Sep 19

Report: Google proposes opening up Product Listing Ads to competitors

Dive Brief:

  • In a bid to calm EU antitrust waters, Google sent a proposal to the European Commission stating it will allow comparison shopping site competitors to bid for any spot in its Product Listing Ads shopping section, per a report from Reuters citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
  • Sources told Reuters the proposal was criticized as inadequate, but EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager told reporters in Washington, “It is at this point in time of course impossible to say what will happen but obviously market reactions will be one of the things that we’ll be taking under consideration.”
  • To date, Google has been fined 2.4 billion euros — a record amount — by the European Commission for over claims its business practices favor itself. The tech giant has until September 28 to end anti-competitive practices or Alphabet could be fined up to 5% of its average daily worldwide revenue which amounts to about $12 million a day based on its 2016 revenue.

Dive Insight:

Google’s challenge is it needs positive feedback from competing shopping comparison engines to bolster its case with the European Commission, and according to the Reuters report that feedback, in this case, was overwhelmingly negative. Part of the challenge is those competitors are likely the same parties who filed complaints about Google’s business practices in the first place. One rival, U.K. price comparison site Foundem, filed the complaint that set this particular issue into motion back in 2010 and was quoted by Reuters as wanting nothing less than for Google to break its search into general- and specialized-search businesses.

Product Listing Ads are a popular format for the search giant, giving retailers a way to get shoppable ads for specific products in front of searchers. Opening these ads up to competing comparison shopping sites would provide consumers with greater variety. In the U.S., the space continues to heat up as social media sites and others ramp up their own shopping campaign offerings. 

As an international company, Google has to play within the rules of the global region with the strictest and narrowest rules covering everything from data privacy to monopolistic business practices. Creating Alphabet placed different business units under separate umbrellas, but its core internet business from tools like Gmail to platforms like YouTube to the ad business that drives Alphabet’s revenue all remain under Google.

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Sep 18

HALO Branded Solutions Honored with Two BMA Tower Awards

STERLING, Ill., Sept. 18, 2017 /PRNewswire/ – HALO Branded Solutions received an award in eBusiness Strategy and New Customer Acquisition through ANA Business Marketing, the B2B arm of the Association of National Advertisers (making ANA Business Marketing a part of the nation’s largest B2B and general marketing associations).

The awards, called the “B2 Awards,” were awarded to top performing Business-to-Business marketers in large and small organizations. HALO was selected among several hundred submissions from hundreds of companies across the country.

About HALO’s winning entries:

In the award applications, HALO’s “hybrid” approach to sales was highlighted. A combination of HALO’s relationship-based sales force with e-commerce functionality for online sales and lead generation is a unique approach in the promotional products industry. It helps HALO differentiate from promotional products competitors, both online and offline, by utilizing strengths of both the internet and the HALO sales force.

“We are honored to bring home these two prestigious awards highlighting our unique business model,” Jamon Heller, Director of HALO E-Commerce, said. “This recognition reflects an ever-adapting strategy to blend HALO’s skilled sales staff into the growing e-commerce world of promotional products.”

The awards were presented at the annual B2 Awards Gala held during the 2017 Masters of B2B Marketing conference presented in May by ANA’s Business Marketing Association. Visit for more information.

About HALO Branded Solutions
HALO Branded Solutions, with operational headquarters in Sterling, Illinois, is a leading promotional products distributor in the $20 billion per year promotional products industry. The Company has a growing nationwide sales force and expects to continue its profitable growth by offering innovative client solutions, priced competitively, and supported by world-class operations and customer service. Visit for more information.

Contact: Terry McGuire
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications
HALO Branded Solutions


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Sep 17

Xpert Fulfillment fills a void in Benzonia

BENZONIA — A little more than a year after it was shuttered, a 76,000-square-foot manufacturing facility soon will be home to a different business.

Xpert Fulfillment completed the purchase of the building at 2532 Benzie Highway, site of the former Antolin Benzonia automotive manufacturing facility.

Company president Bob Boylan said the facility will be a second location to the 16,000-square-foot building the order fulfillment company already operates two miles away at 8160 Cadillac Highway.

“It’s a big opportunity,” Boylan said of Xpert Fulfillment’s expansion. “We’ve been at capacity for the last two years there. It’s just a matter of function. We needed to be able to grow. I’ve always kind of (had) sustained, steady, incremental growth until we saw this opportunity.”

