August 20, 2019: Facebook opens Spark AR to public beta; Snap Inc. debuts Spectacles 3; YouTube updates Content ID policies; Arielle Charnas launches investor-backed ITC brand; Amazon tests new “Top Brands” badge
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Spark AR For All
Facebook has opened its closed beta of Spark AR on Instagram to all users, while also introducing a new library of user-created lenses.
A Spark AR status update.
Spark AR is Facebook’s creator platform for AR effects that, similar to Snapchat’s Lens Studio, is designed to be easy enough for those without developer experience to use. According to Facebook, over 1 billion people have used its AR effects and filters powered by Spark AR on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Portal. To no one’s surprise, FB continues to take pages out of Snapchat’s playbook with the addition of its Effect Gallery, FB’s new library of user-created lenses, which serves the same purpose as Snapchat’s Lens Explorer, aiding in the discoverability of AR creations.
What’s Facebook saying?
“Instagram Stories let you express yourself in the moment and connect with friends, and AR adds rich, interactive and dynamic layers to those experiences. AR lets artists, creators and designers make custom effects to share with their communities and enable more vibrant forms of digital expression—and we’re happy to help bring the Spark AR community’s creative visions to life.” – Matt Roberts, Product Manager at Facebook
What are creators saying?
“What drew me to Spark AR was this great feature set. It’s on devices that everyone can use, doesn’t require headsets, and it has built-in shareability. Really, everything connected to the point where I thought, ‘I really need to be involved in this and figure out how people use this.’” – Luke Hurd,@lukehurd
As AR adoption and its applications continue to become more mainstream, it presents a new ‘creative frontier’ for platforms to remove ‘barriers to entry’ by making it easier for creators without developer experience to create in the space. As well, with the new iPhone rumored to have three massive cameras designed to support AR creation, it makes sense that platforms are continuing to invest time, energy and resources into AR development – given that advanced hardware will also make creating AR experiences easier for all.
While marketers have the opportunity to work with creators to develop entirely new branded AR experiences that can accelerate the path-to-purchase, such as YouTube’s AR Beauty Try-On that it debuted back in June, there’s equal opportunity in working with creators to develop AR experiences that augment creators’ content in ways that make that content more impactful to the buying process.
For instance, marketers can use AR to layer different forms of social proof onto existing influencer- and brand-generated content (think: an influencer giving a video product review and then layering on a 5 star filter with an AR lens, or “Creator Approved” filters not dissimilar to ‘Oprah’s Favorite Things’ badges). Where Instagram is moving away from likes, social proof in the form of AR presents the next big opportunity for marketers to get ahead in the space.
Not Unrelated: Third Time’s a Charm for Snapchat’s Spectacles?
Snap Inc. has debuted its Spectacles 3, a redesigned version of its AR sunglasses with a new design and an added HD camera to create depth perception.
Tell me more.
The device, which will be released in the fall (but ready for pre-order now), is hitting the markets with a hefty $380 price tag, more than double the cost of its previous version. In addition to visibly sleeker, slimmer, round lens look, this time around the hardware will have an additional HD camera, allowing the device to capture depth for the first time. Similar to previous editions, by tapping the record button located on the side of the frame, the glasses record videos in 10 second intervals, which automatically upload to the Snapchat app.
Aside from the inherent Spectacle glow up this time around, what’s especially noteworthy here is the augmentation of consumers’ experiences (good and bad) in real time with social proof (i.e. a ‘recommended product’ filter) similar to the implications of the Spark AR beta.
And Now This: YouTube Updates Policies to Better Protect Creators
YouTube is updating its Content ID copyright claims process, which some publishers have been leveraging against YouTubers for the smallest violations in the name of fair compensation.
Can you explain what’s been going on?
Creators on YouTube have grown increasingly frustrated with record labels claiming copyright on their videos when tiny snippets of music appear in the background, like from the radio of a car passing by. Not only does this prevent the creator from making money from ads placed on the video, but the ad revenue earned is handed over to the “rights owner” which, in this case, would be the record label and the video and account can be blocked.
Now, copyright owners will no longer be able to claim monetization rights on creator videos with “very short clips” of music or for music that is “unintentionally playing in the background of a video clip” via YouTube’s “Manual Claiming” tool. Claims created by the Content ID match system, which are the vast majority, are not impacted by this policy.
What’s YouTube saying?
