Picture This: Marketers Let Emojis Do the Talking

couple holding hands

An illustration from Taco Bell’s Taco Emoji Engine

From my New York Times article:

The condom brand Durex has used World AIDS Day as a marketing hook for years, but for the most recent edition it tried something different: a condom emoji.

Durex said there was no icon that communicated a desire for safe sex, so it started a campaign to provide one on smartphone keyboards. The consortium that sets standards for characters and emojis has yet to approve it, but the mere fact that Durex started the campaign prompted 210 million mentions on Twitter and, by Durex’s estimates, drew 2.6 billion media impressions worldwide.

Such is the power of emojis. And more companies are taking notice.

“There’s a lot of brand demand for emojis,” said Ross Hoffman, senior director of global brand strategy at Twitter, which recently started offering custom emojis for companies to use in advertising. That is because some 92 percent of the online population now uses emojis, according to a study by Emogi, a start-up that uses them to let people indicate how they feel about particular ads. Swyft Media, which creates alternate phone keyboards featuring multiple emojis, says people send six billion of them a day.

Brands like emojis for several other reasons. For one, they reach ad-averse millennials, sailing past ad-blocking software. They are visual, which makes them a natural fit for popular messaging apps such as Snapchat and Instagram and also appeals to international audiences. And because they are meant to be shared, the brand images are distributed widely, free.

“All of a sudden, the brand is in this very personal conversation between friends and family,” said Evan Wray, the chief executive of Swyft Media.

Now, emojis are everywhere in marketing. …

Read the rest.

The Biggest Challenge In Yahoo’s Latest Turnaround Plan


Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

From my Forbes blog:

Another new year, another Yahoo turnaround attempt. But this one may be the toughest of all to pull off.

Today Yahoo announced plans alongside its fourth-quarter earnings report to proceed on a three-track strategic plan in response to shareholder demands. First, the company will cut 15 percent of the workforce–I mean, “changes in the employee footprint,” as Yahoo so eloquently put it–as it exits or cuts back on everything from games and TV initiatives to once-promising services such as Flickr and digital magazines.

Second, it will look into spinning off the core business plus its stake in Yahoo Japan, keeping only its $30 billion stake in Alibaba. (Though a company called Yahoo that is comprised only of a bunch of shares in a Chinese company still sounds odd.)

And third, it’s open to fielding offers to buy Yahoo outright. (Hello, Verizon. Or is it AT&T? Or News Corp.?)

Here’s the central problem: human nature. If you work at Yahoo and you know the company is getting shopped around to unknown buyers, how hard are you going to work on a plan that, in all likelihood, won’t make a bit of difference to a new owner who will, in all likelihood, slash and burn half of what you just did? …

Read the rest of the analysis.

Facebook’s Monster Mobile Ad Machine


fbq4-2015-evanstweetFrom my Forbes blog:

If there’s one number that stands out in Facebook’s by-all-accounts stellar fourth-quarter earnings report today, it’s the amount of advertising revenues from mobile devices: 80 percent.

Nobody should be surprised that mobile dominates Facebook’s revenues, which rose 52 percent in the quarter (66% on a constant currency basis), to $5.84 billion, from the previous year. A year ago, mobile ad sales were already 69 percent of the total.

But 80 percent is not only a nice round number, but one that says Facebook is inarguably and irrevocably a mobile company. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said during the earnings call that mobile ad revenues rocketed 81 percent, to $4.5 billion. It’s such a commanding number that those ads on the right side of the desktop home page, let alone in the desktop news feed, almost feel like holdovers from a bygone era.

Like 2012. That’s when Facebook’s initial public offering of shares stumbled largely because the social network had essentially zero revenues from mobile. Zero! …

Read the rest of the analysis.

Marketing in the Moments, to Reach Customers Online


From my New York Times story:

Moments are having a moment in advertising. Or at least a micromoment.

As people flit from app to app online, they have little patience for any interruption, especially a banner ad or, heaven forbid, a 30-second commercial. Moments, whether they come during a 10-second Snapchat video or Twitter’s new collection of real-time news bites — called, fittingly enough, Moments — increasingly are all companies have to market against.

