Digiday https://digiday.com Digital Content, Digital Advertising, Digital Marketing Fri, 18 Mar 2022 14:46:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9 https://i0.wp.com/digiday.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/mstile-310x310-1.png?fit=32%2C32&zoom=2&quality=100&strip=all&ssl=1 Digiday https://digiday.com 32 32 What marketers need to know about the next frontier in consumer engagement https://digiday.com/sponsored/what-marketers-need-to-know-about-the-next-frontier-in-consumer-engagement/ Fri, 18 Mar 2022 14:42:18 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=442222 Talbott Roche, CEO and president, Blackhawk Network A marketer’s holy grail is deeply understanding the end-users of their company’s products and services. Marketers study demographics ad nauseam and create personas for customers to understand their needs and preferences better.  And when the pandemic hit, everyone’s lives were fundamentally transformed. Customer playbooks changed instantly because, in […]

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Talbott Roche, CEO and president, Blackhawk Network

A marketer’s holy grail is deeply understanding the end-users of their company’s products and services. Marketers study demographics ad nauseam and create personas for customers to understand their needs and preferences better. 

And when the pandemic hit, everyone’s lives were fundamentally transformed. Customer playbooks changed instantly because, in one way or another, everyone had to shift their behaviors. This left marketers with the challenge of quickly working to identify new behaviors and simultaneously identifying methods of reaching consumers through new touchpoints.

A recent study by Accenture defines half of today’s consumers as “reimagined.” Meaning 50% of this heterogeneous group of humans — not segmented by age, gender, location or otherwise — say that the pandemic caused them to rethink their purpose and re-evaluate what’s important to them in life. They have made stark changes to their routines and perceptions since the start of the pandemic. 

The study emphasizes that consumers have never been more open to embracing new experiences and forming new habits. They place ease, convenience and personalization among the top purchasing motivators for the products, services and companies they patronize. For marketers, this means there is an untapped customer base where brand loyalty is up for grabs in a pivotal way. 

This changing consumer profile, coupled with increased technology adoption and digital innovation spurred by the pandemic, has flipped traditional marketing methods on their heads. So, what’s the next significant shift for brands and retailers to capture and meet the needs of these “reimagined” stakeholders? The following sections shed light on how the next frontier in customer engagement is unfolding.

The rise in digital payments has been a bright spot for retailers embracing them

Now more than ever, consumers expect the same experiences at both in-store and online environments, including seamless payment experiences. In fact, 73% of consumers surveyed by global payments provider, Blackhawk Network, say they want to be able to pay in-store the same way they do online. 

Shoppers continue to look for easier ways to tap into mobile wallets, digital gift cards, rewards and loyalty points. As a result, they are increasingly seeking retailers that have embraced digital and contactless payments. Blackhawk research indicates these digital payment methods impact how shoppers feel about a particular brand — and how likely they are to frequent that retailer. 

Surveyed shoppers report they will shop more frequently (69%) and spend more (54%) at retailers where they can use digital payments. There is also evidence of permanent adoption of the shopping habits consumers tried or shifted to, including QR codes and contactless payments.

For marketers, that means looking at frictionless omnichannel payments as another tool in their toolkit to capture an audience looking to brands and retailers to make their lives easier.

Stored value, such as branded payments, drives action

It’s clear that old-school, paper coupons are no longer an assured approach to engaging consumers and driving action. Marketers are turning to alternatives such as digitizing coupons, rewards and gift cards as more impactful promotional tools. By embedding these branded payments directly into the customer experience, marketers encourage an action and drive the next offer based on a user’s personal preferences. 

For example, Starbucks is digitizing loyalty points to drive its customers in-store. Petco rewards its shoppers with a discount when they choose BOPIS or curbside pick-up. Target rewards its loyal customers with a gift card incentive when purchasing specific products. And these are just a few of the ways marketers are thinking about using payments, loyalty points, coupons, rewards and gift cards to better drive brand engagement, loyalty and growth among shoppers. 

The next frontier of consumer engagement lies in adopting seamless, digital payment experiences in-store and not only online. The brands that have adopted these experiences in-store have seen shoppers continue to use such methods and become loyal to brands providing such offerings. By making it easier for consumers to pay digitally and redeem loyalty points and the like in-store, brands see more engagement. 

The pandemic has driven a new level of consumer connection and engagement with brands that have been able to innovate and adapt quickly. The future of retail and consumer experiences will rely heavily on those same efforts to innovate and adapt in ways that make the retail experience feel more personalized, seamless and efficient. Heading into the future, the retail solutions that will thrive will be those that meaningfully improve customer engagement and support ease of use. And, businesses should be delivering personalized offers and payment experiences to help with exactly that.

Sponsored By: Blackhawk

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Why — and how — the IAB is developing new measurement standards for in-game ads https://digiday.com/marketing/why-and-how-the-iab-is-developing-new-measurement-standards-for-in-game-ads/ Fri, 18 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=442179 The task force was inspired by the MRC’s decision to release a September 2021 interim guidance memo discussing shortcomings in the IAB’s 2009 standards.

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To address recent growth in the in-game advertising sector, the Interactive Advertising Bureau is developing new in-game advertising measurement standards to replace its current guidelines. The project is a joint effort between the IAB, the IAB Tech Lab and the Media Research Center, with considerable input from members of IAB UK and a task force of prominent in-game ad companies, brands and agencies.

Video games and advertising technology were in a vastly different stage of development in 2009, when the IAB released its current set of in-game ad measurement standards. “The 2009 one is completely outdated,” said Lewis Sherlock, svp of programmatic at in-game ad firm Bidstack, one of the 36 companies participating in the IAB’s in-game advertising task force. “It’s basically a complete bolt-on of the regular display standards that doesn’t really take into consideration the 3D environments where the ads are placed.”

I wouldn’t say there are bad actors, but I would say that there needs to be this measurement so that the entire industry can add one more layer of trust.
Cary Tilds, chief strategy and operations officer of participating in-game ad company Frameplay and co-chair of the IAB’s games and esports committee

The IAB had been keeping an eye on the explosion of gaming activity sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the current in-game initiative was inspired by the MRC’s decision to release a September 2021 interim guidance memo discussing shortcomings in the IAB’s 2009 standards. “It says you can’t use the current viewability measurements for these particular ads,” said Cary Tilds, chief strategy and operations officer of participating in-game ad company Frameplay and co-chair of the IAB’s games and esports committee. “Some of them you can — the ads that are basically around or next to the game, that use current browser-based ad-serving techniques, sure — but when it comes to ads that are intrinsically inside of the game, it basically says the current viewability standards don’t apply.”

“Honestly, the impetus for this was just sheer necessity — it was just so outdated,” said Zoë Soon, vp of the IAB’s Experience Center. “The viewability standard required a 10-second cumulative viewability for it to count as a delivered ad, which is way more than is necessary if you look for the actual viewability standards that we have for other media.”

In addition to its shortcomings with issues of viewability in three-dimensional environments, the 2009 standards were released during the early days of programmatic advertising, largely failing to take into account the impact of programmatic on the in-game space. These days, ads are often delivered programmatically into video games. “There’s been a lot of movement, technology-wise,” Sherlock said.

The project kicked off in earnest on February 24, when the IAB hosted the first meeting of its task force, which includes representatives of companies such as Google, Dentsu, Microsoft Advertising, Xaxis, and ABC Networks, in addition to the aforementioned participants. The IAB plans to wrap up the initial draft of its updated standards in March 2022, with a second draft to follow in April. The first public-facing draft will be released for comment at the end of May, and the IAB anticipates it will publish the final version at some point in June. “We normally run working groups where you have to be a member to join — but this is actually a task force because we want industry buy-in,” Soon said. “We wanted full representation from the whole ecosystem: the buy-and-sell side, brands and agencies, verification partners like Moat.”

Once the revised standards are finalized in June, all companies certified by the old standard will have to go through an updated MRC certification process. “None of the current viewability partners are actually certified to measure the viewability of ads in these virtual environments — they’re just not,” Tilds said. “So I wouldn’t say there are bad actors, but I would say that there needs to be this measurement so that the entire industry can add one more layer of trust.”

Indeed, the development of new standards is more than a mere navel-gazing exercise for the in-game advertising firms involved. They believe the standardization of in-game ad measurement is crucial to keep advertisers comfortable operating in this relatively new space. As in-game ads transition from a novelty to a core element of companies’ marketing strategy, brands are increasingly scrutinizing the results of in-game ad campaigns, particularly to measure their impact on brand recall and recognition. “Innovation is at the forefront of PepsiCo’s culture, and measurement is an extremely important pillar to that,” said Kate Brady, PepsiCo’s global head of media innovation and partnerships. “When we evaluate new channels such as gaming, we’re working with cutting-edge partners like Frameplay who can help us maximize return on innovation through accurate measurement such as viewability, IVT and invaluable attention metrics.”

For now, the participants in the IAB’s in-game advertising task force are meeting weekly to hammer out the first draft of updated standards by the end of March. Their efforts are likely to result in an in-game advertising industry more appealing and accessible to the brands and marketers sitting on the fence. 

“It’s a long-overdue moment,” Soon said.

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‘The absolute perfect person for it’: Naz Aletaha’s path to the top of League of Legends esports https://digiday.com/marketing/the-absolute-perfect-person-for-it-naz-aletahas-path-to-the-top-of-league-of-legends-esports/ Fri, 18 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441690 Aletaha's success in growing Riot’s esports partnerships was integral in making League of Legends esports into a viable business, rather than a candy-colored marketing expense.

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Naz Aletaha was there for the birth of the modern esports industry. After joining Riot Games in 2012, she secured key brand partnerships that helped the game developer transform League of Legends into a worldwide phenomenon. Now, as Riot’s global head of League of Legends esports, Aletaha sits atop a vibrant competitive gaming scene.

Naz Aletaha’s resume at-a-glance

●Riot Games: global head of League of Legends Esports, among other roles (2012 to present) ●Activision: retail marketing manager, Call of Duty & Blizzard Entertainment, among other roles (2007 to 2012) ●Sony Pictures Entertainment: financial analyst (2006 to 2007)

It’s Aletaha’s job to shepherd the many moving parts that make up the competitive League of Legends ecosystem, ensuring that the League brand is both thematically consistent and positioned for long-term success. This includes staying on top of the broader forces at work within the esports industry. As an executive producer on Riot Games’ upcoming Paramount+ series, Aletaha is well-positioned to help lead the next fundamental transformation in esports — the ongoing convergence between the worlds of esports and entertainment.

