Chinese Advertising Becomes More Mobile-Driven Than U.S. Counterparts, According to Recent Reports

word cloud - advertising

For a while now, digital advertising experts have predicted the inevitable dominance of mobile advertising in American markets, but it probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that China’s advertising and marketing industries have already made a big leap into the mobile device world.

According to New York Times reporter Alexandra Stevenson, Chinese consumers aren’t just scooping up iPhones and tablets and using them when it’s most convenient — an estimated 527 million people in China already own smartphones, and many of these people are using their phones for everything from paying bills, to talking with business clients, to staying updated on their friends’ social lives.

Whereas a Business Insider report predicts that digital advertising revenue (including web and mobile internet) in the U.S. is likely to surpass TV ad revenue by 2017, businesses in China are already expecting to spend more money on digital advertising than TV advertising throughout 2015.

These numbers aren’t just impressive compared to digital advertising trends in the U.S. — Stevenson also references advertising agency ZenithOptimedia in her article, which found that TV advertising expenditures in China three years ago made up almost half of all advertising costs, and mobile advertising expenditures made up a measly 14% of all advertising costs.

Stevenson notes that Western-based global businesses have struggled a bit to adapt their advertising techniques for Chinese consumers. Although just a few years ago, a catchy slogan could have been translated and used successfully in countries across the world, the most successful campaigns now focus on audience engagement and trending pop culture references — neither of which can be accomplished with just one ad campaign spread across multiple countries.

It may come as a surprise, but plenty of U.S.-based businesses have been struggling to reach their domestic audiences as well. The shift from TV advertising to mobile web advertising hasn’t occurred quite so quickly in the U.S. as it did in China, causing many businesses to stick with traditional ad campaigns (which, predictably, are less successful each year). Smaller details, like search engine optimization and mobile website optimization, often go completely unnoticed by American businesses that target American audiences.

One thing is certain: even if U.S. businesses can’t keep up with the mobile trends of Chinese consumers, the ability (or lack thereof) to adapt advertising techniques in tempo with American consumer trends will likely make or break a successful business in the near future.

More and More Couples Are Opting for Non-Traditional Engagement Rings

Engagement_diamond_ring

They say a diamond is forever, but more and more American couples are going the non-traditional route for their engagement rings. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, modern brides are preferring to focus on custom jewelry that goes a little bit against the grain.

Why? There are a few reasons.

Beka Partin told the Times-Picayune that she didn’t know what she wanted in a ring before she had gotten engaged. Part of the reason that she loves her ring — a custom ring featuring a yellow center diamond surrounded by white diamonds — is that it’s unique to her personality.

“My ring goes with my personality,” Partin said. “I’m not a cookie-cutter person, and I feel like things get replicated a lot. Everyone gets what everyone else has.”

Another reason more couples are opting for custom and unique engagement rings is the prevalence of websites like Pinterest, which help brides-to-be get an idea of what they’re looking for in a ring, which certainly makes things easier for the groom-to-be. It takes an average of three months for a man to find the perfect engagement ring.

Traditionally, engagement rings featured a large center diamond with one baguette on either side, but these days more and more couples prefer that the ring be unique to them and their relationship.

“We are seeing a big increase in customers who want rings that are non-traditional,” says Ruthann Carroll, Marketing Director, Smyth Jewelers. “It makes the process of creating the ring a little longer, but the results are worth the time. Engraving plays a big part in making their ring unique as well by adding names, dates and sentiments. We’re lucky that we employ gemologists and engravers that can bring the customer’s ideas to life for them. And a happy customer is what it’s all about.

Customizing usually includes choosing the metal used for the ring, selecting the stones to beset in it (non-traditional stones like sapphire have become a favorite), and opting for engravings. More than a quarter of couples now choose to customize or personalize their wedding bands and engagement rings.

Custom rings are also a little easier on the wallet, since having control over what materials are used and the size of the stone is affects the overall price of an engagement ring, which averages at a whopping $4,000. But who can put a price on a personalized expression of love?

Utah State University Moab Campus Receives Wildlife Habitat Certification

Summertime garden
The permaculture garden found on Utah State University-Moab’s campus was recently officially certified by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) as a wildlife habitat.

