July 3, 2019: YouTube introduces AR ads; Amazon taps Twitch for Prime Day live-stream; Bic partners with Amazon to launch exclusive razor; Instagram begins testing ads in Explore; Uniqlo teams up with TikTok to launch global marketing campaign
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
YouTube Levels Up Creator Content with AR Ads
Just in time for your summer glow up, YouTube introduced AR ads for brands. AR Beauty Try-On, the first of this feature launched with MAC Cosmetics, allows viewers to virtually try on and apply makeup and is designed to be used in a split-screen experience with creators while YouTube viewers watch makeup tutorials.
With the tool, viewers see a split screen with YouTube content playing on the top half. It uses front-facing cameras to capture users and AR filters to apply virtual makeup samples in the bottom screen, allowing viewers to see how a shade of lipstick looks on themselves while watching their favorite creator review it or explain how to apply it, for instance. They can then click through to purchase the product.
Which brands have used it?
While MAC Cosmetics was the first brand to launch an AR Beauty Try-On Campaign, YouTube had previously tested AR Beauty Try-On with several beauty brands and found that 30 percent of viewers chose to activate the experience when it was available in the YouTube iOS app. While this was by no means the majority, those who did try the feature were highly engaged, spending more than 80 seconds trying on the virtual lipstick shades.
What’s YouTube saying?
“What we are really focused on is fostering the connection between YouTube creators and brands for creator-driven, branded content. We also see it as a way to bring more accountability into the [influencer] space, because we can leverage Google’s audience insights and advanced measurements, and see what creators are actually resonating for a brand and move the needle on their business.” – Doreen Dinour, senior partner lead at FameBit by YouTube
What else has YouTube been up to?
YouTube also revisited how content is discovered on the platform, ultimately giving its viewers more insight and control over recommendations on the homepage and in its “Up Next” suggestions. Users will now have the option to click on certain topics they want to explore, like makeup tutorials or fashion hauls, from the top of the homepage. Similarly, in the “Up Next” section, users will also be able to filter and specifically choose what types of videos they want to see as recommendations.
But… it hasn’t been all good news.
Retailers cut their YouTube ad spend by 20 percent for the first five months of this year compared with the same period last year. Even with this decrease, retail remains among the top three advertiser categories for YouTube.
In an effort to win back retailers’ ad budgets, YouTube is prioritizing two seemingly interconnected initiatives: AR and making creator content more discoverable through personalized recommendations. For the latter, where YouTube is among the most popular platforms for influencer marketing and the adoption of AR features by viewers is now mainstream, the application of both in an interactive ad format introduces a new era of influencer collaborations and advertising capabilities.
Given the sheer scale that YouTube provides, in addition to the maturity of measurement available for this feature (think: tracking brand interest, lift, view-through conversion and impact on Google search), YouTube’s AR capabilities have the ability to rival the likes of Snapchat and Instagram, the dominant players in the space thus far. What’s particularly noteworthy about YouTube’s investment in AR is the application in the influencer marketing space to deliver virtual product experiences within an ad unit, as well as advances in measurement. The fact that its impact on Google search alone can be measured makes this a big test-and-learn opportunity for brands – particularly in the fashion, CPG and automotive verticals.
When You Hear Prime Day is Just Around the Corner
Amazon-owned Twitch will be participating in Amazon Prime Day on July 15-16, with giveaways of free content from Apex Legends and EA Sports games, live-streamed events, and a live-streamed shopping show all on its Twitch Presents channel.
Alexa, tell me more about Twitch’s role in all of this.
The two-day program, Twitch Sells Out, will be hosted by some of the site’s biggest creators and will feature a curated selection of Prime Day deals with a focus on those of interest to the gaming community. Interested viewers will be able to buy directly from the stream with Twitch’s Blacksmith extension, an interactive on-screen overlay with links to products, which also gives creators a cut of the revenue. Also notable, Twitch is encouraging participation by allowing co-streaming throughout the event, which will enable viewers to offer real-time commentary on featured items.
What’s Twitch saying?
When asked about the details of who’s hosting, Twitch said they can’t name names yet, but you can trust that they’ll be prepared. “[The streamers are] currently locked in a windowless room watching an almost unhealthy amount of infomercials to get ready.” You heard it here, folks.
Where Amazon is looking to leverage Twitch specifically, is in gaining access to the platform’s highly engaged, close-knit community and expanding Prime Day’s relevance (and by association, Amazon’s) to an otherwise hard-to-reach audience. While this isn’t Amazon’s first stint in QVC-like programming (see: Amazon Live), none of its owned social initiatives have really taken off. It’s likely that this is another test-and-learn opportunity to reach consumers via platforms where they’re already engaged. By partnering with Twitch’s top streamers/creators and allowing viewers to buy in-platform, Amazon is also shortening its path-to-purchase and hoping that this live video format sticks.
