Event Recap: Oculus Connect 3 Highlights

What Happened
Oculus kicked off its annual Oculus Connect Event earlier today in San Jose, California, where the Facebook-owned VR company unveiled a series of updates for its products and software. CNET has a good summary of all the announcements the company made, but two of them stood out as brand-related highlights:

First, Oculus introduced two new technical features called “Timewarp” and “Spacewarp,” which create synthetic frames that can keep the image smooth, enabling Oculus Rift to provide a decent VR experience on a PC that costs as low as $499.

In addition, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will invest $250 million in the Oculus developer community, on top of the $250 million it has already spent. $50 million of the funding is allocated for mobile VR content and another $10 million for educational programs.

What Brands Should Do
Lowering the minimum PC requirements to support Oculus VR headsets may help expand its user base, which in turn provides brands with a bigger audience to reach with VR content. And Facebook’s continued investment in VR content not only shows its commitment to the emerging medium but also presents brands with an opportunity to work with developers to capitalize on the impending VR content boom with branded VR content and experiences.

The Lab currently has four VR headsets — an Oculus Rift, an HTC Vive, and two Samsung Gear VRs — ready for demos. Virtual reality is something that has to be experienced to be understood, so come by the Lab and ask for a VR demo to get a hands-on experience and figure out how your brand can use it to excite and engage with consumers.

Sources: The Verge & VentureBeat


Event Recap: April 2016 NY Tech Meetup

This week, the New York Tech Meetup was hosted at NYU’s Skirball Center. As usual, the Lab was in attendance, keeping tabs on the exciting new startups coming out of our city. This month’s event played host to a number of interesting companies offering varied solutions across a wide array of industries.

The first company of note was COSIGN, which offers a very interesting solution for CPG and fashion brands in particular. Their mission is to turn every socially-shared image into a digital storefront. With their app, users can tag products in their pictures to enable annotations that link other users to purchase. The image can then be shared to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Tumblr. The user that posts and tags the image can earn points, rewards, and even money for the referral.

If your brand has a strong presence in sports, it may be worthwhile to explore Rukkus, a live entertainment marketplace for buying and selling tickets. They are launching a new feature in their app that allows the user to click on a seat and open a 360 image of the view from the seat. They have already mapped over a hundred live music and sports venues. For the smaller places they can’t reach, they are crowd-sourcing panoramic images taken by users.

For those looking to step up their online dating game, Connectidy analyzes your social media using IBM Watson to create a personal profile. The profile includes your personality traits, needs, and values. The messaging platform also offers a “spell check for emotions,” which tells you how your messages are coming off and what to do to optimize them. Once you’ve taken your online romance to the next level and met in person, Connectidy will allow users to rate their date and provide feedback to each other. It also uses IBM’s cognitive computing to refine your profile over time based on all interaction touch points.

A number of other companies introduced their impressive solutions. These included an incredible reverse image search based on a neural network; a gamified productivity app to fight procrastination; a modular, hackable, smart band; and a centralized workflow platform for the hospitality industry. The Lab looks forward to May’s array of entrepreneurs and startups.


Event Recap: Districtpitch – Digital Media and Ad Tech

On March 29th, the Lab attended Districtpitch: Digital Media and Ad Tech. Founders and entrepreneurs faced the crowd and a panel of judges to pitch their early-stage companies. Here is a roundup of companies that presented yesterday.

We have all experienced that empty feeling after finishing a TV series and having no clue what to watch next. Stareable is a content discovery destination that helps you find your next show. It is a community-driven TV guide that links users to where they can watch. Users submit reviews and recommendations that help direct others towards their next favorite obsession. Stareable is ad-supported with standard display ads so there is no cost to the end user.

Slidejoy is an Android app that delivers ads and news to a phone’s lock screen in exchange for rewards. They receive fantastic engagement because the units are the first thing people see when they look at their phone and the audience has opted-in to receive messaging. 80-85% of their users are in the US.

Tinybeans is a social media app for families, essentially an online scrapbook of your kids. They collect metadata on the families in order to help brands market effectively to the parents. They currently have 1.1 million registered users, 80% of which are in the US.

Another social app with children in mind is Skit! Kids. They have gamified storytelling by allowing children to collaborate remotely to create videos. Other users can remix and change existing stories on the platform. Their revenue model includes in-app purchases and product placement that aligns with the environment. Skit! Kids is COPA-compliant and every piece of content created within the app is checked by a human moderator.

