2016: The Year in 36 Posts

As another year draws to a close, we’ve been sifting through the archives to bring you our top three stories from each month in 2016, starting, logically enough, with January. Not all of these would qualify, in everyone’s eyes, as the biggest things that happened in mobile that month, but for us they are the stories the trends and issues that have shaped the industry throughout the year. We hope you enjoy out review of 2016. We’ll be back with our regular coverage of the mobile marketing scene on 2 January. Until then, enjoy…

JANUARY

Randall Rothenburg, president and CEO of IABAdblock Plus is “Unethical” and “Immoral”, says IAB Chief
Delivering his opening keynote speech at the US IAB Summit, Interactive Advertising Bureau, president and CEO, Randall Rothenburg accused ad blocking firm Adblock Plus of being an “unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of techie wannabes”. Not content with that, he also described the firm as an “old-fashioned extortion racket” who are “stealing from publishers, subverting freedom of the press, operating a business model predicated on censorship of content, and ultimately forcing consumers to pay more money for less – and less diverse – information.” Read.

Google Paid $1bn to Keep Search Bar on iPhone
Google paid $1bn (£697m) to Apple back in 2014 in order to keep its search bar in a prominent place
on the iPhone, transcripts from court proceedings in Oracle Corp’s copyright lawsuit against Google revealed. The transcript also revealed that Google has an agreement with Apple that sees it sharing ad revenues generated through Apple devices with the iPhone maker. Read.

80 Per Cent of Facebook Q4 Revenues were from Mobile
Facebook’s mobile success story carried on where it had left off in 2015 as the company revealed in late January that 80 per cent of its record-breaking $5.6bn (£3.9bn) ad revenue in Q4, 2015, came from mobile advertising. During the same period, Facebook’s profits also doubled year-on-year to £1.56bn, with its daily active users on mobile rising to 934m during the quarter. Read.

FEBRUARY

SwiftkeyMicrosoft Buys Keyboard App SwiftKey for $250m
The month started with a notable exit as the mobile keyboard app Swiftkey, one of the winners in our first-ever Awards in 2010, sold to Microsoft for a reported $250m (£173m). At the time of the acquisition, Microsoft’s motives seemed to be to integrate SwiftKey’s predictive technology with Microsoft’s own artificial intelligence work, including Cortana, its virtual personal assistant for Windows. Read.

Domino’s Brings Pizza Delivery to Amazon Echo
Domino’s Pizza maintained its commitment to multichannel with the launch of an ordering ‘skill’ for the Amazon Echo and its virtual personal assistant, ‘Alexa’, just in time for the Super Bowl final. Echo owners could enable the Easy Order skill by linking their Amazon Alexa and Domino’s Profile. If they entered the phone number associated with their order, Echo could also provide live delivery status updates. Read.

Three Says Ad Blocking Plan is About the Customer Experience, Not About Making Money
On the eve of Mobile World Congress, UK mobile operator Three told Mobile Marketing that its plans to deploy ad blocking technology were focused on delivering a better mobile experience for its customers, and not on making money out of the move from consumers or whitelisting advertisers. Three subsequently ran a one-week ad blocking trial with Israeli company Shine in June, before abandoning its ad blocking plans just last month saying it has “pissed off” Google among others. Read.

MARCH

SPLIT_HIGH_RESMcDonalds Turns Happy Meal Boxes into Happy Goggles VR Headsets
McDonald’s put Virtual Reality on the menu in Sweden with a Happy Meal box that doubles up as a Google Cardboard-style VR headset. The Happy Goggles headset worked in tandem with a skiing game app, developed in partnership with child psychologists Karl Eder and Fadi Lahdo, which aims to help kids understand the need to be alert on the slopes and avoid obstacles – including other skiers. The VR campaign was commissioned to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Happy Meal in Sweden. Read.

