YOUTUBE IS GEARING UP FOR NIELSEN RATINGS TO MEASURE AD PERFORMANCE
THE STORY:
Last week, YouTube announced that it has extended a deal with Nielsen to provide guarantees to advertisers based on the platform’s Online Campaign Ratings product (OCR). Within the tool, advertisers can measure digital campaigns effectiveness on Reach, Frequency and Gross-Rating Point statistics similar to TV. OCR provides more ad-tracking capabilities and a 360-degree view of the audience exposed to online ads, beyond simply measuring impressions and clicks.
This, however, marks an interesting shift in YouTube’s positioning towards Nielsen’s OCR, which was a major point of difference less than a year ago. YouTube has long refrained from implementing third-party data, deterring some advertisers who have relied on Nielsen for helping to direct their media buys. 
WHY IT MATTERS:
The Web’s largest video platform is set to offer more ad-tracking options, further deepening the possibility of shifting ad dollars from traditional TV to online video. The Google-Nielsen partnership gives advertisers more incentive to expand their online presence in a way that is guaranteed by trusted results. 
 
Time will tell if we see more money being pumped into online advertising as digital ad-tracking becomes more sophisticated. It was only last week that we questioned the lifeline of the traditional TV model. YouTube stands to make millions from this deal. However, YouTube and other online video platforms, must  continue to invest on delivering more premium (and quality) content to remain competitive. 
 
TWITTER TO UNVEIL NEW ADS
THE STORY:   
Twitter is set to introduce 15 new ad units into timelines, including one that will enable mobile app downloads with a single click, according to recent reports. This doesn’t necessarily mean that users will be seeing more ads in their feed, but that the ads that do appear will make it easier for companies to promote their goods and services. Twitter executives have said that the new ads, which will begin rolling out over the next few weeks, will be discreet and in the style of existing Twitter cards.
WHY IT MATTERS:
Since its November IPO, Twitter has been working hard to monetize the platform and keep pace with Facebook. Several of these new ad types, including one geared toward game publishers and app developers, are similar to those that are already offered—and are successfully driving ad revenue—by Facebook. 
 
The news of these expanded ad options, combined with a recent study suggesting that despite higher spending by marketers on Facebook, Twitter ads receive more clicks, indicates that marketers should start shifting advertising dollars to Twitter, if they haven’t done so already.
 
EMOJI BECOMING MAINSTREAM
THE STORY: 
In Yelp’s latest update to their mobile app, users can now search for local businesses using emoji characters. Instead of having to type “pizza” or “tailor” or “beer” in the search field, users can plug in the appropriate emoji icon and watch the results filter in. Searching an Italian flag gives a list of Italian restaurants, a high heel provides the nearest shoe stores and cobblers and searching scissors provides a list of the nearest hair salons. 
WHY IT MATTERS: 
With teens using emoji to communicate instead of words, it’s clear this trend is coming from a younger demographic. Even music video’s, like Katy Perry’s Roar and a remake of Beyonce’s Drunk in Love, were created using only emoji. It’s an organic mobile behavior that has only increased over the past year. This isn’t the first platform to adapt to the existing user behavior. Last year Facebook incorporated stickers in their messaging app and Twitter started showing emoji on their website.
We aren’t advocating that people go as far as branded emoji, like Harper’s Bazaar. However, brands should consider if emoji are audience appropriate and understand the underlying cultural patterns. 

YAHOO! GETS SERIOUS ABOUT ONLINE VIDEO
THE STORY: 
Yahoo! is angling to offer more video content; latest reports indicate that they plan to create original TV programming, though it’s still unclear what approach the company will take to make that happen. It’s been rumored that Yahoo! will try to buy an already existing TV network or build a YouTube-like competitor.
WHY IT MATTERS: 
 
Yahoo! is clearly trying to position itself as a competitor to not only YouTube but also Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. For advertisers, this is an opportunity to reach potential new audiences at a competitive rate. With original content comes the opportunity to partner with online video talent popular with a specific audience and an alternative to YouTube. If Yahoo! is successful in launching an entire original series, there’s major advertising opportunities and even the possibility of a brand sponsorship.

YOUTUBE IS GEARING UP FOR NIELSEN RATINGS TO MEASURE AD PERFORMANCE

THE STORY:

Last week, YouTube announced that it has extended a deal with Nielsen to provide guarantees to advertisers based on the platform’s Online Campaign Ratings product (OCR). Within the tool, advertisers can measure digital campaigns effectiveness on Reach, Frequency and Gross-Rating Point statistics similar to TV. OCR provides more ad-tracking capabilities and a 360-degree view of the audience exposed to online ads, beyond simply measuring impressions and clicks.

This, however, marks an interesting shift in YouTube’s positioning towards Nielsen’s OCR, which was a major point of difference less than a year ago. YouTube has long refrained from implementing third-party data, deterring some advertisers who have relied on Nielsen for helping to direct their media buys. 

WHY IT MATTERS:

The Web’s largest video platform is set to offer more ad-tracking options, further deepening the possibility of shifting ad dollars from traditional TV to online video. The Google-Nielsen partnership gives advertisers more incentive to expand their online presence in a way that is guaranteed by trusted results. 

Time will tell if we see more money being pumped into online advertising as digital ad-tracking becomes more sophisticated. It was only last week that we questioned the lifeline of the traditional TV model. YouTube stands to make millions from this deal. However, YouTube and other online video platforms, must  continue to invest on delivering more premium (and quality) content to remain competitive. 

TWITTER TO UNVEIL NEW ADS

THE STORY:   

Twitter is set to introduce 15 new ad units into timelines, including one that will enable mobile app downloads with a single click, according to recent reports. This doesn’t necessarily mean that users will be seeing more ads in their feed, but that the ads that do appear will make it easier for companies to promote their goods and services. Twitter executives have said that the new ads, which will begin rolling out over the next few weeks, will be discreet and in the style of existing Twitter cards.

WHY IT MATTERS:

Since its November IPO, Twitter has been working hard to monetize the platform and keep pace with Facebook. Several of these new ad types, including one geared toward game publishers and app developers, are similar to those that are already offered—and are successfully driving ad revenue—by Facebook. 

The news of these expanded ad options, combined with a recent study suggesting that despite higher spending by marketers on Facebook, Twitter ads receive more clicks, indicates that marketers should start shifting advertising dollars to Twitter, if they haven’t done so already.

EMOJI BECOMING MAINSTREAM

THE STORY: 

In Yelp’s latest update to their mobile app, users can now search for local businesses using emoji characters. Instead of having to type “pizza” or “tailor” or “beer” in the search field, users can plug in the appropriate emoji icon and watch the results filter in. Searching an Italian flag gives a list of Italian restaurants, a high heel provides the nearest shoe stores and cobblers and searching scissors provides a list of the nearest hair salons. 

WHY IT MATTERS: 

With teens using emoji to communicate instead of words, it’s clear this trend is coming from a younger demographic. Even music video’s, like Katy Perry’s Roar and a remake of Beyonce’s Drunk in Love, were created using only emoji. It’s an organic mobile behavior that has only increased over the past year. This isn’t the first platform to adapt to the existing user behavior. Last year Facebook incorporated stickers in their messaging app and Twitter started showing emoji on their website.

We aren’t advocating that people go as far as branded emoji, like Harper’s Bazaar. However, brands should consider if emoji are audience appropriate and understand the underlying cultural patterns. 

YAHOO! GETS SERIOUS ABOUT ONLINE VIDEO

THE STORY: 

Yahoo! is angling to offer more video content; latest reports indicate that they plan to create original TV programming, though it’s still unclear what approach the company will take to make that happen. It’s been rumored that Yahoo! will try to buy an already existing TV network or build a YouTube-like competitor.

WHY IT MATTERS: 

Yahoo! is clearly trying to position itself as a competitor to not only YouTube but also Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. For advertisers, this is an opportunity to reach potential new audiences at a competitive rate. With original content comes the opportunity to partner with online video talent popular with a specific audience and an alternative to YouTube. If Yahoo! is successful in launching an entire original series, there’s major advertising opportunities and even the possibility of a brand sponsorship.

