Mr. Robot Sponsors A Disruption-Themed Store To Promote New Season

What Happened
USA Network’s hacker drama Mr. Robot was a surprise hit last summer, and now the cable channel is taking a surprising approach to promote its upcoming second season. Working with concept store Story, the network took over an entire floor of the Manhattan shop and sponsored a disruption-themed store that is thoughtfully curated to reflect the tone and story of the show. The themed store features fun, interactive installments, including a vending machine that shoppers can activate by tweeting and a hackable ATM doling out real cash to the tech-savvy shoppers. It also features curated products from startup fashion brands such as JackThreads and The Arrivals, tech gadgets selected by Circuit Breaker, as well as the show’s merchandise.

Why Brands Should Care
In the age of Peak TV and Ad Avoidance, it is increasingly difficult for a new show (or brand) to cut through the noise and find an audience. This concept store, however, shines as a cool example of experiential marketing. In a way, this concept store is what native advertising in a retail context looks like – a real shop with buyable goods that also immerses its customers in a brand narrative and gets its message across. While this type of experiential campaign may be costly to implement and limited in its physical reach, the positive publicity, the word of mouth, and the organic social impressions it generates will be crucial for ensuring the campaign reaches its audience and fully engage them.

For more information on how brands can deal with the rise of Ad Avoidance among consumers, please check out the corresponding segment in our 2016 Outlook.

Source: AdAge

Microsoft Restricts Brand Advertising In Popular Game Minecraft

What Happened
Brand marketers love the popular online world-building game Minecraft, which has sold more than 70 million copies so far. Thanks to its loose restrictions against branded content, many brands have taken the chance to build branded maps and mods to reach its young and growing player base. For example, Verizon created a working video phone and Walt Disney made an elaborate Tomorrowland map to promote the eponymous movie last year.

That free reign has come to an end this week as Microsoft announced it will start limiting the ways brands can use Minecraft for promotional purposes. Companies are now no longer allowed to make mods that promote products unrelated to the game. Entertainment brands are also barred from making Minecraft items or maps that look like “the fictional world of a movie or its characters.”  

Why Brands Should Care
According to Microsoft, the decision stems from user complaints about excessive in-game advertising. Players are annoyed that the virtual world of Minecraft is increasingly littered with branded objects and demanded restricting this type of product placement. As Microsoft tightens the rules on branded content in Minecraft, brand marketers should actively explore other gaming channels to reach the young-skewing audience that Minecraft delivers, such as sponsoring eSports tournament events or livestreams on Twitch.


Source: Digiday

Zynga Dives Into In-Game Native Ads With Sponsored Levels

What Happened
Zynga, the game maker behind popular mobile game franchises such as “FarmVille” and “Words With Friends,” has developed a new ad product called Sponsored Play, which inserts branded levels into its games that play just like a normal level. Brands will work with Zynga’s in-house agency Studio E to create those branded levels, which are part of Zynga’s push to attract more ad dollars to subsidize its largely free-to-play games. Clorox and Naked Juice are reportedly among the first brands to test this innovative in-game ad format.

What Brands Need To Do
By giving brands the option to sponsor game levels, Zynga has essentially created the equivalent of product placement in mobile gaming. It replaces the disruptive in-app banners that usually populate free mobile games today, and offers a fun, native way to engage with the players instead. For brands that aim to reach young millennial audiences, this new ad unit provides a unique way to make a lasting impression on mobile gamers.


Source: AdAge

Event Recap: AdWeek — What Is Newsworthy?

On Monday, Michael Roth, the Chairman & CEO of IPG, moderated an Advertising Week panel with Rebecca Blumenstein, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Wall Street Journal; David Pemsel, Deputy Chief Executive, The Guardian; Pete Cashmore, CEO & Founder, Mashable; and Greg Coleman, President, Buzzfeed; in which they discussed the future of the news and advertising’s role.

Trust and Mission

Throughout the event, panelists kept returning to the importance of trust—the need to consistently deliver timely but reliable information. Building and maintaining that trust with the audience is a challenge for both traditional publishers and digital upstarts; as Cashmore explained, “new media companies got the business model and distribution right and are now trying to get trust right; others got trust right and are trying to move into digital.”

If “trust” unites publishers, “mission” distinguishes them from each other: Mashable believes its community is an essential part of the platform, whereas The Guardian emphasized its 200-year history and commitment to independence.

