One of the world’s largest advertisers is calling for tech companies to do better

Marc Pritchard speaks on stage during the 2019 #SeeHer Creative And Media Leaders Summit
at Viacom Building in New York on March 29, 2019. 
Roy Rochlin / Getty Images file

By Claire Atkinson, Senior Media Editor at NBC News  @claireatki   April 11, 2019, 4:23 PM PDT

“We need to begin charting the course in a different way going forward,” Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer of P&G, said Thursday.


Just two days after government hearings on how hate speech proliferates on social media, one of the world’s largest advertisers said it is reviewing how and where it spends its ad dollars.

Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer of P&G, which spends billions of dollars per year on advertising, said Thursday that the continued problems of social media have created the need for change.

“Digital media continues to grow exponentially, and with it, a dark side persists,” he said during a speech before about 800 advertising executives who had assembled in Orlando, Florida, for the annual meeting of the Association of National Advertisers, or ANA, a major trade group representing the advertising industry.

“Privacy breaches and consumer data misuse keeps occurring,” Pritchard said. “Unacceptable content continues to be available and is still being viewed alongside out brands. Bad actors are finding ways to create divisiveness and social unrest.”

Pritchard’s speech adds to growing pressure from politicians, activists and consumer advocates for tech companies to do more to address issues including the spread of hate speech, algorithmic bias and government-backed manipulation.

While advertisers have in recent years grown more comfortable criticizing the major tech companies, Pritchard’s words were some of the strongest yet and included a warning that some changes were already underway.

“We need to begin charting the course in a different way going forward,” he said, noting that the consumer goods giant was forming “new partnerships with entirely new platforms and media companies that prove from the very start that their content is safe and under their complete control.”

P&G was the biggest spender on Facebook in 2018, according to data from marketing analytics company Pathmatics. Moving forward, Pritchard said the firm preferred to spend its ad dollars with those who “enable common sense moderation of comments,” versus, “disproportionately amplifying controversy or worse, hate.”

U.S. tech have faced mounting scrutiny — particularly Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube — and rely on advertising for the majority of their revenue. While the companies have faced some small advertiser boycotts in recent years, there have been few signs of a broad pullback by marketers.

Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer for Mastercard, told NBC News he agreed with Pritchard and that major advertisers bore responsibility for pushing tech companies to change.

“We have a significant purchase power as an industry,” Rajamannar, who is also the president of the World Federation of Advertisers, said “The key thing, we have to be able to work to develop with the platforms and keep working towards a solution. This is something we as marketers care about very deeply and if it’s not happening we’ll have to keep relooking at our space.”

Bob Liodice, chief executive of ANA, said that companies including P&G are discussing the creation of norms that would hold social media companies to a set of standards around privacy and civility.

Another group, the World Federation of Advertisers, a global trade association for advertisers, issued a statement in late March at a global marketer conference calling on members and brands to take action and, “to put pressure on platforms to do more to prevent their services and algorithms from being hijacked by those with malicious intent.”

Facebook has made a series of announcements about new programs and changes meant to address the issues on its platform. While the company has at times pushed back against certain critiques, it welcomed Pritchard’s comments.

“We applaud and support Marc Pritchard’s sentiments for again making a bold call for our industry to collectively do more for the people we serve,” Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, said in an email. “We continue to invest heavily in the safety and security of our community and are deeply committed to ensuring our platforms are safe for people and safe for brands.”

How does it feel to be watched at work all the time?

There is a wrong and right way to carry out workplace surveillance – Getty Images

By Padraig Belton, Technology of Business reporter for – 12 April 2019

Is workplace surveillance about improving productivity or simply a way to control staff and weed out poor performers?


Courtney Hagen Ford, 34, left her job working as a bank teller because she found the surveillance she was under was “dehumanising”.

Her employer logged her keystrokes and used software to monitor how many of the customers she helped went on to take out loans and fee-paying accounts.

“The sales pressure was relentless,” she recalls. “The totality was horrible.”