PINTEREST GETS SERIOUS ABOUT AD REVENUE
THE STORY: With plans to finally generate revenue this year, Pinterest is rolling out changes that will make the social network more appealing to advertisers. The biggest update is incorporating promoted pins into a user’s feed. This promoted content will be relevant to users’ interests and transparently marked to visually differentiate them from organic content. Pinterest has clearly stated that they will never introduce banners or pop-ups. 
WHY IT MATTERS: Advertising opportunities on Pinterest are in high demand as brands see them as a huge opportunity to seamlessly layer in promotional content along with other image-focused posts in categories like apparel, home goods, food and travel destinations. Wayfair, an online furniture retailer, was one of the brands included in the trial run of promoted pins. According to their CEO, Niraj Shah, visitors from interest were 20% more valuable than others in terms of revenue. 
Promoted pins are a great opportunity for brands to build their following by reaching new audiences. However, they are clearly more beneficial for e-commerce retailers that can generate and track ROI directly from Pinterest. 
TWITTER’S NEW FEATURE TESTS HINT AT COMPANY’S NEW DIRECTION 
THE STORY: Last week, Twitter unveiled a new feature that will let users tag multiple people in photos and upload up to four photos at a time. This news follows a report that Twitter is testing a number of updates to the platform including adding “click to call,” separating out timeline streams for “fave people”, and removing @ replies and hashtags.
WHY IT MATTERS: What these changes indicate is twofold:
First, Twitter is realizing the value of investing in mobile photo sharing. With news that Instagram now claims more mobile users than Twitter in the US, the platform is seeking to capitalize on the massive photo market and attract new users from the competition.
Second, potential updates to the posting process speak to Twitter’s desire to streamline the user experience. Because the platform is now simpler, people who were initially confused or intimidated by Twitter may now be enticed to join.
For brands, there’s no need to update strategy based on the changes that are only potential at this point, but photo galleries and tagging can enhance the way we interact with fans. Now eight years old, Twitter is asserting its identity in a crowded mobile social space. Overall, these updates solidify Twitter’s role as a true broadcast and listening platform, ready to adapt to stay current and attract new users.
PRESIDENT OBAMA AND THE FUTURE OF QUORA
THE STORY: Last week, Obama joined Quora, the social Q&A platform, becoming its first verified user. This move comes on the heels of an appearance on Funny or Die’s “Between Two Ferns,” and it is part of the drive to get young adults signed up for the Affordable Care Act.
Unlike Obama’s Reddit AMA, his Quora appearance won’t be hosted in a live-feed format. Instead, the White House plans to use the platform as any other user would - responding to existing questions about the Affordable Care Act.
WHY IT MATTERS: Over the past few months, public figures and celebrities have taken to Quora to answer questions from the public. Recently, actor Ethan Hawke took to the platform to discuss Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Verifying users may be the next step (similar to Facebook and Twitter with the blue check mark in the profile) to further legitimizing Quora as a marketing platform.
The question remains whether Quora, with its 2 million user base, will make a push towards offering brands the ability to showcase individual employees and let them publish content, much like LinkedIn. There appears to be an opportunity for CEOs and high level execs to use Quora to reach their community in a forum that is seemingly more professional than the likes of Facebook and Twitter. The platform also lends itself as a valuable listening tool for brands to understand who their consumers are and what is being said about them. Especially, if they are trying to reach the elusive millennial target in a more niche setting. While social has broken down the walls between corporate companies and the public, Quora could be the next frontier to greater brand transparency.


IS INSTAGRAM ABANDONING INTEGRATION WITH FOURSQUARE
THE STORY:  Up until last week, Instagram exclusively used Foursquare’s API for photo location tagging but recent reports suggest that Instagram is testing an integration with Facebook Places. A full integration would ensure that Facebook becomes the primary source of user location data and venue information which ultimately controls the user experience to stay within Facebook.
WHY IT MATTERS: An Instagram integration with Facebook Places, replacing their alliance with Foursquare, seems long overdue. This move will ensure that Instagram and Facebook don’t rely on Foursquare for location data, and it will allow them to broaden their own database. 
Data created by Instagram users could be key in boosting Facebook’s location database. There is already speculation that Instagram’s 150 million users are contributing more location data to Foursquare as compared to Foursquare’s own 40 million users. For Facebook, this data can potentially be used by marketers to target people who have been to/checked in to a particular location.
Additionally, this could be another way that Facebook will keep users - and therefore brands - active on their platform. Despite slashing the organic reach of pages - a development that may have otherwise caused marketers to consider a less robust Facebook presence - brands may be forced to maintain or revise their Facebook strategy. 


A FEW MORE NAILS IN THE COFFIN FOR THE TRADITIONAL TV MODEL?
THE STORY: Several major news stories have broken in recent weeks that threaten the traditional network TV model and raise questions about the continued relevance of television for advertisers. On the heels of Verizon’s announcement that it had acquired Intel’s short-lived Pay TV venture, reports have surfaced that Apple and Comcast are in talks to set up an Internet-based TV service of their own. Disney is also getting into the video content business by completing a huge $500 million deal to acquire Maker Studios, a YouTube-based video supplier. The entertainment giant is hoping to tap into the young audience—already captivated by Maker’s content—that has been flocking to YouTube in droves.
A question, however, does remain about the legality of the online transmission of broadcast television programs, and there is a chance that the courts will rule against services seeking to do so without properly remunerating the networks.
WHY IT MATTERS: With increasing options for consumers to choose only the channels they want and ever more content living online, the question is: will the traditional TV model be able to survive? In its annual review of the US media industry, the Pew Research Center predicts that though TV advertising remains stable, it likely won’t continue as viewers migrate to the web. It will be up to brands to get ahead of this shift and determine how to best spend their advertising dollars in the future.

PINTEREST GETS SERIOUS ABOUT AD REVENUE

THE STORY: With plans to finally generate revenue this year, Pinterest is rolling out changes that will make the social network more appealing to advertisers. The biggest update is incorporating promoted pins into a user’s feed. This promoted content will be relevant to users’ interests and transparently marked to visually differentiate them from organic content. Pinterest has clearly stated that they will never introduce banners or pop-ups. 

WHY IT MATTERS: Advertising opportunities on Pinterest are in high demand as brands see them as a huge opportunity to seamlessly layer in promotional content along with other image-focused posts in categories like apparel, home goods, food and travel destinations. Wayfair, an online furniture retailer, was one of the brands included in the trial run of promoted pins. According to their CEO, Niraj Shah, visitors from interest were 20% more valuable than others in terms of revenue. 

Promoted pins are a great opportunity for brands to build their following by reaching new audiences. However, they are clearly more beneficial for e-commerce retailers that can generate and track ROI directly from Pinterest. 

TWITTER’S NEW FEATURE TESTS HINT AT COMPANY’S NEW DIRECTION 

THE STORY: Last week, Twitter unveiled a new feature that will let users tag multiple people in photos and upload up to four photos at a time. This news follows a report that Twitter is testing a number of updates to the platform including adding “click to call,” separating out timeline streams for “fave people”, and removing @ replies and hashtags.

WHY IT MATTERS: What these changes indicate is twofold:

First, Twitter is realizing the value of investing in mobile photo sharing. With news that Instagram now claims more mobile users than Twitter in the US, the platform is seeking to capitalize on the massive photo market and attract new users from the competition.

Second, potential updates to the posting process speak to Twitter’s desire to streamline the user experience. Because the platform is now simpler, people who were initially confused or intimidated by Twitter may now be enticed to join.

For brands, there’s no need to update strategy based on the changes that are only potential at this point, but photo galleries and tagging can enhance the way we interact with fans. Now eight years old, Twitter is asserting its identity in a crowded mobile social space. Overall, these updates solidify Twitter’s role as a true broadcast and listening platform, ready to adapt to stay current and attract new users.

PRESIDENT OBAMA AND THE FUTURE OF QUORA

THE STORY: Last week, Obama joined Quora, the social Q&A platform, becoming its first verified user. This move comes on the heels of an appearance on Funny or Die’s “Between Two Ferns,” and it is part of the drive to get young adults signed up for the Affordable Care Act.

Unlike Obama’s Reddit AMA, his Quora appearance won’t be hosted in a live-feed format. Instead, the White House plans to use the platform as any other user would - responding to existing questions about the Affordable Care Act.

WHY IT MATTERS: Over the past few months, public figures and celebrities have taken to Quora to answer questions from the public. Recently, actor Ethan Hawke took to the platform to discuss Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Verifying users may be the next step (similar to Facebook and Twitter with the blue check mark in the profile) to further legitimizing Quora as a marketing platform.