“We’ve proven our model. We know how effectively we can price to save and provide a good value for the service that we provide. Now we can just expand on that.”

The former Antolin facility includes 77,557 square feet of manufacturing and office space on nearly 37 acres, according to the Three West Commercial Real Estate listing. The main building encloses 76,000 square feet of space and has seven loading docks and fire suppression capabilities.

Boylan expects Xpert to have the space “up and running in two months,” even though, with Internet access, he could be shipping products immediately.

Part of the purchase includes property behind the property’s 130-foot-tall water tower. Boylan said the space is zoned industrial and a planned industrial park would feature “14 to 15 lots of 2 to 2½ acres.”

He said the proposed industrial park would have a central sewer system and that Consumers Energy has “committed” to extend electrical service to the back corner of the lot, which is currently heavily wooded.

“It’s a big area,” Boylan said. “I think I found Bigfoot back there.”

Boylan said he’s had tremendous support for his expansion plans, including from the Alliance for Economic Success, which receives funding assistance from Benzie County for community and economic development.

“The support we have received from the community, the county and the township has just been great,” Boylan said. “They want to see this go.

“This is a big building. A lot of people don’t realize it from just driving by. Although it seems like everyone in Benzie County has worked here at one time or another.”

Benzie County Administrator Mitch Deisch said its “great news” that investments with the Alliance for Economic Success that began in March of 2016 already are paying dividends.

“We’re pleased that AES as well as Benzie County had a hand in assisting Xpert Fulfillment in the purchase of this property in Benzonia Township,” Deisch said. “We look forward to continuing to work with them for the creation of more jobs in Benzie County.”

Xpert Fulfillment currently has nine employees, but would expand its workforce when some of the current client base is moved from the existing facility to the new, “based on the nature of their goods and products and the way we process them,” Boylan said. Xpert currently manages more than 7,000 different SKUs, stock keeping units.

“I’m looking to go to 20- to 30-plus hires over the next two years,” he said.

Boylan also plans to lease out office space in the front of the building with a communal lunch room and conference room.

“We’re still thinking through the process for these offices and this whole wing,” he said. “What we’re leaning toward is a professional suite” with a shared receptionist.

Boylan said Xpert Fulfillment has been in operation for 10 years, more than 5½ years in its current location. He said the company specializes in order management, warehousing and logistics for consumer goods. The operations allows other companies to focus on “sales, marketing, product procurement and manufacturing,” he said.

“We wear so many hats,” Boylan said. “Sometimes we’re a software development company, sometimes we’re a storage company, sometimes we’re a shipping company, we’re a returns processing, RA (research and analysis) company. But it’s all about the customer service.

“We provide an end-to-end solution for people that are selling online, regardless of channels. We integrate with 50-plus online platforms.”

The main building at the former Antolin facility, which Boylan said was a turkey farm in the 1940s and a sawmill in the early 1950s, is segmented. Boylan said some of the different rooms could be isolated and leased out in the future.

When the Antolin Benzonia manufacturing plant closed and laid off its workers at the end of August 2016, the county lost 140 jobs. Boylan said at one time there were 430 employees on the site.

“I don’t know if we’ll get to 430, but we can put a big dent in that,” Boylan said.

“He’s got some big dreams,” Deisch added. “I look forward to working with him.”

Boylan said he recently received a visit from a man who said he worked on site three decades ago.

“Just seeing the people that worked here 30 years ago gleaming with pride because something is happening here,” Boylan said. “It’s kind of the central location for anything big that’s happening in Benzie County right now, and we’re glad to be a part of it, and humbled by it.

“We’ve had a lot of help, a lot of assistance, a lot of people that want to see this succeed and do good things in Benzie.”

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Sep 16

The Internet of Things creating smart homes and smart cities from Cornwall

Imagine your fridge sending you a text message to remind you to buy milk because you’re running out or it’s reaching its use-by-date. Or your home programmed to switch the heating on in only three rooms when you are less than an hour away after returning from a holiday.

What about your lifejackets sending your exact GPS live location to emergency services when you fall in the water and calling the coastguards for help on your behalf through the smartphone you left in the glove box of your car.

But more importantly imagine your rubbish bins being fitted with sensors that detect when they are full so waste collections drivers no longer waste journeys on bins that 10% full.

Science fiction?

