By Sissi Cao

A summer job Michael Dell had when he was 16 gave him a “an early lesson in direct marketing.”

Dell (DELL), one of the world’s largest manufacturers of personal computers, is known for inventing and pioneering the “Dell Direct Model,” which fueled its astronomical growth from a dorm-room startup to a global tech powerhouse in the 1990s and early 2000s. Dell didn’t begin pursuing its famous direct sales model until the mid 90’s, but the idea was deeply rooted in the mind of the company’s founder and CEO Michael Dell, who first experimented with it when he was just 16.

Like many well-known tech founders of his generation, Dell started his company in college (and later dropped out), but his entrepreneurial journey started even earlier. “When I turned 16, the employment opportunities expanded quite a bit because I had a car—my parents handed me down an old station wagon—and I could drive to different places,” Dell, now 59, spoke about his formative years at SXSW yesterday (March 14) in Austin, Texas during an onstage interview with the tech analyst Patrick Moorhead.

That summer, Dell got a job in Houston making cold calls to sell subscriptions to the Houston Post, a now defunct local newspaper. “What I learned from talking to these people was that, oftentimes when people bought the newspaper, they were either moving into a new house or they were getting married,” Dell said. “That sparked the thought of how to find more people who were moving into new houses or getting married.” 

After some research, Dell learned that there were public records of people who had applied for mortgages and who had applied for marriage licenses, a requirement in Texas, and these records contain the applicants’ addresses.

“I figured, let’s send them all a direct-mail offer to subscribe to the Houston Post. That worked really well,” Dell said. “It was an early lesson in direct marketing, for sure.” Dell then hired a few friends from high school and expanded the newspaper sales effort from Harris county, where Houston is, to 16 more counties surrounding the area.

Dell started what would later become the Dell Computer Corporation in 1983 when he was a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin. The 19-year-old had been upgrading IBM PCs in his spare time and realized he could just buy components and assemble PCs and then sell them at a lower price than established brands. He soon started advertising in trade magazines and business boomed. Within a year, Dell had to drop out of college to attend to his business full time.

At the time, all PC manufacturers were selling computers to customers, primarily corporate clients, through distributors, who would customize the computers by installing additional components or software. Dell initially operated by this model, too. Though sales were growing, the company wasn’t making money. So in 1994, Dell ditched distributors to sell computers directly over the phone.

The direct model not only eliminated middleman fees, but it also reduced Dell’s inventory cost and allowed it to build direct relationships with its customers. Between 1994 and 1999, Dell saw its sales grow from $3.5 billion to $25 billion and profit surging more than 60 percent annually.

Dell changed his company’s name from Dell Computer Corporation to Dell Inc. in 2003. In 2016, a new parent entity called Dell Technologies was created after Dell Inc. acquired EMC Corporation. Dell has served as the parent company’s chairman and CEO ever since. The entrepreneur’s net worth is estimated at about $95 billion, making him among the 20 wealthiest people on Earth.

Feature Image Credit: Kike Rincon/Europa Press via Getty Images

By Sissi Cao

Sourced from OBSERVER


By Webb Wright 

If you’re considering launching a new AI-centered brand or product, you may want to go beyond simply adding ‘AI’ to the end of the name.

The AI Gold Rush is in full swing and brands of all stripes are rushing to establish their particular niches in this hugely profitable and increasingly crowded industry. New AI-centered brands, departments and products are cropping up by the day, each requiring a name that is, ideally, both memorable and unique.

“Every single company, whether a candy bar manufacturer or a software company, seemingly has to show that it is doing something to leverage AI,” says Jonathan Bell, founder and CEO of Want Branding. “And that often requires some kind of adjacent brand, which, of course, then needs a name.”

Several brands, as you may have noticed, have simply taken to adding ‘AI’ (or ‘.AI’) to the ends of their names. Think Stability AI, Spot AI, Mistral AI, Shield AI, People.ai, Otter.ai, Arize AI, Crowd AI, Toggle AI and so on. And, of course, there’s OpenAI, the company that has become something of a flagship for the entire wave of AI innovation that’s currently underway following its hugely successful launch of ChatGPT in late 2022 and that has probably helped to establish the ‘AI‘ suffix as the name du jour for up-and-coming brands looking to make a name for themselves in the industry.

Adding ‘AI‘ to the end of a brand or product name “is an easy but often perhaps a cheap way of doing it without much thought,” says Bell.

A parallel can be drawn between this naming phenomenon and a similar one that followed in the wake of the dawn of the internet in the late 90s when scores of new brands with ‘.com‘ at the ends of their names began to emerge. In those early days of the world wide web, it made practical sense for companies to make unambiguously clear that they were technologically savvy enough to have an online presence. (Remember, this was back when ‘online‘ was itself a new, hip word.)

Over the slow process of many years, however, the internet became so deeply embedded into most of our day-to-day lives, into the very fabric of popular culture and commerce, that it became more or less superfluous to add ‘.com‘ to the end of a brand name. Most people these days automatically assume that any given brand – unless it‘s incompetent beyond belief or run by a group of Luddites – has a website and probably some degree of social media presence.

The ‘.com‘ naming trend, in other words, began as a worthwhile marketing tactic, but “at a certain point that was eroded and it became meaningless,” says David Placek, founder and CEO of Lexicon Branding. There are still, of course, some brands (Hotels.com, for example) that have chosen to use their domain names as their official names, but such a strategy is far less common today than it was when the internet had the shiny-new-toy factor.