The question remains whether Quora, with its 2 million user base, will make a push towards offering brands the ability to showcase individual employees and let them publish content, much like LinkedIn. There appears to be an opportunity for CEOs and high level execs to use Quora to reach their community in a forum that is seemingly more professional than the likes of Facebook and Twitter. The platform also lends itself as a valuable listening tool for brands to understand who their consumers are and what is being said about them. Especially, if they are trying to reach the elusive millennial target in a more niche setting. While social has broken down the walls between corporate companies and the public, Quora could be the next frontier to greater brand transparency.

IS INSTAGRAM ABANDONING INTEGRATION WITH FOURSQUARE

THE STORY:  Up until last week, Instagram exclusively used Foursquare’s API for photo location tagging but recent reports suggest that Instagram is testing an integration with Facebook Places. A full integration would ensure that Facebook becomes the primary source of user location data and venue information which ultimately controls the user experience to stay within Facebook.

WHY IT MATTERS: An Instagram integration with Facebook Places, replacing their alliance with Foursquare, seems long overdue. This move will ensure that Instagram and Facebook don’t rely on Foursquare for location data, and it will allow them to broaden their own database. 

Data created by Instagram users could be key in boosting Facebook’s location database. There is already speculation that Instagram’s 150 million users are contributing more location data to Foursquare as compared to Foursquare’s own 40 million users. For Facebook, this data can potentially be used by marketers to target people who have been to/checked in to a particular location.

Additionally, this could be another way that Facebook will keep users - and therefore brands - active on their platform. Despite slashing the organic reach of pages - a development that may have otherwise caused marketers to consider a less robust Facebook presence - brands may be forced to maintain or revise their Facebook strategy. 

A FEW MORE NAILS IN THE COFFIN FOR THE TRADITIONAL TV MODEL?

THE STORY: Several major news stories have broken in recent weeks that threaten the traditional network TV model and raise questions about the continued relevance of television for advertisers. On the heels of Verizon’s announcement that it had acquired Intel’s short-lived Pay TV venture, reports have surfaced that Apple and Comcast are in talks to set up an Internet-based TV service of their own. Disney is also getting into the video content business by completing a huge $500 million deal to acquire Maker Studios, a YouTube-based video supplier. The entertainment giant is hoping to tap into the young audience—already captivated by Maker’s content—that has been flocking to YouTube in droves.

A question, however, does remain about the legality of the online transmission of broadcast television programs, and there is a chance that the courts will rule against services seeking to do so without properly remunerating the networks.

WHY IT MATTERS: With increasing options for consumers to choose only the channels they want and ever more content living online, the question is: will the traditional TV model be able to survive? In its annual review of the US media industry, the Pew Research Center predicts that though TV advertising remains stable, it likely won’t continue as viewers migrate to the web. It will be up to brands to get ahead of this shift and determine how to best spend their advertising dollars in the future.

BRANDS MAKE AN AWARDS SHOW SPLASH WITH A CREATIVE APPROACH
THE STORY: Looking back at the 2014 awards season, captivating ads generated plenty of conversation (See: our client Pepsi’s tribute to Hollywood with its “Mini Cans” spot spiking social media chatter during the Oscars), but two of the most buzz-generating moments occurred beyond the traditional TV commercial break.
First, Arby’s seized chatter around Pharrell Williams’s hat at the Grammys, generating major press with its quick-response tweet. At the Oscars, Ellen DeGeneres’s Samsung-sponsored selfie was retweeted over 3 million times. 
WHY IT MATTERS: With viewers accustomed to traditional TV ads and so many sponsors competing for viewer attention and participation, brands are seizing the opportunity to get creative and trigger engagement beyond the 30-second spot. 
Simple engagement tricks - like adding a hashtag to the end of a spot - may seem like a simple fix. However, without a CTA or reason to engage, a brand may not necessarily drive social chatter. It may benefit brands to think outside the ad. Whether pre-planned or spontaneous, there are ample opportunities during a major tune-in event to generate interesting, shareable moments beyond a 30-second spot, to create content viewers want to engage with - and share. 
For Arby’s, that meant acting nimbly, jumping on a relevant, popular moment and causing mass publicity with a single tweet. For Samsung, that meant accompanying their Oscars sponsorship - which included traditional TV ads - with a savvy in-show product placement and coordinated Twitter ads. (Following the Oscars, Samsung amplified their moment, running a Twitter ad that read: “Record-breaking selfie taken on #TheNextBigThing! Noted.”)

MOBILE MESSAGING APPS AND HOW MARKETERS CAN CAPITALIZE
THE STORY: On February 19th, Facebook acquired WhatsApp, the mobile messaging app for $19 billion dollars. Days before, Japanese retailer, Rakuten acquired Viber for $900 million. Following these pricey acquisitions, the role of messaging apps and how brands can act has come into question. While the app trails Facebook as a messaging app in the United States in terms of smartphone usage, WhatsApp dominates in terms of monthly active users. Other more creatively driven messenger apps like LINE have gained more traction amongst US users (already one of the top 3 used apps in Asia).
WHY IT MATTERS: For now, advertisers will have to look elsewhere as WhatsApp will remain an ad free platform (a mantra engrained in the company’s philosophy). However, Messaging apps in general, provide a new opportunity for brands to integrate into consumer mobile activity. This thought was explored in our 2014 predictions of how privacy is fundamentally changing the social landscape and how the younger generation looks to more 1:1 messaging apps vs public social networks where everything is accessible.
While the content is private (and not visible to the greater community), the integration of “share via WhatsApp” buttons show some promise. Buzzfeed and Shazam have already taken advantage of this feature. Ultimately, where participation makes sense for marketers is the fact that messaging apps provide a “friendlier” environment to deliver personalized content. Since we’ve already seen brands venture into “private” messaging on services like Snapchat and Instagram Direct, it’s likely that mobile messaging services like WhatsApp and Viber are next. 

FACEBOOK’S NEWS FEED UPDATE MAKES TAGGING MORE VALUABLE FOR BRANDS
THE STORY: Last week, Facebook adjusted its News Feed Algorithm so that when a brand or celebrity page tags another brand or celebrity page, the post will appear in the News Feed for fans of both pages. Previously, the post would only show up in the News Feed of fans of the page that is tagging. 
For example, if Diet Pepsi tags Pepsi in a post, Diet Pepsi’s post will now show up in the newsfeed of some of Pepsi’s fans, even if they do not follow Diet Pepsi. 
WHY IT MATTERS: This feature allows brands to organically reach more people and potentially acquire more fans. While Facebook insists that they consider a number of factors to determine which posts will be relevant to fans of both brands, it is equally important that brands consider the relevance of their post in order to avoid negative feedback. As more pages start using this feature, additional community management may also be warranted in order to manage spam. 

TAKING SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT A STEP FURTHER
THE STORY:  Amtrak recently took their fan engagement a step further and created a new offering in response to requests from their followers. It all started with Jessica Gross’ response to Alexander Chee’s interview in PEN America, in which he said “I still like a train best for writing. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers,” she then tweeted her mutual wish for an Amtrak-sponsored writing experience. Amtrak saw this as an opportunity and within days they invited Gross to take a ride to Chicago to kick off their new residency program. Now Amtrak is inviting anyone to apply and asking entrants to use #AmtrakResidency. Since late December the hashtag has been used over 8,500 times. 

WHY IT MATTERS:  Everyday, brands strive to engage with their fans across social channels. They offer contests to generate new followers and give out freebies to reward fans. This is a tactic Taco Bell has frequently deployed, even going as far as sending a fan a custom Speedo in response to an enthusiastic Facebook post. The difference here is that Amtrak is taking advantage of that existing behavior and incorporating smarter rewards into their social strategy. Amtrak’s response is also an example of utilizing social listening to capitalize on a simple moment and then amplifying it. The idea itself is a bold move from a relatively safe brand and the payoff is not only this initial press, but also potential future blog posts and continued social media goodwill.

BRANDS MAKE AN AWARDS SHOW SPLASH WITH A CREATIVE APPROACH

THE STORY: Looking back at the 2014 awards season, captivating ads generated plenty of conversation (See: our client Pepsi’s tribute to Hollywood with its “Mini Cans” spospiking social media chatter during the Oscars), but two of the most buzz-generating moments occurred beyond the traditional TV commercial break.