She decided selling fast food would be better, but ironically, left the bank to do a doctorate in surveillance technology.

Courtney is not alone in her dislike of this kind of surveillance, but it’s on the rise around the world as firms look to squeeze more productivity from their workers and become more efficient.

Image copyright Courtney Hagen Ford
Courtney Hagen Ford says having her every move monitored was “dehumanising”

More than half of companies with over $750m (£574m) in annual revenue used “non-traditional” monitoring techniques on staff last year, says Brian Kropp, vice-president of research firm Gartner.

These include tools to analyse e-mails, conversations, computer usage, and employee movements around the office. Some firms are also monitoring heart rates and sleep patterns to see how these affect performance.

In 2015, 30% used such tools. Next year, Mr Kropp expects 80% will.

And workforce analytics will be a $1.87bn industry by 2025, says San Francisco’s Grand Review Research.

So why is business so keen?

Ben Waber, chief executive of Humanyze, a Boston workplace analytics company, says it gives firms the ability to assess how their staff are performing and interacting, which can be good for the firm but also good for employees themselves.

Image copyright Robin Lubbock
Humanyze’s Ben Waber thinks firms need to find our more about how they function

His company gathers “data exhaust” left by employees’ email and instant messaging apps, and uses name badges equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices and microphones.

These can check how much time you spend talking, your volume and tone of voice, even if you dominate conversations. While this may sound intrusive – not to say creepy – proponents argue that it can also protect employees against bullying and sexual harassment.

Humanyze calls these badges “Fitbit for your career”.

Some of this data analysis can produce unexpected results, says Mr Waber. For example, one large tech client discovered that coders who sat at 12-person lunch tables tended to outperform those who regularly sat at four-person tables.

The larger tables led to more interaction with staff from other parts of the company, he says, and this improved idea sharing.

Larger lunch tables were “driving more than a 10% difference in performances”. A fact that would probably have gone undetected without such data analysis.

The chip allows employees to open doors and use the photocopier without a traditional pass card

Over the last few years a Stockholm co-working space called Epicenter has gone much further and holds popular “chipping parties”, where people can have RFID-enabled rice-sized microchips implanted in their hands.

They can use the implants to access electronically controlled doors, swap contacts, or monitor how typing speed correlates with heart rate, says Epicenter’s Hannes Sjöblad, who has an implant himself.

The implant “cannot transmit any data unless you put it within a centimetre of a reader, so the person with the implant controls when it can be read”, he says.

Embedded chips may seem extreme, but it is a relatively small step from ID cards and biometrics to such devices, says Prof Jeffrey Stanton, a University of Syracuse academic who researches work-related stress.

As long as such schemes are voluntary, “there will probably be a growing number of convenience-oriented uses such that a substantial number of workers would opt to have a chip implanted”, he believes.

But if embedded chips are used to reduce slack time or rest breaks, “we are probably in the bad zone”, he says. And if surveillance tools “take away autonomy”, that’s when they prove most unpopular.

Image copyright Gartner  
Gartner’s Brian Kropp says bad communication can scupper monitoring projects

A lot depends on how such monitoring initiatives are communicated, Gartner’s Mr Kropp argues.

In 2016, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper installed heat and motion monitoring devices under employees’ desks. While management said it was to find out which desks were occupied for energy management purposes, staff thought they were being spied on and staged a revolt.

The devices were removed after 24 hours.

If bosses don’t communicate effectively, employees assume the worst, Mr Kropp says. But if they’re open about the information they’re collecting – and what they’re doing with it – 46% of employees are “generally okay with it”.

Although many such monitoring schemes use anonymised data and participation is voluntary, many staff remain sceptical and fear an erosion of their civil liberties. In less liberal countries, workers are not given any choice at all.

But for some, the benefits are obvious.

Image copyright Jessica Johnson    
Jessica Johnson says her workplace tracking software helps her cope with narcolepsy

“I’ve got a condition called narcolepsy,” explains Jessica Johnson, 34, from Canberra, Australia.

