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We ate entirely too much Sbarro.

Hey, it was a quick meal fix in a pinch and there was so much at CES to view / listen to / play / swipe / poke / drool over, that a microwaved pizza slice was often the best option. The three-to-five minutes that it took to inhale a triangular piece of mediocrity was ample time to reflect on the handful of key themes that kept popping up across the miles of exhibitor floorspace, conference track events and flashy keynote speeches. Back at the office, I managed to gather my tomato-sauce-stained notes and expand on the most prominent dynamics from this year's CES.

The Year of the ________?

In most years at CES, there is typically one product or category that grabs all the media attention and consumer buzz. Last year tablets were the big craze. But there doesn't appear to be a clear winner this year. Some may argue that the emergence of Intel's Ultrabook category won that right with a dizzying number of models released from leading brands, while others may contest that OLED TVs were the next must-have. Aside from those two examples, there weren't really any 'game-changers'?. Maybe it wasn't a product or category at all but a trend known as the 'ecosystem'?'?¦

Owning the Ecosystem

If we had a nickel for every time the word 'ecosystem'? was uttered, we'd have a big ol' bag of nickels. But what does this new buzzword mean? Simply put, the ecosystem is the synergy created by a single provider that can offer users hardware (devices), software (an operating system), content for those devices (music, e-books, games, apps, etc.), and an online marketplace to purchase content ' all working together seamlessly. Apple has this structure in place now ' you can download a book from iTunes, read it on your iPhone on the train home from work bookmark your spot when your stop arrives, then resume reading from that point on your iPad while reading from the couch when you get home. Because it took Apple years to build and integrate this model seamlessly, they're in the leadership position and competitors are scrambling to catch up.

In most cases, one single company does not have the necessary resources in place to handle an across-the-board solution so they have naturally turned to strategic partnerships or acquisitions to fill-in the gaps. Last year the industry saw these building blocks being put into place. In February, Nokia and Microsoft announced a strategic alliance where that mobile cog helps Microsoft build out their own ecosystem. In April, Dish acquired Blockbuster's assets from bankruptcy auction, giving them more content firepower against a slew of competitors in DirecTV, cable networks and Netflix. Finally in October, Sony bought out Ericsson (you'll see the 'Sony Ericsson'? brand phased out in favor of 'Sony Mobile'? in the next few months) in a move that gave Sony complete control of the device end and allows for future integration opportunities with PlayStation 3 and content from the PlayStation Network.

To best understand the marketing implications of this ' first marketers must understand how consumers engage with these devices. Long gone are the days when a consumer sat in front of a TV with undivided attention. Today, that consumer could very well be using multiple devices at the same time. It is the responsibility of the agency/advertiser to understand the best way to reach the audience across multiple screens through a comprehensive brand experience. The benefit of these ecosystems is the ability to provide an integrated, one-stop solution across all touchpoints completely customizable to the assets (physical or digital) available. However, the downside is the device fragmentation, where consumers have multiple devices but not from the same manufacturer / ecosystem ' then that synergy and compatibility is lost.

Convergence on Convenience

In this ecosystem model, the ability to move from device to device with similar entertainment content is the ideal experience. There is a similar dynamic of interoperability through a 'connected'? home where various 'smart'? devices, appliances and systems work together for a more functional, efficient and cost-friendly residence. Imagine being able to get a text from your fridge to remind you to pick up more eggs because it knows that you're running low and you're close to the grocery store. Or maybe your bathroom shower mirror is voice controlled with the ability to give you today's weather and top news stories as you get ready for work.

These experiences are getting closer to reality and as they do the ability to enhance existing behaviors will come with it as well. For example ' your fridge then sends you a coupon on premium free-range eggs (because it syncs with your search/browsing history and recognizes that you're a foodie with a golden heart). Or your bathroom shower mirror gives you headlines from the New York Times that you can bookmark and sync to your phone to read on your drive in ' all included with a single NYT subscription.

Such emerging communication channels and opportunities may be a few years off. Fragmentation issues will still remain and there needs to be sufficient consumer demand for market viability but it's interesting to think about how a truly connected home might affect our day to day lives.

3DTV Today and Beyond

3DTVs aren't going anywhere. There's still a battle between active glasses (battery-powered, with a lens shutter) and passive glasses (polarized lenses like the kind you get at the movies). There were only a few autostereoscopic or 'glasses-free'? models on the exhibition floor ' mostly in some beta form from the big CE brands or offered by smaller specialty companies. In past years, the adoption of 3DTV was a 'chicken vs. egg'? scenario ' content was scarce so consumers didn't want to spend for the extra capability that they would use minimally and content creators and distributors didn't want to front the cost against a small universe of capable TVs. This was the same growth pattern that HDTV went through about a decade ago. But now, with most new higher-end sets featuring 3D capability (at a marginal cost), there is less consumer trepidation, especially when considering dedicated 3D television channels (ESPN3D, 3Net, etc.) and an ever-increasing slate of 3D movies released each month. All of this points toward consumers becoming more comfortable with 3D engagements.

