Isolationism – VR’s Blessing and Curse

In flight entertainment has seen tremendous improvements over the past half decade. Seatback monitors, while generally not very big, offer an array of movie and television choices while in-flight WIFI continues to become easier and easier to access. However, Alaska Airlines thinks that they can one up that experience, by using virtual reality.

During a 4-day period at the end of September, 10 flights on the airline will test out their VR offering. Passengers will receive a lightweight headset, made by in-flight entertainment company SkyLights, and have the option to be entertained by a few different VR experiences. Given the stationary nature of the environment, these experiences are limited to watching movies in your own private theatre and exploring virtual worlds through slight head movements.

Paired up with noise cancelling headphones, those experiencing VR will easily tune out any crying babies or other distractions aboard the flight and may make for an incredibly enjoyable experience. But is VR the future of in-flight entertainment?

Implications

Virtual Reality has long been knocked for some of its glaring fallbacks. It’s an isolating experience that’s expensive to set up and doesn’t have compelling content offerings to justify it. Those fallbacks, while justified, are tailored to the home – as a replacement or auxiliary option to your family gaming system. On a flight, many people prefer that sense of isolationism, as even the thought of sparking up a conversation with a random neighbor gives them anxiety. And cost issues? Well, those may be an airline value add or an additional fee.

In 2019, we’ll likely see VR address its obvious fallbacks and offer more experiences tailored to the environment that individual is already in. Location based VR, like arcades and immersive experiences such as The Void, have become increasingly more popular as they drastically reduce the isolated aspect of the experience. VR during in-flight, and possibly other transportation offerings, will look to capitalize on isolationism in the completely opposite sense.

Amazon’s TNF Stream points to an Interactive future

Last Thursday night kicked off Amazon’s live-streaming deal with the NFL, allowing them to broadcast 11 Thursday Night Football (TNF) games of the 2018/19 season. The feed, which was available for free on Twitch as well as offered to Prime Video customers, set the stage for what the future of interactive live television could be like.

For one, the stream was available just about anywhere someone could imagine watching the game – Amazon’s Prime Video app, Fire TV, mobile devices and anywhere with a strong internet connection. The ubiquity of it changes the paradigm of how consumers can take in this content. No longer is it primarily a passive event as the mobile and open nature of streaming platforms allow for more interactivity.

Amazon wasn’t shy about moving into this trend. Thursday’s broadcast on Prime Video included an ‘X-Ray’ feature, allowing users to see real-time stats as well as personalize their broadcast to follow Game Leaders and Team Stats as the game progressed. When digging deeper, users were able to discover more information on the history of the teams and players involved.

Another unique feature to Thursdays broadcast, and one that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, is the ecommerce aspect that Amazon integrated into the experience. Available within the Fire TV stream, users were able to browse and purchase officially licensed merchandise relating to the teams at hand. Carson Wentz just dropped a dime from 40 yards out in the back corner of the end zone? Cool, you’re 2 clicks away from owning his jersey and your eyes never had to leave the screen.

The other choice that Amazon gave users was with regards to the actual broadcasters. Three options were available on Prime Video, including the first ever all female booth, and Twitch highlighted a popular streamer, GoldGlove, to call the game for its viewers.

Within the Twitch platform, live reaction of viewers was a feature that was highlighted. After an exciting play, the Twitch chat was blown up with emotes (Amazon’s version of emojis) and the social nature of the platform made for a less isolating experience. Bringing people together for live sporting events is something Facebook and Twitter have been working hard at, but neither of them can reach the level of engagement that Amazon currently has.

Implications

Live sporting events have traditionally been viewed in a passive setting as users were mainly confined to a cable provider and their living room TV. That’s slowly but surely changing, and it’s a trend that’s not going to slow down anytime soon. It’s also one that has pretty wide ranging implications.

