1. What happens to trust online when anything can be faked?

Credit: Magic Leap

BuzzFeed published a frightening overview of our future digital dystopia, where software can now realistically put anyone's face on a naked body in an adult video. We’re entering a world where anyone can fake anything thanks to advances in artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and machine learning.

And this isn't just scary for celebrities trying to keep a clean image. It's a sign of a terrifying future for news and media. Politics can be affected by bot-powered grassroots campaigns. “Laser phishing” uses AI to scan social media profiles and automatically write spam emails that look like they’re from friends and family. Companies can recreate someone’s voice and generate a recording of them saying anything. And Adobe is piloting programs that seamlessly remove objects and people from videos, enabling anyone to build a false reality.

All of this is a dark backdrop on the amazing things happening with the same technologies, from iPhones that can detect cancer, a smart watch that can detect a stroke, and apps that help people overcome opiate addiction.

Trust in media could drop further

Knight Foundation polling shows that out of a 100 point scale, the average American scores a 37 in media trust. In this brave new world, things could very well get worse. When a compromising video comes out that looks entirely real, but the news says it is fake, how will the average American react? What about a fabricated audio clip of someone confessing to a crime? How will any of us, let alone the media, be able to tell the difference?

In an environment where people can’t trust what they see or hear in the news, it isn’t too far of a leap to imagine they’d start to lose trust in those that advertise alongside that news. This phenomenon is called “reality apathy,” according to Aviv Ovadya, the technologist profiled in the Buzzfeed piece who predicted the 2016 fake news crisis. If people know that any media outlet can lie to them, he suggests they’ll turn their backs on all media outlets.

Marketing in a low-trust world

If we are entering into an era of low trust, marketers, publishers, and platforms need to figure out how they should respond. Some have already begun to take action:

Unilever’s head of marketing announced that the brand is threatening to pull ads from platforms like Facebook and Google that have become a “‘swamp’ of fake news” unless they clean up their act. As Digiday reported, publishers like News UK, HuffPost UK, Shortlist Media, and Financial Times are also shifting their attention from Facebook to LinkedIn — especially with native video — in an attempt to find a more reliable platform.Twitch, in an attempt to take advantage of their growth in categories like eSports, is making efforts to improve brand safety by tightening its policies around harassment and sexually suggestive behavior.

Marketers will need to react and try to remain trustworthy. The good news is that none of this inevitable — platforms, brands, and white-hat technologists have innovated solutions to the dark sides of technology before — and marketers are quick to embrace solutions that help maintain authentic connections to customers.

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2. Lessons from Disney's push to streaming video

Credit: NY Daily News

Disney is rebooting its first-ever TV series, “The Mickey Mouse Club,” into a new format designed for Facebook and Instagram dubbed "Club Mickey Mouse." The original “Mickey Mouse Club” ran from 1955 to 1996, and famously launched the careers of stars like Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Ryan Gosling (but noticeably no YouTube or "internet famous" personalities).Just like its predecessor, “Club Mickey Mouse” is made for younger kids, specifically “Gen-Z.” But in catering for Internet form, the digital episodes range from 1-5 minutes in length.

“We effectively constructed a show to be built for the Facebook feed," said Andrew Sugerman, executive VP of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media. This is a fascinating example of an "old-school" content brand repurposing its assets in a way that is platform-centric.

Taking on Netflix

This isn’t the only way Disney is reinventing itself for digital. The media company is also launching its first over-the-top subscription service with ESPN Plus. The live-streaming sports channel is mean to complement existing ESPN TV channels and has been a huge desire from sports fans for years.

Disney is even getting aggressive about content distribution. It’s getting ready to pull its content off of Netflix and start its own streaming service. It also partnered with Alibaba to release content on Youku, China’s Netflix/YouTube hybrid. This allows Disney to get through the strict barrier to entry for content in China.

Disney is essentially mixing and matching a huge plethora of strategies to prevent disaggregation — matching content to platform, going over the top, and partnering strategically — and doing it all at once.

What if you’re not Disney?