That doesn't necessarily mean that the format will lose the luster of its impact entirely ' it just needs to be approached with caution. While it's easy to fall into the trap of creating gimmicky content (i.e. a soccer ball flying out of the TV), the approach should be the same as any other advertising medium where the focus is on the message and communication to your target audience first, not the effects. Designers don't say 'holy crap, we HAVE GOT to put a lens flare on this'? then build a concept using that as a starting point. Once that message is crafted, a few ideas to potentially explore are applications that can show size and scale (i.e. various classes of pickup trucks), precise details (i.e. industrial design of a sleek new handset), or use to provide depth to a scene / environment (i.e. panoramic shot of a tourist destination).

What's Next?

It'll be interesting to see these dynamics shape up over the next twelve months. It's highly unlikely that a game-changing product pops up this year. Any announcements from Apple (traditionally absent at CES) can shake things up as well. Who knows if any of the industry's leading brands will be able to gain traction on Apple's ecosystem, but it's certainly an uphill battle. Smart appliances could become more widely adopted as consumers become increasingly tech savvy leading the way for further growth in that category in coming years. 3DTVs and content will continue to grow but by the end of the year will it remain a fun novelty or will it become a serious way to enjoy the home television experience?

As for next year's CES, making predictions for what we'll see is always a crapshoot. I'm guessing 3D-capable mobile devices. And hoverboards.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be reporting back on a cross section of our time at CES ' everything from industry trends to brilliant new products to mind-blowing apps. Stay tuned.

