Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic at digital marketing conferences this year, and Social Media Marketing World 2017 was no exception. Talking about the future of AI can be mind blowing, especially when experts estimate that computers will rival (or even surpass) human intelligence in as little as 16 years. What shocked me more than these predictions was that this technology isn’t only applicable in the far-off future; there are actually practical ways to apply it to business today. Christopher Penn, VP of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications, was able to deliver some informative answers to the biggest questions about AI; where it’s going and how businesses should be taking advantage of it:
How do I know if my business could benefit from AI?
How can I implement AI for my business today?
“Become the guy who helps the machines learn what great writing is.”
Is my job going to be replaced by a robot? How can I avoid this?
How can I convince my company and its culture that AI is important?
You know the triangle where you have fast, cheap and good, but you only get to pick two? AI is going to change that. The reality is that computers are faster, cheaper and smarter than humans, so we should start finding ways to work with AI now. If you don’t, your competitors will.
We (GSD&M’s Social Media Department) sat on the edge of our seats with baited breath as each announcement during the Facebook f8 Developers Conference rolled out. With racing hearts and sweaty palms—no we’re not exaggerating; yes, we love social media that much—we waited as the last announcement was unveiled. To no avail, we were left wondering how f8 failed to mention the product improvements we begged for on our Christmas lists to Zuckerberg. We even tried to call, but Santa must have changed his number.
In all seriousness, to create the most engaging content on behalf of our clients and to continuously evolve our practice, we have some hot-punch list items for Facebook:
And personally, here are a couple ways I believe Facebook could get us to spend even more of our time—outside of work—staring at our phones:
So yes, f8 spiked our curiosity and had us at the edge of our seats waiting for what’s next in the world of social media. But like a kid who got socks in his stocking, we were kind of unimpressed with the lack of “shock” that Christmas brought this year. So come on Zuckerberg, turn off your algorithm switch and hear what we’re saying.
“The smart home is a pipe dream.” That was a headline published by CNN in 2014. Since then, I’ve set my sights on disputing if “pipe dream” is still the ultimate definer of smart-home technology. While recent news on the topic leaves me hopeful that the technology is coming, I’m still not confident that much has changed in the interim between 2014 and today.
Don’t get me wrong; headway has been made in the areas CNN cited as obstacles in its pessimistic assessment. Software companies like Zonoff are building platforms that help the fragmented ecosystem of sensors, appliances and TVs talk to each other. Also, hardware companies like LG and Samsung are developing ways to make our old, dumb washing machines and refrigerators smart, so a connected home may no longer require purchasing all new appliances.
So in all fairness, the industry is making some moves. So now we’re looking at the next big question: How will companies monetize these services? Standstill, we meet again…
Your whole milk is low, might we suggest 1%?
Winifred Chang, the head of home Internet of Things (IoT) partnerships at LG, said at this year’s CES that the smart hubs in LG’s TVs and appliances may one day be subsidized by partnerships with consumer product brands (i.e., your refrigerator might recommend a certain brand of milk when it knows you’re running low). To me, this kind of interruptive model seems like a backward step rather than providing consumers with a service that’s truly useful—so, not something likely worth paying for in the near future.
Less pizza, more rewards
Another way companies are subsidizing their services is by selling the data to third parties. Google is giving away its Nest smoke alarm when you use one of its insurance partners. The insurance company knows when your alarm is fully powered and working and in return gives you “safety rewards” on your premiums. Now, I’m all for discounts based on safe behavior, but I worry that insurance companies might also want to raise my premiums when they see how many frozen pizzas I consume in a week. Again, perhaps not a step exactly in the right direction, but at least it’s a step.
Back before you noticed it was gone
The last and least futuristic way forward is for companies to simply provide a valuable service that people are willing to pay for. A worthy example is Simplehuman’s trash can, which knows when you need more trash bags and will automatically order them for you.
That’s the kind of sensible, useful service I’m looking for. It’s nondisruptive and makes my life easier. And while it might not be the most tech-savvy example of a smart home feature in the market, it’s arguably the only one I’d actually pay for.
Simplicity, you’re the one.
The thing is, I don’t want to worry about buying trash bags, paper towels and laundry detergent—I just want them to be there when I need them, packaged together, discounted and delivered by drone if necessary. How the smart home will make this happens is still up in the air (no pun intended) and somewhat of a pipe dream.
However, when the smart home comes to fruition, just please don’t make me have to skip through product-pushing ads on my fridge or tell my health insurance company I eat too much pizza. Is that too much to ask?