The self-sustaining campus garden is also one of many “bee-inspired gardens” found throughout Moab. These gardens combine pollinator and edible landscaping alongside water conservation.

“Sustainable landscaping includes designing and installing drought resistant and native plants; permeable paver surfaces for patios, driveways, and walkways; and drainage that keeps water on the property; and irrigation that utilizes the existing rain water to support the plant life on the property,” says Matt Johnson, owner of Johnsons Landscaping. “We are seeing more and more homeowners request this type of landscape design and more and more jurisdictions requiring this type of design and installation. It is no longer the wave of the future. It is the present day reality, and it is here to stay.”

By closely imitating nature with integrative permaculture techniques such as native plants, and water harvesting and conservation, the garden provides an environment that is conducive to wildlife use, according to Roslynn Brain, USU assistant professor in sustainable communities. Brain is hopeful that garden’s new NWF certification will raise sustainability awareness in the Moab community.

“Sometimes behaviors like composting, recycling and recreating new wildlife habitat aren’t very visible for the community. What’s great about the NWF certification is that it brings more of a public view to what we’re doing and why it’s important,” Brain said. “It can get the message out that this is a way to create beautiful landscapes that are beneficial to wildlife in addition to humans.”

In a recent news release announcing the certification, The NWF praised the USU’s permaculture garden’s incorporation of perennial edible and pollinator plants, as well as its rainwater harvesting techniques.

David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the NWF, feels it’s important to provide a home for wildlife in developed communities, and that doing so is a reflective of a healthy, active, and balanced ecosystem.

The campus garden was able to link the wildlife habitat across the lesser-developed areas of Moab by increasing the river bank areas of Pack Creek. Aside from the obvious human element, the purpose of the project was to connect both areas in order to create an environment that would encourage life to flourish.

Though deer are often spotted, the garden has encouraged less visible — yet equally important — wildlife such as pollinators and insects to thrive, which is especially significant considering future development of the area threatens their current habitats, according to USU sustainability intern Jeremy Lynch.

“The important thing about certification is creating habitat and food for birds and insects and pollinators like bees, bats, and hummingbirds,” said Lynch. “You draw these less noticeable species to have a place to extend into if something happens near the creek like a new development. So we’re countering that impact through these spaces.”

As the garden continues to grow, Brain expects it to attract even more wildlife, and has already seen an increase since its installation.

Supporters, Critics Sound Off Over California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Taking Effect in 2015

On Jan. 1, 2015, California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act will take effect in an attempt to improve groundwater management and quality throughout the state. But for supporters and opponents of the legislation alike, the new law signals a move into “unknown territory” for California’s agriculture.

This was the phrase given by California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger, whose organization stands opposed to the new law, along with other agricultural groups in the state.

The CFBF held its annual meeting last week in Garden Grove, so members of the organization, state agencies and existing groundwater management districts could discuss the implementation of the law, which will include several stipulations and timelines for water use:

  • High or medium priority groundwater basins need to be managed under the Groundwater Sustainability Plan

  • All plans for the basins have to be developed by local Groundwater Sustainability Agencies, which have to be local, public agencies with the authority to use water or land and must be identified by June 30, 2017

  • Basins that are critically overdrafted must complete their Groundwater Sustainability Plans by Jan. 31, 2020; other high and medium priority basins should have theirs completed by Jan. 31, 2022

  • Within 20 years from the law’s effective date, all Groundwater Sustainability Plans should be implemented and under local management

  • Any basins that don’t meet deadlines for sustainability will face intervention from the state water board, which will prepare a plan for that agency if no adequate plan is in place

CFBF Associate Counsel Jack Rice said at the Annual Meeting that he wants farmers, ranchers, and other local citizens to stay involved in the sustainability process, especially for the formation of the Groundwater Sustainability Agencies.

“Be careful and thoughtful about who that Groundwater Sustainability Agency will be,” Rice said to attendees, or the plans will be developed “by whoever shows up and is well-informed when they show up — and so if we don’t, then it won’t be us.”