Digital Ad Spending Set to Overtake TV by Next Year
A report from ZenithOptimedia concluded that 2017 will mark the first time that more money is spent on internet and mobile advertising than on television commercials by businesses globally, with digital advertising growing at three times the rate of the rest of the industry. The report also suggested that mobile would be responsible for the vast majority (up to 92 per cent) of adspend growth, with the large part of new internet ad spend targeting mobile devices. Read.

Yahoo Sets Two Week Clock on Offers for Core Business
Towards the end of March, Yahoo sent out letters to a number of potential buyers for its core business, giving them two weeks to submit preliminary proposals. Potential bidders were asked to list which parts of the company they’d like to bid for, and how much they are willing to pay, as well as how they plan to finance any such deal, and details on the internal approval process behind any potential deal. As it transpired, Yahoo was sold to Verizon for $4.8bn (or “chump change” as more than one commentator described it) in July. Read.

APRIL

Taco BellTaco Bell Launches Bot for Ordering Food
Fast food chain Taco Bell launched a chat bot for work messaging platform Slack. ‘Tacobot’, as it’s known, can be messaged like any other contact to ask questions about the Taco Bell menu and, by connecting up their account, make orders for pickup. It also features pre-scripted answers to a variety of other chat questions like ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ Read.

Amazon Triples Dash Button Line with Over 100 Products
Amazon tripled its Dash Button range, enabling consumers to pick from over 100 dedicated connected devices that can instantly reorder specific everyday products through the internet retailer. The expansion brought in new brands including Charmin, Energiser, Starbucks, Trojan, Doritos and Purina, and meant that Dash Buttons were available for retail verticals as diverse as feminine care, snacks, office products and pet supplies. Dash Buttons are available to Prime members in the US, and cost $4.99, but include a $4.99 credit to the buyer’s Amazon account, making them essentially free. Read.

UK Mobile Ad Spend Rises £1bn in 2015 to £2.63bn
Figures from the IAB and PwC revealed that spend on mobile advertising rose by a straight £1bn in 2015 to reach £2.63bn, up from £1.62bn in 2014. Overall spend on digital advertising rose by 16.4 per cent to £8.61bn, with mobile accounting for 78 per cent of this growth. In 2015, mobile accounted for 30.5 per cent of all digital advertising. Read.

MAY

Apple SAP dealApple and SAP Sign Deal to Bring iOS into the Enterprise
For several years after the launch of the iPhone and the iPad, BlackBerry’s defence against Apple was that its devices and its OS were not secure or robust enough for the enterprise. The paucity of that argument was thrown into sharp relief when Apple signed a deal with business software giant SAP to bring more iOS apps into the enterprise. The partnership sees SAP developing native iPhone and iPad apps for business operations, built with Apple’s Swift programming language, as well as releasing tools to help SAP’s 2.5m-strong developer community do the same. The first tool due for release was an SDK for developing iOS apps that leverage SAP’s HANA database management system as well as iOS features like Touch ID, location Services and notifications. Read.

Microsoft Sells Off Nokia for $350m

Three years after buying Nokia for €5.4bn (£4.3bn), Microsoft offloaded the Nokia brand and its feature phone business to FIH Mobile for just $350m. Many questioned the wisdom of the Microsoft acquisition at the time. It would appear their concerns were well-founded. One week after announcing the sale, Microsoft announced 1,850 jobs in its smartphone hardware business. Read.

Toyota and Volkswagen Invest in Taxi Apps Uber and Gett
In a further sign of the seismic shifts taking place in the automotive industry as it gears itself up for a world where cars don’t need drivers and many people no longer feel the need to own a car, Toyota and Volkswagen announced strategic investments in two separate taxi apps. Toyota, entered into a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with Uber, alongside a strategic investment in the company, while Volkswagen, invested $300m in Gett, the Israel-based ride sharing app. VW said the investment was part of its goal to generate a substantial share of sales revenue from ride sharing and other mobility services by 2025. Read.