AI could follow a similar trajectory of cultural adoption as that of the internet: today, it’s all anyone can talk about; tomorrow, it’s basically taken for granted. Just as people today assume that brands today have an online presence – even when they don’t have ‘.com‘ in their names – we could soon reach a point as a society in which AI is so ubiquitous, so deeply integrated into our devices and our modes of working and communicating with one another, that adding ‘AI‘ to a brand or product name becomes passé. Placek says he’s “absolutely positive” that we’ll cross that threshold sometime within the next two years, after which point “everybody will assume that there’s something AI-related” built into most brands and products.

Given that forecast, adding ‘AI‘ to the end of a name “can be a disservice for building brand strength over time, because [the market] becomes crowded,” says marketing agency Tenet Partners CEO Hampton Bridwell. “There are a lot of names with a similar sound or styling and that creates a situation where you don’t have differentiation or memorability within the name.”

Anthropomorphic names and the sad tale of Clippy

There have, of course, been other naming trends that have recently emerged around AI. For example, many AI-centered products have been given human-sounding names, apparently in an effort to make the underlying technology – which could potentially come across as a bit threatening to a culture that’s been weaned on films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix – feel a bit less alien and intimidating.

Consider IBM’s Watson, an AI model originally designed to answer questions that gained global fame when it won Jeopardy! in 2011. There are also more recent examples, including Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon) and Einstein (Salesforce).

As the journalist Charles Duhigg points out in a recent article in The New Yorker, Microsoft (which became a leader in the burgeoning AI industry following its recent multi-billion-dollar investments in OpenAI) has had to learn the hard way about the risks involved with trying to anthropomorphize AI. In 1996, the company introduced Clippy, a smiling virtual assistant with big eyes and a paperclip for a body, who could answer simple user questions on Microsoft Office platforms. The character became widely loathed by users. The Smithsonian called Clippy “one of the worst software design blunders in the annals of computing,” as Duhigg quotes in his article. Microsoft killed Clippy off in 2001.

The company once again tried its hand at anthropomorphizing algorithms in 2016 with the launch of Tay, an AI-powered chatbot whose conversational style reflected that of a typical teenage girl. Tay rather quickly descended into a fit of hate speech and was deactivated less than 24 hours after its launch.

Apparently wiser after the Clippy and Tay debacles, Microsoft is now naming its AI products in a manner that suggests utility and even a touch of fallibility. Copilot, the name of the company’s recently launched suite of AI-powered productivity tools, insinuates something that can be reasonably relied upon to provide a measure of assistance, not something into which one should invest one’s whole trust.

The curious case of ChatGPT

Perhaps the biggest irony in the realm of AI names is the fact that ChatGPT, the product that, more than any other, catalyzed the burgeoning AI Revolution, has such a widely disliked name.

For one thing, says Bridwell, the word ‘chat‘ in a brand name “is pretty limiting – it really doesn’t embody what the whole thing is about in terms of [how] it delivers value. It’s a terrible name. Over time, [OpenAI] should really think about rebranding it.”

Even OpenAI CEO Sam Altman agrees that it’s not an ideal name. During a recent podcast hosted by comedian Trevor Noah, Altman said that ChatGPT is “a horrible name, but it may be too ubiquitous to ever change.”

ChatGPT’s suboptimal name could stem in part from the fact that the OpenAI team that built it did not initially have high hopes for its prospects as an uber popular app. It was referred to internally as a “low-key research preview” in the period leading up to its launch and it was intended as a means through which the public could begin to interact with OpenAI’s GPT large language model more broadly so that the company could then collect feedback and fine-tune the technology accordingly.

Many within the OpenAI team were surprised when ChatGPT attracted its first million users in just five days, becoming the fastest-growing app in history.

Advice for marketers

According to Want Branding’s Jonathan Bell, brands that are looking to promote their use of AI through an optimized name should take their time. “It needs to be well thought-out,” he says. “It shouldn’t be something that’s done casually over a quick meeting, where you just simply add ‘AI’ to [the name]. Companies need to think about: What are they specifically doing? Can they deploy AI in a way that is really effective, or is this something that’s been done that could come across as bandwagon-jumping?”

Placek, who’s prone to referencing cognitive science and linguistics when discussing the psychology of brand- and product-naming, highlights the importance of sound symbolism – that is, the associations between particular sounds and the concepts that they evoke in the mind of the hearer. “You don’t want something too soft and you don’t want something too clever,” he says. “[You want something that’s] a little bit on the more serious side that [suggests] intelligence … sound symbolism should play a role in selecting and developing your names.”

When prompted to describe the qualities of a great name for an AI brand or product in fewer than 10 words, ChatGPT wrote: “Memorable, clear, unique, relevant, easy to pronounce, globally appealing, scalable.”

Feature Image Credit: Adobe Stock

By Webb Wright 

Sourced from The Drum

By Goran Paun

Technology is advancing, changing how users navigate websites, digital products, apps and interfaces. The user experience has become more enjoyable and much more efficient than it used to be.

Although these changes have become widely accepted by users and the teams that design them, there are still hurdles that can impact your website. There are design elements that have the power to enhance user experience, but if overused or not used correctly, they can cause your users to feel cognitive strain in order to get what they are seeking. Cognitive strain occurs when users have to go through hurdles when they are navigating complicated interfaces, leading to difficulty enjoying an experience or making decisions. Cognitive strain becomes distracting and can cause your users to leave your website.

Let’s explore a few digital design advancements, and how to use them just right.

Use Your Animations Purposefully

Interactive web animations are one of the many common ways designers create visually appealing web experiences that feel immersive. Web animations add a delightful extra layer to a design. However, it is key to ensure that they are not overused, as then they can lose their appeal and overstimulate your users. The best way to incorporate animation in a meaningful way is by analysing how to use them. Is the animation propelling the user forward in their journey in any way through a transition to another webpage? Is the loading time of the animation interrupting the flow of the overall experience—potentially causing increased bounce rates? These are elements to consider when incorporating animations into your website.

