Tag Archive: online

  1. Amazon is coming for your ad dollars

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    The online shopping platform has streamlined its advertising offering, making it a real threat for Google and Facebook.

    Turning the duopoly into a triopoly

    When we think of major digital ad platforms, our thoughts naturally turn to the giants, Google and Facebook. There is no doubting that for many years the ‘big two’ have had a duopoly of advertisers’ digital budgets across much of the world. Google’s ad revenue in quarter two of this year was a huge $28 billion, while Facebook’s was a smaller but still very sizeable $13 billion, of which 15% was generated by Instagram. We’ve discussed in our blog before how Facebook seems to be struggling to grow in the face of privacy scandals and user stagnation and, conversely, how Google appears to go from strength to strength.

    However, there is a third player that’s turning the duopoly into a triopoly. A report published by eMarketer in September revealed that Amazon will more than double its US digital ad revenues this year, meaning it will overtake Oath and Microsoft to become the third largest digital advertising platform. This news came as Amazon revealed that it had streamlined its somewhat messy advertising offering into a single brand, Amazon Advertising.

    Amazon’s key advantage is its deep understanding of consumer purchasing habits

    Amazon Advertising’s model is based on the fact that around 49% of product searches in the US start on Amazon – and that offers invaluable insights into the minds of purchasers. While Google can store your implicit shopping intention, Amazon knows your actual purchasing behaviour – what you bought, when you bought it, how many clicks it took you and what other product categories you bought or considered at the same time. These insights can be used to create intelligent retargeting campaigns that showcases products that the consumer is more likely to buy at a specific time. With the drive towards Amazon Prime and the purchase of Whole Foods, those insights can become even more pertinent. Furthermore, ads on Amazon can be optimised within a matter of hours, allowing advertisers to drive a much higher return on their investment.

    Advertisers are moving budgets from Google search into Amazon ads

    It is these razor-sharp insights and real-time optimisation that are the headache for Google and Facebook, particularly the latter. Media agency executives have revealed that some

    advertisers are moving more than half the budget that they would normally invest with Google Search (an estimated 83% of Google’s ad revenues) into Amazon ads, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. The brands in question are almost all from the consumer product goods category, whose products are sold on the Amazon platform, and are attracted by the offering discussed above as well as the seamless shopping experience: there’s no need to set up an account or input card details, as there might be with a Google search ad. Amazon is also unburdened by the fake news problems that have dogged Facebook and, as an apolitical space, it is unlikely to be leveraged as a political tool.

    Will the lure of profit be at the expense of user experience?

    It’s possible, even likely that Amazon will be bewitched by the huge profits that can be won from advertising, at the expense of the user experience. The purchasing behaviour data that Amazon has at its fingertips means that they can develop much better targeting tools than Facebook – and just as good as Google’s. Highly effective branding campaigns therefore become a reality, and while the consumer could find these at best a distraction and at worst disturbing, it will be difficult for Amazon to resist short-term profit for something in which it is unbeatable.

    Google and Facebook are safe for now – but challenging times are ahead

    Google and Facebook aren’t in any immediate danger. Amazon is a distant third in the triopoly: it commands 4.1% of digital ad spend in the US, compared to Facebook’s 20.6% and Google’s 37.1%. And while Google’s Search revenues may be flattening somewhat, some of the drift is going into other Google properties such as YouTube, and not just Amazon’s coffers. Furthermore, brands from very lucrative advertising categories such as automotive and travel don’t currently have much incentive to move any investment to Amazon as their products are not easily sellable on the platform.

    Challenging times are ahead for Google and Facebook, in this and many respects. Amazon is certainly one to watch in this space.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  2. Facebook’s woes show no sign of abating

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    A massive security breach is just the latest chapter in a bad year for the tech giant.

    After a bad year, Facebook needed to regain its users’ trust

    The fourth quarter of 2018 started at the beginning of this week, and there are probably few people who are looking forward to turning their backs on 2018 more than Mark Zuckerberg. This year has been something of an ‘annus horribilis’ for the Facebook CEO. Having perhaps thought that the worst was behind him with Russian interference in the US presidential campaign, the social media platform was hit with accusations that it had allowed Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, to harvest data from up to 87 million Facebook users. Cambridge Analytica then used that data in the campaign that helped elect Donald Trump to the US presidency. This, along with the introduction of GDPR in the European Union, was blamed for Facebook losing daily active users in Europe, flatlining in North America and the resultant slow-down in revenue growth in Q2 of this year. The conclusion? Facebook needed to work on regaining its users’ trust in order to guarantee its future prosperity.

    And then, 50 million user accounts are hacked

    Unfortunately, things sometimes don’t go according to plan. Last week, Facebook discovered its most severe security breach to date, impacting 50 million user accounts. The ‘view as’ tool lets users understand their privacy settings: a bug allowed hackers to use this functionality to take over user accounts, meaning they could see everything in the user’s profile and, potentially, in any third party sites that users logged into with their Facebook accounts, for example Tinder, Airbnb and Spotify. Facebook acted to secure these accounts but the damage has been done: Zuckerberg said ‘I’m glad that we found this and were able to fix the vulnerability, but it is definitely an issue that it happened in the first place.’ What’s more, this is the second serious security breach for Facebook in recent months – in June, a bug made 14 million people’s private posts publicly viewable to anyone.

