Devices supporting Google Assistant have more than tripled in last four months

Over 5,000 devices can talk to Google

Google Assistant has had a good few months: Google’s smart assistant is now compatible with more than 5,000 devices, up from the 1,500 it worked with back in January.

According to Google, it’s a list made up of a huge variety of products, including “cameras, dishwashers, doorbells, dryers, lights, plugs, thermostats, security systems, switches, vacuums, washers, fans, locks, sensors, heaters, AC units, air purifiers, refrigerators, and ovens.” It’s a big jump — at least, numerically speaking — and if nothing else, it’s a sign that the full court press that Google started at the beginning of the year with its massive Google Assistant-themed booth at CES is starting to show some results.

Compare that number to Apple’s Homekit, which has just 195 products listed on Apple’s official site of devices that work with the iOS-based smart home system, and it seems like Google is making some serious progress.

But Google still has Amazon to contend with in the smart home assistant space, and it’s still got some catching up to do there: there are currently over 12,000 devices that work with Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Source: theverge.com; 3 May 2018

Ramadan and the new generation of Muslim consumers

WhatsApp facilitating daily Quran readings is just one example of how technology is shaping the holy month.

In recent years, Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, has gained increased importance for marketers as the Muslim population around the world rapidly expands—and particularly for a new generation of Muslim youth.

Muslims represent the second largest population worldwide, driving a significant share of consumer spending across sectors. While marketers in the Middle East and Africa have maintained a focus on Ramadan and its unique role, its cultural significance continues to lag in the west.

The majority of Muslims indicate that their faith and traditions impact their purchase decisions. But, the Muslim demographic is enormously diverse, making it hard to define a single and simple way to reach this audience. The month of Ramadan is the one touchpoint shared across the group, presenting a unique opportunity to establish meaningful connections with Muslim communities.

Ramadan is marked by religious significance, spiritual intensity and unique rituals affecting everything from eating and sleeping to media consumption. Today, Ramadan customs and rituals are undergoing a transformation, driven by digital natives who are shaping their own cultures and enjoying freedom to observe the holy month on their own terms. Young people are modernizing Ramadan rituals to give them a more personal meaning and suit their busy, connected lifestyles. They are discovering that sometimes keeping tradition means reinventing tradition.

Rather than focusing on a short-term sales strategy during this month, marketers should invest in long-term brand engagement strategies for both Muslim and non-Muslim consumers, built on shared values and consideration for the cultural importance of Ramadan.

Technology: an enabler of good practices

Historically, the distractions of technology have been deemed incompatible with the spirit of Ramadan. But for a younger generation of Muslims, technology plays an instrumental role in bringing them closer to values, traditions and one another during the holy month.

Yasmin, a 25-year-old Muslim from Egypt, shared her story about how reading the Quran became a daily practice with the help of WhatsApp group, Ekra2, where pages would be shared for members to read each day. Yasmin explained: “I never thought that WhatsApp would reconnect me with my faith.”

A young Pakistani tradesman maintained that “Ramadan apps are an absolute necessity.” When travelling for business, he relies on them for prayer timings, Quran readings, observing the right direction when praying, and connecting with family which is very important. As young Muslims use technology during Ramadan to inspire good practices, marketers can tap its power to enhance the festive spirit, facilitate sharing, good deeds and the formation of communities.

A quest for work-family-Ramadan balance

Muslim women are frequently the keepers of family traditions. During Ramadan, this role expands even further as they rise earlier, cook more and manage a range of social obligations.

As more women join the workforce and take on leadership positions, balancing these obligations while retaining time for self-reflection is a significant challenge. And the new generation of working women are feeling the pressure to live up to standards set by their older female relatives. Brands can help alleviate these pressures by offering practical solutions that minimize stress and create time for self-reflection.

Many women also see Ramadan as a time for personal growth and self-discovery. For those who don’t know how to cook, Ramadan becomes the perfect time to learn. “This Ramadan I want to know more. My aunt is cooking three dishes a day… I can at least learn to make one,” shared a young professional from UAE. Brands can help women unleash their creativity, add to their skills and spend quality time with family. Today, a lot of food brands make women’s task easier by sharing special Ramadan recipes, giving cooking tips and launching new products, but there is certainly an opportunity to go beyond that.

Ramadan through a youth culture lens

Allowing Ramadan rituals to evolve for contemporary society can preserve tradition in many ways. One busy young Muslim family chose to replace a lavish traditional meal with a BBQ, focusing on sharing a meal with family and friends rather than immaculate table settings. A millennial uncle gives Amazon gift cards instead of cash.

