Tag Archive: media

  1. The US TV landscape is transforming before our eyes – what does it mean for marketers?

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    ECI Media Management’s US Business Director, Victoria Potter, looks at the changing TV landscape and explores the ramifications.

    This week, eMarketer released an article stating that this year, there will be about a 3% decline in TV ad spend from 2018, and that trend shows no signs of slowing. By 2022, eMarketer is predicting that TV ad spend will drop below 25% of total us ad spending. Of particular interest is that, the typical “political year” bump that has been prevalent in previous years will not be as great in 2020, only accounting for about a 1% increase, followed by steady 1% decreases in the following years. Contributing to this decline is steady growth in cord cutters and ratings decline.

    Nielsen is showing steadily declining ratings over the past few years. In the desirable Prime daypart, C3 ratings have seen a 33% decrease from 2016 to present.  While ratings are declining, networks continue to show increases in pricing – with Nielsen reporting a 7% increase in spend during the same period. And, coming out of the latest Upfront, networks were seeing low-double digit increases, despite lower audiences.

    What does this mean for marketers? Linear TV still provides efficient reach build. However, the days of one-size-fits-all tentpole events are over, and not coming back. It is important to adjust the media mix to account for audience erosion and fragmentation.

    Connected TV increases

    Meanwhile, as we see Linear TV spend decreasing, another eMarketer report out this week predicts Connected TV spend will reach around $7 billion, a 38% increase vs. 2018, and projected spend of over $14 billion by 2023. Connected TV is defined as TVs, smart TVs and TVs hooked up to the internet via a set top box, game console or similar device.

    A reminder: the day is still 24 hours long

    The amount of new content available is staggering: Hollywood Reporter stated in June that 2019 was on track to top the 2018 year-long high of 495 scripted series. To add to the proliferation of streaming services already available (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu), this month sees the launch of Amazon TV Plus and Disney+, the latest, but not last, entries into the streaming world, with PeacockTV (Comcast/NBCU), and WarnerMedia (HBOMax) to follow next year. However, the day is still only 24 hours long, meaning that all the new content is vying for the same attention, creating more fragmentation. It leaves many asking – what will the new TV ecosystem look like? Subscription services are currently ad-free, but there’s a big question on how much of an appetite consumers have to create their own “bundles” with so many standalone options. While cord-cutting was once thought of as a money saver, it is now a trade-off between the channels in the cable bundle vs. a personally curated streaming bundle.

    How do we measure it all?

    With the myriad options available to advertisers and consumers alike, the question becomes – how do I evaluate my reach across platforms? Many companies are proposing their solutions, most recently Roku and Innovid, which launched a combined solution currently being tested by several Innovid and Roku clients.

    It can be difficult to navigate the changing video landscape – to determine the right balance between scale and targetability. Here is some advice from ECI Media Management’s experts:

    • Establish clear Reach and Frequency goals, and put in place a standard for measurement
    • Be clear about target(s) and ensure your agency is prioritizing goals when putting together plans; keep fragmentation in mind and make sure your media mix is broad enough to adequately reach the audience, building reach and not just frequency.
    • Ensure you account for transparency within your agency agreement, as more media dollars are allocated to principal agreements.
      • Most of these principal-based buying situations are done as a service to clients, offering flexibility. However, a lack of transparency requires a great deal of trust, as clients do not fully know where, or even when, their ads are running.

    Image: Shutterstock

  2. Is Snap really a threat to the Google-Facebook duopoly?

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    A few weeks ago we wrote about how Amazon poses a serious threat to Google’s search dominance. But Amazon is just one of a few companies snapping at the heels of the Google-Facebook duopoly that has for so long dominated digital advertising. Third quarter results, released in the last few weeks, revealed that the ad businesses of Amazon, Pinterest and Snap all grew more rapidly than that of the industry giants in Q3. Amazon is the biggest disruptor in terms of size, but it’s Snap – owners of Snapchat – that is enjoying the fastest growth.