Smart homes controlled over the internet are no longer the stuff of science fiction

Smart homes controlled over the internet are no longer the stuff of science fiction
(Image: The Smart Home Company)

According to Internet of Things (IoT) expert at BT, Chris Sims, that’s already happening and where IoT growth will happen over the next few years will be in the enterprise space rather than in the home.

According to tech experts at US-based Gartner, the number of smart devices is going through an exponential growth and that’s only the beginning.

“Aside from automotive systems, the applications that will be most in use by consumers will be smart TVs and digital set-top boxes, while smart electric meters and commercial security cameras will be most in use by businesses,” said Peter Middleton, research director at Gartner.

What is the Internet of Things?

Internet of Things is the perfect coming together of day-to-day objects connected and communicating to each other through the internet.

It is forecast that business to business (B2B) spending on Internet of Things technologies, software and hardware will reach a staggering £204bn by 2020 with some 8.4bn connected ‘things’ be in use worldwide today – that’s one connected device per human being living on the planet.

Yet in three years’ time it will explode to more than 20.4bn connected devices. That’s almost three each for every man, woman and child in the world.

Regionally, China, North America and Western Europe are driving the use of connected things and the three regions together will represent 67% of the overall Internet of Things market with consumer devices representing 63% of all IoT connected objects in the world.

Smart homes controlled over the internet are no longer in the realm of science fiction

The home of the future? Or the home of now?
(Image: The Smart Home Company)

Smart homes

Jess Carter and Steve Carter are co-directors of Truro-based The Smart Home Company, which specialises in technology in the home from networking and WiFi, security, CCTV, access control, lighting/shading systems, comfort control, multiroom entertainment to home cinema.

The company, which the pair established in April 2016, designs and programs control systems that bring everything together under a single, simple-to-use interface, making our customers’ homes easier to use and more efficient, comfortable, safe and enjoyable.

Mr Carter said: “Smart home technology is growing at an exponential rate. In 2016, 80 million smart home devices were delivered worldwide (up 64% on 2015) and predictions are that 130 million devices will be delivered in 2017.

“Until recently, home automation has been a fairly exclusive domain, requiring significant investment and complicated, proprietary systems.

“Now IoT has opened the doors to the mass market, an incredibly diverse range of products is changing the landscape of everything we do.”

Advances in technology, combined with lower costs have resulted in the rapid market growth. The humble doorbell is now a motion-activated device that streams 1080p HD video of visitors (or would-be intruders) to your mobile device and lets you hold a conversation with them from wherever you are in the world.

Internet of Things software company Bluefruit is working with colleges and schools in Cornwall to help nurture Cornwall's raw tech talent

Internet of Things software company Bluefruit is working with colleges and schools in Cornwall to help nurture Cornwall’s raw tech talent
(Image: Bluefruit Software)

Smoke detectors can now speak to you in a human voice and send alerts to your phone while your thermostat can learn your behaviour and knows not to heat the house when it detects that you’re not at home.

Mr Carter believes IoT in the home is being powered by the tech giants such as Google and Amazon with voice activated assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon Alexa being configured to control everything in your house.

He added: “One of the most exciting areas of development is in eHealth and assisted living. The IoT has massive potential to help extend an individual’s independence and well-being in a variety of ways.

“It’s massively rewarding to be able to provide solutions that genuinely improve our customer’s quality of life.”

Pool-based embedded software specialist Bluefruit Software are one of the country’s leading specialists in IoT embedded software.

“There has been a rise in the past 10 years in Cloud computing, with people and companies increasingly storing their data on the internet and using smart devices,” explains Paul Massey, Bluefruit director and co-founder.

“It is becoming cheaper and cheaper to install intelligence onto day-to-day objects. All these objects start communicating with each other over the internet. Your car, your fridge. You house, your light bulbs.

“It’s becoming cheaper to have smart chips in more and more objects. That’s what the Internet of Things is about.”

Mr Massey said it makes sense for a company such as EDF or British Gas to have smart meters installed in people’s homes. Smart meters detect when the best time might be to turn up heating in customers’ homes and send meter reading automatically to energy companies.

For companies, not having to send out engineers is a saving while for consumers, the process is seamless and painless.

Mr Massey added: “Each of these smart device needs a software to tell it what to do. It’s like a tiny computer but with often a single function. We write the software.”

Smart businesses

The other area of growth for the Internet of Things is led by businesses and government organisations and that’s where savings and efficiencies will be made.