Subtle but powerful ways to include animations can be hover animations that grow or pulse, scroll animations that offer a dynamic transition to the next part of a website without too much motion, or even a moving graphical element that offers visual interest without getting in the way of any content. Fast-moving animations or animations that overtake the page can overstimulate your audience if overused; therefore, minimal movement is usually the better choice.

Consider Your Chatbot

Chatbots have been around for a while. They are used mainly to help with the automation of customer support, answering questions and more. Chatbots are integrated into e-commerce websites for product recommendations or streamlining questions for customer support, while service websites often use them for tasks such as scheduling appointments. Although they are handy when it comes to enabling businesses to handle larger quantities of user interactions, do you really need them on your website if it extends beyond e-commerce purposes?

Depending on your target audience and demographic, chatbots can be hit or miss. According to a study that surveyed different generations on their thoughts about chatbots, 20% of Gen Zers prefer to start customer service interactions with a chatbot, compared to only 4% of baby boomers. The latter are particularly unaccepting of chatbots that pop up on websites automatically: “53% of Boomer respondents indicated that uninitiated chatbots ‘annoyed’ them, compared to only 28% of millennials and 24% of Gen Z consumers.”

To create an overall enjoyable user experience for all, make sure that all of your users can easily and painlessly use your website to do the things they need to do. If your brand caters more to older generations, consider alternative communication and calls-to-actions that lead to fillable contact forms or email and phone number options. If your audience is a mixed bag, including chatbots can be helpful, as long as they don’t completely overtake the screen or are presented as a pop-up. Therefore, consider whether your website benefits from having a chatbot, or whether you can opt out with alternative options.

Optimize Your Assets

Grabbing your users’ attention is one of the main goals for robust web design; your visuals can impact that. Regarding the photography and other visual assets across your website, ensure that they are optimized for the web. Images that are too large can impact the loading time it takes for users to see them—furthering the chance of users experiencing cognitive strain and ultimately leaving your website. Forty percent of people will leave a website if it takes more than three seconds to load. To decrease the loading time of your photo assets, make sure they are no more than around 150 kilobytes, and that you resize original photos down closer to that resolution.

Images that have not been properly optimized also might not fit well within the design of your site. They might be too large or too small, or their resolution might not match the display capabilities of the device users are on. These inconsistencies can be distracting, making it harder for users to concentrate on the main content.

Optimizing your assets can also mean what kinds of images you’re using and how you’re using them. Using stock imagery, for example, can be a great way to incorporate elements that help tell the visual story of a website, but including photos of your actual company or brand can help elevate your user-centric approach and carry out your brand ethos further. Users are more likely to trust and feel the authenticity of your brand if you include photos that are company-related versus stock photography.

Using photos in the right context is also important. If a stock image isn’t directly related to the content it’s paired with, it can confuse users. They might exert unnecessary mental effort trying to connect the image with the content, causing cognitive strain.

As you navigate the ever-evolving landscape of digital design, it is imperative to make thoughtful and purposeful design decisions to avoid causing unnecessary cognitive acrobatics for your users. By fostering an environment of simplicity, user-centricity and contextual relevance, you can ensure that your website not only captivates and engages users but also that it facilitates a seamless and intuitive journey.

Feature Image Credit: getty

By Goran Paun

Creative Director of ArtVersion, a Chicago design consultancy. We craft ideal user experiences for the world’s most innovative companies. Read Goran Paun’s full executive profile here.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

Sourced from Forbes

By Webb Wright 

Until recently, many prominent brands including Disney, H&M and Coca-Cola were all-in on the metaverse. Now, times have changed and so have the business models within (some of) those companies.

Remember the metaverse?

Not so long ago, many brands were thoroughly fixated on this vague virtual world, a space that comprised both online gaming and virtual reality (VR) and that was typically conflated with blockchain-based web3 technologies such as NFTs and cryptocurrency. Though the concept of the metaverse has been around for decades, it was catapulted into the public psyche after Facebook changed its name to Meta – thereby signaling its pivot from being a social media-first company to being a metaverse-first company – in October 2021. Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse’s most devoted proselytizer, painted his vision for the future of the virtual world as being one in which the humanity of the not-so-distant future would work, play, date and do just about everything else.

Many brands, captivated by the notion that there could soon be a virtual realm populated by throngs of (mostly young) consumers, were quick to drink the metaverse Kool-Aid. Wendy’s opened up a ‘Wendyverse’ in Meta’s Horizon Worlds; Miller Lite hosted a virtual bar in Decentraland; Playboy built a ‘MetaMansion’ in The Sandbox and so on. Every other day, it seemed, some new brand was eagerly staking its claim in what seemed to be a virtual gold rush.

Then, almost as quickly as it had materialized, the bubble popped.

Following a sharp decline in the crypto market, a general lack of popular enthusiasm for virtual reality-based ‘experiences’ such as Meta’s Horizon Worlds and a surge of popular interest around artificial intelligence, some brands that had previously seemed so enthusiastic about the metaverse dropped it like a bad habit. Others appear to be tentatively treating it as a phenomenon that, like a child’s forlorn toy, has been temporarily abandoned by the culture but might one day be embraced again.

“Many brands were excited about the metaverse … [and] their shift in attention makes sense with the current acceleration and adoption of generative AI,” says author and futurist Cathy Hackl, who has come to be known as the “godmother of the metaverse.”