JUNE

IBM Weather Company
The Weather Company Integrates Watson AI into Ads
In a sign of where the fusion of Artificial Intelligence and advertising might take us, the IBM-owned Weather Company integrated IBM’s Watson AI product into advertising, enabling consumers to interact, asking questions via voice or text and receiving relevant information in return. The solution, called Watson Ads, was designed to create a one-to-one connection with the consumer while also providing marketers with consumer and product insights faster than ever before, revealing connections that were previously invisible to data scientists. Among the brands showing an early interest in the platform were Unilever, Campbell Soup Company and GSK Consumer Healthcare. Read.

Mobile Channels Reaching TV-sized Audiences
A report from Opera Mediaworks revealed that mobile games and entertainment apps had reached a point where their reach, session times and levels of engagement rivalled traditional TV channels, marking a seismic shift in how we engage with media and the power of mobile. Popular apps like Shazam, The Weather Channel and BBC iPlayer now boast monthly audiences higher than prestige dramas like Game of Thrones and wide-reaching shows like Sky Sports Super Sunday and Gogglebox, the report noted. Read.

Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages Drive Higher Engagement
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project reported encouraging early numbers, with over 90 per cent of publishers making use of the technology saying they were seeing higher clickthrough rates. The technology, launched last October, aims to simplify the HTML coding of mobile websites in order to dramatically speed up load times, addressing some of the concerns of ad-blocking advocates and generally improving the browsing experience for all users. The open source project also improves caching of mobile web pages in order to speed up load times. The AMP team released stats comparing ad performance on AMP and non-AMP mobile pages across 150 publishers. In addition to higher click-through rates, 80 per cent of publishers saw higher viewability rates, and the majority saw improved costs per thousand impressions. Read.

JULY

Crowd-of-people-crossing-road-shopping.jpgComScore and xAd Partner to Tie Mobile Campaigns to In-store Visits
Going beyond the last click in attributing a sale to the channel that drove it is still one of the major challenges digital marketers face. Add in offline and the waters get even murkier, so we were please to see comScore partnering with xAd for a measurement solution that promised to link mobile campaigns to in-store visits.

Using comScore’s campaign validation and lift methodology, and xAd’s Blueprints tech, the Location Lift solution shows which consumers visited an advertiser’s stores as a result of seeing specific ads, helping link up mobile with the 90 per cent of retail commerce that still happens in physical stores. Read.

Pokémon Go: A Wild Opportunity Appears!
The launch of Pokémon Go in July took the world, literally, by storm. In this piece written a week after its launch, Alex Spencer charted the game’s success, and looked at some of the reasons why it had proved so popular. Six months on, the hype around Pokemon go has undeniably subsided, but this was, by any standards, an unbelievably successful launch. What will 2017’s Pokémon Go be, we wonder? Read.

Can Social Media Win Trump the White House?
With the US Presidential Election poll still some four months away, Tim Maytom’s insightful piece looked at how the candidates were using social media, and posed the question: Could Donald Trump’s approach to social help win him the top job. As we all now know, it could, and did. Read.

AUGUST

Mobile Banking LloydsUK Watchdog Calls for Mobile Banking “Revolution”
After a two-year inquiry into British high street bank chains, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), called for a technological “revolution” and a substantial shift onto mobile in order to promote better competition. The study concluded that updated smartphone apps that take advantage of the latest mobile capabilities should be available for all banks by 2018.

The CMA’s ‘Open Banking programme’ calls for banks to implement APIs that make it possible for customer data to be shared on third party apps (following individual consent), enabling easier comparisons between different banks via mobile.

The change would enable third parties to create apps that compare different offerings from high street banks, or tools that manage multiple accounts from different providers. Read.

FTC Looks to Crack Down on Non-transparent Social Influencer Marketing
Bloggers and vloggers have become hugely influential over the past couple of years, so it’s no surprise that brands want to tap into their reach, or that firms are emerging to aggregate these influencers and make it easy for brands to tap into their following.