Younger generations have undoubtedly made Ramadan more Instagrammable, with fashion and social media fuelling ideas and interactions: dressing up in stylish outfits and high-end abayas, booking fancy hotel gatherings, and publicizing charitable activities. Ramadan symbolism and rituals have found a place in pop culture that brings together individual style and long held traditions.

With youth reshaping their approaches to Ramadan, marketers should explore how to help young families create their own traditions, and how their brands can offer innovative ways to engage with the occasion, make it more festive and encourage participation in charitable causes on a larger scale.

Ramadan presents a unique occasion for brands to connect with the Muslim communities in a way that is authentic and drives shared values. For non-Muslim markets, it can also be the right time to break barriers of misunderstanding.

Source: campaignasia.com; 7 May 2018

Asia beats global standards for viewability, but fraud risk remains high in Singapore

Viewability across a number of Asian markets has surpassed the global average, according to a new report from Integral Ad Science.

Across South East Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, a digital impression was measured at roughly 59 per cent in view for one second, while the global average currently stands at 56 per cent.

Of these markets, Malaysia and Singapore saw the highest viewability with 68 and 64 per cent respectively. At the other end, Hong Kong trailed behind its neighbours with just 50 per cent.

Across all buy types, nearly one in four impressions was still in view after 15 seconds, the report added.

However, the data suggested ad fraud remains a significant concern for marketers, particularly in Singapore and Hong Kong.

According to the report, both markets had higher fraud risks, at 20.7 per cent and 14.0 per cent respectively, due to ad fraudsters tendency to follow where the digital spend goes and be more active in the advanced markets.

Meanwhile, non-optimised desktop display fraud rates across South East Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan was said to average 7.2 per cent, while the global figure stands at 8.7 per cent.

Brand safety risk was also highlighted for being “relatively low” in the region at 3.5 per cent, peaking in Indonesia where 9.1 per cent of display ad impressions were flagged for appearing on unsafe websites.

Following closely behind Indonesia for display brand safety risk was Thailand, where 8.6 per cent of ads were flagged as a risk to brand safety

IAS managing director Niall Hogan said: “This report shows the importance to advertisers, and buyers and sellers of digital media, of looking at SEA on a country level. Display brand safety over all is relatively low at 3.5 per cent across the region, but peaks in Indonesia at 9.1 per cent.

“Likewise, we see low levels of Fraud in most SEA markets, but it is high at 20.7 per cent in Singapore. This is most likely because fraudsters are chasing the higher CPMs that a market like Singapore commands. It is only by looking at their own data, in the different markets that they advertise in, that advertisers will be able to identify potential problems, and ultimate make changes that improve efficiencies and save them money.”

Source: mumbrella.asia; 26 Apr 2018

Facebook to allow users to clear browsing history

In response to consumer demand for more control over their data in the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social network is rolling out more features aimed at improving user privacy.

During his keynote at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference on May 1, founder Mark Zuckerberg laid out the company’s investments aimed at improving users’ safety and ability to connect on its platforms. One of these tools will enable consumers to clear their browsing history, which many advertisers rely on for targeting.

Prioritizing privacy

Political data firm Cambridge Analytica used access to more than 50 million users’ personal data to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In his address, Mr. Zuckerberg admitted that Cambridge Analytica was a “massive breach of trust.”

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has made Facebook so vigilant about protecting its users’ information that it is cracking down on which third parties can access data.

According to TechCrunch, a number of third-party applications were suddenly made incompatible with Instagram this week after the Facebook-owned company abruptly changed access to its API. This comes just a few days after Facebook revoked its Partner Categories feature, which allows brands and advertisers to target relevant users through Facebook and Instagram.

At F8, Mr. Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is bringing in independent auditors to find apps that are misusing consumer data. When breaches are found, the social network will let consumers know.

Taking inspiration from the Internet browser feature in which users can clear their cookies and browsing data, Facebook is launching its own clear history option.

As GDPR approaches in Europe, Facebook is also giving consumers around the globe more ability to control their data.

“Facebook is getting the message that privacy and transparency are important to Facebook users and Internet users in general,” said Dan Goldstein, president and owner of Page 1 Solutions, in a comment about the presentation. “Giving users the ability to identify and manage which sites are tracking information about them shows that Facebook is actively taking positive steps to protect user privacy.

“Time will tell, but this may help Facebook overcome the shadow of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.”

Despite its troubles, Facebook was still far and away the most popular platform for digital advertising this past year, according to a report from Forrester Research.

The report found that Facebook and Alibaba together were jointly responsible for 48 percent of the year-over-year ad spend growth throughout the world. Facebook’s overall share of global advertising also has grown significantly since 2015, making it an even more dominant presence for brands of all sizes.