The daughter of Iranian immigrants, Aletaha was born and raised in Newport Beach, California. Growing up, her parents had ideas for her career trajectory: “My Persian parents were always telling me, ‘you should be a doctor, a lawyer or an engineer,’” Aletaha recalled. “Those were the three career paths.”

But it was with her family, too, where she found her passion and initially developed an appreciation for video games, waiting patiently for her turn as her older cousins played Super Mario Bros. on the family Nintendo Entertainment System.

Ultimately, Aletaha attended the University of Southern California, where she majored in business with a concentration in corporate finance. But her hobbies were never too far from her mind. She quickly earned the reputation as a gamer among her college friends, finding time between her studies to sneak into their dorm and play on their used NES.

After graduating in 2006, Aletaha accepted a financial analyst position at Sony Pictures Entertainment. But she soon realized that working in finance wasn’t for her, pivoting to an analyst role at Activision Blizzard. She spent the next four years climbing the ladder in the game developer’s retail marketing division until an offer from then-Riot Games head of marketing Chris Enock — a former Activision co-worker — piqued her interest.

I was looking for this unicorn.
Chris Enock, a former co-worker of Aletaha, who poached her for a job at Riot Games.

Going to Riot

The pitch was a daunting one: it was 2012 and, compared to Activision Blizzard, Riot Games was much smaller, with about 500 employees. “It was a very unknown startup,” said Enock, now the head of global publishing for software company Improbable.

But Enock — feeling as if Aletaha was “the absolute perfect person” — put together a pitch. He needed someone with retail marketing knowledge, who understood the world of video games and could build their own relationships.

“I was looking for this unicorn,” Enock said, later adding, “Riot still being an unknown startup, we couldn’t pull in someone with 20 years experience, who was landing millions and millions of dollars and getting compensated accordingly. So it was kind of a crazy kind of thing that I needed, and I was super fortunate to have Naz pick up the phone.”

Retail marketing experience wasn’t the only new perspective Aletaha brought to Riot in 2012. At the time, she was one of the few women of color occupying a high-ranking role at the company. Even now, the front offices and C-suites of major game developers and esports organizations are overwhelmingly white and male. In the face of the struggles that women have faced in recent years at companies such as Riot and Activision Blizzard, Aletaha has increasingly found herself in the position of being a role model for other game-industry employees of marginalized identities. “Riot will constantly put her on panels and do interviews, and that is actually an additional amount of effort that she has to give,” said Whalen Rozelle, a vp and head of esports operations at Riot who has worked with Aletaha for nearly a decade. “It is an opportunity, but at the same time, it is a burden that she has to bear.”

Entering the Summoner’s Rift

Aletaha joined Riot as a senior manager of B2B payments, quickly scoring early wins, including the placement of physical League of Legends gift cards on store shelves across the country. The move gave the company the ability to offer gamers (read: youngsters) a way to buy in-game currency without a credit card.

“It’s a key way for us to monetize the game, and she definitely had a hand in that,” Rozelle said.

Aletaha didn’t play League of Legends — or even hear of the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre — until shortly before she interviewed at Riot. But once she downloaded it, she was hooked. “Everyone at Riot would play together; once it hit 6 p.m., people would form teams,” Aletaha said. “You would walk around the halls, and all you would hear was click-click-click on the mouse, and you wanted to be part of it.”

When Riot started hosting Riot Rumbles — intramural League of Legends tournaments awarding customized letterman jackets to the winners — Aletaha’s competitive spirit went into overdrive. She formed her own team, “Hans and Bronze,” and crushed the competition in her division. She continues to treasure her jackets to this day.

As Aletaha’s passion for League of Legends grew, so did her interest in the nascent esports scene cropping up around it. Part of her B2B work at Riot included securing strategic partnerships, such as a co-branded American Express card that debuted at the 2013 League of Legends World Championship at Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena, then known as Staples Center.

“That was my first taste of working on esports — that World Finals, going to Staples Center,” Aletaha said. “That’s my home arena, that’s where I grew up going to Lakers games. I think seeing it was the moment where I was like, ‘wow, I need to do this full-time.’” Within two weeks of the World Finals wrapping that year, Aletaha moved to Riot’s esports team, becoming head of global esports partnerships and business development. 

An incipient industry

During her early days in Riot’s esports partnerships division, Aletaha did “work that was done by 50 people at Activision,” Enock said. At the time, larger developers such as Activision Blizzard had dedicated partnership teams for large clients such as Walmart and Best Buy, in addition to specific teams for sales and retail marketing; at Riot, Naz handled those roles and many more.

“She was taking on a tremendous amount,” Enock acknowledges now. These days, Riot still maintains a centralized business development team, but with smaller teams dedicated to different aspects of the company, such as esports, in addition to regional specialists.

In her partnerships work, Aletaha prioritized long-term growth over short-term profits and was picky about the sponsors she signed, making sure to partner with brands that would fit — and help grow — Riot’s gamer audience. The mentality was that if she signed a global advertiser, it would bring some legitimacy to the operation. “If we do this right, other brands will follow,” Aletaha recalled her line of thinking.

The deal took two years, but the team signed MasterCard. (Riot Games declined to provide specific details about the value of the MasterCard partnership.) Brands such as Mercedes Benz, Louis Vuitton and State Farm quickly followed as new brand partners for Riot.

She understands the sport, she’s been on our team for years, she understands fans and she understands how to lead in a global environment.
Whalen Rozelle, vp and head of esports operations at Riot

Aletaha’s success in growing Riot’s esports partnerships was integral in making League of Legends esports into a viable business, rather than a marketing expense. These victories made her stand out among competitors for her next role. In October 2021, she began in her position as global head of League of Legends esports at Riot Games. John Needham, now Riot’s president of esports, had previously held the role before his promotion to global head of esports in early 2020; as Aletaha’s influence at the company increased, it became apparent that she was the right person to take the reins.

In her new position, Aletaha’s primary role is to be a connector — to use her detailed knowledge of the League of Legends product to drive collaboration across the range of regional leagues that compose the game’s competitive scene. On a day-to-day basis, that means liaising with the leaders of sub-leagues such as North America’s League of Legends Championship Series and China’s League of Legends Pro League to ensure that their original content and brand partnerships fit into Riot’s broader vision for competitive gaming, in addition to helping other stakeholders in the company’s esports division take a long view with partnerships and initiatives that will support League of Legends’ future trajectory as an esport.

“She understands the sport, she’s been on our team for years, she understands fans and she understands how to lead in a global environment, which for us is one of the most challenging things,” Rozelle said, adding, “We have to navigate so many different cultures and so many different challenges and unique situations, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re emphasizing that so much with the pick of Naz.”

Leveling the playing field

While Aletaha is hyper-aware of the good she can do as a leader and role model for women of color in esports, she tries not to let it dictate her work at Riot. “I just want to be the best I can be; I want to bring my best to work,” she said. “As you have your successes, and you take on more, you almost forget sometimes — like, ‘oh, yes, I am a woman of color in a leadership role.'”

While she sometimes forgets how extraordinary it is for someone of her identity to be in her role, that doesn’t mean that Aletaha isn’t involved in diversity initiatives at Riot and beyond. She often participates in events and panel discussions centered around women in esports and advises minority workers looking to ascend within the corporate side of esports, mostly via internal meetings with other women and people of color at Riot. “The last many years has been challenging, but necessary for the industry as a whole,” she said. “I think that there was kind of a mirror held up to the industry, and it was something that needed to be addressed.”

In addition to her own efforts, Aletaha noted that Riot has hired a team dedicated to improving the circumstances of underrepresented employees, including chief diversity officer Angela Roseboro. “They’ve done this amazing job of making sure that D&I is not just the responsibility of the D&A team at Riot — it’s the responsibility of everybody, every leader,” Aletaha said. “I don’t think that work ever stops, nor should it. But I really do think that Riot could become a leader in the industry, as it relates to this.”

Aletaha’s plans for the future of League of Legends esports go beyond these diversity initiatives. She’s very conscious of the strength of Riot’s homegrown intellectual properties, such as the hit Netflix series “Arcane,” and their potential to bring more players and fans into the company’s esports ecosystem — hence her decision to help produce Riot’s upcoming Paramount+ show.

“Once upon a time, the only way to come into the LoL universe was through the PC game. Then we built the sport. And now, there’s the PC game, there’s the mobile game, there’s multiple other game genres that leverage the League of Legends IP,” Aletaha said. “So there’s multiple touchpoints from a gameplay standpoint.”

During her tenure at Riot Games, Aletaha has made her mark on departments across the company, driving the strategy behind Riot’s B2B marketing, brand partnerships and esports divisions. But the impact of Aletaha’s leadership is more than the sum of these jobs. She is a power broker — an early pioneer of esports whose efforts to grow competitive League of Legends have helped elevate the entire industry.

“If there’s one thing we could have the everyday fan take away as she takes the helm for League of Legends, it’s that they’re in really good hands because this is someone who plays the game, who watches the esport, who really cares,” Rozelle said. “It’s not just some suit coming over from business development — something that is really special about Naz is that she can play both sides of the ball.”

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How publishers are working to make their Russia-Ukraine coverage available to readers in those countries https://digiday.com/media/how-publishers-are-working-to-make-their-russia-ukraine-coverage-available-to-readers-in-those-countries/ Fri, 18 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=442155 Publishers are lifting paywalls and creating Telegram channels to reach readers in Ukraine and Russia with their coverage of the war.

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Some news organizations are lifting their paywalls and creating new channels to make information on the war in Ukraine freely available to readers there and in Russia.

Although similar to how many publishers chose to lift their paywalls to provide coverage of the pandemic for free, the handling of their Russia-Ukraine reporting marks a different strategy, where publishers — including Dow Jones, Financial Times, The Economist and The Washington Post — are giving free access to specific countries. And while it doesn’t seem to impact a large number of readers (and therefore exact a large toll on the business), it’s an example of news organizations recognizing their mission as a public service in times of crisis.

The FT’s key Ukraine coverage is free to read. Jon Slade, chief commercial officer at Financial Times, said, “Part of our mission and purpose is to make sure people have access to great journalism in complicated and difficult times, so it’s an easy decision to make it free…It’s a time when you put your business model to one side and say, what’s the right thing to do here? Even though we won’t get paid, we think it’s a good thing for our journalism going into places where perhaps free journalism or open unfettered journalism is harder to find.”

The publishers dropping their paywalls

While The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for news around the pandemic and natural disasters, this is the first time it’s done so for a specific region, dropping it for readers in Russia and Ukraine last week. It “impacts a small segment of our international subscribers,” said a Post spokesperson, who declined to share how many. “The Post believes in the free press mission, and as such, is committed to helping inform those in countries affected by the war and where democracy is challenged,” the spokesperson said. The Washington Post’s traffic from Russia and Ukraine has gone up by 119% and 128%, respectively, from February 2021 to February 2022, according to data from digital analytics platform Similarweb.