She falls asleep for short periods during the day, then is disorientated when she wakes.

This “impacts my memory, my ability to focus and concentrate,” she says.

She worked with an insurance company where employees used a programme called Timely to track billable hours. It helped her quickly find what she had been doing before she fell asleep, and pick up where she left off.

“You install it on your phone, and then on your computer, and that’s how you get all the raw data,” says Mathias Mikkelsen, Timely’s Norwegian chief executive.

“Machine learning algorithms analyse all the data, and create beautiful charts,” he says.

You can then see how much time you’re wasting in unproductive meetings, say, or replying to e-mails.

You could show managers you were “spending so much time on stuff that’s not what you were hired to do,” says Mr Mikkelsen.

So workplace surveillance could be empowering for staff and useful for companies looking to become more efficient and profitable.

But implemented in the wrong way, it could also become an unpopular tool of oppression that proves counterproductive.

Delivery robots are poised to invade our cities, but are we ready for them?

Photo credit: FedEx

John R. Quain

John R. Quain, Contributor to Digital Trends @jqontech Posted on 04.14.19 – 1:00AM PST


Gaggles of delivery R2D2’s scurrying down suburban streets? It sounds like a technological nightmare worse than an e-scooter infestation. But the concept of robot messengers got a major boost recently when FedEx announced plans to start testing such a service this summer, and for smart cities, it may not be such a crazy idea after all.

There are already several pilot robo-delivery projects running in the U.S.

Nuro, for example, recently announced it’s moving on from Arizona and expanding its delivery partnership with grocery giant Kroger to four Houston zip codes. Nuro’s vehicle is more of autonomous compact car than a rolling robot, but so far people seem happy to pay the roughly $6 for the self-driving silver surfer (probably because they don’t have to tip the car).

Nuro Delivery Robot

The 7,000-pound gorilla in retail, Amazon, is reportedly testing a sidewalk-crawling delivery bot in Seattle. The project looks like a more practical service for suburbs — especially compared to drones, which are restricted or outright banned in many urban areas.

Most recently, FedEx has announced that it plans to begin testing its own autonomous delivery robot in Memphis, Tennessee. And while there are other delivery bot tests underway in addition to the ones mentioned, the entrance by the preeminent delivery service in the U.S. into the self-driving space represents something of a milestone.

Hitting the streets sidewalks

FedEx isn’t talking about autonomous vans and trucks — at least not yet. And the challenges facing even mainly on-the-sidewalk robots are legion. Weather, uneven terrain, traffic, poor cellular network coverage, and humans behaving badly are just a few of the headaches facing programmers. However, FedEx’s partners and its own delivery infrastructure imply that it may be uniquely positioned to overcome those obstacles.

The delivery bots, for example, are designed in partnership with Dean Kamen’s DEKA Development & Research Corp. Kamen is best known for developing the Segway and the iBot Personal Mobility Device, a wheelchair that can climb stairs. The latter demonstrates that DEKA’s engineering skills will probably be able to help FedEx surmount some of the navigation issues for door-to-door delivery. Indeed, the fully electric FedEx SameDay Bot is based on the iBot, with some additional technology that makes it autonomous, including lidar, radar, and video cameras to assist in navigation.

According to Kamen, the SameDay bot can run at about 10 miles per hour, “which won’t disturb pedestrians.” Kamen made the remarks during a presentation to announce the new partnership. The inventor said the SameDay Bot’s speed limiter means it won’t cause the kinds of problems associated with cyclists and messengers who hop onto sidewalks — but it will still be able to handle round trips of up to eight miles relatively quickly.

The road ahead

FedEx plans to work with retailers including AutoZone, Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart to perform, as its robot’s name implies, same-day door-to-door deliveries. Customers can open the bot using a smartphone app, or have it opened by a remote operator. Those operators will also control the bots should the machines encounter situations they don’t recognize.

robot delivery dog ces 2019 continental pp cube robodogs
Continental’s delivery robot concept

“It’s a way they could take on Amazon,” Gary Goralnick, a shopping center developer, told Digital Trends regarding self-driving technology. Goralnick said integrating online ordering and same-day delivery, for example, has helped brick and mortar retailers turn the corner and compete against Internet-only outlets.

