Chatbots – Not So Much
This week I’ve been looking at chat bots, this New York Times article says that musicians are embracing chat bots to communicate with fans. “I just had a conversation with Maroon 5! Awesome!” said one fan, who had exchanged instant messages in Facebook with the band. But here’s the thing: It’s not Maroon 5. It’s not even a Maroon 5 cover band. It’s a bot, and in my experience, not even a bot with good artificial intelligence. I decided to test the bot experience on Facebook. After liking Maroon 5’s page, I tried its instant messenger. “I love your song ‘Secret.'” I wrote. “Will you ever play it in concert?” My answer was, “Please click here to follow Maroon 5.” Bots have a limited answer repertoire, which can be really frustrating if you’re hoping for an authentic experience. Using a new tech feature, for the sake of it being a new tech feature, is an emotional-engagement killer. We agree with Forrester Research’s assessment: Hold on the bot strategy.
Chatbots – Maybe This One
That said, Twitter has a cool new feature that allows brands to direct message users, asking the user to share location so the brand can better serve the customer. TGIFridays is using the tool to direct users to the closest location and order from an online platform. Apparently the communication is automated with a bot. So either this is one good example of a positive bot strategy, e;g. the exchange (looking for a location and how to expedite order) is not open ended. In this example, the user query options are targeted and the path to purchase is well scripted. Either that – or there will be a bunch of frustrated Twitter trolls. Stay tuned.
Umph, Oath
I don’t know – is there irony in the new brand name of the combined Verizon, AOL and Yahoo? It’s called “Oath.” Yahoo is the company in hot water for failing to disclose two separate hacking incidents, causing the compromise of a billion user accounts.  AOL and Yahoo each struggled to profit selling digital ads. In this messy ecosystem of digital advertising it’s an interesting math equation that -1 + -1 = 2. Verizon, which now owns AOL and Yahoo, is counting on the power of synergy. And, perhaps, they’re right. Especially considering Verizon got really lucky with the timing of the FCC data-privacy rules rolled back.
Win or Lose?
On the topic of privacy rules… this week a settlement regarding mobile ad targeting was reached between the Massachusetts attorney general and an ad firm . Copley Advertising, a firm employing one person, was using mobile geo-fencing to target anti-abortion ads to women entering reproductive clinics. Copley had been hired by Bethany Christian Services. Maura Healey, Massachusetts attorney general, argued the campaign amounted to digital harassment. Copley argued for free speech. In the end, Copley settled. The issue begs an existential question: With online targeting moving past segmentation and right to addressable: What is the line between an advertising campaign and personal harassment?
Amazon Wins NFL Rights
In a $50 million deal with the NFL, Amazon will stream 10 Thursday Night Football games to Prime subscribers next year. Last year Twitter paid $10 million for the games, and the Amazon deal is similar in that NBC and CBS also have carriage rights. However, unlike Twitter, Amazon is experimenting with putting the content behind its paywall, which has an estimated 66 million subscribers. That kind of confidence signals to me an interest in a deeper sports content investment. With Amazon’s success at almost everything, we will watch carefully how long it takes to “win” at compelling sports content. The deal is also a “win” for the NFL in that Amazon’s ability to message to those 66 million subscribers, outside of traditional advertising, should be really, really cost efficient. And with a ratings decline last year, the NFL needs new eyeballs. What’s not a “win” for media agencies? Trying to figure out the combined ratings for all this football fragmentation.
Pepsi Critique Pours In

And speaking of wins and losses, how did Pepsi lose so tragically this week with its campaign starring Kendall Jenner? The video spot attempted to leverage a cross-cultural sensitivity, having Kendall Jenner offer a cold Pepsi to police at some sort of protest.Complaints that Pepsi attempted to appropriate the Black Lives Matter movement for commercial gain quickly poured in – pardon the pun. Besides the fact that the spot was produced by an in-house creative team, whose failure was a bit of good news to disrupted creative agencies, who would have thought a Kardashian would ever be accused of insensitivity to Black Lives? Just goes to show how terribly wrong, terribly quickly, a concept with good intentions can sink. Watch the 2-minute version here. And we’re back to the same takeaway as the “bots” conversation. Sensitivity, for the sake of sensitivity, and not as a reflection of a brand voice, is an emotional-engagement killer.


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