Hello, and welcome to the newsletter.
This week we have 9 stories, including Google’s new AI ad unit, the first ever falls in smartphone sales, and some good, and some bad news for Snapchat.
Google is using AI to help publishers optimise the ads on their pages
Google has introduced a new ad unit for publishers to put on their sites, which uses AI to try to determine the best ads for the page, and even how many ads should be on the page. I’ve always assumed that Google must be using DeepMind to try to make advertising smarter, and so it seems, but this new product works from the publisher side, rather than for advertisers. Tests have shown that publishers will make more using this unit - let’s wait to see whether AI will also bring about better returns for clients.
Smartphone sales are fell for the first time ever
Gartner says that smartphone sales were 5% lower in Q4 2017 than in 2016. This is driven by two factors - fewer people upgrading from feature phones to smartphones, and the quality of smartphones rising so that they last longer. Apple now say that they expect people to use their phones for three years; in the early days this would have been two years or less.
In fact Apple is seeing a similar pattern, as noted in this very detailed post here by the Above Avalon blog
In-App transactions are booming
New data from Criteo says that people are spending much more using apps. For example, conversion rates for people shopping using an app are 21%, vs 6% for the mobile web. It shows that convenience pays - installed apps have your payment details saved, and are much easier to use.
Nike became the first brand to sell on Snapchat
Nike sold some early release sneakers on Snapchat to people who had attended a party and been able to grab a special snap code; the shoes sold out in 23 minutes. With the use of a code to scan, and direct sales, what this really reminds me of is what WeChat does in China. Surely this must be part of the influence that Tencent, WeChat’s owner, is having as part of its ownership of Snap?
Snap’s redesign is upsetting some loyal users
Not such good news for Snap. Yesterday Kylie Jenner tweeted that she hadn’t used it recently, and the resultant publicity led to an 8% drop in its share price. It’s not just Kylie. 1.2m people have signed a petition asking Snap to reverse recent design changes (also possibly influenced by input from WeChat). Snap has a last quarter, but could alienating some of its biggest fans bring new problems? Or does Snap see a different picture from its data?
Thanks to Howard Titley and Michael Everard for the link!
Oreo’s new AR scavenger hunt
Oreo has developed a new AR app in conjunction with Google, as part of the partnership that led to the latest version of Android being named after the cookie. People can use the app to find virtual cookies by solving clues and scanning common objects - for example if you work out that "What puts hands on your wrist?" means you need to point your camera at a wristwatch, to reveal an Oreo cookie that's only visible on the screen. Players earn points, and points can mean prizes, including trips to Google’s HQ in California.
Musical.ly gets lots of engagement with Olympics content
A strange Olympic tie-up. Musical.ly has been creating special content in partnership with NBC Olympics, including influencers posting behind the scenes footage, and regular challenges for users to try. The first weekend generated over 10m engagements - a sign that even a niche, focussed community, is willing to get excited about big global events like sports tournaments.
Fast Company’s Top 50 Innovative Companies
A intriguing list for 2018. I’d assumed that I’d be able to predict most of them, and yes, Apple, Netflix and Amazon are in the top 10, but I hadn’t expected to see Washington Post, Patagonia, and the NBA in there to. The full 50 features lots of less well-known companies like DJI (drones), Everlane (clothing) and DuoLingo (language learning). A very good read!
& finally - the unlikely power of cult TV
McDonalds has re-introduced its Szechuan sauce thanks to a mention in Rick & Morty