Finally, there were two location-based targeting companies that presented as well. Exploreka helps brands deliver contextually relevant messaging to the right consumer at the right time. Notify Nearby is a mobile app that leverages a network of beacons to target shoppers with relevant messaging in a consolidated news feed.

IPG Lab Releases SXSW 2016 Trend Recap

Every year, the Lab team takes a trip down south to attend the South By Southwest festival (SXSW) in Austin, TX. And this year was no different. Over the course of SXSW Interactive last week, we met up with a number of new partners and startups to learn about some of the cutting-edge marketing solutions they have to offer and uncovered some of the emerging market trends they represent. Here are the main themes.

VR Distribution And Analytics
With the increasing availability of consumer-facing VR headsets, brands and publishers are beginning to think through their VR distribution strategy. The two main strategies are partnering with 3rd-party distributors such as Facebook, Littlstar, or YouTube, or building their own VR player and launching it across the VR devices. While brands won’t see immediate ROI from VR content today, brands will want to know how their VR content is performing. A partner we scouted will begin to work with brands and VR producers to allow them to acquire, aggregate, and analyze audience behavior within 360 videos or VR games.

One partner we met with during SXSW enables brands, publishers, and content creators to easily create and share true VR content across most existing VR devices through their app. Another partner is offering brands a white-label solution to deliver an immersive experience to fans and allowing access to events and festivals all over the world through VR.

Brands Find Their Voice at SXSW
As discussed in our Outlook 2016, conversational interfaces are are powering new applications and devices in the home, car, and in messaging apps. Along with the major tech companies, there are many startups building this future. We met with two companies at SXSW who are building AI personas that communicate with users in messaging apps. These apps use emotional elements layered into automated replies making users feel more comfortable engaging with virtual characters and are therefore more receptive to the AI’s suggestions, including product recommendations. Brands own all the data captured from these interactions, which can mine them for deeper insights.

Another partner we met with creates AI-powered virtual reality avatars that interact with viewers via voice. These characters remember users across sessions and devices so the user can build relationships with users over time, adding a hook that will keep users coming back and extend session times.

Mobile Social Video Messaging
Over the years, SXSW has been a launchpad for social media startups such as Twitter and Foursquare. Last year Meerkat was the breakout app of SXSW, but besides that we began to see the transition from social media to social messaging, and that trend continues this year.

The social messaging partners we met at SXSW focused on communication, content creation, and shareability. The first partner we met with created a video messaging app that delivers one-to-one or one-to-many video messages, even in low bandwidth situations. Another partner we met with is one of the fastest growing video editing apps in SE Asia and is beginning to work with select US brands. They are looking to leverage their face-tracking engine to create animated stickers to be shared on messaging apps. The last partner we met with is a social video content and delivery app that enables users to record, watch, and share videos instantly with friends and other people in the same proximity without Wi-Fi or cellular service.

Passive and Active Audience Data Collection
Brands spend millions of dollars to collect audience data to inform brand messaging and strategy. A number of companies at SXSW provide solutions to acquiring audience insights, with approaches varying from passive to active.  

We met with a number of tech partners whose passive approach allows brands to collect honest, actionable insights through automated conversations at scale in messaging apps that users have chosen to participate in. Using artificially intelligent characters that use natural language, this setup creates an environment in which users are more willing to share free-form answers to open-ended questions than they would in a formulaic questionnaire.

Other companies are employing a more active approach to data collection. One company, for example, prompts users to answer a short question in exchange for access to exclusive content. The questions are pre-approved and designed by brand clients to generate useful insights. Another company captures all the social activity that occurs within a geo-fenced area and identifies power users and influencers, leveraging this information to help clients’ social teams engage on a personal level in real time.

Keep Innovation Weird
“Keep Austin Weird” is a common phrase heard around SXSW. Not only is the city itself a bit peculiar, but there are a number of companies in attendance that are taking very outside-the-box approaches to tech and innovation.

One company, for example, is turning the fruit garnishes that decorate your food and drinks into ad space. Using FDA-approved, natural-light carbon lasers, they brand the skin of lemons, limes, and oranges with logos or messaging. The company has partnered with Sysco to increase their distribution, creating the first and only produce ad network to provide bars and restaurants with free fruit, paid for by ad dollars. Another company we met with is building a gesture and movement database with training, recovery, and healthcare implications. Their SDK allows developers to recognize and track human movements to generate more precise biometric data. These metrics enable brands to connect biometrics with real activity in order to trigger rewards or personalize messaging.

To learn more about the partners we met at this year’s SXSW and find out how their marketing solutions can serve your brand, please contact our Engagement Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]).



