Google is investing $550 million in JD.com

Google will invest $550 million in JD.com as part of a strategic partnership between the companies, according to The Wall Street Journal. The deal will only net Google an approximately 1% share of the Chinese e-commerce company, but it will also see the two work together, leveraging the logistics capabilities of JD.com and Google’s technological expertise, according to a press release from Google. Additionally, JD.com will start selling through Google Shopping, allowing some of its products to be sold internationally.

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This gives Google another retail partner as it builds its e-commerce profile. Google partnered with Walmart to sell its products through Google Express last August, and worked with the retailer again, along with the likes of Target, Ulta, Costco and Home Depot, when it tested its Shopping Actions program, making it easier to shop these high-profile retailers through Google. Adding JD.com gives Google more products to attract consumers with, an important effort as it competes with Amazon for product search.

JD.com gains another powerful backer that can help it battle Alibaba. As of Q1 2018, JD.com held about 25% of China’s business-to-consumer internet retail market share, falling behind Alibaba’s Tmall platform at a 60% share, according to Analyst.

The Chinese e-tailer already counted Tencent and Walmart as allies — Tencent is its largest shareholder at 18%, while Walmart has a 12% stake — with JD.com regularly working with both partners on various initiatives and investments. Google gives JD.com yet another strategic partner with deep pockets and technological capabilities that can help it fight Alibaba over China’s valuable e-commerce and retail markets — the country reached over $1 trillion in e-commerce sales in 2017.

The deal may help JD.com’s International expansion plans, especially its aspirations in the US and Europe. JD.com wants half of its revenue to come from foreign markets in 10 years. To accomplish this, the company is planning to be in every Southeast Asian country by the end of 2018, and is making inroads in the US and Europe. It may not need as much help in Southeast Asia since it’s already somewhat established there, but selling through Google would allow JD.com to meet American and European consumers on a familiar platform, which is key since many foreign consumers may not be aware of JD.com.

But the prospect of a US-China trade war could complicate JD.com’s expansion plans. With tensions rising between the two countries, and with the announcement of new tariffs from both sides, cross-border e-commerce may suffer because consumers and importers will face higher prices.

For JD.com specifically, this current climate is slowing down its US expansion. The company originally planned to enter the US market in 2018, but will now wait, CEO Richard Liu told CNBC. The partnership with Google could jumpstart its efforts, but it will still need to be ready to adjust to any new tariffs or changes that would affect its business.

Source: businessinsider.com; 20 June 2018

LinkedIn Launches Carousel Ads For Better Storytelling

LinkedIn has announced carousel ads for Sponsored Content, a new way for marketers to tell their brand story and interact with their target audiences.

Whether you are marketing to end-consumers or businesses, storytelling is a proven technique to connect and engage with your target audience. Starting today, marketers can use the new carousel ads on LinkedIn, to add texture to their stories by featuring multiple visuals that people can horizontally through horizontally on the LinkedIn feed.

Carousel ads are not a new thing for advertisers. They were first introduced by Facebook years ago. But this is an interesting first for LinkedIn. The platform is revamping itself and carousel are a definite plus for marketers. Storytelling is at the heart of engaging with audiences on social media, and after video, carousel ads are the best way to tell a brand’s story.

Since launching in beta, over 300 advertisers, like Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, RBC, and Volvo Canada, have used carousel ads to create fun and informative campaigns and to tell stories about their company, products and services, industry, and more. 75 percent of beta advertisers saw increased engagement and click-through rates.

Source: Wersm.com; 12 June 2018

Facebook drops Trending topics section, tests other ‘news experiences’

Facebook will be scrapping its Trending feature in favour of other “news experiences” on the platform. The feature was first launched in 2014 to help users discover news topics which were popular in the Facebook community.

“However, it was only available in five countries and accounted for less than 1.5% of clicks to news publishers on average. From research we found that over time people found the product to be less and less useful,” the social media giant said in a blog post.

Trending will cease from the platform from next week onwards, along with products and third-party partner integrations which rely on its Trends API, the statement added. Instead, Facebook will roll out new features called Breaking News Label, Today In and News Video in Watch.