Dow Jones lifted the paywall across The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch and Financial News in Ukraine soon after the invasion, as well as in the neighboring countries that are “seeing a large influx of Ukrainian refugees,” a spokesperson said. The spokesperson declined to share which countries in particular or how much of an audience this represents for Dow Jones. (The Wall Street Journal’s traffic from Russia and Ukraine has gone up by 53% and 36%, respectively, from February 2021 to February 2022, per Similarweb.) However, this isn’t the first time Dow Jones has lifted its paywall regionally — it did so in Texas during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

The FT’s decision to lift its paywall in Russia — which went into effect on Feb. 24 — represents a small audience, according to Slade. Its Russian subscribers are “in the thousands, below 10,000,” he said. The FT’s traffic from Russia and Ukraine has gone up by 42% and 46%, respectively, from February 2021 to February 2022, per Similarweb. On average, the Ukraine war coverage has been attracting 3.5 times more page views than all other reporting on the FT’s site since the invasion began on Feb. 24, a spokesperson said. The FT’s coverage will continue to be available to subscribers in Russia, even if payments can’t be processed due to sanctions, they added.

The Economist has also lifted its paywall in Russia and Ukraine, and traffic has gone up 66% and 197%, respectively, from February 2021 to February 2022, per Similarweb. The Economist has “roughly doubled” the number of stories it is publishing online in the last three weeks, said Adam Roberts, digital editor of The Economist. “In the past few weeks, we’ve basically only done Ukraine.” 

NYT and WaPo now on Telegram

While The New York Times hasn’t dropped its paywall, it has created a channel on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app founded by two Russian brothers in 2013. One of those brothers, Pavel Durov, claims Telegram has over 500 million users worldwide.

Telegram has turned into a popular platform for Russians and Ukrainians seeking information about the war. English-language news outlet The Kyiv Independent and Ukrainian-language news site Ukrains’ka Pravda each have more than 30,000 followers on their Telegram accounts, for example. The platform has no advertising. Public or private feeds of photos, videos and text can be set up by a person or an organization — even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has a Telegram channel.

The New York Times created its Telegram channel on Monday, March 14, to post stories from its live blog, photos and videos on the war in Ukraine, available for free. “The hope is that we can use this new channel to bring factual, on-the-ground, and around-the-world coverage of the Russia-Ukraine conflict to new readers and communities who haven’t easily found our journalism on other social platforms or our core site,” a Times spokesperson said. As of Thursday afternoon, the channel had over 37,000 subscribers. (The New York Times’ traffic from Russia and Ukraine has gone up 185% and 108%, respectively, from February 2021 to February 2022, according to Similarweb.)

The Washington Post relaunched its own Telegram channel on March 15, with live news coverage from journalists in and around Ukraine, along with reporting from Post newsrooms in the U.S., London and Seoul. (It originally was established in July 2020.) “We consider [the channel] a strategic tool offering global audiences another way to access The Post’s range of reporting,” said Post global audience editor Sofia Diogo Mateus in an email. “Coverage will be in English and will focus immediately on the Ukraine-Russia war and include on the ground reporting, visual content and analysis.” As of Thursday afternoon, it had over 12,000 subscribers.

The FT also has a Telegram channel, which it shifted to covering news coming out of Ukraine when the war began. It now has 31,000 subscribers and 14% of those followers are Russian-language users, a spokesperson said.

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‘Honesty goes a really long way’: Why Nando’s chicken is keen on social commentary ads https://digiday.com/marketing/honesty-goes-a-really-long-way-why-nandos-chicken-is-keen-on-social-commentary-ads/ Fri, 18 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=442122 While most brands have played it safe during the polarized pandemic, Nando's chicken has leaned into cheeky messaging that takes a stand.

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For the last two years of the pandemic, brand marketing messages have predominantly focused on togetherness, safety and caution, only recently pivoting creative showing an in-person return to normal.

While many have steered clear of more brazen spots given the polarized nature of the pandemic, South African chicken restaurant Nando’s Peri-Peri has only emphasized it.

Earlier this month, Nando’s rolled out its Don’t be an Anti-Apper campaign, taking aim at Covid-19 “anti-vaxxers” to promote its new mobile app, drawing parallels between the benefits of the app and the benefits of the vaccine. The campaign includes in-store signage as well as both paid and organic posts across social media with ad copy like “My phone, my choice.”

“The campaign was born out of the want to encourage conversation around vaccination,” said Sepanta Bagherpour, Nando’s chief brand officer for North America, “because it affects our business and our sector profoundly, and of course, getting people to download the app.”

It’s a stark contrast to other brands’ advertising, which has toed the line of caution and lightheartedness. For example, Denny’s started sharing safety messages in light of the Delta variant. Prior to that, Alaska Airlines created a lighthearted spot to show how the airline was handling safety, per previous Digiday reporting.

For Nando’s, it’s about brand purpose, making it important to leverage marketing messaging to take a stand on social issues, even the highly polarized ones, Bagherpour said.

“We’re firmly behind vaccination because we’ve seen firsthand the impact vaccination has had in controlling, to a large degree, this very new, largely unknown pandemic,” he added. “And we wanted to have a say about it.” 

At present, most of Nando’s advertising lives mostly on digital channels with some recent testing into OTT and CTV, he added. It’s unclear exactly what that spend looks like as Bagherpour declined to offer further details. According to Kantar, Nando’s spent just over $4,000 on media in 2021, significantly less than the $31,000 spent in 2020. Those figures don’t include social spend as Kantar does not track those numbers.

While the marketing effort is still in its early days, it has gotten mixed reviews on social media, with some encouraging the efforts and others calling on the brand to separate itself from politics. However, Bagherpour said there has been an increase in app downloads and media coverage, adding that the brand expects to see an increase in sales along with the app downloads. He did not provide further details.

“We have found that our fans appreciate our honesty and authenticity,” Bagherpour said in an email. “Not all brands can successfully tread these waters, but speaking out has always been a part of who we are.”

Recently, brand purpose and values have become a bigger part of the conversation for marketers as shoppers now expect more from brands, especially in times of crisis, per previous Digiday reporting.

Whether it be Black Lives Matter, women’s rights or the pandemic, “honesty goes a really long way in the consumer’s mind,” said Kristin Molinari Cohen, chief marketing officer at cultural intelligence consultancy Sparks & Honey.

To build customer trust and brand loyalty, companies will need to take a stand on societal issues, she added. “If you are very clear on what your values are as an organization, you can so much more easily then look at what’s happening in culture and react to it based on those values,” Molinari Cohen said. 

The South African-bred restaurant chain has a long history of social satire, being born during the waning years of apartheid and creating ads around everything from government corruption to xenophobia. Here in the U.S., where the restaurant chain operates more than 40 locations around Virginia, Maryland, Washington and Chicago, Nando’s has been vocal about inclusivity during the inauguration of former President Trump.

The brand is keen on what Bagherpour calls “non-traditional tactics” that get people in the door. 

“Of course, there’s risk associated with it, but we believe that we owe it to where we’re from to carry on the proud heritage of social commentary because that gave us our grounding,”  Bagherpour said.

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Digiday+ Research: Agencies execs see more long-term value in the metaverse than blockchain https://digiday.com/marketing/digiday-research-agencies-execs-see-more-long-term-value-in-the-metaverse-than-blockchain/ Fri, 18 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=442106 Marketing in the metaverse, although a long way off for most brands, has caught the attention of agency execs who see it's potential over other new technologies.

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Even as the hype around blockchain and the NFT marketplace climbs to a fevered pitch, some in the media and marketing space aren’t quite as bowled over — agency execs in particular. Rather, agencies appear more drawn to the appeal of another hyped arena of the near future: the metaverse.

Of the 94 agency respondents surveyed by Digiday in February, the number that pointed to the metaverse as the most transformative technology on their business over the next five years was six times higher than those that expect the blockchain to be the most important emerging technology for the near-term future.

It’s worth noting that, of all the choices among transformative technologies (which includes virtual reality, NFTs and cryptocurrency) that are or will be available to agencies, the second largest response was “none of the above.”

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Media Briefing: Publishers reflect on the pandemic’s two-year anniversary https://digiday.com/media/media-briefing-publishers-reflect-on-the-pandemics-two-year-anniversary/ Thu, 17 Mar 2022 04:10:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441958 Publishers spend time ruminating over the last two years of the pandemic in this Digiday+ Media Briefing.

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In this week’s Media Briefing, media editor Kayleigh Barber looks at the legacy impacts of the pandemic on publishers’ businesses.

  • Two years later
  • 3 questions with The Washington Post’s Instagram editor Travis Lyles
  • First Amendment fears, publishers’ ad tech allegations and more

Two years later

The key hits:

  • The truncated timelines from RFPs to campaign execution are expected to stick around.  
  • In-person events are coming back with a vengeance, but the role that virtual will play is still up for debate amongst publishers.
  • Local media has become a white whale for national publishers thanks to the pandemic. 

Two years have come and gone since the pandemic was first declared. During those first few months, media companies took reactive measures, like canceling events, pausing ad campaigns and improving work from home culture, as people grappled with the fact that two weeks of quarantine would turn into an undefined number of months and years. 

Since then, publishers’ businesses have shifted greatly to accommodate those earlier changes as well as incorporate more proactive strategies, like creating virtual events, becoming more amenable to advertisers’ needs and responding to audiences’ wants. 

But with COVID cases dropping and the possibility of meetings and events being able to happen in-person again, there is a question mark around which pandemic practices will stick around, and which were always meant to be temporary stopgaps. — Kayleigh Barber

The publisher-marketer relationship is moving faster than ever 

Advertising took a hit in the first few months of the pandemic when there was so much uncertainty with how this would impact the economy as well as brand image. But once that business rebounded, publishers were ready to serve their advertisers in any way imaginable with flexibility and speed becoming two of the most desirable assets a sales team could offer.

It was an effort for publishers to win back as much business as possible and stabilize their businesses — and gave them an outlet to channel the immense amount of time on their hands. For nearly two years, people didn’t have a lot going on that kept them away from their computers, said Gallery Media Group’s CEO Ryan Harwood. “There was a lot more bandwidth and brainpower and ability to get things done. I think people took advantage of it.” 

The timeline from receiving a request for proposal (RFP) or brief to execution on a campaign decreased from one to five months to anywhere from five-days to one month, Harwood said. A year ago, publishers sensed the shortened pitch window had become standard practice; a year later, their senses have proved to be spot on. Now, it’s a regular occurrence for Harwood’s team to hear from a CMO or an svp about an idea for a campaign that’s “got to be done in the next two weeks, or else it’s not worth it to us,” he added.

