The Walls Have Monetizable Ears
A new study claims Amazon smart speakers act as advertisers' ears inside consumers' homes... Snapchat's new device could help your brand with affordable drone content... And more!
Is Amazon Listening?
Turns out you don't need to be a fly on a wall to listen to your customers' wants. You just need to be an Amazon advertising partner!
A new study claims that the ecommerce giant’s smart speakers are listening, and collecting data.
The researchers of the analysis, titled “Your Echos are Heard: Tracking, Profiling, and Ad Targeting in the Amazon Smart Speaker Ecosystem” say that Amazon's methods in doing so are allegedly inconsistent with its privacy policies and call for greater transparency into data collection, sharing, and use of smart speakers.
Quoting the researchers:
Our results show that Amazon and third parties (including advertising and tracking services) collect data from your interactions with Alexa through Echo smart speakers and share it with as many as 41 advertising partners.
... Amazon processes voice data to infer user interests and uses it to serve targeted ads on-platform (Echo devices) as well as off-platform (web).
The report also found that smart speaker interaction leads to as much as 30X higher ad bids from advertisers.
According to The Verge, the ecommerce giant confirmed that it does use voice data from its smart speaker interactions to inform relevant ads that appear on Amazon or other sites where it places ads, comparing it to what you’d experience if you made a purchase on Amazon.com. The company also confirmed there are targeted ads on its Echo devices.
An Amazon spokesperson says that the company does not share its customers' personal information with third parties without consent. Amazon also noted that it allows users to opt out of ad targeting.
However, a framework was created by the researchers to measure online advertising data collection and concluded that there was "strong evidence that smart-speaker interactions are used for the purpose of targeting ads, and that this ad targeting implies significant data sharing across multiple parties.”
Amazon responded to the analysis by saying "many of the conclusions in this research are based on inaccurate inferences or speculation by the authors and do not accurately reflect how Alexa works" and that it is "not in the business of selling its customers' personal information or sharing Alexa requests with advertising networks."
Snapchat’s Mini Drone
Amazon may be listening, but Snapchat is watching you from a bird's eye view. Snap Inc. is getting into retail and has announced a mini drone called Pixy.
The drone could be an easy and fun way for your brand to include aerial drone photography in your content without having to purchase a high-end drone or pay for pilot training, which is required in some countries like Canada.
What's neat about Pixy is that there is no controller or SD card. You just turn it on and select the flying mode. The drone can:
Orbit around you, or
Follow you as you walk or run
When you want to stop recording, you place your hand below the drone, and it will land in your palm. Videos will be automatically transferred to your phone, and by default, will be stored in Snapchat Memories.
What's next? VR headsets?
New AR Tools for Brands
From flying cameras to AR lenses. Snap Inc. announced it will roll out new features to make it easier for brands to create augmented reality shopping experiences.
The new shopping features include:
AR Image Processing Technology
Using the new Shopping Lens, consumers can try on outfits without changing clothes.
A 3D Asset Manager
Brands can now request, manage, and optimize 3D models for any product in their catalogue.
The platform will also be introducing a builder for turning those models into ads or filters.
To make these features easy to find, the app will feature a new tab in its Lenses hub called Dress Up that will collect try-on filters from brands, retailers, and creators all in one place.
A software developer kit will also be provided for retailers to build AR try-on features on their websites or mobile apps.
Snapchat isn't the only platform enhancing its augmented reality suite. Meta is also giving brands more creative tools in its Spark AR studio.
Their update includes new audio options, allowing for more advanced audio integrations and including enhancements to audio processing, allowing creators to seamlessly blend multiple audio sources to create fun, layered audio effects. The company says this is exclusive to Instagram.
They have also added new depth controls, with a "Camera Depth Texture" which lets creators detect the relative distance of surfaces and objects from the camera and extract this data as a texture.
Finally, the Spark tool will have a new occlusion feature that will allow creators to better blend virtual objects into a real-world setting.
Images: Snapchat & Spark AR
Microsoft Ads Get Cash Back Promotions
Microsoft Advertising announced several new features at their yearly summit event, including:
Cash back promotions
Which is a new ad offering that will incentivize shoppers with a rebate upon purchase. Microsoft says it will choose the “right amount of cashback for the right ad and right user” providing advertisers with the best possible return on ad spend.
No information was provided as to where the cash back comes from.
The company also announced Ad Creator
Using this tool, advertisers will be able to find stock images, download images from your site, and edit photos directly within the tool.
Finally, the company said it will be focusing on improving multimedia ads and vertical ads.
Multimedia Ads combine creative assets such as images, headlines, and descriptions to deliver attention-grabbing, large visual ads.
Vertical ads will soon include financial advisors, doctors and clinics, legal service providers, and mortgage lenders.
Amazon’s Ecommerce Sales Fall
The results from Amazon's first quarter are in, and e-commerce sales dropped 3% to $51 billion as consumers returned to shopping IRL.
However, its e-commerce services posted gains. Marketplace seller fees revenue rose 7% to $25 billion, subscription services grew 11% to over $8.5 billion and advertising revenue increased almost a quarter to $8 billion.
During the period, Bezos' empire missed Wall Street's earnings expectations due to a significant slowdown in top-line growth and higher costs.
The company reported overall revenue of $116 billion, up 7%, but it was the company's slowest year-over-year growth rate in two decades. Amazon reported a net loss of $3.8 billion in the first quarter.
Developer Preview of Privacy Sandbox on Android
To help developers test its upcoming ad tracking system, Google has rolled out the first developer preview of Privacy Sandbox on Android.
The preview program provides an "early look" at the Topics API and SDK Runtime.
Developers will also have access to:
Device system images for Pixel 4 and up
Sample code that demonstrates the implementation of runtime-enabled SDKs and usage of the Topics API, available on GitHub, and
Privacy Sandbox API references
Google cautions that it is “not intended for daily or consumer use" and is only available via manual download.