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The Auto Industry’s Real Challenge

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In the auto industry, there is a major disconnect between expectations and reality, especially with regard to the next five to seven years. Autonomous vehicles will likely take considerably longer to become prevalent than is anticipated, and by that time, the industry will probably look quite different. While automakers are already pouring millions into winning the AV race, they run the risk of ignoring the more imminent threats that could sink them before the race even begins. 

Ready, steady, go.

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The Absence Of Sports Effects On Advertising

Guy Rancourt, VP of Media May 14, 2020 I miss sports – both personally and professionally – and I know I’m not alone. Those sentiments are echoed in conversations almost as frequently as you hear people say they miss seeing friends or just going out to eat. An unintentional consequence of COVID-19 is the realization of how much sports powers the advertising world. The absence of sports has thrown our marketing ecosystem into flux, and the ripple effect of canceling major sporting events is being felt across all mediums and all categories. In the short term, the loss of linear GRP’s, digital impressions and multi-platform marketing opportunities, not to mention the amount of unspent dollars freed up with these cancellations, is staggering. Countless marketers rely on the scale and platforms that events like the NCAA Tournament, professional sports seasons and the Olympics provide in order to showcase, launch and sustain their businesses. Removing these from the marketing equation is proving to be troublesome for many brands and agencies. Countless conversations, spreadsheets, flowcharts, meetings and revisions – all culminating in media plans of which sports play a major role. Poof! Gone. All for naught. But when they eventually come back this fall, what does that mean for the marketplace? It should be good news for brands and agencies. Many events have already been stricken from the 2020 calendar: the NCAA Tournament, Wimbledon, Tokyo Summer Olympics and The British Open, to name a few. While others have been postponed until later this summer and fall – NBA Basketball, NHL Hockey, Major League Baseball, The Masters, French Open, Kentucky Derby – many more still wait for their fates to be determined.  As the leagues and television partners continue their weekly dialogues around how and when they can resume play, there are countless rumors swirling about how each of them will land the plane:   Playing the NBA season at Disney World   Pushing the college football season to the spring of 2021   Sequester all MLB teams and staffs in Arizona and Florida   Eliminate NFL bye weeks to squeeze in games in the event of a delay While all of these options are up for consideration, they’re merely speculative solves until the country gets a handle on the Coronavirus. But the point here is that they are all working on solutions to resume play. Each already has mapped out countless scenarios and contingency plans to employ, once they are given the all-clear, in an effort to save their seasons. And they may all come back around the same time later this summer and into the fall. Clearly, there are more grave and consequential things going on in the world, so I do not highlight the lack of sports as the most pressing of challenges facing us. But make no mistake – the removal of sports has turned the marketing world on its head. According to Bloomberg, more than $2.5 billion dollars have been removed from the market this year already.  That’s billion, with a B.  We’re undoubtedly headed for a recession as businesses try to recover later this year and into next. We also know that production schedules for scripted entertainment will be impacted, causing delays in original programming. This will mostly affect prime time as their pilot season has been impacted the most – and who wants to invest heavily in what could be a light schedule of first-run scripted content this fall? As such, many are speculating that the sports marketplace will be flush with cash as the logical landing spot for all of those budgets. Another sellers’ market? Consider this: the back half sports schedule will be very condensed when all of these sports return. Imagine this very real scenario on November 15th: Sunday final of The Masters, followed by a National NFL window that then leads right into a World Series Game and Sunday Night Football. Talk about feast or famine. The point I’m making is that there should be a concentration of premium sports impressions in a tight window. Will there really be enough demand for this glut of sports GRP’s? Our industry is quick to say that sports – and football in particular – are mostly immune to market fluctuations. But can Madison Avenue afford to fund all of these hungry mouths this fall?  I say no, and I think brands and agencies are in store for one of the softest sports marketplaces in a long time. Even the mighty NFL shield could see dents in the armor for the first time in a long time.