    A test of the EU’s GDPR

    While it is estimated that only 10% of users affected by this month’s breach were in the European Union, it is the EU that is the biggest headache for Facebook in this saga. GDPR requires companies that store the data of European citizens to declare any security breaches of this nature within 72 hours: Facebook notified the Irish Data Protection Commission which is now assessing whether it needs to carry out an enquiry. If it does, and Facebook is found to have been negligent in its duty of care for customer data, it could face a maximum fine of 4% of its annual global turnover – $1.63 billion. This is the first major test of GDPR, but the EU does have form for implementing large penalties to tech companies. It fined Google $2.8bn in 2017 for violating antitrust rules with its online shopping practices, and earlier this year slapped the tech giant with a $5 billion fine for abusing its power to force smartphone operators to pre-install Google search apps on any phone using the Android operating system.

    A battle on many fronts

    Facebook is under fire from many fronts – federal investigations into its privacy and data-sharing practices, the possibility of increased regulation from the US congress following high-profile hearings on the privacy practices of the big tech companies – and now this latest fiasco.

    Regain trust to keep advertisers

    The priority for Zuckerberg as he looks to 2019 and beyond must be to regain the trust of users around the world. Consumers are increasingly wary of the big tech companies and how they use their data, and if they start to log off in their droves, advertising dollars will follow them.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  3. In the news this week: Comcast wins Sky bid, and Instagram founders resign

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    There’s never a quiet moment in the media industry, and this week was no exception, with two major pieces of news that could have major ramifications for advertisers, albeit in very different ways.

    Comcast gains full control of Sky

    On 22ndSeptember, it was announced that Comcast, the American telecommunications giant that offers digital cable TV, internet and telephony services, had won the bidding for Sky, at a cost of $38.8 billion, beating 21stCentury Fox. Four days later it emerged that Fox would also be ceding its pre-existing 39% ownership to Comcast for $15 billion, giving full control of Sky to Comcast.

    A year of mega-deals

    This is the latest in a series of ‘mega deals’ over the last 12 months, where content distributors and creators are merging in an attempt to confront the existential threat posed by the rapidly growing streaming companies such as Netflix, and the tech giants who are ‘scope creeping’ into TV; in June, AT&T acquired Time Warner for $85 billion, and the following month Disney beat Comcast to buy 21stCentury Fox for $71 billion. In an industry quirk, it was then Comcast who effectively beat Disney, as 21stCentury Fox’s new owners, to the purchase of Sky; Sky was originally going to be part of the deal that sold 21stCentury Fox to Disney.

    A global footprint and more original content for Comcast

    Comcast’s purchase of Sky will be a major boost to their global footprint: Sky has 23 million subscribers in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy, and has launched an over-the-top service in Spain and Switzerland, meaning Comcast will be better equipped to fend off the likes of Netflix and other tech giants. The acquisition also bolsters Comcast’s original content capabilities: Ovum’s chief entertainment analyst, Ed Barton, said ‘they could look at licensing content on a combined basis, which would lower the cost on a per-subscriber basis, if you have something you can show to a European and US audience.’ This merging of content would also mean a larger library to leverage as they roll out into other markets globally.

    Combining technical know-how

    The cultural affinity between Sky and Comcast could also be important for advertisers; it is likely, even inevitable, that they will combine their technical and data assets to forge ahead with an addressable advertising offering which will make TV as targeted as online.

    Instagram founders announce their resignation

    The other big news for the media and tech industries this week was the departure of Instagram’s co-founders from the company, which they announced on Tuesday and which sent Facebook’s share price tumbling. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger founded Instagram in 2010, before selling it two years later to Facebook for $1 billion – an almost unprecedented amount for a two-year-old start-up. It has since become the jewel in Facebook’s crown and its fastest growing revenue generator.

    A snub to Zuckerberg?

    Sysrom and Krieger said that they were leaving the company to explore their ‘curiosity and creativity again’.  That is being seen by many as a veiled snub to Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg, who have made a raft of unpopular changes to Instagram, in many cases in an attempt to boost traffic to the core Facebook platform. Sysrom and Krieger wouldn’t be the only ones to leave following differences with the Facebook CEO – last year, WhatsApp founder Jan Joum quit over privacy disagreements with his bosses, who were keen to monetise the service.

    Monetising the jewel in Facebook’s crown

    As discussed at length in the press and in previous ECI Thinks posts, Facebook has in recent years been battered by criticism of its approach to data privacy, fake news allegations and for allowing foreign interference into national election campaigns – and its user base is showing signs of disengagement as a result. Instagram has largely escaped these problems: it has more than a billion active monthly users and successful updates such as its stories feature, messaging and IGTV have seen off competitors from the likes of Snapchat. In this context, it’s unsurprising that Zuckerberg and his team are so keen to squeeze as many ad dollars as possible out of Instagram; Lynette Luna, a principal analyst at GlobalData, said “Facebook’s strategy has been to allow companies it has purchased to operate independently to garner growth, and then monetise. When they start monetising that’s when there’s a little conflict with the founders.” Systrom and Krieger may well have wanted to retain the independence to run Instagram as they wanted.

