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. …

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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.

‘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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SF App Startup Cola Creates ‘Slack For The Rest Of Us’

 

message thread 1

From my Forbes blog:

There’s no end of messaging apps that let you exchange texts, photos and videos with friends–Whatsapp, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook Messenger and so on. There are also a lot of business-oriented apps such as Slack, HipChat, and Yammer.

But what about a messaging app that lets you address the space in between entertainment and work, which is to say coordinating and planning activities with a few friends or coworkers? That’s what Cola aims to do.

Today the San Francisco-based startup is launching a limited, private beta test of an app that uses messaging as the basis for a wide variety of common things people want to get done, from figuring out where and when to meet with friends and creating joint to-do lists to tracking expenses at work and even engaging in multi-player games. The idea, says cofounder and CEO David Temkin, is that messaging has emerged as the most important function of a smartphone and even the foundation of many apps on the smartphone, from Uber to DoorDash to Venmo. “We are entering an era when messaging is the central app, like the browser was for the Web,” says Temkin.

Indeed, Temkin hopes to make Cola the first “messaging OS,” a platform on which activities that need to be coordinated among a small number of people can get done using messaging as the essential delivery mechanism. …

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Pingpad: A New Social Network For Getting Things Done

Pingpad CEO and cofounder Ross Mayfield

Pingpad CEO and cofounder Ross Mayfield

From my Forbes blog:

There’s no lack of apps to communicate and collaborate with friends, family and colleagues. You use messaging apps such as Snapchat, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to ping friends, and maybe team collaboration darling Slack at work. You’ve got document sharing apps and services such as Google Docs, Quip or Microsoft Office Mobile, Dropbox for storing files, maybe Evernote for quick notes, and oh-so-many calendars for your job, your family, and your kids’ soccer teams. And of course there’s still email.

Whew. And therein lies the problem, says Ross Mayfield. The 44-year-old serial entrepreneur knows collaborative software, having co-founded Socialtext in 2002 to commercialize the seminal group-edited Web pages called wikis. Now, he believes that precisely because of the explosion of communications, collaboration, and productivity apps since then, there’s a need for a much more simple way to bring them all together. When Mayfield and his future wife were planning their wedding, for instance, he needed to use a wide array of apps and Web services to keep track of catering and location options, as well as arrange activities such as a wishing tree that required help from friends. The scattered nature of all those tools made it difficult for multiple people to use, especially on the go.

Today, Mayfield’s year-old startup, Pingpad, is launching a free app on Apple’s and Google’s app stores and a connected service on the Web that aims to elevate messaging into a way for people to get things done–and not just at work. Unlike at Socialtext and largely unlike most collaboration services all the way from Lotus Notes to Yammer to Slack, the nine-person company isn’t chiefly aimed at businesses. “We had a lot of innovation around collaboration in the 2000s,” he said in an interview in the makeshift upstairs office at his newly rented house near downtown Palo Alto. “But very little of it reached consumers.” …

Already, messaging has started to become something of an atomic unit of many kinds of apps. Even non-messaging apps such as Uber, Instagram, Meerkat, Facebook, and Twitter are appealing in part because they have short messages at their core to make their services quick and easy to use. That has some experts comparing the impact of messaging to that of operating systems such as Microsoft’s Windows that serve as platforms for many applications. “We see messaging as the new OS–all sorts of activity will happen inside of it,” says Marc Canter, co-founder of Cola, a messaging startup not quite ready to announce its service. …

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Twitter’s Temp CEO Jack Dorsey Sure Doesn’t Talk Like A Temp

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey

Twitter CEO-for-now Jack Dorsey

From my Forbes blog:

On a wild day when investors couldn’t figure out whether they loved or hated Twitter’s second-quarter earnings, one thing was clear: Jack Dorsey is in charge.

At least for now. But during a blunt earnings conference call also broadcast on Twitter’s Periscope app, Dorsey sounded as if he’d really like to do the job much longer.

Dorsey, the temporary Twitter CEO who’s also CEO of soon-to-go-public Square, isn’t expected to get the permanent nod for the top job. Current speculation centers mostly on two people. One is Adam Bain, president of global revenue and partnerships, who can boast a better-than-expected performance on the advertising revenue front this past quarter as well as the undying love of the entire ad industry. The other is fast-rising Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto.

Nonetheless, Dorsey sure sounded like an owner, not just a temporarily returning cofounder, throughout the earnings call. Plainly laying out how recent user growth initiatives haven’t worked, he said, “This is unacceptable and we’re not happy about it.” …

Whatever title Dorsey ends up with, it’s clear that he intends to drive Twitter’s future. “I’ve never been more sure of the value Twitter brings to our world,” he said at the close of the earnings call. And, it seems, never more sure that he’s the guy to prove it.

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The One Missing Ingredient In Facebook’s All-Out Drive For TV Ad Dollars

From my Forbes blog:

Beyond plans to spend like crazy on everything from search to virtual reality, Facebook gave investors little to complain about in its fourth-quarter results reported Jan. 28. Ad revenues jumped a stunning 53%, and they would have been five points higher but for currency fluctuations. Mobile ads rose to 69% of those revenues, up from 53% a year ago, a sure sign of the company’s progress in making advertising on phones and tablets compelling. Annual revenues blew past $10 billion for the first time.

But investors pay for future profits, so it’s important to step back a bit and assess how well Facebook is positioned vs. an always-growing pack of rivals–Snapchat, Pinterest, Google and YouTube, Twitter, and yes, even Yahoo. In particular, it’s not yet clear that Facebook has cracked the opportunity for brand advertising, the kind of image ads that dominate television, where most advertising dollars are still spent.

What’s the problem? One ad agency executive I talked to has an idea, and it involves not only advertising but the reality of Facebook’s core service, its news feed. The issue, says Craig Elimeliah, senior vice president and director of creative technology at RAPP, is that Facebook has saturated its most lucrative audience, the U.S. and to some extent Europe. There’s the rest of the world, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the Internet.org effort to get them online is one of Facebook’s 10-year projects, not three to five years.

To keep growing–not just audience but time spent on the site, which leads to revenues–Facebook must give people more reasons to use it than they have, Elimeliah says. While Facebook has frequently changed up the look and the algorithms of the news feed, we’re still doing basically the same things on it that we have for years: watching a bunch of cat videos, fake news stories from the Onion, and photos from friends. Nothing wrong with all that, but it’s pretty passive, especially for a social network in the hyperconnected age of Snapchat.

“They really haven’t evolved the engagement on the platform much,” says Elimeliah. “There’s a lot of noise and clutter.” He thinks the rise of Snapchat shows how young people want closer, more immediate interactions with friends, and advertising that works in that context. Indeed, Elimeliah says he’s “blown away” by Snapchat Discover, its just-announced content and advertising service (check out the video below). The “low-friction” experience is already getting kudos from media types. “It blows Facebook out of the water from an engagement standpoint,” he says, because it fits so well into the intimate and yes, ephemeral Snapchat service.

Facebook needs to make sure it provides the right context for those ads–a place where ads not only seem natural but play in a context that isn’t quite as noisy and distracting as the current news feed. Video ads also seem unlikely to be effective unless they are made to be consumed on the go and provide actionable information–so they can’t be simply downsized TV spots. “I don’t know if the Facebook platform can make that kind of change,” Elimeliah says. …

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