Weekly Round-Up: February 7th

Observations February 10, 2014 7:43 am

*Every Friday, I put together a round-up of newsworthy articles I’ve read over the past week over on R/GA FutureVision. Let me know if I’ve missed something, and happy reading!

Industry News

  • Microsoft named its 3rd CEO this week, Satya Nadella. Nadella was Microsoft’s former cloud and enterprise head, and will be tasked with bringing the company up to speed in mobile. This new mobile focus is already evident- Microsoft announced a $15M investment in Foursquare this week. Microsoft will use Foursquare data to power contextual recommendations for Windows Phone users as well as a new Siri-like personal assistant, Cortana. Microsoft is smart to focus on contextual relevance and proactive intelligence, but is still playing catch-up to Google, Apple, and even Yahoo, who recently acquired Aviate.

  • As Microsoft doubles down on mobile, Apple also made headlines this week with its plans to build a smarter battery for next generation phones and wearables. Battery size and life are a major obstacle to wearable adoption and mobile change, but solar-powered or magnetic solutions may soon usher in a new era of innovation.

  • The wearable device best positioned to reach mainstream adoption? It might be the Pebble, which announced the launch of its app store this week. With over 1,000 new available apps, the watch can integrate into nearly every aspect of users’ lives: PebbleBucks to pay for drinks at Starbucks, Huebble to control Philips Hues lights, and RunKeeper to track daily activity.

  • Another emerging consumer technology, 3D printing, gets a boost from the White House. The White House will host its first Maker Faire, which along with championing 3D printing, celebrates ‘makers of things, not consumers of things.’ Microsoft may want to take note if innovation is their goal.

Marketing & Communications

  • CVS continues to rebrand as a health care provider by vowing to stop selling cigarettes in all of its stores. The move was quickly applauded by the likes of President Obama and the American Heart Association, but also drew a few questions: if CVS wants to position itself as a health care provider, why will it continue to sell sodas and junk food?

  • McDonald’s Canada continued its transparency push this week, responding to ‘pink goop’ criticism by showing how the chain’s nuggets are made. This video is one is a series of videos McDonald’s Canada has created in response to consumer questions in an effort to be more transparent about its operations. As consumers and brands become more health conscious (see above: CVS), transparency will become increasingly important for brands like McDonald’s. Especially as they come under attack from competitors like Chipotle.

  • If you live in NYC, you may have seen (and hated) payment service Venmo’s subway ads, which feature Lucus, a regular guy who has dreams, loves magic, and takes the stairs. But the continued press for the ads show that the joke is on us- subway ads are generally never discussed or remembered, but yet, for a solid three months, Venmo has created buzz with Lucas. A strategy to think about.

FutureVision Feed: 2014 Super Bowl Trends

While the 2014 Super Bowl earned the distinction of being the most watched broadcast in television history, attracting 111 million viewers, it wasn’t a record breaking year for the advertisements. Although there were no breakout moments like Oreo’s 2013 ‘Dunk in the Dark’ tweet, the FutureVision team did spot some broader takeaways from the game:

#Hashtags Trump Second-Screen Interactivity

Last year’s advertising placed a major emphasis on viewer interactivity. Most notably, Coke asked viewers to reach for their ‘second screens’ and go to the company’s website to vote to determine the ending of the ‘Coke Chase,’ but the effort missed the mark (and the website crashed just moments after the ad aired). This year, only H&M promoted a second-screen experience, asking fans watching on Samsung Smart TVs to shop for David Beckham’s skivvies. Instead of trying to create epicly interactive ‘second-screen’ experiences, advertisers pushed Twitter conversations, with 38 spots showing a hashtag, up from only 20 last year. Budweiser’s #bestbuds hashtags had the most success, generating over 59K mentions. Twitter consulted with brands to help them refine their hashtags this year.

A Softer Side: Less Bikinis, More Puppies

Advertisers embraced a softer side this year. Amid controversy over the safety of the sport, commercials veered away from the goofy and overtly masculine towards the serious and uplifting. Chevrolet addressed cancer survival, Budweiser gave a “hero’s welcome” to a returning war veteran, and Cheerios took on family planning. Budweiser’s other commercial, “Puppy Love”, tells the story of a dog’s determination to hang out with his favorite Budweiser Clydesdale horse — and the horse’s heartwarming reaction. The ad was voted the top commercial during the game by viewers on Hulu and also earned the top spot on USA Today’s Ad Meter.

Who Doesn’t Love The Good Old Days?