    It is not yet known who will replace Systrom and Krieger, but it will be interesting to see if changes to Instagram, particularly to its revenue model and integration with Facebook, accelerate in the wake of their departure

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  4. The effectiveness battle: performance marketing versus brand marketing

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    One of the key themes at DMEXCO earlier this month was the effectiveness of performance marketing versus brand marketing, and the related tension between offline and online marketing.

    A trending topic

    A week or so ago, ECI attended DMEXCO in Cologne, and there was a lot to take in from the 1000 exhibitors on over 100,000sqm of exhibition space! We shared our summary of what we learned straight after it finished, but there is one topic that particularly piqued our interest that we explore in more detail in this article. That topic? The trends and debate around the effectiveness of brand marketing compared to performance marketing and the related tension between offline and online advertising.

    Short-term results versus long-term relationships

    As online media generates a vastly larger amount of data than traditional media, and much more rapidly, it is tempting to find ways to obtain higher click and conversion rates from digital campaigns. Marketers and their bosses have always been under pressure to prove the impact of marketing and, ideally, to cut out the parts of a media plan that aren’t working as hard as others. Performance marketing is a relatively new term for short-term, sales-driving online marketing that often uses layers of data and targeting to ensure that as few impressions as possible are served to people who are unlikely to register a conversion that can be attributed to the campaign in question. Performance marketing therefore contrasts directly with traditional brand marketing, for which TV is still a key channel. Brand marketing techniques are the result of decades of academic research which have concluded that high brand equity – and resulting long-term sales growth – are the result of moderately frequent messaging that resonates thanks to evocative creative. Those fundamental truths have not changed with the invention of online media spaces. However, it might never be possible to prove a direct and independent cause-and-effect relationship between a specific ad impression and a sale. So while brand marketing is great for building consumer relationships, it’s difficult for any responsible marketer to turn down a form of marketing that actually has the word ‘performance’ in it!

    The word on the street at DMEXCO

    At DMEXCO, the advantages of both brand and performance marketing were covered in detail – with tools to support the latter dominating the exhibition floors of the expo, while the advantages of a more sustained brand marketing strategy were extolled on the stages of the conference. There has long been feisty and fascinating debate between marketers about which should be given the lion’s share of a marketer’s budget, especially their online media budget. At the DMEXCO debate entitled ‘How marketers can be enlightened, empowered and enabled in a mobile world’, the MMA’s Chris Babayode explained how conversion attribution modelling accentuates the tension between performance marketing (the champion of last touch attribution) and brand marketing (which looks better when using multiple touch attribution).

    Last touch attribution of conversions for example is a common, simple method. It tends to demonstrate that methods such as search and retargeting generate a large number of conversions, leading many marketers to shift significant budget into these areas. Multiple touch attribution, on the other hand, recognizes that a click on a Google search link is not itself the cause of a conversion, and that various recent campaigns and on- and offline touchpoints should be taken into account. Multiple touch attribution can, for example, reveal what audiences and what sites will generate conversions further down the road.

    Don’t pick sides

    An interesting take on the debate appeared in an article by Mark Ritson in Marketing Week last month. It’s a well thought-through piece which we strongly recommend that any marketer

    reads, but Ritson’s conclusion is that, in fact, marketers shouldn’t pick sides: the best way forward for your business in the long term and the short term is to keep up a traditional mix of more long-term branding and more short-term sales promotion. Ritson quotes Peter Field and Les Binet’s book The Long and Short of It: you want ‘60% of your budget invested in long-term brand building and 40% on more immediate activation’.

    The effect of GDPR

    It is interesting to see how the introduction of GDPR in the European Union has further blurred the line between the trackability of off- and online channels and therefore the distinction between which should be used for performance or brand marketing purposes. Many people have stopped allowing brands to track their data, meaning there is, and will continue to be, a large market for non-trackable impressions that are therefore similar to offline impressions. This shift in supply and demand is a huge, although likely temporary, opportunity. Several speakers at DMEXCO remarked on the drop in programmatic supply after GDPR was rolled out in May this year – despite the fact that media consumption of course didn’t drop.  It’s all about choosing the right media for the right job – a truism that was illustrated perfectly by the exhibitors of some of the world’s most advanced ad tech companies using paper fliers for their marketing at DMEXCO!

    Demonstrating how online can be an effective channel for brand marketing campaigns

    An interesting case study into how effectively online platforms can be used for brand campaigns was highlighted in the YouTube-hosted event ‘How consumer choice has changed the video landscape’ by Johnson & Johnson’s Northern Europe Marketing Director Meghan Davis. She related the story of how J&J briefed a few different creative agencies to create an ad, independently of one another, using the same dental hygiene brief. All three resulting videos were then tested on YouTube and the one that performed the best was run on a wider scale. This brilliant campaign showcases how using quick-effect metrics and the flexibility of online media can improve the impact of a branding campaign across both online and offline; and demonstrates how live data can inform decisions to optimize a campaign and maximize its short- and long-term impact. We believe that this is an online strategy that could be adopted by more marketers looking at how online media can be leveraged for brand campaigns.

