There’s been a lot of scepticism recently about where advertising is headed. Online advertising has seen massive growth over the past decade thanks to its flexibility, transparency and measurability—not to mention the ROI. But with this growth comes a new challenge: more than before, marketers must fight to break through the clutter and connect with their target audiences. The rise of obtrusive and irrelevant ads on the web has led to a concurrent surge in ad-blocking software as consumers become frustrated with or indifferent to the content bombarding them. In response, some of advertising’s biggest spenders have started to shift their focus back to real-world tactics such as experiential marketing. This leaves advertising at a tricky crossroads, and got me thinking: Will digital advertising always remain an important instrument in a company’s marketing toolbox? And as an advertising company, how can and should we push advertising to adapt if we believe it to be the way forward?
Xaxis wholeheartedly believes that digital advertising needs to deliver tangible results to continue to be relevant, and as such has repositioned to focus its entire offering on client outcomes. The best way to do this was to understand the client’s advertising goal that ties as closely as possible to the true business outcomes they are trying to drive. So what do marketers need to think about and do differently to truly engage consumers and drive measurable business results?
Artificial intelligence (AI) has completely changed what we can achieve in advertising, from media buying and planning, how to achieve set targets, and the metrics used to understand success. As my colleague Sara Robertson, VP of Product Engineering for Xaxis once said: “AI is like a spreadsheet on steroids”. The potential of AI lies in its ability to see the bigger picture. We’ve made AI and machine learning an integral part of our offerings, used to find and define audiences, refine our creative messaging, generate audience personas, and develop bidding strategies, all of which can transform a digital advertising strategy to drive remarkably improved results for clients.
And while it is true that consumers hate interruption, it’s never a bad thing when advertisers are forced to adapt by creating content that consumers enjoy. One example is a creative new type of ad that has emerged in China to play in breaks of TV dramas online. These ads utilize the TV shows’ original content and narrative arcs, and feature the same actors in their on-screen costumes, making the ad almost indistinguishable from the original content to hold the audience’s attention and pique their interest. This type of advertising is expected to surpass 2 billion yuan (US$311 million) in sales revenue this year, up from 800 million yuan in 2016.
Advertising with influencers also holds increasing importance in the marketing mix as a way for brands to create trust and credibility with consumers. Over the last few years, influencer marketing has skyrocketed to the point that it has become a category of its own. The premise for this is that consumers trust people they already follow rather than an obvious advertiser. Brands are therefore working to get attention from consumers by channelling their message through people with extensive and trusting networks, commissioning influencers to co-create ‘native’ content that advertisers can then amplify. All of this shows that content needs to mimic what consumers already enjoy in order to engage, but advertising itself won’t disappear.
At the end of the day, approaches such as experiential marketing can be a highly valuable way for many companies to increase brand exposure and customer loyalty. But they shouldn’t necessarily replace advertising altogether. Marketers need to look at the bigger picture and focus on reaching business objectives by quantifying success with real metrics and conversions—regardless of the marketing tactics they choose to convey their messages. That means connecting with your customers authentically and holistically, wherever they happen to be – though as we know, people are spending more time online now than ever.
For Xaxis, repositioning our offering to focus on client outcomes was the most logical move. To align with a client’s true marketing and business objectives—and deliver results to hit those objectives and maximize ROI—should be the goal of any marketing tactic. What really sets digital advertising apart is its ability to do exactly that, with more transparency, efficiency and measurability than any other approach. For this reason, we don’t see it dying out anytime soon.
Last December, a new game became an overnight mega-trend in the blockchain world. CryptoKitties allowed users to buy, own, and trade unique collectible cartoon cats on the blockchain. Around the time of launch, CryptoKitties was so successful that it slowed the Ethereum network.
This is a big deal, as the Ethereum blockchain is, without a doubt, the most active smart contract platform in existence. Of the top 100 tokens by market cap, 94% are built on top of Ethereum. Of the top 800 tokens, 87% are built on Ethereum. Most of these tokens are ERC20 tokens, which made possible the majority of the $5.5 billion raised through ICOs in 2017 and the $6.5 billion raised in token sales during just the first quarter of this year.
