Jul 16, 2018

Axios Login

I'm back from D.C., but if you're still there Tuesday, join Axios' Mike Allen as he kicks off the Axios360 Hometown Tour. He'll be discussing how trade and Washington's economic policies are impacting communities with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, House Agriculture Chair Mike Conaway, former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. RSVP here.

Mike's tour continues this summer and fall with stops in Savannah, Denver and Los Angeles. Stay in the loop.

1 big thing: Ads that let you try things on

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Augmented reality isn't just for Pokémon Go. (Though as we all know, I love using it for that.)

My colleague Sara Fischer reports that some of the biggest U.S. social media giants are beginning to roll out ads that feature AR, giving marketers the ability to let users virtually test their goods before buying them.

Why it matters: The technology brings virtual and real world shopping experiences closer together, and would likely shift retail spending further online.

How it works: A user who encounters a digital ad using AR could see what a pair of glasses looks like on their face, or what a rug would look like in their living room, before making a purchase.

  • The ads are also digitally targeted to users based on their preferences, increasing the likelihood that they'd be interested in the product to begin with.

Tech giants are pioneering the ad technology because they are already camera-friendly platforms, meaning the major use of their apps is taking pictures of yourself or your space anyway.

  • Snapchat was the first company to give advertisers the ability to use AR in their ads. The feature, called "Shoppable AR," allows users to buy things directly from a movable augmented reality image. Brands like Adidas and Clairol have already begun using the feature.
  • Facebook soon followed, announcing this week that it is rolling out AR within ads this year on Facebook's News Feed. Michael Kors was the first brand to test the feature. Sephora and others will begin using AR ads on Facebook later this summer.
  • By the end of August, Facebook will roll out a "Video Creation Kit" for all advertisers to create AR ads on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Facebook's Audience Network.

Amazon and Google are using similar technologies to implement AR into their shopping platforms. Given Google's ad dominance and Amazon's push into online advertising, it wouldn't be surprising if they too begin to roll out AR advertising offerings for marketers.

The big picture: Until now, AR has mostly been used in marketing at the "top of the funnel," meaning it helps drive general awareness around brands. By making it possible to buy things through AR, the technology can now be used closer to the "bottom of the funnel," meaning it can push people to actually buy products.

Go deeper: Read Sara's full story here.

2. Dissecting Elon Musk's Twitter outburst

With Jack Dorsey, the big investor concern is whether he can adequately manage his time to run both Twitter and Square. By contrast, Elon Musk is running Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Co. In his case, though, the current question is how can he run all those companies and still find time for inflammatory tweets.

What's happening: Musk's latest gem came Sunday. In a since-deleted series of tweets, Musk called one of the divers who rescued the Thai soccer players a "pedo guy." It came after the diver called Musk's submarine rescue proposal a "PR Stunt" and followed a New York Times op-ed suggesting some things Musk could learn from the situation. The diver is now threatening to sue Musk.

What they're saying:

  • MarketWatch's Jeremy Owens points out it was just a week ago that Musk was promising to be be better on Twitter.
  • Techmeme's Gabe Rivera: "It's time Tesla add Elon Musk's Twitter account to 10-Q Risk Factors."
  • NYT's Mike Isaac suggests that it's not just Musk and President Trump (and their followers), but the platform itself: "There’s a very strong case for arguing Twitter’s entire architecture is tailor made for toxicity and no matter how many focus groups you create it’s unsalvageable in its current form."

By the way: Musk's outburst came 12 years to the day after Twitter launched.

3. Devil's bargain for U.S. tech firms in China

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

How to deal — or not deal — with China has become one of the biggest questions facing American tech companies and research institutions involved in the development of artificial intelligence.

The bottom line: With looser rules and an eagerness to be a testbed, China is an intriguing place to test out new AI concepts. However, as Axios' Kaveh Waddell reports, U.S. entities face the real possibility that collaborations with Chinese companies and universities will end up bolstering Beijing's goal of dominating global civilian and military AI.

Among those who have decided to take part:

Go deeper: Kaveh has more here.

4. Watching how Uber handles new incidents

Last week, Uber found itself in familiar territory when news surfaced about problems with two of its executives and workplace culture, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

To recap:

  • On Tuesday: HR chief Liane Hornsey, who joined Uber in early 2017, resigned following an investigation into complaints about Hornsey's handling of allegations of race-based discrimination. A law firm hired by Uber substantiated some of the allegations and made recommendations to the company’s leadership.
  • On Friday: The NYT reported that Uber's chief operating officer, Barney Harford, has raised eyebrows after a handful of incidents in which he made insensitive comments regarding race and gender. Harford subsequently apologized, and has committed to work closely with Uber’s chief diversity officer and undergo coaching to improve his blindspots.

The big question: A hallmark of Uber’s culture during the era of its previous CEO and co-founder, Travis Kalanick, was that executives in his inner circle could misbehave without consequence. Under new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi the company has been trying to break from this history of protecting “brilliant jerks.” These new problems test that commitment.

  • And with the recent departures of multiple female executives, all eyes will be on Khosrowshahi’s next few hires.
5. Take Note

On Tap

  • Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference kicks off today in Aspen. (Axios' Dan Primack is there, so say hi and remind him the Warriors won the NBA championship last year and the Celtics didn't.)
  • Microsoft's Inspire partner conference takes place this week in Las Vegas.
  • Netflix reports earnings after the markets close.
  • Amazon's homegrown spending holiday, Prime Day, begins at noon PT.


6. After You Login

My former CNET colleague Rafe Needleman has a good take on laptop sticker etiquette.