Google Search Trends Insights April 2020

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 2020. 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+. 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. Yes, Banana Bread Did Have Its Moment There are moments in time that you will always remember. For me, I will never forget how in April 2020, “banana bread” peaked in its search interest. Although it never made the top three queries in the month of April, it did have an impressive jump in query volume in the month of April. I’m not sure it will reach these heights again, but may we always take with us the knowledge that there is a use for that browning bunch of bananas sitting on the countertop.  The Top Trending Keywords Beyond the search increase of fruit-based bread, here are the top queries we collected in April: IRS stimulus check portal- April 15th - 10,000,000+ queries Coronavirus tips - April 19th - 10,000,000+ queries NFL Draft - April 23rd - 10,000,000+ queries Coronavirus tips - April 23rd - 10,000,000+ queries Kim Jong Un - April 25th - 10,000,000+ queries Popular Google Doodle games! - April 26th - 10,000,000+ queries Google Doodles make up half of the list, the “Coronavirus tips” query was triggered on two days in April along with the Doodle and announcement that “Popular Google Doodle games!” were going to be re-released to help with everyone’s boredom on the 26th. The IRS stimulus check portal received top queries on what is normally tax day and the nation’s need for sports was sort of fulfilled with the virtual NFL Draft that began on the 23rd.  Lastly, queries about Kim Jong Un reached its peak on the 25th as there were multiple reports about his whereabouts and health condition. Where’s My Stimulus Check? People were also trying to figure out the whereabouts of their Stimulus check in April. Of the 90 phrases we recorded in April, phrases related to Stimulus checks made up 10% of them, including the one that made our 10 million club above. Here are the rest of the keywords in the order of the date they were searched: Stimulus check IRS - April 2nd - 200,000+ queries Stimulus checks deposit date - April 5th - 1,000,000+ queries  IRS stimulus portal - April 9th - 500,000+ queries Stimulus check 2020 direct deposit - April 10th - 200,000+ queries Stimulus Checks - April 13th - 5,000,000+ queries  Stimulus Check Calculator - April 14th - 500,000+ queries IRS stimulus check 2020 - April 17th - 500,000+ queries IRS stimulus payments - April 21st - 500,000+ queries It certainly makes sense that this topic had multiple entries into the top three queries throughout the month and how much the phrases varied from day to day..  It’s a reminder of how needed the financial assistance is and that having thorough online resources available for people who are seeking information is crucial. What Takes The Place Of Live Sports? If you have followed this series of posts, sports is the most popular category of the top queried phrases in past months.. If there aren’t any sports to watch, what do people search for?  Thank goodness for documentaries and NFL players coming out for retirement: The Last Dance - April 19th - 5,000,000+ queries  Rob Gronkowski - April 21st - 2,000,000+ queries  Dennis Rodman - April 26th - 2,000,000+ queries If TV ad buyers are looking for alternatives to live sports, documentaries are getting a good amount of search interest. Singing Songs On TV The top keywords in Entertainment were related to singers on television. Andrea Bocelli - April 12th - 1,000,000+ queries Disney Singalong - April 16th - 200,000+ queries One World: Together At Home - April 17th - 500,000+ queries  Eddie Vedder - April 18th -  2,000,000+ queries  Stevie Wonder - April 18th - 200,000+ queries  As we try to get through this together, the power of song is noticeable in our search queries.  Live event TV that is geared toward family viewing appears to be driving search interest. Holidays One of the things that we picked up throughout the course of this project is the popularity of non-traditional holidays. For instance, Easter is an established holiday but did you know that National Siblings Day happens every April 10th and it’s a top searched keyword for two years running? In 2019, we recorded the phrase “national siblings day” as having driven over 1 million queries – just as it did in 2020. The Google Trends chart for this phrase shows that it was slightly more popular this year: Earth Day is a more established holiday, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Let’s take a look at how popular “national siblings day” is compared to “earth day”: Although we can’t tell with absolute numbers how many more queries Earth Day (April 22nd - 2,000,000+ queries) had over National Siblings Day, we can tell directionally that it still has a while to go until it’s as popular. Both holidays have a nice year over year trend, so brand marketers should consider them for their April 2021 plan if there is an appropriate tie-in with either holiday. Thanks for reading - Until next month.  