The move comes as Facebook observes a change of how its users are consuming news on its platform – primarily on mobile and increasingly through news video. The move hence allows it to explore new ways to help people stay informed about timely, breaking news, while ensuring the news is from trustworthy and quality sources.

“Breaking News Label” is a test Facebook is currently running with 80 publishers across North America, South America, Europe, India and Australia. It allows publishers to put a “breaking news” indicator on their posts in News Feed. Breaking news notifications are also being tested.

Facebook is also testing “Today In”, which is a dedicated section on Facebook that serves to connect people to the latest breaking and important news from local publishers in their city. This includes updates from local officials and organisations. Meanwhile, “News Video in Watch” is a dedicated section on Facebook Watch in the US where people can view live coverage, daily news briefings and weekly deep dives that are exclusive to Watch.

In January this year, Facebook updated its News Feed to prioritise local news. This is to ensure users can view topics that directly impact them and their community, as well as discover the latest happenings in their neighbourhoods. It was also a bid by the social media giant to emphasise high-quality news.

Most recently, it also scrapped its idea of splitting the news feed in two; one for posts from friends, and one – dubbed ‘explore’ – for publishers and brands. When news about the split news feed first surfaced, it sparked concerns about the growing power of the social media giant, and how publishers would be affected.

Source: marketing-interactive.com; 4 June 2018

Largest worldwide auto market gains interest in luxury vehicles

Female and urban drivers are growing segments in China’s luxury vehicle market, which are pushing the industry to grow 5.4 percent in the next eight years.

Frost & Sullivan’s “China Luxury Car Market, Forecast to 2025” found that 10 percent of 24 million passenger vehicles sold in China last year were luxury models. In China, compact SUVs and C-compact sedans were the most popular models of luxury automobiles.

“Compact SUV and C-Compact sedan are the most preferred luxury car segments in China. Increasing adoption by female and urban drivers, as well as the price conscious, will drive the demand for luxury cars from individual customers over the long term,” said Ming Lin Chan, senior research analyst of APAC mobility practice at Frost & Sullivan.

Automotive advancement

Chinese women are now looking for investments and vehicles that reflect their success within their careers, which is pushing the luxury segment forward.

Drivers born in the 1990s and 2000s in China are also likely to drive the luxury auto sector as well. As they all come of age and are allowed to operate a vehicle, they are likely to look for one that will elevate their social status.

Frost & Sullivan encourages luxury automakers to reposition their branding to include China and cater to affluent individuals who are likely to respond to a positive custom experience.

Augmented reality and holographic projections are two of many strategies and themes brands can use to integrate themselves into the Chinese market.

The report predicts that the luxury segment will dominate more than 60 percent of market share by the year 2025.

This is extremely important, as China is by far the largest auto segment worldwide.

Mercedes, Audi and BMW are the most popular luxury passenger vehicles in China, with a combined 68.8 percent of market share across SUVs and sedans last year. European automotive original equipment manufacturers lead the luxury car market in China.

Plug-in hybrids and battery-operated electric vehicles are expected to gain greater traction in the market thanks to Tesla and government encouragement. However, gas powertrain cars are expected to remain strong in China’s luxury segment over the long-term.

Technologies such as automation and smartphone connectivity are big drivers for the Chinese segment. Apple CarPlay is the most popular form of infotainment-connected service, while Android Auto is prohibited in China.

Additional insight

Luxury automakers should be leading the way in innovation, especially with digital, but a report from L2 shows that mass-market auto brands are driving laps around high-end manufacturers.

L2’s Digital IQ Index for the auto industry revealed that Rolls-Royce, Land Rover and Aston Martin are among the few automakers whose mobile sites lack any investment, with load times more than five seconds long. Mercedes was the only luxury brand listed within the top five rankings for digital offerings.

Almost half of the automotive sales growth in China this year has come from luxury brands, driven by consumers’ increasing household wealth and consumer confidence.

According to a report from Scotiabank, in March global automotive sales were up 1.2 percent over the previous year, with China one of the key forces behind this growth. As the Asian market becomes increasingly important to luxury auto brands, OEMs are set to benefit from newly eased regulations in China.

“Luxury automotive brands are adopting cutting-edge technologies such as augmented reality and holographic projections to ensure high brand engagement,” Mr. Chan said.

