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By: Aaron Kwittken, Co-Founder and CEO, PRophet

Originally Published in The Drum

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When I launched PRophet in late 2020 I left behind both the ’comforts’ of agency life and the agency I founded. Fast-forward to 2023 and the road less traveled is now a digital super-highway destined to transform the PR industry as we know it, primarily using AI-driven technologies and techniques designed to make modern communicators more productive.

There’s been a lot of press lately about OpenAI’s ChatGPT. While mostly positive and exciting, some critics and naysayers claim the tool’s capabilities are overstated, while others worry that it could be the death knell of creativity by catalyzing complacency and plagiarism.

Some are comparing the rapid rise of ChatGPT to the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. One thing is certain, AI is arguably the most consequential innovation in modern history and is undeniably having a deeply profound impact on industries and facets of day-to-day life. For example, you can hire AI interns Aiden and Aiko; chat with any number of historical figures and celebrities that are living, dead, real or imagined through Character.AI; or hire a DJ through PlaylistAI. On a more serious note: thanks to researchers from MassGeneral, AI can accurately predict lung cancer risk in smokers and non-smokers up to six years into the future.

Microsoft, a major investor in OpenAI, has begun exploring ways to incorporate ChatGPT into its products, leading Google’s management to issue a “code red” and shift focus to developing AI products while laying off thousands of employees. In other words, shit is getting real.

So what does all of this mean for marketers, notably PR professionals and content creators? AI pierced the veil of doubt once upheld by a cabal of Luddites that dominated our industry. PR people who solely rely on or continue to tout their media relationships as their superpower will have the decision to make: become a fossil or become a communications engineer.

A communications engineer sits at the intersection of art and science. They create and manage narratives and drive audience engagement using data and insights to backstop their gut instinct. They build agile teams and fly-wheel tech stacks that deliver specific DIY solutions with minimal human involvement. They use software to find signals in the noise, sussing out and mitigating missiles of misinformation before they can cause harm. They are able to identify journalists’ interests before they make a pitch. And they use technology to generate first drafts of content like press releases, blogs, sticky headlines, crisis statements, bios and social posts.

They will not succumb to the once-dominant, winner-take-all industry tech heavyweights (you all know who I am referring to) who sell analog database systems replete with hackneyed, unfulfilled claims that everything can be done on one platform, from pitching to monitoring to attribution analyses. They see ChatGPT as just the beginning and are looking to continuously improve their performance and experiment with new generative AI models.

Adopting the mindset, tech stack and workflow of a communications engineer will future-proof PR professionals, agencies and brand teams alike. The future is now.

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Yariv Drori,
Chief Strategy Officer, Multiview

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I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that when we look up at the night sky, we don’t see the stars as they are but as they were. Even the star closest to us, other than the sun, takes 4.3 years to reach our eyes. It makes you think about that journey, and all the moments that lead up to that single speck of light emerging in the distance.

As human beings, the shaping of our identity is often just as complex. Like the starlight taking years to hit our eyes, we can’t always pinpoint the exact correlation between events of the past and who we are today. We are moments that add up, collected and built upon like a scrapbook. Not just life’s big occasions, but the everyday ones too—a lazy day reading, a camping trip, a bike ride in the rain, the sound of the trees outside our childhood windows. It’s these fleeting moments in time that shape who we are and how people perceive us. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” wrote Annie Dillard, which rings true.

At Instrument, when we talk about branding, we think about experience in a similar way. To us, a brand is defined by numerous interactions between them and a customer. Each of these moments represent an opportunity for a brand to create a deeper, more meaningful connection—whether it’s a social post, a billboard, a mobile checkout experience, or a simple push notification. How a brand shows up in those places shapes people’s feelings and perception towards it.

