From the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and new AI assistants to shoppable Pinterest ads and VR data vis, check out what went on in advertising, marketing, and technology this week.
What the Cambridge Analytica Scandal Means for Marketers
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard the words Cambridge Analytica this week. Last Saturday, self-proclaimed whistleblower Christopher Wylie revealed that the firm harvested and exploited the Facebook data of 50 million users. #DeleteFacebook quickly started trending on Twitter. CEO Zuckerberg came forward on Wednesday, explaining that the big F will audit any apps with suspicious activity and ban developers that don’t comply with their rules. He also announced new restrictions on user data access and promised that more limits will follow in the coming weeks. Users will soon be able to view all their installed apps and features that allow them to revoke permissions at the top of their News Feed.
Whether you find Facebook at fault or not, the whole Cambridge Analytica ordeal serves as a warning. Consumers are becoming more educated and concerned about the use of their information. They crave transparency. Some brands, like Mozilla, have pulled out of Facebook’s ad platform since the news. Others are waiting to see how the story develops. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with hyper-targeting, but we should all strive for a data strategy that acquires and utilizes personal data the right way. We should also pay close attention to Facebook’s changes in the coming weeks. Regulation has never seemed more likely and that could have big ramifications on the effectiveness of their ad products. If you have limited access to user data and third-party measurement, is that Facebook ad still worth as much to you?
IBM Launches AI Assistant
Siri, set a 5-minute timer. Cortana, show me my schedule. Alexa, tell me about this day in history. Watson, help me win Jeopardy. OK, so it won’t work exactly like that but IBM did have exciting news this week. At Think 2018 on Tuesday, they introduced Watson Assistant, which brings artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and the Internet of Things (IoT) together to help businesses transform customer experiences. Like other digital assistants, it’s smart voice and text-enabled. It can answer questions and take actions. What sets it apart? First of all, it’s white-labeled. Even more exciting, it’s programmed to learn more about users through each interaction, gaining greater insight into who they are and “what makes them happy.”
Businesses can customize the cognitive, conversational self-service tool to fit their specific needs. And as customers engage with Watson, it will reveal their changing preferences. IBM claims this will minimize dependency on higher cost support channels and personalize interactions, maximizing customer satisfaction. Watson can also serve custom brand content. The marketing possibilities are endless. And it isn’t just for the home. Automakers can install Watson Assistant in their vehicles and hotels can bring the enterprise AI experience to their rooms. Versions optimized for retail, banking, and other verticals are also in the works. When it comes to privacy, IBM says each version will use and learn from siloed data. The Assistant-using partner company will own that data.
Now, Any Publisher Can Use Stories Format
Pioneered by Snapchat and copied across Instagram, Facebook, and Google, Stories is the go-to format for mobile content. Video syndication and monetization platform Connatix doesn’t think it should be limited to these walled channels. Too many creators are investing resources to create unique, interactive content without reaping the benefits. On Thursday, they launched Stories for Publishers, which allows anyone to develop and integrate their content in the Stories format on their own site and app. The unit is monetized by short vertical video ads played between story items. Editors have control over both the content and the ads that appear in their stories.
Though this tool is primarily for publishers, advertisers will no doubt benefit. If publishers can give their readers the immersive mobile web experience they’ve come to expect, the days of social media dependency (with all its algorithm, privacy, and monetization complications) may soon be over. Bringing money and control back to the publisher will reinstate a relationship that brands are used to – and enable bigger ad appetites. But as a primarily video ad model, Stories for Publishers also hints at a greater need for video assets. The industry is changing and consumers don’t want to experience ads the same way. Both publishers and social media companies want to create innovative, native solutions but it’s up to advertisers to make them effective.
What else you should know this week:
- On Monday, Pinterest announced that their Shopping Ads are out of testing and available for hundreds for advertisers. Shopping Ads bring Pinners closer to the in-store experience, turning a product catalog into a visual, actionable tool. You can create ads that shows a product from multiple angles and insert the product into a mix of lifestyle images. Shopping Ads pull automatically from existing product feeds, making them especially useful for brands already present on the platform. Beta partners like Ulta Beauty, eBay, and IKEA Canada found the tool drives larger basket sizes and faster conversion. It also helped brands reach people earlier in the consideration phase and spurred customer acquisition. Since a recent study found that 90% of Pinners make purchase decisions on the platform and 70% use it to find new products, it’s worth paying attention. To qualify for the Shopping Ads program, brands can submit a Pinterest Propel Program form.
- If the Cambridge Analytica debacle is steering your marketing spend from Facebook, look no further than Snapchat. This week, the platform shared that they’re bulking up location-based ad targeting. Advertisers can now target ads around a specific geographic place or a general location “type” – like a beach, movie theater or university. According to Snapchat, there are more than 150 location types to choose from. Snapchat’s in a unique position from other major ad platforms, who couldn’t offer location-based targeting with real-time data. To curb privacy fears, Snapchat emphasized that they “don’t share any location information that can identify specific Snapchatters to advertisers, and all Snapchatters can choose whether to allow use of location services.” But their new Explore feature, announced on the same day as the location-based ad filters, will make it more appealing to opt in. Coincidence? I think not.
Cool Tool Alert
Data is the buzzword on every CMO’s mind. They want to see how marketing plans ladder up to or stem from an analytical insight. But it isn’t always easy to show them. That’s where 3Data comes in, creating an immersive data environment. Previously known as DatavizVR, the 3Data platform creates a three-dimensional field where users can plot data points using up to seven variables. It’s the only fully collaborative, multi-user 3D data visualization tool that works across the cloud. Best of all, it doesn’t require a VR headset or any download. 3Data uses webVR, so it’s accessible to anyone, anywhere on any device. Team members can collaborate, supervisors can edit, and clients can leave notes all in one 3D space in real time.