Tag Archive: digital media

  1. The Facebook boycott: what are the implications for brands and for Facebook itself?

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    Facebook has faced significant challenges over the last few years, notably since 2016, which saw the tech giant embroiled in controversies relating to the election of President Trump in the US, and to the UK’s Brexit referendum. 2020 is not proving to be any easier.

    The world’s largest brands boycott the world’s largest social media platform

    The current controversy was sparked when President Trump reacted to the Black Lives Matters demonstrations in a post on Twitter and Facebook, which he ended with the phrase ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’. Twitter reacted by hiding the post behind a warning that it ‘glorified violence’; Facebook, on the other hand, did nothing, with Zuckerberg saying that it was “better to have this discussion out in the open”.

    Shortly after this debate, a consortium of civil rights groups started urging advertisers to reduce or even halt their spending on Facebook throughout July, under the #StopHateForProfit hashtag. The campaign gathered momentum, peaking with Unilever’s announcement last Friday (June 26th) that they would cease all their US advertising on Facebook until the end of the year. Within two hours of the announcement, Mark Zuckerberg released plans to prohibit hate speech ads and to better protect groups such as immigrants on Facebook. He also said that the platform, undoubtedly with one eye on President Trump, would label posts that violate their policies but need to remain published ‘in the public interest’.

    Facebook’s changes weren’t enough

    But Zuckerberg’s pledges weren’t sufficient to stem the flow: over the weekend and into the beginning of this week, more and more brands announced they would be joining the boycott. Facebook is now facing the loss, at least temporarily, of income from 150 brands as large as Verizon, Starbucks, Adidas, Coca-Cola and Honda – as well as Unilever of course. To give an idea of the amount of money this means, Unilever and Verizon spent $850,000 and $504,000 respectively on Facebook in the first three weeks of June alone. The World Federation of Advertisers claims that a third of the world’s biggest brands will, or are likely to, suspend advertising on social media, while an additional 40% are undecided.

    What are the implications for Facebook?

    The loss of income because of the boycott will undoubtedly be a real blow for Facebook – but by no means a fatal one. The majority of its income comes from the longtail: eight million small and medium-sized companies who are priced out of TV and therefore can’t afford not to advertise on Facebook. However, Facebook’s share price was affected by the boycott, down by 10% to $212.50 over the course of the week to June 28th. They have no choice but to closely consider their next steps, particularly ahead of what is sure to be a contentious presidential election in November.

    The Facebook boycott was catalysed by the Black Lives Matter movement, but came amid a context of haphazard policing of the site. Facebook’s stance on hate speech has long been less clear than its position on other controversial content such as nudity; this is partly because it believes that it shouldn’t be responsible for this content, and partly because it’s so much more difficult to automate this work. It has made significant progress in this area: according to its Community Standards Report, in 2017, Facebook identified just 25% of hate speech removed from the platform itself, relying on users to flag the other 75%. By the spring of this year, however, 88% of the hate speech removed was found with its own tools, meaning it could remove or restrict four times as much as it had two years earlier.

    Facebook, and many of the other social media companies, continue to maintain that they are tech platforms, not media platforms, with the limited responsibility for content that that status implies. However, in introducing measures such as those described above, they are arguably de facto admitting that they are publishers and therefore have a duty to ensure that their content abides by local and international laws.

    What is motivating brands to boycott Facebook?

    Facebook has long been a key advertising platform for brands, giving them access to billions of users across the planet. Boycotting the company as part of the #StopHateForProfit campaign is a very sound PR move, and a great example of the world’s largest corporations using their power for good – in this case, holding social media companies to account. Advertising budgets for many brands, especially travel and consumer goods brands, are shrinking as the world faces an almost certain recession following the coronavirus pandemic. They will be seeking to make cuts and the #StopHateForProfit campaign may have presented an opportune moment to start making those cuts whilst simultaneously spurring change. What’s more, media cost deflation for most traditional media types and lower-than-expected inflation for digital channels mean that advertisers may feel they are in a strong position regarding where they place their advertising spend, allowing them to boycott a previously key channel. However, it’s important to remember that, while this move by advertisers may have been partially instigated by the fall-out from Covid-19 crisis, digital is a key channel and has become even more so during the pandemic as billions seek entertainment and information at home – this is a big move. Some brands will also undoubtedly use their break from the platform to evaluate the impact that Facebook activity has on their marketing results. In short, the move by marketers to boycott Facebook is both altruistic and strategic: it will be fascinating to see how it pans out.

