Month: June 2015

Cannes, SnapChat, Starbucks, Dollar Shave Club, and QR Codes in China

This week’s Cannes Lions festival has given us plenty of food for thought when it comes to the intersection of technology and advertising. Along with the usual celebrity interviews (apparently celebs can teach ad and tech folks a lot about creativity!), there was a few box office draws from the tech world, as well as some interesting announcements. Here are a couple of the highlights of the Cannes festival,  along with some other interesting things that happened in the industry over the last week.

SnapChat founder Evan Spiegel speaks at Cannes Lions

It’s no secret that SnapChat is on the AdLand charm offensive, and while they are somewhat of a flavour of the month at the moment, there’s still some serious concerns from advertisers and publishers when it comes to the targeting capabilities of the platform. This made for an interesting dynamic when Evan Spiegel sat down with Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles during the week and discussed the challenges facing both SnapChat and the advertising industry in general. On one hand, advertisers need to be able to target the users that they want to reach, but they also need to tread carefully on a platform that places user privacy at it’s core.

WPP, The Daily Mail and Snapchat are launching a native advertising agency

Evan Spiegel has been busy this week. Another big announcement at Cannes was the collaboration between SnapChat, advertising conglomerate WPP,  and the Daily Mail, to create a digital content agency called Truffle Pig. The focus of the new agency will be to create content that seems less like traditional advertising that will appeal to young consumers. This content will be served on SnapChat, and Elite Daily as well as on other digital channels  based on the client’s needs.

This partnership makes sense for all concerned as SnapChat are still finding their feet when it comes to advertising, publishers like the Daily Mail are still coming to terms with monetizing on digital channels, and agencies are constantly trying to find a way to create content for their brands that appeals to young consumers. We are still, relatively speaking, in the early stages of the digital advertising revolution, and having publishers, agencies and social platforms working closely together to try and learn from each other can only be beneficial in the long run.

Starbucks have released an app update that lets you pre-order and skip the queue

Starbucks are one of the biggest innovators in the world when it comes to using mobile technology in retail. Their latest app update includes a feature that lets customers order and pay ahead of time so that they can skip the queue and pick up their coffee as soon as they arrive at the store. It’s an addition to their hugely popular consumer app that lets users pay for their coffee and engage with their loyalty program that launched in 2011. The app is one of the highest performing mobile payment apps in retail accounting for over 7 million mobile payments per week in the US (that’s 16% of all of their transactions). Constantly adding features like this goes to shows why it’s so popular.

Dollar Shave Club is now worth $615 Million

Can a viral video really impact a company’s long-term growth? Dollar Shave Club, a men’s shaving subscription service, found mainstream attention in 2012 when their company promotional video went viral. It was announced during the week that after raising $75 million in a new funding round the company is now valued at $615 million. Apparently, the company still isn’t turning a profit though, which raises a few questions around valuing a company on their projected future turnover despite high customer acquisition costs and increased competition. Building a subscription service that scales is one thing, but maintaining those recurring purchases over the long term is another thing completely so we’ll have to wait and see how this one turns out.

QR Codes are really popular in China. Who Knew?

While scanning QR Codes has never really become a mainstream consumer behaviour in most markets, in China things are a little different.  Due to the crazy complicated URLs that they tend to use in China, mainly involving numbers due to the difficulty with using Chinese characters, it can be very difficult for users to remember the addresses of the sites they come across. Scanning QR Codes means that they don’t have to. The fact that the most popular mobile apps in China like Weibo and WeChat have in-built QR Code readers means everyone has a readily available QR Code reader in their pocket. Chinese consumers use QR Codes for everything from signing up to companies loyalty programs, sharing their information, and searching online. It’s interesting to see how (and why) technologies can thrive in some markets, while stagnating in others.

Posted by Rob in Advertising, Links of the Week, Snapchat, Tech

Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality are slowly becoming an actual reality

Saying that there’s been a lot of movement in the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) space in the last few weeks might be somewhat of an understatement. Sci-Fi writers have been dreaming up this type of stuff for decades but only now does it finally look like it might be on the cusp of becoming a mainstream consumer technology.