    Snap’s growth is remarkable

    The latest round of quarterly results were not a resounding success for Facebook or Google. While Facebook’s results were better than expected, it recorded its third consecutive quarter of sub-30% expansion; meanwhile, Google’s growth is languishing below 20%, at 17.1%.

    Things were much brighter for Snap: its ad business grew 50% year on year in Q3, and its stock price surged by over 175% this year as advertisers increasingly look to the platform to provide a return on their investment. Why?

    What is behind Snap’s success?

    Snap’s CEO, Evan Spiegel, has credited two major changes at the company for their success. The first is an initially poorly received redesign which Spiegel says boosted time spent watching premium content by 40%, thereby increasing ad revenue; the second is their adoption of a self-serve ad platform over the last two years, which has made it easier for brands to buy ads on the platform and expanded Snap’s ability to sell ads.

    Those ads are increasingly popular as Snap is good at leveraging its hard-to-reach audience and building innovative, intuitive ad products that increase ROI for advertisers. Its core userbase is the often hard-to-engage youth audience: 90% of 13-24 year-olds in the US say that they use Snapchat, and they’re highly engaged – they open the app on average 20 times a day, and dwell time is around 25-30 minutes, significantly longer than that of other social networks. All this gives brands plentiful opportunities to reach their audiences at the right time, with the right message – and that amounts to increased ad revenue for Snap.

    Snap’s range of ad products come in a range of different formats, including Snap ads which allow users to swipe up to visit the advertiser’s website or app and can be optimised against reach, clicks and sales; and commercials, a more premium offering which are unskippable and appear within premium content. They feel more like a TV buy for advertisers and have high viewability and completion rates. In October, Snap launched a new product to target direct-response advertisers, for whom Instagram – their historical home – is starting to feel a bit crowded. Its new dynamic ads allow advertisers to create ads linked directly to their product catalogues and can be served to users based on their interests, using a variety of templates created for mobile. This new product brings Snap’s offering more in line with that of its bigger competitors, and is one of a range of features that has helped to make Snapchat more shoppable, engaging and effective for marketers.

    Snap’s focus on the development of effective advertising formats is commendable, and will be key to its future success; indeed, it will be key to the success of the digital advertising industry as a whole. Traditional channels continue to have the upper hand when it comes to the price-effect ratio, and digital players must aim to emulate their success.

    AR is key to Snap’s future success

    While Snap’s star is certainly in the ascendant, there is still plenty of work to be done: it is still unprofitable and it only has 210 million daily active users – mediocre compared to the 500 million who use Instagram’s Stories product every day. CEO Spiegel stated on the quarterly earnings call last month that augmented reality (AR) will be crucial for the company’s future: each daily active user interacts with a Snap AR product, such as lenses and filters, an average of 30 times per day. This month the company is launching Spectacles 3, a redesigned version of its augmented reality sunglasses, and in the next seven to 10 years plans to integrate other AR wearables into its range. Snap has historically led the way in AR and has had viral success with some of its AR filters, but Instagram and Facebook are moving into the space, so Snap will need to move quickly to retain its first mover advantage and remain the dominant AR platform.

    So, is Snap a serious threat to Google and Facebook?

    Snap’s product development and innovation are turning it into a serious contender for advertisers’ ad dollars, and its growth rate means that the digital advertising giants – Google, Facebook and increasingly Amazon – need to pay attention, particularly as Snap has such high access to the millennial and Generation Z audience. It does however have a lot of work to do if it is to grow exponentially and become a real threat.

    Image: Shutterstock

  3. How to win at in-housing

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    In-housing has been a hot topic of discussion for the media industry for the last few years. Many major brands such as Vodafone, AB InBev and Clorox have taken elements of their business in-house. This is, on the face of it, a threat to the agency groups, some of whom have responded by creating in-housing consultancies to help their clients take their business in house. What are the advantages of in-housing, and what considerations should advertisers bear in mind?

     

    Why in-housing?