    Brands have long been uneasy about advertising on Facebook, thanks to historical brand safety issues and because they are worried about contributing to the consolidation of the Facebook-Google duopoly. No matter what the reasons or motivations for the boycott, perhaps now is the time that Facebook will be forced to implement fundamental change to the platform, including allowing marketers to better control where their ads are placed, and making the algorithms that control content more transparent.

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  2. Will the coronavirus pandemic drive seismic changes to the Upfront market?

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    Coronavirus is a catalyst for changes that have been years in the making. Nowhere is that truer than the advertising industry, which has seen the adoption of new habits which might previously have taken years happen in a matter of weeks.  

    When and how will the Upfronts occur this year?

    One key area of change for the US market is the TV Upfront ecosystem. With production grinding to a halt and much of the country still in lockdown when Upfronts were meant to kick off, the question is, when and how will the Upfronts occur this year? Many key industry players have long pushed for the Upfronts to switch to a calendar year model, rather than the broadcast year of October to September. At the end of May, the ANA Media Advisory Board recommended a sweeping transformation of the system, causing a huge shake up in the media world. But how will it all pan out? 

    TV has transformed dramatically

    Few would argue that TV’s OctobertoSeptember timeframe is outdated. It harks back to a time when TV was mainly appointment viewing, with a set year-round schedule of shows having first runs from October to May, with reruns over the summer. This in turn is rooted in historic business movements: car companies used to unveil new vehicle models in the fall, so TV launched its new season to tie in with thatBut the TV sector has transformed dramatically in recent years: the proliferation of channels and programming means new content is available throughout the year. What’s more, appointment viewing has dissolved with the growth of time-shifted viewing, on-demand, OTT and CTV platforms; Nielsen found that the streaming share of TV is now at 23%, up from 14% compared to the same period a year before, and is expected to continue its growth trajectory. 

    Allowing for a better understanding of budgets

    The suggested shift to a calendar-year model would allow advertisers until Q4 to get a good understanding of their budgets for the following year – especially important this year when all industries have experienced so much disruption. However, many of the large, traditional advertisers are set on signing upfront deals under the traditional broadcast-year model; even if the networks do choose to shift to the calendar year model, it would be easy to put aside the inventory that the big players normally go for, leaving newer advertisers with the ‘leftovers’ in the calendar-year marketplace or the more expensive scatter market. 

    The absence of live sports

    Another compelling reason to push back the Upfronts is the current absence of live sports, and how the ‘withdrawal’ that many viewers and advertisers have felt will affect viewership when they are finally allowed to play again. The fact that games will be played ‘behind closed doors’ means that TV audiences are likely to be through the roof; it will be very difficult to estimate prices for ad spots until networks have a better idea of what those audiences will look like. In that light, shifting the Upfronts to Q4 seems like the right thing to do.  

    A chance to align the Upfronts and Newfronts

    Shifting the Upfronts would present an opportunity to align them with the increasingly important Newfronts – a desirable outcome for both advertisers and media buyers. 72% of media buyers say that Newfronts are more important than ever, and nearly half want the Newfront presentations to merge with the Upfronts. A key factor in this is that 39% favor merging the two to help buyers better understand measurement and research across screens – which could in turn improve performance. There is a finite amount of reach available through linear TV and, in order to expand coverage or just reach the same number of consumers as before, advertisers need to diversify their media mix. 50% of marketers will increase their spend in CTV, OTT and Digital Video, while linear TV is likely to see a decrease. Advertisers will be looking to buy audiences agnostically across a network’s linear and digital assets: a compelling argument for merged Upfronts and Newfronts. 

    The time is now

    All in all, it seems that transforming the Upfronts timeframe to a calendar model makes a lot of sense. It will be uncomfortable for a while, but doing it in a year when the status quo has been disrupted so fundamentally and the landscape has transformed so dramatically anyway seems a good time to do it. Time will inevitably tell. 

