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Uber's Self-Driving Truck Delivered a Semitrailer Full of Budweiser 120 Miles

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 18:58:43 +0000


Somewhere in a college freshman dormitory in Colorado, there's a young hacker thinking about the missed opportunity. Who needs a fake ID if you can intercept a whole truck of Budweiser?

Otto—the Uber-owned startup for self-driving semitrucks—last week partnered with Anheuser-Busch on a test to deliver a trailer-load of beer from Fort Collins, Colo., through the Denver metro area, and on to Colorado Springs near Pikes Peak.

Driving down I-25, the autonomous truck steered itself for 120 miles with 51,744 cans in tow. That's the equivalent of 2,000 cases of Bud, according to Otto, which is based in San Francisco. 

There was no human in the cab, and Otto announced the self-driving delivery on its blog today. The development underscores how self-driving vehicles are slowly becoming a reality.

All jokes about fake IDs aside, with device-based, internet-of-things-leaning hacking becoming a bigger issue, it will be interesting to see how self-driving technologists adapt to growing security threats. Challenges will have to be met to quell the concerns of regulators and marketers. 

Meanwhile, check out Otto's video recap below: 

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Quartz Is Launching Quartzy, an Email Newsletter Focused on Lifestyle and Travel

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 17:32:25 +0000

Quartz—the young, inventive, versatile online publication that's built a massive following for its coverage of business and tech—is launching a weekly newsletter focused on culture, fashion, food, travel, art and personal care. Quartzy (no, the y is not a typo) is run by Jenni Avins, a global lifestyle correspondent with Quartz. Beta versions of the newsletter have included stories about a Brazilian graffiti art show in Manhattan, David Chang's "unified theory of deliciousness" and how to use "fashion math" to upgrade a wardrobe. Quartzy, which officially launched Friday, is taking an organic approach to growth and had 14,000 subscribers by the end of its first day. The newsletter is actually a second for the Atlantic Media-owned company, following the Daily Brief, which has grown to 250,000 daily subscribers since its launch and seen a consistent open rate of around 40 percent. According to Joy Robins, Quartz's svp of global revenue and strategy, the newsletters are meant to engage current readers while also helping Quartz branch out into new verticals. (Quartz's overall audience also continues to grow. Between July and September, it had an average of 18 million monthly unique visitors, according Omniture.) "We always want to create content for humans—not robots," Robins said. "We want to create products for the right people, how they are actually wanting to be spoken to as technology evolves." In the next few weeks, Shinola will become the first brand to advertise with Quartzy as part of a broader cross-channel campaign being paid for by the Detroit-based maker of watches, bicycles and notebooks. The number of consumer brands advertising with Quartz has doubled in the past year, growing from fewer than 20 in 2015 to more than 40 so far this year. (Consumer brands now make up slightly more than a quarter of Quartz's overall advertiser base.) Lately, Shinola has been experimenting with all sorts of digital media, such as a recent 360-degree video starring Luke Wilson. Earlier this year, the brand teamed up with Viceland for a series highlighting Shinola's employees. Lifestyle stories aren't entirely new to Quartz. The publication has been gradually upping its variety since launching four years ago. The company hired Avins and other writers in 2014 to focus more heavily on stories about fashion, food and travel. Robins said Quartzy will distinguish itself by its visual nature, which she said should appeal to advertisers wanting to engage readers visually. The newsletters are focused on the most quartzy of Quartz readers: people in their late 30s, highly educated, travel well, have a senior role and have an average of more than 3,000 Twitter followers. (That composite was created from an annual survey the company conducted last year.)  Daily Brief has become a hot commodity for readers. It's also in high demand for advertisers. Around 95 percent of the sponsorships for the year have been sold out since June, Robins said. Earlier this year, it also began experimenting with another type of news product when it launched a news chatbot in the form of a stand-alone app for iOS. The app, which provides users with a few stories throughout the day, has attracted advertisers such as Jaguar. "I think we're a culture of experimentation," Robins said. "We've been fortunate to really maintain our focus first and foremost on editorial. I think finding pockets of utility to the user base we're focused on remains a priority for us." [...]

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Netflix Releases Much-Anticipated Gilmore Girls Revival Trailer

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 14:33:21 +0000


With one month until the premiere of Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, it's time to commence freaking out.