All of which is fine and dandy, so long as said influencers make it clear when they are being paid to say good things about the app, product or service in question. But sometimes they don’t so earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US unveiled plans for a crackdown on these reprehensible youths. A report on Bloomberg cited three instances involving Snapchat star DJ Khaled promoting a vodka brand; fashion lifestyle blogger Cara Loren Van Brocklin endorsing PCA Skin sunscreen; and “internet personality” iJustine posting Instagrams from an Intel event. In each case, the report sais, there was no indication that they were being paid to do so. Read.

1.5bn Olympic Interactions on Facebook
The extent to which many people live out their lives on social media was laid bare by the release of stats from Facebook showing that more than 277m people had over 1.5bn interactions with Olympic content on the social network over the course of the Rio 2016 games.

The most popular athletes included US swimmers Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, gymnast Simone Biles, footballer Neymar and sprinter Usain Bolt. Usain Bolt’s gold medal in the 100m was one of the most popular individual posts, as was Christiano Ronaldo’s post congratulating him. Read.

SEPTEMBER

facebook messenger paymentsFacebook Chatbots Open for Business
Facebook continued to expand the capabilities of the chatbots that companies can operate within its Messenger app, adding the ability to take payments and conduct transactions, and also to seamlessly integrate enhanced mobile websites into Messenger. The company also made is easier to share bots with friends, and made it possible for News Feed ads in Facebook to link directly to Messenger, launching a chat with a bot. Read.

Facebook Overestimated Video View Time By Up To 80 Per Cent
But it wasn’t all good news for Facebook, as it emerged that the company had been artificially inflating a key video performance metric by between 60 and 80 per cent for the past two years. The shocking statistic was revealed in a letter sent by Publicis Media to its clients. The revelation was prompted by an answer given by Facebook on its Advertiser Help Centre several weeks ago, which caused several ad agency executives to investigate and push Facebook for more details. Read.

Samsung Recalls Note 7 Due to Fire Risk
September is a month Samsung will want to forget. At the start of the month, the company suspended sales of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone and issued a voluntary recall, after reports of handsets catching fire. At the time of the recall, there had been 35 cases where a fault had caused Note 7 handsets in the US and South Korea to explode after being charged. Samsung identified a battery cell issue as the root cause of the problem. A formal US recall was announced on 15 September. The problem hit Samsung hard, with the company’s Q3 profits falling by $1.93bn compared to Q3 2015, to $4.7bn. In October, after ceasing production of the device, Samsung said the negative impact of the recall and discontinuation would be somewhere in the ‘mid-three trillion’ Won range, or around £2.5bn. Read.

OCTOBER

Twitter-Bird-Logo-IRL.jpgTwitter Sets November Deadline for Acquisition Hunt
Rumours about who might buy Twitter were rife during the second half of the year, with Google, SalesForce and even Disney among those said to be interested. To bring some semblance of order to the situation, the social media firm told companies that might be interested in acquiring it that it was seeking to conclude negotiations by 27 October, in time for its Q3 earnings report.

Well 27 October came and went and instead of being courted by potential suitors, Twitter instead was forced to announce a major restructure of its business, shedding around nine per cent of its global workforce as it reported net losses for Q3 of $103m. Who knows what 2017 holds ins tore for Twitter, but it looks like another tough year for the company. Read.

Meerkat is Live-streaming’s First Fatality
Live-streaming app Meerkat was pulled from the Google Play store in October as the company behind the app, Life On Air, focused on a new group video chat project called Houseparty.
Meerkat relied upon Twitter APIs to promote live-streams, so its days looked numbered as soon as rival live-streaming app Periscope was bought by Twitter for $100m, enabling Twitter users to live-stream from within the Twitter app. Read.

Sony’s Smart Earpiece Opens Pre-orders
First there were phones, and then there were smartphones. And tablets. And phablets. And then along came wearables – smart watches, glasses, even rings. Sony’s Xperia Ear is perhaps a good example of where all this might be headed. It’s a smart earpiece that integrates a digital personal assistant that can be controlled using natural language interface and simple head gestures.

