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Visual Targeting: Garnier Taps Luminate to Target Images of Smooth-Skinned Women

Earlier this year, we at Luminate launched Visual Targeting, an ad platform that connects campaigns to images based on visual cues inside individual photos around the web. (I like how Business Insider describes it: “Luminate’s ad-serving system is ingenious.”) One of our pioneer partners was the Garnier unit of L’Oreal. From today’s coverage in Ad Age:

Instagram caused a Twitterstorm this week when it told users that it retains the right to use user images in advertising. Since images dominate content shared in social networks, brands are taking a keen interest. But even if Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and others wanted to target images, it raises a technical issue: How to target advertising at the content of images if you don’t know what’s there?

Startup Luminate took on the problem for L’Oreal brand Garnier this past fall for the launch of a new product, indeed a new class of product called BB cream (beauty balm), which has been popular in Asia for years but is just now becoming prevalent in the U.S. Garnier was interested in targeting images of women — not just any women, mind you — but fresh-faced, beautiful women with clear skin, which might put other women into a moment of beauty aspiration.

“We targeted images of women, not just celebrity women but women with beautiful skin, women in fashionable environments,” said Michelle Ryan, VP of marketing for Garnier Skin Care.

More on how the system works at Ad Age.

Luminate’s Imagesphere Summit 2012

On Tuesday we gathered 60 friends from the publishing community — execs from Conde Nast, Viacom, Thompson Reuters, Wenner, NBC, American Media, Time Warner, Getty, Dow Jones, Gannett, the IAB and others — for an afternoon deep-dive into the rising role of image content as publishing moves to digital and mobile platforms. Our first “Imagesphere Summit.” (Official release here.)

Our CFO suspected it was just an excuse to order Luminate-logo’d pillows. But most people, I think, actually came to learn from industry peers how to hone their image strategies. Given that more than a third of the web’s pixels are image content, 70% of social media activity revolves around a photo, and many of these publishers are seeing upwards of 60% of their pageviews coming from photo galleries, there’s an eagerness across the industry to figure out the image opportunity.

Steve Rubel, EVP at Edelman, kicked off the programming. He identified a schism dividing the landscape of digital publishers. On one side the “Continental Content Divide” publishers focus on ‘spreadable media,’ using infographics, lists and slideshows — short, frequent and easy-to-share content nuggets — to fuel success among social-media consumers. On the other side of the divide are practitioners of ‘drillable media,’ where depth, context and rich visual experience are designed to pull readers deeper into the story. At the center of both approaches (represented by the Play Button in his Media Cloverleaf) is content that directly addresses the visual culture. (More at Steve’s site.)

Paul Asel, managing partner at Nokia Growth Partners (and a Luminate board member) shared a global perspective: How mobile and touch screens are accelerating growth of the Imagesphere. Half the photos ever taken by humankind, he told us, were taken in the past 2 years. He also shared a prediction about the future of digital photos: Today if you hand a non-touch screen device to a child, she’ll ask, Is it broken? Soon all of us will ask the same question if we find ourselves starting at a static image.

Bob Lisbonne, Luminate’s CEO, presented a deck entitled “Welcome to the Imagesphere.” He posited a theory of photo evolution, where the Kodak Era has given way to the Imagesphere — a new phase in which technology has streamlined our ability to take, share and interact with photos. Members of Facebook alone upload more than 300 million pictures a day, and our sprawling social graphs mean that we each (on average) have access to nearly 100,000 photos shared by friends. Imagesphere technologies have enabled digital and mobile publishers to use photos in 3 new ways — as repositories of hidden information that can be revealed with the swipe of a mouse; as drivers or richer experiences; and as a new paradigm for navigation. An effective image strategy creates publisher value via more inventory, higher user engagement, and new monetization.

Bob also proposed that we borrow a concept from fighter jets, “heads-up display,” to imagine a richer experience for digital photos. Heads-up displays allow fighter pilots to watch their gauges without looking down at the instrument panel — relevant data appears as an overlay to visual content outside the windscreen. When an image has “stopping power” and sparks reader demand for more information, don’t force them to look down, look elsewhere on the page, or (god forbid) click off your site to get answers elsewhere. Interactive images can mimic the “heads-up display,” providing your readers answers right inside the image experience.

