Return to site

Mobile Fix – May 20

Google I/O

GAFA developers events are always pretty important – these tech giants recognize that the developers create the products that keep people loyal to the platform. So keeping them happy is really important. The best way to keep developers happy is to give them new tools to build new things that will make them money.

So this week Google event saw lots of new products and tools. To some it looked like a catching up session; like Amazon Echo they now have a Home device you can talk to., like Facebook et al they have a messaging app and like Facebook again they have expanded their VR platform.

Dig a little deeper and these products are more than copies. As good as the Echo is, being able to ask Home what’s next in your calendar or have Google search for something makes this compelling. Allo may have about a billion users less than the Facebook messaging apps – ie none - but they may finally have a dog in the messaging fight. And with Daydream they can entice Android developers to start building VR Light experience that work on smartphones.

If, as we believe, VR on the smartphone is the big opportunity, could this finally give Android a lead on Apple devices? Whilst it seems certain Apple are working on VR too, all the rumours are about a Gear like headset rather than something that works just on the smartphone – albeit with a simple headset to hold the Android phone.

There is a full summary of the products announced here and it’s also worth checking out Spaces – a tool for small groups to collaborate and communicate - which was announced a few days earlier

The fact they made the video of the keynote available in VR tells you a lot about how they are prioritizing.


As the FT point out in their I/O roundup, a unifying factor in the products shared by Google is AI. The new Google CEO Sundar Puchai talks about the move from mobile to AI and the huge amount of data Google gives them some real advantages. With the rest of GAFA also exploiting both the opportunity of Cloud Computing and advances in AI and Machine learning, this is another layer in their Vertical Stacks and another front to compete on.

But to make AI work well you need lots of data. As Wired points out in a fascinating article we are moving from a world where it is less about programming computers and more like training them as we train dogs. The other term for AI gives it away; Machine Learning.

The systems perform the given task and as they produce the right results they get the computing equivalent of a Bonio, learning which approaches work. Now our smarter readers will see that I am dumbing this down, but one core principle is that the more data you have the better. So advantage Google.

Amazon have a smart response  - they are making their AI open source to some extent        – so anyone can use the tech that powers people who bought this, also bought. The upside for Amazon is that someone outside the company may come up with ways of using their tech, that they can then exploit. It’s a bit like the exercise Netflix went through when they offered people $1m to improve their algorithm. Although they never used the winning ideas

Others are already using AI – IBM have paired Watson with recently acquired Weather Co to enable location driven, weather related triggers for their Marketing Cloud. More insight in this video.

And a clever Russian team have unleashed a facial recognition app that uses AI to match any picture with the 200m profile pictures on Russian social network Vkontakte. This sort of thing has been possible for a while – from tagging friends on Facebook through to scrutinising CCTV footage – but this app works at scale and at speed. When we talk with people about online privacy, most stop worrying when we mention London has more CCTV than anywhere else in the world and that every number plate is monitored by the Congestion Charge cameras.


Lots happening with Amazon too. In a rare interview – with the newspaper he owns – Jeff Bezos talks about the failure of the Fire Phone and why that’s a good thing. The full interview is worth watching

At a shareholders meeting he announced that Amazon plan more retail stores – although he wouldn’t say how many. We speculated that buying HMV would have been a good move for Amazon and many in the City thought Argos may end up in their hands.

If Bezos decides stores are a good strategy, then they will buy someone. It will take too long to build a chain and one thing Amazon don’t do is procrastinate. Quite what sort of store chain they would buy is hard to call. Bookstores are obvious but given they will probably be the biggest clothes retailer in the US next year, M&S may make just as much sense.

More evidence that they are thinking like a traditional retailer, is the news they are to launch own label products –albeit using brands like Happy Belly and Mama Bear. If you have products on sale with Amazon we think you should be looking at all the ways you can promote them within Amazon – including their increasingly sophisticated ad opportunities. It seems some brands are missing out on these tactics because their agencies don’t have a trading agreement with Amazon, so are reluctant to spend with them.

Quick Reads

We mentioned recently research showing Digital OOH and mobile worked well together. Now we see that it is getting real scale  - Clear Channel say that 50% of their revenues will be from digital this year. There is still lots of potential to use this medium more smartly. We have seen some very interesting new initiatives in the transport sector where DOOH and mobile work amazingly well together  - more on that in the future.

Dynamic ads on Instagram are now possible. The tools are getting better and better – but not enough are brands taking advantage –yet.

Snapchat is growing up. Right now users see content from everyone they follow in chronological order. Just like they once did on Facebook and Instagram. And like they still do on Twitter. But soon – reportedly - an algorithm is going to mediate what you see when. And it’s likely that this diminishing of organic reach will be coupled with new ways for brands to buy more prominence.

AppNexus think programmatic advertising is dead. Welcome to the programmable age      

5 things you can do with a missed call in India. Lots to be learned from developing markets

250 brands have made emoji keyboards. Not the smartest way to invest in mobile

Finally - Making Mobile Ads better

We had a great turn out at our breakfast last week – and a fascinating discussion. Everyone seemed to be on the similar page - all agreed there are things that can be done to make ads better.

Some of the things discussed; Why bother with banners ? Should we just stop buying them and focus on MPUs? Can we start making shorter video ads? What is the optimal length? Lets start tracking brand metrics and ignore clickthoughs? How do we get smarter on using dynamic creative?

Lots of good thinking and whilst we didn’t solve all the industries problems I think the group saw that, with some collaboration, we can start to produce ads that work for everyone – people, media owners and brands

A US event had a similar discussion and arrived at similar conclusions – better ads beats ad blockers. And a study showed that people are not willing to pay anything to avoid mobile ads. So if we get the value exchange right…

We’re keen to keep this conversation going. One action is looking at how we can build a place to see the good stuff being done on mobile. Another is that we want to work with people to improve ads – by bringing together people who can help each other – be that smart tech, great creative people, better measurement and more enlightened buying.

Not sure quite how this works yet, but if you are interested in collaborating get in touch.

All Posts

Almost done…

We just sent you an email. Please click the link in the email to confirm your subscription!