Companies that buy and sell online advertising are taking aim at these fleeting instances. They are hoping that targeting people based on what they are doing on their mobile devices at a particular time might make them more receptive to the message.

Last fall, for instance, the spirits company Campari America targeted liquor consumers aged 21 to 34 while they were in neighborhoods with lots of bars and restaurants. Using Kiip, a San Francisco firm that places ads in mobile apps, Campari offered consumers $5 off from the ride-sharing service Lyft when, say, they checked a score on an app while at a sports bar. More than 20 percent redeemed the offer, a high rate for digital ads.

“The attention span of consumers today is, what, eight seconds?” said Umberto Luchini, Campari America’s vice president for marketing. “You get one shot.”

And an ever more brief one at that. …

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Why Google Is Doubling Down On VR (Hint: It’s Not Oculus)


From my Forbes blog:

More than a year and a half after Google introduced what still looks more like a mockup of a virtual-reality device than a real virtual-reality device, it’s finally getting real on VR. But not for the reason most people seem to think.

Today, Google confirmed that it has created a new virtual-reality group headed by Clay Bavor, a vice president for product management who has headed apps such as Gmail, Docs, and Drive–and Cardboard, the cheapo device that turns a smartphone into a crude but surprisingly effective VR headset.

The assumption by many observers is that Google is playing catch-up to Facebook’s Oculus, which just released its high-end Rift device, and other VR headsets such as the Oculus-powered Samsung Gear VR introduced last fall.

But the search giant is playing a rather different game than Facebook, in particular, and other makers of VR devices. …

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Optimal Pitches Subscription Alternative To Ad Blocking


Optimal.com founder and CEO Rob Leathern

From my Forbes blog:

Rob Leathern has spent the last decade and more trying to find better ways for advertisers to serve us online ads. So why are he and four colleagues from his previous company starting a new one that will let us pay publishers not to show us ads?

“We got to know the good, the bad, and the ugly,” said Leathern, founder and chief executive of Optimal.com. Since he sold his last company, the unrelated social media analytics and ad software firm OptimalSocial, to Brand Networks, in 2013, Leathern has been mulling how to fix a “broken” online advertising industry plagued by too many annoying, bandwidth-sucking, privacy-invading, malware-carrying banner and video ads.

To address that mess, today he’s announcing plans for what he calls a “smart subscription service for all the content on the web, minus the ads.” The idea is that people could sign up to pay a yet-undetermined monthly or annual fee to see any content they want but without ads for whatever sites they choose. They could still agree to see ads from sites that are showing ads “respectfully,” meaning those that aren’t deceptive in content or how they use people’s data for targeting.

After taking a small cut of those revenues, Optimal would pay publishers according to the percentage of overall Web traffic they generate. If users upvote a publisher or its specific content using Optimal’s system, the publisher could get a higher revenue share. Either way, the intention is that publishers would get at least as much revenue as they would from these subscribers viewing ads.

“We think there’s a legitimate use case for ad blocking,” says Leathern, whose younger brother is a magazine journalist in their native South Africa. “But if publishers don’t get paid, they can’t produce good content.” …

Read the rest of the story.

‘Unboxing’ Videos A Gift To Marketers

From my New York Times story:

One day last year, Jessica Nelson was surprised to find her toddler, Aiden, watching videos online in which people opened box after box of new toys, from Kinder Surprise chocolate eggs with trinkets inside to all manner of Disney merchandise.

“The next day we saw him watching more and more and more of them,” said Ms. Nelson, who lives in Toledo, Ohio. “He was pretty obsessed.”

She and her son, who turned 3 on Monday, had entered the world of “unboxing” videos, an extremely popular genre on YouTube where enthusiasts take products out of their packaging and examine them in obsessive detail. This year, according to YouTube, people have watched videos unveiling items like toys, sneakers and iPhones more than 1.1 billion times, for a total of 60 million hours.

The videos’ ability to captivate children has led toy makers, retailers and other companies to provide sponsorships and free toys to some of the most popular unboxing practitioners, who in turn can make a lucrative living. Hasbro and Clorox have ads that YouTube places on the videos.

Now, marketers are becoming even more involved. …

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