“I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon. The expectations are now like, ‘You guys have shown us this is possible; why would we ever want to settle for less than that now?’” Harwood said. 

Events are back, but the scale appeal of virtual remains

Last week, BDG’s president and CRO Jason Wagenheim told Digiday that as COVID cases continually decrease, he feels more optimistic about the prospect of in-person events being successful this year. This is appearing to be a shared sentiment among publishers who are either reviving their events businesses for the first time since 2019 or have been squeaking out what revenue they can from virtual events in the interim. 

Axios is one publisher that is bullishly bringing back in-person events, including creating its first-ever multi-day summit next month in Washington, D.C. called the What’s Next Summit. Capping it at just around 200 people, Fabricio Drumond, Axios’ chief business officer, said that the on-stage content will also be live-streamed to capitalize on the scale its virtual events business achieved during the pandemic. 

“We’re getting 120,000-plus impressions on some of our events and I think it would be a disservice to the content that’s generated in an in-person format [to not] allow audiences to access it. So that’s definitely a permanent [addition] for us,” said Drumond.

The hybrid approach is not for everyone though. BDG’s 2022 experiential business is primarily happening in-person as of now, though the publisher has not written off virtual event options for sponsors, Wagenheim said. And a month ago, Eric Fleming, co-founder and executive producer of events agency Makeout, told Digiday that his team was only taking projects that prioritized in-person activations.

That said, other publishers are still thinking about the upshot of having both virtual and live elements in their 2022 event strategies, hopefully earning the best of both worlds award as a result. 

“One of the pluses of COVID for that particular line of business was, up to that point, virtual events were not a thing for us and it quickly became an incredible business,” said Drumond, adding that in just two years, Axios has hosted north of 200 virtual events. “But, there’s still a demand for the virtual, like if there’s a quick turnaround, [or] the incredible scale and reach. It also helps in booking the best guests because you don’t have logistics and dates to work around.”

Zoom is still the conference room of choice 

That said, business meetings are likely going to remain on Zoom. Gallery Media’s Harwood said that the need for business travel, especially for one meeting, is likely never going to return, thanks to how efficient and comfortable Zoom has become.

“Executives on both sides almost enjoy the casual nature of [virtual business meetings]. It doesn’t put as much stress and pressure on this big moment in the meeting that you’re trying to accomplish, [like] striking a deal,” he said.

Opportunity still lies in local media 

Local media has taken a beating over the years, but the pandemic re-instilled a need in audiences to know what was happening in their cities and neighborhoods. As a result, some local media companies saw advertising revenue trickle in sooner than expected by the end of 2020, but other national publishers saw an opportunity to create local media brands as a business strategy. 

Axios formed Axios Local in December 2020 with the acquisition of the Charlotte Agenda, and the company expects its local business to grow to cover a total of 25 cities by the end of this year. But as Axios’ audience is made up of “smart professionals,” according to Drumond, the impacts to where and how that audience is working was the impetus for the creation of Axios Local. 

“The emergence of remote work in the pandemic itself actually created an incredible opportunity for Axios Local, because now what you have is all these professionals moving to new cities. [For] example, a massive exodus of folks from New York City and California to Austin — it’s quickly establishing itself as the next Silicon Valley type in the country — and Axios Local is helping those professionals navigate that environment,” said Drumond. 

As one of the four business focuses for 2022 at Axios, local media is going to remain a priority for the newsletter publisher well after the pandemic is wrapped.

What we’ve heard

“We’re not monitoring the traffic like, ‘Oh, is the health of business contingent on how many people show up?’ It’s really not. But we know the health of the business is contingent on people feeling happy and feeling collaborative and seeing their colleagues.”

Industry Dive chief operating officer Meg Hargreaves

3 questions with The Washington Post’s Instagram editor Travis Lyles

The Washington Post’s Instagram editor Travis Lyles and his team are providing a window into the war in Ukraine via its nine journalists there — its largest team on the ground covering a single conflict since the Arab Spring over a decade ago. Digiday spoke to Lyles to find out what the Post’s strategy and process is for covering what’s happening in Ukraine on the social media platform. A big part of that is carousels with multiple slides to share as much information as possible and to feature the faces of its journalists in Ukraine to talk directly to an audience.

When Lyles first was named Instagram editor back in February 2021, The Post’s Instagram account had 4.5 million followers. It now has 5.6 million. The Instagram team is made up of seven people, up from four last February. – Sara Guaglione

This conversation has been edited and condensed.

What is The Post’s approach to covering the war in Ukraine on Instagram, and how does that differ from the way you and your team have covered big news events in the past?

One of my major goals for this year… is to get more of our journalists on camera and show their faces. When I’m scrolling, even me personally — I have a higher chance of stopping if someone’s talking to me. Having so many journalists on the ground in Ukraine was something we realized early on was a muscle we can really flex. It’s our largest team since the Arab Spring. It allows us to build trust. We have people there who can turn their camera around and talk to their audience, and it’s such an engaging and compelling way to tell the story. Our journalists are driving away from shelling, going to a bomb shelter… and we are taking our audience with us while we’re telling that story. We tell that story on Instagram because there are so many people encountering these images and videos [coming out of Ukraine] for the first time on Instagram. Our audience has gone from seeing our content to caring about our journalists — in the comments, they tell them to “please be safe,” and ask “how can we help you guys?”

You mentioned The Post’s Instagram account has seen “record” engagement as a result of its coverage of Ukraine. Which posts in particular have led to that?

We’ve seen an uptick in views and engagement. We had our largest video ever on Instagram as far as viewership goes. It was [Washington Post video journalist] Whitney Leaming’s video of a boy playing a piano as the attack [in Kharkiv, Ukraine] started. The post has over 10 million views at this point, over 600,000 likes and around 100,000 shares. We saw a major uptick in engagement surrounding posts around the war in general. It’s such a visual war and we just want to meet that moment and use our reporters on the ground to tell the story and really have people come to us on a daily basis and stay informed.

What’s your team’s process for deciding what to post on Instagram, and how does this strategy differ from the one on other social media platforms, like TikTok?

I’m not an expert in TikTok. But we have such an active following base on Instagram. If you look at our comments section, we routinely outpace our competitors when it comes to the number of comments. We have this very active audience who is looking for information about the war in Ukraine, so it just makes sense to engage with them regularly and curate an account on a daily basis.

Our [team in Ukraine] is feeding us information and clips pretty constantly. We look through that and decide what makes sense for our account and [The Post] site in general. [In November], we started being able to put vertical video on the homepage, which is awesome. Some of our Instagram content does make it back to the site. Now that we’re about a year in as a full team, we try to ask each other: If you were a Washington Post follower, what would make a great curated account that helped you feel informed today? Sometimes that’s a vertical video of our journalists talking about how their day went. Sometimes that’s a post of videos that we have verified either by our visual forensics team or video team that we find compelling, that stands out — like the video of the Ukrainian man standing in front of a Russian tank. It’s shocking, some of the videos and images we’re seeing. But we try to think: OK, is this something we should put out to inform people about what’s going on? Do we need to get a reporter on camera to discuss this, or is it something self-explanatory? We just try to think about how we can have a well-rounded account on a daily basis. We usually post 12-15 times a day. We want to really be active on the platform.

Numbers to know

>$4 million: Amount of money that a coalition of journalism groups has raised to support Ukrainian news outlets and journalists.

22.5%: Percentage difference between the median salary of Tribune’s Black female employees and that of their white male counterparts.

>$4.6 million: Amount of money that a group of 40-plus current and former BuzzFeed employees claim the publisher owes them over the handling of its stock market debut.

370,000: Number of active digital subscriptions that Bloomberg Media has.

What we’ve covered

Why Overtime’s Elite basketball league is using social audience interest to find a live TV rights buyer:

  • Last year Overtime formed its own basketball league for 16- to 18-year-old players.
  • The sports media company hopes to eventually sell live rights to air the league’s games, Overtime’s co-founder and president Zack Weiner said in an interview for the Digiday Podcast.

Listen to the latest Digiday Podcast episode here.

Q&A with Brian O’Kelley on selling ad inventory with a low carbon footprint:

  • The ad tech veteran’s new startup Scope3 aims to reduce the ad tech supply chain’s carbon emissions.
  • The company is working with Blockthrough to sell publishers’ eco-friendly inventory through private marketplaces.

Read more about O’Kelley’s latest ad tech venture here.

How Fandom is using its insights into fans’ online behavior to pitch advertisers:

  • Fandom is pulling data from its claimed 300 million monthly unique visitors into a platform called FanDNA.
  • In addition to targeting ads, advertisers can use FanDNA for custom research.

Read more about Fandom here.

How the FT got to 1 million digital subscribers:

  • The FT decided to prioritize reader revenue over advertising revenue, according to chief commercial officer Jon Slade.
  • In a Q&A, Slade explained what the FT is doing to retain the subscribers it has acquired.

Read more about FT’s digital subscription strategy here.

Media companies open new offices to accommodate for growing headcounts and a new phase of the pandemic:

  • Morning Brew, Industry Dive and Future are among the publishers opening new offices this year.
  • None of the three publishers will make it mandatory that employees come into the office.

Read more about media companies’ new offices here.

What we’re reading

First Amendment fears concerning fake news lawsuits:
A series of lawsuits filed against news organizations, including Fox News, for reporting false information has some legal experts on edge about how their verdicts could make publishers vulnerable to libel suits and jeopardize their First Amendment protections, according to The New York Times.

Growth spurt for kids’ podcasts:
The market for podcasts aimed at children is ballooning, with listenership increasing as well as the volume of shows, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Publishers call out ad tech firms for data scraping:
A set of publisher trade groups is alleging that ad tech companies, including Integral Ad Science, are collecting data from publishers’ sites and selling the data beyond the bounds of any agreement between the publisher and ad tech firms, according to Marketing Brew.

TikTok creators turn misinformation mercenaries:
The U.S. and Russian governments are recruiting TikTok creators to fight the information war related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to The Wall Street Journal. It should go without saying that the U.S. is briefing the creators to help combat misinformation on the platform, whereas Russia is reportedly enlisting creators to support its side of the actual war.

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‘Built-in audience’: Inside Fender’s educational, inspirational TikTok strategy to tune in new guitarists https://digiday.com/marketing/built-in-audience-inside-fenders-educational-inspirational-tiktok-strategy-to-tune-in-new-guitarists/ Thu, 17 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=442009 To do so, the brand has taken a paid and organic approach, working with musicians and influencers on the platform as well as posting beginner style educational content featuring practice routines and tips. 

