Google Home Tests Audio Ads With A Partner Message For Beauty And The Beast

What Happened
Starting on Thursday, some Google Home users started receiving a short message informing them of the upcoming release of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast live-action remake when they ask for a summary of their day ahead. The message is delivered via the regular Google Assistant voice, so it blends in seamlessly with the other information typically included in the “My Day” summary such as weather, commute, calendar, reminders, and news. Some Android users are reportedly also getting the ad through Google Assistant on mobile.

The message does not appear to be targeted based search history or movie interests, and some users have expressed their dismay at the random insertion of this message into the “My Day” summaries. Google released a statement denying that this is an ad, claiming instead “the beauty in the Assistant is that it invites our partners to be our guest and share their tales,” which seems to categorize this message as a sponsor message. Whether Disney paid for this Google Assistant integration is still unclear.

What Brands Need To Do
As voice-activated digital assistant services start to take off and reach more and more customer, figuring out how to monetize them with ad products seems like the natural next step for a company like Google, whose lion’s share of company revenue comes from advertising. So, it makes perfect sense that Google has started testing this type of audio ads on its Assistant service. Unfortunately, Google failed to consider how intrusive an unprompted brand message would feel to customers who don’t find the message relevant to their interests, which sparked a minor online backlash among users. Down the road, Google will certainly have to start fine-tuning the targeting of such messages if they want this type of audio ads to work. For now, chatbots and branded voice skills are still the best bets for brands to reach customers via conversational interfaces.


Source: The Verge

MLB & Disney Acquired Streaming Rights For Leagues Of Legends Tournaments

What Happened
BAMTech, a streaming tech company co-owned by Disney and the Major League Baseball, has picked up streaming rights to League of Legends tournaments, one of the biggest eSports franchises in the world. The company reportedly signed a deal north of $300 million with Riot Games for the exclusive rights to “stream and monetize” the massively popular video game tournament. In addition to taking over the tournaments’ distribution on existing streaming channels such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming, BAMTech plans to launch a dedicated streaming service for the LoL tournaments across various platforms.

What Brands Should Do
The massive acquisition underscores what a massive force of nature eSports live streaming has grown into in the media landscape. It easily commands millions of global viewers, a number that dwarfs most network TV programming today. In October, more than 43 million viewers worldwide watched online a League of Legends esports championship held at the Staples Center in LA. Some early-adopting brands, such as Coca-Cola and Geico, have been sponsoring eSports events to reach its young, male-skewing audience. More brands should consider leveraging the massive reach of eSports events to reach consumers via sponsorships or ads.


Source: The Wall Street Journal

Fox And Disney To Sell Skinny Bundle Via Hulu (Update: NBC Too)

What Happened
Hulu is reportedly planning a new SVOD subscription for both live and on-demand access to content from broadcast and cable channels owned by Disney and 21st Century Fox, such as ABC, Fox, ESPN, and FX, for about $40 a month. The bundle is reportedly set to become available starting early next year.

Why Brands Should Care
With more and more viewers choosing the convenience of OTT streaming services over the rigid live programming grid and expensive cable TV bills, media owners are responding to consumer demand and slowly opening up to streaming platforms. Last year, for example, HBO launched standalone streaming service HBO Now to allow viewers to subscribe without a cable plan. While there is no doubt that TV networks will continue to sell their programming to cable companies as long as the money is good, this announcement nevertheless signals a new path for traditional media owners – it shows their willingness to experiment with the OTT subscription model and see if they can skip the middleman and sell directly to consumers, especially cord-cutters and cord-nevers.

For brands, this ongoing shift in content distribution means that they need to figure out new ways to get their messages across, as most subscription services do not carry traditional ads. For more information on how brands can reach viewers on streaming platforms with branded content and sponsorships, check out the Appified TV section in our Outlook 2016.

Update 5/3: New reports say that NBC has also joined the discussion of taking part in the Hulu bundle.