Rafat Ali, founder and former editor-in-chief of PaidContent (now doing the same at Skift), interviewed Steve Carpi, the global director of production Fantasy Interactive. They discussed FI’s partnership with Gannett around the recent re-design of USAToday.com. Touch screens are training media consumers to navigate by way of photos instead of headlines, Steve said, and websites that steal from tablet design will be better positioned for the next wave of mobile and desktop user experience. It’s an approach he called ‘tactile design.’ Rafat provoked an interesting discussion around two questions: One, now that every story is an image, are image galleries dead? Two, with images moving into such a central role in publishing, will important stories will be lost if they don’t have a compelling picture to pull in readers? (An audience member from Getty volunteered to help!)

Advice from Liz Coughlin, former head of the entertainment sites at Yahoo (now at Young Hollywood): You can either attempt to push your readers to content types that you know how to monetize (eg, articles with large IAB units) or you can figure out how to monetize the content they love, which tends to be your photos.

Brandon Whightsel, design director for WSJ Digital, started with a shot of the newspaper in 1889, the year it began publishing. Beyond turning a five-column format into six columns and the introduction of those iconic woodcut images, though, the paper’s look and feel evolved only gradually until 2003 when it introduced color photos. WSJ Digital, however, has evolved at a radically faster pace. A large photo element across the top of the website — the “Assassination Module,” he called it — was once reserved only for very, very big stories. The importance of images on the tablet experience, however, has changed the design rules. Large photos now anchor many digital and tablet stories, assassination no longer required. Whightsel tipped his hat to Rupert Murdoch as an outspoken advocate for the migration to a more visual approach to publishing.

Offir Gutelzon, business development VP at Getty, talked about the potential unleashed by image metadata. Once a publisher knows what’s inside each image, it can automatically deliver photos relevant to every story and can attach ads targeted by image context.

Luminate CTO James Everingham wrapped up the afternoon with a sneak peek at some products Luminate will launch later this fall — support for new content types, upgraded social features, new controls for publishers and users, and some snazzy functionality for tablet users.

Throughout the day there were more questions than the speakers had time to answer. I guess we’ll just have to do another one of these soon.

Eyelashes Too Good to Be True

Procter & Gamble has pulled a CoverGirl ad featuring a photo of Taylor Swift. From Tanzina Vega’s piece at NY Times:

In the ad, for CoverGirl NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara, Ms. Swift’s eyelashes have been enhanced after the fact to look even fuller, and, as a result, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus ruled this month that it was misleading.

The ad itself disclosed the touch-up work: Copy underneath the photo said that her eyelashes had been “enhanced in post production.” And what ad, after all, hasn’t been enhanced in post production? According to a spokesperson for the NAD, though, this case was different: “The photograph stands as a product demonstration. Your eyelashes will look like this if you use this product.”

In the past few years the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has forced Johnson & Johnson (here) and P&G’s Olay (here) to pull ads for false claims for anti-aging creams, but in both cases the violation was sketchy scientific claims. More recently it ruled against L’Oreal (here) for going too far on lighting effects and post production touch-ups on Julia Roberts’s and Christy Turlington’s skin.

Hmmm, this is tough one. The L’Oreal and CoverGirl ads strike me as more explicit versions of what most beauty ads do: They bring together a young, beautiful person with a small team of magicians (stylists, lighting technicians, professional photographers and Photoshop gurus) to imply that we could all look like that young, beautiful person even without the magicians. At what point does it cross into photo-as-product-demonstration?

200 Brands With the Largest Ad Budgets

Would you have guessed that Chevy spends more than Ford or Toyota? Or that Macy’s spends more than Target? Other rankings that surprised me: Arm & Hammer spends more than Gatorade, Kia spends more than Volkswagen, and Ashley Furniture spends more than Ikea.

Check out this great infographic that ranks the top 200 brands by the size of their 2009 and 2010 ad budgets.

Top Auto Ad Spenders

The top two in each category (first, second):

Auto: Chevy, Ford
Retail: Walmart, Macy’s
Apparel: Skechers, Nike
Telecom: AT&T, Verizon
Restaurants: McDonald’s, Subway
Food and Beverage: Coke, Campbell
Beer: Budweiser, Miller
Cleaning Products: Tide, Clorox
Financial Services: American Express, Chase
Beauty and Personal Care: L’Oreal Paris, Olay
Insurance: Geico, Progressive
Consumer Electronics: Microsoft, Apple
Media: DirecTV, Dish Network
Drugs: Lipitor, Cialis

Inspiration to Action: Hearst and Pixazza Partner to Bring Interactive Images to House Beautiful and Redbook

Fashion and design magazines have always used their pages, and especially their photography, to inspire. In some cases the inspiration hits readers, who seek to imitate the beautiful people, clothes, hairstyles and decors that are profiled. In other cases it’s advertisers and retailers that find inspiration, manufacturing and pitching similar products that will be accessible to a wider audience of consumers.