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Fender is turning up the volume on its marketing riffs on TikTok in an effort to get in front of new guitar players using educational and inspirational content to boost brand affinity. 

The 76-year-old guitar brand joined the social media platform in September; since then, it has amassed 1 million followers on the platform gaining roughly 142,000 followers per month. To do so, the brand has taken a paid and organic approach, working with musicians and influencers on the platform as well as posting beginner style educational content featuring practice routines and tips. 

“In 2021, the Fender hashtag had been viewed 157 million in times [on TikTok],” said Evan Jones, Fender CMO. “That has now grown to 500 million. Guitar Tok [the community on TikTok focused on guitar] has racked up something like 2.5 to 3 billion views. So we knew there was already a built-in audience who was using guitar and, in particular, using Fender.” 

Fender’s data shows that 16 million new players picked up guitar for the first time over the last two years.

“A big part of what we want to do is help them learn how to play and choose the right guitar for them,” said Jones. “What’s also really important for us is to engage and connect with the influencers, the creators and the players and really foster a sense of community around music creation.” 

Creating a sense of community has been part of the overall TikTok content strategy since the brand joined TikTok, with the help of its agency Praytell, in September. The brand kicked off its TikTok content with a hashtag, #FenderJamSesh, to create a digital jam session of sorts with players all over TikTok. Since then, Fender has worked with 30 musicians on TikTok including Black Pumas, Tom Morello, Snail Mail and Japanese Breakfast, among others on product demos, jam sessions and educational content. 

Fender declined to share how much it is spending on TikTok or what its overall media budget is currently. Jones did say that Fender spends 10% of its total annual revenues on marketing and digital media efforts. Per Kantar data, Fender spent $4.2 million on media in 2021, up from $1.5 million in 2020. Those figures exclude spending on social media channels, however, as Kantar doesn’t track social spending. 

Focusing on community building to get in front of new guitar players makes sense as a strategy for the brand as “music is a part of TikTok” already, said Duane Brown, founder of performance marketing agency Take Some Risk, adding that “if they pick the right influencers and those already into music and music related interests” the strategy should work. 

Going forward, Fender plans to continue to take an educational approach to its work with influencers on TikTok and its other social media channels. 

“What you’re gonna probably see us do is lean more heavily into making learning guitar as fun, inviting inspiring and accessible as possible,” said Jones, adding that the brand plans to  build a “community around learning” on its digital and social channels.

“There’s nothing that says it has to be boring, there’s nothing that says it has to follow pure pedagogy,” he said. “Different influencers and artists have different takes on what they want to teach.”

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The 4A’s is telling its members how to crack down on unscrupulous ad tech players https://digiday.com/marketing/the-4as-is-telling-its-members-how-to-crack-down-on-unscrupulous-ad-tech-players/ Thu, 17 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=442042 The trade body representing media agencies urges 'simplicity' as advertisers demand transparency on things like dynamic take rates or the intricacies of content verification.

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The vast majority of digital display ads will be executed next year, accounting for 91% of spend in what should be good news for all parties involved in ad tech.

But with great power comes great responsibility.

And in an industry where ‘accountability’ is a near-constant catchcry from any given conference stage, that means audits, as marketers demand assurances that a media dollar spent is a dollar invested.

In recent months the ANA signaled its intention for its members not to have the wool pulled over their eyes, and now the U.S. trade body representing media agencies wants to do likewise — but as recent headlines attest, this is easier said than done.

‘Agencies’ rocky path’

The 4A’s will today publish a whitepaper for members — dubbed ‘The Rocky Path Agencies Are Forced To Traverse’ — with advice on how to reduce the complexity of programmatic trading, a process commonly referred to as “supply path optimization.”

The paper addresses the usual laundry list of complaints about “black box programmatic technologies” including everything from click-fraud, frequency-capping, plus the quality/misrepresentation of inventory.

Kevin Freemore, svp, media, technology and data at the 4A’s told Digiday that while there is much of the programmatic ecosystem that agencies don’t have full transparency on,  such as dynamic take rates or the intricacies of content verification, the report aims to address some ‘misnomers’. For instance, the vast majority of holding companies do not trade programmatically on poorly curated open ad exchanges, according to Freemore, who said that this is in contrast to popular belief.

“SPO has been used interchangeably with ‘transparency’ but they’re two very different things,” he added. “It can be optimizing campaigns to performance publishers with higher conversions [as opposed to branding KPIs], or shifting budgets away from areas with higher levels of fraud or creating private marketplaces.”

Marla Kaplowitz, president and CEO of the 4A’s, recommended that media agencies work with companies and their partners to vet their processes for finding bad actors and then excluding them from their supply chain.

“If you look at the paper it’s pretty in-depth and we’re providing it as a guide to be sure that agencies and marketers can go through all of these to mitigate as many potential issues as possible, yet we also know that it is not 100 percent foolproof,” she added.

“There’s a lot to understand and agencies are in an interesting situation as they’re aggregating, pushing and trying to understand the best that they can, but these are real issues, and you then you see some marketers say, ‘We’re just going to bring this in-house’ but that doesn’t solve any issues.”

Financial transaprency

Additionally, the latest 4A’s paper pays particular attention to fee transparency among the myriad tiers of the ad tech supply chain, an aspect of SPO where the trade body maintains that media agencies often unfairly receive blame — similar to the 2016 ANA report.

“Agencies don’t always have visibility into all of the fees and contractual agreements between publishers and their supply-side partners, or between demand-side partners and SSPs,” reads the paper. “Yet agencies continue to be held responsible and sometimes accused of not being transparent with all partnership details.”

Some question the arrangements between holding companies and their preferred ad tech supply chains with some suspecting that trading deals involve undisclosed practices.

One source with knowledge of the ongoing ANA investigation into practices in the ad tech sector, who requested anonymity given the sensitive nature of the discussion, told Digiday that deals between holding groups and SSPs is not uncommon, and are widely accepted as a legitimate practice. “Now the question is whether any [financial] deal between an ad exchange and agency, is it reaching advertisers? Obviously, there’s no way to really know yet,” they added.

The 4A’s Kaplowitz pointed to developments such as the emergence of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) with a November 2020 pilot commissioned by the Trustworthy Accountability Group (a party that is also playing a part in the ongoing ANA investigation).

“Things like that are interesting as you even had Big Tech [which often receives criticism for their practices] participate in that,” she said. “If DLT ever really takes off it will require compliance across all constituents in the marketplace.”

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Boathouse agency CEO: ‘CMOs like shiny objects a little too much’ https://digiday.com/media/boathouse-agency-ceo-cmos-like-shiny-objects-a-little-too-much/ Thu, 17 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441998 Boathouse started in 2001, and has grown to 75 people and between 20-25 clients, with revenue in 2021 of about $21 million, a 20 percent gain over 2020.

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John Connors, founder and CEO of Boston-based full-service agency Boathouse Group, slid into the agency world quite easily, as the son of one of the founders of Hill Holiday — “let’s just say it wasn’t a hard interview,” he quipped.

But after moving onto gigs at McCann-Erickson, it didn’t take him long to become disaffected by what he calls the “BS” of big-agency life. Connors returned to Boston to start the privately-owned Boathouse in 2001 and has grown the shop into 75 people handling between 20-25 clients including Eversource Energy, Mass General Brigham, MIT and Bright Horizons. Revenue in 2021 was about $21 million, hitting just under 20 percent growth over 2020, according to Connors. 

Boathouse’s principal mission is to be a veritable Swiss Army knife to CMOs by telling them hard truths about their business and becoming whatever extension to their business Boathouse needs to be. He’s even stepped into a temporary CMO role at some of the clients with which Boathouse has done consulting work. His frustration with how most agencies get fixated on their own ideas — “agencies have become corrupted because they believe their thing will fix everything,” he said — drove the philosophy. But he’s also frustrated with CMOs chasing the next shiny object rather than doing the hard work to figure out how to grow their business. In other words, he wants to get them out of what he calls a “failure cycle.” 

The following interview has been condensed for space and clarity. 

What made you start Boathouse? 

The BS meter was so high [at a big agency]. I always kind of thought that when I went to work for the Cokes and the Microsofts and the GMs, it would be different. But the BS was still the same, it’s just the plane trips were longer. And so I came back to Boston, and we built the firm around the stuff that drives the Massachusetts economy: financial services, healthcare, higher ed. Not the kind of classic ad agency categories, but the stuff that drives a lot of the GDP. If I wasn’t in this, I probably would have migrated into being an academic, because I like the thinking and the research and the strategy.

You have some strong thoughts on CMOs.

I think CMOS like shiny objects a little bit too much. And, you know, CMOS love to come out and kick the shit out of the agencies and say the agency should be smarter, better, faster, cheaper — that’s kind of the P&G model, every year, once a year, they show up and sort of rattle their sabres. But I’m a vendor for the least respected member of the C suite, so it’s my job to figure out how to get the CMO more respect. And we spend a lot of our time really trying to study so that we can guide CMOs to be more successful with their CEOs. Because there’s not enough time spent on how to make CMOs more effective, in my opinion. And when they get blown up every two years, I get screwed.

It sounds like you’re focused as much on the CEO on the CMO’s behalf. Can you elaborate? 

McKinsey research shows that 45% of a company’s performance is CEO-driven. CEOs are thinking about more audiences [than just consumers], like the media and investors. If you [the CMO] walk in and say it’s all about the consumer, they’ll think you’re stupid, right? Because it’s not all about the consumer in their world. You immediately lose trust with the CEO when you say that, and. once you don’t have trust, they downgrade all the value of your execution. In our data, 32% of CEOs actually trust their CMO. In a sort of corollary, CMOs speak their own language — marketing-ese — but over 50% don’t think they understand the company’s P&L or the balance sheet. So then they just get stuck down in the lower ranks. In my opinion, they do all the things you’re seeing them do now — they try and grab one place to perform and say, ‘We’re killing it here.’ But the CEOs says, ‘Well, look at the whole business, we’re having challenges.’ And it just becomes this kind of failure cycle.

One of the things we’re saying is, you spend a lot of time studying the consumer — study your CEO the same way, and make sure you know all the variables moving for the CEO. But then the other part of that is the trust piece. You’ve got to build trust. 

So where does brand fit into all this? 

We talk a lot about trying to get clients to NOT think in terms of brand. Because brand is a 75-year-old theory that was created for CPG companies, and I think it becomes a trap. And the CMO is the only person walking around with the idea of [the] brand, right? Finance theories change, tech theories change, manufacturing theories change — and the CMO comes rolling in with a 75-year-old model and says it’s all about the brand. There’s no question that brands have value, so we’re not crazy. But it’s a thought process. So one of the things we’ve been following is Schiller’s economic theory around narratives, and how narratives drive economic impact.