    Over the last two or three years, in-housing has become increasingly common: many of the world’s biggest advertisers now see it as a necessity. In 2018, the ANA found that 78% of its members had in-house agencies, up from 58% in 2013. In-housing takes many different forms, and there is no agreed definition – from producing creative for social media to taking all media buying activity in-house, it covers a full gamut of specialities and expertise.

      

    So why is it happening? For many brands, the answer is straightforward: they want more control. According to Digiday research, that was the reason that 38% of marketers gave for taking activity in house. It gives them more control over their operations, their data, regulatory issues such as GDPR, measurement, performance and, ultimately, their spend.  Data is of particular relevance in the in-housing debate: with an increased amount of consumer data available, the potential for improved messaging increases hugely, and it is attractive for brands to have more visibility over how it is used. This is of course especially important for regulatory purposes – with GDPR and now CCPA, controlling what data is used and how messaging shows up is more important than ever. In an age of fake news and privacy and brand safety concerns, control of data is key to a better understanding of the consumer journey and ensuring regulatory adherence.  

    Another important factor in the in-housing conversation is, of course, the matter of trust. Since the release of the ANA’s K2 report in 2016 which shone a light on agency transparency, trust between advertisers and their agencies has decreased sharply, particularly in more complex and ‘shady’ areas such as programmatic. The reaction for many has been to take at least some of their activity in-house, thereby taking back control and, in the long run, driving cost efficiencies. However, if the main reason for bringing activity in-house is transparency, a cheaper and more straightforward option could be to bring the adtech stack in-house and allow the media agency to work with it.

    What does in-housing mean for the client-agency relationship?

    One of the reasons that in-housing has remained such a big topic of conversation has been the impact that it has had on agencies, particularly the big six holding companies who are losing major pieces of business. WPP, for example, suffered the loss of Walmart’s digital advertising business when the retailer decided to take it in-house, while Vodafone, AB InBev, Clorox, Unilever and American Express have all removed some parts of their activity from their agencies. This has caused some real soul-searching for agencies: it was one of new WPP CEO Mark Read’s key priorities when he took the job in 2018, and several have established in-housing consultancies, such as Dentsu Aegis agency Isobar’s new ‘Accelerate’ offering. 

    In reality, there will always be a place for agencies – indeed, many argue that it is helping to improve the health of the client-agency relationship. Agencies hold a huge amount of expertise and clout which is invaluable, particularly when it comes to media buying: indeed, Vodafone tried to bring media buying in-house but in April announced a $500m global review for its media planning and buying, suggesting that it hadn’t gone as well as envisaged. 

    Even for those pieces of business which have been successfully in-housed, successful partnerships are possible and even common. AB InBev, for example, took smaller creative activity, such as social media, in-house, freeing up time for their creative agency partner to focus on the bigger jobs such as the Super Bowl. 

    What should advertisers looking to take their business in-house look out for?

    In-housing, if done with the right care and attention, can be a great success and drive significant cost efficiencies. However, there are some red flags to watch out for. It can lead a siloed approach that doesn’t enjoy the benefit of a holistic market or strategy view, particularly if communications channels with the agency running other parts of the business aren’t sufficiently open and free-flowing. It can also be very expensive and complex: setting up adtech stacks for programmatic in-housing, for example, and finding and retaining the right talent. Talent retention can be a particular challenge as, without due care, teams can become isolated from the latest innovation and inspiration from other categories. Brands looking at in-housing must interrogate their motives and objective and ensure that they are certain about what they are trying to achieve. They must also stay committed to learning and development in order to ensure teams stay inspired and up to date on the latest developments.

    ECI Media Management can help our clients navigate the in-housing process and ensure that they are fully aware of the implications and important considerations. Please feel free to  to discuss how we can support you, and look at our top 10 considerations for taking your media buying in-house.