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In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for April 2022. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+ (sometimes 100,000+). After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. Top Trending Keywords - April 2022 Overview Last month, we only had one phrase that was queried over 10 million times, according to Google Trends. We’re not sure if “April Showers brings less Unified Search Interest” is the new hip saying but you’ve read it first, for sure.We did see queries across the typical topics: Entertainment, Holidays, Politics.  We’ll delve into all of those phrases.  Oh yeah, and a billionaire decided to buy a social network so we’ll examine the timeline of that topic. Finally, since there were so many and they were spread over five distinct subcategories, we are doing a deep dive into the keywords related to sports.  Those live events certainly capture the attention of Google users.   Climate Change Awareness In coordination with Earth Day, Google changed their logo with a Doodle that linked to search results for the following phrase: Climate Change - 4/21/2022 - 10,000,000+ queries SInce the inception of Google Trends, the search interest for this phrase has never been as high as it was last month. Google has used its Doodle program to bring attention to other topics in the past. We wonder if search interest in this topic will continue to increase in future months and years.   No One Was Slapped At The Grammys After we reported that Will Smith broke Google Trends in March 2022, the AMP team thought there may be a spike in interest in other awards shows. Check out the phrases attached to the Grammys: Grammys 2022 - 4/2/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Olivia Rodrigo - 4/3/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries The awards show received a respectable number of queries and congrats to Olivia Rodrigo on her wins.  Let’s look at the historical data for this awards show: Looking at the past five years, the search interest in this year’s Grammys was a part of a downward trend.  There appears to be no effect from the Oscars.  We do like the small spike in the chart that is connected to when nominees are announced.   Top Movie Queries Last Month What films drove people to search in April 2022?  Here’s the list we collected: Doctor Strange 2 - 4/6/2022 - 200,000+ queries Sonic 2 - 4/7/2022 - 500,000+ queries Thor: Love and Thunder - 4/18/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Don't Worry Darling - 4/27/2022 - 500,000+ queries The only phrase that is attached to a movie that premiered in theaters from this list is “Sonic 2”.  The rest are associated with a trailer that was made available online. If interest in a trailer is high, we feel that it’s a good indication that anticipation for the film is high.   Bonus query - the final episodes of the Netflix series Ozark were made available on the 29th: Ozark - 4/29/2022 - 500,000+ queries   Holidays And Natural Occurrences Interest in holidays is strong and we typically see the most popular holidays get queried on the day they occur or when the celebration starts.  Here are the phrases that we collected last month: Passover - 4/14/2022 - 200,000+ queries Happy Easter! - 4/17/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Earth Day - 4/21/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries It’s clear that the Google Doodle related to climate change dwarfed the search interest in Earth Day.  In this five year view, the interest is in a bit of a down trend. The spike in the middle of the chart shows that search interest was at its highest in April 2020. Some people may not think it’s a great holiday but Tax Day in the US was on the 18th this year and here was the phrase associated with that day: TurboTax - 4/18/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Procrastinators unite!  Or not. Or whenever you get to it. We saw that the full moon in April drove people to search and another weather related query made the daily top 3: Full moon April 2022 - 4/14/2022 - 200,000+ queries Severe thunderstorm warning - 4/11/2022 - 200,000+ queries Winter is officially over - we did not see any Winter Storm Warning queries in April!   Politics As Usual We had a few queries related to politics, both domestically and abroad, that made our collection from last month: Senator Dianne Feinstein - 4/14/2022 - 200,000+ queries Rudy Giuliani - 4/20/2022 - 500,000+ queries Madison Cawthorn - 4/22/2022 - 200,000+ queries French election - 4/23/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Sen. Dianne Feinstein made the list because of news stories that she is no longer mentally fit for Congress.  Rudy Giuliani made an appearance on The Masked Singer TV show, which was spoiled back in February.  The North Carolina congressman made headlines on the 22nd and the presidential election in France captured enough attention of the US audience that it was queried over a million times on the 23rd.   Elon Musk  Not sure if you’ve heard but Elon Musk announced that he was going to buy Twitter and then had his offer accepted - all in the month of April 2022. Elon Musk - 4/4/2022 - 500,000+ queries Elon Musk - 4/25/2022 - 5,000,000+ queries At the time of this writing, the deal has not been finalized but all of AMP is watching closely to see what changes may come to this social media platform and its ads policies.   Just a Month About Sports Since people have been allowed to watch events in stadiums and arenas, sports-related searches are back with a vengeance. We did see a dip in the number of phrases that had sports intent between April 2020 through the summer of 2021.  Last month, we saw a good number of phrases that could be grouped to tell a few stories. Check out the timeline of the NCAA Basketball Tournaments: Final Four - 4/1/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries UConn women's basketball - 4/1/2022 - 500,000+ queries Duke - 4/2/2022 - 5,000,000+ queries Duke vs UNC - 4/2/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries UConn women's basketball - 4/3/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries NCAA basketball - 4/4/2022 - 5,000,000+ queries The Masters were back in a big way thanks to Tiger Woods and newcomer Scottie Scheffler.  See how people searched over six days in April: Tiger Woods - 4/5/2022 - 500,000+ queries Masters leaderboard - 4/6/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Tiger Woods - 4/7/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Scottie Scheffler - 4/8/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Scottie Scheffler - 4/9/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Scottie Scheffler - 4/10/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Did you know European Football is popular in the US, at least from a search perspective? Check out this list of league and team names: Champions League - 4/5/2022 - 500,000+ queries Real Madrid - 4/6/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Europa League - 4/7/2022 - 500,000+ queries Liverpool - 4/10/2022 - 500,000+ queries Read Madrid - 4/12/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Man City - 4/13/2022 - 200,000+ queries Liverpool vs. Man United - 4/19/2022 - 500,000+ queries Liverpool - 4/24/2022 - 200,000+ queries Champions League - 4/26/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Real Madrid - 4/26/2022 - 200,000+ queries Real Madrid - 4/30/2022 - 200,000+ queries NBA playoffs kicked off in April 2022 and the queries related to it rolled from the 13th through the 29th: Pelicans - 4/13/2022 - 500,000+ queries Hornets - 4/13/2022 - 500,000+ queries Clippers - 4/15/2022 - 500,000+ queries Hawks - 4/15/2022 - 500,000+ queries Warriors - 4/16/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Timberwolves - 4/16/2022 - 500,000+ queries Bulls - 4/17/2022 - 500,000+ queries Suns - 4/17/2022 - 500,000+ queries Warriors - 4/18/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Bulls - 4/20/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries 76ers - 4/20/2022 - 500,000+ queries Miami Heat - 4/22/2022 - 200,000+ queries Celtics - 4/23/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Bulls - 4/23/2022 - 500,000+ queries Pelicans - 4/24/2022 - 500,000+ queries Jimmy Butler - 4/24/2022 - 200,000+ queries Celtics - 4/25/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Warriors - 4/27/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Joel Embiid - 4/28/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Memphis Grizzlies - 4/29/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries Lastly, American Gridiron Football made some appearances in the daily top 3. The first phrase being a new league and the NFL draft. USFL - 4/16/2022 - 1,000,000+ queries NFL Draft - 4/27/2022 - 5,000,000+ queries 2022 NFL Draft - 4/28/2022 - 2,000,000+ queries Phew - that was a lot but each subsection had its own little journey.  You could see how the NBA playoffs are unfolding by just reading through the top queries.  Go Celtics! Thanks for reading. If you liked this article, we utilize search trends data for all of our clients and we invite you to learn more about our SEO services. Until next month.