First, Arby’s seized chatter around Pharrell Williams’s hat at the Grammys, generating major press with its quick-response tweet. At the Oscars, Ellen DeGeneres’s Samsung-sponsored selfie was retweeted over 3 million times. 

WHY IT MATTERS: With viewers accustomed to traditional TV ads and so many sponsors competing for viewer attention and participation, brands are seizing the opportunity to get creative and trigger engagement beyond the 30-second spot. 

Simple engagement tricks - like adding a hashtag to the end of a spot - may seem like a simple fix. However, without a CTA or reason to engage, a brand may not necessarily drive social chatter. It may benefit brands to think outside the ad. Whether pre-planned or spontaneous, there are ample opportunities during a major tune-in event to generate interesting, shareable moments beyond a 30-second spot, to create content viewers want to engage with - and share. 

For Arby’s, that meant acting nimbly, jumping on a relevant, popular moment and causing mass publicity with a single tweet. For Samsung, that meant accompanying their Oscars sponsorship - which included traditional TV ads - with a savvy in-show product placement and coordinated Twitter ads. (Following the Oscars, Samsung amplified their moment, running a Twitter ad that read: “Record-breaking selfie taken on #TheNextBigThing! Noted.”)

MOBILE MESSAGING APPS AND HOW MARKETERS CAN CAPITALIZE

THE STORY: On February 19th, Facebook acquired WhatsApp, the mobile messaging app for $19 billion dollars. Days before, Japanese retailer, Rakuten acquired Viber for $900 million. Following these pricey acquisitions, the role of messaging apps and how brands can act has come into question. While the app trails Facebook as a messaging app in the United States in terms of smartphone usage, WhatsApp dominates in terms of monthly active users. Other more creatively driven messenger apps like LINE have gained more traction amongst US users (already one of the top 3 used apps in Asia).

WHY IT MATTERS: For now, advertisers will have to look elsewhere as WhatsApp will remain an ad free platform (a mantra engrained in the company’s philosophy). However, Messaging apps in general, provide a new opportunity for brands to integrate into consumer mobile activity. This thought was explored in our 2014 predictions of how privacy is fundamentally changing the social landscape and how the younger generation looks to more 1:1 messaging apps vs public social networks where everything is accessible.

While the content is private (and not visible to the greater community), the integration of “share via WhatsApp” buttons show some promise. Buzzfeed and Shazam have already taken advantage of this feature. Ultimately, where participation makes sense for marketers is the fact that messaging apps provide a “friendlier” environment to deliver personalized content. Since we’ve already seen brands venture into “private” messaging on services like Snapchat and Instagram Direct, it’s likely that mobile messaging services like WhatsApp and Viber are next. 

FACEBOOK’S NEWS FEED UPDATE MAKES TAGGING MORE VALUABLE FOR BRANDS

THE STORY: Last week, Facebook adjusted its News Feed Algorithm so that when a brand or celebrity page tags another brand or celebrity page, the post will appear in the News Feed for fans of both pages. Previously, the post would only show up in the News Feed of fans of the page that is tagging. 

For example, if Diet Pepsi tags Pepsi in a post, Diet Pepsi’s post will now show up in the newsfeed of some of Pepsi’s fans, even if they do not follow Diet Pepsi. 

WHY IT MATTERS: This feature allows brands to organically reach more people and potentially acquire more fans. While Facebook insists that they consider a number of factors to determine which posts will be relevant to fans of both brands, it is equally important that brands consider the relevance of their post in order to avoid negative feedback. As more pages start using this feature, additional community management may also be warranted in order to manage spam. 

TAKING SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT A STEP FURTHER

THE STORY:  Amtrak recently took their fan engagement a step further and created a new offering in response to requests from their followers. It all started with Jessica Gross’ response to Alexander Chee’s interview in PEN America, in which he said “I still like a train best for writing. I wish Amtrak had residencies for writers,” she then tweeted her mutual wish for an Amtrak-sponsored writing experience. Amtrak saw this as an opportunity and within days they invited Gross to take a ride to Chicago to kick off their new residency program. Now Amtrak is inviting anyone to apply and asking entrants to use #AmtrakResidency. Since late December the hashtag has been used over 8,500 times. 

WHY IT MATTERS:  Everyday, brands strive to engage with their fans across social channels. They offer contests to generate new followers and give out freebies to reward fans. This is a tactic Taco Bell has frequently deployed, even going as far as sending a fan a custom Speedo in response to an enthusiastic Facebook post. The difference here is that Amtrak is taking advantage of that existing behavior and incorporating smarter rewards into their social strategy. Amtrak’s response is also an example of utilizing social listening to capitalize on a simple moment and then amplifying it. The idea itself is a bold move from a relatively safe brand and the payoff is not only this initial press, but also potential future blog posts and continued social media goodwill.

It’s that time of year where we all congregate in Austin to exchange ideas, culture, contacts, rounds…and other things. This year, we’re super excited to be hosting four thought-provoking sessions at SXSW Interactive.
The various interviews, panels, and presentations will explore white-hot current events. From the implications of surveillance culture, to the fight for net neutrality, to innovative approaches in the digital infrastructure of developing nations, to the possibilities of creative coding platforms like Cinder that bring amazing ideas to life, we’ve got something for everyone. We hope to see you there!
Digitally Democratizing EducationFri 3/7, 12:30PM - 1:30PMAustin Convention Center, Room 10ABBarbarian: CEO, Sophie Kelly
This discussion will center on the importance of entrepreneurial approaches to development work, the crucial role digitally enabled education plays in the quest for human rights, and the the various ways that sustained digital programs create long-term change in developing nations.
A Conversation with Julian AssangeSat 3/8, 11:00AM - 12:00PMAustin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 5Barbarian: Co-founder & Chairman, Benjamin Palmer
In this headlining talk, Benjamin Palmer + internationally renowned transparency activist Julian Assange will discuss the importance of online privacy, the ethical and political ramifications of releasing classified information into the public realm, and the future of internet freedom.
Creative Coding: Art + Design with CinderSat 3/8, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PMAustin Convention Center, Ballroom BCBarbarians: Co-founder & Chief Experience Officer, Keith Butters + Technology Director, Chandler Williams
Through a live presentation and coding demonstration using the Cannes Lions Grand Prix-winning software, Cinder, this session will demonstrate how to begin developing for new input devices, and examine how to better incorporate technology in the creative process.
Hacking Surveillance CultureMon 3/10, 11:00AM - 12:00PMSheraton Austin Creekside (701 E 11th St)Barbarian: Executive Director of Media, Colin Nagy
A panel comprised of leading technologists, cultural provocateurs, and innovative thinkers will discuss privacy and surveillance issues by using their individual projects as a jumping off point.

It’s that time of year where we all congregate in Austin to exchange ideas, culture, contacts, rounds…and other things. This year, we’re super excited to be hosting four thought-provoking sessions at SXSW Interactive.

The various interviews, panels, and presentations will explore white-hot current events. From the implications of surveillance culture, to the fight for net neutrality, to innovative approaches in the digital infrastructure of developing nations, to the possibilities of creative coding platforms like Cinder that bring amazing ideas to life, we’ve got something for everyone. We hope to see you there!


Digitally Democratizing Education
Fri 3/7, 12:30PM - 1:30PM
Austin Convention Center, Room 10AB
Barbarian: CEO, Sophie Kelly

This discussion will center on the importance of entrepreneurial approaches to development work, the crucial role digitally enabled education plays in the quest for human rights, and the the various ways that sustained digital programs create long-term change in developing nations.


A Conversation with Julian Assange
Sat 3/8, 11:00AM - 12:00PM
Austin Convention Center, Exhibit Hall 5

Barbarian: Co-founder & Chairman, Benjamin Palmer

In this headlining talk, Benjamin Palmer + internationally renowned transparency activist Julian Assange will discuss the importance of online privacy, the ethical and political ramifications of releasing classified information into the public realm, and the future of internet freedom.


Creative Coding: Art + Design with Cinder
Sat 3/8, 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom BC
Barbarians: Co-founder & Chief Experience Officer, Keith Butters + Technology Director, Chandler Williams

Through a live presentation and coding demonstration using the Cannes Lions Grand Prix-winning software, Cinder, this session will demonstrate how to begin developing for new input devices, and examine how to better incorporate technology in the creative process.