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  4. What Ad/Fin’s closure signifies for transparency in digital advertising

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    It emerged a couple of weeks ago that ad tech company Ad/Fin has folded. It launched in 2012 as a tool to benchmark pricing data in programmatic media and made a name for itself by partnering with the ANA to shine a light on non-transparent practices in the digital advertising industry. It struggled to generate a sustainable business model, reliant as it was on the data of the very agencies whom it was trying to expose, but was ultimately a victim of its own success: the advertising industry has of late started to clean itself up, rendering Ad/Fin’s offering obsolete.

    Transparency has been a major issue in digital advertising

    Since the emergence of the programmatic market, worth $60 billion in the US alone, market dynamics have often been awkward. Advertisers, agencies and ad tech providers have been vociferous in blaming one another for the issues – such as poor brand safety, fraud and wastage – that arise from a lack of transparency. No one really knew exactly how much money was being spent with each vendor, or how much was given to the publisher. The market was becoming increasingly complex, and it was felt that agencies were taking advantage of this complexity to exploit vendors. The result was a chronic lack of trust, largely of agencies.

    What did Ad/Fin achieve?

    Ad/Fin was established to try to address these issues. Its business model was based on auditing the breakdown of advertisers’ programmatic spend to provide an independent, unbiased view of the costs and performance of the market, with advertisers and other partners such as PwC and Accenture purchasing and reselling the technology.

    In 2016 the ANA, in partnership with K2, released its seminal report on media transparency, creating waves across the industry with its claims that non-transparent practices were pervasive. The report led to a huge feeling of distrust in the industry, leading to a concerted effort by advertisers to take greater control of their digital advertising budgets. Some larger ones such as Vodafone and P&G announced that they would be taking their digital media buying in house so that they could negotiate their own contracts with DSPs.

    Following the release of the K2 report, Ad/Fin teamed up with the ANA in May 2017 to create a study that exposed hidden costs in programmatic buying. The study was the result of analysis of over 16bn impressions from winning DSP bid transaction logs, which amplified conversations about the need to take control of contracts. However, the vast majority – 95% – of the transactions processed for the study were not bought by agency trading desks, despite the fact that they oversaw the majority of programmatic spend at the time. They were the least transparent entities and refused to participate, which they could do because it was they, not the advertisers on whose behalf they were acting, who owned the transaction data.

    What is the state of transparency in digital advertising now?

    There has been significant progress since the release of the K2 report in 2016, and Ad/Fin’s subsequent study with the ANA the following year. Standards have advanced: the ANA updated its guidelines in 2018 so that they were better aligned with the IAB’s definition of programmatic advertising, while six major ad exchanges signed a letter from the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG), vowing to make programmatic buying and selling more efficient, transparent and fair. The industry itself has also started to come together to clean up transparency and safety, insisting on more third-party accreditation and transparent contracts, and have started shifting budgets to more reputable publishers, using contractual obligations to ensure that ads appear as promised. There is also more emphasis on verified, viewable delivery in brand-safe environments – many prominent brands have been burned by brand safety scandals. Marketers accept that they need to take some of the responsibility in the creation of more transparency – prominently, P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Marc Prichard laid out his plan in a speech in April for a new supply chain with transparency at its heart.

    What still needs to be done to drive more transparency?

    All these measures fail to address the issue at the heart of the transparency challenge – that too often, programmatic campaigns simply don’t provide value, or can’t prove that they do. As digital media becomes more dominant, a lack of transparency enables productivity issues: ad practices that annoy consumers or violate their data and privacy rights and thereby contribute to ad blocking, and ads appearing alongside unacceptable content. In a survey of 5,000 marketers across 16 markets, 71% agreed that over the last five years it had become more difficult to measure the effectiveness of their digital media investments. In this AdWeek article, Nicholas Bidon points out that ‘marketers need to leave behind the poor proxies for success most often used to measure programmatic campaigns’, as they were designed to understand whether an ad had been delivered, and not whether the ad had delivered against success criteria. It is the effectiveness and the outcomes that really matter for the client – such as sales or purchase intent – that need to be measured. That will by default lead to transparency. We need to focus on the results rather than the technology, the data and even the reach.

    What’s next?