Netflix released a brand new trailer today, full of unseen footage from the new series, which will air Nov. 25 with four 90-minute episodes.

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The characters must deal with the passing of Richard Gilmore, the patriarch of the family, and Rory and Lorelai's seemingly stagnating careers and relationships, respectively.

Previously, the platform promoted the show with pop-up diners/cafes, which featured a Snapchat element that was immensely popular with fans.

As the Gilmore Girls (and Netflix) Twitter accounts also uploaded the trailer, fans were rocked to their emotional cores, as was to be expected:

Why Blew Itself Up and Put It All Back Together, as a Series of Specialized Sites

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 13:30:02 +0000


The internet has no doubt changed since 1997, growing larger, faster, more diversified and more treacherous.

And as the sheer volume of web content grows,, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in April, is changing things up as well, moving away from its signature catchall style of evergreen content to more focused verticals. In order to pivot into 2016—'s last redesign was in 2014—the site has shifted focus from providing general interest articles to highly researched resources.

"We blew up the old and put it back together—better," said CEO Neil Vogel of the IAC-owned site.

The team first launched Verywell, which answers all your health questions without "making you feel scared." It then added The Balance, a hub for all things personal finance. And today, it's introducing Lifewire, a tech-help site.

"Algorithms didn't know how to recognize About, but they can see these as specific sites," said Vogel. 

Lifewire will feature 16,000 articles written by nearly 40 experts, and aims to teach readers what's new in the world of tech while explaining how to better use gadgets and devices they already own.

"Topics like these can be intimidating or jargon-heavy," said Vogel. "We want to write these articles in plain English, as if your BFF happened to be an iPhone expert."

Vogel likens the focused verticals to the popularity of specialty stores. "Department stores are dying," he said, "but specialty stores are actually working." is still one of the top 50 biggest sites online. Vogel calls it "the giantest startup in the world." At launch, Lifewire will already be a top 15 tech site in the U.S.

"We decided to stop doing things, like breaking news or sports, that we know we can't compete in," Vogel said. "When users trust you, the algorithm trusts you and traffic is up, then advertisers will trust you as well."

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Is Crowdsourcing Turning Creative Directors Into Curators?

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 23:43:23 +0000

"There should be no more creative directors. The job is dead and the title is wrong—it should be 'curator.'" These words from KBS+ co-founder/former Victors & Spoils partner Jon Bond may strike fear into the hearts of copywriters and art directors because they concern crowdsourcing, or the act of farming out major portions of the creative process. The idea is hardly new (see Doritos' "Crash the Super Bowl" series), but Omnicom enshrined it as a formal offering last month with the launch of London-based AMV BBDO's Flare Studio, which offers related services to clients and BBDO offices around the world. The agency essentially confirmed Bond's point in the press release by describing it as "curated crowdsourcing." "[Flare Studio] is designed to disrupt the model from within, allowing us to be much more versatile," said AMV BBDO head of content Nick Price, who helped launch Flare as an in-house offering in 2013. The new platform works via a tiered model that "democratizes" the process by opening campaign bids to any YouTube creator, production company or independent director while reserving more significant projects for organizations ready to pay a higher premium. "There's so much content needed today that any agency saying they do all of it is not going to keep all of it," Bond explained. More clients are therefore partnering with third-party crowdsourcing companies like Tongal and CrowdHere—and BBDO launched Flare Studio, at least in part, to retain more of their business. "Clients like Mars now have access to other parts of the world where there's not a strong agency presence," Price said, and BBDO hopes that many will choose to stick with the shop they know. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="367" src="" width="652"> For Omnicom, Flare may represent the purest embodiment of BBDO global chairman David Lubars' "good, fast and cheap" maxim. But how good will it be if in-house creatives don't direct it? "Not everything can be perfect; it can be good enough," Price said. He noted that all of Flare Studio's campaigns will ultimately be BBDO products: "There's still a lot of love put into it. Line producers will be a critical quality control factor, and they will all be BBDO." Price frames the challenge facing traditional creative agencies as such: "The very thing that makes them good at what they do counts against them at the lower end of the market," because the sort of work they produce is not economically viable below a certain price point. Not every crowdsourcing company is out to steal your business. "I commend BBDO for trying to do something different," said CrowdHere CEO Nick Pahade, who has also worked at IPG's Initiative, "but I have no desire to compete with any agency. Think of us as a marketplace meets an array of content creation tools." allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="367" src="" width="652"> Vaughan Emsley spent 25 years with the Saatchi & Saatchi organization before becoming head of strategy and client development at Tongal, and he sees things differently. "The project load per creative head in a New York agency is twice what it was five to six years ago, and they can't keep up," he said. Emsley thinks creative studios like Tongal can fill that void: "Any company with an open source approach like ours is seen by agencies as a competitor. BBDO may be the exception that proves the rule." Is the creative director of legend truly an endangered species? "It's certainly not going to be possible to provide the sort of hands-on creative directorship that agencies have traditionally offered," Emsley said. Some prominent creative leaders beg to diff[...]