Still, others note that such self-driving solutions beg for an infrastructure solution.

“You have to redesign the city before you layer in the technology,” Duncan Davidson, a technology investor with Bullpen Capital, told Digital Trends. Davidson pointed to examples such as e-scooters causing problems in Los Angeles and Uber cars causing additional congestion in New York City as ways in which technology can wreak havoc in cities — unless it’s supported by the right infrastructure changes.

None of these robo-delivery services will work unless consumers embrace the concept

Autonomous cars and delivery vehicles, for example, may need their own dedicated lanes. Making such changes could improve safety and help reduce traffic. And there are many ways in which same-day delivery in underserved areas could help home-bound individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses or other restrictions that prevent them from getting outside.

Indeed, Hyundai has a program called Elevate to develop an autonomous vehicle that can navigate rough terrain and even climb stairs to reach customers. And Dean Kamen’s iBot was originally designed to help people such as disabled veterans get around on their own. (The partnership with FedEx should help make the iBots more affordable for those who need them, according to Kamen.)

Ultimately, none of these robo-delivery services will work unless consumers embrace the concept. As long as they steer clear of scary robots, like Boston Dynamics’ headless Spot Mini, and focus on friendly delivery devices that look like R2D2, it may just work out.


Digital-Native Retailers Are Giving Physical Stores a Radical Makeover

Photograph by Thomas Barwick

By Flavio Palaci, Ramy Sedra, and Anand Rao all from PwC  January 18, 2019

Online brands are opening brick-and-mortar shops, using technology and data-driven customer insights to transform the in-store experience.


On Black Friday in 2018, online spending in the U.S. leapt 24 percent from the previous year. By contrast, in-store sales fell by 7 percent and footfall was down 9 percent. These numbers might give the impression that brick-and-mortar stores are losing relevance with consumers, but several successful online-only retailers are actually opening physical shops — and traditional brands can learn from them by looking at why and how they’re doing it.

There are many reasons for online-first retailers to add an offline presence. For one thing, physical retail still accounts for about 85 percent of global business-to-consumer commerce. And although digital retail is growing, so is in-store retail. PwC’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Study — to be released soon — shows that 24 percent of consumers regularly used mobile to shop in 2018, compared with 11 percent in 2014, and 49 percent regularly shopped in a physical store in 2018, versus 36 percent in 2014. Stores allow consumers to experience and engage with a brand, its products, and its culture. Buying in a store is also sometimes faster and more convenient than online shopping. And new technologies enable retailers to gather insights from in-store video and audio data in ways that have never before been possible. Finally, physical stores provide online retailers with local distribution centers for their products.

Digital natives apply their pioneering spirit to the physical world, using their inherent data-led knowledge of customer behavior and their comfort with technology to rethink and remake the experience shoppers have in their stores. And they’re showing the way forward for some of the savviest older retailers and brands. Here are some of the lessons bricks-first retailers are picking up from their digital-first peers.

Create a frictionless store. Online retailers have to focus on user experience and customer journeys to succeed. Shoppers are easily distracted from an online purchase by the ping of an arriving email or a flurry of social media likes. Each click away from the page could cause them to ditch their carts, so e-commerce strives to be as frictionless and engaging as possible.

And now, some online retailers are applying the same thinking to physical stores. Amazon Go grocery stores, for example, have resolved a major pain point: the checkout. Instead of paying traditionally, customers scan their Amazon Go app as they enter, their purchases are recorded by sensors throughout the store that are supported by artificial intelligence (AI) and radio-frequency identification (RFID), and their accounts are automatically charged when they leave.