    There is a lot still to be done to make the digital advertising industry more transparent and to restore trust between the players. Marketers have an important role to play by having a clear sight of the right metrics and working with agencies to put the right motivating factors in place: a focus on rock-bottom pricing is not entirely without blame.

    At ECI Media Management we are pioneers in programmatic audit, and can help advertisers to increase the transparency and effectiveness of their programmatic activity. We work analyse and scrutinise our clients’ programmatic activity in great detail to generate concreate action points, which have had proven effects on efficiency, effectiveness and quality. Please do to discover how we could help you drive transparency in your digital advertising.

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  5. Should Google be worried about Amazon?

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    It’s no secret that Amazon is no longer ‘just’ the world’s biggest retailer. Its ‘other’ business – digital advertising – is having a seismic impact on the advertising industry, so much so that is now a threat to the traditional digital advertising duopoly, Facebook and Google. This week, eMarketer released a report claiming that Amazon is ‘chipping away’ at the very core of Google’s business – search.

    Amazon is increasing its share of US digital ad spend

    Amazon’s star has been on the ascendant for a significant period of time, but 2019 has truly been a stellar year. Revenue for its ad business climbed by 37% to $3 billion in the second quarter of 2019, while back in February eMarketer predicted that Amazon would claim 8.8% of US digital adspend this year, up from 6.8% in 2018. This is impressive in itself, but even more so when you consider that Google’s share was predicted to drop to 37.2%, down from 38.2% in 2018, while Facebook would only increase theirs by 0.3%.

    Google’s near-monopoly of search is set to decrease

    This was the backdrop for the latest eMarketer report about Amazon’s search share. The US search market is set to grow by 17% this year, to a huge $55.17 billion. While Google still of course owns the lion’s share of the market, with 73.1% ($40.3bn), eMarketer anticipates that that will fall to 70.5% by 2021. Amazon, on the other hand, is expected to have grown its share of the market to 12.9% by the end of 2019, and to 15.9% in 2021. Microsoft has now been relegated to third place in the search market, with a 6.5% share.

    What’s behind Amazon’s success in the space?

    So what is behind Amazon’s increasing prominence in digital advertising? The key reason is its understanding of consumers’ purchasing behaviours. It has a treasure trove of data about buying habits which is of course very valuable for advertisers, as they can reach customers right at the time that they intend to make a purchase. Amazon’s data even allows advertisers to understand when a buyer might want to repurchase a product, so that they can be targeted at the right time, with less wastage.

    Consumers’ research behaviour is changing as well: they now increasingly use Amazon as a research resource rather than just a purchasing platform, and use broader search terms such as ‘gift’ or ‘makeup’, offering ample opportunities for brands to reach them. And it’s not just brands that sell directly on Amazon that can benefit; advertisers that sell products and services that can’t be bought on Amazon, such as cars or insurance, can use the retailer’s extensive customer data to understand who might be interested in buying their products. Finally, Amazon has very high conversion rates, particularly for products sold on their platform: 20-30%, versus 1-10% on Facebook, for example, where ads are seen as more intrusive and trust is an issue.

    Harnessing its advantages

    Amazon has wasted no time in harnessing these advantages over its competitors. Last year, it simplified the branding for its advertising products, creating Amazon Advertising. This includes sponsored ads which work in a similar way to Google search, allowing advertisers to bid for search terms, with the highest bidders more likely to appear in ad listings. Display ads are available programmatically for both Amazon and third-party sites using the Amazon DSP, which allows advertisers to see easily how well their media spend translates into sales.

    In 2018, Amazon acquired Sizmek’s adserving and dynamic creative units; the dynamic creative allows for more tailored ads which incorporate data such as location or shopper behaviour, while the ad server side helps advertisers to place ads and measure effectiveness, helping Amazon to better compete with Google. Overall, these acquisitions have helped Amazon improve the functionality that had been lacking in comparison to its two major competitors in the digital advertising space.

