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TODD SMITH — Google helps publishers with audience engagement


Alphabet Inc’s Google (GOOGL.O) and subsidiary Jigsaw launched on Thursday a new technology to help news organizations and online platforms identify abusive comments on their websites.

The technology, called Perspective, will review comments and score them based on how similar they are to comments people said were “toxic” or likely to make them leave a conversation.

It has been tested on the New York Times and the companies hope to extend it to other news organizations such as The Guardian and The Economist as well as websites.

Perspective examined hundreds of thousands of comments that had been labeled as offensive by human reviewers to learn how to spot potentially abusive language.

CJ Adams, Jigsaw product manager, said the company was open to rolling out the technology to all platforms, without specifying whether that included larger ones such as Facebook (FB.O) and Twitter (TWTR.N), where trolling can be a major headache.

The technology could be expanded in the future to trying to identify personal attacks or off-topic comments too.

Perspective will not decide what to do with comments it finds are potentially abusive; rather publishers will be able to flag them to their moderators or develop tools to help commenters understand the impact of what they are writing.

The initiative against trolls follows efforts by Google and Facebook to combat fake news stories in France, Germany and the United States after they came under fire during the presidential election, when it became clear they had inadvertently fanned false news reports.

The debate surrounding fake news has led to calls from politicians for social networks to be held more liable for the content posted on their platforms.

The Perspective technology is still in its early stages, and Google will be rolling out additional news on this in coming months.

Brands Celebrate The Oscars in Grand Style

Jimmy Kimmel hosted, La La Land and Moonlight won big, and Justin Timberlake and John Legend performed at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony last Sunday

Stars weren’t the only things shining on Hollywood’s big night.

It was also a golden opportunity for brands and their marketers. From who wore what on the red carpet – designer brands work with stylists to dress and accessorize celebrities, – to which type of tequila is served up at the after parties, Brand Oscar is big business.

CNBC took a look at some of the top branding efforts this year.

The Red Carpet

This year sees Swarovski not only provided crystals for the awards set at the Dolby Theatre, adorning it with thousands of gems, but also launched a collection of “ethical” fine jewelry for the red carpet.

Priyanka Bose (star of “Lion”) and Emma Roberts, who appears in the forthcoming “Billionaire Boys Club” movie, wore pieces from its Atelier Swarovski collection. The brand collaborated with Red Carpet Green Dress, an organization that runs a competition for designers to create dresses and tuxedos using “environmentally and socially responsible fabrics.”

Meanwhile, Stella Artois is also working on a red carpet outfit to promote its partnership with charity Water.org, according to an online statement. Model and presenter Olivia Culpo will wear the Marchesa-designed dress, featuring glass beads made from Stella chalices during E!’s “Countdown to the Red Carpet” show. Stella is also running a three-part “Journey of a Dress” series on E! News’ digital network.

Brands Behind The Scenes

Swarovski was also a key player inside the theater. Its crystals have adorned the stage set for 10 years, and the brand has worked with production designer Derek McLane for the past five. Last year’s set featured more than 110,000 gems.

Backstage, Rolex will be exclusive sponsor of the Oscar’s green room for the second year running. Last year’s featured a “combination of classic style and superlative quality that are the hallmarks of both the Oscars and Rolex,” according to an online statement. However the watchmaker would not comment on the cost of its sponsorship, or how it measured the return on its investment when CNBC.com contacted it via email. Rolex has also set up a mentoring program for emerging artists.

For those not lucky enough to attend the ceremony, Rolex is sponsoring a party in London, where the event will be live streamed. Guests at the city’s Ham Yard hotel will be treated to a midnight feast and espresso martinis.

The TV Ads

Academy Awards broadcaster ABC sold out of advertising slots during the ceremony early on.

Ad spots reportedly cost as much as $2.5 million per 30-second spot, and brands including Adidas, Stella Artois, AT&T, GM, Hyatt, McDonald’s, Samsung, Verizon and Walmart advertised during the ceremony.

Walmart is the only retail sponsor of the Oscars, and it worked with Hollywood directors Antoine Fuqua (“Southpaw”) and Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball”) and “Superbad” creators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to produce one-minute films based on six items on a Walmart receipt: bananas, batteries, paper towels, a scooter, wrapping paper and a video baby monitor. A teaser ad ran prior to the Oscars on its YouTube channel, and the full films were released during the ceremony.

Its sponsorship is part of a multi-year partnership with the Academy, and a way for the brand to be involved in “cultural moments,” according to chief marketing officer Tony Rogers. “This campaign is celebrating creativity and storytelling, something our customers do every day. A Walmart receipt tells a story as diverse as the customers who shop with us,” he said in an emailed statement.

Hyatt, meanwhile, used its Oscars ad to kick off a global campaign, details of which are yet to be released, while Stella Artois will run its “Buy a Lady a Drink” ad with Matt Damon during the broadcast.

The Parties

Elton John has held Oscars’ parties for 25 years, raising funds for his AIDS Foundation. This year’s “Viewing Party” guests will eat dinner prepared by Gordon Ramsay while they watch the awards via telecast. Sponsors include jeweler Bulgari and low-calorie beverage brand Neuro Drinks, while Chopin Vodka and Clase Azul Tequila will provide the hard stuff at the event at West Hollywood Park.

Short circuited mic | Best Picture gaff tarnished Oscar

The Oscars were must-see TV, but not in the way ABC pictured it.

“Moonlight” finally won the Best Picture award – albeit in shocking fashion – after Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway first announced (incorrectly) that the winner was “La La Land.”

The presenters were given a duplicate envelope for another category, according to The Wall Street Journal. Before the surprise ending, Sunday night’s Academy Awards struck a variety of political notes, from host Jimmy Kimmel’s call for unity to remarks touching on topics like border walls and transgender rights. The theme didn’t stop during the breaks. Cadillac and Hyatt were among the brands that used pricey ads to communicate messages of diversity and inclusion.

The New York Times ran an ad trumpeting its credibility amid a sea of fake news. President Donald Trump tweeted his distaste for the ad (surprise, surprise, which was released online prior to the telecast. Some viewers praised the ads for being better than the politically charged ads that appeared during the Super Bowl.

Despite the dropped mic and fumbled Oscar, “La La Land” and “Moonlight” won big. Indeed, the gold luster shone brightly despite some late-night tarnish – and the Silver Screen shimmered across the airwaves, taking an Oscar-sized Golden Mic!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon. 


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