The Digital Download: From AI to alleged algorithms

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Google’s I/O conference commences today, but that’s not all that happened this week. Facebook, Apple and Line – and maybe Snapchat? – had updates, as well.

Twitter announced that it’s upping its character limit on Tuesday, but that’s not the only thing that happened this week in digital. Facebook introduced video to its mobile ad network, while Thai Line users are now able to arrange deliveries through the messaging app.

Snapchat may be working on a new algorithm, but one thing is definitely happening: Google is putting a lot of effort into artificial intelligence (AI) and the newest Android. That seems to be instilling a bit of fear into Apple, which is now working hard to expand in blossoming Eastern markets.

Facebook expands mobile ad network

Video continues to be a huge priority for Facebook. Along those lines, the company once again rolled out a few new products this week.

Facebook sells mobile ads beyond its own properties on its Audience Network. Now, video ads will be supported by and available on that network, appearing as either preroll, midroll or postroll, rather than as standalone ad units.

Compared with Facebook’s current video ads, the new ones will have different time constraints (longer than 30 seconds, or shorter than 10) and lack a direct-response focus, since that ad format can’t run instream. According to the company’s blog, advertisers opting in to the Audience Network can expect 10 percent more incremental reach than those using the mobile News Feed alone.

Google brings commerce to image search

Google had a busy past few days, with its annual I/O developer conference kicking off in San Francisco on Wednesday. We’ve already covered its newest forays into AI and its analytics update at length, but that’s not all the search giant got up to this week.

Monday marked the official launch of ads within Google Images. All Google advertisers are eligible to have their Product Listing Ads (PLAs) appear in the image search; the PLAs appear in a carousel above the organic search results.

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In addition, advertisers with Local Inventory Ads can include links for “store pickup” and “search items at this store.” It makes sense that Google is putting such a focus on its retail ads; new research from eMarketer predicted that retail will dominate digital ad spending, increasing to more than $15 billion this year alone, through 2020.

Apple thinks globally as Google catches up

Android’s market share is up all over the world, according to new data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. For Android, Q1 was the strongest in the five largest European markets (U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain) in two years, growing 7.1 percent year-over-year.

Google’s smartphone saw a similar increase in the U.S. and China, where Android phones have a market share of 77 percent. It’s likely those numbers will continue to grow, in light of the Android updates announced at I/O.

Feeling the competition, Apple, which Millward Brown Digital named as the most valuable brand in the world last year, is now broadening its horizons in other markets. Last week, the company invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing, China’s answer to Uber. And then on Wednesday, Apple announced plans to set up a facility in India to educate burgeoning developers in the fast-growing market.

Snapchat reportedly developing an algorithm

Snapchat is reportedly developing an algorithm, the latest social platform to do so. It’s all speculative at the moment, so not much is known about when or even if the algorithm would go into effect. But if it does come to fruition, it will give Snapchat the ability to curate, and ultimately favor, some content and brands over others.

This wouldn’t be the first move Snapchat has made to make it easier for brands, with whom the platform keeps getting more and more popular. Snapchat recently came out with analytics, taking away some of the mystery.

Digital think tank L2 has also taken away some of the mystery of Snapchat, releasing a new report about brand activity on the platform. Monitoring Snapchat Discover for a month, L2 discovered that 57 percent of the ads are from the activewear, CPG and consumer electronics sectors. Nike and GE were particularly active, making up a 20 and 14 percent of the ads in their respective verticals.

Line tests delivery service with Thai users

Chatbots may be on the verge of bringing ecommerce to messaging apps in the U.S., but it’s already there in Asia, where messaging is far more popular. Earlier this week, Line launched a separate app, Line Man, which is now delivering groceries, takeout and packages to Thai consumers.

Though Line is Japanese, it’s particularly popular in Thailand, which accounts for 13 percent of its user base of 218 million. As a result, Thailand is a frequent tester of new features, such as music and video streaming.

Line is promoting its new addition on Facebook, where users can win prizes if they invite their friends to the app. If Line Man is successful, it may expand to other markets.

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