For businesses, Internet of Things is a way to optimise time, staff and assets while improving customer satisfaction, quality and reducing costs.

Cornwall has one of Britain's fastest growing tech sectors

Fibre optics carrying data passing a circuit board
(Image: Getty Images)

Smart sensors are now predicting when a machine needs to be repaired, allow machines’ self-optimisation, automate inventory management and allow a better management and tracking of their vehicles fleets.

Gas and oil drills are now equipped with gas analysis instruments and can be remotely operated over the internet.

Bluefruit has also been working with several health sector clients writing the software that will tell diabetes treatment dispensers when to inject medication.

Remote monitoring of patients’ health is the sector’s next big step – one the whole industry has been embracing fast.

Imagine your bathroom scales sending your GP information about your weight and automating a call back from a nutritionist with advice on dieting, pregnancy or calling out an ambulance to your home as you are about to have a heart attack.

“With the growth in the embedded software market, we will continue to double in size every couple of years,” Mr Massey said. “There are so many sectors Internet of Things relate to.”

With the IoT market expected to grow to 30.7 billion devices in 2020 and 75.4 billion in 2025, large Blue Chip companies and telecoms giants such as BT or electronics multinationals like Hitachi are getting in on the action to ensure they have the whole demand and supply chain under control and can offer support and advice to other businesses.

Chris Sims, managing director for marketing and IoT at BT believes the next big spike in IoT activities will be the enterprise space. One of the applications has been fitting micro sensors to its data centres to ensure they don’t overheat.

Smart cities

For cities, pollution monitoring, traffic congestion management, air quality, temperatures or more efficient waste management are areas where IoT technologies not only help already but where local authorities such as Exeter City, London boroughs or Manchester City Council are actively working.

Smart cities will manage traffic, pollution and waste collections automatically

Smart cities will manage traffic, pollution and waste collections automatically

Mr Sims said: “A city is a geographically complicated space. For local authorities many services are already being outsources, so to improve services and improve the quality of life of residents, we need to work in partnership.

“At BT we use our network to provide an open eco-system as we believe no single organisation should own everything. The idea is that all the data collected from smart city sensors can be accessed by everyone to build solutions that will improve people’s lives.

Exeter is one of the first cities in Europe to have launched an Exeter City Futures programme to improve, through better use of analytics, connected devices and citizens’ involvement, infrastructure and quality of life and make the Devon’s capital energy independent and free of congestion.

Internet of Things for cities can only grow as cities spread further and reach higher, bulging as more and more people move in to search for jobs and a better life.

To cope with greater population and energy pressures, increased congestion and pollution, cities will need to become more efficient. Smart cities will become the norm.

Smart cities use Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as connected sensors, lights, and meters to collect and analyse data.

The cities then use this data to improve infrastructure, public utilities and services.

Internet of things is making is easier for companies to manage stock and assets

Internet of things is making is easier for companies to manage stock and assets
(Image: BT)

The European Commission expects that 72% of consumers in the European Union will have smart electricity meters installed in their homes by 2020, and 40% will have a smart gas meter.

Amsterdam, for example, has been experimenting with offering home energy storage units and solar panels for households that are connected to the city’s smart grid.

These batteries help lower stress on the grid at peak hours by allowing residents to store energy during off-peak hours. The solar panels also let residents sell spare energy from the panels back to the grid.

Paris started an electric car sharing program called Autolib in 2011, and has since grown the fleet of vehicles to 3,000. The connected vehicles can be tracked via GPS, and drivers can use the car’s dashboard to reserve parking spaces in advance.

London recently announced that it would begin tests on a smart parking project that will allow drivers to quickly locate parking spaces and remove the need for lengthy searches for an open spot.

Smart Cornwall

Closer to home, Mr Sims, who is a member of BT’s South West Regional Board, sees smart bins being rolled out across Cornwall and in other rural areas over the next few years.

He said: “Waste collection is very expensive and time consuming especially in rural areas such as Cornwall. But in a short number of years I see smart bins being used that will tell waste collection companies when people’s bins are full so drivers no longer go out to collect bins that are 10% full.

Smart bins can tell waste companies when they are full and need emptying

Internet of things smart bins
(Image: Wiki Commons)

“It will save time and money. Be more efficient and will help create a nicer environment for residents too.”