The driving principle behind the creation of CryptoKitties was to demonstrate the potential of Ethereum and the blockchain ecosystem for trading and securing digital assets. In the white paper, the founders discuss the narrow focus of most blockchain projects on payments. Ultimately, they hoped CryptoKitties would help people expand their vision of what a blockchain could do.
A few weeks back Digital in Asia met with Benny Giang, the founder of CryptoKitties, to talk Ethereum, cats and art on the blockchain.
Digital in Asia: So Benny, where did the inspiration for CryptoKitties come from? How did it start?
Benny: We love cats, and we know it’s a fact that the internet and cats is just married, right? Basically any new internet technology always starts with cats.
We also thought that blockchain seemed pretty interesting, but we wanted to make it more accessible. We saw so many ICOs happening, and we loved the variety. Some were solving really big interesting problems, like world hunger level. But there were some that were just … I don’t even know what they were doing. It’s just getting DJ Khaled to hype up their ICOs! It felt like what was missing was the education and accessibility piece. So we had the idea of putting cats on the blockchain to drive our education and accessibility agenda.
This turned our attention to a couple of existing crypto collectibles like CryptoPunks and Spells of Genesis. These were the first to use the ERC20 token standard from Ethereum, and then create a collectible on the blockchain. But the limitation with the existing collectibles was that they were only an image. We wanted to take it to the next level. So we started exploring the game play, and we arrived on this interesting idea of allowing people to breed their kitties on the blockchain.
We then spent a month on genetic simulations, trying to figure out how deep we could go and how we could evolve the idea. We established a 256 bit genome. That results in about 4 billion variations of kitties. In terms of human genetics, that’s nothing, it’s very controllable. But in game play, 4 billion potential kitties is quite a lot of variations. It was more of an experiment, playing around, and that was the initial genesis of CryptoKitties.
Digital in Asia: Where did you get started with blockchain? Because it seems as if you were already very familiar with the technology. CryptoKitties was more about doing something in blockchain, as opposed to doing CryptoKitties.
Benny: It started in the spring of 2017. I began reading more, specifically on Ethereum. Most of our team, except a couple of members, were already involved in blockchain, the Bitcoin side. They mined Bitcoin, they bought them, they sold them from way back.
From a more typical internet technology perspective, a lot of the product teams and my background was around building B2B Enterprise SaaS Software. I was interested in the concept of the world computer, and creating a decentralised app store to build real utility. That’s really fascinating, and the whole decentralised aspect really caught my attention.
But I love the quote: “Any disruptive technology starts off as a toy”. And in there I saw the opportunity to bring the educational piece forward, in a way that people could learn, but also have fun.
Digital in Asia: Crypto can be complicated. How long did you think it would take people to get their heads around digital wallets, Gas price and all the other complexities of blockchain, and Ethereum specifically.
Benny: In the first week about 80,000 people signed up. These are new users we had never interacted with, and probably don’t even know what a digital wallet is. So that was already a huge factor. 80,000 new people were so attracted to this game that they were willing to jump through all these hoops.
My biggest goals always involve optimizing the experience for the end user. That’s all I care about, that’s all our team cares about. But in blockchain, and Cryptokitties, we’re still pretty far away from having it where you click on the button and everything just works.
Are people scared of Gas and all these things? I would say they are. Sometimes Gas price goes up and they don’t understand why, but that’s kind of our role, and part of why we created the game. Right now we’re building a whole new onboarding process that will help educate: “Hey this is what Gas is, this is why we need it, this is why it keeps fluctuating.” So people will understand.
Digital in Asia: Why did you decide to build on the Ethereum blockchain? There are alternative blockchains out there like Neo, and as we’ve seen with Gas price increases, and congestion, it’s not always an easy environment.
Benny: It was a timing thing and also more of a mission alignment thing. We met some of the Ethereum team last year and saw that these people really do have the builder mentality, they’re very product focused and development focused. Looking at other blockchains there is potential scalability, but in terms of full production readiness, with thousands of dApps already built on top of it, and battle tested, I would say there is only one at this point.
There are some blockchains being talked about in terms of being Ethereum killers, and that may be true, but let’s see when they get full production ready. Practically, if we were to consider these other chains then we wouldn’t have launched CryptoKitties when we did, as we would’ve waited six more months. It was more of we need to do it now, and we need to ship the product because the timing was right, it was when ICOs were popping like crazy. But as you know we didn’t do an ICO. We actually did the reverse ICO where we built the product, and we sold people kitties!
