A monthly look at the world of digital from NORTH’s point of view

Samsung Doubles Down On AI

By Caroline Desmond, Director of Media Strategy

It’s been a series of unfortunate events for Samsung lately, but there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. In the last couple months, exploding Galaxy Note 7s have led to a global product recall, not to mention the side-eye from airlines who now ask passengers not to use Note 7 devices during flights. Then came the launch of Google’s Pixel phone, just released on Tuesday of last week. Major selling points for the Google Pixel include free full resolution storage for all photos and video, and the camera, which camera testing lab DXO claims is the best smartphone camera on the market. Although the camera and free storage is a clear challenge to Apple’s iPhone 7, it may pose an even greater threat to Samsung given Samsung users are already used to an Android platform and could just as easily migrate over to Google Pixel in light of the recent controversy around Samsung’s smoking devices. This makes Samsung’s recent announcement last Wednesday about the purchase of virtual personal assistant (VPA) software, Viv, all the more timely.

Source: TechCrunch

Hold up, what is Viv?

Flashback to last May when the developers behind Apple’s Siri announced their new, more intuitive VPA at the TechCrunch Disrupt event. Viv has already been billed as a potential “Siri-killer” for its ability to deliver more personalized responses, work across any device (smartphones, fridges, smartwatches, computers), and integrate with any service. The last bit pertaining to integration has been considered by developers as the most important because it allows for more complex requests and cuts down on the number of steps a user has to take from question to action. Although Viv is not yet available to the general public, it has been working with around 50 launch partners to tap into their services (Uber, GrubHub, and others). Dag Kittlaus, one of the creators of Viv, is pushing toward a software that allows for universal integrations so that any software that wants to integrate with Viv should be able to do so. With Viv you would not have to tell it to pull up a particular app to complete a request. Rather if you ask it to book you a cab, it would intuitively bring up Uber. For consumers this translates into a much more seamless experience.

For tech companies, seamless consumer experiences are fast becoming the cost of entry. As Business Insider reported last Wednesday, the catalyst for Samsung’s purchase of Viv likely stems from Google’s investment in making its AI software, Google Assistant, similarly available across devices from Google Home to the new Pixel phones.

Implications for Brands

Service brands need to begin thinking about VPAs as the next channel for search and discovery. These brands will now need to invest in the technology integrations with VPAs like Google Assistant and Viv so that it’s their site or app that is pulled up when a consumer wants to order groceries, book a show, call a cab, order dinner, book a flight or hotel, etc. VPAs essentially become the gatekeeper between consumers and brand choice for service based companies.

The Fast and The Curious: Interactive Media Engaging Tech Savvy Youth

By Flynn Robertson, Assistant Media Planner


Before reading this entry to the October 2016 Digital Media Digest, it might be helpful to know that I am a 26-year old millennial with a stage IV Snapchat addiction, currently holding onto an 84-day Snapchat streak, whose attention span is such that I rarely manage to make it to the end of a snap before hurriedly clicking out to send my own in return. Now that we have gotten introductions out of the way, let’s get down to business.

This fall, I fully expected to watch NFL quarterback Cam Newton run around, over, and through opposing defenses on his way to the end zone. What I did not anticipate was to become immersed in a Newton-themed interactive game I ran into while exploring Snapchat’s Discover page. Keeping in mind that I’ve already admitted to rarely viewing the entirety of a 10-second Snapchat, I was surprised that I was able to pass about a minute engaging with this advertisement from Under Armour.

Under Armour represents the most recent brand that has experimented with an interactive advertisement within Snapchat’s Discover. This past summer, Gatorade released an interactive game featuring Serena Williams through the same platform.

Under Armour’s “It Comes From Below”, which takes its name from a current campaign, allows the user to control Cam Newton as he runs through a forest; the game continues as long as the user safely maneuvers Newton around threatening obstacles. Within the first 24 hours of its release, AdWeek reported this interactive game “saw 20 percent of users swipe up to play. The users that played the game spent an average of 78 seconds playing, and 19 percent of those who played shared the game…”

To coincide with the 2016 U.S. Open, Gatorade released “Serena Williams’ Match Point”. The 22-level game has the user compete against suspected-demigoddess Serena herself. A collaboration between Ludomade and TBWAChiatDay, “Match Point” saw ,”16 percent of people who saw ads for that game in the first 24 hours swiped up to play, and those who did spent an average of 200 seconds playing.” (


Interactive advertising is a welcome addition to Snapchat, but there is also a significant amount of work being done in interactive ad experiences across other digital/social channels. Recently, NORTH has made a few significant contributions to the world of interactive media. Take a few minutes to connect with your adventurous side and spend some time with Clif Bar’s “How Do You Adventure?” interactive video or explore the world created for Kubo and The Two Strings by navigating through locations on an interactive map.

This interactive strategy, which seems to be working for Gatorade and Under Armour, can significantly increase the amount of time the consumer directly interacts with the brand. The interactive nature of this strategy creates an immersive relationship between consumer and brand, a welcome addition to the currently passive relationship created by more traditional advertisements.

While NORTH succeeded with Clif Bar and Kubo and the Two String, a brand runs the risk of actively damaging its reputation if the final interactive product is deemed subpar by the potentially-too-tech-savvy youth. According to Peter Petrallia, “If it isn’t a good game, it can have a negative impact on your brand.” Spend a few minutes playing “It Comes From Below” or “Serena Williams’ Match Point” and you’ll find that it’s not about having flawless graphics, but instead about having quality gameplay that is entertaining. Miss the mark, disappoint the target market, and a brand could find this strategy to be a detrimental approach.