Source: luxurydaily.com; 5 June 2018

Apple clamps down further on third-party tracking with latest iOS updates

Apple used its annual developer conference WWDC to unveil a host of updates, including limitations on how companies can track users of its Safari web browser, a measure that poses obstacles for third parties such as Facebook and Google as well as other analytics providers.

The phrase ‘online privacy’ is one of the burning issues of the moment, with the European Union’s General Data Protection (GDPR) regulations coming into force, and Apple’s latest software update builds upon this trend.

Apple’s iOS 12 includes updates to its Intelligence Tracking Prevention (ITP) tools with the latest offering blocking tracking features such as ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ buttons by default. This means that users of the Safari web browser have to proactively opt-in to such tools in order for third parties to be able to track their online activities as well as other sensitive information stored on iOS devices, such as contacts information etc.

The newly unveiled updates also included limitations on “fingerprinting”, i.e. how third-party tracking companies can monitor which devices are visiting their website via the browser, a move that will make it even more difficult for advertisers to measure the reach of their online ads.

“Safari now also presents simplified system information when users browse the web, preventing them from being tracked based on their system configuration,” reads a statement announcing the updates.

“Safari now also automatically creates, autofills and stores strong passwords when users create new online accounts and flags reused passwords so users can change them.”

The latest privacy updates, among a host of others, were unveiled on the WWDC stage by Craig Federighi, Apple senior VP of software engineering, who said: “There can be a lot of sensitive data on your devices, and we think you should be in control of who sees it.”

Apple’s ITP was first unveiled at its corresponding event 12 months ago, with the measure causing some friction in the wider adtech ecosystem. Ad retargeting firm Criteo later told investors that the rollout of the feature could negatively impact revenues by up to 8-10% in coming financial periods.

Source: thedrum.com; 5 June 2018

Reddit to feature native video ads starting today

Reddit, the world’s third most popular website after Google and YouTube, is starting to roll out native video advertising across its website and mobile apps following a site-wide redesign. The company is launching the new ad format with select partners, but plans to eventually open it up to all advertisers later this summer, according to a blog post.

The video ads will only be served to redditors that are using the expanded card display layout which is the default of three new modes in Reddit’s latest redesign, which has been met with mixed reactions from users – many are opting to use the old design instead of the new one.

Reddit noted some interesting stats about video consumption in the blog post announcing the pre-roll ads:

– More than 2x video views, growing 23% each month since the start of 2018.
– The website is now averaging more than 5 million minutes of views per day.
– Since launching, videos uploaded via our native player receive twice as many views as YouTube videos on Reddit.
– Native video has taken off in a variety of communities and now accounts for as much as 20% of content in a number of major ‘subreddit’ communities such as r/oddlysatisfying, r/aww and r/FortniteBR for example.

The native video ads will be offered on a cost per view basis and is also offering video-only campaigns for the first time. VP of brand partnerships Zubair Jandali believes that the new format is adding to the utility that the company offers marketers, which are eager to tap the company’s base of 330 million monthly active users.

While Reddit’s website has remained relatively unchanged for the past five years, recently it has increased its product growth with a redesign of its mobile apps and desktop site. Part of that redesign includes giving users the ability to host images and video natively on the platform.

Source: marketing-interactive.com; 13 June 2018

100% brand safe and viewable: marketers eager for programmatic TV in Asia Pacific

Singapore, as well as Southeast Asia’s, switch to digital television by the end of 2018 represents a chance for marketers to tap into the potential of programmatic advertising on television.

Digital broadcasting in Singapore began in December 2013 when state-owned broadcaster Mediacorp converted all seven of its free-to-air TV channels to the digital format. However, it has continued to broadcast in the analogue format, which will end by January 1, 2019, with neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia following suit.

According to the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore, the switch is happening this year to ensure that viewers can continue to enjoy their favourite TV programmes from around the world as digital TV offers better quality pictures, superior sound and multi-language subtitles.

Marketers that The Drum spoke to, like Athena Bughao, regional account director in APAC for Google B2B Performance Media at Essence Media, believe digital TV is a step towards innovation and measurability for them.

“The move to digital means carving their own path towards the same content accessibility and measurement or get on the bandwagon. Adapt or die (from a relevance perspective),” she explains.