Disney is exemplary because it has so much content — and money — to throw around. But other brands can use this as a case study for what’s possible with content in a digital-first world.

Disney didn’t just copy and paste The Mickey Mouse Club show onto Facebook — it reinvented a decades-old asset for an online audience.

With ESPN streaming, it’s making a similar bet —that it’s new service will be additive by offering some combination of a different experience and unique content.

This actually looks a lot like content repurposing strategies that everyone from SMB marketers like Neil Patel to corporate giants like Salesforce have been doing for years — except with one of the richest IP portfolios on the planet.

The lesson here is that if you’ve got some IP, even if it’s not quite Star Wars or Toy Story, you can get a heck of a lot of mileage out of adapting your winners for new formats and distribution channels.

3. Brand advertising is at a crossroads, says major advertiser

Credit: Dollar Shave Club

Here’s a bold prediction: Advertising will decline 20-30% in the next five years. That’s according to Publicis Groupe’s Rishad Tobaccowala. He says that ads will take a hit because people just don’t enjoy them and more brands are going direct. With services like Netflix, customers have proven that they’re willing to pay for access to content instead of enduring ads for “free,” and upstart consumer brands like Dollar Shave Club have proven that billion dollar franchises can built on the back of a video that only cost $4,500.

So what’s changed this time?

Many large consumer brands have been experimenting with direct relationships for years, predominantly in the form of loyalty programs such as Coke Rewards which launched back in 2006.

As Amazon swallows retail, many brands are realizing that direct relationships don’t just give them more control over their messaging and buying processes. They also get a treasure trove of first-party data, which can help them optimize their spend and customer experiences.

As Hint director of performance marketing Nik Sharma tweeted, “Brands are becoming smaller and precise. The best ones have diff[erent] ads for different types of customers, depending on demographics. They care less about ‘branding’ and more about reaching the consumer efficiently.”

When big brands use content to go direct-to-consumer

We’ve already seen new brands like Casper, Warby Parker, and Dollar Shave Club build these direct-to-consumer channels into billion dollar businesses — predominantly by using content marketing and precision targeting of that content.  In many ways, this is one of the clearest case studies of how content marketing helps brands win.

As IAB reported, “indirect brands” dominated the U.S. economy for nearly 140 years but now “direct brands” are now taking over. In fact, two-thirds of all U.S. consumers expect to be directly connected with the companies they buy from.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens when big brands follow suit — will they break old habits and leverage content in the same way as startups? There’s trillions of dollars of brand equity at stake.

4. Content stats that caught our eye

Credit: Giphy

For some reason this week was chock-full of interesting data nuggets — here’s the ones that made it to our main Slack channel:

10 more browser tabs to open

  1. NBC Sports partnered with Snap to add complementary live video content for the Olympics. It also partnered with Muscial.ly influencers to reach young viewers.
  2. The 2018 Adobe Consumer Content Survey found that consumers spend 7.8 hours daily with content; millenials spend 9.6 hours and teens spend 11.1 hours.
  3. What happened to Tumblr? Brands like GE and Coca-Cola used to innovate on the once-hot blogging platform, but now it’s just an afterthought, “if it’s even thought about at all.”
  4. A deep dive inside the last two years at Facebook — how Zuckerberg navigated the Trending Topics fiasco, the 2016 election, and the algorithm change.
  5. Instagram is testing a feature that lets you share other people’s posts to your Story, which could potentially be a boon for marketers.
  6. Starting in July, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as “not secure,” forcing sites to switch to HTTPS or likely lose traffic.
  7. Shoutout to Elon Musk for launching one the greatest marketing stunts of all time.
  8. Turns out BuzzFeed’s business model can’t support its news operation. So much for new media figuring out the news publisher revenue model.
  9. More publications like Vox Media are starting to build content for Netflix, joining current players like Condé Nast and Fusion Media Group.
  10. Brands and publishers are adding Stories to their apps, copying Snapchat and Instagram. Oy.

Curated and published by Adam Orshan, Alexis Krantz, and Matt Levin in New York City.

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