Hackl believes that although the term ’metaverse’ has fallen into disfavour, it still points to some very real and ongoing technological trends. “It comes down to evolutionary and revolutionary technologies,” she says. “Generative AI went from evolutionary to revolutionary in the last year, and other technology sectors like spatial computing are still in their evolutionary phase. There’s [going to be] a future after the smartphone and a new version of the web will replace the current mobile internet; whether or not we’ll choose to call it ’the metaverse’ remains to be seen. The headlines have moved on from the term but the future has yet to be determined.”

Formerly the chief metaverse officer of Journey, a company that she founded, Hackl’s current job title is chief futurist. “The chief metaverse officer [title] was starting to limit me in some ways and was putting me in a box,” she says. “I felt the need to branch out further since my work encompasses so much more.”

Hackl changing her job title is also perhaps a reflection of a broader trend of tech and marketing experts who are shying away from the terms ’metaverse’ and ’web3.’ To explore this trend a bit further, let’s take a look at the recent career arcs of (in some cases former) metaverse leads within some prominent companies.

Mike White (Disney)

In February 2022, when metaverse fever was starting to heat up across the marketing landscape, Disney tapped Mike White to lead its in-house metaverse initiatives as the company’s executive vice-president of next-generation storytelling and consumer experiences. White had been with Disney by that point for more than 10 years.

The company’s metaverse division was dissolved under the newly reinstated Bob Iger in March and White was let go from the company earlier this month. Disney now seems to be shifting its technological focus to AI.

Pratik Thakar (Coca-Cola)

During his time as the Coca-Cola Company’s head of global creative strategy and content – a position he was first appointed to in January 2021– Pratik Thakar was, like so many marketers, excited about the metaverse. The brand moved quickly in its efforts to establish itself as a pioneer in the web3 space; it launched an NFT campaign way back in July 2021 and a little under a year later released a soda aimed at the gaming community, which it alleged to contain “the flavor of pixels.”

Today, Thakar is still with Coca-Cola as the company’s global head of generative AI.

Robert Triefus (Gucci)

Fashion industry veteran Robert Triefus, who first joined Gucci back in 2008, was appointed as the company’s chief executive of Vault (the company’s online concept store) and metaverse ventures last September. He parted ways with the company about six months later to “pursue another career opportunity,” according to a statement that Gucci provided to multiple outlets at the time. He’s now the CEO of the Moncler-owned fashion brand Stone Island.

Max Heirbaut (H&M)

Sparked by what seemed to be a surge in the market for digital fashion, H&M was another big-name brand that was quick to capitalize on the metaverse. In January, the fashion brand launched Loooptopia, a branded virtual experience hosted on Roblox that emphasized educating users about circularity, or the recycling and reuse of clothing.

Back in May 2022, H&M hired Max Heirbaut to spearhead the brand’s web3 and metaverse efforts as global head of brand experience. Heirbaut still occupies that role, according to his LinkedIn page, and the company as a whole still appears to be committed to building its presence in the metaverse. (“The metaverse offers a new way to look at personal style and the potential of ever-evolving, limitless wardrobes,” the brand wrote on its website earlier this month.)

However, it isn’t the only brand that’s still moving forward with its metaverse and web3 plans. And Heirbaut isn’t the only metaverse lead within a well-known brand who has retained their role, despite the broader cultural shunning of the metaverse; LVMH’s Nelly Mensah, for example, who was named as the company’s global head of web3 and metaverse in January 2022, still appears to be occupying that role, as does L’Oréal’s Camille Kroelly (chief metaverse and web3 officer) and Nike’s Eric Redmond (head of Metaverse Studio).

Feature Image Credit: Adobe Stock

By Webb Wright 

Sourced from The Drum

If you’re not already using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance your digital strategy, fear not. Tug’s Elliot Gray has you covered.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the media industry. It’s opened up a huge range of new possibilities for digital marketers, helping them gain competitive advantages and engage with customers in new and exciting ways.

Here, we cover seven things digital marketers can do with AI to speed up workflows, boost ROI on ad campaigns, and more.

1. Automate repetitive tasks

While the role of the digital marketer is forever changing, there are some repetitive admin tasks we haven’t been able to shake – until now. Sending emails, posting on social media, conducting research. AI can automate all of these, freeing up time for marketers to focus on higher-value work.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software like Zapier can integrate with 5,000 apps and platforms to create automated workflows, automating the process of lead-generation campaigns, for example.

2. Create personalized content

AI can also be used to create more personalized content. Businesses have utilized this for many years. In 2016, Starbucks used predictive analytics to create customized emails by leveraging loyalty card and mobile app data. By analyzing data about consumer behavior, AI can help marketers better understand what kinds of content are most likely to resonate with the audience they’re trying to reach.

3. Conduct audience research

Conducting audience research can be tedious, but AI can speed it up by collecting and analyzing data about potential customers. It can also support marketers in identifying new audience segments they might not have considered before.

At Tug, we use ChatGPT to help identify new audience interests to target on Meta when planning a campaign by feeding the platform as much relevant information about the company and its products or services as possible, then asking it to provide around 50 options. Admittedly, it can spit out a lot of nonsense, but by asking for a large list of options, you have a better chance of finding hidden gems.

4. Improve customer service

Digital marketers can’t be on standby for their clients all hours of the day. By using chatbots, businesses can provide their customers with 24/7 assistance, even outside regular business hours.

Chatbots can answer FAQs or give product recommendations. Implementing a chatbot can help reduce the time employees spend answering simple questions. When something more complex comes up that the chatbot can’t answer, it can escalate the issue to an actual human.