Since the group protects farmers’ interests, Rice and others expressed concern over how well the state’s efforts for sustainability would work. And they weren’t the only ones concerned.

In Sacramento this Wednesday, Dec. 17, growers, media members, and agriculture industry professionals attended the Almond Conference. One panel, “Water: Policy and Politics,” was held to help attendees better understand California’s water issues.

One attendee said the new laws resembled “broken promises” by the state. Lester Snow of the California Water Foundation, who spoke at the panel, was supportive of the SGMA, though, calling it a necessary and “fundamental change” for how California would manage its groundwater supply.

With the state’s current 400 or more delineated groundwater basins, Snow said that the SGMA should focus more on letting local authorities manage groundwater as opposed to the state.

However, where supporters and critics of the new law differ, Snow would agree with Rice over public participation.

“Let’s harness this energy and get involved,” Snow said at the panel. “This is not a time to sit on the sidelines and let other people decide for us.”

Google Prepares to Unveil Final Model of Self-driving Car in 2015

Road through the yellow sunflower field

One of the most highly-anticipated events of the new year has been the promised release of Google’s self-driving car. The tech giant recently announced that fully functioning models of the vehicle are ready to hit the roads in California in 2015.

The version of the vehicle being released next year will look quite a bit different than the original prototype introduced to curious consumers, but closely resembles the one displayed in May. The new car is a bit goofy looking, to say the least. With a unique rounded body, no steering wheel and no pedals, some might wonder if Google’s new vehicle is in fact a car at all.

According to RT.com, the company says that it has been busy testing different features of the autonomous car since May, such as the car’s ability to steer, accelerate and brake on its own, as well its various computer sensors. After combining the best features from each prototype, it was finally able to produce the self-driving vehicle that will be introduced in the coming year.

“They won’t have a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal…because they don’t need them. Our software and sensors do all the work,” said Google’s Chris Urmson in reference to the future model of the car.

As promised, the new model has none of these basic features and instead only two buttons with which to control the car.

Lacking the key components of a normal car, autonomous vehicles have had many skeptics questioning both the safety and accuracy of these new cars. Will they be able to avoid pedestrians and other objects in the road? What if they experience a sudden computer glitch?

Skeptics don’t need to worry too much right away since Google’s current model only reaches top speeds of 25 miles per hour, but as other automakers continue to work on creating their own self-driving vehicles, these concerns will only grow.

Google’s cars are supposed to be undergoing final safety inspections throughout the Christmas holiday, and should everything appear to be safe and sound, the cars will hit the streets of California soon after.

How Outdoor Advertising is Becoming Increasingly Connected to Your Mobile Phone

billboard

Vodafone Group has recently signed a deal with outdoor advertising behemoth JCDecaux that will allow the mobile phone carrier to install small cell technology on billboards and street furniture, in order to increase coverage for its customers.

According to a December 11 MobileWorldLive article, the collaboration is just one part of Vodafone’s Project Spring, a £19 billion investment plan intended to boost the British phone company’s network reach, data connectivity speeds and voice quality.

By deploying small cells onto JCDecaux’s billboards and bus stops throughout urban population centers, Vodafone, the third-largest mobile provider in the world, intends to give its customers improved 3G and 4G connections and better indoor and outdoor phone coverage. Vodafone will have access to install these small cells on more than 100,000 JCDecaux properties throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia.

With this partnership, JCDecaux is joining a number of other outdoor advertising companies that have moved toward mobile integration and interactivity with technologies like near-field communication, scannable QR codes and more, according to a Media Daily News article.

Currently, the Vodafone-JCDecaux partnership has no advertising component, Media Daily News reports. However, these small cells could help marketers coordinate their mobile web campaigns with their outdoor marketing campaigns, as they would allow information about consumers’ locations to be tracked more accurately than ever.

Such a move wouldn’t be unprecedented. Last year, Posterscope, an outdoor communications and advertising firm, inked a deal with British mobile network company EE (Everything Everywhere) to access its mobile usage data and customers’ location-based behaviors, according to Media Daily News.

As mobile phone technologies become increasingly integrated with outdoor advertising, it’s clear that the advertisements consumers see every day will become ever more targeted to their locations.

