Mindshare Finds New ‘Life+’ For Wearables As Marketing Tool

Mindshare’s Jeff Malmad discusses the evolution of the media shop’s wearables unit, Life+.

Wearables are starting to become more commonplace for consumers — and, ultimately, a “common space” for marketers to shoot targeted ads.

In preparation for what it’s calling “the third wave of advertising,” the WPP and GroupM sister agency created Life+, a unit dedicated to exploring the possibilities wearable tech holds for brands. Jeff Malmad managing director, head of Mobile and of Life+ at Mindshare, North America leads the division, which launched last July.

MindShare's Jeff Malmad
Mindshare’s Jeff Malmad

Life+ grew out of Mindshare’s collaboration with sound recognition platform Shazam on Audio+, which was was designed to help marketers map and analyze ads on that company’s mobile app in November 2013.

Since its debut, Life+ has formed several partnerships with players in the connected fitness space including MapMyFitness, MyFitnessPal, and LightWave, as well as with mobile ad network Kiip, Malmad says. The unit is also teaming up with brands to explore best practices for delivering relevant, location based offers to consumers via wearables.

Geomarketing: What was the impetus behind the creation of Life+ as a separate unit? What is its agenda?

Jeff Malmad: There are so many different things and connection points that we can reach consumers with nowadays, and with everything being connected, we wanted to roll out a group that focused on, first and foremost, wearables. But as we started looking at the wearable space, we realized that it’s more than wearables, it’s about quantified-self, and it’s about connected homes and operational enhancements.

What we do is we build out programs and look for opportunities for our clients to leverage the different spaces that we may not be thinking of, and that the clients may not be thinking of, to reach their consumers in unique, opt-in ways.

Despite the miniscule quality of most wearable screens — some don’t even have that — do you think these gadgets can serve as a platform for geo-targeted ads in their own right? Or only as an extension to a consumer’s smartphone or other connected devices?

One of the biggest things we find from specifically a location standpoint with wearables, is that it’s more about the push notifications onto devices that have screens.

Consider my Android Wear LG G Watch. When I’m walking down the street or walking into a grocery store, and I have my Android device hooked up to it, the smartphone and the smartwatch complement each other.

I get a push notification giving me a recipe idea when I walk into a Wegmans grocery store. And I get that push notification because I’ve subscribed to and downloaded my Epicurious app. I’m getting that notification because I’ve opted in for push notification and it’s giving me something that’s of value to me when I walk into that store.

From a location standpoint, I think it raises the awareness to a different level than just looking at your smartphone. Many consumers have their smartphone in their pocketbooks, in their back pockets. Getting a push notification directly to your wrist that is being triggered by the geo-location you are in makes the awareness level that much greater.

One of the bigger concerns around wearables is the issue of privacy and the risk of advertisers seeming obtrusive. How does a media agency unit like Life+ prepare in advance and respond to those worries?

Everything is opt-in. If you look at Android, you’re automatically opting in for push notifications. With Apple there’s about 54 percent of opt-in rates for push notifications. Obviously from Apple’s perspective, you’re not connecting to a watch yet, but when you do connect to that Apple watch, which is coming out in April, I’m sure you will definitely get that push notification sent to your watch as well because you opted in for it.

The reason we work with MapMyFitness, and so on, is because they have the scale and the app is already downloaded on the phone. The wearable piece comes into effect because they work with 400+ wearables, and all those 400+ wearables tie into their app.

I’m not necessarily pushing a message to their Jawbone or their Fitbit or their Polar or their Garmin device. What I’m doing is leveraging what they’re currently doing from a fitness perspective and pushing that information while giving them additional content, offers, experiences, within the MapMyFitness app on your phone.

Is there opportunity for marketers outside the Connected Fitness realm when it comes to wearables?

Fitness is the easiest space to play in because of the scale and because of the fact that many consumers are really looking to the basic information of quantifying workouts. What we saw from 2013-2014 was a spike in the number of downloads of fitness apps. We saw that same thing happen going from 2014-2015.

When you look back with all the different apps coming to market, I think Fitbit, Jawbone, Polar, Garmin, those guys are great primers to get people excited about connective health and connective fitness and being able to track movement. That helped spur this uptake of downloads of health or fitness apps.

We’re looking at other areas outside [the fitness space]. I would love to talk to you more about that, and I could probably talk to you more about that in the next two months. [These areas] tie in locations and actual experiences at locations in order to amplify social media to get more people to go to a location

Can you go into detail about how wearables might be used to promote a branding campaign as opposed to a direct response function?

We’ve launched programs with some brands. [Life+] has been around for about eight months, but we’ve launched about three campaigns and have four more about to launch.

When we do a program with one of our clients and we’re providing turn-by-turn directions, where people are working out outside, that data is real-time data. It’s giving people real-time information as it relates to the best running path to take in places they may not be aware of.

That’s a campaign that’s live right now for an auto company, that you can see that within MapMyFitness. It’s very localized, so based on where you’re located, you may or may not see it. To take people out of their traditional running paths and give them somewhere new to experience, that’s a good use of data.

The other stuff involves how we unlock different [notifications and information]. Let’s say I’m at an event. I’ve got the wearable that was given to me by the event holder. People are dancing — and the person who’s dancing the most gets to unlock a different level. That becomes data that’s valuable for this consumer. And it’s valuable for the advertiser, because the advertiser is giving something back to the consumer based on body movements.

What are the biggest challenges wearables are facing from a marketing platform perspective? How does an agency unit like Life+ deal with them?

Right now, the biggest challenge is that the average consumer wears their wearable device for three months and stops wearing it.

But that behavior could change with the release of the Apple Watch. The ability to get those push notifications and respond to people via just talking to your wrist — whether it’s sending a text message or answering or declining a phone call — could promote a different type of habit-forming exercise on the part of consumers.

From a marketing perspective, wearables are not about running a banner ad, or running a 30 second video. It’s not about doing a full-page on your smartwatch. It’s about providing the utility and value to consumers and getting them to opt-in to something. Getting them to want to be pushed by a message from [your brand]. That’s the critical part.