Amtrak chooses partnership led by Y&R and including Wunderman and MediaCom as AOR

The Drum 21 Sep 2018 07:35 Amtrak chooses Y&R-led partnership as communications partner Amtrak, the main rail carrier in the US also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, has chosen an Amtrak Partnership, led by Y&R North America and made up of Wunderman, MediaCom and Culture ONE World, as the brand’s new marketing communications partner.Leading up to the company’s 50th anniversary in 2021, Amtrak selected the Y&R-led Amtrak Partnership to revamp marketing communications for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and long- distance service. The integrated, multimedia effort will also build up to the launch of new Acela trains in 2021.“Train travel is increasingly becoming the preferred choice of transportation for business and leisure,” said Amtrak Vice President of Marketing Kerry McKelvey. “The Amtrak Partnership demonstrated a thorough understanding of our business and will help us market the unparalleled travel experience we provide our customers.”Added Y&R global chief executive officer David Sable: “We see this as an exciting opportunity to work with a brand that has both an incredible heritage and a clear vision for its future. We’re looking forward to leveraging our expertise to share Amtrak’s passion for train travel and the brand’s innovative services with consumers across the country.”The integrated approach of Y&R’s practices brings institutional knowledge, creativity and strategic resources to the Amtrak brand.The Amtrak Partnership taps into the collective expertise of Y&R, MediaCom, Wunderman and Culture ONE World. These agencies will handle brand identity development, creative campaign work, and national and local media planning and buying across the Amtrak brand, loyalty program, and guest rewards initiatives.

Instagram denies it’s building Regramming. Here’s why it’d be a disaster

Tech Crunch 21 Sep 2018 07:05 Instagram tells me Regramming, or the ability to instantly repost someone else’s feed post to your followers like a retweet, is “not happening”, not being built, and not being tested. And that’s good news for all Instagrammers. The denial comes after it initially issued a “no comment” to The Verge’s Casey Newton, who published that he’d seen screenshots of a native Instagram resharing sent to him by a source. Regramming would be a fundamental shift in how Instagram works, not necessarily in terms of functionality, but in terms of the accepted norms of what and how to post. You could always screenshot, cite the original creator, and post. But the Instagram has always about sharing your window to the world — what you’ve lived and seen. Regramming would legitimize suddenly assuming someone else’s eyes. And the result would be that users couldn’t trust that when they follow someone, that’s whose vision would appear in their feed. Instagram would feel a lot more random and unpredictable. And it’d become more like its big brother Facebook whose News Feed has waned in popularity – Susceptible to viral clickbait bullshit, vulnerable to foreign misinformation campaigns, and worst of all, impersonal. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images Newton’s report suggested a Instagram reposts would appear under the profile picture of the original sharer, and could regrams could be regrammed once more in turn, showing a stack of both profile thumbnails of who previously shared it. That would at least prevent massive chains of reposts turning posts into all-consuming feed bombs. Regramming could certainly widen what appears in your feed, which some might consider more interesting. It could spur growth by creating a much easier way for users to share in feed, especially if they don’t live a glamorous life themself. I can see a case for this being a feature for businesses only, which are already impersonal and act as curators. And Instagram’s algorithm could hide the least engaging regrams. These benefits are why Instagram has internally considered building regramming for years. CEO Kevin Systrom told Wired last year “We debate the re-share thing a lot . . . But really that decision is about keeping your feed focused on the people you know rather than the people you know finding other stuff for you to see. And I think that is more of a testament of our focus on authenticity”. See, right now, Instagram profiles are cohesive. You can easily get a feel for what someone posts and make an educated decision about whether to follow them from a quick glance at their grid. What they share reflects on them, so they’re cautious and deliberate. Everyone is putting on a show for Likes, so maybe it’s not quite ‘authentic’, but at least the content is personal. Regramming would make it impossible to tell what someone would post next, and put your feed at the mercy of their impulses without the requisite accountability. If they regram something lame, ugly, or annoying, it’s the original author who’d be blamed. Instagram already offers a demand release valve in the form of re-sharing posts to your Story as stickers Instagram already has a release valve for demand for regramming in the form of the ability to turn people’s public feed posts into Stickers you can paste into your Story. Launched in May, you can add your commentary, complimenting on dunking on the author. There, regrams are ephemeral, and your followers have to pull them out of their Stories tray rather than having them force fed to them via the feed. Effectively, you can reshare others’ content, but not make it a central facet of Instagram or emblem of your identity. And if you want to just make sure a few friends see something awesome you’ve discovered, you can send them people’s feed posts as Direct messages. Making it much easier to repost to feed instead of sharing something original could turn Instagram into an echo chamber. It’d turn Instagram even more into a popularity contest, with users jockeying for viral distribution and a chance to plug their SoundCloud mixtapes like on Twitter. Personal self-expression would be overshadowed even further by people playing to the peanut gallery. Businesses might get lazy rather than finding their own style. If you want to discover something new and unexpected, there’s a whole Explore page full of it. Newton is a great reporter, and I suspect the screenshots he saw were real, but I think Instagram should have given him the firm denial right away. My guess is that it wanted to give its standard no comment because if it always outright denies inaccurate rumors and speculation, that means journalists can assume they’re right when it does ‘no comment’. But once Newton published his report, backlash quickly mounted about how regramming could ruin Instagram. Rather than leaving users worried, confused, and constantly asking when the feature would launch and how it would work, the company decided to issue firm denials after the fact. It became worth diverging from its PR playbook. Maybe it had already chosen to scrap its regramming prototype, maybe the screenshots were just of an early mock-up never meant to be seriously considered, or maybe it hadn’t actually finalized that decision to abort until the public weighed in against the feature yesterday. In any case, introducing regramming would risk an unforced error. The elemental switch from chronological to the algorithmic feed, while criticized, was critical to Instagram being able to show the best of the massive influx of content. Instagram would eventually break without it. There’s no corresponding urgency fix what ain’t broke when it comes to not allowing regramming. Instagram is already growing like crazy. It just hit a billion monthly users. Stories now has 400 million daily users and that feature is growing six times faster than Snapchat as a whole. The app is utterly dominant in the photo and short video sharing world. Regramming would be an unnecessary gamble. Instagram’s CEO on vindication after 2 years of reinventing Stories