Hacking Surveillance Culture
Mon 3/10, 11:00AM - 12:00PM
Sheraton Austin Creekside (701 E 11th St)
Barbarian: Executive Director of Media, Colin Nagy

A panel comprised of leading technologists, cultural provocateurs, and innovative thinkers will discuss privacy and surveillance issues by using their individual projects as a jumping off point.

FACEBOOK’S PAPER APP AND THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL PLATFORMS 
THE STORY: Facebook introduced their mobile app, Paper that provides users a curated and personalized stream of news right at their fingertips. The app pulls content from third party media outlets, based on links shared within the social network’s 1.2 billion member community. With a sleek new design, an elegant interface and a highly visual user experience, Facebook is pushing further into the world of publishing. While reminiscent of Flipboard (and other mobile newsreaders) in many ways, Paper benefits from the massive built-in user base providing a new mobile experience for consuming content on Facebook
WHY IT MATTERS: Following the recent algorithm changes to include more “news” content along with the introduction of Paper, Facebook is positioning itself to potentially become the go-to online source for current events and stories. Facebook is already driving a significantly greater amount of traffic from its platform to publishers, passing the likes of Twitter and Reddit which are considered buzzier platforms.
What this means is that it will be harder and harder for the content that brands post on Facebook to be viewed without the support of paid media. Given Paper’s highly visual user experience, brands will have to focus on creating truly visual content with quality link sources. However, native advertising on Facebook may have become much easier and more appealing to brands. If a brand writes a timely article and promotes it in a specific section on Paper, it could potentially reach a more targeted audience. As of now, the app is ad free but the possibilities are clear and most likely in the foreseeable future.
PRIVATE SOCIAL NETWORKING TAKES OFF
THE STORY: As we predicted at the end of 2013, a growing appetite for privacy is changing the way we social network. Recently, a new slew of apps offering private and semi-private social messaging and content sharing have gained popularity. Notable newcomers include Secret (Gossip anonymously), Confide (Send self-deleting private messages) and Whisper (Make an anonymous confession to the Internet).
WHY IT MATTERS: As users turn their attention from mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter to private apps, marketers are looking for ways to meet consumers where they are. Just over the past two weeks, Audi used Snapchat to promote its Super Bowl ad content, and Gap joined Secret. 
For brands, the appeal of these apps extends beyond consumer reach. It gives them the chance to employ exciting, new technology with a more personal spin on messaging. For example, brands can use self-destructing messages to share flash deals, or geo-targeted messaging apps to share local deals.
Overall, brands should consider the growing trend of second-party apps, but remain mindful of a big watch-out: the reason users are migrating to these platforms is to gain more ownership over their content. Not every brand may fit, and all brands need to consider users’ security concerns before jumping on board.
LINKEDIN LOOKING MORE LIKE A PUBLISHER
THE STORY: In a recent move, LinkedIn has begun connecting publishers with brands looking to distribute content. It’s another step towards facilitating native advertising as well as positioning itself as a content broker between brands and publishers. The social platform continues to feel like a publisher on their own, especially with their Influencers blog network and their recent acquisition of Pulse, a news reader. 
WHY IT MATTERS: This update allows a brand to facilitate conversations with new audiences by associating themselves with relevant content outside of their normal reach. The tech company Emerson took advantage of this new offering by distributing stories from The Atlantic with the aim of reaching professional women. Articles were distributed to LinkedIn members who follow Emerson, as well as non-followers. Clicking on a story took the reader to the article page on TheAtlantic.com surrounded by Emerson ads, closing the loop and positioning the brand as a content curator. Distributing more content is part of LinkedIn’s effort to increase its relevancy beyond HR professionals. As curating and creating content have been such key facets to distribution strategies, this is a service brands could benefit from.
SOCHI OLYMPICS: THE INTERSECTION OF SPORTS AND POLITICS
THE STORY: Although the complex relationship between sports, politics and sponsorship has never been particularly easy, today’s sporting events are under more scrutiny than ever. Six years ago, controversies surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics were chronicled in the news, but today social media has magnified these issues dramatically. Amid the controversy, brands are doing their best to promote themselves while still treading carefully in what has become a very sensitive situation.
WHY IT MATTERS: The role brands play in this complicated situation has been the topic of social media conversation long before the first skier hit the Sochi slopes. AT&T and McDonald’s both came out with strong anti-discrimination statements, while other corporate sponsors chose to remain silent on the issue. One of the most well received corporate reactions was Google’s not-so-subtle rainbow colored Google Doodle taking aim at Russia’s record of gay rights violations. 
The takeaway from all of this seems to be that it is possible for brands to take a stance on behalf of human rights (or any political issue) while still executing a carefully considered marketing strategy. Brands looking to learn sponsorship lessons from the issues surrounding Sochi would do well to consider the risks carefully, take each event on a case-by-case basis, and keep a close eye on social media for audience reactions.
FROM SAMSUNG TO SUBWAY: HOW BRANDS ARE JUMPING INTO THE NYFW CONVERSATION
THE STORY: New York Fashion Week can be an opportunity for brands to connect with their fans as well as reach a new audience. In recent years we’ve seen some interesting and inventive ways that CPG, technology and even fast food brands are making themselves relevant in a not-so-familiar industry conversation. Similar to how Google Glass integrated its product into the show last year, this year Samsung has partnered with Swarovski to create a crystal encrusted case for the Galaxy Note 3 to be debuted during this week’s events.
Perhaps the most in-your-face, non-fashion brand at Fashion Week this year is Subway. Subway has partnered with RUSK (9/11) to design an entire clothing line made out of the food chain’s napkins. Whether or not this blatant marketing effort increases sandwich sales remains to be seen but it does undeniably force Subway to the NYFW conversation. 
WHY IT MATTERS: Brands have to continue thinking “outside the box”, or in this case “off the runway”, if they want to be noticed. While branded hash tags and Instagram streams provide a platform for a brand discussion on social, combining online and offline efforts will have a bigger impact in the long run.

FACEBOOK’S PAPER APP AND THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL PLATFORMS 

THE STORY: Facebook introduced their mobile app, Paper that provides users a curated and personalized stream of news right at their fingertips. The app pulls content from third party media outlets, based on links shared within the social network’s 1.2 billion member community. With a sleek new design, an elegant interface and a highly visual user experience, Facebook is pushing further into the world of publishing. While reminiscent of Flipboard (and other mobile newsreaders) in many ways, Paper benefits from the massive built-in user base providing a new mobile experience for consuming content on Facebook

WHY IT MATTERS: Following the recent algorithm changes to include more “news” content along with the introduction of Paper, Facebook is positioning itself to potentially become the go-to online source for current events and stories. Facebook is already driving a significantly greater amount of traffic from its platform to publishers, passing the likes of Twitter and Reddit which are considered buzzier platforms.

What this means is that it will be harder and harder for the content that brands post on Facebook to be viewed without the support of paid media. Given Paper’s highly visual user experience, brands will have to focus on creating truly visual content with quality link sources. However, native advertising on Facebook may have become much easier and more appealing to brands. If a brand writes a timely article and promotes it in a specific section on Paper, it could potentially reach a more targeted audience. As of now, the app is ad free but the possibilities are clear and most likely in the foreseeable future.

PRIVATE SOCIAL NETWORKING TAKES OFF

THE STORY: As we predicted at the end of 2013, a growing appetite for privacy is changing the way we social network. Recently, a new slew of apps offering private and semi-private social messaging and content sharing have gained popularity. Notable newcomers include Secret (Gossip anonymously), Confide (Send self-deleting private messages) and Whisper (Make an anonymous confession to the Internet).

WHY IT MATTERS: As users turn their attention from mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter to private apps, marketers are looking for ways to meet consumers where they are. Just over the past two weeks, Audi used Snapchat to promote its Super Bowl ad content, and Gap joined Secret

For brands, the appeal of these apps extends beyond consumer reach. It gives them the chance to employ exciting, new technology with a more personal spin on messaging. For example, brands can use self-destructing messages to share flash deals, or geo-targeted messaging apps to share local deals.

Overall, brands should consider the growing trend of second-party apps, but remain mindful of a big watch-out: the reason users are migrating to these platforms is to gain more ownership over their content. Not every brand may fit, and all brands need to consider users’ security concerns before jumping on board.

