Google highlighted the Assistant at I/O 2018

At its annual I/O developer conference, Google made several announcements related to its voice assistant, Google Assistant, that aim to spur adoption of the technology. The biggest updates circle around improving natural interactions and adding a visual component.

Google is enabling more natural interactions with the Assistant aimed to bolster usage of the platform with four key additions:

– Google introduced a Continued Conversation feature. Continued Conversation allows Google Assistant users to ask multiple questions in succession without having to repeat the “Hey, Google” wake-up word for each command. This feature, which should be available in the coming weeks, is similar to Amazon Alexa’s Follow-Up Mode.

– Google launched the ability to create custom Routines. Google rolled out Routines in March 2018 to enable users to manage their connected devices with just a single voice command to Google Assistant, but it was limited to only six pre-programmed Routines. Allowing for customization of Google Assistant Routines could make the platform more useful for consumers, and puts it on par with Alexa.

– Google rolled out a Multiple Actions feature. The Multiple Actions feature allows users to make multiple requests in one voice command. Now Google Assistant will be able to listen to a string of commands within 8 seconds of the initial command. The new feature will improve the speed of the Assistant’s responses, as users no longer have to wait for a second, or third, response.

– Google Assistant now supports six new voices. This brings the total number of voices the Assistant supports to eight — previously, Google Assistant let its users pick between just one female and one male voice. The new voices are built with machine learning technology called WaveNet, which is DeepMind’s model for creating natural-sounding speech. WaveNet also powers Google’s Cloud Text-to-Speech platform.

Google Assistant is also becoming visually assistive. Google unveiled a new experience for Google Assistant that brings up visual information as well as new ways to interact with apps such as those for smart home products. When a user makes a Google Assistant voice request, the assistant will provide a more interactive visual, full-screen experience. For instance, when asking Google Assistant to turn down the heat, a display will show up on the phone with a way to adjust the temperature.

The Google Assistant-powered smart speakers with screen displays will launch in July, with partners including Lenovo, LG, Sony, and Harman via JBL. Smart display speakers can perform all the same functions as smart speakers, but they also offer the ability for users to make video calls, watch videos, look at photos, and search the internet, using both their voice and hands. They also serve as a funnel to bring consumers to YouTube, particularly in areas like the kitchen, where a hands-free, voice-controlled screen could be useful for instructional videos, for example.

The latest announcements could be key in helping Google bolster its voice assistant platform. Google’s emphasis on making the overall Google Assistant experience more conversational and visually assertive will likely fuel engagement on the platform.

As Google Assistant becomes more intelligent and allows for a more natural interaction, and developers create better and more useful ways to integrate them with consumers’ lives, the Assistant will cement itself as the primary way consumers interact with their devices.

Advancements in a bevy of industries are helping intelligent digital voice assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa become more sophisticated and useful pieces of technology.

Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are allowing them to accurately understand more information, while upgrades to mobile networks are facilitating quick transfers of data to robust clouds, enabling fast response times. In addition, the swell of internet connected devices like smart thermostats and speakers is giving voice assistants more utility in a connected consumer’s life.

However, there are still numerous barriers that need to be overcome before this product platform will see mass adoption, as both technological challenges and societal hurdles persist.

Source: businessinsider.com; 9 May 2018

China’s hip-hop ban: lessons for brands

Why all hope isn’t lost for brands looking to tap Chinese counterculture.

In the summer of 2017, China’s mainstream video streaming platform iQiyi released a very special singing contest, The Rap Of China.

It was special, because the genre was largely a fringe artform in urban hubs, even though Taiwanese singer Jay Chou’s R&B influenced brand of hip-hop first entered into mainstream music more than a decade ago. But each of the 12 episodes of The Rap Of China—hip hop’s first appearance on mainstream TV—got between 200 and 300 million views. All of a sudden, music with a stronger hip-hop flavour became mainstream.

At first, its rise was dismissed by the government as a ‘foreign-born’ homage, an inevitable by-product of the cultural globalisation of the noughties that saw Eminem and 50 Cent find their way onto the walls of Chinese middle-class bedrooms. Yes, there was the inevitable display of streetwear and bling posturing. Chou eventually launched his streetwear label PHANTACi.

But there was something different about hip-hop in China. The lyrics often talked about overbearing parents, urban boredom and the desire to travel the world. Often sung in mixes of local dialects, Mandarin and English, Chinese hip-hop had a home-grown identity of its own and reflected the unique characteristics of the Chinese urban middle classes, striving for a new identity.

Within the first few episodes, The Rap Of China had generated enough memes and trending topics to skyrocket to a hit. With celebrity judges, gruelling rules and participation from some of the biggest Chinese underground hip-hop stars, it wasn’t long before the show’s key sponsors McDonald’s and Nongfu Spring’s Vitamin Waters upped their involvement by shooting fresh ads with popular contestants.