‘It’s the Amazon approach’: Post-IPO, Farfetch’s path to profitability

Digiday 21 Sep 2018 06:21 Farfetch, the online marketplace that aggregates luxury clothing and accessories from brands and speciality boutiques all over the world, has a heavy burden on its shoulders. Now public, the e-commerce company, built on an expensive infrastructure of data technology, is setting out to prove it can change the way fashion operates. It’s well-positioned. Its shares started selling on the New York Stock Exchange Friday at $20 each, targeting $885 million, and landed it a $5.8 billion valuation, topping expectations of $17 per share and a $5 billion valuation. By noon, stock prices had already shot up 42 percent, to $28.45 apiece, raising the company’s valuation to more than $8 billion. For a company that’s never turned a profit, that’s a big price tag. But stockholders are placing a bet, rather than buying into something that’s already proven — just like the story of retail marketplaces. “Farfetch is benefitting from being at the crossroads of two extremely highly valued industries: luxury and online marketplaces,” said Adrien Nussenbaum, the CEO and co-founder of Mirakl, a retail marketplace platform. “As a result, it’s being valued at the same multiples of the Amazons and Alibabas of the world. At some point, investors will want to see profitability, but with marketplaces, investors have proven to be patient with profitability.” Thanks to its marketplace model, Farfetch doesn’t own the product it sells, which according to its S-1 filing, is a 5.7 million-item count carried from 3,200 brands. So, unlike traditional multi-brand retailers as well as Farfetch e-commerce competitor Yoox Net-a-Porter, it’s not burdened with overhead, the volatility of accurately predicting inventory buys, and dealing with unsold merchandise at the end of the season with promotions and buybacks. As a result, Farfetch has navigated global expansion nimbly: It’s inked deals with Chalhoub Group in the Middle East and JD.com in China to service local customers as well as onboard more regional boutique sellers. And while Farfetch spent nearly $50 million acquiring customers in 2016, and counted a total of 1.1 million active customers in its S-1 filing, its easiest path to profitability is in building out technology for other fashion companies. Farfetch Black & White, an e-commerce management platform, and Farfetch Store of the Future, its in-store technology platform, fill out Farfetch’s total business services. Black & White operates the e-commerce sites for brands like Manolo Blahnik, and the Store of the Future operating system is used most notably by Chanel, which doesn’t sell online, to bring in-store technologies to life. “If you piece it all together, Farfetch is in a position to replace wholesale, at its most ambitious,” said Thomas Sineau, retail analyst at CB Insights. “It’s an intermediary retailer brands can use to raise awareness and reach, as well as improve their own direct channels. To justify its valuation, you have to consider that it’s more than a luxury marketplace: It’s a proprietary technology company. It’s not working with third-party tech companies doing business with a bunch of similar companies.” In the pursuit of profitability, Farfetch’s goal is that this investment will eventually pay off financially. It currently has a team of 631 data engineers and scientists investing in the data technology, including machine learning and algorithms that inform its marketing and e-commerce decisions, and is fed back to brand partners so that Farfetch is positioned as an invaluable source of customer insight. It’s also investing in the technology it believes will shape the way people shop both online and in stores, like augmented reality and personalization capabilities that link store channels. The other piece is luxury customer service. Nussenbaum reinforces the Amazon parallels: Amazon is allowed to cut its profit losses so long as it’s diversifying its revenue channels and servicing the customer in such a way that harbors long-time loyalty. Through initiatives like 90-minute delivery, white-glove concierge service, and personalized recommendations, Farfetch is developing the way the next generation of luxury customers shop. “In a lot of ways, it’s the Amazon approach: Don’t focus on inventory. Focus on customer experience, data capturing and perfecting the marketplace model,” said Nussenbaum. Of course, luxury e-commerce competition poses a threat as Farfetch fights for market share, but Sineau sees a future of fashion where Farfetch is sitting pretty regardless. “We’re going to see consolidation in this space, so it’s not out of the questions that someone is likely going to come knocking. It could be Kering, when you consider how Farfetch has cozied up to Gucci,” said Sineau. “Not all platforms will need to exist on their own, and Farfetch has proven itself valuable.”