Source: Re/Code

JCPenney and Shopkick Inspire Cinderella Moments for Consumers

JCPenney has tapped into the ever-growing trend to combine mobile and retail to stay relevant amongst competing ecommerce and mcommerce channels. Consumers who visit JCPenney will notice an array of Cinderella-themed merchandise for promotion of the latest Disney movie.  The retail chain has partnered with mobile app, Shopkick, in an effort to create buzz and boost foot traffic in their stores.

The Lab took a visit to JCPenney to discover just how this brick-and-mortar store is using mobile to drive traffic into the store.  What we found were various plaques decorating the store that read: “Use the Shopkick app as your magic wand for a chance to win JCPenney gift cards to complete your own Cinderella look”.  Consumers can then scan a barcode and gain “kicks” that lead to discounts.

JCP-Shopkick5 JCP-Shopkick1

A unique discovery we also uncovered—Shopkick promotes healthy living. After chatting with other consumers participating in the magic, we found that some users are motivated to get out and walk as opposed to taking the NYC subway just to gain more kicks by passing storefronts.

How Disney’s Billion-Dollar MagicBand Is Working Its Magic

Read original story on: Wired

Introduced back in November of 2013, the Disney MagicBand is a waterproof plastic wristband that doubles as an RFID-enabled ticketing and payment device for Disneyland visitors, connecting them to a powerful system of sensors scattered throughout the park to offer a frictionless experience. The system, which reportedly cost Disney over $1 billion to develop, collects real-time data about where visitors are, what they’re doing, and what they want to purchase next.

Since its debut, MagicBand has received largely positive reviews and has been credited to the record-high park attendance and Disney resort occupancy in the last quarter. By all accounts, it looks like Disney’s billon-dollar gamble on wearables is paying off.

Header image taken from Disney Online Store

Roku Adds Live Disney and ESPN Content

As Americans begin to abandon cable TV providers in favor of streaming services, and those streaming services being to gain a foothold in the living room environment, content providers are aiming to distribute to the widest variety of services possible. Set-top box manufacturer Roku added new live broadcast programming to its selection in the form of WatchESPN and WatchDisney channels.  These networks are available widely to tens of millions of digital cable subscribers, and represent an effort on the part of content providers to accommodate varying user tastes to ensure they aren’t left behind by rapid developments in how people choose to consume media.

Disney Debuts Second Screen Movie-Theater Experience

Disney wants to coerce people to bring iPads into the movie theater. Whether or not this sounds like a good idea, given accepted theater manners, is up for debate. Nonetheless, for this month’s re-screening of The Little Mermaid, Disney has announced something called “Second Screen Live,” in which viewers, through their iPads, can play games, discover treasure, and interact with the film through the device. It should be noted, though, that as of yet it only syncs with the movie in theaters, and that it won’t work with previously-owned copies of The Little Mermaid. For more details, have a look at the trailer:


Disney’s HideOut is a Magical Projector

Disney employs a group of people they call “imagineers,” and the title is charmingly accurate.  One of the team’s latest innovations is a clever handheld projector – HideOut – that is currently only a prototype, but is already showing off some new ways of doing old things, like reading books.  The HideOut projects characters onto the page, referencing invisible UV-printed machine-vision codes to orient the projection to “follow” the page as it moves.  This also allows characters to interact meaningfully with the images on the page, supporting the notion that they are “really there.”  Right now, Disney’s tech is just child’s play, but in the future, HideOut’s seemingly magical interaction between a physical page, a projector, a camera, and a computer could lead to some equally miraculous experiences in the future in a number of fields.

Sony & Disney Begin Streaming Movies Still In Theaters

In a bold attempt to undercut piracy around the world, as well as retain command over their film brand images Disney and Sony began testing a new on-demand service in South Korea that offers movies to rent whilst still in theaters. Films such as Django Unchained, Wreck-It Ralph, and Brave have all been made available as part of the program. Such experiments have been met with derision and inter-company political skirmishes in the past, but the companies now recognize that times are changing, and new methods of content delivery are necessary for a changing digital world.