    An unexpected benefit for both Google and Amazon

    While Google will no doubt be alarmed that Amazon is encroaching on its search dominance, there is something of a silver lining. Both organisations are being examined by regulators at the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission – Google because of its search stranglehold and Amazon for using its e-commerce marketplace to promote its own brands over those of rivals. While these investigations continue, it won’t hurt either of them to have increased perception of competition.

    An increasingly important player

    As Amazon increases its functionality and collects and organises evermore customer data, it will become an increasingly important player in the digital advertising sector and undoubtedly an ever more worthy recipient of valuable ad dollars. Advertisers – even those that don’t sell via the platform itself – should seriously consider Amazon’s advertising solutions for three reasons: lower pricing thanks to increased competition in the search space; remarkable conversion rates; and Amazon’s wealth of rich data from its sales funnel.

    Image: Shutterstock

  6. Is Netflix ready for the launch of rival platforms?

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    Make or break for Netflix

    A couple of weeks ago, Bank of America Merrill Lynch told clients that Netflix’s Q3 figures, out later today, would be ‘make or break’ for the streaming platform, and would indicate whether it would be able to effectively compete with new rival platforms from the likes of Disney and Apple. It’s been a difficult few months for Netflix – its share value has plummeted by nearly 30% in the last three months, and subscriber levels fell short of the company’s own guidance in Q2. Whether those subscriber levels have recovered will be of particular interest in the Q3 results – and investors will be looking for signals that they can retain that recovery as competitors launch their streaming platforms.

    Who are the competition?

    So what does the competition look like for Netflix? Apple and Disney are launching their streaming services next month: Apple TV+ on 1st November, and Disney Plus on 12th November in the US, Canada and the Netherlands, with other markets in the months afterwards. This makes strategic sense, particularly for Disney, as it can piggyback on the marketing for its big-budget holiday-season films, and Netflix has shown over the last few years that it gets its biggest viewership in the last couple of months of the year. WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s streaming service will be launching in early 2020. So Netflix’s battle to keep its subscribers loyal – and grow its customer base – starts now. Convergence Research Group, which tracks the streaming industry, predicts that its 47% share of the streaming market in 2018 will decrease to 34% by 2022, as reported in an LA Times article.

    Original content will be increasingly important

    This decrease will in part be down to the fact that Netflix will be losing some of its most watched shows to its competitors: ‘Friends’, for example, will go to WarnerMedia’s streaming service in early 2020, while ‘The Office’ will be shown by NBCUniversal from January 2021. With adults spending only around 30% of the time they spend with Netflix watching Netflix Original content, it looks like this could have an effect on Netflix’s subscriber numbers.

    However, Bank of America Merrill Lynch told investors that he believes Netflix will have time to ramp up production of original content while its rivals work on building their subscriber bases. This will means that Netflix will need to continue its huge investment into original content – this year it is estimated to have spent around $16 billion dollars, and Pivotal Research Group estimates that this will have climbed to a giant $35 billion by 2025. This needs to be funded from somewhere and Netflix’s capacity to raise subscription fees – its fallback option to date – will be stymied by increased competition. Netflix could also consider increasing its debt, introducing ads, investing in innovation (such as the ‘Bandersnatch’ episode of ‘Black Mirror’, where viewers could choose what the main character did next), or harnessing the vast wealth of data they have on what people like to watch, and where.

    A core part of the streaming bundle?

    Netflix’s choppy year has made investors a little nervous, which is why so much rests on the figures that it is releasing today. But many think that things will be ok. Mark Mahaney, lead internet analyst at RBC Capital Markets, for example, told CNBC that most people will want to use more than one streaming service, and it’s likely that that will mean Netflix plus another – Netflix will be a core part of the bundle. He believes that Netflix has the scale advantage and better brand name, content, global distribution and partnerships than its competitors, which bodes well for the future. Time will tell!

    What does this mean for advertisers?