Vintage L'Oreal Ad from Harper's Bazaar 1961
(Vintage L’Oreal ad in Harper’s Bazaar from 1961.)

I couldn’t track down the first appearance of a “get the look” feature in an American magazine, but as far back as the late 19th century French fashion houses recognized (to their dismay) that commercial retailers were lifting their styles and converting them into mainstream product offerings.

“French design and the superior craftsmanship employed in its realization had always guaranteed access to the world’s luxury markets for all of the decorative arts, including the couture. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, revival styles were common in France, and even art nouveau, created in the 1880s in an attempt to develop a French style competitive with the English arts and crafts aesthetic, was suffering from the omnipresence of cheap machine-made copies.”

For at least my entire lifetime, the editors at leading fashion and entertainment publications have supported the trend by helping readers dress like the beautiful people. Maybe you’re unable to get Vera Wang to sew you a custom-made gown, they imply, but here are some made-to-wear alternatives that affect a similar look.

Pixazza on Redbook

So perhaps we’re due for a digital make-over — some internet magic that makes it easier for magazine readers to look at inspiring photographs and turn that inspiration into action with a single click. Today Pixazza and Hearst Digital Media announced a partnership to help readers of House Beautiful and Redbook find products (or ones that are visually similar) that are featured in the magazines’ photos. Readers who mouse over images marked with a “Get This Look” icon are presented with an information card that links to products in the picture and advertising offers that are relevant to content tagged inside the image.

“We look for those marketing opportunities that are disruptive, unexpected and true to the brand voice. At the same time, though, any advertising medium must work toward getting do-it-yourselfers going by moving them from inspiration to action,” says Rob Horton, vice president for marketing for Akzo Nobel Paints, maker of Glidden Paint and the maiden sponsor of interactive images on House Beautiful. (More at the NYT’s Media Decoder blog.)

The Pixazza approach uses freelance shopping experts to tag objects inside the image. That’s different in two ways from the traditional magazine approach, where a staff editor finds the “similar look” content. One, the crowdsourcing approach is faster and easier to scale — Pixazza’s shopping experts are tagging images that are viewed 3 billion times per month (and it’s still a relatively small team of taggers). Two, the concept of tagging things inside the image — creating a database of products and brands and even lifestyle attributes such as “is she wearing exercise clothing?” — opens the door to a more versatile suite of applications. “Get the Look,” certainly, is a popular one. But that’s only the beginning.

Celebrity Endorsement in Ads Mostly Ineffective

According to an Ace Metrix study of all nationally televised ads in the first 11 months of 2010 (summarized here in Ad Age), commercials featuring celebrity pitchmen and pitchwomen generally perform worse than non-celebrity commercials. While the average TV ad contributed to an 8% lift for the brand, celebrity spots (on average) hurt brands — affecting a negative lift of 1.4%.

Ad Age data on celebrity ads

What’s going on? Ace Metrix CEO Peter Daboll speculates that relevance and social recommendations have become more important than associations with fame.

“Today’s consumer is more likely to be influenced by someone in their social network than a weak celebrity connection. Today’s consumer is informed, time-compressed, and difficult to impress, and they are only influenced by ads that are relevant and provide information. They don’t want to have products pushed at them, even from a celebrity. In fact, the data show that relevance and information attributes were key missing ingredients from most celebrity ads.”

I wonder, too, if celebrity endorsements make it easier for agencies get lazy — so confident that the famous face will sell the product that they forget to make a brilliant commercial.

Related: Back in November ChasNote asked Would you want Snooki and Rod Blagojavich endorsing your brand? For those of you fence-sitters, here’s some data to help you decide. While Tiger Woods (-30% for Nike), Martha Stewart (-21% for Macy’s), Andie MacDowell (-21% for L’Oreal) and two dozen other celebrities fared worse for their sponsors than did Snooki and Blago, both hurt the Wonderful Pistachios brand. Snooki delivered negative lift of 15% and Blago brought it down by 12%. Go, Snooki!