LINKEDIN LOOKING MORE LIKE A PUBLISHER

THE STORY: In a recent move, LinkedIn has begun connecting publishers with brands looking to distribute content. It’s another step towards facilitating native advertising as well as positioning itself as a content broker between brands and publishers. The social platform continues to feel like a publisher on their own, especially with their Influencers blog network and their recent acquisition of Pulse, a news reader. 

WHY IT MATTERS: This update allows a brand to facilitate conversations with new audiences by associating themselves with relevant content outside of their normal reach. The tech company Emerson took advantage of this new offering by distributing stories from The Atlantic with the aim of reaching professional women. Articles were distributed to LinkedIn members who follow Emerson, as well as non-followers. Clicking on a story took the reader to the article page on TheAtlantic.com surrounded by Emerson ads, closing the loop and positioning the brand as a content curator. Distributing more content is part of LinkedIn’s effort to increase its relevancy beyond HR professionals. As curating and creating content have been such key facets to distribution strategies, this is a service brands could benefit from.

SOCHI OLYMPICS: THE INTERSECTION OF SPORTS AND POLITICS

THE STORY: Although the complex relationship between sports, politics and sponsorship has never been particularly easy, today’s sporting events are under more scrutiny than ever. Six years ago, controversies surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympics were chronicled in the news, but today social media has magnified these issues dramatically. Amid the controversy, brands are doing their best to promote themselves while still treading carefully in what has become a very sensitive situation.

WHY IT MATTERS: The role brands play in this complicated situation has been the topic of social media conversation long before the first skier hit the Sochi slopes. AT&T and McDonald’s both came out with strong anti-discrimination statements, while other corporate sponsors chose to remain silent on the issue. One of the most well received corporate reactions was Google’s not-so-subtle rainbow colored Google Doodle taking aim at Russia’s record of gay rights violations. 

The takeaway from all of this seems to be that it is possible for brands to take a stance on behalf of human rights (or any political issue) while still executing a carefully considered marketing strategy. Brands looking to learn sponsorship lessons from the issues surrounding Sochi would do well to consider the risks carefully, take each event on a case-by-case basis, and keep a close eye on social media for audience reactions.

FROM SAMSUNG TO SUBWAY: HOW BRANDS ARE JUMPING INTO THE NYFW CONVERSATION

THE STORY: New York Fashion Week can be an opportunity for brands to connect with their fans as well as reach a new audience. In recent years we’ve seen some interesting and inventive ways that CPG, technology and even fast food brands are making themselves relevant in a not-so-familiar industry conversation. Similar to how Google Glass integrated its product into the show last year, this year Samsung has partnered with Swarovski to create a crystal encrusted case for the Galaxy Note 3 to be debuted during this week’s events.

Perhaps the most in-your-face, non-fashion brand at Fashion Week this year is Subway. Subway has partnered with RUSK (9/11) to design an entire clothing line made out of the food chain’s napkins. Whether or not this blatant marketing effort increases sandwich sales remains to be seen but it does undeniably force Subway to the NYFW conversation. 

WHY IT MATTERS: Brands have to continue thinking “outside the box”, or in this case “off the runway”, if they want to be noticed. While branded hash tags and Instagram streams provide a platform for a brand discussion on social, combining online and offline efforts will have a bigger impact in the long run.

Finally, the Barbarians have a new home. And it isn’t just any office or stock-standard buildout. There’s 23,000 square feet of bright, open space in Chelsea, all seamlessly linked together by a white, undulating desk that unites every team member through the agency. We always want our creative work to provoke a reaction, and we now have an office that will do so as well. 
The logic was simple: at our old space, people were spread out through various offices and collaboration was scheduled! The new space is open, fluid and free flowing. The design is quite organic; passageways gently open into common areas for less formal check ins, department members can get things done with the turn of a head rather than a meeting request, and the team has a lovely communal space to eat lunch and enjoy a post-work pint. A place where work and play simply blend. We’ve developed a studio for electronic and mechanical experimentation (building things!) and we now have production facilities and studios in house to create great content quickly for our clients.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out new photos as well as a documentary about how we got from day one to the finished product, going behind the scenes of the desk construction at Machineous in LA, and also delving deeper into the entire process. But overall, we’re delighted to be in a new home — one that fosters making, creativity and closely working together as a team. Friends and collaborators are more than welcome to drop by and stay tuned for news of our open house. 
Sophie Kelly, CEO, the barbarian group

Finally, the Barbarians have a new home. And it isn’t just any office or stock-standard buildout. There’s 23,000 square feet of bright, open space in Chelsea, all seamlessly linked together by a white, undulating desk that unites every team member through the agency. We always want our creative work to provoke a reaction, and we now have an office that will do so as well. 

The logic was simple: at our old space, people were spread out through various offices and collaboration was scheduled! The new space is open, fluid and free flowing. The design is quite organic; passageways gently open into common areas for less formal check ins, department members can get things done with the turn of a head rather than a meeting request, and the team has a lovely communal space to eat lunch and enjoy a post-work pint. A place where work and play simply blend. We’ve developed a studio for electronic and mechanical experimentation (building things!) and we now have production facilities and studios in house to create great content quickly for our clients.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be rolling out new photos as well as a documentary about how we got from day one to the finished product, going behind the scenes of the desk construction at Machineous in LA, and also delving deeper into the entire process. But overall, we’re delighted to be in a new home — one that fosters making, creativity and closely working together as a team. Friends and collaborators are more than welcome to drop by and stay tuned for news of our open house. 

Sophie Kelly, CEO, the barbarian group

Benjamin Palmer + Julian Assange at SXSW InteractiveWe are so excited to announce our co-founder and Chairman Benjamin Palmer will be interviewing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange via satellite video on Saturday, March 8 at 11 am at SXSW Interactive.In this rare public interview, Assange will discuss privacy and surveillance in the digital age, the important roles of journalism and media, and the future of information transparency. If you are attending SXSW Interactive, we’d love for you to join us for this live conversation. Click here for more details on the session.

Benjamin Palmer + Julian Assange at SXSW Interactive

We are so excited to announce our co-founder and Chairman Benjamin Palmer will be interviewing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange via satellite video on Saturday, March 8 at 11 am at SXSW Interactive.

In this rare public interview, Assange will discuss privacy and surveillance in the digital age, the important roles of journalism and media, and the future of information transparency. 

If you are attending SXSW Interactive, we’d love for you to join us for this live conversation. Click here for more details on the session.

PRIVACY CONCERNS CHANGE THE SOCIAL LANDSCAPE 
WHAT WE SAW:  With teens expressing waning enthusiasm for Facebook and citing privacy concerns as a major factor, other networks are actively vying to fill the void. Social Networks and messaging apps such as Snapchat, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp appeal to younger audiences by offering peer-to-peer technologies with greater privacy and less interference from advertisers. Whether or not Snapchat turns out to be worth the $3 billion Facebook offered to buy it, the network has shown there’s an appetite for ephemeral content—the app has more than 350 million monthly users, compared to Twitter with just 23 million.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: With increasing privacy concerns and users craving genuine connections, brands and publishers will begin to create ephemeral content and forge one-to-one communications with consumers. In 2014, companies will likely produce shorter ads and commercials, subtly disguising advertisements as entertaining clips. These fun, easy-to-watch videos will be crucial for marketers courting the highly sought-after millennial demographic. 
Along with Snapchat, mobile-messaging services including WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat will continue to attract new users. Meanwhile, the more traditional social media service providers, such as Facebook and Twitter will have to either find a way to insure themselves against the rise of these messaging apps, or may seek to acquire them to remain competitive.

E-COMMERCE AND SOCIAL MEDIA CONVERGE
WHAT WE SAW:  In 2013 consumers and brands alike witnessed incredible growth of the global e-commerce market. While social media contributed only a modest amount to total revenue brought in this year—less than 1% of Black Friday e-commerce traffic was referred by social media—there were a number of changes suggesting a resurgence of social commerce in 2014. Developments in social media allowed brands to promote fans’ favorite items (as Target did with its “Awesome Shop”), personalize product offerings, and retarget ads based on consumers’ online behavior. Major networks including Instagram and Pinterest (with Promoted Pins) introduced ads for the first time this year. 
WHAT WE’LL SEE: The relationship between e-commerce and social media will continue to grow this year, with social commerce sales expected to reach $30 billion by 2015. Although consumers will still make the majority of e-commerce purchases on company websites, social media networks will increasingly be the initial point of contact and research.
 The key metrics in social media will shift from a pure engagement focus to a more direct sales focus as companies seek better ways to measure the ROI from their social efforts. Brands will rely on the marketing insights gained from social media to create personalized, real-time experiences for shoppers, particularly on visual sites like Pinterest and Instagram. The companies that are able to seamlessly integrate the purchase experience with the social experience will have the best chance of success at increasing their e-commerce sales in the next few years.