This is especially pertinent in our current times, where brands are more fragmented than ever. The very pace of life has changed, and every pocket now holds a news feed, a television, a billboard, and a storefront. Because of this multitude of touchpoints, it’s no longer just about showing up once a year with a lofty statement or a million-dollar tv spot; it’s about all the little moments that add up. It’s about connecting the dots between brand, marketing, and product and having each of those experiences ladder up to the company’s core. When a brand consistently demonstrates its reason for existing it will naturally build trust through positive experiences. Over time, many good experiences lead to a deeper connection, while a handful of bad ones inevitably end in apathy.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. There is such a cacophony of information out in the world that to cut through it all and be heard, or seen, a level of consistency and repeat excellence is needed. Brands need systems and platforms that increase their efficiency, and remove variability. But these systems should go beyond codifying a brand into rigorous style guides. Brands don’t just live inside pitch decks and brand books. They live out there in the real world, in people’s minds and hearts. Or at least on their periphery. Many brands make the mistake of defaulting to consistency above all else. But inevitably, this leads to sameness and complacency. In order to reach people and stay relevant, brands need to be fluid. The goal is to provide tools that empower internal teams to engage with customers in new creative ways that express that brand’s unique personality—all while staying grounded in their values.

Brands succeed when they show customers that their purpose is more than a marketing initiative—prioritizing real action over hollow virtue signaling. For us at Instrument, that applies to everything we do.

Building from the core

During our recent work with Dropbox, the goal was to evolve the perception of the brand from transactional, to something that is inherently more human and emotional. We realized that a single campaign wasn’t going to be enough. Marketing wasn’t enough. We had to reconsider what Dropbox stood for before we could begin to spark that connection to their audience. Through research, we realized that Dropbox was having the wrong conversation. Previous campaigns centered around aspirational narratives of collaboration and the future of work. But when we talked with customers, we realized that their experience wasn’t so much about the product itself, but what they were doing with it—that was what gave it value.

The “For All Things Worth” platform connects those dots between what the brand offers and what the customer experience is. For example, this first campaign focuses on file storage, but seeks out the humanity in it—emphasising the emotional value of our digital files and artifacts.

To re-engage with customers, this idea isn’t just expressed in a single spot. It’s reiterated across everything Dropbox is doing, from video content, to podcasts, to OOH marketing, right down to onboarding language. This idea of worth will be embedded across every brand experience, supporting Dropbox on their journey to becoming a multi-product company. It’s a shift that represents a recalibration between brand and consumer, and a foundation to grow and evolve that relationship.

Find out more about this project in our Dropbox Case Study

Unifying a brand

When we started working with Sonos, they were known for their exceptional hardware. But the quality of the experience customers were having with their speakers wasn’t translating to the broader brand experience. It was a company led by engineers, so that was naturally their primary focus.

To expand that level of quality and excellence beyond their speakers, we worked with their product design teams to establish a robust design system that elevated the user experience of the app.

Beyond design, we also helped reimagine how Sonos engages with new and existing customers through a content-driven approach featuring curated playlists, podcasts, movies, and television recommendations. This allowed Sonos to build an ongoing relationship with their customers at every interaction, to create a cohesive brand story and find new ways to add value for users.

Find out more about this project in our Sonos Case Study

At Instrument, we take into account the entire brand experience and this process shapes how we partner with clients. Sometimes the product is strong, but the branding feels like an afterthought, and sometimes the vision and purpose of a business are clear, but the product fails to deliver on its promise. Viewing brands holistically, as a series of experiences, allows us to navigate challenges, connect the dots, and understand where we can have the most impact.

As a recap, here are 5 principles that shape our POV on brand experiences:

  • Brand experiences are centered around the foundation of a strong mission, vision, and (most importantly) values. Understanding and acting in line with the vision is essential in building trust with customers.
  • The vision and values of a brand should inform the entire customer experience and unify how they show up in people’s lives—from marketing and push notifications to digital products and customer service. Consistency leads to trust.
  • It’s not just about what you say, but also about what you do. The experiences in product and the impact in society are equally as important as the ones expressed on a billboard.
  • Brand systems and platforms aren’t just about enforcing consistency, they’re also about enabling the personality of a brand to shine. A brand’s personality creates intrigue and sparks a human connection.
  • While a brand’s core is fixed, the way that brand is expressed should remain fluid. This allows them to show up in the world at the right time, with the right message, and engage in relevant conversations

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that we are humans communicating with humans. A former mentor used to say, “use your mouth words,” and that always stuck with me. We often get so lost in terms like “Business-to-Business” or “Business-to-Consumer” when we really should be focused on building a human-to-human connection.