BT recently announced a new £17.6 millionto take ultrafast broadband to thousands more homes and businesses in some of Cornwall’s most remote places.

The third phase of the Superfast Cornwall programme will see the latest Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) technology – capable of delivering speeds up to one gigabit per second (Gbps) – rolled out to more than 7,000 premises by the end of 2019.

The bandwidth infrastructure is essential if more devices are going to be connected to the internet.

Every year, the telecoms giant runs a competition to find companies that creates embedded software devices and recently announced the launch of a new project with See.Sense, an innovative cycling company from Northern Ireland, to provide sensor-enabled and connected bike lights to up to 180 cyclists across Manchester as part of CityVerve, the UK’s smart city demonstrator.

The See.Sense light sensors, known as ICONs, connect via Bluetooth to an app on Android phones. The app transmits anonymised data on the cyclist’s environment – such as the quality of the road surface, light levels, as well as cycling routes, collisions and near-miss events – back to BT’s Internet of Things (IoT) data hub.

BT said that access to the data will help developers turn innovative ideas into applications in many areas, including planning ways to improve cycling infrastructure, and creating policies to promote cycling in the city.

Professor John Davies, chief researcher of future technologies at BT, added: “There are wide range of opportunities emerging from the real-time data collected from the lights and other sources stored in our platform, bringing valuable insights for the city’s infrastructure and policies, and helping develop a safer and better cycling experience for the people of Manchester.”

Too much tech?

Cornwall's tech sector has grown twice as fast as the rest of the country

Cornwall’s tech sector has grown twice as fast as the rest of the country

Mr Carter believes there is a lot of scare-mongering about the risks associated with IoT devices, but insists taking a measured and practical approach to security is the way forward.

He said: “The only way to truly prevent any risk of cyber crime is not to put any aspect of your life online in the first place, but that simply isn’t practical for most of us.”

Here are some simple steps to improve the security of your IoT devices:

  • Enabling all the security features on your devices.
  • Keeping your firmware and software up to date.
  • Making sure your passwords are secure (e.g.: memorable strings of words, rather than just a memorable word).
  • Ensuring that your home network is appropriately encrypted.

He added: “It’s important to remain aware of how technological development affects us as individuals and society as a whole.

“However, there is always two sides to the story. The mobile phone epidemic has been often-lauded as the death of social interaction, but it has also enabled people to keep in touch with each other in ways that were never previously possible.

“People feared that games consoles would breed a generation of couch potatoes, but the industry rallied against that with games that require physical interaction and promote fitness.

“We just need to take a step back occasionally and ensure that we are using the technology we own in beneficial ways.”

The EDGE Awards

The first-ever Cornwall Live EDGE Awards – Excellent in Digital, Gadgetry and Entrepreneurialism – launched last week in association with by Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub and Skills Hub to celebrate the tech sector in Cornwall.

With the support of some major organisations, like Headforwards , Engineered Arts , Truro and Penwith College and new sponsors The Smart Home Co , we’re looking for Cornwall’s digital superstars, from the school projects and teachers using software, tech, digital and design to new start-ups, digital entrepreneurs, games designers, software developers, website, app and video producers and digital media gurus.

You can nominate yourself, your business, or someone else that you think deserves recognition. Either nominate through our website or email Please submit a short one-minute video where possible along with your entry – which can either be a corporate or a simple straight-to-smartphone talking camera piece.

Deadline for entries is October 15.

Here are the categories…

  • Most inspirational IT/ digital/ multimedia teacher
  • Best school IT/ digital/ multimedia project
  • Digital rising star
  • Digital entrepreneur
  • Best video production company
  • Best games developer
  • Best community/ social use of digital
  • Best software developer
  • Best social media engagement initiative
  • Best digital media company
  • Best website or app
  • Best IoT development
  • The Edge Award for Excellence

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Sep 15

InfoVista Ipanema 9.2 supports WAN trend toward internet connectivity

VeloCloud promises ISPs 30-day activation time for its SD-WAN technology

VeloCloud this week revealed a program it contends will let service providers roll out managed SD-WAN services more quickly to their customers.

The program, Ready Set GO, is designed to allow providers to launch services within 30 days, said Mike Wood, VeloCloud’s vice president of marketing.

“We’ve turned [the process] into a formula that creates a model where we can get you up and running — and we know we can — in 30 days if you follow this set of steps, this prescription,” he said.

