News Briefs


Marks & Spencer Adopts AI-Powered Visual Compliance Tech


U.K. High Street retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has partnered with SymphonyAI Retail CPG, a SymphonyAI vertical, to leverage computer-vision and AI-based technology on associate handheld devices across more than 500 stores. 

M&S, which sells clothing, beauty, home products and food products, is rolling out SymphonyAI’s Store Intelligence capabilities on devices to help store associates compare images captured of products in stores to store-specific planograms, providing an instant view of compliance on store shelves, according to a media release.

The real-time insights generated by this solution aims to create a connected-store environment, giving store associates prioritized tasks to quickly bring shelves into full planogram compliance.

“As we reshape M&S for growth, we’re investing in technology that will create greater efficiencies and a more connected in-store experience for our customers,” Rob Barnes, chief technology officer, M&S, said in the release. “Through our partnership with SymphonyAI Retail CPG, our colleagues will be able to leverage AI-based technology to help them deliver an exceptional service to our customers.”

SymphonyAI Retail CPG’s uses prescriptive technology and generative AI to highlight problems and recommend action.


Olyns to Sell DOOH Media on Programmatic Platforms


Olyns, a recycling solution and digital-out-of-home retail media network, has joined forces with Screenverse, an ad management company for digital screen owners, to increase programmatic sales. The partnership aims to assist media buyers in finding and purchasing ads on Olyns network of digital screens in highly trafficked designated market areas (DMAs) including the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

Olyns' network of RVM (reverse vending machines) for recyclables, or “Cubes,” feature 55-inch HD video displays often located near retailers’ store entrances. Each Cube can compress thousands of plastic, aluminum and glass containers, and also serves as a retail media network.

Olyns says goal is to put recycling Cubes in places people go every day (e.g., grocery stores, drugstores, shopping malls and gas stations) and leverage location, design, cash rewards and game theory to encourage repeat visits and contribute to a circular economy, per a media release.

Through a partnerinship with Screenverse, Olyns’ inventory will be available on media platforms such as Vistar, Place Exchange, Hivestack and Broadsign Reach. Programmatic sales will occur through Open Direct, Open Exchange and Private Marketplaces.

"We're on a mission to change people's perceptions of recycling," Philip Stanger, co-founder and CEO of Olyns, said in the release. "Our partnership with Screenverse continues our momentum as we build a 21st century recycling network to change consumer recycling habits and enhance the commercial interests and sustainability profile of our brand and location partners."

In 2022, Olyns and Mars Wrigley launched the “Sweet Rewards Challenge” at a handful of Bay-area locations, including Safeway. When consumers first signed into the Olyns app and deposited qualifying candy containers into the Cubes, the video display began spinning three symbols that offered prizes of up to $100.


Madison Reed Launches at Walmart

madison reed

Digital native prestige beauty and hair color brand Madison Reed is continuing to grow its retailer footprint by launching a variety of products at more than 1,500 Walmart stores nationwide and on

In total, Madison Reed is rolling out 28 SKUs, including the brand’s top-selling radiant hair color kit in 14 shades, root perfection in five shades, color reviving gloss in four shades, color therapy mask in four shades, and its professional color tool kit.

This launch comes during a time of growth for Madison Reed, which was supercharged back in 2022 when it raised $33 million in financing. The brand called this move into Walmart a “deliberate decision” to expand its customer base with the mass merchant.

Madison Reed currently operates 87 Hair Color Bars, a DTC business and has an existing retail presence on Amazon as well as at Ulta Beauty, select Ulta at Target and Target locations.

"Madison Reed is deeply rooted in the belief that prestige, salon-quality hair color made without harsh ingredients should be accessible,” Amy Errett, founder and CEO of Madison Reed, said in a media release. “To us, this means empowering our guests to choose where and when they purchase our products and color their hair so they have the freedom to enjoy gorgeous results on their own terms. As a true omnichannel brand, we are dedicated to meeting our guests where they are and the beauty in this model is we are everywhere they need us. Walmart is a key partner in accomplishing this goal."

"Walmart is committed to expanding its assortment to bring in new brands and products that are innovative, high-quality and on-trend," Creighton Kiper, vice president, beauty, Walmart U.S., added. "By collaborating with Madison Reed, we're excited to make prestige hair color more accessible to all."