REAL-TIME GETS REBRANDED
WHAT WE SAW:  In 2013, countless brands followed the “real time” trend, generating designed assets at a rapid-fire pace to respond to big cultural moments on social media. A trend famously executed in 2012 by Oreo with its Daily Twist campaign, this year’s executions ranged from Charmin’s response to the royal birth to AT&T’s outrage-stirring response to the anniversary of 9/11.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: With a cluttered space in social media and countless brands competing to break through, “real time” will have to be rebranded. It’s no longer enough to have a content studio ready to generate a Photoshopped image at a moment’s notice. Now, to get attention, and to generate meaningful interactions with followers, brands will have to focus on listening to their audiences and emphasizing creativity. 
2013’s improvised TV spots from Lexus and Twitter’s new platform, Amplify, are two recent, groundbreaking steps toward redefining what it means to be “real time.” As we redefine what it means to be real-time, the “content studio” model may become larger-scale. For example, a brand could pair up with a comedy studio to create original content during a big cultural moment, or partner with a media site to create a rich, second-screen experience during a big, televised event.

THE FACE OF INTERNET CELEBRITY CHANGES
WHAT WE SAW:  Following the crest of mommy bloggers and beauty vloggers in recent years, Instagram photographers and Vine comedians broke out in 2013. After quickly growing devoted followings of hundreds of thousands, it wasn’t long before many of the top creators on these channels were tapped by brands.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: With a growing pool of social media influencers more diverse and vast than ever, savvy brands will look beyond the traditional types of content creators to redefine what makes an “influencer.” For example, Free People is tapping its biggest fans to appear in fashion shows and generate their content. It remains to be seen who in 2014 will be the next big thing, but the consistent qualities that take influential accounts to the top are originality and authenticity. And as more platforms emerge, so will new voices.




STREAMING GROWS IN THE GAMING SPACE
WHAT WE SAW:  It’s never been more obvious that video game entertainment has matured from child’s play to big business. Grand Theft Auto V broke records by pulling in $1 billion in revenue within three days of its release this fall. The audience that grew up with Pac-Man and Mario are still playing: gamers today average 34 years old and 40% of all gamers are female. Microsoft and Sony both launched new consoles this fall which support apps and streaming video services in addition to playing games. But perhaps the most exciting news is the inclusion of streaming video service Twitch.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: Integrating Twitch directly into the hardware of the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 will allow players to stream their activity to friends without any effort. The controller for the Playstation 4 even has a Share button, which instantly streams  gameplay to Twitch. Other players are jumping in, too: Ustream and YouTube both provide live streaming services. 2014 might be the year video games become a spectator sport.

LIVING ROOMS GET WIRED
WHAT WE SAW:  Smart TV’s have spent the past few years trying to become an app platform, but have failed to see significant adoption by developers because of competing standards and a serious lack of computing power. As a whole, the living room app industry is still struggling to be more than Netflix players and fish tank screensavers.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: A new generation of smart TV’s, game consoles and hardware accessories emerged at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 that will rekindle developers’ passions for the big screen. The Xbox One and PS4 consoles both launched to massive sales, and have been courting indie developers. With significantly better hardware, rich development kits, and standard user input devices, the newest game consoles may be fertile ground for the living room app developer. Meanwhile, Google’s snuck in a trojan horse: its ultra-portable, ultra-cheap Chromecast dongle. Google has big plans for the tiny Chromecast, and is in the processing of rolling out a development kit for it. That development kit could be just the thing that’s needed to get Android and Chrome app developers to tune in.

VOICE RECOGNITION BECOMES THE NEW CLICK
WHAT WE SAW:  In 2013, we hit an inflection point with voice recognition, as smart devices, like the Moto X and the Xbox One, began passively listening for commands. Meanwhile, services like Facebook’s Graph Search and Netflix’s Max took conversational approaches to dissecting big data, and emotion-detecting cameras began to creep into retail.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: Voice recognition, emotion recognition, and human language access to big data are on a collision course. The Winston Show (an iPad app for kids from former Pixar employees) teases what this next wave of technology will bring: contextually-aware services that you engage with like another human being. Expect to see toys that proactively play with your kids and virtual concierge services that are sensitive to your mood.

BIG DATA TRANSFORMS BRICK AND MORTAR
WHAT WE SAW:  In-store monitoring went into overdrive in 2013, as cameras tracking eyeballs and emotions sprung up in test programs around the world, and stores began watching cellphone ID’s to track customer visits.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: Widespread digital signage will become necessary to capitalize on the mountain of data generated by in-store monitoring, as advertised specials rotate to match customers’ specific interests and buying habits. Impulse-conversion becomes more and more important, and new technologies like iBeacon will help by letting retailers beam customized offers directly to customers, and encouraging customers to check out instantly and skip the register.

FITNESS-TRACKING DEVICES ARE PUSHED OUT
WHAT WE SAW:  According to a Consumer Electronics Association study, consumer interest in fitness wearables like FitBit and Nike Fuelband has never been higher, and is growing at a rapid clip. Manufacturers have taken notice and flooded the market, though no definitive winners have emerged.
WHAT WE’LL SEE: Like America’s short-lived love affair with the beeper, the dedicated fitness wearable will soon be phased out of the market. At one end, smartphones with highly-refined motion tracking, like the iPhone 5s, or with health-specific hardware, like Lifewatch V, are emerging in response to the appetite for health and fitness tech. At the other, even smarter wearables, like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch, are beginning to break through to the mainstream. Expect consumer’s enthusiasm for fitness bands to turn into apathy as they’re increasingly drawn towards bio-aware smartphones or feature-rich smartwatches.

PRIVACY CONCERNS CHANGE THE SOCIAL LANDSCAPE 

WHAT WE SAW:  With teens expressing waning enthusiasm for Facebook and citing privacy concerns as a major factor, other networks are actively vying to fill the void. Social Networks and messaging apps such as Snapchat, Instagram Direct and WhatsApp appeal to younger audiences by offering peer-to-peer technologies with greater privacy and less interference from advertisers. Whether or not Snapchat turns out to be worth the $3 billion Facebook offered to buy it, the network has shown there’s an appetite for ephemeral content—the app has more than 350 million monthly users, compared to Twitter with just 23 million.

WHAT WE’LL SEE: With increasing privacy concerns and users craving genuine connections, brands and publishers will begin to create ephemeral content and forge one-to-one communications with consumers. In 2014, companies will likely produce shorter ads and commercials, subtly disguising advertisements as entertaining clips. These fun, easy-to-watch videos will be crucial for marketers courting the highly sought-after millennial demographic. 

Along with Snapchat, mobile-messaging services including WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat will continue to attract new users. Meanwhile, the more traditional social media service providers, such as Facebook and Twitter will have to either find a way to insure themselves against the rise of these messaging apps, or may seek to acquire them to remain competitive.

E-COMMERCE AND SOCIAL MEDIA CONVERGE

WHAT WE SAW:  In 2013 consumers and brands alike witnessed incredible growth of the global e-commerce market. While social media contributed only a modest amount to total revenue brought in this year—less than 1% of Black Friday e-commerce traffic was referred by social media—there were a number of changes suggesting a resurgence of social commerce in 2014. Developments in social media allowed brands to promote fans’ favorite items (as Target did with its “Awesome Shop”), personalize product offerings, and retarget ads based on consumers’ online behavior. Major networks including Instagram and Pinterest (with Promoted Pins) introduced ads for the first time this year. 

WHAT WE’LL SEE: The relationship between e-commerce and social media will continue to grow this year, with social commerce sales expected to reach $30 billion by 2015. Although consumers will still make the majority of e-commerce purchases on company websites, social media networks will increasingly be the initial point of contact and research.