    As is so often the case with advertising, the answer to the brand marketing versus performance marketing conundrum is not binary. The best results lie in achieving the right balance: as Ritson says, ‘a great brand plan will deliver short-term results within the year and set up longer-term, enduring advantage from stronger brand equity and improved funnel conversions. A great brand plan manages to hit short-term sales targets while also funding longer-term brand objectives that focus on brand health metrics.’ That means just the right mix of on- and offline channels, working in harmony to drive brand equity and meet sales targets. And to achieve that holy grail, robust strategies and creative messages and visuals that resonate, backed up with insight and measured with the right KPIs, are of critical importance.

    To see how ECI can help you to obtain the perfect balance, contact us at .

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock

  5. ECI’s DMEXCO download

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    ECI was at DMEXCO in Cologne this week: from ethical hackers to in-housing, here’s what we learned.

    Important questions and lots of answers

    ECI joined thousands of fellow ad industry professionals at DMEXCO in the German city of Cologne this week. The digital marketing and advertising trade fair and conference has become a key feature on advertisers’ calendars as they seek to understand and capitalise on the countless opportunities – and avoid the pitfalls – offered by ad tech. There are so many questions on these people’s minds – should I bring my ad tech in house? Who are the right suppliers? How can I best leverage my company’s proprietary data? If the answers to these questions are anywhere, it’s at DMEXCO – although you have to filter out a lot of noise on the way…

    We came away from our two days at DMEXCO with two big takeaways. The first is how cluttered the marketplace is and the (perhaps related) knowledge gaps, particularly among those who should really know better. The second – quite possibly a result of the first, as we’ll discuss later – is the debate around inhousing ad tech versus outsourcing it.

    A cluttered marketplace and knowledge gaps

    DMEXCO is crowded, noisy, hot and very exciting – much like the industry that it showcases! As we found while we were there, the more you learn, the more you realise just how much there is to learn, and the effort required to keep up with the latest developments in online marketing. As is so often the case in the digital world and particularly the digital marketing industry, buzz words and phrases were swirling around – ‘performance marketing’, ‘attribution’, ‘intelligent’, ‘data’, ‘personalisation’ and ‘disruption’. Our old friend ‘email marketing’ is still up there, with general consensus that it remains an important tool. The new phrase on everyone’s lips – one to watch out for – is ‘ethical hacker’, the information security experts who identify vulnerabilities that non-ethical hackers could exploit: critically important in these times of cyber threats and security breaches. We observe, with a wry smile, that DMEXCO is perhaps the only place where the words ‘AI’, ‘machine learning’, ‘algorithm’, ‘performance’ and ‘optimisation’ can be used in the same sentence unironically.

    Despite this lack of irony, there was some healthy scepticism at the conference. Taking to the stage in the event ‘The next mission in marketing’, Philipp Markmann talked about the ‘absurd level of complexity’ in the media market, with far too many services to choose from, meaning that advertisers are overwhelmed by choice. Is this because publishers and vendors are targeting and talking directly with CMOs rather than focusing on agencies, who traditionally identified the best solutions on their clients’ behalf?

    Perhaps this is partly down to surprisingly low levels of knowledge in the industry. A common opening line from exhibitors at DMEXCO was “do you know a bit about ad tech?” We raised this with one of them who explained that a large proportion of attendees had a lower than expected knowledge of ad tech and digital advertising. AppNexus, one of the largest ad tech suppliers which was recently sold for $1.6bn, was mistaken for an app creator by more than one attendee, while one ad tech exhibitor said that they met with a media agency rep who didn’t know the difference between a first and second price auction, let alone the implications of each. There is evidence that the struggles, illustrated here, to keep up with online media markets are leading to irresponsible media buying, ultimately resulting in advertisers taking matters into their own hands by bringing their activity in house.

    In-housing or outsourcing?

    It was no surprise, therefore, that the in-housing of media buying was the subject of many of the events and discussion at DMEXCO. It’s being driven by a feeling that media agencies need to be doing more to earn their clients’ trust, but also by the understanding that marketing and sales in general, and online marketing in particular, should be closely integrated with a brand’s core business – especially when it comes to technology and strategy. Philips’ global head of digital marketing Blake Cahill, speaking at an event entitled ‘Brave the seismic shift – the future of creative digital consultancy’, recommended a mix of in-house and agency, with the latter focusing on media strategy and planning. This consultancy role would allow them to increase their fee – a glimmer of hope for agencies alarmed by clients taking activity in house. Meanwhile, in ‘The next mission in marketing’ event, speakers concluded that, in order to thrive into the future, agencies need to be experts, strategic and proactive thinkers, and reduce their complexity. Interestingly, as we reported last week, WPP’s new CEO, Mark Read, announced this as part of his strategy to future-proof the group.

    Media and creative agencies were notably quiet at DMEXCO – is that because of the problems they are having keeping abreast of developments in the space? Advertisers and publishers, as well as Google and Facebook, were prominent on the stages, while ad tech providers and publishers dominated the exhibition floors.