If brand equals experience, then think about the types of experiences you want customers to have with the brand. Think about what you’d like to see more of in the world. The things that make us smile, or gasp, evoke a sense of wonder or make us feel invincible. Think about what it takes to build trust with someone—our family, our friends, our communities—and the ongoing investments needed to live up to that trust.

Think about all the time it takes for that single speck of light to emerge in our night sky. Much like that star, a connection with a brand isn’t instant. It’s something that’s built slowly but surely and thoughtfully over time. Reminding us, that every little moment along the way counts.

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Headed to CES 2023? Before you board for Vegas, get smart with our top predictions for the technology and trends that will dominate the show and impact marketing transformation for the upcoming year. Stagwell will be on the ground sharing our vision for transforming marketing through impactful technology. Reach out if you’d like to connect.

ADS HERE, DATA EVERYWHERE

Expect every piece of consumer technology that debuts this year to (eventually) double as a marketing or media platform. Devices will continue to get smarter – and better at data collection. And new AR/VR layers will only multiply the potential ways for brands to show up in consumers’ lives. 

Watch This Space: Plug into Thursday’s C-Space Keynote with Delta, Netflix, Instacart, Epic Games, and more: Building Connection & Community in a Non-Stop World.”

Get Smart on Impact: Every Company is Now a Digital Marketing Company – Whether it Wants to Be Or Not 

GENERATIVE A.I. IS THE DARLING OF THE SHOW 

Expect every piece of consumer technology that debuts this year to (eventually) double as a marketing or media platform. Devices will continue to get smarter – and better at data collection. And new AR/VR layers will only multiply the potential ways for brands to show up in consumers’ lives. 

Watch This Space: Plug into Thursday’s C-Space Keynote with Delta, Netflix, Instacart, Epic Games, and more: Building Connection & Community in a Non-Stop World.”

Get Smart on Impact: Every Company is Now a Digital Marketing Company – Whether it Wants to Be Or Not 

EXITING OUR “TECH AS ENTERTAINMENT” ERA

Expect every piece of consumer technology that debuts this year to (eventually) double as a marketing or media platform. Devices will continue to get smarter – and better at data collection. And new AR/VR layers will only multiply the potential ways for brands to show up in consumers’ lives. 

Watch This Space: Plug into Thursday’s C-Space Keynote with Delta, Netflix, Instacart, Epic Games, and more: Building Connection & Community in a Non-Stop World.”

Get Smart on Impact: Every Company is Now a Digital Marketing Company – Whether it Wants to Be Or Not 

🤖 Category Transformations

We’re watching these sessions for vertical-transforming announcements at CES. Check back with us in a week for our POVs on their news:

Coming Soon: CES Content Studio

As thousands descend on Las Vegas for CES, Stagwell’s Content Studio returns to deliver behind-the-scenes interviews with business leaders across electronics, food and drink, luxury goods, media, sports, tourism and more. Hear from them on the trends and transformations they’re tracking at CES. Follow our LinkedIn and YouTube to keep up with the series as it publishes during CES.

 Reach out at ces2023@stagwellglobal.com if you are an executive that would like an interview.

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By: Adrienne Adair, SVP, Creative, 
MMI Agency

Originally Released in 
MediaPost

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Creating content at a pace that continues to grow in response to consumers’ appetites can feel daunting. That each creative asset further needs to grab the audience’s attention in the first three seconds, and bears the responsibility of resonating with that consumer and garnering a like, click or sale, only adds to the challenge. 

Continually optimizing performance is the key to a successful and diverse content strategy, and that requires a carefully orchestrated flights of assets to launch, test and learn to immediately develop the next round. The cadence of those assets must be constant and unwavering: assets that vary by message and by imagery. Static assets. Animated assets. Influencer’s assets. Now, multiply those assets by the number of unique audiences.

Given these challenges, how do we preserve the ability to curate original work without blowing the budget in the time it takes to produce it? AI can put invaluable time back in the hands of creatives by using features that allow designers to crowd-share a project in real time to finish a layout in far less time than had been possible.