Nostalgia was another recurring theme with this year’s commercials. Following the success of last year’s feel-good spot ‘The Force’, Volkswagen went back to 1946 with the classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. In the ad, VW engineers earn their angel wings when one of the cars they design reach 100,000-miles. To show how much they’ve changed since the 80s, Radio Shack’s ad featured two clerks being told that “The 80′s called, and they want their stuff back,” followed by the California Raisins, Alf, and Hulk Hogan tearing the store apart. Along similar lines, Dannon Oikos reunited the castmates of “Full House” for their take on a good old fashioned “remember those guys” spot.

Is The Big Game Worth The Spend?

At a record $4 million per 30 seconds of air time, there was lot of pressure to win the world’s biggest advertising competition. However, some brands found it more effective to avoid the costly in-game spots and be transparent about the money they saved. Esurance, which ran an ad immediately after the game ended, received more than 2.1 million tweets using its hashtag, and 200,000 of those tweets came in the first minute. Viewers tweeted in hopes of winning $1.5 million — the 30% discount the company saved by running the ad after the game. Esurance delivered on its $1.5M promise, and in addition to its 30% discount, earned 2.6 billion Twitter impressions from the campaign. Newcastle also capitalized on their absence from the starting line-up. Before the game, Newcastle created buzz with ‘If We Made It‘ ads discussing the commercials that would have been if the company had the money. During the game, the company then spoofed Doritos, Chobani, Wonderful Pistachios, and Jaguar commercials, explaining in real-time how Newcastle could have made them better.

With The Web, There Is No Such Thing As A Small Market

Greats ads that no one sees might become a Super Bowl tradition. Last year, Will Ferrell’s Old Milwaukee spot only aired in in North Platte, Neb., the second-smallest TV market in the country. During halftime this year, Savannah, Georgia residents saw a commercial for a lawyer that looked like a cross between a documentary trailer and a metal music video. The two-minute spot features him gazing at pictures of his brother, sitting in churches, and manipulating a flaming sledgehammer. Both Will Ferrell and the flame-loving lawyer generated significant buzz well-beyond the small markets in which they aired. This year’s crop of commercials also did a good job appropriating internet memes. Reminiscent of the “I Quit” interpretive dance meme, Go Daddy re-hashed the idea by getting a real person to quit their job (live) with the assistance of John Turturro. And Squarespace’s debut Super Bowl ad was one giant compilation of everything on the web.

High-Tech Arenas Miss Mobile Opportunities

This year, both Times Square and the MetLife Stadium featured beacons that sent finely tuned messages to an official NFL Mobile app on fans’ phones. Those messages included in-store discounts and directions to things like the bathroom or nearest entrance. There aren’t any reports yet of the success of the beacons experiment, but judging by reader comments, advertisers have a long way to go to before convincing consumers of the tech’s value.

While the NFL did provide an app to attendees with an event guide and “exclusive content”, it blocked all live video streaming of the game within the stadium due to the immense load video traffic would place on networks in the arena. Rather than experiment with beacons, this seems like a missed opportunity for brands to capitalize on in-stadium second screen experiences, like instant replays, additional player information, or an augmented halftime show.

Social Stats

  • Facebook turns ten:

    • The social network is used by 57% of American adults.

    • 64% of users visit the site on a daily visit.

    • 44% of users ‘like’ content posted by their friends at least once a day.
  • 76% of Twitter users are now mobile:

    • Mobile monthly users are growing at a rate of 37%, faster than the network’s overall growth of 30%.

    • Mobile ads now make up 75% of ad sales.

Long Reads

  • How do you visualize a city’s public space? Two interesting projects could help urban planners better utilize public spaces for pedestrians and bikers. Nathan Yau of FlowingData uses RunKeeper data to highlight where people run in cities (although the data is a little fishy), and Jon Geeting of the blog This Old City studies snow ‘sneckdowns’ to highlight unused street space that could be made more pedestrian friendly. Twitter’s new research grants may also prove beneficial to urban planners, helping them to place and analyze trends.

  • Are millennials the smartest generation? A new study from UBS indicates millennials have similar attitudes towards money as the Great Depression generation. Conservative and wary after the 2008 recession, millennials may be the generation best equipped to address personal financial challenges.

  • Law and Order aired from 1990-2010. A new project from artist Jeff Thompson traces technological change throughout the two decades (and gives Mary Meeker a run for her money) by cataloging over 11,000 images of all the computers ever featured in the series. His project tells us how basic design changed, but also gives a hint to our relationship with technology from how computers were used and featured in episodes.

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