    But that’s not all

    Of course, discussion at DMEXCO also went far beyond whether advertisers will move their tech stacks in house and what that means for their agency partners and others. To succeed in digital advertising, marketers must ‘focus on the real consumer needs, understanding their behaviour’, as Alexander Ewig said in ‘The next mission in marketing’ talk. Rahmyn Kress, Henkel’s Chief Digital Officer and Debora Koyama, Mondelez’s CMO, also spoke about what success looks like in digital marketing at the ‘Future skills in brand marketing: how to transform into a modern marketing department’ event. They agreed that the FMCG sector is lagging behind when it comes to digital marketing, and that they – and all brands – must focus on the problem they want to solve, rather than the tools at their disposal. Kress and Koyama also concurred that data must be at the very heart of digital marketing; this is indisputable, but there was also a feeling across DMEXCO that advertisers should seek a balance between hard data and a more human gut feeling.

    A final observation has to, of course, come from Google. Their space on the exhibition floor was colourful, eye-catching and designed to look like a garden, complete with a wooden fence around the perimeter. A witty take perhaps on how Google and fellow tech giant Facebook are often called walled gardens for their reluctance to allow third-party tracking? We mentioned this comparison to a Google rep outside the fence, who laughed and then gave a very reasonable explanation for the fence: some advertiser heavy-weights were inside, making important deals with Google. Funny that in our world of AI-optimisation, data driving and agile bidding, business is still done over coffee and sealed with a handshake.

    Thumbnail image: Helene Kruse

  6. New WPP chief hits the ground running

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    WPP has filled its CEO vacancy – and there’s a lot to do.

    A popular choice to fill big shoes

    Since Martin Sorrell’s acrimonious departure from the top job at WPP earlier this year, there has naturally been speculation around who would replace him. Charismatic and combative, and the chief architect of WPP’s growth from a wire and plastics company into the world’s largest advertising company, Sorrell left big shoes to fill.

    WPP announced this week that those shoes have been filled by Mark Read, who had been running the organisation on an interim basis, alongside Andrew Scott, since Sorrell’s departure. Read is a popular choice both within WPP and among shareholders, and was the leading internal candidate for the role. He has a proven track record in running WPP digital agency Wunderman, as well as in digital leadership and as a board member from 2006 to 2015. He is viewed as a steady pair of hands and someone who can hit the ground running – perhaps less charismatic and pugnacious than his predecessor, but that is widely seen as a good thing.

    Read has industry challenges to contend with…

    Read has his work cut out for him. The day after his appointment was announced, WPP suffered a sharp drop in share price, and the company recently announced a somewhat mixed set of results, with a small Q2 global revenue growth of 2.4% but a continued decline in its North American business, which dropped by 2.9%.  WPP is suffering from many of the same problems as its industry peers, including navigating the seismic shifts that the advertising industry is experiencing thanks to rapidly advancing technology. Many clients are looking to take at least some of their marketing activity in-house, forcing agencies and in particular media agencies to re-examine what the future looks like. Those that aren’t yet taking their activity in-house are simultaneously cutting costs and demanding greater transparency in the wake of brand safety scandals and the like. Furthermore, a new generation of competitors is springing up: not just the small boutique and niche agencies, but also in the form of companies such as Accenture and other consultancies, who are establishing capabilities in high margin marketing services such as data and programmatic

    …and in-house problems too

    Read’s challenges aren’t just those faced by the advertising industry at large: WPP has its own set of unique issues to resolve. It is famously huge, with hundreds of agency brands across the world, more than could ever be needed to manage conflict and who indeed often compete with one another. The many P&Ls

    make it unwieldy and, crucially, ‘impenetrable to understand’ for clients, in Read’s words. This is a major cause of concern for some of the group’s key clients such as P&G and Unilever, while Ford – WPP’s biggest client – announced earlier this year a review of its global creative business, currently handled by GTB, the dedicated agency established by WPP for the automotive brand.

    ‘Radical evolution’ is needed

    In response to WPP’s issues and in order to future-proof the organisation, Read has announced a ‘radical evolution’ strategy that will streamline WPP’s structure, consolidating some of the 170,000-strong workforce across 112 countries and 3000 offices. As Read said, “WPP needs to come closer together, not further apart. There are many good things about the business. It is a question of simplifying the offer, refocusing the portfolio and investing more in data and technology alongside creativity.”

    Read has ample experience in the digital side of the WPP business, and his transformation strategy includes turning WPP’s approach to how it works with data and tech on its head. He recognised that, in a world where the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Google and Alibaba own the lion’s share of consumer data, the most realistic way for WPP to monetise its data capabilities is to effectively borrow data from the tech companies and charge clients for data consultancy, rather than execution. GroupM agency MediaCom is already progressing in this area.

    Other elements of Read’s approach include actively helping clients take elements of their marketing in house by consulting on the strategy rather than focusing on the execution; and management of their data investment or research portfolio – it appears likely that Kantar Media could be sold in the not-too-distant future.

    The keys to success: steady hands and an open mind

    Mark Read is stepping to the fore at a time when strong winds are buffeting WPP and the wider advertising industry. However, a combination of steady hands at the helm and a willingness to transform the organisation’s structure and model could well be just what WPP needs to stay on course.

    Thumbnail image: Shutterstock.com

  7. The march of the tech titans on live sport

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    Facebook, Amazon, Google, Twitter and others are leveraging the power of live sports to help them grow.