5. Analyze data

AI can assist digital marketers with collecting and organizing data from various sources, reducing the time spent on obtaining and arranging the data, as well as making the process more streamlined overall.

If we take something like ‘sentiment analysis’ as an example, a company might use AI tools to gauge customer attitudes toward a specific brand, product, or ad campaign. This can be done by reviewing social media posts, reviews, and other online feedback in order to help understand public perception and adjust accordingly.

6. Analyze performance

Even better, AI can be adopted to analyze the performance of campaigns across multiple channels. By analyzing data from multiple sources, marketers can better understand how each channel contributes to overall success and adjust their strategies accordingly.

7. Predictive analytics

AI can predict future trends and consumer behavior more accurately than manual analysis. Predictive analytics uses machine learning algorithms to analyze large customer datasets and identify patterns that indicate future trends. For example, AI can determine which products or services are likely to soon become more prevalent, or which customers could be more likely to remain loyal customers.

8. Automate media buying processes

Through automation, AI can make the media buying process more efficient. By sifting through consumer behavior and market trends data, AI can help businesses find the best deals for their media campaigns, preventing them from overspending on ad buys. For example, AI can identify the best times and channels to run ads in order to maximize their reach while saving on costs.

Feature Image Credit: Levi Loot

By Elliot Gray

Sourced from The Drum

By Chris Sutcliffe 

At the Google Marketing Live event, the search giant announced further plans for its AI tools, promising that it will ‘continue to shape the future of marketing’. Here are the five most important insights for marketers.

AI ads are launching in Search results

For marketers, the most interesting development is likely to be the integration of AI-generated ads into search results across Google’s properties, under the title of ‘Search Generative Experience (SGE)’. The ads, which take the user’s prompt or query and build out a few paragraphs of information with associated and relevant products, are set to be deployed across the US initially.

The ads will be distinguished from other search results and labelled as ‘sponsored’ in bold text.

It has been suggested by multiple marketers and analysts that search is set to be among the most thoroughly disrupted areas of marketing due to AI tools, explaining why Google is so keen to prove its existing search-based marketing options are compatible with the tech.

Human interaction is a must

Following that process, Google’s AI tech will generate a list of suggested keywords, images from both the company’s site or a stock library, and headlines for the ad. The advertiser will be able to provide feedback and fine-tune the ad before it is deployed into search. Ultimately, despite the hype around AI, it is being marketed as a tool that requires human sign-off before the ads are deployed.

Cheaper and faster

Despite the allure of the tech, the big selling point to marketers is around bringing the cost of advertising down. Maximizing marketing efficiencies are seen as a big priority for advertisers this year, so a large part of the selling point is around bringing costs down.

Google has stated that early adopters have reported 2% more conversions at a similar cost per conversion. Because the tool is integrated into the existing Search and Performance Max campaigns, there are no pricing differences for its use.

Generative AI images

In addition to the in-search ads, Google also announced that marketers in the US will be among the first to use its generative AI tool for product images. Noting that multiple images have an impact on the success of ads – generating up to 76% increase in impressions and a 32% increase in clickthrough – Google’s team also pointed out that it is costly to manually create those ads.

As a result, the new tool is designed to streamline that process, by using generative AI to create multiple iterations of an image on the fly with different backgrounds, colour tones, increased resolution and more.

Ahead of the curve

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has recently stated that AI-powered personal assistants will severely impact the business models of Google and Amazon in particular. Speaking at the AI Forward 2023, he said: “Whoever wins the personal agent, that’s the big thing, because you will never go to a search site again, you will never go to a productivity site, you’ll never go to Amazon again”.

Google, like most of the major tech companies, has been working on AI tools for years, and it already powers many marketing transactions behind the scenes. With the advent of consumer-facing tools like ChatGPT, however, the pressure has been on large tech firms to prove they are keeping pace with generative AI. An early demonstration of Google’s AI tool Bard was met with a negative reception due to a perceived error in one of its answers, and has in part led to concerns of safety and misinformation across the AI ecosystem.

For Google, then, the opportunity related to AI-generated ads with its search results is to demonstrate to marketers that it is still at the head of the pack with the new tech. By providing figures that demonstrate the cost- and time-saving nature of the tool it will be hoping to prove Bill Gates wrong and ensure that marketers continue spending on its owned and operated platforms.

By Chris Sutcliffe 

Sourced from The Drum

By Sam Anderson 

Era-defining publishers (first Buzzfeed, then Vice) on the rocks; social giants sweating over TikTok; rapid cultural changes. The 00s version of the internet finally feels like it’s slipping away. But is it – and what comes next? We asked leaders from The Drum Network.

Alistair Robertson, creative partner, Nucco: “Search will change more in the next 18 months than it has since the noughties began. That will affect the broader digital ecosystem.

“AI-delivered information will soon take centre-stage on search pages, meaning far less real estate for anything other than a very small (and valuable) brand and product set. For consumers, this could be positive, for smaller brands, probably less so.

“These search changes will materially affect the amount of marketing content created. Branded content will no longer be needed at such high volume to channel consumers through a sales journey. Those changes will affect digital advertising’s opportunity to do a job. AI could yet be the killer of the humble banner.

“There’s much changing, and consumers will be the big winners. For brands, perhaps the latter 2020s will be about sponsorships and, dare I say it, quality creative ideas that people want to watch and share!”

Charlie Wade, global executive director of growth and innovation, VMLY&R Commerce: “The internet is constantly evolving. It started as a broadcast ‘message board’, before moving to content sharing, from music to photos. Now, web3 and AI have ushered in an age of decentralization, giving people the power to reimagine worlds, songs, and even the Pope.