Nongfu Spring’s Vitamin Waters picked Sun Baiyi, a Guizhou-born contestant famous for representing the voice of the urban Chinese white collar class. Their ad promoted the drinks’ energy-boosting properties (perfect for the 50-hour week) against a backdrop of hip-hop cool.

But in January, the Chinese government stepped in. TV appearances by rap contestants on other shows were suddenly pulled. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT), declared that “actors whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble” and who are “tasteless, vulgar and obscene” should not be on television. Beijing decided that hip-hop, as an entire culture, didn’t align with party values. And an entire culture that had been speaking to thousands (if not millions) was outlawed overnight.

Although the hip-hop ban was heavily criticised by Chinese netizens (of course not in the mainstream media), the public had seen this before.

But imagine planning and investing in a campaign wrapped around a culture, only to have it suddenly obliterated. In a market where government crackdowns can come out of nowhere, sending shockwaves through business and culture, brands may legitimately ask: What does this mean for strategy? How can you plan around such political and cultural uncertainty in China?

Recent research by Flamingo and DDB examined strategies for dealing with uncertainty, finding ways to reframe it in a more positive light. One of these, the ‘guide’ strategy, calls for a brand to stabilise itself through a deep understanding of whatever issue it’s facing, followed by reframing and offering a clear message to customers. Here, a focus on long-term goals and messaging is best. In the case of the sponsors of The Rap Of China, one of them, Nongfu Spring Vitamin Water, did just that.

Since the ban, rather than crying over the loss of a single platform, the brand revisited its brand pillars, encompassing a connection with creativity, youthfulness and motivation. The brand went on to sponsor other TV shows in the music genre and to hold inter-university singing contests. By encouraging consumers to look beyond the hip-hop trend and to think of the value of creativity more broadly, Nongfu Spring’s cultural identity stayed in place, appealing to those who enjoyed buying and drinking the rainbow-coloured water.

In the case of Chou’s PHANTACi label, it started out in sports fashion / streetwear rather than hip-hop, but since the show has borrowed elements of hip-hop culture to curate its products and brand. The Rap of China satisfied the curiosity of the Chinese public about a foreign culture. PHANTACi knows that, and since the ban has continued to curate a foreign culture to mass Chinese consumers. But it has suffered less from the ban since its original engagement with hip-hop music is shallower.

Underground and mainstream

Meanwhile, Chinese fans have taken hip-hop back underground since the ban, doing what they do best: playing cat and mouse with official censorship. A new mainstream show called This Is Street Dance launched, with production style that can easily be mistaken for that of The Rap Of China, including the stage, graphics and clothes that the contestants are wearing. This Is Street Dance’s banner in central Shanghai

While we don’t advise that brands play games with the government, we do feel that there is a bigger lesson to be learned from how Chinese culture deals with these occurrences. As a brand operating amid uncertainty, it’s wise to ask what was meaningful about your original engagement with this culture, listen carefully to your customers to understand the reasons that they valued that engagement, and look to your enduring brand values to harness this in the most effective way.

In Nongfu Spring’s case, the brand understood that its engagement with music culture didn’t end with hip-hop. It survived, and even thrived, following the ban by staying close to its customers and not only understanding their need for alternative entertainment, but actually contributing to the creative culture.

Hip-hop in China is not dead, it will just manifest in a different way. It will return to its roots for a while, but what will not change is the mindset of the culture that spawned it. The soft voice of the increasingly numerous and forever resilient urban middle classes. Frustrated with urban life and social pressures, they are still redefining their identity, and brands that recognise and continue to play to this, perhaps with fewer gold chains, will thrive amid uncertainty in China.

Source: campaignasia.com; 24 May 2018

Brands in non-EU countries should adopt GDPR rules, study finds

Publishers are being too slow to adopt consent management platforms, which will cause growing pains for programmatic advertising when the new regulation comes into force.

The majority of consumers in non-EU countries would like at least one of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules to be in effect in their country, a study has revealed.

Research carried out by video ad tech company Unruly, which spoke with 4,000 people across eight markets about the incoming changes to the way data is handled by firms, also found that 63% of consumers worldwide trust brands more when they are clear about how and where their data is used.

“There’s a lot of trust that needs to be built between brands and consumers globally, not just in the EU,” said Kenneth Suh, chief operating officer at Unruly. “They really need to be providing some clarity around the data and the purposes it’s being used for.

“This is all really great news for users. It’s an opportunity to get a much clearer picture and understanding of who’s collecting your data and how it’s being used.”

The new law kicks in on May 25 and applies to all EU citizens, but even companies in the US or China have to follow the rules if dealing with EU citizens.