Event Recap: LAUNCH Festival 2016

Last week, the Lab’s partnership team flew out to the West Coast to attend the 2016 LAUNCH Festival. An annual convergence of talented investors, founders, and startups, the festival has a storied track-record of catapulting new companies into the stratosphere, such as Dropbox, Fitbit, and Yammer. Over the course of three days, this year’s conference hosted over 15,000 attendees, over 240 startups, and a series of inspiring panel discussions and startup competitions.

After spending over 24 hours on the festival floor, viewing over 50 startup pitches and meeting with countless founders, the Lab has put together a shortlist of companies that can provide actionable solutions for Mediabrands agencies and clients.

Accountable VR
Virtual reality is a great way to create an immersive brand story, and more brands are beginning to test the waters by creating branded VR content. More brands have been warming up to VR content knowing that there have been over five million Google Cardboards shipped and new consumer-facing headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR are all set to hit the market this year. While brands won’t see immediate ROI from a VR content investment, eventually brands will want to know how their VR content is performing. EaseVR and CognitiveVR are working to solve this question. Both startups are working to bring deep analytics to VR so brands can understand how viewers behave within their virtual experience.

A New Mover In OOH
Two major challenges the out-of-home industry faces are measurement and an increasingly fragmented audience whose attention is continuously switching among screens. Wrapify‘s on-vehicle advertising platform is working to overcome these challenges by connecting brands and drivers to create and launch OOH campaigns locally or nationally with real-time reach and impressions count.

A Solution To Increase Direct Hotel Booking
Today, a ridiculously high number of hotel bookings come from sites such as Expedia and Priceline as consumers book mostly on price. Stay Wanderful is alleviating this $33 billion problem by partnering with merchants, such as Regal Cinemas, Hard Rock Cafe, and Whole Foods, to create an incentive engine for hotel websites to increase direct hotel bookings and reduce the reliance on other channels.

But wait, there’s more! Here are 4 additional early-stage startups we discovered from the festival that you should keep an eye on in 2016:

Pilot AI Labs enables real-time computer vision using deep learning on embedded devices. Their algorithm can be trained to track specific objects and can be used in drones, retail security cameras or digital signage, and smart home devices.

CafeX unveiled a fully automated robotic cafe at Launch Festival. Prior to arrival at the cafe, customers can use the CafeX smartphone app to order premium coffee drinks.

We2o is the world’s first philanthropy platform to enable donation of unused vacation time to charities.

Mindset allows users to connect their app to a wearable heart rate monitor to learn and track stress levels throughout the day. The app notifies users of fluctuations in stress and provides exercises created by clinical specialists to lower stress.  


Header image courtesy of launchfestival.com

NY Tech Meetup - March 2016

Event Recap: March 2016 NY Tech Meetup

The IPG Media Lab went in to March like a lion by attending the NY Tech Meetup on the first of the month. To kick things off, Code/Interactive introduced teams of local high school students that had participated in their 24-hour hackathon. The prompt for the project was to design a tech product to help your community. First to present was the team behind Lend a Hand, an online platform that allows students to earn compensation towards a college education in exchange for community service. Companies can choose to contribute to students’ 529 College Savings Plans based on the hours they worked. This encourages young people to participate in socially beneficial activities and build their college resume while also providing a valuable PR opportunity to brands.

Due to the high rate of police brutality in the US, the next team, Protect and Swerve, was inspired to build a map that marked all reports of relevant incidents. Their aim is to create awareness around these events in attempt to curb them in the future. The students made it clear that they are not advocating distrust in police, that they respect cops, and only a small minority are responsible for the offenses that we see in the news. The team also built a game that prompts the user to get to school by avoiding pixelated police. The character is able to pick flowers and deliver them to the officers in the game as a peace offering.

Finally, many teenagers struggle to choose a particular field of study and need a spark to inspire them to pick a career path that suits them. The last student team attempted to provide this inspiration with their product, Teen’s Hope, an app that connects students to mentors for career guidance. The two sides are able to communicate through a Facebook API and can schedule shadowing sessions. This particular correspondent wishes he had had this tool at his disposal when deciding on a major (Political Science? Sure, why not?).