As a self-professed technophile, attending CES was a life goal for me. So in heading to 2016 CES, I couldn’t wait to find the next great thing to connect with my Sonos, Hue and SmartThings and make my “connected life” complete. More importantly, this was an opportunity to find the new advancements that would be game changers for our department, agency and clients. Bring it, Vegas!
But, upon arrival, as I stood longingly in front of a smart refrigerator that alerts you when your food is near expiration and creates a grocery list based on your purchasing patterns, an unexpected thought occurred to me: Not many (okay, none) of my friends or peers are jumping at the opportunity to have their home play their theme song when they rise in the morning or for their lights to alter to match their mood when they return home from work. In fact, I suspect the average American consumer is barely aware that CES—or this type of technology offering—even exists.
So if it doesn’t apply to everyone, how does technology of the future apply to the audiences of today?
Brands have to find ways to make ultra-forward-thinking technology accessible for and adoptable by the mass consumer. And by doing so, brands have to be realistic about adoption curves.
Brands have to look for insights into the problems technology is attempting to solve and find more realistic ways to address these issues.
Let’s use my coveted refrigerator as an example. Sure, it’d be great if I got a text when my guacamole was about to expire. But the bigger issue here is less about having excess tortilla chips and nowhere to dip them and more about the global problem of food waste vs. food scarcity. Now that’s an entirely different subject for a separate blog post, but my point is that high-end technology isn’t the only way to solve the problem of food waste.
Packaging: Let’s rethink it. What if food packaging changed color when nearing expiration? Or, food that had a 1–2 day refrigerator life was placed in green bags, while food lasting 3–5 days had an orange package?
Existing data. Grocery stores and brands already know what consumers are purchasing. What if we used the technology that gives certain customers certain coupons to send notifications when the bananas they bought last week were better fit for banana bread?
Communities that work. The social network Nextdoor has made it exceptionally easy to alert neighbors of a lost pet. Could like-apps also offer up to neighbors that carton of milk or unopened tub of guacamole that will go bad while you’re at CES?
Perhaps I have a personal plight with the items in my fridge, but this is the type of thinking that CES inspired. What problems can we solve with the technology we already have, rather than assuming consumers are ready to adopt the latest-and-greatest—in smart fridges?
How can we solve transportation and commuter issues until the drone is ready for prime time? How can we make reality better than the virtual version?
Don’t get me wrong. I think technology is one of our best approaches to solving problems. But in doing so we can’t lose sight of the people who have never heard of CES and will never understand the need for a $10K refrigerator that beeps when their bananas are no longer that perfect shade of yellow.
We, as consumers, brands and advertisers have to be smarter than the smart things.
Now, about that robotic dog. Dog ownership sounds hard, so this is problem solver I could get behind. See you at the “dog” park.
Written by Zinny Bonner
Apple announced its newest feat at taking over the world last week. Okay, not really the world, but might as well be. Improvements to Apple Pay, News Apps and their latest venture, Apple Music, proves that Apple continues to be a force to be reckoned with, not only with their ability to create a new phone every five seconds, but in fact, the leader in creating technology that influences the way we listen to music and ultimately, the way we live our lives.
Apple Music has finally jumped on the streaming train but not without adding their own touch. This new feature available to all Apple products (Android and PC later in the year) will have the entire iTunes library, the music added to your personal library, a radio with live DJs and a social media factor that connects artists and fans.
When iTunes debuted in 2003, it changed the way we listened to music and has now become so embedded in our everyday lives that we forget how much of a game changer it was. Now in 2015, iTunes is old news, and Apple Music is Apple’s attempt at reminding people they are still in the business of providing music. One component of Apple Music is, of course, music. This will give you access to your personal library of music you’ve downloaded and also access to the entire iTunes library for streaming songs on demand. Also, Apple “experts” handpick songs and playlists they think you might like based on what you listen to regularly. Jack Epsteen, SVP/director of production at GSD&M and self-proclaimed “Apple geek,” noted that although he’s excited to see how the music library works, he’s not sure that this latest venture by Apple will tear people away from their routine streaming program. “Unless Apple can do what Tidal and Spotify haven’t been able to do—find a real, sustainable streaming model that also pays the curators—I don’t think this will change how musicians do business,” he said.
Another piece of this project is Beats 1, “The world’s local station.” With DJs from Los Angeles, New York and London, Apple is trying to get people to appreciate a shared listening experience. It will be interesting to see how many people will tune into the 24/7 radio stations.