    People are watching sport online

    The FIFA World Cup earlier this summer and other major sporting events have confirmed what everyone has long suspected: that an increasing number of fans are streaming matches online instead of watching them the more traditional way, on television. This is very good news for tech companies such as Amazon, Twitter, Google and Facebook who are looking to leverage the passion of live sport viewers and its appointment-to-view nature as a way of reaching new users and increasing ROI on existing ones.

    Facebook has been looking for ways to super charge its growth

    Facebook in particular has upped its live sports game, aggressively pursuing the rights to air football and other sports across the world. At the end of June, the social network announced disappointing results for the second quarter: this was in part down to issues surrounding GDPR in Europe and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but also, ironically, due to Facebook’s huge success – it has reached near-saturation point in mature markets in North America and Europe. Its future growth strategy therefore relies on two things: increasing revenue on each existing user in these mature markets, and attracting more users in countries where Facebook is less ubiquitous, particularly Asia and Latin America.

    The answer: live football

    The latter part of the strategy is already well underway, with live sports playing a key role – this was evident when they hired Eurosports CEO Peter Hutton to lead the push. Last week, it was announced that La Liga had signed an exclusive three-year deal with Facebook to live stream all its 380 matches for free to Facebook users in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and the Maldives. The platform has 348 million users across these markets, with 270 million of those in India. India is a key growth market for Facebook: it already has the largest Facebook user base in the world (270 million versus the US’s 210 million) but, with a population of around 1.3 billion and a projected 500 million internet users by the end of this year, there is huge room for growth for Facebook. Increasing smartphone penetration, relatively affordable mobile data and a passionate football fanbase means that the La Liga deal is a smart move from the platform. This move is in addition to Facebook’s plans to roll out its video platform, Watch, into India – it’s currently only available in the US.

    La Liga isn’t Facebook’s only move into live football streaming: just a few days after the La Liga announcement, UEFA confirmed that Facebook had bought the media rights for certain Champions League live matches in Spanish-speaking Latin America for the

    2018-2021 cycle. The matches they have the rights to include the final and Super Cup games, and the number of top international players involved in the tournament means that it is a huge deal across the continent.

    Other tech companies are also snapping up live sports rights

    Facebook’s activities in the live sports space are matched by its competitors’: Amazon in particular has been signing deals to attract more customers to its Prime platform, including a five-year deal for the exclusive broadcast rights of the US Open tennis tournament in the UK, the rights to screen 20 Premier League football games each season, also in the UK, from 2019 to 2022 and streaming rights for Thursday night NFL games in the US. Meanwhile, Twitter works closely with the NBA, partnering with them to help people keep up with the latest news and developments and watch the games, no matter where they are. YouTube has the rights to Major League Soccer games, including the Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles FC, for which it has both streaming and broadcast rights.

    The future of live sport and entertainment looks dramatically different

    There are concerns amongst consumers, particularly in India, that slow broadband speeds will affect their enjoyment of games, and that it will take something away from the camaraderie of watching games as a group on television. This is perhaps mitigated somewhat by the fact that the games will be free to view. From an industry perspective the arrival of tech platforms on the live sports scene is a seismic shift. For advertisers, concern about TV live sports strategies being adversely affected will surely be offset by the huge opportunities presented by delivering targeted ads to passionate sports fans in real-time. For the major players in broadcasting space, it is the fear of the existential threat that this precise situation causes that has led them to rethink and overhaul how they operate; this has led to some of the huge mergers we have seen recently, including the AT&T takeover of Time Warner and Disney’s deal to purchase 21st century Fox’s film and television assets, which was recently approved by shareholders.

    There can be no denying that the media and technology industries are converging at breath-taking speed, and that the landscape will look very different, very soon. Agility and a willingness to innovate and take calculated risks will be the ways to succeed as this transformation takes place.

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  8. Why can Google do no wrong?

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    While fellow tech companies showed signs of wear and tear in second quarter reports, Google is going from strength to strength. Why?

    A sector under scrutiny

    As technology becomes more and more integral to our everyday lives, and we rely on it for everything from keeping in touch with friends and consuming news to running our businesses and monitoring our health, so we have started to question the tech companies more – as consumers and as brands. How they handle data has become of particular concern, leading the European Union to implement the infamous GDPR legislation. Many have come under fire, both in the courts of law and in the court of public opinion: the financial ramifications were evident in Facebook’s second quarter reports, and Snapchat and Twitter suffered too. All three social networks lost users in the wake of GDPR, while the Cambridge Analytica scandal was particularly painful for Facebook.

    Google is thriving

    So where’s Google in all of this? More than 86% of internet searches are carried out on Google and it handles a vast quantity of consumer data, so it would be unsurprising if they too had been affected by negative sentiment and distrust. However, if parent company Alphabet’s second quarter reports are anything to go by, they have not just weathered the storm, they are positively thriving. Thanks to better-than-expected earnings ($11.75 per share versus the $9.59 projected by analysts) and revenue ($32.66 billion versus the $32.17 billion estimate), Alphabet’s share price soared by 5% in after-hours trading, settling at an increase of 3.2%.

    A bleak future for TV?