“One concerning trend we’ve seen is aggressive manual claiming of very short music clips used in monetized videos. These claims can feel particularly unfair, as they transfer all revenue from the creator to the claimant, regardless of the amount of music claimed.”
YouTube is hoping that, by removing the monetary incentive, rights owners (i.e., record labels) will be less likely to go after content that barely infringes copyright guidelines. However, frustrated creators worry that music labels will simply start to block more videos, which would still prohibit them from earning money.
Each platform has its own distinct approach to policing copyright issues – some rely on a combination of AI and self-reporting (YouTube), while other platforms go as far as providing no options for creator monetization from ad revenue all-together (Snapchat). While YouTube’s revised policy may help it police copyright infringements in its closed ecosystem, for a platform like Snapchat that encourages shorter clips of day-to-day content, this type of policy is virtually impossible – especially because content disappears after 24 hours. As well, if users are going to be capturing anything and everything (see: Spectacles), the likelihood of capturing copyrighted material is very high, which may be why Snap has been hesitant to monetize creator videos and Lenses. TikTok, on the other hand, has a set library of licensed songs that users can use.
Capsule Collection Turned Influencer-to-Consumer (ITC) Brand
Let’s talk about Charnas.
Charnas, whose first venture into product came in 2017 as a collab with Nordstrom’s in-house private label Treasure & Bond, went on to launch her Something Navy collection as part of a licensing deal with Nordstrom in 2018. That collection went on to be what Nordstrom Co-President Pete Nordstrom called one of the “most successful launches for any brand” at that store, racking up $4 milllion in sales in just one day. With the licensing deal expiring at the end of this year, Charnas found an opportunity to create something of her own.
What do we know about this new brand?
The brand will be led by Charnas and Matt Scanlan, the co-founder of DTC cashmere company Naadam. It will start by selling clothing online and will eventually expand into accessories, home decor, children’s clothing and beauty, with plans to open up brick-and-mortar locations in the future. Unlike Something Navy, where Nordstrom handled the logistics around supply chain and distribution, Charnas and her team will be fully responsible for launching and building this brand.
Influencers continue to leverage their loyal fans and followers online to launch lucrative businesses, as seen through the increasing number of influencer-to-consumer (ITC) brands. Unlike brand collaborations, which are partnerships between influencers and brands in which the influencer acts as the creative or design lead of a collection available exclusively through a brand or retail partner, ITC brands refer to the business of selling proprietary products and services directly between influencers and consumers. A retail partner can help expand the influencers’ distribution, but this is secondary to the influencer’s own direct-to-consumer channel.
Compared to a brand collaboration, ITC brands allows influencers more creative freedom, the opportunity for legacy brand building and, of course, to earn more profits. However, for the majority of influencers of whom haven’t created their own products before, it pays to partner with a Nordstrom or Amazon first to learn the logistics – planning, production, distribution, etc. – before launching their own, as Charnas did with Something Navy.
Amazon’s ‘Top Brands’ Badge of Honor
Amazon is testing a new badge for some of its higher-profile clothing brands.. The new “Top Brands” badge has been placed on items from brands like Fruit of the Loom, Under Armour, and New Balance.
How do brands become “Top Brands?”
Tbh, no one really knows. In fact, no one really knows how brands receive any of Amazon’s badges. While Amazon claims factors like availability, customer reviews, and pricing factor into other Amazon labels like “Best Sellers” or “Amazon Choice,” the e-comm giant has yet to comment on what criteria factors into determining “Top Brands,” leaving critics and government officials wary.
Why would Amazon test this?
In a blog post published last week, Marketplace Pulse CEO Juozas Kaziukenas said the “Top Brands” label could act similarly to the account verification badges used by Insta and Twitter, which are designed to signify legitimacy, serving as another form of social proof. If implemented, the label could have “substantial impact on how shoppers decide which products to buy,” or how brands compete against cheaper private-label products, Kaziukenas said.
As Amazon continues to build out its retail strategy to attract high-quality brands to its platform, “Top Brands” could serve as another form of social proof in search results, using the badge validate legitimate brands vs. counterfeit goods, which has proven to be a known issue on the platform.
However, where Amazon provides little details into how brands receive these badges, it’s likely we could begin to see government involvement in social proof regulations and guidelines, in the same way the FTC has put guardrails around influencer content. This is especially likely given that part of Amazon’s private label strategy is to piggyback its private label brands and ads on the listing of these known and “top brands.”