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Advertising and Media Insider newsletter January 15





Dear Readers,

We’re back! Welcome to the first edition of BI’s new Advertising and Media Insider newsletter. We’ve replaced our daily digest with a weekly version that publishes every Wednesday and will go deeper into the big stories we’ve been following. We’ll play around with the format, so let me know what you like/don’t like at

If you’re new to the newsletter, you can sign up here.

Voice is primed take off

You didn’t have to be at CES to know that voice is shaping up to be one of the hottest areas for publishers and marketers this year. In a Reuters Institute survey, three quarters of digital publisher respondents said that audio is becoming a more important part of their content and business strategy. As we reported, The New York Times recently provided a glimpse of what customized audio content for the devices will look like. The Times is also making money on the platform, with a skill it created for Audi. A lot of publishers have already been repurposing podcasts for voice assistants, but many publishers are building dedicated audio production units and content as well. “We don’t want to be road kill,” as one publisher confided to me.

But voice comes with questions for publishers and marketers. Surveys have mixed results on how much people actually use the devices to pull up news. As with any platform, publishers have to think about the loss of control to the platforms, Amazon and Google, that dominate the market. At least when distributing on search and social networks, there’s a possibility of getting traffic back to your site and visual brand recognition. Not so with voice.

The financial benefit also is limited since the device manufacturers have, probably wisely, kept them free of ad products. A utilitarian or entertainment approach seems to be the way to go. They also have to consider how their brand “sounds” on the device. Google has made grants to certain media companies to create content for its voice-activated Assistant, setting the stage for a situation of haves and have-nots in the space and tension between the tech giant and other publishers. It’s a trend we’ll continue to follow.

To read most of the articles here, subscribe to BI Prime, or sign up here and enter promo code AD2PRIME2018 for a for a 1-month free trial.


Here’s what else we’re reporting:

Chief customer experience officers are the new must-have role at CPG companies

Established brands are losing share to digitally born companies that have shaken up retailing, in part with great customer experience. Casper, for instance, lets customers try a mattress for 100 days and return it if they don’t like it. Legacy brands are fighting back by appointing c-suite executives to oversee every touchpoint with the customer. Around 12% of companies in the S&P 500 had chief experience officers, up from 6% three years ago, Forrester estimated. 

We got a leaked document that shows how Amazon is courting influencers

Lauren Johnson looked into the online giant’s program to get influencers to recommend products on Amazon to their fans on social media in exchange for a cut of the sale.

Amazon is promoting the program as a way to make easy extra money. But influencers we talked to said the money they’re making varies widely. Ultimately, Amazon could be the big winner, by taking the data that influencers generate and using it to retarget customers on its own.

“There’s so much data that Amazon can start to build within their advertising ecosystem,” said Krishna Subramanian, a cofounder of Captiv8, an influencer marketing firm.

Gillette’s #MeToo ad

Gillette  masculinity adGillette

Brands act at their own peril when it comes to being part of a cultural moment. When shaving giant Gillette created an ad addressing the #MeToo movement, it knew there would be a backlash, but it went ahead anyway to reach the next generation of consumers. The one-and-a-half-minute spot refers explicitly to #MeToo stories and calls for men to look inward and be the best versions of themselves.

Pay TV’s problems are reshaping the cable business

The third quarter of 2018 was the worst ever for pay TV, with legacy-cable and satellite companies losing more than 1 million subscribers, and it’s having a trickle-down effect on small cable operators. Wall Street analyst Craig Moffett predicts that, rather than fighting to keep video subscribers, cable operators will withdraw from the business to focus on higher-margin broadband products.

Publishers will roll out more paywalls this year, but face increasing resistance from readers

Subscriptions are a top priority for media companies this year, with 52% saying it’s their main revenue focus, according to a Reuters Institute survey. But scores of publishers put up paywalls and created membership programs last year and people can only manage so many subscriptions. Reuters predicts there even will be a rise in paywall-blocking software.

How Sprinklr CEO’s plans to survive the mar-tech consolidation

The CEO of the $1.8 billion social media-management platform says 80%-99% of marketing tech firms will go out of business. Ragy Thomas says his software-as-a-service model positions Sprinklr well. He sees a growing market for social media management as companies use digital channels to support customer service and other departments.

“We think it’s going to go further because customer care is going to come into the fold,” he told BI. “If I’m United Airlines and I talk about great customer service that isn’t backed up by a real example in my content or messaging strategy, it’s not going to be credible.”

In tech news:

In entertainment news:

Other good stories from around BI:



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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton





OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training





Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test





While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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