Web and mobile apps are available to create content quickly through customizable templates and access to thousands of fonts. They can even intuitively reflow your layout from one size to multiple formats with a single click and allow you to publish the content to your social channels directly from the app. AI can be used to analyze and extrapolate an image from simple to complex backgrounds more quickly than with the original image selection tools, enabling designers to composite multiple images in one layout at breakneck speed.

There are also innovations still in development that promise to speed up the work of designers such as AI’s predictive technology that can uncrop portraits, not only showing a cropped subject in full frame, but also giving designers the ability to change the wardrobe or the surrounding background — all with a few clicks. 

Want to create a motion video from a static photo? AI can analyze the motion from a selected source video and apply it to a static photo, allowing designers to make stationary subjects dance. Another such innovation on the horizonwill allow easy creation of packaging mocks that apply 2D design elements to 3D packaging composites, reducing an hours-long exercise to just minutes with a single click.

Why should brands be interested in how AI has enhanced these tools of the trade? Because time = money. If the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, the path from imagination to realization on behalf of your brand is more direct than ever.

With these tools, tasks that once took four hours might take as little as 40 minutes. From pandemic repercussions to supply chain limitations to inflation, brands are challenged to make the same level of impact in the market with more conservative budgets. The time saved in production allows more time for creativity and more time to produce a greater number of the most impactful assets to amplify your brand’s presence and maximize performance.

 

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Campaigns this cycle are in a content arms race and that has one top Democratic firm eyeing companies that do influencer marketing.

Early in 2020, SKDK made the first two acquisitions in the firm’s history ,  acquiring Seward Square, which had an expertise in digital persuasion, and making its founder, Jason Rosenbaum, the head of its digital practice. It also bought financial/corporate media relations shop Sloane & Company 

Now, as Doug Thornell prepares to take over from Josh Isay as the next CEO of SKDK, the firm has influencer marketing companies in its sights.

“[I]f you’re looking at how both corporate brands and also other entities are communicating and trying to reach customers, social media influencers are becoming more and more important and many of these folks are viewed as trusted voices,” Thornell told C&E. “I think that’s an important part of where we’re headed.”

OTT is another critical part of this cycle’s content race.

“We’re doing a lot more OTT streaming content than we have,” said Thornell, a 12-year veteran of the media/comms consulting firm who will remain head of its political advertising department until he takes over from Isay in January. “That’s just going to become where the market goes.”

As for finding the right media balance heading toward the November election: “It’s OTT, it’s streaming, scalable content and it’s also figuring out how you deploy social media influencers in a smart and appropriate way. Those are the things we’re looking at.”

Thornell recently spoke to C&E in a wide-ranging interview about the future of the consulting industry, but he also touched on a more immediate debate for the left: whether to invest in base mobilization or persuasion advertising at the end of a midterm cycle that has been one of the most tumultuous in recent memory.

“I think it’s a mistake for any campaign or, quite frankly, the Democratic Party to think about these folks as just GOTV targets who you communicate [with in the] last three to four weeks,” he said. “You have to treat them as persuasion targets that you communicate with very early on.”

Thornell noted that he ran a program for the NAACP in 2020 that advertised in 30 markets, starting in July with a message to recruit volunteers through radio, digital and some TV. The program then deployed those volunteers in the fall to talk to infrequent voters.

“It was heavily focused on digital content that was motivational,” he said. “It’s not just Black voters, or Hispanic voters, this is young voters, too. These are voters who should be voting Democratic, who will if they feel like they have skin in the game. I believe that base voters are persuasion voters and we need to treat them that way.”

He also touched on the “immense” appetite for content in this cycle.

“It’s a mixture of things that we’re used to traditionally like the 30-second TV spot, but now [it’s also] quick 6-second, 15-second videos. More content can get out there, not just on paid platforms, but also social platforms. I look at all my campaigns that I’m working on now, and they’re just putting out a ton of content. The more organic it looks and authentic it looks, the better.”

Part of what’s helping SKDK meet the content needs of its clients is its staffing strategy. In 2021, they hired an additional creative director, Ryan Rose, to focus on that vertical. At the same time, the firm is working on retaining talent and ensuring that its offices, where staff are required to work at least three days a week while in town, is a place they want to come.