    Advertisers should re-evaluate their media mix and KPIs

    Regardless of whether the Upfronts shift to a calendar-year format, or whether they merge with the Newfronts, this is a good time for advertisers to re-evaluate their media mix and KPIs, and to negotiate better deals with vendors.  

    • Buy flexibility: Flexibility has been an increasing priority for advertisers over the last few years, and the fact that so much new programming has been shelved as production is halted means that flexibility is more important than ever. Cognizant of the marketplace, vendors are likely to be more willing to provide more flexibility.  
    • Consider scatter opportunities: Marketplace uncertainty means that Upfront commitments are expected to be much lower than in previous years. This means that there will be more high-quality inventory left over for the scatter market – particularly as there is likely to be more certainty around programming and production as time progresses. 
    • Review your TV/digital mixWith 59% of media buyers expecting to increase their CTV/OTT budgets in the second half of 2020 compared to 2019, wise advertisers will consider where their audiences are, and the best touchpoints. 

    2020 has doubtless been a year of disruption and sleepless nights for advertisers and buyers in the US and worldwide, but with strategic thinking and agility, the transformation to the media landscape can be turned into an opportunity for the savvy advertiser. If you would like to discuss with one of our experts how you can identify and exploit the opportunities, please feel free to contact us on   

    Image: Vasyl Shulga / Shutterstock

  3. What will the ‘new normal’ be for the advertising industry?

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    It won’t be news to you that the coronavirus pandemic has changed how we do marketing in 2020. Consumer behaviour and confidence have been transformed by lockdown restrictions around the world, with digital and TV now the primary media consumed. Many media channels have seen significant changes to pricing inflation forecasts, with digital the only media forecast to see inflation consistently, if at reduced levels compared to forecasts earlier this year. Many other media, particularly the traditional ones, are expected to suffer severe deflation.

    The brands that emerge the most unscathed from this crisis will be the ones that have adapted to the rapidly transforming media landscape – not least because those changes will have lasting repercussions for the advertising industry and marketing as a discipline. Furthermore, many brands will have acquired or honed a new set of skills and mindsets which will help them to succeed in the ‘new normal’.

    More digital than ever

    The principle reason for the resilience of digital media over the last few months is the fundamental change in consumer behaviour. Bored at home and without the diversions of normal everyday life, people have turned to the internet for entertainment. Brands have followed them – but this move makes sense not just because of the increased eyeballs. Digital is also more agile than the traditional media, allowing for swift changes in direction: programmatic means that campaigns can follow impressions. The more traditional media are frequently less flexible, meaning that, at the start of the pandemic at least, many TV and OOH campaigns jarred with the new reality. Brands that previously relied on offline media have had their eyes opened to the opportunities that digital presents.

    Genuine purpose

    The idea of purpose being at the heart of a brand’s marketing strategy isn’t new, but the pandemic has seen a desire for more authentic behaviour from brands. In this time of great hardship for so many, it’s not enough to pretend: brands must be genuinely supportive, whether that’s by offering a service, helping a specific community or simply by providing high quality entertainment. What brands say is less important than how they behave, and they should focus on solutions rather than purely selling. 1 in 3 consumers have punished a brand that has not responded well to the pandemic by persuading others to stop using that brand.

    A new skillset

    The pandemic has forced advertisers and agencies to adapt to a new way of operating, with new skills and mindsets acquired or honed. These skills will serve the entire industry well as we all emerge slowly into a post-coronavirus world, and could be behind an exciting shift.

    The advertising industry hinges on innovation, and never has it been so necessary as now. The coronavirus pandemic has overturned normal ways of working and living, necessitating new ways of reaching and engaging with consumers. AI and chatbots, for example, have been harnessed by many brands who are having to rely on virtual services more than normal – and it appears that consumers are also becoming more comfortable with this way of communicating

    Of course, the ability to innovate and work with the latest technology is born of a willingness to be open to new ideas, and to collaborate closely, despite restrictions on physically working together. Sharp U-turns in strategy and messaging require trust in partners and decisive action. The result is an approach to marketing which centres on testing and learning, rather than caution, and that can only be a good thing in such a fast-changing industry.