Creating Brand Experiences While Social Distancing

Luis Infante, Creative Director April 30, 2020 The rise of experiential design over the last decade has sent ripples across the marketing landscape. We have just begun to scratch the surface of what it is and what it can achieve. In many cases, good experiential design can be more effective than traditional media. That's because audiences nowadays don’t want to be talked at – they want to be engaged with. If traditional advertising is a megaphone, think of experiential design as an open forum.  At its core, experiential design is a simple idea: a moment where a brand can connect with its audience in a personal and meaningful way. As design experts, we work to design that moment to be as impactful and memorable as possible. The principles we follow are fairly simple too, though sometimes hard to achieve: make it unique, make it engaging and make it shareable. As Jason White, Executive Creative Director at Leviathan, puts it: “Experiential design is the most effective way to intrigue audiences, because people flock to new experiences in unexpected places.” Big and loud doesn’t cut it anymore.  If it’s not remarkable, it’s invisible. Fast forward to today. Brands are still trying to connect and engage with customers in unique ways, and give them experiences worth talking about. But how does experiential design come to life in a world of self isolation and social distancing? Content vs. Experience Lately, we’ve seen endless brands, celebrities and social media users inundate our feeds with clever and click-worthy content. While most of these are awesome, they don't always fulfill the sense of community or engagement created in physical experiences. In fact, some of the best examples of experiential design are coming from people who are trying to create connections within their neighborhoods. Take, for example, the idea of Takeout Brigades. Groups of friends choose a locally owned restaurant to support through takeout, place their orders and then all meet in the restaurant's parking lot. This seemingly simple idea has all the makings of a great piece of experiential design. Unique, very engaging, and highly shareable.  Brands should take note of these kinds of ideas, and help facilitate our much needed human connections. For instance, a big box retailer brand could use their empty parking lots and create drive-in movie experiences. People gathering together in the safety of their cars, brand ambassadors delivering food from food trucks, etc. This would give the brand a captive audience to engage with and entertain for hours as well as create legitimate goodwill and connection within that community. From low tech to high tech, one platform that is ripe for brand experiences is the world of Virtual Reality. Millions of people around the world are already connected through VR headsets and using them for full-immersion experiences. From going to movie theaters together to flying star ships with their friends Star-Trek-style to attending live show recordings, they're able to use an avatar that can go anywhere and interact with anyone – all without the risk of getting infected. So far, few brands have taken the leap to this platform, but this may change in the next six months. Imagine a brand sending out a mail invitation to a VR event, where the invitation itself is a pop-out Google Cardboard headset. All consumers would need to do is insert their phone, tune in and engage in an immersive live brand experience with their friends.  So how do brands adjust their experiential design principles to fit a post-COVID-19 world? All we really need to do is proceed with empathy and tweak the priorities to meet what people need. What we value as people is changing, and we should change, too. Where before we valued bespoke adventures, now we reminisce on common experiences we took for granted. Here is how we are adjusting our principles for good experiential design to fit a post-COVID-19 world:  Make it unique and valuable Think about what people are missing most and try to find ways to achieve it. Hint: it's not always going to be another funny internet video, or another livestream (these are great, but people are seeing them in spades). It is the sense of community and being with one another that we’re craving. That's why we honk and cheer every night, or why drive-by birthday celebrations and teddy bear hunts are sweeping the nation. Thought starter: Could a brand like Netflix or Disney partner with a VR company and create legitimate movie theater experiences? Imagine giant virtual theaters filled with people from all over the world, watching and reacting to the same movie together. Make it as interactive as possible It’s hard to have a personal engagement nowadays, but adding interaction makes the sense of community and belonging that much stronger. It’s why people are waiting an hour in Starbucks drive-throughs, to have that meaningful positive interaction with their baristas. Interactive Zoom classes and livestream concerts are great, but imagine an activation that makes you leave your home and drive somewhere to take part in something bigger. Thought starter: If sports teams will be playing in empty stadiums this summer, why not create a “tailgate” brand activation outside, where people can cheer, make noise, be on kiss-cam, play mobile phone trivia, etc. – all from inside their cars? Make it about your audience, not the brand Audiences today often care more about what a brand stands for than what they sell. This is more true than ever in a post-COVID-19 world. Activations that spread goodwill will rise to the top and become memorable engagements for years to come. The likes and shares will follow. Thought starter: Imagine a hospitality brand sending out beautiful, high quality self-care kits complete with sanitation essentials, self-care products and other takeaway goodies to surprise and delight both customers and people in need. It’s safe to say experiential design will look very different in a post-COVID-19 world. Time will tell if people will be itching to go back to packed lines and concert crowds, or if they will think twice before hitting their local farmers market. One thing this pandemic has highlighted is that the sense of community and sharing of experiences is paramount to the well being of all of us. People will always have the need to gather and engage. The field is open for brands to respond by creating experiences that are unique, safe, authentic and meaningful.