“The internet is lauded for the disruption it has fostered: critics have receded in the face of consumer reviews; mass media usurped by social. While this initially brought immediacy and a widening aperture of information, the downside has been an erosion of authenticity, which the decline of legitimate publishers could compound. From fake sneakers to fake news, the ubiquity and the relative ease with which nefarious actors can spread misinformation is real. Those who control platforms (Musk or the masses) must imbue protocols around what is being positioned as authentic.

“Reader habits have morphed, placing stress on revenue models: sponsored editorials and mass advertising wilted, so companies needed new income sources, such as e-commerce integration. Marketers should think about the internet as episodic, with each stage impacted by user needs and technological developments. The 00s era is over. Its replacement offers both opportunities and challenges for brands.”

Matt Belanger, vice-president, director, digital communications strategy, Momentum Worldwide: “The (current) digital revolution comes amid a heightened desire for authenticity and realness. With technological advancement comes knowledge and experience as more people become seasoned social media users. The skill of spotting clickbait, ads, and content that doesn’t add value to our lives has sharpened to the point of skipping right past without a thought.

“As we see media companies who focused traditionally on selling advertising as their source of revenue start to fall, it signifies an opportunity for marketers to guide these shifts. Content creators stand out because they are the voice of authentic human beings, gaining trust (and sometimes financial support) from their communities. Providing authentic value is key to standing out, whether that’s an opinion, education, or just entertainment.

“We’re hopeful for the future. If we take great care to create quality, relevant content, consumers will flock to it.”

Nina Goli, digital strategy director, Radley Yeldar: “The internet of the 00s is not dead. It defined the era of the profile and laid the foundation for future developments. Societal dependence on the internet became more evident in the 2010s, bringing forth toxic aspects of web addiction.

“As we progress further into the 2020s, we’re witnessing a resurgence of omni-web experiences with a nostalgic twist. Challenges arising from regulators and a ‘big brother’ mentality present organic opportunities for marketers and publishers to redefine authenticity and credibility in online relationships with audiences.

“In addition to emerging technologies like influencer marketing, user-generated content, AR, and AI, publishers should tap into the gap that exists: a need to reintroduce the human aspect of digital communication. This human touch was instrumental in forging strong bonds with millennials during the early 00s and is now being reclaimed by Gen Z. While challenges persist, there is hope that innovation and adaptation will lead to an improved digital landscape, but we should prepare for further disruptions and adjust our strategies accordingly.”

Danielle Dullaghan, social strategist, Social Chain: “We have to learn from the mistakes of social publishers. Relying on platform functionality for your business model is not possible in an ever-changing landscape. Today, there’s power in TikTok; tomorrow it could be something completely different. Social publishers built their business off Facebook link clicks and video formats, and when Meta pivoted their algorithm, publishers were left in the dust.

“00s internet is not dead, but used in different ways. Facebook favors meaningful engagement; groups and marketplace are absolutely thriving. But social publishers are struggling to organically monetize on a platform that has changed their business model so drastically.”

Dan Bermingham-Shaw, senior digital PR consultant, BuiltVisible: “The new internet age requires fluid, transformative change. Big institutions like the NYT and BBC have kept up by adapting and creating diversified digital businesses, while smaller, punchier companies have done important, valuable work but failed to retain momentum and adjust to new demands.

“Those lessons in failure help push others to improve and create platforms suited to our needs; the successful publishers of tomorrow will be able to incorporate audience convenience in as flexible a way as possible, making use of tools like AI to capture audience minds and interests. The internet is always moving and there will be many more crumbling publishers in the future, but they will fall in order to build something better and more suited to what audiences demand. We loved Vine, but TikTok took the concept and doubled it with huge success. It’s a pattern we’ll continue to see.”

James Crooke, chief technology officer, Rawnet: “Web 2.0 (The 00s version) is far from dead. It remains highly relevant for brands in today’s digital landscape. It has revolutionized brand engagement through interactive and collaborative user experiences, along with social networking and user-generated content.

“Despite challenges faced by publishers such as cookie consent, ad-blocking, and the shift towards closed ecosystems (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Netflix, Twitch, YouTube, etc.), web 2.0 technologies continue to evolve, offering new opportunities for personalized experiences and improved customer interactions. To thrive in the uncertain future of the internet, brands must remain agile and adaptable, aligning themselves with evolving audience needs and expectations, allowing them to connect with customers and build strong relationships.”

Feature Image Credit: Alexander Andrews via Unsplash

By Sam Anderson 

Sourced from The Drum


Government agencies and private security companies in the U.S. have found a cost-effective way to engage in warrantless surveillance of individuals, groups and places: a pay-for-access web tool called Fog Reveal.

The tool enables law enforcement officers to see “patterns of life” – where and when people work and live, with whom they associate and what places they visit. The tool’s maker, Fog Data Science, claims to have billions of data points from over 250 million U.S. mobile devices.

Fog Reveal came to light when the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit that advocates for online civil liberties, was investigating location data brokers and uncovered the program through a Freedom of Information Act request. EFF’s investigation found that Fog Reveal enables law enforcement and private companies to identify and track people and monitor specific places and events, like rallies, protests, places of worship and health care clinics. The Associated Press found that nearly two dozen government agencies across the country have contracted with Fog Data Science to use the tool.

Government use of Fog Reveal highlights a problematic difference between data privacy law and electronic surveillance law in the U.S. It is a difference that creates a sort of loophole, permitting enormous quantities of personal data to be collected, aggregated and used in ways that are not transparent to most persons. That difference is far more important in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which revoked the constitutional right to an abortion. Dobbs puts the privacy of reproductive health information and related data points, including relevant location data, in significant jeopardy.