Ready Set GO focuses on legal aspects, operations, logistics, sales, marketing and bringing the service to market. In addition, VeloCloud informs the service provider which team members will be needed throughout the process, their responsibilities and who they’ll correspond with at VeloCloud, Wood said. Since many of these requirements continue after the SD-WAN service goes to market — like marketing and campaign support — VeloCloud continues to work closely with the service provider, he added.

According to IDC, the SD-WAN market — including vendor and service provider services — will reach $8 billion by 2021. With Ready Set GO, Wood said VeloCloud is attempting to satisfy the growing demand by service providers to offer SD-WAN services to their own customers to remain competitive.

Service providers are automatically included in the program and Wood said there are no fees or licensing required to participate in the program.

“We activate the program even before we have a final contract signed with the carrier, so we don’t require them to have all the master agreements signed,” he said. “We kick all this off, prime the pump with them, so when all this is signed off with them, they’re ready to go.”

VeloCloud also said it is serving 50 service providers and more than 1,000 enterprise customers through its SD-WAN channel partner program. Current service providers using VeloCloud to power their SD-WAN service include ATT, EarthLink, Global Capacity, IBM, MegaPath, MetTel, Mitel, Sprint, Vonage and Windstream Communications. Additionally, Wood said he expects another two dozen service providers will be releasing SD-WAN services through Ready Set GO before the end of the year.

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Sep 14

Cloudstreet: Magic add Partners With UPM Raflatac to Grow the Global Reach of Internet of Packaging (IoP)

HELSINKI, Sept. 14th, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Magic Add, an innovator in IoP (Internet of Packaging) smart packaging solutions is pleased to announce that it is partnering with UPM Raflatac, one of the global leaders in the manufacturing of high-quality, high-performance self-adhesive label materials for product and information labelling.

In co-operation with Magic Add, UPM Raflatac has launched RafMore, a cutting-edge smart label solution designed to power and extend brand promotion, protection and logistics applications. RafMore combines labels and unique machine-readable codes to enable never before seen opportunities for consumer engagement, product verification, tracking and marketing analytics.

A smart, IoP (Internet of Packaging) solution, RafMore allows each and every labeled product to carry a unique digital identity. Embedded into label designs, these singular codes are mirrored and stored within Magic Add’s cloud database to act as a pervasive data touchpoint at every stop along a product’s journey from creation to consumption.

“Creating a unique digital identity for each product brings unprecedented opportunities for brands”, said Ari Salonen, CEO of Magic Add. “As consumers become increasingly connected to the goods they buy and love, RafMore allows brands for the first time to tell their stories around each product they ship and sell to boost consumer engagement, loyalty and social sharing. In a saturated media and marketing environment this represents a completely untapped channel and great way to extend brand reach.”

With RafMore each code embedded in a label can be linked to digital content that evolves as the product and consumer journey progresses. In this way, RafMore also allows brands not only to create new service models but to accurately track and trace products, improve inventory accuracy, verify authenticity and protect against counterfeiting attempts.

“RafMore allows brands to unlock the largely untapped potential of the labels attached to their products in a variety of different ways”, said Jan Hasselblatt, Director, Global Business Development, UPM Raflatac. “RafMore connects each and every labeled product to the web and helps brands gather valuable information that can be used to increase consumer engagement, optimize logistics processes, and protect brand integrity.”

RafMore will be showcased at Labelexpo Europe 2017 – the world’s largest event for the label and package printing industry to be held in Brussels, Belgium from September 25th to 28th, 2017.

For further information please contact:
Ari Salonen, CEO, Magic Add, email:  rel=”nofollow” tel.: +358-50-3372376
Jan Hasselblatt, Director, Global Business Development, UPM Raflatac, email:
rel=”nofollow” tel.: +358-40-5429735

This information was brought to you by Cision–iop-,c2346318

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Sep 13

Restoration Hardware CEO reveals a startling reality about online ad spending

Restoration hardwareAP

Category 1 storm clouds are gathering over what has traditionally been one of the most lucrative, and perhaps only profitable, sectors to come out of Silicon Valley in decades: online advertising.

Two months ago, it was PG which fired the first shot across the “adtech” bow when not long after it announced it was slashing its digital ad spending because it thought it was not getting the kind of return on investment it desired, it made a striking discovery: “We didn’t see a reduction in the growth rate.” CFO Jon Moeller said “What that tells me is that that spending that we cut was largely ineffective.”