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Big Brands Are Enlisting Employees to Create an Army of Social Media Mavens

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 23:43:10 +0000

If you are a marketing chief, one of the best return-on-investment channels may actually include your colleagues. Increasingly, marketers are turning their employees into social media mavens, encouraging them to promote positive, intriguing or helpful stories that are on-brand. This past summer, MasterCard quietly launched an ambassador program that had employees share brand-minded news and other content across their personal social channels. The endeavor already has attracted 400 of its staffers, who use a company intranet that lets them post text, images and videos to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. "We are hoping to build on that," remarked Susan Warner, vp of worldwide communications for MasterCard. "It's all about technology. I do have to figure out infrastructural costs and implementation, but you cannot let those issues hold you back. You have to build the case and then get the dollars." Last year, IBM got everyone's attention when it dispatched 1,000 employees to work on social media marketing. A study released in March by Altimeter Group found that 90 percent of brands already used or planned to pursue an employee advocacy program. Among the findings: Twenty-one percent of consumers said they "liked" employee posts about companies, representing an engagement rate that easily bests most social advertising campaigns at a much lesser cost. "It is not expensive," noted Bart Casabona, director of social media at Pitney Bowes. "It's one of the biggest reasons I jump out of bed every morning." Casabona has found the organic reach of his company's employee-based program, called The Insiders, to be extremely impactful. The number of participating employees has grown to 500 after emerging from a pilot phase in January, and he projects that number to rise to between 750 and 1,000 by the end of 2016. The Insiders include employees around the world, from the United States to the United Kingdom, India, New Zealand, Australia and Germany. So far, Casabona's effort has generated 42,000 content shares and 166 million digital impressions. "This is a program that continues to pick up pace," he remarked. So, what's the incentive to participate? A simple leaderboard, believe it or not. "We look to the employees and give them recognition," said Casabona. "We are giving them the opportunity to put their imprint on the program, which makes it more compelling." The strategy is centered around brand marketing, say marketers, so sales data takes a back seat. Humana now has about 2,900 employees involved with its own advocacy program, which only had 500 members at the beginning of the year. Focusing on content style and giving employees "an expert voice" on how to handle Twitter and Facebook posts are keys to success, according to Jason Spencer, the healthcare company's social media community manager. "Forty percent of our content is Humana branded," he explained. "Sixty percent is health and well-being content, which allows [employees] to grow followers and become influencers in the space. So when they do share Humana content, they have a more qualified audience." Humana, being a healthcare brand, has, of course, strict regulations to abide by for its content. It's using Dynamic Signal's software, which tees up a legal message, an image and a hashtag to make things easy for the company's busy staffers. (Dynamic Signal released a report today called The Foundations of Advocacy, which proclaimed that employee-authored content is shared four-and-a-half more times than social influencer posts.) A lot of Humana's content involves potentially helpful information about health trends and wellness topics. "Most advocates are [primarily] sharing on Facebook," Spencer revealed. "But we are getting more engagement, mor[...]

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Infographic: What People Are Saying on Social Media About Their Wireless Carriers

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 23:42:56 +0000


Complaining about wireless providers is quickly replacing overeating as the great American pastime. The four big providers—AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile—have spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars in their attempts to endear themselves to consumers. Their efforts might actually be working, based on social chatter. A new study by Infegy, a Kansas City, Mo.-based social media intelligence firm, took a look at social media conversations around the telecom giants and gleaned some interesting results. Most surprising: The majority of millennials and boomers are happy about network speeds—at least in what they say on their social feeds. "Customers want brands to engage with them on a personal level," said Infegy CEO Justin Graves.



Carlos Monteiro


This story first appeared in the October 24, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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