Niche sports executives should see this as a massive opportunity to get their product in front of a much wider range of audience. FloSports, a leader in partnerships for OTT sports, features rugby, track & field, wrestling, bowling and more. The company will steam 2,500 live events in 2018, increasing live streaming views and event attendance for hundreds of teams across the country. It’s all about getting your product in front of as many eyes as possible, and live streaming is doing that at a scale that hasn’t been seen before.

With those eyeballs, come brands trying to ride the pigtails of that success. Marketers will be able to closely align their product or service with teams that or events that closely align with their brand values. As the services mature, there will likely be opportunities to personalize these messages to individuals or segments. On top of that, the active nature of the service will continually allow for a reduction in friction to the path to purchase. Live streaming events and the interactivity that comes with them may be the last domino to fall in the fight against cutting the cord.

Alexa’s Ecosystem Expands

On Thursday, Amazon held its annual hardware event, and the company unleashed a slew of new Alexa related products onto the world. While we were given an upgrade to the companies classic line of Dot, Show, and Plus devices, we were also introduced to a few entirely new product categories. The Echo Sub allows users to pair a high end subwoofer to their existing echo, aiming to compete with likes of Sonos and Apples HomePod.

Amazon also introduced a few auxiliary devices, like the Echo Auto, bringing Alexa into the in-car entertainment space as well as an Echo Input, which will allow users to access the voice assistant through their existing speaker system. We’re also given an Echo Smart Plug, used to turn on and off household appliances. Finally, the event included an Alexa Wall Clock, to visualize alarms, and an Alexa Microwave, because why not?

If it wasn’t obvious before, it is now. Amazon is dead set on bringing Alexa into your life in as many ways as possible. While different from Apple and Google, who are both increasingly pushing Siri and Assistant respectively, Amazon is similar in the fact that it’s building an ecosystem around its voice assistant, starting with the hub.

Implications

For Apple and Google, the hub is the smartphone. It has been for quite some time, and consumers utilize additional products like the HomePod and Home, to tap into that hub. However, most of the interaction with those assistants occur on the mobile device itself, either through Apple’s built in Siri integration, or the Google Assistant App. Amazon is building an ecosystem of IOT devices, and sees voice as the primary interface.

Thursdays event greatly expanded this ecosystem, moving beyond the home into the vehicle, as well as expanding the presence throughout the home. Consumers who opt to utilize the hub for all its benefits, will begin to see Alexa learn and adapt towards them. One of the few software upgrades on Thursday was called Hunches, and it will allow the voice assistant to offer occasional suggestions if it thinks you may have forgotten something as part of your daily routine. For example, turning off the outdoor lights before you hit the hay.

Marketers will need to understand that as we move toward a world like this, it will be less about marketing towards consumers, and more about marketing towards assistants. As Alexa, Assistant and Siri begin making more and more of our decisions on their behalf, our mundane decision making, like making sure the fridge is stocked with groceries and Friday night plans are booked, will be handled by our artificially intelligent systems. It’s incredibly important to begin laying the building blocks of that future today, before it quickly passes you by when it shows up.

Amazon’s Attribution Pixel Tests Ad Effectiveness

Outside of being one of the worlds largest E-commerce platforms, Amazon also runs a growing ad business, competing with the likes of Facebook and Google. That product offering just got a lot more appealing to advertisers, as the company began testing its Amazon Attribution tool.

The tool will help advertisers measure the exact impact that their display, search and video media channels have on how consumers discover, research and buy their products within the E-commerce giant. Brands will be able to optimize their campaigns to page views, purchase rates and sales. Currently, the tool is only available to advertisers that sell on Amazon, rather than through it.

The move by Amazon signifies a big step in their fight against the duopoly, which has historically dominated much of the year-over-year growth within online advertising. Advertisers will soon get a much better understanding of how their media on Amazon compares with that of other platforms, especially when it comes to driving actual sales.