Digital in Asia: Where is CryptoKitties going? What are your future plans?
Benny: We’re going to work towards deepening the user experience. That means more game play features and expanding to new ways of thinking about the platform. It’s very interesting the three areas we play in. One is crypto, the other one is gaming and the final area is art. We were invited to the Rare Art Festival New York, and we asked a bunch of people to basically talk about this new contemporary art form which is digital collectibles. And some people laughed, definitely.
What’s interesting to me is these Kitties will live for thousands of years. What we have done is basically made history. No matter if we are alive, or the company is alive, these kitties will live. We have this concept of infinite extensibility which is related to the kitties as art form.
Digital in Asia: This is an interesting area. What do you mean by infinite extensibility?
Benny: You buy a painting, let’s say it’s the Mona Lisa. It’s pretty old. You just keep it, and you just look at it, right? And as it ages with time, it just deteriorates. But with the digital collectibles as an art form, as time passes, more functionalities can be added. Right now all you can do is buy and sell and breed. But what if you could walk it, what if this kitty could be a real kitty in your mind. So it’s like an art piece that you can continually interact with as time progresses.
Digital in Asia: It’s apparent you’re not actually a blockchain business, you’re a gaming or collectibles business. Blockchain is just the technology you’re building your business on, in the same way that the internet is the technology that Uber or Amazon build their business on. But we don’t – for the most part – talk about that any more. Every business built on the blockchain right now is called a blockchain business, and this is just about the early stage nature of the space really. What other projects do you feel are good enough to transcend blockchain, and become real businesses?
Benny: The whole blockchain gaming and collectibles category is going to be huge this year. In regards to ICOs, there are a few products I find interesting. They’re more related to AI blockchain, and the convergence of the two. But I don’t actively get involved with many ICOs because the space is almost too hot right now. I would rather hang around the people who are developers or product people, who focus on the end view. There is so much work to do on protocols, all these different things. If we want more businesses to transcend blockchain, we need better and more secure blockchain platforms.
Digital in Asia: Okay. On that, are there any ways in which Ethereum limits you?
Benny: Limitations? We really support the Ethereum ecosystem. We have a team of six that are focused on long term scaling of Ethereum, talking to other chains, working with side chains, trying to find the right solutions. Introducing Casper, or at least the MVP of Casper, will be a big milestone for Ethereum this year. If they pull it off without doing a super hard fork, and the community comes to a consensus, they’re going to be way ahead of other people. Because again, they really have the masses, they just need to move the masses to the next level.
Digital in Asia: Do you think there is a danger that they won’t successfully deliver, or build consensus around, sharding or proof-of-stake? We don’t want Ethereum Classic 2.
Benny: No, No, No. Nobody wants that. Ethereum is below 600 dollars right now, which is low compared to a few months back. When CryptoKitties started it was at 400 dollars. So it’s back to a level of normality for us. It’s good for everybody to calm down, and come together around common goals, because we need to think long term. We all know the market was bound for a correction, and while that’s sad because I own Ethereum, it’s good as it lowers costs to build and operate on the blockchain.
Digital in Asia: What plans do you have around mobile? Any sort of AR functionality? People think it would be cool to see your kitties.
Considering new features like AR as a blockchain gaming company who really believes in the philosophy of decentralisation is tricky. If you walk your cat, should that be on a blockchain? When you have a kitty for a thousand years, we think that entire history – including any AR excursions – should be logged. But that’s not easy, and we can’t handle all of the transactions yet. But we are brainstorming a bunch of these new gaming features because that will help keep the experience interesting.
Digital in Asia: Thanks for your time Benny. This has been an interesting conversation. Any final words of advice?
Benny: Blockchain is only just getting started. Thanks again.
From consumer engagement and privacy to technological advances, content strategies and monetisation, data in its various forms is everywhere and companies are challenged with harnessing and analysing it smartly for greater returns.