Speaking to the WSJ, PG CEO David Taylor echoed Moeller when he explained that cuts on digital ads are part of a larger strategy to more quickly halt spending on things – from ad campaigns to product development programs – that aren’t working: “we got some data that said either it was in a bad place or it was not effective,” Taylor said of the digital cuts. “And we shut it down and said, ‘We’re not going to follow a formula of how much you spend or share of voice. We want every dollar to add value for the consumer or add value for our stakeholders.”

Previously PG’s CFO had said that “the reduction in marketing that occurred was almost all in the digital space. And what it reflected was a choice to cut spending from a digital standpoint where it was ineffective: where either we were serving bots as opposed to human beings, or where the placement of ads was not facilitating the equity of our brands.”

Moeller also touched on the two most common complaints about digital advertising scams: advertisers are paying for ads that are viewed and clicked on by bots, not humans; and ads are placed by thousands of automated “ad exchanges” that are out of control of the advertiser on sites and pages that don’t match the advertiser’s products.

Commenting on this, in late July, Wolf Richter summarized the state of affairs as follows:

Marketing executives of other companies too have long railed against the murkiness of digital advertising, the false promises, the intractability of the Internet, the clicks and views by bots on which advertisers are wasting their money, and the billions of dollars that get blown without results. But getting a grip on what works and what doesn’t is hard.
There’s a larger issue: Retail spending (not adjusted for inflation) has grown on average 2.4% per year in the US over the past five years. Over the same period, digital advertising nearly doubled to $72.5 billion in 2016. Clearly, even digital advertising – despite the lure of Facebook and the like – cannot induce consumers overall to spend more and increase the size of the overall pie for advertisers. It can only, at best, divide up the pie differently.

And when one of the most sophisticated high-tech advertisers in the world decides it is overspending on digital advertising and is able to very carefully remove the rot, thus bringing down its cost without hurting its revenues, other companies will follow, with some consequences for the relentless but often ineffective surge of digital advertising dollars.

Of course, the implications to this admission that online advertising was either being gamed by bots, or generally underperforming were significant, as it jeopardized the future revenue streams of two of the biggest companies in the world, Alphabet (aka Google) and Facebook, both almost entirely reliant on online advertising. How long before other anchor names decided to similarly cut back on their online ad spending?  In short: slowly but surely, chronic buyers online advertising space, are slowly waking up to the fact that “adtech” may be one of the biggest hype (and hope) bubbles in history. Not all of it, but a material, substantial portion: one that may be responsible for a significant chunk of Google’s or Facebook’s cash flow and market cap.

A separate, if just as concerning problem emerged last month, when the WSJ reported that online ad giant, Google, would issue refunds to advertisers for ads bought through its platform that ran on sites with fake traffic, and generated no actionable advertising “clicks.” Just how much of Google’s ad revenue (and thus profits and market cap) had been inflated over the years by said “fake ads”?

So fast forward to last week, when during Thursday’s Global Retailing Conference organized by Goldman Sachs, Restoration Hardware delightfully colorful CEO, Gary Friedman, divulged the following striking anecdote about the company’s online marketing strategy, and the state of online ad spending in general (courtesy of @parsimony16). What Friedman revealed – in brief – was the following:

“[W]e’ve found out that 98% of our business was coming from 22 words. So, wait, we’re buying 3,200 words and 98% of the business is coming from 22 words. What are the 22 words? And they said, well, it’s the word Restoration Hardware and the 21 ways to spell it wrong, okay?“

Stated simply, the vast, vast majority of online ad spending is wasted, chasing clicks that simply are not there. Here is the full must read excerpt from the conference (full link here):

I’ll share a little anecdote with you on this point.
We had our marketing meeting in the company several years ago and the online marketing team was pitching to double their budget, right, and at the time, say, look, nobody in the company is doubling their budget. But tell me why you believe that’s the right thing to do. And they said, well, look, our customer acquisition cost and our ad cost is the lowest in the company. And I said, well, tell me about the data, show me how. And they said, well, people who click through the words that we buy on Google, the ad cost was lowest. And I said, how do you know that they’re clicking on the word and going to the website because of the word you bought versus they saw a store or they received a source book? They said, oh, we know.

I said, well, how many words do you buy? They said 3,200. 3,200 words. I said, well, what are the top words? How are they ranked, the ranking of the words? Oh, we don’t have that, right. And I was getting the look at like, oh, Gary is kind of one these old brick-and-mortar guys. He just doesn’t get it.