Advantage Unified Commerce Promotes Simpson

Nichole Simpson

Commerce agency Advantage Unified Commerce (AUC) has named Nichole Simpson, pictured, its new senior vice president of business development and customer leadership. Simpson has worked for AUC since 2022 and has more than 15 years of experience in the adult beverage industry.

“We are extremely excited to have Nichole and her extensive brand-side and retail experience to lead our business development efforts,” Victor Lee, president of AUC, said in a media release. “She has been through commerce challenges as a client and as a buyer for Walmart, which positions her uniquely to understand the needs of our existing and potential clients.”

Simpson started her career at E. & J. Gallo Winery, where she managed categories, sales and brands in various roles before spending nearly three years at Walmart as a senior adult beverage buyer. Following that, she had a year stint as executive vice president for Integrated Beverage Group (IBG) Wines before spending two years in private equity, gaining insights and perspective on the industry’s financial and investment considerations.

She was appointed vice president of client and customer solutions for AUC last year.

“I have been blessed with the opportunity to work alongside some of the best leaders in the business, and I am grateful for their partnership and guidance, which has helped propel me to where I am today,” Simpson said in the release.


Institute Members and Partners Recognized on Inc. 5000 List

Inc. named a number of Path to Purchase Institute members and sponsorship partners in its annual list of fastest-growing private companies in America.

Among the companies recognized in the advertising and marketing industry, the 2023 Inc. 5000 ranked:

  • Moloco, a machine learning and advertising technology company (476).
  • Grocery TV, a digital in-store advertising network (871).
  • Pathformance Technologies, a marketing technology and data integration firm (1,437).
  • Chicory, a commerce media platform specialized in recipe content (1,873).
  • New Engen, a digital marketing agency and parent company of influencer marketing agency Acorn Influence(3,459).
  • The Mars Agency, a commerce marketing company (4,376).

The Inc. 5000, which began in 1982 as the Inc. 500, ranks companies by overall revenue growth over a three-year period. Many household brand names, including Facebook, Chobani, Under Armour, Microsoft and Patagonia, all gained initial national exposure as honorees on the list at some point.

“We are honored to be included as an honoree on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies for the second year in a row,” Elizabeth Johnson, Pathformance CEO, said in a media release. “In the past year, we have grown our team and expanded our services so that we can better serve our clients. I am proud of our team for delivering incredible year-over-year growth results.”

The Inc. 5000 class of 2023, which included 637 newly founded companies and over 3,000 repeat honorees, represents businesses that have driven rapid revenue growth while navigating inflationary pressure, rising costs of capital and hiring challenges. Among this year’s top 500 companies, the average median three-year revenue growth rate ticked up to 2,238%, according to the release. In all, this year’s Inc. 5000 companies have added 1,186,006 jobs to the economy over the past three years, and $358 billion in revenue in 2022, per the list.

The top 500 companies are featured in the September issue of Inc. magazine.

“Running a business has only gotten harder since the end of the pandemic,” Inc. editor-in-chief Scott Omelianuk, said in the release. “To make the Inc. 5000 — with the fast growth that requires — is truly an accomplishment.”


VSBLTY to Acquire Shelf Nine


VSBLTY Groupe Technologies, an AI software provider of security and retail analytics technology, has signed a non-binding letter of intent to acquire digital media and content network Shelf Nine. The companies expect to finalize their definitive agreement within the next 30 days.

The acquisition is primarily a stock deal with the majority of the purchase being incentive stock based on Shelf Nine achieving certain revenue targets focused in the top 20 media markets over the next three years.

Shelf Nine's media network includes 4,500 in-store digital screens across the U.S. (see image). The company provides brands and retailers specifically targeted digital media advertising and other customer communications content delivered at the point of purchase.

VSBLTY's proprietary AI technology aims to enhance brand engagement and measurement through customized ads on in-store digital displays at point of purchase in real time.

"This acquisition is synergistic with VSBLTY's vision of the retail advertising segment," VSBLTY co-founder and CEO Jay Hutton said in a media release. "Shelf Nine's integration with our computer vision analytics technology is a win-win for both companies. Operating as a wholly owned subsidiary of VSBLTY, Shelf Nine and VSBLTY have the opportunity to further leverage each company's core competencies and further penetrate the retail media market estimated to be worth $160 billion by 2027. In addition to both companies benefiting from recurring SaaS fees, they also generate added revenue from content development and media sales."