Not Unrelated: Bic Creates A Razor Made for You (And Amazon)
Bic is one of the many brands has recently teamed up with Amazon for an exclusive product launch.
A Razor, Made For You
Last week, Bic launched Made for You, a new razor brand that’s sold exclusively on Amazon under the “Our Brands” umbrella. The line launched with one razor initially, an $8.99 gender-neutral version in four colors. Similar to the model that Dollar Shave Club has largely popularized, the refills are more expensive than the actual razor and are part of a subscription program (Amazon’s Subscribe & Save), in which consumers save money by setting a recurring order on a monthly schedule.
As part of Amazon’s exclusive “Our Brands” program, Bic also gets access to Vine reviews pre-launch. While Vine is open for all first-party Amazon vendors to use, brands who aren’t part of Amazon’s Our Brands program have to pay to get products in front of customers pre-launch, which costs $60 per product listing for a maximum of five reviews. Additionally, as part of the program, brands also receive favored promotion around events like Prime Day and other holidays, built-in marketing and advertising on the platform, and product development insights from Amazon.
As Amazon continues to shift its strategy away from private-label launches and towards exclusive brand partnerships, influencers won’t be the only ones launching exclusive products with Amazon to help gain market share from legacy and DTC brands alike. With the subscription razor market only getting more crowded, Bic is using Amazon’s platform and distribution offerings – fulfillment, delivery speeds, existing membership with Prime and a platform covered head-to-toe in social proof – to compete.
The massive insight that marketers can take away from this is how Amazon is leveraging its Vine program, and the importance of ratings & reviews are to its product launch strategy. Amazon takes as many steps as possible to ensure that a product doesn’t launch without recent reviews. The same thinking should be applied to every influencer campaign. Whether you are activating on Amazon or not, you should consider incorporating a minimum of five reviews per product featured as a part of every influencer campaign to close the gap between discovery and intent to purchase.
Ads Have Arrived on Instagram Explore
In its latest push for monetization, Instagram will begin placing ads within the Explore Feed in the coming months.
Will this impact my scrolling?
Not quite. When you open the Explore tab it will look the same as always – images and videos will appear in a scrollable grid that is personalized based on your interests. When you tap into a photo or video, you’ll first see that post. But if you keep scrolling down, Instagram will display a contextual feed of content similar to the original post with relevant photo and video ads.
What’s the rollout plan?
Instagram plans on first testing the ad slots to promote its IGTV feature before they “launch to a handful of brands over the coming weeks.” Once launched to all, advertisers can buy the slots through Facebook ads manager. At first, advertisers will have to select ad placement within Instagram Explore, but eventually, that will be the default with an option to opt-out.
What’s Instagram saying?
Instagram’s director of business product marketing Susan Bucker Rose told Techcrunch that she believes the ads will feel natural because users are already coming to Explore “in the mindset of discovery. They want to be exposed to new accounts, people and brands.”
Each month, half of Instagram’s billion users open its Explore tab to discover new content and creators. This being the case, it makes sense that Instagram had been using the tab as a vehicle to spur user adoption of new features (i.e., Shopping, IGTV) and until now, hadn’t directly monetized the space. But tbh, it was only a matter of time before this happened – Instagram is an ads-powered business.
Now let’s talk ads. Given the highly visual nature of the Explore section, it makes sense that the ads won’t appear in the grid itself as overtly branded content would undoubtedly stick out and disrupt the natural flow of UGC (think: when was the last time you saw a product shot in the Explore section?). As such, when creating ads to be placed in Explore, it’s even more important to leverage IGC so that you can be relevant to as many consumers as possible (not everyone your ads are being shown to knows or follows your brand) and authentic to users’ native experience in that section of the app.
TikTok and Uniqlo Join Forces for Global Campaign
Uniqlo has partnered with TikTok to launch the #UTPlayYourWorld in-app challenge, the first global, user-generated marketing campaign by the two companies.
The challenge, running from June 25 to July 11, invites users to share their creative, authentic and inspiring “UT moments” while wearing their favorite Uniqlo outfit. Winning videos will have a chance to appear on video screens in-store and on the brand’s social media accounts.
TikTok continues to emerge as a first-mover opportunity for brands to engage with Gen Z audiences (case in point, Uniqlo). Compared to other platforms, TikTok, whose average user session lasts about nine minutes, is far ahead of competitors in the space like Reddit (5.6 minutes), Pinterest (5.3 minutes), Facebook (5 minutes) and Tumblr (4.1 minutes).
For the #UTPlayYourWorld campaign, it’s particularly worth noting how Uniqlo is using IGC and UGC content created on TikTok and repurposing that content in-store and across Uniqlo’s owned social accounts.