Among the changes include that future requests for consent of data sharing can’t be hidden under reams of Ts and Cs — they have to be clearly distinguished. Pre-ticked boxes can no longer be used to indicate consent, and making people hand over more personal information in exchange for extra features is also not allowed.

Only 58% of those surveyed in the UK had heard of GDPR, and 26% in the US

But when asked, 93% of all consumers in non-EU countries said they would like at least one rule brought about by GDPR effective in their country.

Among the top areas of importance, people agreed with the three following statements: I should have the right to see a copy of my personal data at any time; I should have the right to ask how my data is being used at any time and; I should have the right to delete the data companies have collected about me.

The research found that people are most comfortable sharing biometric data for services like fitness apps because the rewards for exchange of data are clear and obvious — you get to learn about your health.

In an age of fake news, brands and advertisers must strive to voice a message of trust and transparency, stressed Suh.

However, using social media to project this message may hinder the goal. The study found that 43% of people worldwide say their trust in advertising on social media has dropped significantly in the last few months — 43% in the US, 51% in the UK

“You can think about the conundrum brands have around social media platforms as a way to reach audiences,” said Suh. “We know that reach is on the social media side, but if more than half of the information you’re reading from that place isn’t considered real, then your brand being associated that information.”

The findings come as the programmatic world braces for extreme turbulence. Research by PageFair found that just 3% of brands surveyed believe users will opt-in for third party tracking on websites.

Suh said it isn’t clear how much havoc GDPR will wreak on programmatic advertising, but there will definitely be “growing pains.”

“In GDPR world, [publishers] are going to be adopting a consent management platform to ensure that the user knows what data is being collected on the website,” he said.

“What we’ve seen is, widely, publishers are still trying to figure out what platform they want to use. That’s important, because those are signals that are going to be passed through the bid request to programmatic buyers. So, without that platform adoption happening at the publisher side, those signals won’t be coming along as readily available to buyers, and then as a buyer you would say, ‘if I don’t see those signals I won’t bid on that,’ or it may be a less valuable piece of inventory.”

Suh believes advertisers will have to jump through multiple hoops before programmatic is brought up to speed.

At a glance: GDPR around the world
– 58% of people in the UK and Germany have heard of GDPR, 63% in Sweden

– 93% of consumers in non-EU countries would like at least one of the rules brought about by GDPR to be in effect in their country

– Worldwide, consumers are most comfortable sharing biometric data (fitness trackers as best practice examples for brands)

– Less than one-third of consumers in the UK, Germany and Sweden trust brands to ask their permission before sharing data with third parties

– But 63% of consumers worldwide trust brands more when they are clear about how and where there data is used

– 60% of people worldwide believe that more than half the news they read on social media is fake — this number is highest in India where it rises to 71%

– 43% of people worldwide say their trust in advertising on social media has dropped significantly in the last few months — 43% in the US, 51% in the UK

The most requested changes in data policy
– Australia: 67% want the right to delete data collected at any time
– Singapore: 67% want the right to delete data collected at any time
– Japan: 54% want the right to delete data collected at any time
– India: 63% want the right to ask how their data is being used at any time

Source: campaignasia.com; 24 May 2018

Time Spent with Media, Ad Spending and Trends in China

Consumers in China are known for their digital savviness. For many, digital is their first choice to consume media, with much of that time spent on mobile devices. Content that was previously viewed or read through traditional media is now being consumed via digital and mobile devices.

Much like in the US, digital video is challenging linear TV as the delivery system for entertainment and advertising, and it has given rise to new video categories, including “short-form” video and live streaming.

The trio of digital powerhouses known as “BAT”—Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent—are leading the advertising market due to the popularity of their digital platforms.

– Ad spending on digital overtook traditional media in 2016. Since then, digital has only grown in its dominance as the preferred channel among advertisers in China. We expect digital ad spending to reach $61.81 billion in 2018, growing at a rate of 25.0% for the year. Digital will capture 64.6% of total media ad spending.

– Over three-quarters of digital ad spending will be allocated to mobile in 2018, with the rest going to desktops/laptops and other nonmobile devices.

– In 2018, Alibaba’s net digital ad revenues in China, derived from its core commerce as well as its video-on-demand (VOD) subsidiary Youku Tudou, will exceed $20 billion. (That’s more than Baidu and Tencent combined, and surpasses traditional TV ad spending for the first time.)

– Of the 6 hours, 23 minutes per day adults in China will spend consuming media this year, 55.5% will go to digital media (including 47.1% to internet-connected activities), followed by 39.8% to TV, 1.6% to print and 3.1% to radio.

– We forecast that slightly over a quarter of digital time will be spent watching video in 2018, rising to almost one-third by 2020.

Source: emarketer.com; 15 May 2018

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