    Let the consumer be your guide

    Ultimately, the key to successful marketing has not changed: it is the consumer that should be at the heart of a marketing strategy. Brands and their agencies need to focus on the consumer’s needs and desires as a guiding light, using data to understand exactly what those are. In that way, the post-coronavirus world won’t be very different – but reaching that end point might be.

    Image: Aon Khanisorn / Shutterstock

  4. Why you shouldn’t be afraid of advertising next to coronavirus-related content

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    A dramatic change in media pricing

    In our coronavirus update to our annual Inflation Report, we revealed that an increased supply of inventory, teamed with decreased advertiser spending, will likely lead to dramatic deflation in the cost of traditional media across the world.  Although not as dramatic, digital media are also seeing price drops in EMEA and North America (although they are more buoyant in APAC), as programmatic media adjusts directly to changes in offer and demand. However, there is an additional trend reducing the price drop for digital: the use of programmatic blacklists to block terms associated with coronavirus. A reduced drop in pricing might sound like good news for the digital media industry, but the blacklisting trend is having a dramatic impact on digital publishers.

    Brands are blocking coronavirus-related keywords

    Consumers living in lockdown are turning to digital channels to stay updated on the news and for entertainment – with increased eyeballs, it would seem to be the perfect time for advertisers to build awareness of their brands and their products. But many of them are squeamish about coronavirus-related content, and are turning to keyword blocking as a way of safeguarding their brands from appearing alongside content related to the pandemic – good or bad. Ad verification firm Integral Ad Science estimates that blacklisting during the pandemic has kept more than 1.3 billion ads from appearing next to content featuring the world ‘coronavirus’ – and that doesn’t include other terms such as ‘covid-19’ and ‘pandemic’. Of course, the pandemic has affected every aspect of society – healthcare, of course, but also the economy, work, sport, home life and retail – which means that ‘coronavirus’ appears in almost every news article published. The loss of ad revenue that comes from blocking coronavirus-related keywords is devastating for online publishers, to the extent that the future of many is at risk. This would be a huge blow not just for them, but for the many advertisers for whom appearing alongside high-quality journalism forms an important part of their advertising strategies.

    A nuanced approach will keep your brand safe and allow you to benefit from larger audiences

    A blanket approach to blacklisting is not necessary in this context. The IAB has been working to combat this practice, providing guidance to advertisers around how they can keep their brands safe and avoid embarrassment, whilst still supporting quality journalism and benefiting from the hugely increased and highly engaged audiences. The approach that the IAB recommends is pragmatic, harnessing tools and techniques which allow a multi-faceted, more nuanced approach, for example incorporating semantic and contextual solutions. More sophisticated tools can identify the context of an article: a news story that talks about local heroism or how to juggle working with home schooling will still mention coronavirus, but is a much safer context than a story that talks about the number of deaths in care homes, for example. Indeed, a more nuanced and thought-through approach regarding the selection of ad environments has always been advisable. As with domain lists, it is typically most efficient to focus on defining and selecting desirable environments and partners (whitelists) rather than the undesirable ones (blacklists). Domain and keyword blacklisting should be part of a strategy, rather than a strategy in itself; there is limited value in the longtail of domains in any case.

    Add value for consumers by adapting messaging and creative

    Messaging and creative is also important. A lot of the news right now is bad, but by striking the right tone, ads can add value to the reader’s experience. An appropriate tone could mean being helpful, providing products or services that benefit consumers, not exploiting the situation, offering reassurance or showcasing, with modesty, how you have helped. Global research carried out by by Kantar shows that the vast majority – 92% – of consumers do not expect brands to stop advertising during the pandemic.