The trove of personal data Fog Data Science is selling, and government agencies are buying, exists because ever-advancing technologies in smart devices collect increasingly vast amounts of intimate data. Without meaningful choice or control on the user’s part, smart device and app makers collect, use and sell that data. It is a technological and legal dilemma that threatens individual privacy and liberty, and it is a problem I have worked on for years as a practicing lawyer, researcher and law professor.

Government surveillance

U.S. intelligence agencies have long used technology to engage in surveillance programs like PRISM, collecting data about individuals from tech companies like Google, particularly since 9/11 – ostensibly for national security reasons. These programs typically are authorized by and subject to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Patriot Act. While there is critical debate about the merits and abuses of these laws and programs, they operate under a modicum of court and congressional oversight.

Domestic law enforcement agencies also use technology for surveillance, but generally with greater restrictions. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, and federal electronic surveillance law require domestic law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before tracking someone’s location using a GPS device or cell site location information.

Fog Reveal is something else entirely. The tool – made possible by smart device technology and that difference between data privacy and electronic surveillance law protections – allows domestic law enforcement and private entities to buy access to compiled data about most U.S. mobile phones, including location data. It enables tracking and monitoring of people on a massive scale without court oversight or public transparency. The company has made few public comments, but details of its technology have come out through the referenced EFF and AP investigations.

Fog Reveal’s data

Every smartphone has an advertising ID – a series of numbers that uniquely identifies the device. Supposedly, advertising IDs are anonymous and not linked directly to the subscriber’s name. In reality, that may not be the case.

Private companies and apps harness smartphones’ GPS capabilities, which provide detailed location data, and advertising IDs, so that wherever a smartphone goes and any time a user downloads an app or visits a website, it creates a trail. Fog Data Science says it obtains this “commercially available data” from data brokers, permitting the tool to follow devices through their advertising IDs. While these numbers do not contain the name of the phone’s user, they can easily be traced to homes and workplaces to help police identify the user and establish pattern-of-life analyses.

a screenshot showing a text box with a row of icons at the top over a satellite view of a neighborhood
Fog Reveal allows users to see that a specific mobile phone was at a specific place at a specific time. Electronic Frontier Foundation, CC BY

Law enforcement use of Fog Reveal puts a spotlight on that loophole between U.S. data privacy law and electronic surveillance law. The hole is so large that – despite Supreme Court rulings requiring a warrant for law enforcement to use GPS and cell site data to track persons – it is not clear whether law enforcement use of Fog Reveal is unlawful.

Electronic surveillance vs. data privacy

Electronic surveillance law protections and data privacy mean two very different things in the U.S. There are robust federal electronic surveillance laws governing domestic surveillance. The Electronic Communications Privacy Act regulates when and how domestic law enforcement and private entities can “wiretap,” i.e., intercept a person’s communications, or track a person’s location.

Coupled with Fourth Amendment protections, ECPA generally requires law enforcement agencies to get a warrant based on probable cause to intercept someone’s communications or track someone’s location using GPS and cell site location information. Also, ECPA permits an officer to get a warrant only when the officer is investigating certain crimes, so the law limits its own authority to permit surveillance of only serious crimes. Violation of ECPA is a crime.

The vast majority of states have laws that mirror ECPA, although some states, like Maryland, afford citizens more protections from unwanted surveillance.

The Fog Reveal tool raises enormous privacy and civil liberties concerns, yet what it is selling – the ability to track most persons at all times – may be permissible because the U.S. lacks a comprehensive federal data privacy law. ECPA permits interceptions and electronic surveillance when a person consents to that surveillance.

With little in the way of federal data privacy laws, once someone clicks “I agree” on a pop-up box, there are few limitations on private entities’ collection, use and aggregation of user data, including location data. This is the loophole between data privacy and electronic surveillance law protections, and it creates the framework that underpins the massive U.S. data sharing market.

AP investigative journalist Garance Burke explains how she and her colleagues uncovered law enforcement use of Fog Reveal.

The need for data privacy law

Without robust federal data privacy safeguards, smart device manufacturers, app makers and data brokers will continue, unfettered, to utilize smart devices’ sophisticated sensing technologies and GPS capabilities to collect and commercially aggregate vast quantities of intimate and revealing data. As it stands, that data trove may not be protected from law enforcement agencies. But the permitted commercial use of advertising IDs to track devices and users without meaningful notice and consent could change if the American Data Privacy Protection Act, approved by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce by a vote of 53-2 on July 20, 2022, passes.

ADPPA’s future is uncertain. The app industry is strongly resisting any curtailment of its data collection practices, and some states are resisting ADPPA’s federal preemption provision, which could minimize the protections afforded via state data privacy laws. For example, Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has said lawmakers will need to address concerns from California that the bill overrides the state’s stronger protections before she will call for a vote on ADPPA.

The stakes are high. Recent law enforcement investigations highlight the real-world consequences that flow from the lack of robust data privacy protection. Given the Dobbs ruling, these situations will proliferate absent congressional action.


Sourced from The Conversation

By Ben Sherry

Artificial intelligence technology may help solve retention problems in the customer service industry.

Solving the customer service industry’s notorious retention issues has been something of a white whale for entrepreneurs. According to data from AI company Cresta, annual turnover rates at contact centres jumped from 30-45 percent to around 80 percent during the pandemic. High turnover rates can lead to longer customer wait times, as it can take between seven to nine weeks to hire a new agent, and many more months to fully train them. Several potential fixes have been introduced, such as A.I.-powered chatbots and virtual customer service representatives, but a true “silver bullet” solution has yet to be found.