    Indeed, you could be forgiven for believing that the growth of mobile means a bleak future for linear TV. The young, mobile generation are increasingly tending to stream video content instead of watching traditional linear TV, and often do so on a mobile device. Many tech companies have noted this and are acting upon it: in June, CBS announced that it will be streaming NFL games on mobile devices from this autumn, while, shortly after closing their acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T announced the launch of their new mobile streaming service, Watch TV. These services will no doubt be popular, thanks in part to the smaller ad load for content streamed on a mobile.

    This remarkable success was in spite of the issues surrounding GDPR in the European Union, YouTube’s brand safety scandals, a $5 billion fine from the EU for competition abuses and condemnation following reports that Google will in effect be supporting state sponsorship by launching a mobile search app in China that will allow blacklisted content to be blocked. So how is Google doing it?

    Resilience lies in diversity

    Resilience often lies in diversity and, as we mentioned in our blog about Facebook’s woes a few weeks ago, Alphabet’s revenue is less heavily reliant on advertising

    than its competitors’. While a massive $28 billion of its second quarter revenue was from Google’s advertising business, that wasn’t the only revenue source. Google’s other revenues, such as its cloud services, hardware and app sales grew by 37% to $4.4 billion. By contrast, 98% of Facebook’s Q2 revenue was from advertising, and this will become increasingly difficult to grow as it reaches saturation in many mature markets in North America and Europe. Furthermore, Google has an impressive seven billion-user products – Search, Gmail, Chrome, Maps, YouTube, Google Play Store and Android; YouTube in particular has enjoyed strong growth recently, meaning that Google doesn’t rely solely on Search for ad revenues. That said, it should be noted that YouTube (and other video ads) are still under scrutiny for shortcomings in terms of measurement – a mere just one second of viewing is defined as ‘seen’ – and in terms of the quality of material the ads are shown in. What’s more, brands and agencies still need to work out a creative format for video success: currently, many video ads are simply replicas of TV ads and not optimised for the channel, meaning they are not as efficient as they could be. The search business, by contrast, is much more stable, comparable as it is to the telephone books of yesteryear: if your business isn’t there, it may as well not exist.

    Looking towards the future with ‘Other Bets’

    While Google will without doubt remain a highly profitable business for Alphabet, Alphabet isn’t putting all its eggs in one basket. The new corporate structure has separated the core Google business from the more experimental companies, known collectively as ‘Other Bets’, which collectively brought in $145 million in revenue in quarter 2. These include healthcare projects, venture capital, internet providers, a think tank, driverless cars and an AI research lab, among others. While they represent a small percentage of Alphabet’s huge turnover and are currently loss-making, only one or two need to make it big to make Alphabet’s success even more stratospheric. The favourite for huge potential is Waymo, a self-driving car business which plans to launch a commercial ride-hailing service by the end of this year. In June Morgan Stanley estimated that Waymo could be worth $175 billion in the next few decades.

    The very existence of this ‘Other Bets’ strategy is a demonstration of Alphabet’s commitment to diversifying their offering and their investment in the future – and we believe that it is this approach, this mindset, that will continue to make them an attractive partner for brands and a safe bet for investors for years to come. And that is why they’re rapidly approaching the trillion dollar mark.

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  9. Does mobile pose a threat to TV?

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    Audiences appear to be increasingly consuming video on their mobile devices. What does that mean for TV?

    A few weeks ago, we posted a blog asking if video streaming spelled the end of the TV industry as we know it. We concluded that TV would survive – even thrive – as long as it adapts and innovates. But the medium is not just fighting a battle on one front: mobile is another contender for the throne.

    The mobile decade

    Arguably, nothing has changed the face of media consumption – and therefore advertising – over the last decade as much as mobile. The statistics are familiar: in many developed countries, smartphone penetration is at around 70%, and mobile connection statistics tell a similar story: in 2008, there were 4.02 billion mobile connections globally, while in 2018 this had more than doubled to 8.53 billion – and in 2020 the figure is projected to be 9.02 billion. Human beings are duly becoming more reliant on their phones: in the UK for example, people spend around 24 hours a week on them, on average, and check them every 12 minutes, and this trend is reflected around the world. The mobile phone has replaced the television as the media device that we most miss; in 2007, 52% most missed the TV, while 13% missed their phone the most. 11 years later, the figures were 28% and 46% respectively.

    A bleak future for TV?

    Indeed, you could be forgiven for believing that the growth of mobile means a bleak future for linear TV. The young, mobile generation are increasingly tending to stream video content instead of watching traditional linear TV, and often do so on a mobile device. Many tech companies have noted this and are acting upon it: in June, CBS announced that it will be streaming NFL games on mobile devices from this autumn, while, shortly after closing their acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T announced the launch of their new mobile streaming service, Watch TV. These services will no doubt be popular, thanks in part to the smaller ad load for content streamed on a mobile.

    TV is still the most popular medium for video consumption

    However, Nielsen data released this week suggests that mobile is not denting TV’s success as much as it seems. Of 5.57 hours a day that US adults spent watching video in quarter one of this year, 4.46 of those were on live or time-shifted TV, while only 15 minutes were on a smartphone or tablet. Young people aged 18-34 were the only demographic who spent longer on a tablet or smartphone consuming general content (not just video) than on a TV. What’s more, even those households that don’t have a traditional TV don’t rely on their mobile devices to watch TV programming: 27% use a computer and 30% go elsewhere (to a friend’s or public place), compared to 16% using a mobile device.

