Beauty-focused digital and tech agency Selicious debuts in Singapore

Chanchul Sakhrani (pictured), Vocanic’s former business development director has officially launched Selicious, an integrated digital and tech marketing agency focused on crafting strategies to deliver business results specifically for beauty and skin care brands.

Selicious mainly targets beauty and skincare CPG companies, including brands such as Guardian, Ere Perez, Sukin, GSK Consumer Health and Pascual Labs (Philippines). The agency is currently actively pitching a wide range of global regional and local beauty brands.

In a conversation with Marketing, Sakhrani said the agency looks to offer specialist teams which provide end-to-end social and tech solutions for clients. This is from research, data analytics and strategy, to micro-influencer strategy, creative content and development, and paid social. There will also be a tech team that builds customised augmented reality solutions for beauty, skin care and hair care brands. The agency is also eyeing markets such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

“A large part of our conversation with marketers is on pushing the boundaries of emerging tech and leveraging that to provide immersive customer centric solutions for 2018-2019,” Sakhrani said.

Selicious is also launching a series of events in Singapore with the intention of sharing data-backed insights to raise awareness. It also intends to share structural approaches aligned with tactical moves for beauty and skincare marketers to adopt when of crafting annual and campaign specific strategies. It will also partner key beauty events in Vietnam and Thailand in the second quarter of this year, targeting beauty brands expanding in these markets.

“By designing locally relevant customer centric solutions yet maintaining core brand values, we feel Selicious is a good fit for global and regional brands that are aiming to conquer the growing Southeast Asian beauty enthusiasts market,” she added.

It is also pitching local brands in Singapore as it believes there is need to support the rise of local beauty entrepreneurs in Singapore. The agency’s aim is to craft an anchor marketing tech strategy that will allow the local beauty entrepreneurs to grow regionally and globally.

Snapchat’s new feature is aiming to turn Snap Map into a next-gen newsfeed – TechCrunch

Snapchat may still be getting a lot of heat for their redesign, but the company is continuing to devote resources to build out Snap Map, the map-based feature it introduced last year.

A new feature called Map Explore will let you thumb through Snap Map updates in a more methodical way, so that you can see where your friends are and where they’re traveling. These statuses are generated by your friends’ movements rather than them physically typing out something on their own. Snap Map is importantly an opt-in feature, so if you’re understandably creeped out by the privacy implications, carry on.

The feature, first noted by The Verge, is furthering Snapchat’s idea of a map-based feed in Snap Map, but Map Explore integrates some more conventional UI elements and notifications to call users’ attention to items of interest that might otherwise get lost in the expanse. It’s just a start, but it’s definitely a necessary move. Expecting users to pan around a map is daunting enough for the immediate surrounding area, but when you’re trying to get users to see where your friends are vacationing or doing other cool stuff, it’s a lot more difficult.

The feed can give updates on the jet-setting habits of friends who are going on trips; it also can give location updates when they’re off to the beach or at another noteworthy spot. What’s perhaps most interesting is that Snapchat says they’ll be using the feature to push updates or breaking news updates to users based on areas of the Snap Map that are seeing a lot of traffic tied to news events.

The feature is going to be rolling out globally in the next few weeks.

Artificial intelligence has one big weakness: The humans who create and shape it

Artificial intelligence is quickly being deployed into many areas of business and society, but experts and the companies that build the technology are urging policy-makers to be wary of it’s biggest weakness: the humans that design and shape it.

“The obligation that we all have as the producers and consumers of this technology is to take a step back and actually start to get a deeper understanding of some of the consequences that can happen,” said Norm Judah, chief technology officer for Microsoft Services, the global branch of the Seattle-based tech giant that handles business and consumer software-based offerings such as the Azure cloud platform, AI and Office365.

Judah said in an interview that rapid advances in cloud computing and algorithms have accelerated the technology to the point that policy is needed to address potential ethical conflicts.

“AI systems that learn are organic and continue to learn … but with lack of governance and guidance they can actually start to inherit and build biases,” he said.

Unlike automation, where systems are simply told to do specific repetitive tasks, the nature of AI is to find patterns, learn from experience and make decisions based on a large volume of data.

It is, however, often only as good as its systems and training data, which are designed by humans.