“Collaboration is really important and I think seeing each other some number of days a week is really important — especially for younger people who are just getting out of college or this is their first or second job,” Thornell said, noting perks like a free, healthy lunch await staff at the office.

“I know just from my own experience in terms of coming off campaigns and working on the Hill, how important it was to see people at work everyday and build that network so that I could get to a place like this.

“You can do really good work outside of the office, too. I think we’ve found a good sweet spot here.”

Editor’s Note: This article has been amended to clarify that SKDK does do some influencer marketing work in-house.

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Mark Penn
Chairman and CEO, Stagwell

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When I ran campaigns, I used to lament that corporations would spend more on marketing a hamburger than marketing political ideas and efforts. Back then, campaigns were struggling shoestring enterprises. No longer.

Today, campaigns and issue groups spend billions of dollars (much of it ineffectively) on communicating to voters, and fundraising at large has become big business. Ironically, the rocket fuel for all this was not the much-maligned Supreme Court decision Citizens United that gave corporations political speech rights. Rather, it was the internet – opening up a far speedier and cost-effective method of motivating voters and fundraising from them. Everything we condemn about politics and social media today – the speed of clickbait, the sensationalizing of small news events, the partisan divide – has paved the way for online fundraising and its explosive growth.

Political advertising spend is rapidly breaking records

Political advertising will hit $7.8bn in the 2022 midterm elections – nearly approaching the $8.5bn spent across TV, radio and digital media in the 2020 presidential cycle. We are seeing continued growth in campaign spending, and each mid-term is coming close to the previous presidential runs in spend. Each president leaps to a new record in political expenditures. It will take a set of really mundane candidates with a runaway winner to break this ever-increasing cycle. Absent that, this is a double-digit growth spiral for several more election cycles. I never thought I would see $10m Congressional races and $100m Senate contests, and yet those are now everyday occurrences.

Digital fundraising is rising at a faster rate than overall spending

Of the $14.4bn in paid media spent during the 2020 cycle, 49% was raised online. The 2022 cycle should exceed $14bn in paid media spend, with over 60% likely to come from online fundraising. To put that in context – in 2014, less than 9% of the $4.4bn in contributions came in via online donors. Democrats, who are notably vocal about money in politics, spend the most – generally about 50% more than the Republicans.

Donors today are largely first-timers – and start small

For most donors over the last few cycles, giving to politics has been a new experience. Most of these contributions aren’t from big-dollar donors or PACs, but low-dollar donations from average Americans giving amounts between $30 and $100 (76.1% of Act Blue Democratic donors in 2020 were first-time donors).

Americans have a love-hate relationship with political giving. When asked to give $1 on their tax return to fund campaigns, most Americans said ‘no’ to the voluntary check-off, and the fund was running out of money. Taxpayers generally believed politicians should finance their own campaigns and leave the public out of them. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, candidates used direct mail to gather low-dollar gifts, but it was slow and expensive. In 2008, social media entered the scene and spilled over into news and politics. With its proliferation of inflammatory messages and clickbait, social media was the ideal incubator for online giving. While less than 1% of voters donated to campaigns in the past, that number is now up to 10% and continues to grow.

How companies can mimic political fundraising techniques

I always call online fundraisers the best marketers in the world. Why? Because in return for their funds, consumers get absolutely nothing of tangible value – no product and not even a tax deduction.

What makes them such good marketers? They believe in math. They have hundreds of people who craft messages, then test them methodically and go big with the ones that work. They refine their lists, carefully managing their communications to people to avoid overload or confusing and contradictory messages. And they utilize low-cost, effective messaging techniques, driving campaigns through email and increasingly via text messaging, as consumers switch their preferred communication modes.

Today, these fundraisers employ the process and rigor that most corporations should envy: ample message creation, thorough testing, careful media mix modeling and rigorous adherence to performance standards and return on investment. Politics once again leads the way in how to structure and carry out effective online marketing. This rigorous approach would and is working for commercial online marketing, though retail marketers have more limits on how aggressive they can be. Still, they can treat Thanksgiving, Prime Days and Christmas as a kind of commercial election day, working up to harvesting sales in the same way that political fundraising is mostly prospecting until the campaign’s final months. Commercial marketers can also be more aggressive via text messaging to mimic these successful political messages.