Here are some of the top trends driving media companies:
Mobile and Social – What Consumers Want
Audiences today expect video to be on mobile. According to Ooyala’s Q4 2017 video index, mobile’s share of video plays in Asia-Pacific surpassed 60% and the medium had the most share of plays amongst other devices in the region.
Social media video continues to grow, driving media companies to lean more on social to promote and enhance their content, and grow their audiences. Content, strategic partnerships, innovation and branding are key to their growth in the future.
The focus on more granular applications of asset metadata has also led companies to AI capabilities. Modern data-driven media platforms connect and streamline content supply chains to help media companies search their content archives for video, audio or text files with facial recognition, language translation, visual text identification, and more.
Immersion with AR and VR
With mobile devices getting more ubiquitous and advancements in 5G connectivity, we’re looking towards a future of more immersive video content, thanks to continuous progress developing virtual reality (VR), 360-degree video, and augmented reality (AR) technology.
A study confirmed that VR increases viewer engagement with journalism, particularly with larger-scale experiences. And VR360 ads were found to perform better than traditional ads, with advanced platforms supporting VR360 playback for VOD and live.
Interest for AR is rising within the wider industry. Consider The New York Times’ integration of AR into its stories, including features published during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Data at the centre
As media companies strive to be innovative in monetising content and diversifying revenue streams, it is data that will increase their chances for success and lead them into the next era of media.
SGInnovate this week presented ARISE, an Artificial Intelligence-themed event at innovfest unbound 2017as part of a long term investment in AI and data driven technology. The anchor event of the Smart Nation Innovations Week, innovfest unbound is Asia’s largest innovation festival with more than 8,000 attendees.
ARISE is planned to provide a platform for researchers, academia and industry leaders to explore emerging AI trends and give insight into how it will affect the way we live and work in years to come.
Among the leading figures from the tech sphere at ARISE was Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop (first proposed by Elon Musk), who revealed an inside story of the smart people and smart machines powering the next generation of transport tech.
Macro trends such as machine learning, robotics in the workplace and in the domestic sphere, emerging technologies, and the march towards artificial sentience were also covered.
Steve Leonard, Founding CEO of SGInnovate, said: “Artificial Intelligence has the potential to dramatically impact many areas, such as Healthcare, Transportation and Education. In fact, without even realising it, we have all embraced some form of AI in our daily lives – such as virtual assistants in our phones – and the next few years will bring exciting advances in many ways.”
“We passionately believe that Singapore has the right resources to be an important hub for research, so the challenge for us here is to ensure we are leaders in the development and use of AI capabilities to improve the lives of people here and around the world. We think ARISE is an extremely timely event, and we look forward to the constructive discussion around the challenges and the opportunities, that AI will bring.”
Today, Singapore is already a fast-growing influence within the realm of AI with the country ranked second globally by field weighted citation impact for AI R&D.
On a global scale, the AI market is growing rapidly. It is estimated that revenue for the cognitive systems and AI market will increase from an around US$8 billion (S$11.1 billion) in 2016 to over US$47 billion (S$65 billion) by 2020.
To further boost Singapore’s AI capabilities, the National Research Foundation (NRF) Singapore recently announced AI.SG, a national programme in AI driven by a government-wide partnership with SGInnovate as one of the partners.
NRF will invest up to S$150 million over five years in AI.SG, which will catalyse and synergise Singapore’s AI capabilities to power our future economy with practical solutions to real-world challenges.
“As a private company wholly-owned by the Singapore Government, SGInnovate has one purpose – to help aspiring entrepreneurs in Singapore imagine, start, and scale technology-intensive products with the potential to be globally relevant. We are working with entrepreneurs and investors in industries such as healthcare, energy and transportation, all of which are seeing a flurry of artificial intelligence (AI) startups. The launch of AI.SG helps give a solid foundation which a wide range of activities in academia, research, corporates, entrepreneurs and investors can build upon,” added Mr Leonard.
The UK recently kicked off its largest ever international trade and investment marketing campaign. Aimed at international businesses and governments the campaign plans to showcase the UK’s trade and investment opportunities to a global marketplace, including the EU and beyond.
The comprehensive, multi-channel campaign will display a series of new images showcasing the UK’s world-leading products and services, including advertising in international airport hubs such as Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles, Dubai, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Singapore; press publications; along with substantial digital promotion.