The device is designed to offer a new form of communication and interaction without disrupting user’s activities in the same way as a smartphone or even smartglasses. It can make calls, perform internet searches, read and dictate messages and interact with mapping apps to guide you to a given location. It offers a number of gesture based controls, such as nodding to reply to messages.

It could be the future, or it could be a glorious failure, but you can’t deny it’s a very interesting idea.
Read.

NOVEMBER

GiphyGiphy Raises $72m
So a digital tech firm raises some cash. What’s the big deal? Happens all the time. What’s interesting here is what Giphy does. It’s a GIF-based search engine with a singular focus that puts us in mind of another search company that stuck to its guns in the early and reaped the rewards.
After the recent emergence of emojis as a comms tool, we wonder if 2017 could be the year of the GIF. Read.

US Students “Easily Duped” by Native Ads
Native has been the success story of the past couple of years, particularly on social. But how native can native get? Perhaps too much is a study carried out by Stanford University is anything to go by. It showed a group of middle school students (aged 11-13) an example homepage from Slate, with two different types of ads – traditional display banners and sponsored articles – and asked them to identify the advertising content. More than 75 per cent of students were able to correctly identify the banner ad, and identified a news story as editorial content. However, an article marked ‘sponsored content’, was spotted by less than 20 per cent of the students. Some spotted that it was sponsored but didn’t grasp the implications of this, still believing that it was a news article. Read.

Mobile Will Be the World’s Third Largest Ad Channel By Year End
We all know instinctively that more brands are devoting moore of their budgets to mobile, but even so, when WARC, the marketing intelligence service, predicted last month that mobile will be the world’s third-largest advertising channel by revenue by the end of the year, behind TV and online, it came as something of a shock.

Warc’s Consensus Ad Forecast predicted that global ad spend will rise by 4.5 per cent during 2016 as a whole. With the exception of newspapers and magazines, all major media channels are expected to record ad spend growth this year and next. However, the two largest, TV (+1.1 per cent) and internet (+13 per cent) are forecast to see their growth rate ease during 2017. The same is true for mobile, though it is still set to be the fastest-growing ad channel over the period. Read.

DECEMBER

Amazon AIAmazon Announces Three New AI Services
Amazon Web Services (AWS), the retail giant’s software-as-a-service unit, announced three artificial intelligence services in a bid to make it easier for developers to build apps that can understand natural language, turn text into lifelike speech, have conversations using voice or text, analyse images, and recognise faces, objects and scenes.

Amazon Lex, Amazon Polly and Amazon Rekognition are said to provide high quality, high accuracy AI capabilities that are scalable and cost-effective. With Amazon making it easier to develop AI solutions, we can expect to see many more rolling out in 2017. Read.

Facebook and Google to Take 71 Per Cent of UK Display Ad Spend by 2020
We’ve lost count of the amount of times we’ve heard that most of the money in digital advertising goes to two companies – Facebook and Google. According to a report from OC&C Strategy Consultants it’s absolutely true and it’s only going to get worse (for everyone else at least).

According to OC&C’s Marketing 20:20 report, the two companies currently account for 53 per cent of the £4bn online display advertising market in the UK, but will experience combined annual growth of on average 24 per cent year-on-year over the next four years, so that by 2020, 71 per cent, or £4.1bn of the UK’s overall online display advertising market, will go to the two companies. Ouch. Read.

Mercedez-Benz Launches Croove Car-sharing Scheme in Munich
The automotive industry has been centre stage all year with all the moves being made around driverless and connected cars. So to round off the year, it was interesting to see Mercedez-Benz getting in on the car-sharing act with the launch of Croove in Munich.

Croove is an app-driven car-sharing service initially available for iOS, with an Android version to follow. The idea is that with most cars doing nothing for most of the day, the owner might as well make money by hiring the car out to other people when it’s not needed. Mercedez-Benz takes 30 per cent of the rental fee in commission. The scheme is open to all makes of car.

Given the way car-makers are looking beyond their traditional business models, it will be intriguing to see how their revenues break down five and 10 years from now. Read.

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