James Sampson, vice president and general manager for Asia Pacific at Dataxu, concurs with Bughao, and adds that digital TV is set to be 2018’s biggest thing, irrespective of the roles of Pay TV operators, advertisers and media companies, as some brands, agencies and media companies are very nimble in utilising new technologies and meeting audiences where they are.

“This is a consumer-led change, and we’re seeing all of the above stakeholders have various levels of speed and success in embracing this new world. We work with Sky in the UK, and that’s a great example of a company looking at new ways of selling, measuring, optimizing and advertising differently in 2018 than 10 years ago,” he says.

Buying ads programmatically on digital TV

While digital TV represents a chance for TV ads to be bought programmatically, targeting and measurement like data-driven automation and audience-based buying component are key foundations that will need to be built into digital TV and enable it across more networks, for it to be viable.

As Narayan Murthy, vice president for SEA and India at FreakOut puts it, how big data plays a role in this area and how fast TV can reach sophistication of current programmatic digital targeting capabilities remains to be seen, while Bughao quips: “We can’t manage what we can’t measure.”

Another challenge facing programmatic ads on digital TV is that there is a still a healthy level of scepticism from broadcasters who are worried that programmatic TV will devalue their inventory, or it will be a race to the bottom in terms of price, says Damien Thomson, general manager for APAC at Sizmek.

“We have seen really convincing evidence to support the contrary to that, where broadcasters can make premium inventory available and still attract a premium price for it. That is because advertisers will always want to be associated with premium content and they will always pay a premium for that,” he explains. “Where linear TV has struggled is the declining audiences on free to air linear TV. That has been supplemented by the increased consumption of catch-up TV in the digital channels. That represents a real opportunity to advertisers to reach that same audience in a more connected environment.”

That said, as more viewers are consuming content through OTT devices, it means there is a whole new playing field of advanced personalisation opportunities, to ensure consumers are seeing targeted marketing messages, across devices, in appropriate doses, according to Sampson.

“This creates a better experience for marketers, who are reaching a more relevant, engaged audience, and for viewers, who are seeing messages applicable to them and their interests,” he adds.

Murthy shares Sampson’s sentiments and points out that as TV gets more and more digital, it becomes part of the overall delivery of the creative, in this case, a commercial or video. “Programmatic TV will be a subset of buying and selling video spots across multiple form factors like laptops, mobile phones and smart TVs with a robust multi-channel planning with the same set of creatives. So effectively we can measure, attribute, and plan, TV with the same yardstick we do other digital channels,” he explains.

Programmatic advertising on TV is 100% brand safe and viewable

While still in its infancy, having programmatic ads on TV will be more attractive than desktop and mobile because it is 100% brand safe and viewable, as advertisers can put what they want to appear against with the high production values of the content, which they know is going to be safe, notes Thomson.

“Viewability also does not become an issue in a connected TV environment. There is a guarantee that their ad is going to be on screen, 100% view and all pixels displayed,” he explains. “At this stage, there is an over-reliance on video channels on Internet and social platforms. There is an opportunity for brands to achieve the same outcome and reach in a more cost-effective fashion by working with local partners, not necessarily just the global platforms.”

“By providing dollars back into the local ecosystem, the local media industry, you are supporting local businesses and at the same time, putting your advertising alongside more brand safe content. That will have an impact of reducing fraud, viewability rates, better consumer experiences by providing more relevant advertising to consumers across TV.

Marketers can also overcome user privacy issues or being accused of targeting personal information with regulation like GDPR in place with programmatic ads on TV, because they can use contextual-based targeting, as there are a lot of information that broadcasters have in relation to the metadata that is available for programming.

“In terms of being able to provide data, I believe that an opt-in approach is a good way to start and a lot of broadcasters will require log-ins to access the apps. Being able to target against an audience profile or information that is gathered, is one way of reaching an audience. They will start to provide information on pre-shot series, rather than current affairs and news as providing that metadata to targeting systems, it will provide context around the content that is being described and allow better targeting for advertisers against that,” explains Thomson.

Ready for the switch

Dataxu, Sizmek and FreakOut believe they are ready when Singapore and SEA finally make the switch to digital TV, as they can address concerns like how will reach be impacted on digital TV, if there will be incremental reach a brand increase its spend with a particular broadcaster and if buying through one demand-side platform, will there be a clear outcome on another.