How do you put narratives to use? 

Don’t think in terms of one narrative, think in terms of five or six narratives, that you need to drive as a company to maximize impact. You can think of it as a leadership narrative, DE&I narrative, an employee narrative, a consumer narrative, a product narrative. Once we agree on the five or six narratives, then we migrate into channels. What narratives move through social, through digital, through the CEO’s communication, etc. Narratives give us a much more flexible way to think about how you create value, as opposed to just come in and think of a brand which is too one-dimensional because it’s built around just the consumer. CEOs and boards understand narratives so quickly. 

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Digiday+ Research: Agency, publisher return-to-work plans trending away from full-time office presence https://digiday.com/media/digiday-research-agency-publisher-return-to-work-plans-trending-away-from-full-time-office-presence/ Thu, 17 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441880 Survey of agency and publishing professionals suggests a five-day, 9 to 5, in-person work model will not be a thing of the future,

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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend traditional work patterns a full two years after it began, and the Great Resignation recasts the ranks for employees across media, marketing and advertising technology sectors, agencies, for one, are settling into to a hybrid future.

A Digiday+ Research survey in February of agency and publishing execs found that 40% of the 95 agency professional respondents said their employers will never return to full-time, in-person work schedules. Less than one in 10 have physically returned to work full time.

And on the publisher side, 30% of 127 publishing professional respondents said their employers will never return to full-time, in-person work schedules. As with agencies, less than one in 10 have returned to fill-time, in-person work.

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Black creators sign open letter to Twitch demanding improved safety and moderation tools https://digiday.com/marketing/black-creators-sign-open-letter-to-twitch-demanding-improved-safety-and-moderation-tools/ Wed, 16 Mar 2022 11:00:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441942 This isn’t the first time streamers have joined forces to protest Twitch’s safety and moderation practices; “hate raids,” targeted attacks against women and minority streamers by waves of aggressive bots, have been a consistent presence on the platform in recent years.

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A group of Black Twitch content creators has released an open letter demanding that the streaming platform do more to protect minority streamers from hate raids and harassment.

The letter was penned by Color of Change, a progressive civil rights advocacy group that has drawn attention in past years for its criticisms of Fox News and “Saturday Night Live.” After getting nearly 20,000 signatures on its #TwitchDoBetter petition last year, the organization is hoping to keep the pressure on Twitch by publishing the open letter. “We sent it to a small group of Twitch creators to get their feedback before we went public,” said Color of Change deputy senior campaigns director Erica Mateo. “The demands that are listed in the open letter were carved out in what I would call mini focus groups.”

Signatories of the letter, which is addressed to Twitch CEO Emmett Shear, include prominent Twitch streamers such as Barefoot Tasha and Vantanart. Its demands include improved communication between Twitch and creators about the processing of harassment complaints and improved algorithmic and human moderation practices to protect Black creators featured on Twitch’s front page, in addition to other safety and privacy improvements. 

This isn’t the first time streamers have joined forces to protest Twitch’s safety and moderation practices; “hate raids,” targeted attacks against women and minority streamers by waves of aggressive bots, have been a consistent presence on the platform in recent years. Though Twitch sued some users for instigating hate raids in September 2021, they have continued, with white supremacists and alt-right figures occasionally taking credit for the harassment.

The recent spate of hate raids are markedly different from last year’s raids in that they were organized by known bad actors, rather than anonymous armies of bots. “Our Safety team is actively reviewing reports and suspending users in violation of our TOS,” said a Twitch spokesperson in a statement. “Our legal team is also involved and actively investigating. We’ve taken legal action against those who’ve harassed our community in the past and continue to take these activities seriously.”

After experiencing repeated hate raids in August 2021, Twitch streamer RekItRaven started the #TwitchDoBetter hashtag, which almost immediately started trending on Twitter. In response, other Twitch creators began to press for direct actions against the platform, with creators starting the #SubOffTwitch hashtag to encourage fans to support creators outside the platform and the #ADayOffTwitch boycott movement in September 2021. “I was like, ‘I’m going to do this,’” said Twitch streamer Robert “Novanagi” Spencer, who participated in the boycott and later signed Color of Change’s open letter. “This is way more important than me trying to get some viewers.”

Twitch has responded to the criticisms. Last year, the platform directly addressed the #TwitchDoBetter movement in a Twitter thread, promising to provide ban evasion detection at the channel level and implement email and phone verification for accounts. The Amazon-owned streamer further beefed up its moderation efforts in January 2022 with the creation of an industry-first off-service conduct policy. Twitch has also begun putting out bi-annual transparency reports detailing its continued efforts to develop safety and privacy tools. 

When asked about Twitch’s response to the most recent influx of hate raiders, a Twitch representative shared a statement that the platform posted on March 11 to support beleaguered streamers and provide advice about how to stave off hate raids. After the statement, the Twitch rep said, the frequency of hate raids dropped “dramatically.”

Still, the signatories of Color of Change’s open letter believe that Twitch has not yet implemented strong enough safety tools to stem the flow of hate raiders into marginalized streamers’ channels. Part of the impetus for this latest stage of the protest came in February, when Twitch announced a schedule of virtual events celebrating Black History Month and the important role of Black creators on the platform. “When we first heard about it, it sounded cool — yay, we’re finally getting some appreciation,” Spencer said. “But you don’t really have to wait until February to just celebrate Black streamers. And that’s not just for Black creators, but any kind of creator. Whether you’re part of the LGBTQ community, whether you’re a woman or you identify as anything — I feel like Twitch should be able to celebrate that any time of the year.”

Mateo sees both last year’s petition and today’s open letter as elements of a single overarching protest about the ways Twitch has failed to serve the needs of marginalized streamers. The open letter won’t be the advocacy group’s last salvo in the ongoing battle against hate raids, Mateo said, but she declined to provide specifics about Color of Change’s next move — except that it will prioritize the voices of Black creators on the platform.

“Our main goal at all of our protest is uplifting their voices, uplifting their demands,” she said. “And so we’ll continue to find new and creative ways to do that.”

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Marie Claire expands shopping hub from the U.K. to the U.S. https://digiday.com/media/marie-claire-expands-shopping-hub-from-the-u-k-to-the-u-s/ Wed, 16 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441761 The Marie Claire Edit shopping site is coming to the U.S., with an exclusive two-month deal with Nordstrom.

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Future plc-owned Marie Claire U.S. is creating a digital shopping site after the publication generated over $10 million in e-commerce sales for retailers in the past six months. Marie Claire has a similar shopping hub in the U.K.

The U.S. edition of the site, called Marie Claire Edit, will go live on March 15 exclusively with Nordstrom for the first two months, in which all of the items on the site will be products from Nordstrom’s women’s section. There will also be a section dedicated to curated picks by Marie Claire editors.

After the first two months, the site will open up to other fashion retailers in the U.S. The brand hopes to work with 55 retailers, the same number of stores the U.K. edition works with. Marie Claire has a revenue share agreement with these retailers, which range, said Emily Ferguson, director of e-commerce at Marie Claire. She declined to share deal terms or financial details.

Inside Marie Claire Edit

Marie Claire Edit in the U.K., which was created in 2018, doubled revenue year over year in 2021, according to Ferguson. The revenue is an equal split between e-commerce sales and advertising revenue, she said, though she declined to share specific revenue figures. Sales have also doubled in the last year. Ferguson also declined to share how many products were sold in the past six months.

The average order value on Marie Claire Edit is £397 (or about $516), she said. U.K.-based media company Future plc acquired Marie Claire U.S. in May 2021, following its purchase of TI Media in April 2020, which included the U.K. edition of the magazine brand. (Future’s commerce revenue increased by 36% from fiscal year 2020 to 2021, accounting for $285.6 million and 35% of total revenue.)

Marie Claire is also using the shopping hub to pitch advertisers on Marie Claire Edit, including year-long deals with brands and quarterly activations on the site, Ferguson said. Advertising opportunities range from site sponsorships to licensing partnerships to channel takeovers. Custom branded pages can also be built on the hub. For example, on the U.K. site Net-a-Porter pays to “own the whole beauty section of the site,” meaning all of the beauty products are supplied by that retailer, Ferguson said. The beauty section launched in 2020. It’s not clear how much this deal is worth.

All ads on Marie Claire Edit are directly sold; inventory is not being sold programmatically, Ferguson said. The Marie Claire team is still finalizing contracts with brands to begin after the hub’s exclusive deal with Nordstrom, though Ferguson declined to share the names of those brands.

A play for advertisers

Brands that might be interested in the opportunities presented by Marie Claire Edit would likely be ones “used to being featured in [Marie Claire product roundups], or have a budget already set aside for pay to play options,” said Elizabeth Marsten, senior director of strategic marketplace services at digital ad agency Tinuiti. Publishers can “sweeten the deal” by offering a “package,” such as offering print advertisers ad space in the digital shopping hub.

Marketing for the shopping destination will kick off when the site is live, with Pinterest boards, dedicated newsletters with shopping picks, articles on the Marie Claire site and social promotions, Ferguson said. 

A few clicks can be the difference between abandon cart and purchase.
Whitney Fishman, managing partner of innovation and consumer technology at ad agency Wavemaker U.S.

The challenge, however, is “eyeballs on the page,” Marsten said. Going up against online shopping giants like Amazon and Walmart can be tough. “What can the publisher do to drive engagement with that content and this shop area outside of buying Facebook ads for products you’ve looked at? The trick will be the ability to scale this up. Otherwise is it worth me doing the advertising, budget, integrations or whatever If I’m only selling five handbags a month?” Marsten added.

The U.K. hub has over 1.5 million products from over 55 different stores, working with retailers like Net-a-Porter, MATCHESFASHION and Farfetch. The site ranks on search for more than 24,000 shopping and branded terms, such as “Fendi ring” and “Gucci trainers.” Roughly 50% of the traffic to the U.K.’s Marie Claire Edit is organic, mostly from Google searches, as well as a mix of social and direct traffic, Ferguson said.

“Search is closest to the bottom of the funnel,” Marsten said. Searching for an item means the consumer already has some interest in that product.

“Closing the gap between interest and acquisition is critical for any platform to maintain users on that platform,” said Whitney Fishman, managing partner of innovation and consumer technology at ad agency Wavemaker U.S. “A few clicks can be the difference between abandon cart and purchase.”

Ferguson, who is overseeing the launch of Marie Claire Edit in the U.S., said the task is to “get the Marie Claire audience to go from purchasing on a piece of content to purchasing on a site,” and to “get Google to index and rank for shopping terms, instead of evergreen editorial terms.”