The Latest Trend in Hair Extensions: Bedazzling Your Armpits

arm pit

For decades, it’s been an unspoken rule among women that having visible armpit hair is uncouth and a sign of poor grooming.

However, a growing number of women are taking back their armpit hair for themselves.

According to a December 3 Styleite article, these women are adding hair extensions to their already-grown-out armpit hair, bedazzling them with stick-on sequins and even dyeing their pits bright, candy-colored shades.

Roxie Hunt, a Seattle hairdresser, was among the first proponents of dyeing one’s armpit hair, according to the Washington Post, when she decided to accentuate a co-worker’s blue hair by helping the woman dye her armpit hair the same shade of blue.

The trend really took off after Hunt posted a blog entry detailing how to dye your armpit hair. The blog post has been shared more than 35,000 times, the Washington Post reports.

Since the blog entry went up, hundreds of women have shared photos of their own rainbow-colored pits with Hunt — the “free your pits” movement was in full swing. The movement celebrates a woman’s right to make choices regarding their own bodily appearances, and to embrace body hair as a normal part of being a human.

“I would hope that in the next few years we can normalize the concept and female body hair and change the dialogue about what this country considers naturally beautiful,” Hunt told the Washington Post.

“This is really a fad that someone thought they could start but probably didn’t work,” says Capri Bougere, Owner/Operator, Strictly Styles Salon. “I don’t think this would go over well in the corporate world either. Even still, most women shave their underarms because it’s clean and fresh. Also if the hair extensions under your arm got caught on something I’m sure that would be very painful.”

Reactions among the women who have dyed their armpits and posted photos to their Tumblrs, Instagrams and Twitters to join in on the #freeyourpits movement have been largely positive — a mix between celebratory and rebellious in nature.

However, reactions among the public and the women’s friends and family have been largely negative.

Destiny Moreno, a Seattle high school student, told the Washington Post that her family members were “disgusted” by her dyed armpit hair at first; however, her friends have been largely supportive of her choice. Meanwhile, behind the veil of anonymity, Internet users have left comments on Moreno’s YouTube videos — which currently have more than 170,000 views — that either question her sexuality or call her a hippie.

Cosmetic Surgeons Report More Women Seeking Liposuction on Their Calves

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When it comes to solving perceived flaws and improving self-confidence, liposuction is a relatively common choice for women who want to get rid of excess weight and contour their bodies. Traditionally, the procedure is used on the hips, abdomen, thighs and other areas prone to weight gain and fat deposits. However, cosmetic surgeons are now reporting that women are beginning to use this procedure on a different part of their bodies: their calves.

With winter wardrobe trends like skinny jeans and boots highlighting women’s legs, a growing number of women are choosing to get liposuction on their calves to better fit into their cold weather clothes. Doctors call this choice understandable: unlike other areas of the body, flab on a person’s calves is usually diet-resistant and doesn’t respond as well to exercise. This can cause women to develop a trait colloquially known as a “cankle,” or a thick lower ankle, which can make it difficult to wear tight pants and slim-fitting boots.

While cosmetic surgery might seem like a dramatic response to this common feature, patients and doctors have both stated that calf liposuction is a fast, easy, and highly effective choice. The procedure reportedly involves three to four small incisions, which can last 20 to 30 minutes per calf and yield slimmer, stronger-looking legs.

Typically, calf liposuction can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000. Recovery can take about six weeks for the incisions to heal. However, this procedure is only one of several recent developments in the use of liposuction, which can also be used to remove fat from the face, neck, and other non-traditional areas. If you are interested in contouring your body, talk to a certified cosmetic surgeon near you.

Rising Home Values Should Encourage Modest Remodeling, Experts Say

Interior decoration

Rising real estate values are once again encouraging homeowners to take on significant remodeling projects. But it’s important to carefully research and plan a project in order to get a maximum return on investment, experts are warning.

“Careful planning of your home improvement project from start to finish will enable you to update your home, increase the value of your investment and customize your living space,” Mike Arnett wrote for the Houston Chronicle Dec. 12.