Lastly, there’s Connect. Connect is basically Apple’s own social media and “a place where fans can engage with their favorite artists.” Essentially the feature allows for artists to post directly to the platform, anything from unreleased music to rehearsals in the studio. This is where Apple has taken the risk, as it’s like nothing they’ve done before. As a social media lover myself, I’m curious to know what is going to make people and artists stray away from the traditional tweet or Facebook post that could serve the same purpose.
Jacqueline Coffey, associate media director at GSD&M, said that one somewhat overlooked aspect of Apple Music is that it does not offer on-demand music for free with advertising, and Spotify, YouTube and Pandora do. Although their option of $14.99 for up to six people on a plan is a better deal than Spotify’s $9.99 per person, Coffey said Apple will be playing catch-up and “coming from a Spotify user whose day-to-day life is rooted in digital media, the market is cluttered, and it will take a lot more than the Apple name for users to make the switch.”
On the other hand, David Rockwood, VP/community relations at GSD&M, thinks the goal of Apple introducing this new feature is not to necessarily switch from one streaming program to another, but instead convert all non-Apple device users. “Since there are over 100 million iPhones out there, downloading their new software update with one easy-to-use music service will help them sell even more phones, which is probably their bigger goal, to sell more hardware,” said Rockwood. According to Hardware Top 100, Apple is #20, with HP, Samsung and Foxconn in the top three positions.
So Apple Music could be the next big thing or just Apple’s failed attempt at remaining relevant and shiny in the music business. We’ll find out June 30 when it launches, and I can’t wait to see what it’s all about.
By Zinny Bonner, Communication Intern
GSD&M’s first ITMAD event concluded yesterday after a series of sessions focused on innovation, entrepreneurial thinking and experience design with presenters from GSD&M and guest speakers from Southwest Airlines and Silvercar. As part of the event, we were also able to tour the U.S. Air Force’s latest experiential tour.
Starting off with a bang, or rather a jaw-dropping hologram demo, Heather Hvidsten, senior director of product management and product innovation at Southwest Airlines, presented Honk If You Are Sick of Talking About Innovation! With a father who worked at NASA and mother who is an artist, Heather was raised to think outside of the box. She looks at innovation with the mindset that every single person is perfect exactly the way they are. She encourages, “If you are passionate and not in a group that feels the same way, it’s not you, it’s the group. So change the group.” Innovation is about making something great ever better. To do this, Heather organizes rapid innovation workshops that encourage participants to open their minds and think differently. She puts crossfunctional teams together to accelerate the idea process. Most importantly, however, she engaged every aspect of Southwest Airlines’ team, from finance to creative, by emphasizing the many different roles involved in innovation. “The role of the supporter is just as important, if not more important, than the role of the idea creator,” she said.
The second session of the day, Capturing Moments & Building Stories: Instagram for Business, by Janice Suter, director of social media, and Caitlin McDaniel, senior social media manager, began with a display of how great ideas can come from a platform. With Instagram’s 64 million followers, brands everywhere are starting to notice the influence of the visually pleasing and culturally dominant platform. With Instagram, influencers offer something unique in shaping the story behind a brand —the ability to tell a brand’s story from a personal and genuine perspective. Brands can use these influencers along with unique content their own photo streams to engage audiences and take them places they’ve never been.
Having just opening its ninth location, Silvercar’s Russ Lemmer, co-founder and VP marketing, and Allen Darnell, CTO, presented Silvercar: Better Experience, Better Brand. Car rental is an industry notorious for lack of customer satisfaction and consistency. Silvercar recognized the need for a consistent, mobile-first and modern solution to car rental. To create a meaningful solution, Silvercar focused on taking advantage of all of the amazing tools and current technology available to maximize user experience. Russ Lemmer reminded the audience that one of the most powerful tools for the future of marketing is something we all have: the smartphone. Recognizing the value of smartphone technology, Silvercar is a 100% mobile service. By doing this, Silvercar cuts out most of what makes car rental a painful process in pursuit of their ultimate goal: a seamless product experience and maximum customer satisfaction. The less friction their customers have to endure, the more valuable they consider the Silvercar product.
Rye Clifton, the agency’s director of experience design, discussed Connect the Dots, La La La La: Dissecting the Components of a Startup & Reassembling Them for Your Clients. In this session, Rye pinpointed a few agency clients and other brands that are really paving the way for other companies and across different industries. Rye also chatted about the pros of thinking like a startup and noted it’s best to start small then add on to a brand experience, the big takeaway being the solution to a business problem is sometimes not an ad at all.