    Burger King: getting the balance right

    Burger King is a great example of a brand that is getting the balance right. It rapidly adapted its messaging and creative as the virus spread, focusing on contactless food delivery and pick-up, which means its marketing doesn’t seem out of place in a news cycle that is relentlessly focused on the pandemic and on the lockdown restrictions across the world. As Burger King’s Head of Brand and Communications, Marcelo Pascoa, told The New York Times, ‘It isn’t damaging for the brand to appear within the context of the crisis, because the brand is playing a role’.  Global CMO Fernando Machado, agrees, telling DigiDay, ‘Instead of relying on a block list, I would personally rather have us focus on making sure that whatever we put forward takes into consideration the context and that’s exactly what we did… We’re more relaxed about that because of the content we’re putting forward’. The company’s media strategy also reflects the different situation in each market: with restaurants closed in France, it doesn’t make sense to have TV, so investment has been focused on digital to keep engagement high, while in the US restaurants are still open for drive-through and delivery, so TV is more relevant.

    Larger, more engaged digital audiences

    There is huge value to be gained for brands who are willing to take a more nuanced approach to blacklisting. Digital audiences are much larger and much more engaged than normal, but prices are falling because of decreased demand from industries, such as travel and automotive, struck hardest by the pandemic. Now is a great time for brands who are in a position to spend to grow their share of voice and share of market by making the most of the increased value and appearing alongside quality news content which is attracting huge numbers of eyeballs. Premium placements with trusted news organizations are a great option as they are more likely to appear alongside thoughtful, less alarmist journalism.

    Helping you to successfully navigate a new media landscape

    It’s natural for brands to be more cautious in a global crisis such as this, with so much economic uncertainty making expensive brand safety errors something to be avoided at all costs. But at ECI Media Management we believe that this is an opportunity for those with budget to spend to benefit from increased return on investment. We’ll continue to provide forensic analysis and actionable insights so our clients can successfully navigate a media landscape that has transformed beyond all recognition, and plan their media activity during this crisis and beyond.

    Read and download the Coronavirus Update to our Inflation Report here.

    Discover our top 10 recommendations for advertisers during the coronavirus pandemic here.

    Contact us:

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  5. With Sizmek fading away – a monopoly is on the rise

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    The demand side ad-server is at the core of most advertisers’ online media tech stacks, delivering real time data on the most important metrics, including impressions by date, hour, viewability, fraud, brand safety, reach and frequency, as well as consumer activity such as clicks and conversions.

    In most regions, an advertiser who wants an independently audited and approved ad server catering to most vendors and formats (while also offering tools for handling dynamic creatives and programmatic media buying) only has three options; Google, Sizmek and Adform. There are some smaller companies around but on a global level in developed markets these companies have a purely nominal market share amongst major advertisers (in our experience).

    If an advertiser also wants its platform to be truly independent of the supply side, then only Sizmek and Adform would be left on the short list, despite Google being the most dominant in the industry.

    Now there are strong indications only one independent will remain on that shortlist, as Sizmek has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US. What the outcome will be is uncertain; will Sizmek be entirely closed or parts sold off, or re-invigorated?  For the health of the online media industry, we sincerely hope for the latter option.

    But to be practical, this is yet another blow to smaller, independent suppliers in a rapidly maturing and consolidating industry under ever-increasing pressure for efficiency and value creation from the duopoly (or monopoly, depending on your delineations) of the behemoth walled gardens of Google and Facebook. Google has undeniably had the financial muscle to take user friendliness, simplicity, consistency, reliability, packaging, and customer support to heights that Sizmek has never gotten close to. Google’s virtuous circle of intense focus on user value and growing user bases is difficult for contenders to catch up with.

    Sizmek had several different versions of its ad server running simultaneously probably because transitioning clients was a complicated process – subsequently it tried and failed to charge more for the new versions which hasn’t helped its business model.

    But in all of this, are we being unfair to Google? After all, no other ad server has opened up as much to, and received as many accreditations from, the MRC. Vetting by an independent and globally trusted media measurement organization has concluded that Google’s reporting is trustworthy. Still, its market dominance is troubling, not so much what led to that dominance or the abilities it affords it. Too much of the fate of the online media industry is dependent on the will of the giants.

    If Sizmek really falters, where will its clients turn? Those that made a conscious choice for independence and still want to, could turn to Adform (MRC approved) or one of the new generation of growing platforms who are seeking this accreditation. For others we suspect it’ll be the easy but less inspiring way out.

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