“We want to replicate the success of what we’ve had in the U.K. and really create something immersive for the U.S. audience,” she said.

This article has been updated after a Future plc spokesperson notified Digiday after publication that the company had provided incorrect information. The update reflects that Marie Claire U.S. generated more than $10 million in sales for retailers in the past six months. A previous version attributed the retail sales figure to Marie Claire Edit U.K.

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Inside Fluent cannabis company’s email and SMS marketing strategy to grow first-party data https://digiday.com/marketing/inside-fluent-cannabis-companys-email-and-sms-marketing-strategy-to-grow-first-party-data/ Wed, 16 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441736 As the digital advertising remains murky for cannabis brands, Fluent looks to email marketing.

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Florida-based cannabis company Fluent is steadily ramping up its email marketing to create a direct line of communication with shoppers in an increasingly noisy digital environment.

Cannabis regulations have become less stringent, thanks to the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp. However, restrictions on cannabis advertising are still in place on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube, making digital advertising a murky place for cannabis brands like Fluent.

While some cannabis brands have found a workaround through influencer marketing, Fluent has instead turned its efforts to its email strategy, which has seen a 25% year-over-year increase in spend, according to Os Graziani, creative director at Fluent. At present, Fluent’s budget for email and SMS marketing is around $350,000 a year, Graziani added. Around 20% goes to email marketing, leaving the remaining budget for SMS efforts, he said.

“We decided let’s go back to emails because at least I can have a direct conversation with my consumer,” Graziani said. “We established this amazing database of customers that were actually waiting for emails every day because they knew that there was some value in them.”

For the last three years, Fluent has had an email strategy in place, spending 25% more on the channel each year as it becomes the brand’s leading customer retention tool. Recently, Graziani said the brand has layered in text message-based marketing and is testing segmentation within those efforts. The information collected allowed Fluent to build out its marketing and product strategy, he said.

At present, Fluent sends anywhere from 10 to 14 emails and text messages per week, averaging one or two emails a day to customers who sign up during in-store visits to Fluent retail locations, Graziani said. That email list has grown from 2,000 to 150,000 since it started, per Graziani.

“We’re really [keeping] an eye on open rates and engagement and we [found] out that it’s definitely all about putting value in the emails,” Graziani said, adding that Fluent marketing emails include discount deals, new product launches and company announcements. 

For Fluent, email and SMS marketing has served as a cost-efficient customer retention and brand awareness tool. Per Graziani, a text campaign can result in a 20% revenue increase compared to a day without one.

According to Kantar, Fluent spent more than $22,000 on media in 2021, significantly up from the $2,655 spent in 2020. In 2019, Kantar reports Fluent spent $25,000 on media. Those figures do not include social media as Kantar does not track those numbers.

While email marketing has remained a consistent channel of communication between brands and customers, advertising experts say data privacy measures like iOS 15 have put a “proverbial nail in the coffin” of email marketing for brands that are getting emails from third-party data sources.

But for brands like Fluent, which rely on first-party data to build email subscriber lists, email marketing makes sense, according to Nicole Penn, president at EGC Group marketing agency.

“Email and SMS allow brands to lean on first-party data. The more personalized information you can have on your consumer, the better,” she said in an email.

However, she warns advertisers to treat data and inboxes with respect. 

“You’re not the only brand in their inbox (you’re likely one of 60 or 70),” Penn said. “And if you’re communicating too often with content and experiences that aren’t useful or memorable you’re likely to get an opt-out.”

As the digital advertising landscape remains cannabis-adverse, Fluent plans to continue efforts in email and text message-based marketing, using social media solely as a branding opportunity. 

“We’re definitely ready to be on social media when they let us. Right now, it feels like a very challenging ordeal,” Graziani said.

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Future of TV Briefing: How the pandemic reshaped the future of TV, two years later https://digiday.com/future-of-tv/future-of-tv-briefing-how-the-pandemic-reshaped-the-future-of-tv-two-years-later/ Wed, 16 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441814 This week's Future of TV Briefing looks at the changes that the TV, streaming and digital video industry has undergone since the start of the pandemic.

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This week’s Future of TV Briefing looks at the changes that the TV, streaming and digital video industry has undergone since the start of the pandemic.

  • The present future of TV
  • Media Rating Council to release business outcome standard
  • WTF are TV carriage fees?
  • Nielsen’s pending sale, two-currency criticism, latest lawsuit and more

The present future of TV

The key hits:

  • Streaming became more TV-like, and short-form video went the other way.
  • The TV ad industry finally checked its math.
  • Other changes came and went or did not come to pass after all.

Two years since the pandemic flipped all reality on its head, the TV, streaming and digital video industry has been reshaped, to say the absolute least.

Some of the pandemic-induced changes were already in process and simply accelerated, like the shift to streaming. But others — like the TV ad industry updating its decades-old measurement system — seemingly necessitated a world-changing event to induce a potentially not-otherwise-inevitable evolution.

Twenty-four months after everyone sheltered at home, here’s a look back at the pandemic’s legacy with respect to the broader TV industry. 

Streaming became more TV-like

Industry trends are often cyclical, and during the two-year cycle of the pandemic, streaming’s surge has given way to a streaming market bearing increasing resemblance to traditional TV.

Disney’s plan to add an ad-supported tier to Disney+ has underscored advertising plus subscriptions as the streaming analogue to traditional TV’s dual-revenue stream of advertising plus carriage fees. The prevalence of lower-priced, ad-supported streaming tiers coincides with the slowdown in subscriber growth that many major streamers have experienced in the past year. But it also dovetails with the migration of advertiser money to streaming where the market for that money has widened to press TV network owners to step up their sales pitches.

With live sports on hiatus and the production of traditional TV shows paused, advertisers had to seek out alternative means of reaching TV viewers. That meant recognizing many viewers are not watching traditional TV but are instead streaming digital videos on their TVs, either in the form of YouTube’s connected TV app or the 24/7 channels on free, ad-supported streaming TV services that can carry old movies and TV shows but also can consist purely of digital videos stitched together into TV-like programming blocks.

Meanwhile, the slowdown in streaming subscriber growth has correlated with an uptick in streaming services bundling together a la traditional pay-TV packages. In addition to Disney’s Disney+-Hulu-ESPN+ bundle, Paramount has bundled Paramount+ and Showtime, smaller streams like CuriosityStream and Tastemade have bundled up and Discovery and WarnerMedia plan to bundle their respective streamers once the companies’ merger goes through.

Short-form video became less TV-like

Remember Quibi? Before its debut, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s mobile video app heralded the potential of a premium short-form video market, in which 10-minute-long videos could be considered akin to TV-quality programming rather than relegated to the realm of user-generated content. Then Quibi immediately flopped, and such hopes were largely dashed.

Amid Quibi’s demise, though, TikTok ascended to spur a new category of short-form video: shorter-form video. The ByteDance-owned app did not originate the idea of sub-60-second vertical videos, but it provided regular people with advanced but accessible editing tools to create their own videos entirely on their phones.

As rapidly as people adopted TikTok during quarantine, platforms like Instagram and YouTube raced to co-opt its video product in the form of Reels and Shorts, respectively, to the point that Reels is becoming Instagram’s de facto video product while the Facebook-owned platform has effectively abandoned its long-form video product IGTV.

The TV ad industry finally checked its math

The fact that tens of billions of ad dollars are spent based on the TV viewing habits of tens of thousands of people was always a little ridiculous. But it took nationwide lockdowns to reveal how rickety TV advertising’s measurement system was.

Nearly a year after TV trade group the VAB alleged Nielsen had undercounted traditional TV viewership during the pandemic, TV ad buyers and sellers are in process of remaking the measurement landscape. Heading into this year’s upfront negotiations, both sides are assessing which other measurement providers to support and to what extent Nielsen’s primary position may be usurped.

The fallout from such a seismic shift remains to be seen. There continue to be questions about the role of panel-based measurement, whether content quality can and should be considered and even quantified and which measurement providers may gain broad enough support to emerge as the new currencies on which ad deals are transacted. But if there is any certainty, it seems to be that the era of a single dominant measurement provider is over.

Artifacts of the pandemic era 

Of course, for as much as the TV, streaming and digital video industry has changed in the past two years, some changes did not stick. 

  • While remote aspects of production persist, the era of Zoom-shot shows — mercifully — ended pretty quickly, as TV, streaming and digital video producers adapted to the pandemic’s impacts. 
  • The annual TV advertising upfront marketplace withstood the push for flexibility and calls for a new model. Calls for an end to the upfront have similarly persisted.
  • And one small artifact of the past two years hereby resigned to history is this recurring roundup of how the pandemic has reshaped the future of TV. At this point, the force shaping the future of TV is not the pandemic but all the change it wrought.

What we’ve heard

“So far this year we have seen a very open [TV ad] market and been able to clear all budgets at 100% this year. Usually we clear less than 100% by market forces. We managed to hit 100% until [the end of February], and now heading into the end of the quarter always has a certain level of tightness.”

Brad Geving, vp of media at TV ad buying firm Tatari

Media Rating Council to release business outcome standard

Business outcome guarantees are back on the bargaining table for this year’s TV advertising upfront cycle, and the results-based measures are slated to be standardized in time for next year’s negotiations.

The Media Rating Council plans to issue a standard for measuring business outcomes for public comment by the end of the first quarter or the beginning of the second quarter in 2022, the industry metrics accreditation body’s CEO George Ivie said in an interview. The MRC plans to finalize the outcome measurement standard by the middle of this year and to begin accrediting measurement vendors by the end of this year or the beginning of next year, he said.

The MRC’s outcome standard will cover how ad campaigns are evaluated against metrics including sales lift, brand lift and return on advertising investment. Through the accreditation process, the MRC will assess measurement providers on factors such as the quality of their data and their attribution processes.

“We intend to run an entirely new type of accreditation process on top of this to accredit vendors that measure outcomes,” said Ivie. He added that the outcome measurement standard builds on the MC’s work to establish standards of exposure-based measurement — such as the viewability of ads — and that “outcomes would be the ultimate value determination.”

Numbers to know

18: Number of Major League Baseball games that NBCUniversal is reportedly in talks to stream exclusively on Peacock.

$85 million: How much money Apple will reportedly pay Major League Baseball in a seven-year deal for exclusive rights to two Friday Night Baseball games per week.

75%: Percentage share of viewership for programs in Netflix’s top 10 lists represented by TV shows.

WTF are TV carriage fees?