 The key metrics in social media will shift from a pure engagement focus to a more direct sales focus as companies seek better ways to measure the ROI from their social efforts. Brands will rely on the marketing insights gained from social media to create personalized, real-time experiences for shoppers, particularly on visual sites like Pinterest and Instagram. The companies that are able to seamlessly integrate the purchase experience with the social experience will have the best chance of success at increasing their e-commerce sales in the next few years.

REAL-TIME GETS REBRANDED

WHAT WE SAW:  In 2013, countless brands followed the “real time” trend, generating designed assets at a rapid-fire pace to respond to big cultural moments on social media. A trend famously executed in 2012 by Oreo with its Daily Twist campaign, this year’s executions ranged from Charmin’s response to the royal birth to AT&T’s outrage-stirring response to the anniversary of 9/11.

WHAT WE’LL SEE: With a cluttered space in social media and countless brands competing to break through, “real time” will have to be rebranded. It’s no longer enough to have a content studio ready to generate a Photoshopped image at a moment’s notice. Now, to get attention, and to generate meaningful interactions with followers, brands will have to focus on listening to their audiences and emphasizing creativity. 

2013’s improvised TV spots from Lexus and Twitter’s new platform, Amplify, are two recent, groundbreaking steps toward redefining what it means to be “real time.” As we redefine what it means to be real-time, the “content studio” model may become larger-scale. For example, a brand could pair up with a comedy studio to create original content during a big cultural moment, or partner with a media site to create a rich, second-screen experience during a big, televised event.

THE FACE OF INTERNET CELEBRITY CHANGES

WHAT WE SAW:  Following the crest of mommy bloggers and beauty vloggers in recent years, Instagram photographers and Vine comedians broke out in 2013. After quickly growing devoted followings of hundreds of thousands, it wasn’t long before many of the top creators on these channels were tapped by brands.

WHAT WE’LL SEE: With a growing pool of social media influencers more diverse and vast than ever, savvy brands will look beyond the traditional types of content creators to redefine what makes an “influencer.” For example, Free People is tapping its biggest fans to appear in fashion shows and generate their content. It remains to be seen who in 2014 will be the next big thing, but the consistent qualities that take influential accounts to the top are originality and authenticity. And as more platforms emerge, so will new voices.

STREAMING GROWS IN THE GAMING SPACE

WHAT WE SAW:  It’s never been more obvious that video game entertainment has matured from child’s play to big business. Grand Theft Auto V broke records by pulling in $1 billion in revenue within three days of its release this fall. The audience that grew up with Pac-Man and Mario are still playing: gamers today average 34 years old and 40% of all gamers are female. Microsoft and Sony both launched new consoles this fall which support apps and streaming video services in addition to playing games. But perhaps the most exciting news is the inclusion of streaming video service Twitch.

WHAT WE’LL SEE: Integrating Twitch directly into the hardware of the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 will allow players to stream their activity to friends without any effort. The controller for the Playstation 4 even has a Share button, which instantly streams  gameplay to Twitch. Other players are jumping in, too: Ustream and YouTube both provide live streaming services. 2014 might be the year video games become a spectator sport.

LIVING ROOMS GET WIRED

WHAT WE SAW:  Smart TV’s have spent the past few years trying to become an app platform, but have failed to see significant adoption by developers because of competing standards and a serious lack of computing power. As a whole, the living room app industry is still struggling to be more than Netflix players and fish tank screensavers.

WHAT WE’LL SEE: A new generation of smart TV’s, game consoles and hardware accessories emerged at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 that will rekindle developers’ passions for the big screen. The Xbox One and PS4 consoles both launched to massive sales, and have been courting indie developers. With significantly better hardware, rich development kits, and standard user input devices, the newest game consoles may be fertile ground for the living room app developer. Meanwhile, Google’s snuck in a trojan horse: its ultra-portable, ultra-cheap Chromecast dongle. Google has big plans for the tiny Chromecast, and is in the processing of rolling out a development kit for it. That development kit could be just the thing that’s needed to get Android and Chrome app developers to tune in.

VOICE RECOGNITION BECOMES THE NEW CLICK

WHAT WE SAW:  In 2013, we hit an inflection point with voice recognition, as smart devices, like the Moto X and the Xbox One, began passively listening for commands. Meanwhile, services like Facebook’s Graph Search and Netflix’s Max took conversational approaches to dissecting big data, and emotion-detecting cameras began to creep into retail.

WHAT WE’LL SEE: Voice recognition, emotion recognition, and human language access to big data are on a collision course. The Winston Show (an iPad app for kids from former Pixar employees) teases what this next wave of technology will bring: contextually-aware services that you engage with like another human being. Expect to see toys that proactively play with your kids and virtual concierge services that are sensitive to your mood.

BIG DATA TRANSFORMS BRICK AND MORTAR

WHAT WE SAW:  In-store monitoring went into overdrive in 2013, as cameras tracking eyeballs and emotions sprung up in test programs around the world, and stores began watching cellphone ID’s to track customer visits.

WHAT WE’LL SEE: Widespread digital signage will become necessary to capitalize on the mountain of data generated by in-store monitoring, as advertised specials rotate to match customers’ specific interests and buying habits. Impulse-conversion becomes more and more important, and new technologies like iBeacon will help by letting retailers beam customized offers directly to customers, and encouraging customers to check out instantly and skip the register.

FITNESS-TRACKING DEVICES ARE PUSHED OUT

WHAT WE SAW:  According to a Consumer Electronics Association study, consumer interest in fitness wearables like FitBit and Nike Fuelband has never been higher, and is growing at a rapid clip. Manufacturers have taken notice and flooded the market, though no definitive winners have emerged.

WHAT WE’LL SEE: Like America’s short-lived love affair with the beeper, the dedicated fitness wearable will soon be phased out of the market. At one end, smartphones with highly-refined motion tracking, like the iPhone 5s, or with health-specific hardware, like Lifewatch V, are emerging in response to the appetite for health and fitness tech. At the other, even smarter wearables, like Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch, are beginning to break through to the mainstream. Expect consumer’s enthusiasm for fitness bands to turn into apathy as they’re increasingly drawn towards bio-aware smartphones or feature-rich smartwatches.

The Barbarian Group recently traveled to the CSX Intermodal Terminals’ Northwest Ohio facility, an interconnected hub for rail, truck and ship transportation. It was there that we captured how GE Transportation is powered by the Industrial Internet to enable CSX to have one of the most efficient and reliable networks in the world.
To capture the tightly-orchestrated intermodal process, we collaborated with Reuben Wu of British rock band Ladytron, boutique production shop GOODCOMPANY and Director Noah Conopask to produce “Over 20,000 Containers, 2,000 Routes”. The audio includes organic terminal sounds (captured by Wu onsite) and original instrumentation with cinematic views of key moments in the intermodal process.
CSX is the largest railroad in the eastern United States and serves more than 40 intermodal terminals across its network, which has 21,000 miles of track. To give you a sense of the volume, 50 million tons of freight are processed at the CSX Intermodal Terminals’ Northwest Ohio facility alone on a daily basis. To help ensure that the trains within CSX are taking the most efficient trip, CSX has installed GE’s Trip Optimizer™, a cruise control system for trains that automatically regulates speed according to a fuel optimum plan. The system reduces fuel consumption of each locomotive by an average of 32,000 gallons per year.

Photo by Dan Cole. 
The Barbarian Group recently traveled to the CSX Intermodal Terminals’ Northwest Ohio facility, an interconnected hub for rail, truck and ship transportation. It was there that we captured how GE Transportation is powered by the Industrial Internet to enable CSX to have one of the most efficient and reliable networks in the world.

To capture the tightly-orchestrated intermodal process, we collaborated with Reuben Wu of British rock band Ladytron, boutique production shop GOODCOMPANY and Director Noah Conopask to produce “Over 20,000 Containers, 2,000 Routes”The audio includes organic terminal sounds (captured by Wu onsite) and original instrumentation with cinematic views of key moments in the intermodal process.

CSX is the largest railroad in the eastern United States and serves more than 40 intermodal terminals across its network, which has 21,000 miles of track. To give you a sense of the volume, 50 million tons of freight are processed at the CSX Intermodal Terminals’ Northwest Ohio facility alone on a daily basis. To help ensure that the trains within CSX are taking the most efficient trip, CSX has installed GE’s Trip Optimizer™, a cruise control system for trains that automatically regulates speed according to a fuel optimum plan. The system reduces fuel consumption of each locomotive by an average of 32,000 gallons per year.
Photo by Dan Cole