some of the most innovative chatbots recently brought to market.

  • Pringles' Mr P: US snack brand Pringles has just launched a chatbot for Facebook Messenger that generates personalised music videos. The bot asks users for their favourite music genre, asks them to film themselves dancing, pulls in relevant imagery from cloud-image service provider Cloudinary, and automatically creates a bespoke video. They can then be shared using the #TasteTracks hashtag.
  • Truss's Vera:Truss is a US start-up delivering an AI-powered service that enables people to find office space (currently only in Chicago and Dallas). Its chatbot Vera gathers tenant requirements and provides information such as monthly rent costs. This week the firm won $7.7m in Series A funding, and plans to expand the bot's capabilities to retail and industrial support.
  • Nadia: Australian tech firm Soul Machines has created a virtual assistant called Nadia. It features the voice of actress Cate Blanchett and a face designed by a facial-motion-capture designer who's worked on films such as King Kong and Avatar. Nadia is powered by "emotional intelligence" technology that allows her to improve her interactions with people based on their emotional and facial responses via webcam. The chatbot was developed for the Australian government to improve services for people with disabilities.
  • Leeds University's Becky: The UK institution has developed a chatbot called Becky to aid new students through the university's enrolment process. Becky can analyse keywords and learn which prospective courses students aim to attend, scanning for availability and offering up the best options.
  • Alexander Wang & Adidas Originals: Last month, US fashion brand Alexander Wang launched its latest Adidas Originals collection in New York via a chatbot. A code printed on posters displayed across the city enabled people to text the chatbot at midday on July 29 and order directly from the bot. Items were then delivered by bike messenger the same day.
  • Hyundai Card's Buddy: Korean credit card company Hyundai Card launched a chatbot service for members this month. Buddy used IBM's Watson's natural language processing technology to better understand the complexities of Korean grammar and inflection, so that it can answer clients' customer service questions more effectively.

For more on chatbots, see Invisible Marketing and Cannes Lions 2017: The Automated Future.

Published: 17 Aug 2017

Ikea & Converse: Innovative Back-to-School Messaging

Millie Bobbie Brown for Converse

As retailers vie for attention in the annual back-to-school spending season, US footwear brand Converse and Swedish retailer Ikea are appealing directly to young consumers with campaigns in web-ready formats.

Young English actress Millie Bobbie Brown (who plays Eleven in Netflix's series Stranger Things) has lent her talents to Converse's new First Day Feels campaign. Tapping into students' need for expression, Converse captured Brown emoting suitable reactions to the start of another academic year. Packaged into 32 gifs, the content is ready for sharing across chat platforms and social media. Gifs are a central part of online consumer communications, with gif-hosting platform Giphy currently valued at $600m.

Oddly Ikea is the furniture brand's attempt to reach dorm-bound college students with an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) video series. ASMR is a tingly, semi-euphoric sensation some people feel when listening to repetitive, soothing sound effects. The Ikea campaign counteracts the stresses of starting a new school year with a narrator whispering about and smoothing out soft furnishings in an Ikea-outfitted dorm room. The slow nature of ASMR video also lets Ikea deliver a lot of information about its products – a rare opportunity in a digital information landscape that is otherwise starved for time and attention. However, the brand could have shown more due diligence by partnering with an influencer from the existing ASMR YouTube community.

Our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups can help you stay up to date with online media formats. For more on gifs, see Five New Channels for Social Media Marketing.

Published: 11 Aug 2017

Engaging Non-Urban Consumers

A new report from UK publisher Trinity Mirror and UK market research firm Ipsos Mori reveals that 49% of British consumers distrust brands and 69% distrust advertising. "Across our qualitative sample, the same complaint cropped up again and again: brands and advertising are perceived to be out of touch and too London-centric," the report states. "People still don't perceive their own lives to be represented in advertising."

The report states that "explicitly demonstrating to your audience that you are talking to them – on their turf – will go a long way to dispel the establishment prejudices that exist."

A similar conclusion was reached earlier this year by a study from global ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi. In a survey of consumers across 30 small American towns, 95% of respondents said having a sense of pride in where they currently live is important.

Eve Pollet, trends and innovation strategist for Saatchi & Saatchi, told Adweek: "The marketer takeaway here can be to celebrate these small-town origins through an event or product and celebrate this pride of place... and give consumers something tangible to be prideful of."

Apple addressed these desires for more representation of non-urban, 'anti-establishment' communities in advertising with its latest Apple Music commercial, released in July. Featuring country music singer Brantley Gilbert, the ad is overtly pitched at rural Middle America, with Gilbert stating, "This is my home: no matter where I go, my heart stays here."

Apple is clearly facing up to the challenges of marketing in the post-Trump era, when suspicion of so-called urban 'elites' – politicians, big business, media and, of course, brands like Apple itself – is rife. For more on this subject, see Marketing to Divided America and Brands Take a Stand.

Published: 2 Aug 2017

Marketing to the Recently Divorced


Icelandic brand Eyri Iceland Mattresses launched a new marketing campaign this week aimed at the recently divorced. The proposition of Splitsville – according to LP/AD, the Canadian ad agency behind it – is that a good mattress is key to surviving heartbreak.