Political fundraising is only starting to hit its groove and has many potential roads for broad expansion. While online fundraising exploded in 2020, only 20% of the 180 million Americans who voted in that cycle donated to a campaign, and under 2% of the country gave over $200. By comparison, over 70% of Americans gave to charity in 2020, totaling $324.1bn in individual contributions that mirror the scale and spend of small-dollar political contributions. The addressable digital advocacy and political fundraising markets represent massive growth opportunities.

Galvanizing the masses around a cause: still the mandate

Online political fundraising is, in essence, fan marketing. It’s about getting those who care most about your brand to be even more passionate and committed. When an employee of a competitor company insults a customer, don’t just sit there – use it to your advantage and broadcast it to your loyal fans. Most commercial marketing, even online, is passionless and saccharine; if you want to be as successful as political marketers, you will have to take some risks and be bolder. Now, this may not fit all corporate brands, but that’s the advantage that upstart challenger brands have in the marketplace – they can be free to be out there, within the bounds of good humor and taste.

To be clear, political ads continue to be a discipline unto themselves, built primarily around negative messages with no clear analog in commercial marketing. Online fundraising also includes tough negative messages, but is built mainly around bringing people together as part of a group that wants to help a cause. This new technique is at the forefront of what’s possible in this new online world as more and more people are plugged into news and current events. Online fundraising can and will expand into the not-for-profit world, but it will surely lead the way in fan marketing for breakthrough companies as well.

Mark Penn is chairman and chief executive officer of New York-based marketing group Stagwell.

 

 

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Mark Penn is the CEO of Stagwell and a longtime pollster and strategic advisor. He’s a former senior executive at Microsoft and has advised politicians including Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.

Mark and Auren discuss Mark’s books Microtrends and Microtrends Squared, in which Mark identified minor demographic trends and predicted their outsized impact on society and the economy. Mark gets into the mechanics of good opinion polling and breaks down the major differences between political and consumer polling, and how internet polling is affecting the industry. They also discuss Stagwell and Mark’s digital-first strategy for disrupting the old-school advertising holding companies. 

World of DaaS is brought to you by SafeGraph. For more episodes, visit safegraph.com/podcasts.

You can find Auren Hoffman on Twitter at @auren and Mark at @Mark_Penn.

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Assembly Political Media Practice

 

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Via the Assembly Political Dispatcher. Sign up to receive weekly insights here.

Knowing dollars in market is crucial, but what about other important factors? How can we really tell just how fiery a market is, and how much competition advertisers are up against? That’s where AMII comes in.

The below map shows the scale of Assenbly’s AMII values system – tracking 200+ DMAs to uncover key local market insights and implications for determining which DMAs to place spots and how best to distribute them among markets

What’s our AMII Methodology?

The AMII is a 1-10 scale of how crowded we project that a given market will be during the 2022 election cycle. How do we classify “crowded”? We look at multiple factors, including the size of the DMA, the number of races, how stiff the competition is among the races in that DMA, expected outside or issue group involvement, spillover into competitive districts/states, and geographic location of the market within an already competitive state. So, think of 10 as the most crowded, hottest DMA, and those closer to 1 as cooler markets. 

 

Check out our political spending heat map, layered with AMII values for 15 DMAs, ranging from this election season’s hottest markets to the biggest city metros.

 

WHAT’S THE CHATTER?  

Connections & Conversations

What are the most talked about issues in the news? Below is a visualization that shows the top headlines over the past two weeks from the biggest political news handles such as POLITICO, MSNBC, The Hill, and more. Headlines were analyzed and grouped to show connection points between topics taking place across America. 

Key Figures

What This Means

Judging by the size of the conversation (9.2%), women’s rights is still a big part of the landscape as we begin to see the impact of new regulations in a post-Roe world. Brands need to recognize that many consumers have heightened anxiety about healthcare, so an empathetic tone will go a long way.  