Additionally, Amazon’s moves into the brick-and-mortar space with its Whole Foods acquisition, Amazon Go and Amazon Books will mean that the company should soon offer a way to attribute online media to offline conversion – a necessary step to effectively compete with Google.

Implications

Amazon moving further into the advertising space shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it should be taken seriously. Brands that don’t currently utilize Amazon’s ad products, should look to them as a way to test the effectiveness of their ad dollars across tactics. Take a look back at what your KPI’s are, and use this Attribution Pixel to determine where there’s room for improvement.

If your brand already has a big presence within the site, whether that be percentage of total sales or a higher comparable market share, a shift of budget to Amazons products will help to continue to drive sales and page views, while also allowing your brand to hone in on a specific target.

In one case study, a protein brand found that health publications performed better than all other media types, accounting for 83% of their ad-attributed sales on Amazon. Without this tool, that information would have gone unnoticed, and the brand wouldn’t have been able to effectively use its budget. In todays day and age, it’s incredibly important to understand exactly what sparks your E-commerce business, with Amazon at the helm, this tool makes their ad products worth a second look.

Who is Doctor Fork?

This week, Google’s Unskippable Labs team released its findings with regards to an interesting little experiment they had been working on. The question? What could we unveil about advertising effectiveness for a pizza brand, if we weren’t afraid to fail? To pull it off, the team created a fake company that was ultimately called Doctor Fork.

image

The team was able to compile 33 ads using stock footage, and because it’s Google, they were able to deliver over 20 million impressions through the YouTube platform. The delicious sausage pizza you saw last night.. ya, you’re going to have to go somewhere else for that. The team explained that because they weren’t following an explicit client brief, they were able to knock down so called guard rails, typically used in food ads.

Implications

Ultimately, there were a list of findings and underlying implications that came out of this study, and brands should be keen to incorporate some of these into their campaigns. For example, ‘bite and smile’ is not the only way to show a pleasurable food experience. Classic brands may feel constrained by this emotional presentation because they know ‘it works’, however, these findings show that there are a range of approaches that are equally appropriate and may even perform better.

This begs the question, what other findings can we uncover when removing constraints on our advertising? In an industry that relies on creative thinking and innovation to break through to new consumer segments, brands should begin thinking outside of their typical processes to determine new insights. If you have the means to conduct a test similar to what Google’s team did, it could provide valuable information to move your brand forward. If you don’t, take a risk, it’s one of the only ways to move forward.

Google Removes Blanket Exclusion From Mobile Apps

Come this September, Google will radically simplify its targeting and exclusion controls for Google Display Network ads on mobile devices. The change will come in the form of eliminating the adsenseformobileapps.com placement exclusion, which allowed advertisers to specifically remove mobile in-app ads as possible inventory within their campaigns.imageMoving forward, advertisers will be able to set their exclusion preferences based on device type. For example, instead of targeting mobile devices by Mobile app, Mobile app interstitial, or Mobile web, all mobile placements will now be targeted (or excluded). The same format will also be applied to Tablet targeting.

Implications

For advertisers, this change signifies a greater shift within the in-app landscape. Developers will look to capitalize on the influx of inventory by creating additional sources of revenue (i.e new ways for users to look at ads). As the mobile advertising market continues to grow, projected to increase to 31% of global expenditure by 2020, the search giant understands just how important the in-app category is to its overall revenue.

Google has already set the stage for future innovation by partnering with Unity, a massively popular game development platform, that will allow Google’s advertisers direct access to Unity’s global mobile gaming ad inventory. With more than 9.4 billion ad impressions on a monthly basis over 1.5 billion devices and the freedom to cater the experience internally, it’s no wonder that Google wants more advertisers to compete over this space.

In order to break through on these channels, advertisers must ensure that their ad units are catered to specific devices and placements, as well as provide thoughtful, relevant and non-disruptive content. In an age where UX clearly dictates that mobile ads hurt the overall experience, brands that are able to add value will have a great chance of standing out and driving conversions.