Native Advertising

Of course, advertising remains a crucial (though sometimes controversial) revenue source for news publishers. Ideally, native advertising is simply a story about a brand. At Buzzfeed, in fact, “the creative team talks to the client… Sounds kind of like an agency,” according to Coleman. Brand sponsorship can translate into longer lead times and higher production budgets, resulting in high-quality content; Cashmore noted that some of the ads on Mashable are shared twice as much as original content. That said, panelists agreed that it’s important to maintain trust by making clear what’s sponsored content.

Organizational Culture

Attracting the best talent has always been difficult, but the popularity of startups has made it even more of a struggle.   Ultimately, though, it comes back to trust and mission: if people believe in what your organization stands for, they will be inspired to produce the high-quality content publishers seek to deliver.

LinkedIn Acquires Newsle To Deliver Personalized News

LinkedIn has acquired news alert start-up Newsle in an effort to bring a Google-alert-like real-time news notification to millions of professionals networking on the social site. The major product of Newsle “scans the web to find blogs and articles that mention specific people and then return results that are relevant to those connections”. So expect to see all your former co-workers’ recent achievements blowing up your LinkedIn news feed. As LinkedIn expands it positioning from a mere professional social network to a sophisticated, multi-faceted digital career fair, it is a smart move for them to continue buffing up their news platform. Not only would it help retain users by establishing LinkedIn as a go-to site for daily consumption of professional news, it could also potentially function as a platform for some native advertising within targeted professional circles.

Mozilla Discusses Native Ads

Mozilla has announced in a blog post that it is considering selling advertisements in its open-source browser as an additional revenue stream.  The ads would be placed on the new tab page, mixed with the panel of a user’s most-visited websites, which is the current new tab page content.  This is unique behavior for a company like Mozilla, but could hint at another form of native advertising particularly helpful for open source software companies.

AP Introduces Native Ads

The AP has announced that it will now be featuring native advertising in both its mobile and web platforms. It’s the first concession that the AP has formally made to the fact that it’s licensing business won’t be able to financially sustain the company, and as such sponsored content will now make up a significant portion of the profits that keep the AP running. The content will sit alongside the AP material on the website. The AP is fairly late to the Native Advertising game, but for one of the most trusted names in news it will be important to see how they handle the sponsored content.  

MediaSpike Sells Product Placement In Mobile Games

MediaSpike, a company that aims to make it easier to run product placements in mobile in social games raised a $5.2 million Series A.  The clever technology, which is integrated with iOS and Android games, but tied to no particular platform to allow for the frequent updates demanded by the gaming industry, allows developers to create listings for standardized placements in their games, which advertisers then bid for.  The company’s network already reaches 20 million unique users, reflecting the rapid growth they’ve experienced in the last 6 months.  Mobile gaming is a booming field, and advertisers are looking for a way to natively advertise to their users.  With millennials and Gen Z’ers being particularly difficult to advertise to, this sort of integration could be an indicator that some progress is being made with the efforts to advertise to them.

5by is Songza For Video, With Ads

If you’re like most people, you need a break during the workday.  If you’re like a lot of people, that break is spent watching videos on YouTube. Startup 5by hopes to improve that behavior by providing highly curated content for your video binges, much like Sonza does for music.  Over 100,000 videos have been curated by 5by’s small team so far, and third-party content partners are being added to curate videos as well, targeting users to receive videos mixed with native ads.  The company is already in talks with two major television manufacturers about incorporating the service in the next generation of smart TVs, so they might be onto something.  The incorporation of native advertisements with the videos could also bring a fresh look at how to smoothly integrate ads into a difficult to monetize context.

What, Actually, Is Native Advertising?

According to a new study from eMarketer, most people’s definitions of native advertising vary. Nonetheless, native advertising has increasing interest among publishers and ad buyers – as well as many new opportunities to generate ad revenue. Most publishers have already rolled out some native ad opportunities; 75% of US publishers said they already offered native advertising, and 17% said they were planning to offer it this year. But even though there is consensus on offering native ads, nearly 90% said that native advertising was “content produced in conjunction with the advertiser, or by the advertiser, that runs within the editorial stream.” Simultaneously, 79% believed native advertising must be clearly delineated and labeled as such. But while there is confusion on what, exactly, are the defining tenants of native advertising, publishers did agree that engagement was the leading metric used to judge the success of ads, followed by traffic and social sharing.