    TV is still a crucial medium for advertisers, but with viewers having more and more ad-free options from the new streaming platforms, it will become increasingly difficult to reach their hearts and minds. What’s more, they are likely to be less forgiving of higher ad loads on the ad-funded free-to-view channels. This means that the most effective media channels will likely become more expensive, and the wise ones may well have fewer, higher impact ad spots for which advertisers will pay a premium. Furthermore, the growth of addressable TV will allow for more targeted and therefore more engaging ads, and lower levels of rejection by the consumer.

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  7. What happened at WeWork?

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    WeWork has been lauded by many as one of the huge success stories of the 21st century. Before they came along, renting office space was run-of-the-mill, boring. You paid money, you got a room and installed some desks, some chairs, a printer. You moved in. That was it.

    Not just an office space

    WeWork, however, wants you to believe that you aren’t simply paying for space. Of course, you get a beautiful new office, but you are also paying to be a part of something new, part of a community of like-minded people. Indeed, part of WeWork’s mission is that it is “a place you join as an individual, ‘me’, but where you become part of a greater ‘we’.” WeWork positions itself amongst those big disruptors of this century – Netflix, Uber, even Facebook, and an IPO was a natural next step for this real estate/tech behemoth.

    A failed IPO

    Dreaming of a huge $47 billion valuation, the cash-hungry We Company, WeWork’s parent company, aimed to sell enough shares to raise $4 billion and had, according to the New York Times, ‘lined up a $6 billion bank loan that was contingent on the IPO’.  By the end of September, though, those heady days were over. WeWork discovered that investors were sceptical about their huge valuation, large amounts of debt and corporate governance issues. They pulled the IPO, Founder-CEO Adam Neumann was forced to step down, are looking at redundancies and are reconsidering their expansion strategy into China.

    Positioned as a tech firm

    So how did WeWork value itself so high? What was it doing right? A lot of it came down to brilliant brand-building and marketing. As touched on earlier in this piece and explored by Mark Ritson in this article, WeWork didn’t position itself as a real estate or office rental firm. It wanted to be seen as a tech firm, or, as Ritson says, there was a “vague, socially-constructed idea that this is another big disruptive tech firm with another massive IPO.” 21st century tech firms have of course seen phenomenal success over the past two decades, and many have an aura of community and purpose to humanise the vast profit they turn over. WeWork, with its mission to ‘Create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living” embodies that tech ethos, and as such pushes its community app. This wasn’t just a forward-thinking branding decision: if it worked, it was a sage financial decision, with tech companies raking in revenues far higher than those of more traditional businesses.

    Shaky foundations

    From the outside, this approach seemed to be working for WeWork: in the first half of 2019, for example, it earned $1.5 billion in revenue. However, the gloss loses its sheen a little when you discover that in the same period it lost almost $900m. And the sheen disappears completely in the context of information that it was looking to raise between $3 billion and $4 billion in debt to tide it over.

    A future in debt

    And that’s the key to this story: the losses and associated debt. While investors don’t necessarily insist that start-ups are profitable before they go public, it helps to be able to show a path to profitability. We Company’s revenue and operating losses are moving in tandem, rather than showing an increasing gap. They may find some cold comfort in the fact that they aren’t alone in this plight: ‘fellow’ disruptors Netflix and Uber, to name just two, show no sign of becoming profitable in the near or even mid-future. Netflix must continue its huge investment ($15 billion this year) into original content in order to survive stiff forthcoming competition in the shape of Disney, Amazon and Apple. To finance that, Netflix is estimated to have a debt of around $12 billion – and with a net income of just a twelfth of that, it seems unlikely that it will ever be able to pay that off.

    What does this all mean?

    Is WeWork’s failed IPO the first sign of a difficult, uncertain future for the big disruptive organisations of the last 10 years? Perhaps the tech disruptors of the future will bring the focus back to business strategy and creating revenue streams. Brand positioning and purpose are of course crucial to a business’ success, but they must be founded in a robust business and financial strategy to guarantee success.

    Disclosure: ECI Media Management’s UK office is a tenant of WeWork in London

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  8. The growth of Sky’s AdSmart: the saviour of TV?