At the last session, Amanda Parker, senior media planner, gave an overview on some of the conversations at the recent Ad Age Digital Conference that sparked the original ITMAD idea. In Integrity & Insight: Conversations Sparked at Ad Age Digital, the main points established were everyone’s role in consumer experience management, why it’s crucial to have the right people in the room and how agencies provide platforms for data, tech and progress. When it comes to the consumer experience, a team must remember that everything leads back to consumers. They are what keeps a brand going; however, it is hard to control every aspect that affects the consumer experience, so teams must work together to keep the consumer in mind at every step.
Platforms are the new service that agencies bring to their clients, and the data they house and the innovation they allow are what move business and make good partners. Amanda Parker emphasized the importance of utilizing technology that has already been established, similar to Silvercar’s idea, in order to create a foundation for problem solving through calculated risks. We learned that innovation should be thought of as “70-20-10”: 70% are the things you know for sure work for your business, 20% are tested strategies that are still evolving and the final 10% is the room you have left to take a leap of faith in true innovation. In closing, Amanda said, “There was a lot to be gleaned from the best and the brightest in our industry, but at the end of the day it was really affirmed that we’re in the same progressive track here at GSD&M.”
Our first ITMAD (Ideas that Make a Difference) event started yesterday leaving the audience eager to hear today’s four sessions. Across the two-day mini conference, the conversation focuses on a range of topics including innovation, entrepreneurial thinking, experience design, disruption and creativity with GSD&M presenters as well as guest speakers Heather Hvidsten from Southwest Airlines and Russ Lemmer from Silvercar.
With a packed room so early in the morning, GSD&M’s Director of Experience Design Derek Dollahite kicked off ITMAD with Experience Design: No Best Practices When Designing for Happiness. Design invades our lives now more than ever, and Derek noted the power technology has in determining the future of design. “Experimental Design uses technology to emphasize user experience and create culturally relevant solutions” – his advice for incorporating experience design into your work? Takeaway: “ENKS” – Embrace Not Knowing Shit.Jonathan Hart, VP/Decision Sciences at the agency also wowed the attendees with his exploration of Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Digital’s Place in the Origin and Development of the Universe, But Didn’t Know to Ask. In this, he walked through the evolution of digital in concert with the origin and organization of the universe, starting with the Big Bang and ending with positing that perhaps we are all just participants in a giant simulation of life as we know it. Understanding how the universe organizes itself gives us insight into the future of computational power as well, and a peek into a future in which we may cross the threshold of evolution with the introduction of conscious machines. In the words of visiting filmmaker Alex Johnson, “I didn’t know this was going to get spiritual!”
Alex R. Johnson brought his film, Two Step as part of a discussion of nurturing ideas, creative collaboration and sources of inspiration for storytelling. Alex also discussed his move from Brooklyn to Austin, and how the creative culture of Austin helped move a project along to fruition. In addition to being filmed entirely in Austin, Two Step features a cast that includes guest appearances by local music artists Dale Watson and Jesse Dayton, The film was scored by a local musician, Andrew Kenny, who Alex had originally met doing commercial production and music videos in New York City. The film was a riveting thriller that kept the audience on edge. Let’s just say after watching you might think twice about using drive-up ATMs.
As the last session, Digital Producer Amanda Traversi and Account Manager Adrienne Strange presented “WTF? We Do This S**t?” Launching the Air Force Performance Lab. In this, they gave an in-depth look at the creative, production processes, technologies and partnerships involved in creating the latest U.S. Air Force experiential tour now crossing the country. As noted, “unlike most brands, you can’t try on or test the Air Force. In turn, our team sets out to create the most engaging and inspiring experience possible.” They proved that if there is a will, there is a way, especially working with a set of partners all focused on the success of the project and a deep understanding of the project goals. After exploring countless new technologies and options, they made the trailer a completely physical experience by providing visual, competitive, and informative games. The team also mentioned they looked beyond the experiential aspect of the project as well, by measuring and recording data, which is involved in reengaging potential recruits and serves as valuable data for the future.
“More content was created yesterday than you can consume in a lifetime.”
—Dawn Ostroff, Condé Nast Entertainment
So it’s true. Content truly is king, and vast is his castle.
This week, we’ve been learning how content has dominated our culture, our audiences and our time spent, and translating those shifts into what that means for us at the agency and our clients.
We’re just getting Newfronts started here in New York. The Newfronts is a two-week long event, similar to the TV upfronts, where leaders in premium content and digital video announce new original programming, new distribution deals and new talent partnerships to excite agencies and marketing decision makers for the year to come, in hopes of attracting advertising budgets.We’ve got a packed agenda: listening, watching and meeting with media giants like The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Hulu, Yahoo!, AOL and many others.
Here are some of our early predictions.
Jacks of all trades.