And I said, well, what are the top 10 words? And they didn’t have the information. I said, why don’t we cancel the meeting and come back next week when you have the data? I’m sure that Google sales representatives who are taking you to the expensive lunches and selling you the 3,200 words have that data. So why don’t we get the data and then let, review the data?

And they came back the next week and we sat in a meeting and all of a sudden, I can tell you there’s a little change in the faces. They had to wear it kind of down. Everybody kind of came in. I said, so what did we find out?

And they said, well, we’ve found out that 98% of our business was coming from 22 words. So, wait, we’re buying 3,200 words and 98% of the business is coming from 22 words. What are the 22 words? And they said, well, it’s the word Restoration Hardware and the 21 ways to spell it wrong, okay?

Immediately the next day, we cancelled all the words, including our own name. By the way, we are paying for the little shaded box above our words and said, oh no, we have to hang on to that because Pottery Barn might squat on top of us. I said, excuse me? I said, if someone goes to a mall or a shopping center and they’re going to Restoration Hardware and there’s a Pottery Bam there, they’re already squatting, okay? It doesn’t mean they’re going to go into their store. If somebody wanted to buy a diamond from Tiffany and just because Zale’s is sitting on top of them in a shaded box doesn’t mean they’re going to go to Zale’s and buy a diamond.

I mean, I can’t believe how many companies buy their own name and they’re paying Google millions of dollars a year for their own name, like maybe if this is webcast, right, a lot of people are going to go, holy crap. They’re going to look at their investments. They’d go, maybe we don’t need to buy our own name. Google’s market cap might go down…

One wonders how long before all retailers – most of whom are notoriously strapped for revenues and profits courtesy of Amazon – and other “power users” of online advertising, do a similar back of the envelope analysis, and find that they, like RH, are getting a bang for only 2% of their buck? What will happen to online ad spending then? And what will happen to the online ad giants, if the vast majority of ad spending that justified their hundreds of billions in market cap is exposed as “bloat”? As Friedman politely, yet sarcastically put it, “Googles market cap might go down.”

Read the original article on Zero Hedge. Copyright 2017.

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Sep 12

How To Grow Your Business Online With Little To No Budget

Every small business is probably currently devising different marketing strategies to combat the recent downfall of the economy. This is if you are lucky enough to still have your front doors open. In fact, some small businesses have had to shut down due to the economic downfall. What all that being said, any small business would love to jump right into Internet marketing, but most of them run into problems when it comes to their budget. However, you should know that it is entirely possible to start small with little to no budget and work your way to success. Below, you will learn some amazing tips that will help you do just this.

Take Advantage Of Online Directories

The amazing thing about the Internet is that there are tons of free services available to businesses. In fact, most people can create a website and launch a startup for no cost at all. One of these free services is the local directories page. All you have to do is head on over to Google or Bing and sign up for their free directory services. This will allow you to post your business, phone number, and webpage. You could be missing out on hundreds of potential customers, if you haven’t already taken advantage of these services.

Get Active On Social Media

If you haven’t already noticed social media is the huge buzz right now and it only continues to grow. This is not to even mention the fact that it is completely free. When you are on social media posting and interacting with others users, this allows you to connect with a whole new customer base and introduce your products or services to them. Just think about this like as a tool to introduce new people to what your business has to offer. Don’t always try to focus on selling, instead try providing customers with helpful and useful information that could steer them towards what you have to offer. For instance, if you are a traffic accident attorney, you can offer information on what to do when you have a traffic accident.

Affiliate Marketing Can Help Build A Marketing Budget

Amazon, EBay, and Wal-Mart are all already well-established companies that offer a variety of different products. Well, did you know that you could become an affiliate and help them promote their products, while making money in the process. For instance, you can become an affiliate marketer for free and help amazon sell their products. When you sell a product through your website, you will earn a little slice of what Amazon makes. You can use the profits from this type of marketing to build your own marketing budget.

Forming Partnerships

The great benefit of owning an online business is you can connect and partner with other businesses that are offering similar services and products. For instance, if you offer heating and air conditioning repair and installation services to the public, you can partner with an online company that sells HVAC units. You can post their online catalogue on your website and they can promote your business through their website. Believe it or not, this is a common practice among businesses, whether they are operating online or offline.

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