On Thursday, the Facebook-owned Virtual Reality headset manufacturer Oculus finally announced the details of the mass-consumer launch of it’s flagship VR device. The Oculus Rift has been in the mainstream tech aficionado’s conscience for the last couple of years but has not been readily available on the consumer market as of yet. The headset will be available to the general public from early next year and will run content from only Windows machines and the Xbox from the outset (not good news for Apple and PlayStation owners). The fact that the device will be packaged with an Xbox One controller even further suggests that this will be a Microsoft-exclusive for the near future at least.

The Oculus Rift is rumoured to cost around $500 but will need a relatively high-end PC to run it’s games so the cost of ownership could mount up. Don’t worry though as Google also addressed VR in their I/O developer conference at the end of last month. The company detailed how they are bringing virtual reality to the masses via  their Google Cardboard foldable case that turns any smartphone into a makeshift Oculus Rift when paired with one of their VR apps. These cases retail from $10 so you won’t need to shell out a fortune to experience Virtual Reality for yourself. In my experience, there isn’t even much of a difference between the quality of a decent phone screen in one of these cases, and the higher-end Oculus Rift, although this may change when the updated version of the Oculus hits shelves next year. Google also revealed details of their 3D camera rig collaboration with GoPro which helps produce the actual content used on these Virtual Reality devices.


Also earlier this month, Magic Leap, the Google-funded Augmented Reality system manufacturer announced that it’s almost ready to let developers start building for its platform. The Magic Leap headset manipulates light to create the illusion of real objects in front of the wearer and has been wow-ing people since it’s announcement earlier this year. While no details of the headset’s hardware have been made available as of yet, the software development kit will be released to developers shortly so they can get to work creating all sorts of games and applications for it.

In addition to their partnership with Oculus, Microsoft are also readying their own Augmented Reality offering, Hololens, which has some amazing potential as well. The Hololens Minecraft demo at this week’s E3 show in Los Angeles shows just what’s in store when this finally hits stores. Prepare to be blown away.

With Microsoft, Facebook and Google all jostling to hit the mainstream consumer market with something revolutionary, one thing is for sure – this is a very exciting space at the moment. While all this might seem very Sci-Fi, this technology will change much more than just the way people play video games. The implications for everything from medicine, engineering, education, and even online retail, are far reaching.

Posted by Rob in Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Wearables

Instagram joins the advertising party at long last

It’s been a long time coming, but it finally looks like Instagram are in the process of super-charging their advertising and selling capacity by launching a number of features over the coming weeks that will make them a much more viable option when it comes to digital advertising.

Firstly, the social network is rolling out a new API software platform that lets marketing partners and smaller brands automate the advertising process, a feature which has been sorely lacking from the platform since it’s launch. This will utilize the targeting and measurability power of their parent company Facebook, giving advertisers a lot more options and control when it comes to accessing it’s users. It will allow advertisers to target users based on more than just their age and gender, also using interests gleaned from their Facebook profiles.


So far Instagram has only run campaigns for big name brands like Disney, Electronic Arts, The Gap, Ben and Jerry’s, Michael Kors and Taco Bell. This move will open the platform up to small and medium businesses everywhere. With Instagram claiming to have more than 300 million active users worldwide, and a particularly avid user base in the Middle East, now it’s time for advertisers to stand up and take note.

As part of this revenue generating push, the platform is also including ‘Shop Now’ and ‘Book Now’ style buttons that let users carry out a purchase action straight from their feed. Instagram have been experimenting with this feature for a couple of months with brands like Banana Republic running ‘carousel ads’ featuring a slideshow of images that end with a button for viewing additional content. Banana Republic used its links to take viewers to a product page. It was the first time a retailer was able to send consumers directly to where they could buy products they saw in an Instagram ad.

With Pinterest also beginning to roll out a similar type of ‘Buy Now’ feature, it looks like we are slowly reaching the age of real monetization on social platforms, i.e. not solely relying on user eye-balls and advertising revenue. With these types of features rolling out on more and more platforms at the moment, the current de facto duopoly of Facebook and Google will start getting a run for their money when it comes to launching digital campaigns, which can only be a good thing for advertisers.

It looks like we are witnessing somewhat of a sea-change in the social selling space. The floodgates are opening.

Your move Snapchat!

Posted by Rob in e-Commerce, Mobile Payments, Social Media