Among the other products demoed were a programmable race car toy whose goal was to teach children STEM from a young age, an aesthetically-pleasing accessory that emits a debilitating siren to ward off would-be assailants, and a database that is making the NY State government more transparent. In addition, the crowd was introduced to Ingredient1, a food discovery app that indexes nutritional facts and provides recommendations based on custom flavor or diet profiles. Another useful app on display was Parking Oracle, which deciphers cryptic parking signs to give you a simple “yes” or “no” answer as to whether you can park in a particular spot at that moment. Finally, Atri.me presented their experimental plug-in that captures a user’s dwell time on content as they browse the web and pays the content author based on time spent. It is safe to say that the future of the New York tech community is very bright.


Event Recaps: NRF & Flash Pitch 2016

It has been a busy week for the IPG Media Lab. After the madness of CES 2016 we managed to squeeze in two events before the week ended ­– Retail’s Big Show by NRF (retail industry’s version of CES) and Flash Pitch 2016. The beauty of attending these two events was that they couldn’t be anymore opposite.

NRF held its 105th annual retail event from Jan. 15-18th, which was attended by more than 33,500 people. As expected, the event came and went with plenty of big announcements and interesting retail technology:

RetailNext (featured in our Media Lab) BT, Intel, NexGen Packaging and SATO Global Solutions announced a global alliance called Acuitas Digital Alliance. The purpose of the alliance is to combine their technology and capabilities to make it easier for retailers to integrate their front-end and back-end analytics.

T+Ink in collaboration with WestRock and Intel showcased its smart e-ink display tag technology. These tags can be mounted on store shelves and pegs to track inventory in real-time, measure sales velocity, and allow for dynamic pricing.

Mobeam showcased its light-based beaming technology that enables POS laser scanners to read barcodes from smartphone screens. This allows retailers to integrate mobile payment, loyalty cards, membership cards, gift cards, tickets, vouchers, and digital coupons into their app, which can be read through their existing scanners at checkout. For brands, specifically CPG brands, this allows them to follow their digital coupons throughout the entire shopping journey and understand which coupons are performing and which are not.

On the other hand, The Flash Pitch event presented by NYU Polytechnic Incubator was a combination of speed pitch meets Shark Tank. Eight early-stage startups were given the opportunity to pitch for two minutes followed by a four-minute Q&A. In classic fashion, the judges from Bain Capital Ventures, BMW iVentures, Corigin Ventures and Pilot Mountain Ventures were relentless, firing questions to learn more about traction, growth strategy, defensibility, current challenges, etc.

When the dust settled, LiquidTalent, which offers companies a marketplace to find high-quality developer and designer talent on-demand, and Denarri – an electronics-focused shopping app that remembers user preferences as they use it to make future shopping faster – were the two startups that caught our eye.

Event Recap: Disctrict CoWork NYC DistrictPitch Event

On October 1st, the Lab attended DistrictPitch, an event organized by District CoWork where select startups pitch their business to a panel of investors. There were a number of interesting companies on display with real marketing implications. Here are some highlights from the event.

The first to present was OKMyOutfit, an on-demand personal shopping service that charges members a monthly subscription. Users receive a consultation from a team of stylists to identify their style preferences and make more informed purchase decisions. OKMyOutfit has a partnership with the Hudson Bay Companies to offer their products and there is certainly an opportunity for other retail brands to get onboard and become providers.

The next company to present was Bluebook Academy, an education service aiming to accurately link training to occupation. As a student works their way through a curriculum, their skills and weaknesses are identified and matched to appropriate career paths. This type of guidance is often lacking in the education industry and could help guide students based on strengths and passions.

Next up to the podium was TOP Docs, a collaboration tool for teams working on a project remotely. Picture how frustrating it is to constantly have to download and save different versions of the same document because some teammates are using Google Docs and others are using Dropbox. TOP Docs allows users who are using different cloud-based storage platforms to perform real-time edits on the same file and automatically saves back to the original platform’s format. It is accessed as a freemium model on mobile and web, iOS and Android.

The following company, CareConnectors, is a health care communication platform for doctors and patients. Too often, patients leave care facilities with limited understanding of their own conditions. The platform provides patients with easy-to-understand diagnoses and prescriptions so they increase their understanding of their own personal health. The platform can also be used for peer-to-peer communications between health care providers so an individual’s treatment is uniform and streamlined.

The second-to-last business to present was eDivv, a secondary market for consumers to buy, sell, and barter beauty products. When someone has extra product that they know they will not use, they can connect to the community to trade or sell. The site includes forums, blogs, and messaging in order to connect its members. From a brand perspective, eDivv is collecting data from their community, while also offering native advertising and branded product trials.