    TV versus mobile in the future

    Will this change as the young, mobile generation grow older and take their mobile habits with them, replacing the more stagnant habits of older people? Or will they change their habits as they age to reflect those of their parents? Will increasing concern around mobile addiction and interest in digital detoxes encourage people to put their phones down and switch their attention to television? Time will answer all these questions, but we believe that TV is here to stay. One commentator said that ‘mobile is a wart on the ass of TV’: while we think that mobile is more significant in the video space than that, we can’t imagine that consumers will transform viewing habits so much that they will choose en masse to watch long-form content on a mobile over their television. TV is safe for now but, as always, needs to innovate and adapt to stay ahead of the game.

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  10. What’s Facebook’s problem?

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    For years, Facebook has been the darling of the tech and media worlds. Is the inevitable conclusion of its latest quarterly report that its star is fading?

    The unstoppable rise of Facebook – until now

    For many years, Facebook seemed unstoppable, unbeatable. Since its beginnings in Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room in Harvard University, it has grown into a technology behemoth with 1.47 billion daily active users and 2.23 billion monthly active users. Facebook has very efficiently monetised these users’ data, with advertisers flocking to Facebook and contributing to a company value of over $500 billion, and to Zuckerberg’s personal fortune of around $70 billion. But it is Facebook’s handling of its users’ data that seems to be at the root of its recent reversal in fortune.

    What went wrong?

    Facebook’s sheen started dimming two years ago, when it was first implicated in fake news and political meddling. This didn’t seem to have any impact financially until its second quarter 2018 report last week, which made for painful reading for its investors. The report disclosed that the number of users in Europe dropped by 3 million, ending its nine-year streak of quarter-on-quarter growth in numbers of European users (note that this was for Facebook only, and not its other owned properties such as Instagram, WhatsApp and Oculus), and user growth in North America flattened. It gained just 22 million users worldwide in quarter 2 (largely in Asia), less than half of the quarter 1 figure. Worse, in the eyes of investors, was that it missed revenue forecasts for the quarter, bringing in $13.2 billion versus the $13.4 billion that analysts had projected. All this led to $120 billion being drained from Facebook’s value and a 20% decrease in stock price in after-hours trading on Wall Street, as investors were spooked further by Facebook’s predictions that its revenue growth would continue to decelerate.

    Scandals, data, addiction and saturation

    With the problems that have beset Facebook over the last few years, it was perhaps inevitable that this point would come. The first and perhaps most serious headaches for its leadership have been the twin issues of political interference – notably in the US presidential election and the UK’s Brexit referendum – and fake news. This culminated in the Cambridge Analytica scandal of earlier this year. Facebook was fined $656,000 – the maximum possible – for breaching UK data protection act, but has had to spend much more to offset the negative press. It exacerbated Facebook’s increasingly toxic reputation as a company that interferes in and affects society and politics, and it is likely that many users deleted their accounts in disgust, particularly in the UK where Cambridge Analytica was based.

    Another challenge for Facebook this year has been the implementation of GDPR in the EU, which set guidelines for the collection and processing of the personal information of individuals within the European Union. It is believed that GDPR was directly responsible for the loss of 1 million of Facebook’s monthly active users in the EU, with many possibly choosing to opt out instead of confirming assent to Facebook’s new data collection practices.

    Facebook, as with all media largely consumed via mobile phones, has of course been affected by the growing concern among consumers of the effect that spending a lot of time on smartphones and social media is having on their mental health and concentration. Across the world people are choosing to cut down on the amount of time they spend on their phones.

    Scandals, data protection and switching off aside, it may be that saturation is Facebook’s most serious long-term issue. Of the 3.5 billion internet users globally, 2.5 billion use at least on Facebook app, which means that user growth in many places, especially in mature markets, has naturally stagnated – there simply aren’t many people who don’t use Facebook, at least occasionally. This means that the business model must focus on increasing revenue per user, which Facebook has struggled with – newer initiatives such as Stories (Facebook’s answer to Snapchat) have proven difficult to monetise compared to the Newsfeed. And compared to Google’s parent company Alphabet, Facebook appears to be over-reliant on ad revenue: $13 billion – over 98% of its overall second quarter revenue of $13.2 billion – was from advertising, compared to 86% of Alphabet’s. This is thanks to Alphabet’s more diversified product offering, which includes hardware, the Google Play Store and Cloud services that are non-ad revenue. This discrepancy could be part of the reason that Google appears more resilient than Facebook, despite the fact that its record isn’t squeaky clean either.

    All is not as gloomy as it seems

    Despite the recent doom and gloom around Facebook’s latest financial reporting, the future isn’t too bleak for the social network. While the financial and user growth figures didn’t meet investors’ expectations, they’re still extremely healthy, particularly considering the storms that it has had to weather. The furore around its Q2 report is rooted in the fact that its growth has slowed, rather than in any actual crisis. Facebook has announced that it is investing billions into safety and security initiatives; these will future-proof the company but do eat into profit margins in the shorter term. Perhaps Facebook’s real problem is that it has been the subject of – and purveyor of – too much optimism and exuberance in recent years: it’s now time for it to settle down and accept its responsibilities as one of the world’s major technology companies.

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