As part of this international push, the Department for International Trade is stepping up its efforts to help international companies looking to trade or invest in the UK to find the right opportunities for them.
A recently launched interactive digital service – www.great.gov.uk – will provide practical advice to UK businesses ready to take the next step into new global markets, or international buyers and sellers who want to know more about the UK market or how to buy British.
The digital service will also include information on seven sectors, from technology to food and drink, so that international businesses can easily navigate the UK market and make an informed decision about the best investment opportunities.
Jo Hawley, Director of International Trade and Investment at the British Consulate in Hong Kong added: “Hong Kong and UK trading links have gone from strength to strength over the last 20 years. In the British Consulate General in Hong Kong, we are working with record numbers of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese investors expanding their businesses into the UK as well as UK companies keen to do business in Hong Kong. We hope that our new campaign and digital hub will encourage even greater trading links.”
2016 was an eventful year for marketers: New technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) captured the imaginations of marketers globally – as Nintendo’s new AR offering, Pokémon Go, took the world by storm. 2016 was also a big year for digital transformation (DX), as enterprises rapidly prioritised DX at the center of their corporate strategy, and marketers rapidly embraced data analytics in order to drive marketing decisions.
Marta DeBellis, Adobe APAC Vice President of Marketing offers her views on some big milestones and game changers that will shape the digital marketing landscape, as we move into 2017.
1. AR, VR and Machine Learning will continue to have an impact in 2017:
The emergence of technologies like AR, VR and machine learning will shape marketing in 2017 and beyond. AR and VR will change the way marketers can engage with customers and drive experiences beyond what is possible today. AR and VR will change the way marketers can engage with customers and drive experiences beyond what is possible today. The challenge for marketers will be to learn how to create content for these formats to fully leverage the opportunities they offer.
Machine learning and data science will offer significant productivity opportunities for marketers, allowing them to focus their time on their overall strategies and away from day-to-day analytics and data management. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have become ubiquitous in the technology industry, and a lot of great work has been done to build out horizontal frameworks to solve large-scale problems – from accurate speech recognition to computer vision.
We recently introduced Adobe Sensei, a framework and set of intelligent services, with deep expertise in AI, machine learning and deep learning, built into the Adobe Cloud Platform which dramatically improve the design and delivery of digital experiences.
Understanding how customers are consuming video content remains an opportunity for marketers in 2017. Video has been the ‘next big thing’ for several years now and I don’t think marketers have it all figured out yet. Marketers will get one more shot at leveraging this opportunity fully next year. Adobe’s acquisition of TubeMogul shows our focus on video in marketing campaigns. It will create the first end-to-end independent advertising and data management solution that spans TV and digital formats, simplifying what has been a complex and fragmented process for brands.
2. Competitive advantage (through exceptional CX) will be the biggest driver of digital transformation
Competitive advantage is the biggest driver of digital transformation and underlying that is customer experience.
Customer experience is the new competitive differentiator of success and is separating those brands which are pushing ahead with transformation, and those trapped in a business model of yesterday. Today’s digital landscape is overflowing with people interacting across multiple devices, whether it’s mobile devices, wearables, tablets or even car dashboards. When new products and innovation come onto the market, people want to be able to use it. The increased expectations of consumers have brought us to a tipping point where experience must be at the center of everything brands do.
In 2017 marketers need to walk in the shoes of customers and truly understand the experience their brand is offering. Customers are interacting with brands across many different touchpoints and marketers need to be aware of how this experience affects the overall customer journey.
3. Digital marketers must still place emphasis on creativity.
Data has given marketers the power to demonstrate ROI and drive business growth. However, it’s crucial they remember that creativity still plays a significant role. Creating amazing content that is personal and emotive is key to delivering incredible customer experiences.
Creativity and design-led thinking are central to business success. Adobe’s 2016 Creative Pulse survey highlights an overwhelming number of respondents who think so. 89% of APAC respondents say their businesses are placing more importance on creativity and design thinking. 56% of APAC respondents feel that they are creating a bigger impact within their organizations, compared to two years ago.
Content velocity – being able to create amazing content quickly, and at scale, should also be a focus for marketers in 2017. The key is to not make more content, but to make content more personalized and engaging.