Microsoft Corp. recently self-published a 150-page book called the Future Computed: Artificial Intelligence and its Role in Society which outlines the many advantages of the technology, while also suggesting steps that must be taken to better protect society from its potential misuses.

For example, AI could be used to make employment decisions, but if the training data was based on past information then the system may find itself biased toward white, male candidates in industries historically dominated by that group.

Similarly, an algorithm weighted toward profitability could potentially be used to unfairly select who should get a mortgage, or whether or not someone should get medical treatment.

There are pitfalls for business as well, such as the possibility of inadvertent price fixing in an industry with few major players who are all using the same available data.

“There are always people involved and the role as humans, to a large degree, is going to be judgement and accountability,” Judah said, while adding that the ability to understand information and data will have to be a core competency for people in 10 years because of AI’s fast growth.

“AI deals with probability and inexactness … most people are used to dealing with yes or no, black or white, and many will simply determine 72 per cent is ‘yes’ but forget that there is a 28 per cent possibility of ‘no’.”

Organizations, including those in the public sector, need a manifesto for AI that outlines what they believe and their principles, Judah said. That way when the hard questions are asked and ethics come into question, there are guidelines in place.

That could simply mean how user data is stored and used when it comes to privacy and trust. The discussions can also include policies and discussions on ensuring denial of service based on race or income level doesn’t occur.

“If you actually ask these kind of questions, whatever your answer comes out to be there should be actions that are taken to mitigate that in some way in the design of an overall system,” Judah said.

Judah is visiting Toronto on Thursday for Future Now, an AI-focused event hosted by Microsoft for industry leaders to discuss the technology and how to be responsible when carving out its future.

Michael Karlin, an adviser at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, will also be a speaker at the event. He specializes in the public policy considerations of AI and has been working with the federal government in finding ways to use the technology.

“I’m generally positive on the potential for AI to do good for society. We humans have blind spots, biases and mental shortcuts that we take all of the time and this is a different type of intelligence to give us new insights,” Karlin said, adding that bias in AI’s decisions and recommendations are also a concern for him.

“What keeps me up at night is not knowing what is going on in the background.”

Canada is quickly becoming a hotbed for AI startups, research and investments from major tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and IBM. Meanwhile, the federal government has been testing low-risk AI tools in situations such as helping Canadian Heritage choose which communities would receive micro-grants, Karlin said.

“We are very cognizant that there are some of these issues around data biases that the private sector deals with and we care a lot that the systems we put forward are ethical and responsible,” he said.

“In terms of biases, the first step to solving that is to not deny it exists.”

Artificial intelligence has already had a positive impact for millions of people across various sectors and experts say it is only a matter of time before the technology will be used in most facets of society.

Both Judah and Karlin say the key is to embrace the coming changes and for government and companies to work together on shaping policies to protect everyone.

“There will be societies that just define a set of norms of expected behaviour and capabilities and then companies can decide how they want to operate as part of those norms,” Judah said. “I feel that it is a partnership.”

Joann brings on Current Marketing to craft 75th anniversary campaign

CLEVELAND: Fabric and craft retailer Joann has brought on Current Marketing as its PR AOR as it gets ready to celebrate its 75th anniversary.

The Interpublic Group firm started work on the account last month after an RFP process that began late last year, said Current founder and president Virginia Devlin. There was no incumbent agency on the account.

Current is supporting Joann with traditional PR, brand building, marketing communications, social media, and influencer marketing. The firm is developing comms programs for Joann’s 75th anniversary and working to build brand loyalty among the creator community.

“We are focusing on the brand promise of helping people who love to create crafts find their happy place at Joann stores,” Devlin said.

Current is also introducing consumers to Joann’s new branding, she added. The store changed its name last year from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores.

Joann launched an initiative this week, called Joann+, targeting businesses, organizations, and entrepreneurs. It offers bulk ordering and shipping options, dedicated customer service and sales teams, rebates, and financing plans.

A team of eight is working on the account, led by Alexis Valenti, SVP of client experience, and supported by Current’s office in Chicago. Joann’s headquarters are in Cleveland.

Budget information was not disclosed. A Joann representative was not available for comment.

Devlin noted that there is no outgoing PR AOR.