Finally, Measurence took the stage to present their offline analytics platform for brick and mortar retailers. They are able to leverage WiFi, bluetooth, or beacons to connect to a customer’s mobile device in order to track their in-store location, dwell times, and conversion to purchase. They launched in November of 2014 and have a partnership with Square to link purchase behavior. Measurence does not build its own hardware but they are working on an Apple Watch app for the store manager to access an analytics dashboard in real time.

The DistrictPitch event showcased an array of ventures that are tackling solutions across many industries. From retail to healthcare, these entrepreneurs showcased their intelligence and ingenuity.


Event Recap: “Meet Link” LinkNYC Media Event

On Thursday afternoon, IPG Media Lab attended a media event for LinkNYC, an ambitious project that will turn old payphone sites in New York City into a network of state-of-the-art kiosks that offer free services like high-speed Wi-Fi, phone calls, and device charging, along with outdoor advertising displays. Following the debut of the newly designed “Link” kiosk on stage, the event featured a panel discussion on the marketing potential and the social utilities this program could bring to the five boroughs. Moderated by Miko Rahming, SVP of Innovation/Creative at Intersection, the panel consisted of Susan Seller, Head of Design at Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fred Dixon, CEO of NYC & Company, and David Rosenberg, a managing partner here at the Lab.

During the discussion, all three panelists commended the social good this program can bring. Seller singled out the “de-cluttering” effect LinkNYC will have on the city’s appearance by removing old payphone booths, a sentiment echoed by Rosenberg. Dixon, on the other hand, highlighted the “profound effect” that LinkNYC will have on people that don’t have access to high-speed internet, as it provides them with basic connectivity and services and helps the city bridge the digital divide.

Moreover, the panelists discussed the marketing potential of the program. They agreed that, as a dynamic digital experience supported by ad-serving platform and technology, LinkNYC would allow for creative flexibility, real-time ad delivery, and data-driven targeting. It will offer mass connectivity and city services via digital touchpoints, while also enabling brands to reach millions of New Yorkers and visitors with their messages. As Rosenberg aptly pointed out, this program taps into the ongoing trend of brands “starting to move into the space of providing utility and service in order to earn a place in consumer’s life.” After all, when brands provide real value in addition to their ads, consumers would be much less likely to block them out.

Overall, the consensus among the panelists seemed to be that, LinkNYC represents a new breed of hyperlocal ad platform that blends social utilities and branded content, heralding the future of digital outdoor advertising. The program is set to launch later this year, and brands looking to connect with New Yorkers on the go should definitely take this innovative, data-driven OOH ad space into consideration.

Event Recap: IPG Mediabrands’ Advertising Week Panel On Viewability

This morning, IPG Mediabrands held an Advertising Week event to tackle one of the hottest topics in the ad industry today, viewability. The event consisted of a presentation of the Lab’s new research results and a panel discussion featuring five industry insiders.

Kara Manatt, our VP of Consumer Research Strategy, kicked off the event with a presentation of  never-before-seen research conducted by the IPG Media Lab in partnership with our sister agencies Cadreon and Magna Global, along with Integral Ad Science. In her presentation, Manatt explained how the new viewability study rigorously tested standard banner, rich media, and auto-play video ads from two brands representing different industry verticals and shared some key findings from the research. The widely accepted MRC standard for viewability, as the research shows, is not a magic threshold for improved ad recall, but rather “a stepping stone for ad effectiveness.” This means even some impressions below the MRC standard have impact on viewers. For example, the research finds that while the MRC standard states video ads need to have at least 50% in view for 2 seconds to count as viewable, our study found that for significant impact auto-play video ads with audio on only need 25% in view for 2 seconds.

Following the insightful presentation, Suzanne Vranica of the Wall Street Journal moderated a panel discussion featuring Gail Horwood from Johnson & Johnson, Mitchell Weinstein from Magna Global, Zach Putman from ABC Television, Ian Wallin from Integral Ad Science, and Howard Mittman from GQ. The panelists talked about a wide range of issues surrounding ad viewability, including vendor standards, ad fraud, and different perspectives on finding solutions for viewability issues. “Viewability is not an entry point, it should be an exit point,” Gail Horwood remarked, pointing out the importance of focusing on delivering ads in an impactful, viewable manner. Mitchell Weinstein concurred by saying that “for agencies, viewability is really about only paying for the ads that are seen.” Overall, the panelists agreed that viewability is a crucial issue that the digital ad industry needs to overcome. While achieving 100% viewability is practically impossible, striving for better viewability via developing new standards and eliminating fraudulent ads is not the ultimate goal, but rather a means for clearing the path to reach the consumer audience.