Amazon is considering placing Go stores in the lobbies of office buildings and in airports. This fits with a growing trend for “microtrip” shopping, or short trips that take less than five minutes. According to PwC’s study, one-quarter of consumers make trips like these once or more per day.

Another point of friction for customers is not knowing whether the items they need will be in stock at a physical store. Canadian online fashion retailer Ssense has solved this problem. Its shoppers can browse 20,000 products online, and the ones they’d like to try on are then shipped from warehouse to store within an hour.

Use data to add a personal touch. Digital-native retailers are data-centric, and as a result have been able to disrupt brick-and-mortar shopping by being better at predicting customer needs and wants. In some cases, their insights reveal that customers want to see and use products in real life.

Online mattress retailer Casper announced last summer that it would open 200 stores across the U.S., after finding that sales grew more quickly in areas where it had operated temporary stores. A physical presence in a busy location can be a powerful marketing tool, too. Casper CEO Philip Krim told the Wall Street Journal the company’s stores make the brand visible, which is helpful because acquiring customers online has become more competitive and expensive.

Traditional retailers are also using data to get to know their customers better. Nike, for example, has spent a decade building its NikePlus membership program. It now has data not only on its members’ tastes in clothes and shoes but also on their exercise habits. It uses that data to curate stock at its Nike Live concept store in Los Angeles, and to offer personalized advice to ensure members have the best kit for their fitness goals.

The lessons from the Nike Live store have been used at the company’s New York flagship, where the “Speed Shop” department stocks merchandise based on online sales in the store’s postal code. And getting back to the frictionless experiences mentioned earlier, customers can also reserve the shoes they want using the Nike app and then collect them from an in-store locker, opened by the same app. They can pay for the merchandise in the app, too.


“Data and technology are the connective tissue underlying the creation of rich, informative in-store experiences.”


Stores are also using data on customers’ physical locations to enhance experiences. For instance, Nordstrom has experimented with a customer-tracking app that notifies staff as each person arrives, arming the sales team in advance with information about that shopper’s buying habits. For some people, this is delightful and convenient, but for others it’s intrusive and unwelcome, so data analytics is helping companies determine which customers are which, too. Of course, for these location- and habit-tracking features to work, people will have to trust retailers with their personal information — and that will be a big hurdle to overcome.

Make shopping fun. Personalization can help turn offline retail into a rich experience that consumers will seek out. And technology can enable even more ways to make shopping entertaining.

For example, French beauty brand Sephora is using augmented reality to allow customers to test makeup virtually. London fashion store Missguided’s expansion offline involved creating a flagship store inspired by a TV studio, with huge screens that stream customer-generated social media content.

The New York City location of fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff has interactive mirrors in the dressing rooms so customers can order a different color or size with a few taps. They can also customize the lighting so it matches the environment in which they will wear the outfit.

Track different things better. Retailers have traditionally measured success by sales per square foot, and based on that formula, numerous chains have closed branches because of diminishing results. But now that people no longer have to rely on stores as the sole way to access products, this gauge of productivity looks dated.

Last year, Adobe Labs showed off new technology for tracking shoppers through a store in real time, drawing information from in-store beacons, smart shopping carts, Internet of Things sensors, and a mobile app. This technology would allow retailers to direct offers to customers about certain products even as they’re looking at them.

As these various examples show, data and technology are the connective tissue underlying the creation of rich, informative in-store experiences. Digital natives already know the value of understanding and using these tools, and it’s time for brick-and-mortar retailers to catch up. Using already-available digital approaches to capture the rich stream of information on consumers’ in-store and online behavior will turn traditional companies into data-driven organizations with an obsessive customer focus.


Author Profiles:

Flavio Palaci is PwC’s global advisory data and analytics leader. Based in Sydney, he is a partner with PwC Australia.

Ramy Sedra is PwC Canada’s data and analytics consulting leader. Based in Montreal, he is a partner with PwC Canada.

Anand Rao is PwC’s global and U.S. artificial intelligence leader and U.S. data and analytics leader. Based in Boston, he is a principal with PwC US.


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