According to a Dec. 18 guide published in the Minuteman News Center, the two questions homeowners must ask when they are thinking about remodeling are what the return on investment will be and whether they have the resources to make such an investment worth it. “You have to be very careful about the renovation or remodeling projects you select to avoid over-stretching your budget,” Jason Alderman cautions.
Smart Remodeling

It’s commonly said that kitchens and bathrooms sell houses. This is true to an extent, but it sometimes leads owners to believe that they’ll get back their whole investment no matter how elaborate their upgrade. The reality is that while returns for these rooms are higher than those for other rooms on average, return on investment has to do with the individual house in a very specific set of market conditions unique to each neighborhood. That means it’s best to work with local professionals to decide what construction will pay off.

Homeowners might be surprised to know that nationally, the project with the highest average return is replacing an entryway door (96.6% recovery).

Nothing is guaranteed, Alderman warns. “Even in a recovering market, it’s good to be wary. For now, renovate for the long haul and your personal enjoyment, not overnight sale.”

However, this doesn’t mean that homeowners should blindly pour money into projects — you don’t want a “$50,000 kitchen upgrade in a small home where a spruce-up for $10,000 or less would do,” Alderman writes.
Holiday Spruce-Up

Even small improvements can make a big difference; some might even be completed before holiday celebrations put an extra spotlight on kitchens, Vicki Payne wrote for the Seattle Times Dec. 12. “At this point, a new kitchen is clearly not a possibility. But you still have time to refresh yours with a good cleanup, new cabinet hardware and possibly some new glass cabinet-door inserts,” she suggests.

The easiest way to update a dated kitchen, she advises, is to remove the fake plants or display items on top of cabinets that don’t reach all the way to the ceiling. “Nothing says out of date like dusty fake ivy draped across the cluttered tops of your cabinets,” she writes.

And even when making small updates like new cabinet pulls, she recommends spending a few dollars more for higher quality.

“Lower quality kitchen knobs and pulls … tend to have less clearance space, sharper edges, thinner metal and a less-than-stable finish,” she explains. “You can often recognize these by their lack of heft. If they are light in weight in your hand, then they probably will perform as lightweights in your kitchen.”

NAIS Data Reveals Most and Least Expensive Regions for Private Education

Schoolgirl rising her hand at geography lesson

According to new data from the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), going to a private high school in the Southeast U.S. isn’t cheap, but taking that private education north a few states and you’ll practically be paying college prices.

According to the NAIS data, private high school in the Southeast U.S. will usually cost around $18,900 a year, which is fairly modest as far as private education goes. Go to Mississippi and North Carolina and you could end up paying as little as $13,500 a year on average. Even private four-year college tuition is relatively inexpensive, an average of $27,400 per year.

But a private high school in New York or New Jersey will usually cost $34,400, and in New England, tuition could end up being $35,100. That’s almost twice the cost of private high school in the south. New England’s four-year colleges are some of the most expensive in the nation too, usually charging about $39,200 a year in tuition.

Even elementary schools are expensive. Parents pay $22,500 on average for private elementary school tuition in New England and $27,300 in the tri-state area. Those numbers don’t even include boarding schools, which charge thousands more for room and board.

In the middle of the price range are the Western states, ranging from California to Alaska. A private elementary school tuition in these areas will cost about $20,000, while private high schools generally cost about $29,000.

So what’s causing these massive price gaps?

According to NAIS, there are several factors that may influence costs, but the primary factor is location. Many of the higher prices correspond with dense population centers. Though this could seem to mean that private education providers can charge more where there’s larger demand, Myra McGovern of NAIS told The Atlantic that it has more to do with covering the cost of living and doing business, since large population centers tend to be more expensive in that regard.

“You’re running a nonprofit, a small business,” McGovern told The Atlantic. “You want to make sure your employees can afford to live in the areas they have to work, particularly because independent schools require a pretty big time commitment from staff.”

McGovern also pointed out that three-fourths of a private school’s budget usually goes toward salaries and benefits for teachers and other staff, which would explain the higher private school costs in expensive locations like New York City. Even with the high tuition costs, teachers in private education often earn less than public school teachers.

Other factors may include regional economy and private school culture in different parts of the country.