We’ll be seeing more content providers and publishers diversifying offerings—meaning more tactics, targeting and placement opportunities than ever before. They’ll position their offerings as a “one-stop shop” for all client and agency needs, from data-targeted buys, to high impact to content creation and distribution. An example of this is Yahoo!, which has really amped up their capabilities with their acquisition of key players in social, mobile and video, namely Tumblr, Flurry and BrightRoll.
The once start-ups take the main stage.
Many once-small digital properties are going mass, attracting larger audiences and gaining in time spent—truly gaining ground on the more established media giants and shaking up the status quo. Hulu, for example, has quickly dominated the marketplace in its young eight years.
To combat audiences shifting, programmers at media companies will continue to strive for the next big hit show, investing more in production in hopes of attracting audiences who are burdened with content choices. We predict fall sweeps will be among the best programming we’ve seen in order to retain audiences and combat fierce competition.
What you’re going to see are some big announcements from independent, digital-focused media companies breaking more into traditional channels like TV.
The younger media companies get it;—they not only appeal to the millennials but they understand how content is consumed fluidly—and have invested in platforms that deliver anytime, anywhere. Vice, for example, has quickly become a leader in original storytelling through video, which has enabled it to grow its audience.
Millennialization of media.
When it comes to programming this fall, you’re going to see more shows and content devoted to millennials coming of age. And you’re going to see this programming offered anytime, anywhere through devices and smartphones as millennials are turning off the TV and instead turning to more personal, portable devices. Expect to see more live programs as well.
Every story told.
Our last prediction is that content will become more diverse, not only in terms of format—long, short and even virtual—but also in terms of the types of stories it will tell and the storylines it will feature. We’ll predict content will be inclusive of every walk of life, truly leaving no story untold.
It’s no fairy tale; we’ll be seeing more brands aligning with audiences through content and well-told stories.
If you came within a five-mile radius of a WiFi signal Monday, you probably heard about the launch of Tidal, the new music streaming service and Jay-Z’s newest project. Artists turned over their social profiles in anticipation and support, and millions watched the livestream of the big unveiling.Analysis abounds on what this means for the music industry and artists (just Google “Taylor Swift + Tidal” and you’ll see what I mean), but what is the impact on advertisers?
It’s tempting to say “it’s ad-free, so there won’t be one,” but if Tidal wants to survive long term after this initial publicity blitz, it will have to embrace some form of a brand integration strategy. There is room for unique premium branded content plays – not ads per se – but videos, behind the scenes shows… exclusive, engaging content. An off-the-cuff example is Red Bull – I can easily see them pairing up with Tidal for their music integrations or death defying stunts.
Once Tidal embraces brand integrations, we start talking about competition – digital radio is growing and it is sought after environments for brands. It’s effective in longer storytelling and targetable for local, among other things. Another player in the mix will most likely increase audience fragmentation to a certain degree, but ultimately it is also another environment for brands to play with… assuming enough consumers jump onboard to make it worthwhile.
At the end of the day, consumers are value conscious. Yes, most music enthusiasts do want to support their favorite artists (and Tidal’s differentiating factor, aside from superior sound quality, is that it’s the “musician’s streaming service”), but a desire to support artists has yet to be proven to be enough for adoption (especially when subscription price point is fairly high). And in turn, brands follow consumer behavior, so Tidal needs to figure out what its audience is – most likely it will be affluent, 30s-40s – users who want premium content and are willing to pay more for the allure of Jay-Z’s affiliation.
We’re in the earliest stages of Tidal’s launch, so I’m guessing we’ll learn much more in the coming days, but in my opinion, the new kid on the block has some work to do to entice consumers and brands to catch the wave.
Ad Age has published a memorial of a kind already. Mr. Nimoy was no stranger to advertising, of course. His real influence, though, was never the equity he brought to marketing. Rather, his unique interpretation of the half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock, and the Star Trek science fiction narrative served as a vision and inspiration for all that was possible in the world for generations of us worldwide. Perhaps no other series of stories has brought to life a future of technology in which doctors have life-saving apparatuses an arm’s reach away; where space travel is everyday; computers have at their disposal the full knowledge of the entire human experience; machines learn and process massive data in an instant, provide reason and advice; and vessels of our own (and alien) design travel at the speed of light. And most of the technology featured is intended for the good of man, for the purposes of peace and to satisfy the insatiable thirst of human exploration and curiosity. And where weapons seemed to have a default state of stun, and not kill. A universe where anything seemed possible and it all seemed so real.
Reflecting on this brings me back to a whole course of events leading up to this day. Bear with me; this nostalgia comes from a place of honest grief. This is a eulogy of a kind.