Along with privacy updates, Facebook is focusing on features that enable people to make connections with both other users and businesses.

On Instagram, the company is adding augmented reality camera effects, allowing users to add filters to their posts.

Facebook will debut watch parties, allowing users to watch and comment on videos with friends.

Messaging application WhatsApp launched an app for businesses earlier this year, seeing an opportunity for consumers to connect with businesses via text message.

Facebook also sees augmented reality and virtual reality as important tools for the future. At the conference, the company announced it was launching sales of Oculus Go VR headsets on May 1.

Source: luxurydaily.com; 1 May 2018

Instagram is getting a slew of product updates

Instagram will receive several new features and a product change over the coming months. Broadly, the changes are aimed at encouraging Instagram users to post more often and browse content for longer periods of time.

Achieving these objectives would keep Instagram competitive with its social rivals and convince some of its 2 million monthly advertisers to spend more heavily on the platform.

Below is a closer look at Instagram’s key product updates and why they could help the company shore up against its social competitors:

The ability for third-party apps like Spotify to post directly to Instagram Stories.

Spotify users are now able to click a button in the app to share a sticker on Instagram Stories of the song they’re listening to, for example. The Spotify integration is live, with other third-party app partnerships coming at a later date. Third-party integrations will likely help boost the number of Stories created, as they eliminate the friction associated with posting certain content to Stories. Instagram’s not alone in pushing users to post more content — Twitter is reportedly developing a tool that simplifies the video-posting process, for example.

A new video calling feature that facilitates one-on-one or group chats.

Users will be able to access this feature by tapping on a new camera icon in their direct messaging threads. Users can also minimize video calls on their screens to browse while chatting with friends. Instagram is currently testing the feature and will roll it out globally “soon.” With this move, Instagram is playing catch-up to its social rival Snapchat, which released a video chat feature — that lets up to 16 people video chat at once — in April.

A redesigned Explore page that groups content into scrollable categories.

The new tab, which will roll out over the coming weeks, will feature a horizontal scrollable carousel of buttons sorted by themes, like animals and architecture. Users can click into these categories to browse more of the content. Prior to the update, content sorted by categories wasn’t as closely grouped together in the Explore tab, implying the update will likely help save users time in scrolling through Explore to find content they’re interested in. This could allow Instagram to capitalize on Snapchat’s major app redesign, which some users have complained has somewhat hurt discoverability in the app.

Source: businessinsider.com; 3 May 2018

Amazon launches Alexa Agency Plan

In a bid to accelerate adoption of Alexa for advertisers and agencies eager to attain first mover advantage in voice search, Amazon has launched a paid platform plan.

Amazon is accelerating adoption of Alexa as a preferred voice search platform.

Launching the Alexa Agency Plan, Amazon is targeting small agencies and consumer-focused SMEs with a set of tools to close the gap between planning and executing.

Supporting search engine optimization, content marketing, and paid-search for Bing and Google, the platform aims to help advertisers and agencies reduce time spent in analysing the validity of a media mix and more time executing on it.

“The research phase in understanding the industry of a prospective client should be cut in half,” said Danish Ayub, CEO of MWM Studioz. “Given what is offered and promised, an Alexa Agency Plan could eliminate the exhaustive time taken during the data collection and analysis phase in understanding competitors and audiences.”

He adds that while most SME’s in the APAC region do not have the required talent to execute digital in-house, most do hold Amazon in high regard and would be more willing to accept the strategy analysis endorsed by the platform.

Advertisers and agencies that use the platform can access intelligence about traffic sources, audience interests, keywords, backlinks, and a comparison tool for digital properties.

Source: campaignasia.com; 19 Apr 2018

Demographics Are Dead: Welcome to the Age of Intent

– Demographics-based targeting (such as by age, gender, income) is unreliable.

– Targeting audiences based on their behavioural “intent” or affinity (such as what they watch, search, visit) gives marketers a more accurate picture of their audience.

– Intent-based targeting also allows for more relevant and customized creative messaging tailored to individuals.

Imagine a 45-year-old executive. Work is important to her, but equally important is her well-being. She has a passion for tennis because it taps into her competitive streak. She can afford premium racquets and the latest attire, and she runs through thousands of tennis balls every year. She fuels herself with great food and doesn’t feel guilty indulging in chocolate every now and then.

Many of us know someone like this. From a brand perspective, she is part of the target audience for a range of industries and categories. So which brands are marketing to her? Who is speaking to her when she craves her next box of chocolate or when it’s time to upgrade her racquet?