Both sides are working to reduce inflation (9.1%) in different ways, from student debt relief and energy conservation to lowering shipping and trucking regulations. Brands can enter the conversation by being transparent around their own supply chain and the ways they’re working towards easing inflation.

In the weeks before the search, Trump (11%) was fading from the news cycle. The investigation now puts him back in the spotlight as new information comes to light. As the divisive conversation continues, brands will need to understand how to navigate these topics while finding middle ground in order to resonate with a diverse audience set.

RATINGS ROUNDUP 

National News Trends

 

What We Know

Broadcast news has seen a decline in national ratings year-over-year. Of the big 3 cable news networks, CNN and MSNBC are seeing double-digit declines, while Fox News has shown a 10% increase in its ratings. Some of this erosion can be attributed to a shift in news viewership to streaming platforms.  

What This Means

In this polarizing political climate, viewership trends tend to follow public interest, whether positive or negative.  This midterm election year, people are turning to cable news, not only for self-education about issues, but also to help reinforce ideals they already hold about the direction of the country.  

NEWS OF THE WEEK

NPR: Maxwell Frost, one of the first Gen Z candidates for Congress, has won his primary

 

What We Know

Frost’s campaign is based on key progressive issues, including Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, student debt cancellation, and an end to gun violence. Mr. Frost’s win illustrates the political appeal of a young candidate who can tap into the urgency of the political moment.

What This Means

Maxwell Frost’s win brings light to an important theme: interest in politics is increasing among younger audiences. Technology has given Gen Z a louder voice than ever and a platform for their activism. And the industry has taken note – midterm political spending has shifted into streaming services and emerging social platforms like TikTok in order to reach this audience. It will be more important than ever to monitor the conversation amongst younger audiences and to keep them front of mind this election season.

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Christos Makridis,
Forbes

Read this article on Forbes. 

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An annual average of 70,072 wildfires have burned 7 million acres since 2000—more than double the average annual acreage burned in the 1990s, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report.

“Average fire events in regions of the United States are up to four times the size, triple the frequency, and more widespread in the 2000s than in the previous two decades… the most extreme fires are also larger, more common, and more likely to co-occur with other extreme fires,” according to a recent study published in Science Advances.

In a pioneering step forward to use non-fungible tokens (NFTs) for social good, YML, a digital innovation agency, just announced the launch of an NFT collection called FIREWATCH that aims to promote education, awareness, and preventative behavior to address the expansion of forest fires and environmental degradation in California. Each NFT corresponds with a parcel of land, priced anywhere from $100 to $100,000 based on the region.

All NFT revenues on the initial sale and 50% of the secondary sales will go towards supporting One Tree Planted, a non-profit organization dedicated to global reforestation. “One Tree Planted specifically sought out regional projects across California that focus on diverse, preventative measures for forest fires, ranging from forest fuels reduction to prescribed fire, reforestation, and biomass utilization activities, and which affect everything from biodiversity, to watersheds, to indigenous groups,” said Ashish Toshniwal, CEO and founder of YML.

“When we were first approached by FIREWATCH, I was just amazed by the out-of-the-box thinking and those are the type of solutions we need. If we’re going to address the world’s climate problems, we need to think out of the box. We need to be creative, we need to innovate. And that’s exactly what FIREWATCH is doing,” said Kyleigh Hughes, California project manager at One Tree Planted.

By purchasing an NFT, holders will not only have digital art that corresponds to the parcel of land that they may intrinsically care about, but also, and much more importantly, contribute towards a new model of potential social philanthropy.

The NFT collection counters the criticism that blockchain is environmentally harmful. “It’s exciting to see Firewatch utilize NFTs on Solana to mobilize community and action around climate change,” said Amira Valliani, policy lead at the Solana Foundation. “NFTs are becoming an increasingly popular way for communities to come together around shared causes. Solana’s advantages as an eco-friendly, low-cost chain make it an excellent home for projects like these,” Valliani said.

