What happened in technology, marketing and digital this month

Digital360 on 27 April 2017

Outrage online at Pepsi and United Airlines

April started off with Pepsi releasing a (now notoriously) bad advert. As soon as it was released, it was widely ridiculed across social media. The consensus was that it was a cringe-worthy attempt to appeal to a millennial audience, although there were some who claimed it wasn't as bad as it seemed. Whatever the outcome, Pepsi pulled the ad within days.

However, the award for poor PR goes to United Airlines, in their actions and response to removing a passenger from an overbooked flight. At first, the online outrage was directed to the method of removing the passenger. But the company's refusal to acknowledge the incident in the right tone – and respond to the public's concerns – poured fuel on the fire. They're now looking for a new PR manager.

Facebook, Snapchat and the race for AR

Augmented reality (AR) is set to be a game-changing technology if you're inclined to believe the hype. But two of the most influential technology companies in the world – the ubiquitous Facebook and the upstart Snapchat – are placing big bets in the AR space.

Snapchat is one of the most widely used instances of AR, even if most users wouldn't call it that. The 'filters' to add virtual elements or distortions to images and video – such as dog ears and 'faceswaps' – have made the company a hit with tech-savvy millennials. This month, Snapchat expanded their AR capabilities with the launch of filters that augment the user's environment, not just faces.

While the unstoppable Facebook did not launch any AR products for users, they did however make AR technology a key theme at their annual developer conference, F8. Facebook released some snapshots of their vision for a world where AR and virtual reality (VR) are central to our experience.

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Snapchat augmented reality 'filter' Image Credit: Business Insider

Google and Facebook combating fake news

Since the proliferation of 'fake news' – false or misleading information disguised as legitimate news – at the end of last year, technology companies have been trying to find ways to combat misinformation on their platforms. Of course, the largest and most influential players in this space are Facebook and Google.

This month, Google rolled out a solution called 'Fact Check' globally. Now in Google Search, for some searches, a 'Fact Check' tag will appear in Google News stories. This tag identifies stories that have been fact-checked by reputable news organisations and fact-checking organisations, such as Politifact. Facebook is also testing more features to boost authoritative sources in search results.

Meanwhile, Facebook has it's own fake news problems, forcing Mark Zuckerburg to acknowledge and tackle the problem. The company has now begun testing new features, such as improved Related Articles, to help users easily discover authoritative sources and fact checking services after browsing content on Facebook.

April Fools Day

April Fools Day is a central date for the marketing teams at large global brands. It's a chance for companies to get some risk-free exposure with a harmless PR stunt. Well, not always risk-free. But this year was bigger than ever with every brand cramming the airwaves (and Newsfeeds) with a once-in-a-year PR opportunity.

Snapchat's 'Instagram filter' (taking a jab at Instagram's blatant approach to copying Snapchat) was a notable highlight. And then there was the Google Map's in-built Ms Pac Man game, allowing users play a working version of Ms Pac Man overlaid their selected area. And then there was Deliveroo's 'Extreme Delivery Service', where a cyan-wearing Deliveroo driver swapped the pushbike for a skydive-style delivery.

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Google Map's in-built Ms Pac Man game Image Credit: Entre To Dos

What to look out for

With the arrival of Amazon to Australia next year, Australian retailers and their investors are getting nervous. The eCommerce giant is set to shake up the traditional retailer market – which means everything from electronics to consumer goods. That has caused share prices for major retailers Harvey Norman, Myer and JB Hi-Fi to all drop this month. We'll be keeping an eye out on more Amazon news and how it will shape eCommerce in Australia.