“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that social actually is all around.”  Okay yes, I did steal that line from one of my favorite Holiday movies, Love Actually. But it’s true– elements of social networking are integrated into many of the products we consume every day, even if it’s not as overt as platforms like Facebook or Twitter.  Take Venmo for example. You open up the app to pay your roommate for your share of utilities and catch yourself scrolling through a feed of your friends’ recent transactions, decoding emojis to figure out what they’ve been up to. At its core, this is social networking, and it’s a feature of Venmo’s payment platform that has set it apart from its competitors like Zelle.   By adding a social component to something like a payment platform, Venmo created a space for not just payments to be exchanged, but social interactions. As humans, we intrinsically crave these connections and interactions that remind us we’re not alone. Leveraging this insight has put Venmo at a competitive advantage, as with many other brands who have taken the opportunity to create a social experience around their product. Why? Because nothing can compete with the power of a strong community around a product.    Case Studies: Products with Social Components & Where Brands Can Lean In There is a range of products with social components baked in. Some were created with social at the forefront, while others added social components as a feature to an existing product. Some have opportunities for external brands to join the conversation and leverage their niche communities, while others are a closed community of consumers. We’ll dive into two case studies to show the ways this has played out for two popular brands: Strava and Spotify.    Strava  Strava calls itself a social fitness network. The app allows users to track their activities and offers a range of analysis tools, from miles ran to calories burned and so on. But they didn’t stop there– Strava integrated a social experience into the commonly found fitness tracking app by allowing users to post their workouts to a feed, follow friends, and comment to give “kudos” (likes) to other users’ workouts.  Similar to other social platforms, users find themselves following IRL friends and acquaintances, but also their idols and professional athletes to get a glimpse into their training. The app allows users to join clubs, such as a running club or group of members training for the event, and invites them to take part in challenges such as “complete a 5K in May” or “log 250 minutes of activity”.  Brand Involvement  Clubs and challenges are the best way for brands to get involved in the conversation on Strava. A brand can create a club like Brooks Run Club or Nuun Hydration to connect athletes who identify with these brands to each other. Another option is for brands to host a challenge such as Lululemon’s Move and Stay Connected challenge, which was created during the height of the pandemic in 2020.    Spotify  Spotify serves a very straightforward purpose to consumers– to access music and podcasts. With that said, they have done a great job at weaving in social components that feel additive to the experience of using the app.  When you sign up for Spotify, you create a profile with your name and a profile photo. You’re prompted to connect your account to Facebook, and recommended users you may know and artists you may like to follow. Once you’re following other users, you can check your “friend activity” on the desktop app, view their profiles and save their playlists, and even create co-authored playlists with other users.  In addition to these social components within the app experience itself, Spotify has mastered the art of integrating with other social networks and encouraging users to share the music and podcasts they’re listening to on those external platforms. For instance, the notorious Spotify Wrapped campaign is practically designed for sharing on Instagram Stories. But even on a normal day, the regular social sharing integration in the Spotify app that allows users to share what they’re listening to on social is seamless.  Brand Involvement  There are a handful of ways that brands can get involved in the conversation on Spotify. Perhaps one of the most fun and creative ways is to create a brand profile with curated playlists like McDonald's and Gymshark have successfully done. Brands may also buy a variety of ad placements in the Spotify app, including audio and video ads served to listeners who use the free version of the app, and also podcast ads.    Below are a couple of questions to ask when thinking about how you can apply this to your brand or product:   Can a social component be added to my product in a way that adds value to the overall experience?  A social component needs to build upon your existing product, and it needs to feel natural as if the purpose of the product supports the need for a social component and the experience is additive to the product.  There should also be a clear reason to create a space for consumer-to-consumer interactions. For example, perhaps you can see that these engagements are already happening on another social platform, like a Facebook Group or a Reddit thread.    Can my brand join the conversation or have a presence in a social component of an existing product, like Spotify or Strava?  If there’s a social component of a product that feels like a perfect fit for your brand, there may be an opportunity to establish a presence in that community. However, it’s important to approach these opportunities thoughtfully and strategically, because you will be under the microscope of a niche community. Additionally, you need to be careful that you’re joining a conversation where brands are welcome. For instance, communities like Reddit exist for user-to-user interactions, and brands can be shunned away from the platform.     With this all in mind, my hope is that next time you’re deciding which social platforms to leverage for an upcoming project or campaign, you may think outside the box about social media and look at the non-traditional, yet intrinsically social, platforms at your disposal. 

A buzzing topic in the world of data security and protection is the upcoming Google Chrome changes. That’s right, we will soon be living in a cookieless world. Technology solutions in the current landscape are optimizing their efforts much before the implementation as they’d like to get well-acquinated with what the future of advertising may look like.   “We want to be early adopters and hand-raisers as a part of these cookieless and new ID solutions,” said Meghan Galligan, Stop & Shop’s director of digital marketing. (Source: AdExchanger) AMP Agency partnered with Stop & Shop and Dstillery to learn more about how to navigate through an ever-changing cookieless landscape.   Read the news here.