One of the reasons call centre employees burn out so quickly is that they’re frequently forced to deal with abusive callers. This abuse often comes in the form of bigoted tirades from American clients. Maxim Serebryakov, the 24 year-old CEO of Palo Alto-based accent augmentation company Sanas, saw this problem up close when his friend Raul Garcia Letona was forced to leave Stanford and support his family in Nicaragua by getting a job at a call centre. Serebryakov began toying with the idea of using artificial intelligence to change a call centre agent’s accent in real time, and in 2020 co-founded Sanas. By processing a multitude of voices and corresponding transcripts through an algorithm, Sanas allows call centre agents to choose how their accent will sound to clients.

Many call centre agents grow up in the U.S. and speak perfect English but are regularly subjected to verbal abuse from bigoted Americans because of their accents, Serebryakov says. Despite Garcia Letona’s high level of education, he was underperforming due to his thick South American accent.

Feature Image Credit: Getty Images

By Ben Sherry

Sourced from Inc.

Sourced from Creative Review

The marketing world is always evolving with new ways for brands to differentiate themselves. The importance of brands being proactive online is vital – but what can brands do offline to help their company stand out?

Experiences offer a brand the opportunity to elevate themselves beyond two-dimensional entities, allowing them to articulate personality and emotion in different ways. Through experience design, brands can take their visitors on an immersive experience that reflects their values, mission, history and so on.

At the forefront of this movement is Mather & Co, an agency that helps commercial brands across the globe to hoist their offline presence and overtake their competitors by creating experiences that showcase a unique brand story. Established in 1995 by Chris Mather, Mather & Co’s work includes the Gretna Green Experience; Downton Abbey: The Exhibition; Silverstone Interactive Museum; the R&A World Golf Museum; and The Royal Mint Experience.

Many of the best brand activations sit at the cross-section between creativity and technology, using the latter as a tool to bring great ideas to life. So, what’s the secret of successful experience-based marketing?


Projection-mapping technology can transform any irregular surface, such as the face of a building, into a canvas for breath-taking audio-visual experiences that may extend a brand’s reach. Through next-level design and production any surface may be augmented and transformed into an exciting and immersive display to communicate a story or showcase a product.

Successful examples of immersive projection mapping technologies include Wear the Rose, a 360-degree sports experience that took over London’s O2 Arena, as well as a giant installation in Saudi Arabia using the Tuwaiq Mountains as its canvas.

A recent project for the R&A World Golf Museum saw Mather & Co produce the Celebration of Light projection-mapping show across the famous Royal & Ancient Clubhouse building. This extension of the experience allowed the iconic golfing brand to reach millions of people worldwide, narrating 150 years of golfing history to mark the occasion of the 150th Open.

Photo: James Bridle


Sometimes it is the history and heritage behind a brand that steers the type of experience you need to develop. The Famous Blacksmiths Shop in Gretna Green is legendary for runaway marriages stretching back hundreds of years, but the legend is in danger of being forgotten altogether with the ageing demographic of visitors.

Here, the Mather & Co team recognised the need to reinvigorate the brand in new ways to connect with younger audiences – creating a new experience on site telling the story of romance, rebellion, and unstoppable love since 1754. The shop has been transformed into an immersive, storytelling experience at the heart of the iconic Gretna Green destination. The experience takes visitors on emotional love story and highlights the business as a whole – a family run business. It is a modern and contemporary take on a 200-year-old history.

“Before the redevelopment, Gretna Green was already a significant destination in British history – the new experience still holds the original magic and romance of the site,” says Sarah Clarke, managing director at Mather & Co. “The experience now allows visitors to delve into the heart-felt love stories and also explores Gretna Green as a brand itself.”

Gretna Green Experience; Photo: Chris Humphreys
Gretna Green Experience; Photo: Chris Humphreys


The way people interact in experiences, and what they want from them, has changed dramatically over the past decade. With technology at everyone’s fingertips, people are now looking for more participatory and physical interactivity that they cannot do at home. Creating immersive and interactive experiences allows brands to connect with their audiences in different and more memorable ways.

At the home of British motor racing, the new Silverstone Interactive Museum tells the brand story of the circuit and its place in British motorsport in a fully interactive way. From taking part in tyre changes and sitting in an iconic historic F1 car, to getting involved in the tech lab and designing your own vehicle, this Mather & Co project immerses visitors in the experience – not only enhancing their understanding of the brand, but making them a vital part of it.

Photo: Peter Corcoran
Photo: Peter Corcoran


For TV programmes and films, iconic moments are there to draw on in extension experiences. No-one can deny the success of offers such as the Harry Potter Studio Tour, Game of Thrones Studio Tour and the Doctor Who Experience which are sweeping the nation and extending connections with fans of the shows.

“When it comes to designing a visitor attraction, we must understand what makes the visitors want to keep coming back for more,” continues Clarke. “It should be an extension of the brand, so the values must be translated in the experience.”

Mather & Co worked with NBCUniversal and Emmy-winning writer Julian Fellowes to create an immersive experience for the internationally acclaimed TV programme Downton Abbey and created one of the most successful studio tours in the UK around the original Coronation Street set.

For both, the key was to authentically recreate the sets, immerse ourselves fully in the brand and select the memories that resonated the most with fans. It was about taking visitors on an emotional journey beyond the fourth wall right into the beating heart of their favourite shows.

Photo: Bespoke Foundry
Photo: Bespoke Foundry

To discuss how your brand could unlock the full potential of experience design, contact Mather & Co; matherandco.com

Sourced from Creative Review