For many brands, I’d reckon its safe to say that the benefits of using interactive advertisements outweighs the risks as it becomes more important for brands to try and connect with a generation whose collective attention span seems to be getting shorter by the day. Ok, that’s it for today. I need to check my Snapchats.

Shopify’s New Facebook Messenger Feature

By Crystal Stanford, SEM/PPC Manager

Here at NORTH, we’ve talked quite a bit about the rise of chatbots. For those not immediately familiar with the term, chatbots are artificial intelligence programs designed to simulate a conversation with another human, and they’re most often used in mobile messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Viber and Facebook Messenger. While the rise of mobile messaging apps is a topic in and of itself, it’s closely connected to the rise of chatbots in that it gives chatbots a mass platform. Just this past summer, Facebook announced that Facebook Messenger platform has reached 1 billion users, which crystallized its reasons for coercing Facebook users to download Messenger as a separate app despite the temporary backlash it experienced from users reluctant to download yet another app.

Source: TechCrunch

It’s obvious at this point that Facebook saw the writing on the emerging mobile trends wall when they migrated their entire mobile user base to Facebook Messenger and also acquired WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging apps in Asia. It’s predicted that messenger apps will become the “new mobile home screen” and that people will be able to do everything from keep in touch with friends and family, to summon an Uber, and now, with some recent developments, seamlessly purchasing products via a chatbot. It’s widely thought that chatbots will at the very least help transform how companies do customer service online, and we’re now another couple steps closer to that new reality.

In September, Facebook announced that it would now allow payments to happen natively in its 30,000 chatbots. The process would require a one-time set-up, but going forward, users could make payments directly in Facebook Messenger. This confirms rumors that circulated when Facebook first migrated users to the standalone Messenger app that Facebook was trying to jump into the mobile payment space alongside competitors such as Square and Venmo. However, this move was taken a step further in October when it was announced that Shopify, an ecommerce platform dominant in its space, would be integrating products directly into Facebook Messenger.

Source: TechCrunch

The new feature allows merchants using the Shopify platform and chatbot to suggest and sell products directly to customers within the app. While the initial reaction for some might be that the process of buying a product from a chatbot seems unnatural, the idea of using chatbots to take care of a variety of tasks has already gained traction in Asia, where messenger apps are very popular. It appears that technology companies are banking on the prediction that it will also stick with US consumers eventually.

Brandon Chu, a Shopify product manager had this to say on it: “From an end-consumer perspective, it’s still pretty novel to think of messaging a business first when you want to interact with them, so that’s going to take some time to catch up with some of the interactions that are common in Asia. The outcome is moving to an internet version of what retail used to be, where you walk into a store and share with a merchant some of your problems or the thing that you’re looking for.”
Source: Digiday

For many retailers, this could be a new opportunity to really personalize shopping experiences for customers from the comfort of their Facebook Messenger apps. High-end fashion retailers like Louis Vuitton and Everlane have already been at it, using the app as a live chat tool and to assist customers in finding new products. “When you go into a high-end store, there’s a consultant, a point of inspiration or influence, and a particular look or image that the customer is trying to achieve,” said David Hewitt, vp at Sapient Nitro. “A chatbot’s pace and flow should tease out that inspiration point and shape the sale by telling the customer about the brand’s narrative. Even if it’s transaction-driven, it should start at the point of inspiration.”

Mid-Roll: The Captivated Audience

By Nathan Johnson, Media Planner

Source: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

You’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t heard that digital video consumption is on the rise as consumers continue to move away from traditional video viewing and opt-in to channels that allow them to consume media when and where they want to. Aside from the rapidly growing trend of time shifted viewing across all devices, advertisers have increasingly recognized the opportunity within digital video specifically, and have actually begun shifting budgets from TV to digital video. So much so that BI Intelligence expects digital video to account for $5 billion in ad revenue.

Pre-roll video continues to be the dominant ad format within digital video, however it’s mid-roll that’s on the rise. A study by Ooyala, showed that mid-roll video increased 24% in the last year, accounting for 33% of all ads, while pre-roll dropped from 75% to 60% in the last year.

The current trend in mid-roll is the result of publishers experimenting with new video ad formats to increase their available inventory and capitalize on growing digital video budgets. Facebook, for example, has been testing mid-roll on live video.

Introducing advertisements during watched content is not a new or revolutionary idea, in fact it’s the way viewers currently watch TV. But therein lies the beauty of mid-roll, viewers have already grown accustomed to the ad format. Furthermore, the ad is serving at a point where the viewer has already become invested in the content and will be less likely to leave due to an ad being served. According to Ooyala’s study, the average video completion rate for mid-roll is 90% compared to that of pre-roll at 78%.

Despite the growing opportunities and benefits of mid-roll, there remain some challenges. For example, mid-roll is not ideal for short-form content, which is popular on social platforms. Think about it, how invested is a user after the first 30 seconds of a video vs. the first five minutes? In circumstances where there is short-form content, pre-roll would be prefered.

It’s not about choosing one ad format over another. Both pre- and mid-roll have their benefits and shortcomings, and ideally there would be a mix to create the biggest impact for the brand. The important question is what type of content is the ad running against and does it make sense for the targeted viewer? This will become even more interesting as live video continues to blossom and advertisers will begin deciding whether they will limit themselves to only running on professionally curated live content or on user-generated live content as well.