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    TV’s struggle to retain its dominance

    TV has long reigned supreme in the advertising world, but in recent years it has started struggling to hold onto its throne. Consumers are turning away from live TV – Britons, for example, watch five hours of video content a day, but only three of those are live TV. They are being lured away by the on-demand streaming services such as Netflix and its competitors. Part of the allure of the streaming services is their lack of ads: tolerance for irrelevant, interruptive ads has decreased dramatically, which TV has historically been unable to respond to due to its lack of addressability. This is one of the factors that has made Google and Facebook so successful – their ad services offer greater targeting and buying flexibility, an attractive proposition for brands seeking to reach their audiences with highly engaging, relevant advertising.

    Is addressability the answer?

    But TV is fighting back. In 2014, Sky launched AdSmart, its addressable TV advertising service. It tailors ad breaks based on the viewer’s profile and location: this enables advertisers to better target their campaigns and improves the effectiveness of TV advertising. Furthermore, due to an ad only playing when the specified audience is watching, it ensures advertisers’ money is spent efficiently. This is a crucial modernisation of the TV format which means that it can better compete with its digital rivals. Critically, it can be used across both linear and on-demand TV, and to target niche or region-specific audiences – particularly relevant for smaller or regional brands.

    Clear benefits

    Sky’s ‘AdSmart: Five Years and Forward’ study, published in August, found that addressable TV can increase ad engagement by 35% and cut channel switching by 48%; what’s more, viewers of addressable TV ads are 10% more likely to spontaneously recall an ad compared to linear TV advertising. This has clear benefits for advertisers – especially as TV doesn’t suffer from the brand safety issues that have plagued the likes of YouTube over the years. By mid-September 2019, AdSmart has delivered 17,000 campaigns for more than 1,800 advertisers.

    Increasing reach

    Three years after it launched AdSmart in 2014, Sky began its pan-European roll-out into Germany, Italy and Austria. Significantly, in 2019 two important UK players and competitors of Sky’s – Virgin Media and Channel 4 – confirmed that they would be joining the AdSmart platform. Virgin Media went live on the platform in early July; Sky Media will act as ad sales agents while Virgin Media will use both AdSmart and tech developed by its parent company Liberty Global. Virgin Media will also be trialling AdSmart on Virgin Media One in Ireland towards the end of 2019. This month, Sky announced that Channel 4 would be joining the platform in a deal that includes Channel 4’s own channels as well as broadcasters for which it handles advertising sales, including UKTV and BT Sport.

    AdSmart’s roll-out across Europe as well as its partnerships with key players in the UK gives international advertisers the ability to target and reach consumers in key western advertising markets, and the uptake of addressable TV will surely only grow over time.

    ECI’s view: great for clients new to TV, but not ideal for those looking for mass reach

    AdSmart is a great tool for clients who are new to TV advertising or who have a niche/hyper-targeted audience or regional demographics they want to deliver a message to at potentially a fraction of the cost of traditional TV campaigns.  It allows TV to have an addressable function, driving impactful messages to the correct consumer 100% of the time. It is a union of the brand building ability of TV with the precise targeting capabilities of digital.

    However, this is not a silver bullet. The extra cost of addressable ads often outweighs the targeting gain, meaning that every contact in the target group is more expensive – and you’re not benefitting from the overspill of traditional TV activity, reaching unintended consumers, as AdSmart treats the TV screen as a solely digital platform. Additionally, AdSmart activity is not independently reported through industry bodies such as Barb: reported outputs come from NBCU’s CFlight, an internal tool developed by NBCU. Finally, AdSmart ads cannot be dropped into live programming – spots during major events such as live sports must be purchased in the traditional way.

    Addressable TV is an exciting development and gives TV a more level playing field when competing with digital, but it’s not right for all brands all the time, particularly those who seek mass reach.

    AdSmart is just one of the media developments impacting on inflation that we examine in our Inflation Report Update, released this week. You can read it here.

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