Sampson explains that Dataxu’s advanced TV offerings were built from the ground up as cross-channel, meaning they are not specific to TV, desktop or mobile, but encompassing the spectrum of digital channels for marketers. Murthy points out that FreakOut work on a probabilistic mode to target disengaged TV audiences who are on Facebook or some other site while in front of the television, and further enhance the brand’s messaging to someone who has just seen the ad by showing him/her a form to finish the transaction just seen.

For Thomson, he says Sizmek as a business is very much focused on transparency and not just transparency on campaign data. “We look at data across five different dimensions like creative, costs, campaign, consumer and context. Being able to assess each of those components when looking at connected TV as a channel, not just in isolation, but across the entire media plan will become important for advertisers.”

Source: thedrum.com; 28 May 2018

Xiaomi Wants to Be More than Just a Smartphone Manufacturer

Xiaomi, sometimes referred to as the Apple of China, is known for its smartphone products. Like Apple, however, Xiaomi wants to be known for being more than just a hardware company.

Understandably so. In many countries, smartphones have gradually become a commodity. Smartphone users are simply happy with their current device and aren’t rushing to upgrade to the most recent model.

In fact, in spite of double-digital growth in some emerging markets, like India, global smartphone shipments fell by 1% year over year in 2017, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).

Xiaomi has already taken strides in establishing itself as more than a smartphone maker. The company has launched a range of software and internet services in its home market, including the Android-based MIUI operating system. And just last month, Xiaomi introduced its artificial intelligence (AI) voice assistant, Xiao AI, which comes pre-loaded on newer smartphone models.

The company has also shifted its focus to digital content, which makes sense given that consumers in China have shown an increasing appetite for paying for it.

eMarketer expects that there will be 432.9 million smartphone video viewers in China—excluding Hong Kong—this year, making up 31.3% of the population.

By the end of the forecast period in 2021, we expect that audience to reach 592.0 million.

Source: emarketer.com; 24 May 2018

Pump up the programmatic: Google selling streaming audio ads

Google is plugging into streaming music services like Spotify and Pandora to deliver audio ads.

The company announced that it’s supporting audio ads through DoubleClick, its programmatic ad platform. That means brands that use DoubleClick for their ad buying can now buy audio ad inventory available in streaming services including Spotify, Pandora and SoundCloud.

Pandora will open to DoubleClick “soon,” according to Google’s announcement, while Spotify, TuneIn and SoundCloud are open as of today.

“Audio advertising will continue to grow,” said Jean-Claude Homawoo, product manager at DoubleClick, in a blog post on Wednesday. It’s clear that brands should invest in reaching consumers with the right messages in audio just like they do in every other medium.”

Audio ads are a growing niche in the industry as streaming services increasingly rely on advertising to subsidize their businesses. Audio ads generated $1.6 billion in the U.S. in 2017, a 39 percent jump from the year before, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

That’s still a small piece of the $88 billion overall U.S. digital ad market.

Spotify and Pandora—which already sell ads programmatically through their own self-serve platforms and other programmatic networks—are trying to energize their ad businesses. In the first quarter of 2018, Spotify generated $115 million in ad sales, which represented a 38 percent increase year over year. Meanwhile, Pandora generated $215 million in ad sales in the first quarter, a slight dip from $223 million in the same period of 2017.

Pandora was late to offer audio ads through programmatic pipes. It sold video and other ad formats through automated marketplaces, but reserved audio ads for more exclusive sales channels. That changed in February, when Pandora started selling its first audio ads programmatically through a private marketplace it created with select ad tech partners.

Relying on programmatic advertising can be a tough call for companies because they’re often associated with lower prices, devaluing the inventory. However, they also make it easier for advertisers to buy and could attract more interest from brands to try out the ad offering.

And on Tuesday, Pandora bought an ad tech company called AdsWizz, which developed a programmatic ad demand platform, for $130 million in cash and stock.

“Pandora has long understood the value that a sophisticated advertising platform can bring to everyone in digital audio,” said Pandora CEO Roger Lynch in an announcement about the acquisition.

Source: adage.com; 30 May 2018