Surprisingly, no one. Not one brand is reaching her in these moments because she doesn’t fit the typical brief that defines a campaign by age group, stage of life, income, or locations. Within these antiquated parameters, we will seldom, if ever, address the true intentions of a potential customer.

Brands that want to win their next customer need to realize and respect their identities. Demographics are dead; this is the age of context and intent.

When demographics reigned supreme

In 1605, the first newspaper was printed in Germany, but it was 100 years later when the first advertisement appeared in the American newspaper Boston News-Letter. From then on, consumer attention was owned by a handful of media channels, keeping the advertiser’s job fairly simple.

As TV and radio took off, marketers relied on demographics to define their audiences because they were the most readily available metrics. Panels and surveys were used to validate assumptions and draw correlations around media spend, but they were always lacking direct, real-time customer data around who saw their ads and took follow-up actions. In many ways, the tried-and-true approach that became an industry standard was merely statistically significant guesswork.

These strategies became ingrained in every marketing curriculum. There was no need to change the formula for success—it was straightforward and everyone understood it. But today, the always-connected consumer is constantly indicating what they’re interested in and what they aspire to do, creating millions of opportunities for marketers to speak to their ideal audiences in a more thoughtful manner.

Homing in on the right signals

Here’s what the old approach would look like in today’s world: A health and beauty brand is about to launch a new baby shampoo. Based on the standard playbook, the brand will prioritize 20-35 year-old females because they are the typical “new moms” who are in a middle income bracket and have at least a secondary school education. The brand will target these women across media channels, reaching as many of them as possible at the optimum frequency.

While this will drive results, they may not be optimal, leading to wasted media dollars. A fresh approach would toss out gender, age, education, and income and swap in signals of intent, such as people who watch parenting videos, search for parenting advice, visit family planning sites, and download helpful parenting mobile apps.

The power of intent

By targeting true intent-based signals, the health and beauty brand will shrink the number of females in the originally desired age bracket. However, it will improve its addressable audience by restricting targeting to only those who have provided clear indications that they’re in-market for baby-related products. What’s more, the brand will expand its reach by including other age groups and even males, who are just as likely to be looking for products for their children.

Demographics-driven stereotypes have been proven to be unreliable, leading to irrelevant ads that don’t win attention. In Malaysia, 40% of YouTube viewers of parenting topics are males and 50% of viewers are over 35 years old. That means that a brand is missing at least 40% of their addressable audience with demographics alone, and that’s before accounting for those who aren’t mothers and wouldn’t find the ad relevant.

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Pulling it all together

The power of intent-based signals goes far beyond optimizing media spend. According to Ipsos, relevance and personalization are the top attributes associated with video ads that earn attention. Naturally, when people feel like they’re being spoken to directly, the ad will resonate with them more than a generic ad because they feel understood.

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Brands rethinking their targeting strategies are already seeing the benefits: YouTube data indicates that campaigns using intent-based targeting have 20% higher ad recall lift and 50% higher brand awareness lift compared with campaigns that only use demographic targeting. Combining increased intent-driven relevance with YouTube’s primetime reach and industry-leading viewability and audibility at 95% each is a world-class formula for earning valuable attention.

A new golden age for brands

We live in complex times, and at the pace that data is being produced, they will not get simpler. Brands have a golden opportunity to stand out in the crowd, but they need to invest time and resources into understanding their true audiences and upskill their teams to build strategies based on this new understanding.

Today’s consumers expect brands to understand them better. The onus is on us. Our customers are the sum of their intentions, expressed everyday by where they go, what they watch, what they search for, and what they aspire to achieve. The age of demographics is dead. Welcome to the age of intent.

Source: thinkwithgoogle.com; Mar 2018

Snapchat launches shoppable AR Lenses

Adidas and Candy Crush developer King are among the first users.

Snapchat is now allowing advertisers to add a button to their Lens with which users can open a website, play a video or install an app, while staying within Snapchat.

The launch partners include Adidas, which will use the button to open a website in an AR experience for the Deerupt Runner Shoe, and Candy Crush developer King, which will use it for an app install for the puzzle game.

Peter Sellis, director of revenue product at Snapchat, said: “Shoppable AR Lenses give brands a new way to leverage our unique scale—more than half of the 13- to 34-year-old population of the US plays with our AR Lenses each week on average—to drive real and measurable ROI, whether that’s through sales, downloads, lead gen, or video views.”

Chris Murphy, head of digital experience for Adidas US, said the new feature was “exactly the type of innovative move we were looking for and our new Deerupt product was a perfect fit.” He added: “We no longer live in a world where it has to be either brand or commerce. Consumers don’t think that way and neither should we.”

Source: campaignasia.com; 19 Apr 2018