RBS and Barclays asked to explain 'addition to litany of IT failures'

Guardian Technology 21 Sep 2018 05:21 Nicky Morgan says: ‘It simply isn’t good enough to expose customers to IT failures, including delays in paying bills and an inability to access their own money.’ Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/PA The head of the powerful Treasury Committee, Nicky Morgan MP, is demanding answers from RBS and Barclays – and compensation for customers – after technical failures left millions of users locked out of their accounts. Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and Ulster Bank customers were unable to access online and mobile accounts between 5am and 10.30am on Friday morning, in the latest blow for confidence in Britain’s online banking infrastructure. It is understood that an upgrade to firewall software at RBS, designed to improve security for customers, backfired and left accountholders locked out of online banking and the mobile app. The service failure at RBS came only a day after some Barclays customers were left struggling to log into accounts for several hours because of a technical problem. The Co-operative Bank and Cashplus have also had to apologise for online disruptions in recent days, while memories remain fresh of TSB’s huge IT meltdown earlier this year. Nicky Morgan has written to the RBS chief executive, Ross McEwan, and his Barclays counterpart, Jes Staley, asking for answers about the causes and consequences of the failure. She said: “This is yet another addition to the litany of failures of banking IT systems. “It simply isn’t good enough to expose customers to IT failures, including delays in paying bills and an inability to access their own money. High street banks justify the closure of their branch networks on the basis that they are providing a seamless online and mobile phone banking service. These justifications carry little weight if their banking apps and websites cannot be relied upon.” Morgan also raised the issue of compensation for customers. In her letter to McEwan and Staley, she said: “What arrangements have you put in place to compensate customers who have lost out as a result of the failure? How in particular do you intend to deal with consequential loss claims from business customers?” Sign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk Angry customers took to Twitter as the RBS failure emerged, with one saying: “NatWest app down again. Not really acceptable for our 24-economy! How can we trust you with our money?” An RBS spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise to customers who experienced issues logging into their online and mobile banking accounts this morning; this issue has now been resolved.” The latest outage at RBS will raise painful memories of the worst-ever service failure by a British bank, when a software update in 2012 at RBS resulted in millions of customers being locked out of their accounts, some for up to a month.