The campaign features endorsements from renowned New York divorce attorneys (the mattresses are "divorce-lawyer approved"), a 50% off deal ("if you have to lose half, then so will we"), and cross-promotion on Tinder, where Eyri assumes many of its potential customers will be hanging out post-breakup. There's also a (fairly basic) chatbot created by US artificial intelligence firm Motion AI that aims to mimic the kind of arguments people have with their exes.

It's a smart campaign that targets a demographic few brands engage with. In the past year, we've seen Ikea touch on the subject with its Where Life Happens campaign, and Ford Denmark's short film Familien, but little else. It's a risky theme to tackle, but this is clearly a demographic that wants to be represented in marketing – Familien has notched up more than 200,000 views on YouTube since March 2016.

As we discuss in New Attitudes to Love & Sex, it's crucial for marketers to broaden their definitions of romance and relationships. There's also a huge opportunity for brands to tap into more niche, even negative emotions to reach new audiences. See Brands Take a Stand for more.

Published: 28 Jul 2017

P&G: Promoting Social Awareness

FMCG giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) has released an ad chronicling Black mothers having to talk to their children about racial bias. The video, entitled The Talk is part of P&G's decade-old My Black is Beautiful initiative for positive representation of Black women.

In fictional scenarios recreating very real conversations across several decades, The Talk addresses everyday symptoms of racism like peer bullying, academic and professional discrimination, and police violence. The ad ends with the phrase, "Let's all talk about 'the talk' so we can end the need to have it", and a referral to the hashtag #TalkAboutBias.

What distinguishes this campaign from less successful social consciousness brand messages seen earlier this year is that P&G doesn't try to add a positive – possibly brand-enabled – spin on the issue. Instead, the brand uses its platform to highlight a dimension of parenting that many people will never have to face. P&G stressed that "every aspect of the film included the essential contributions and guidance of creatives, producers, filmmakers and clients of colour."

"Our goal with The Talk is to help raise awareness about the impact of bias," said Damon Jones, director of global company communications at P&G. "We are also hopeful that we can make progress toward a less biased future by recognising the power of people of all backgrounds and races showing up for one another."

For more on the opportunities and pitfalls of socially responsible brand messaging, see our Diversity Outlook Innovation Platform, Brands Take a Stand from our Currency of Dissent Macro Trend, and Surviving Marketing Fails.

Published: 18 Jul 2017

Royal Opera House & Moma: High-Culture Emoji

The Royal Opera House

For World Emoji Day on July 17 (the date featured on the calendar emoji), London's Royal Opera House (@RoyalOperaHouse) partnered with Twitter to retell the stories of famous operas and ballets using only emoji. Members of the public could win pairs of tickets by correctly guessing which stories were being retold.

"We grab any opportunity to tell narratives and teaming up with Twitter means we do this at an unprecedented scale," said Jeremy Paul, head of marketing communications, audiences and media at the Royal Opera House. "It's part of a strategy to pivot into dialogue platforms like Twitter."

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF Moma) is also using the power of dialogue to connect to new audiences. The museum has launched a text-messaging service through which people can receive artworks from its archive in response to moods, keywords, or emoji they send.

SF Moma has 34,678 artworks in its collection, of which the museum can only display about 5% at a time. According to Keir Winesmith, head of web and digital platforms for SF Moma, skipping apps or mobile sites in favour of a text-messaging service was the best way to minimise barriers between the public and SF Moma.

Exploring channels that are accessible to broader audiences is key for any brand, and it's important that they use language that aligns with digital culture. For the latest developments in online communities' modes of communication, follow our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups. For more on mobile engagement, see The Messaging Opportunity.

Published: 6 Jul 2017

Dell & Spider-Man: Interactive Out-of-Home Game

Dell Spiderman Scramble

To promote the release of Sony Pictures' Spider-Man: Homecoming film in the US, multinational computer technology company Dell and global outdoor advertising company Kinetic have created a multiplayer game on digital billboards in New York's Times Square.

Pedestrians passing by the two stacked digital billboards running the campaign can visit a website on their mobile phones to join the game. Four players at a time get to use controls on their phone to race their scrambling Spider-Man characters up the digital billboards. Complete with high-score leaderboards, the campaign turns part of the city into a video game arcade. The experience is powered by Dell hardware, and it comes with interstitial ads promoting Dell's Inspiron 15 gaming laptop.

In Third Spaces: Targeting the Transitory, part of our Invisible Marketing Industry Trend, we explored the use of personal devices and digital billboards to anticipate and respond to consumer needs in the moment, giving them information and services to remove friction from their day. By contrast, Dell's campaign is more of an intervention during the everyday, providing a playful incentive for consumers to linger with branded content.

Creating communal experiences by linking individual devices is a key direction: As personal digital experiences become more sophisticated, brands and marketers have an interest in keeping them open for interaction. For more on teasing out the communal opportunities of personal devices, see Retail's VR Future: Communal Digital and our Pop Culture Round-Up: May 2017.