One of the major reasons behind environmental degradation is what economists refer to as the “tragedy of the commons.” Because the bulk of wildfires take place on public lands, no single person has an incentive to ensure the health of the land. However, by assigning tokens to different plots of land, NFTs have the potential to create implicit property rights. “Double and triple counting of carbon saved is a major headache in this space. Hence, verifiable, open-source tokens on carbon saved either via power plants that generate renewables or forests that provide carbon sinks could revolutionize climate finance,” said Shivaram Rajgopal, professor at Columbia Business School.

Such an approach to social philanthropy has the potential to unite more left-leaning activists with conservatives, who may tend to be opposed to traditional environmental protection measures, because of the focus on decentralization and property rights.

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It largely flew under the radar on Monday when the Minnesota Twins announced that they had launched ARound – what is believed to be the first shared augmented reality application for live sports – for use at Target Field. While a first, the pilot app could open the door to either value-add traditional sponsorship deals, or open avenues for new sponsors. If the application gains traction, it could create a land rush for not just the other 29 clubs in Major League Baseball, but across the sports property landscape.

ARound is part of Stagwell, a publicly traded high-tech company, that will allow fans to aim their phones at Target Field during lulls in the action, and play games with others at the ballpark. Targeted largely to a younger audience, the concept is not too dissimilar from augmented reality games you may have seen at the movie theater before the previews as part of Noovie. The difference here is it’s not just a single user, but many within Target Field. Apps that will be made available include as BatterUp, Blockbuster, which the Twins and the developers showed me as users throwing digital items at towers and knocking them down, and a game called Fishing Frenzy. Josh Beatty, the founder and CEO of ARound as well as Chris Iles, the Twins’ senior director of brand experience & Innovation talked to me about the rollout that has been in the works for a little over a year.

“What I think Josh has built has some real power and some real legs, because it is able to be aware of everyone around you that is using the app at the same time, creating a shared experience and creating some context around an event that frankly has never been done before,” said Ilse. So that excited me and the Twins as it had never been done before.”

Beatty informed that no user data is collected. No one goes through a sign-up process to use the app. And that the infrastructure is large enough to support tens of thousands of users.

Which gets one thinking? Besides entertaining kids with games and keeping them in their seats, what other value does the app have from a business perspective?

For one, the idea that other types of use cases could be created within the platform. Both Iles and Beatty mentioned that it’s possible to create an experience in which player stats could hover over a player in real-time or other ways to engage the dedicated baseball fan in attendance.

But what seems most intriguing from a business standpoint is that while the initial rollout is skinned as just gameplay for a younger demo, it is fully capable of having the games be skinned in a way that monetizes it.

Ilse and the Twins see the platform as a way to create closer connections to the people and places. “One thing we realized is that you kind of have to have a big audience to make that happen,” said Iles adding that the Twins were receptive from the first conversation, understanding that this is a technology that has a place as value to be added to the ballpark experience.

“To the teams, the fans, and the sponsors,” it adds to sports entertainment.

It’s here that Twins may be hitting on something that is more than just adding to the game experience, but opening up new avenues to the bottom line: sponsors.

The initial rollout is not skinned with any sponsors, but Beatty said that the design of the apps for the Twins takes that in mind.

“I would say [the platform] is tailor-made for sponsorship,” said Iles. “We are launching this sponsor agnostic because we do want to have a clean test of the technology to see how fans interact with it. I’ve always thought that before you can add the sponsorship component you need to show it as it is and let potential sponsors see it the same way. So, we need to prove this thing out. But we feel that it will work well for our sponsors.”

Likely, a shared AR app at the ballpark is not going to garner huge returns in the sponsorship space initially. But it largely depends on other applications that are developed in the future. It either becomes an additional way to activate sponsorship in a larger deal for a client, or brings in new sponsors. Either way, the Twins are hitting on an untapped revenue stream.

For Stagwell, the technology isn’t limited to just at the ballpark. After all, games can be watched through traditional television and streaming.

“Not only are we looking to enhance the in-stadium experience, but with our technology, we can actually bridge this to the at-home viewer as well,” said Sarah Arvizo of Stagwell. “We can bring all the things that are happening with the AR platform in the stadium to their coffee table. And so as they are watching a game, they can have that energy and excitement that is in the stadium, but take that with them wherever they go.”

 

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