As a follow-up to last week’s piece on streaming’s dual-revenue stream, I made a video skit to explain one-half of traditional TV’s dual-revenue stream: the fees that pay-TV providers pay to TV network owners. There’s also a written explainer if you’re not looking to watch me, myself and I make fools of ourselves.

What we’ve covered

Some media agencies will expect media to work through clean rooms this upfront:

  • Omnicom Media Group will push for upfront ad sellers to agree to share data in clean rooms.
  • The TV networks and streaming-only sellers that don’t agree may receive less money in the upfront.

Read more about clean rooms in the upfront here.

Why Hollister is taking a long-term partnership approach to its influencer marketing on TikTok:

  • Hollister is shifting from a one-off, pay-per-post models to extended deals with TikTok creators.
  • The retailer often strikes deals with creators that last six to 12 months.

Read more about Hollister’s TikTok strategy here.

Why the Collegiate Esports Commissioner’s Cup is the latest move in Atlanta’s push to become a major esports capital:

  • Collegiate esports company ESPORTSU is organizing the CECC with all of Atlanta’s major esports organizations.
  • Students from any U.S. two- or four-year university are invited to compete.

Read more about the Collegiate Esports Commissioner’s Cup here.

What we’re reading

Nielsen nears a sale:
As if the measurement marketplace isn’t messy enough — and as if Nielsen isn’t already in a precarious position — a group of private equity firms are getting close to acquiring the measurement provider, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Nielsen comes under (more) fire:
Speaking of measurement messes, the VAB — the trade group that counts TV network owners and some Nielsen rivals as members — has called out Nielsen for planning to go to market with two currency options ahead of this year’s upfront negotiations, according to Ad Age.

Nielsen goes to court:
Messier still, Nielsen has filed a lawsuit against another one of its measurement rivals; this time it’s TVSquared, according to Insider.

Discovery+ and HBO Max will merge:
After Discovery and WarnerMedia close their merger, the combined company will combine their respective flagship streaming services, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Potential names for the all-in-one streamer from Warner Bros. Discovery likely include Discovery+ Max, HBO Max+, HBO Discovery+ and, the early frontrunner, Discovery+ Plus HBO Max.

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Open-market video programmatic is rife with fraud, say buyers, further complicating an already-difficult marketplace https://digiday.com/media/open-market-video-programmatic-is-rife-with-fraud-say-buyers-further-complicating-an-already-diffcult-marketplace/ Wed, 16 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441952 Buyers point to open-market programmatic as the source of most of the fraud plaguing the buying and selling of streaming video inventory.

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Much like the broader world of online advertising where the deeper into publisher inventory you go, the less quality you as an advertiser get, the world of programmatic buying continues to be fraught with problems, ranging from fraud to frequency issues.

Media buyers preparing for an unusual upfront marketplace say that’s especially acute in the red-hot streaming/connected TV video marketplace — where viewers continue to migrate away from linear TV. But buyers and analysts noted that it’s not all programmatic inventory that’s the problem. It’s the open-market programmatic inventory where upwards of 40 percent of inventory can be fraudulent — and almost never with the streamers themselves, who have better control over what they are selling.

“When you’re buying direct to publishers on the Hulus and Plutos and things like that, it’s a much cleaner process — much less risk for fraud,” said Dave Campanelli, executive vp and chief investment officer for Horizon Media. “The programmatic space is where a lot of that CTV fraud can happen and that’s where it tends to be messy.”

Matt Prohaska, CEO and principal of Prohaska Consulting, was even blunter. “You’ve got criminals that can misrepresent legitimate publishers and steal money,” said Prohaska, an ardent advocate for programmatic selling, but equally focused on eliminating fraud within it. “What’s also concerning for more than a decade is that the SSPs [supply side platforms] still get paid and almost all the time never send the money back.”

The problems with fraud in open-market programmatic, as opposed to programmatic inventory sold in private marketplaces (PMPs) can range from the outright criminal — representing fraudulent inventory that doesn’t exist or leads to the wrong content — to issues of frequency, where buyers have little to no control over where or how many times their client’s ad appears. 

Buyers said they would like to see more guaranteed programmatic inventory be available, ostensibly to get away from risking the purchase of fraudulent avails. “We are going to continue to push the sell-side on making more inventory available programmatically. We’re saying let’s push this to programmatic guaranteed… then we can optimize the rest of the buy,” said Megan Pagliuca, chief activation officer at Omnicom Media Group. “We think with the launch of clean rooms, we can pull analytics into those clean rooms to inform [this type] investment in a smarter way.”

“Fraud goes to zero when every deal is sold directly, whether it’s through an IO or [guaranteed] programmatic,” said Prohaska. “It’s the SSPs who are doing an awful job sheltering and allowing criminals to just set up shop.”

Besides the efforts to sidestep or eliminate fraud, frequency issues are a real problem that doesn’t get talked about often enough, but can lead to what OMG’s Pagliuca called “negative reach.” 

“We’ve done research around this concept — this is actually creating a negative reach” for the viewing consumer who’s seeing the same ad multiple times in a streamed program, she explained. “I was watching one of the streaming services the other night, and I was like, ‘Wow,  this is negatively reaching me!’”

“The frequency issues within CTV are real,” added Campanelli. “In theory, any publisher is supposed to have frequency caps on how many ads you’re supposed to get — if the buyer is doing their job. A lot of times it feels like that’s not even happening. And not only are there issues with single publishers and frequency, there [are] even worse problems when you go across publisher because they’re obviously not talking to each other.”

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New family viewing dynamics give rise to a modern-day heirloom https://digiday.com/sponsored/new-family-viewing-dynamics-give-rise-to-a-modern-day-heirloom/ Tue, 15 Mar 2022 20:31:56 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441931 Mukta Chowdhary, vp cultural insights, WarnerMedia In a world rapidly filling with NFTs, crypto and metaverse musings, high-value possessions are not always tangible. Instead, digital attachments are just as sentimental as physical ones.  This love for all things virtual is giving rise to a new kind of family heirloom, one that is fluid, ever-lasting and […]

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Mukta Chowdhary, vp cultural insights, WarnerMedia

In a world rapidly filling with NFTs, crypto and metaverse musings, high-value possessions are not always tangible. Instead, digital attachments are just as sentimental as physical ones. 

This love for all things virtual is giving rise to a new kind of family heirloom, one that is fluid, ever-lasting and crosses multiple generations — the entertainment heirloom. 

For parents, the shows they love, the fandoms they’re part of and the movies that remind them of their childhood are all things they want to pass down to their children. Recent WarnerMedia research, titled “Entertainment Heirlooms: Exploring New Family Streaming Dynamics,” found that 75% of parents agree it’s important to share the entertainment they love with their children. Over half of parents say they select content to ensure their kids become fans of the same shows they love. 

Unlike traditional heirlooms, older generations are not the only ones sharing. For example, 71% of parents agree their favorite content crosses generations and can be watched with grandparents, parents and children. Toddlers introduce their favorite cartoon characters to grandparents; teenagers share superhero remakes with their parents and siblings exchange lists of their top sci-fi films — all spurring new family bonding moments and rituals. 

However, to reach viewers at every life stage and make an impact that can last a lifetime, brands must understand the nuances of these new viewing dynamics. Beyond that, marketers have an opportunity to get closer to the content that fuels these modern-day heirlooms — and potentially create their own.

Parents’ attitudes have shifted regarding screen time

Despite digital detoxes and device-banning campaigns of the past, screens have now become a welcomed member of the family. Half of parents no longer feel guilty about screen time. Parents have realized that curated quality time spent with devices can be a highly valuable experience for their kids (rather than serving as a digital babysitter). 

Overall, parents have become more intentional about what their kids consume on their screens while looking to reap the benefits — 64% agree that screen time can be a positive vehicle for growth. As a result, parents are permitting more video time than ever before. 

This intentionality extends to the entertainment heirlooms they chose to share with their kids as they expect content to be additive to their children’s lives. 

For example, some parents turn to content to co-teach and supplement educational concepts amid constant school disruptions. In contrast, others want it to be a creative muse that encourages kids to dream big. A growing number of parents also want their children to be exposed to diverse human experiences and identities — 68% of parents seek out content for their kids that’s diverse in all aspects.

The big screen reclaims the living room as co-viewing sees a renaissance

While the early days of streaming were characterized by fragmented viewing across individual screens, the pandemic in many cases unified households around a single big screen in the living room. 

Over the past few years, parents have invested in projectors, soundbars and popcorn machines to elevate their viewing experience. For families, entertainment nights are a form of creative expression, as they bring in elements from their favorite stories to their homes, with 83% of parents saying they’re creating new traditions for family viewing. And it’s not just how they watch; it’s what they watch that’s changing. 

Parents are stepping beyond family-friendly territory when co-viewing with kids — more than half agree that they have been letting their kids watch slightly more mature programming for their age since the pandemic. This shift opens up more opportunities for families to share memories and create content connections across multiple generations while also providing brands with a broader array of opportunities to reach parents.

Now that parents desire to pass along favorites and discover new content gems with their children, they’re fully leaning into the entertainment they watch together, with 80% trying to be more present when watching content with their families. Advertisers need to recognize this shift when thinking about who’s in the room and how they can reach them.

How and where brands show up matters

As the bar has been raised for what parents expect from family entertainment, so have their expectations for brands. In an on-demand streaming era in which advertising opportunities are becoming more limited, marketers are racing to create an even tighter connection between brands and the content they support. This is even more evident as families bond over beloved IP. The immersion that occurs when these entertainment heirlooms are shared also offers significant benefits to marketers — 69% of parents agree they trust brands more if they advertise around high-quality content. 

And parents want trust along with the fun — 70% of parents trust brands that have more to offer than simply advertising their product to children. In February 2022, families had two of their favorite fandoms collide — basketball and ‘Teen Titans Go!’ — in a one-of-a-kind basketball event, ‘Cartoon Network Special Edition: NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest Presented by Nike.’ The event brought the Teen Titans superheroes to the real world to infuse their comedic flair into the sports commentary. 

Parents are becoming more lenient about screen time, but they continue to be cautious about what brands they bring into their lives. Fortunately, there is a symbiotic relationship between content and advertising as 64% of parents agree brands that advertise during the family or children’s favorite shows are top-of-mind. To build deep relationships with consumers, marketers need to be as intentional with their advertising as parents are with the brands and content they welcome into their homes. 

In this new world, brands need to be purposeful about when, how and where they show up in the lives of their consumers. In the same way that entertainment is already part of the family, brands can earn their place in the home by adding value and being complementary to family and kids’ programming.  

Sponsored By: WarnerMedia

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Why marketers need data partners that deliver on privacy and performance https://digiday.com/sponsored/why-marketers-need-data-partners-that-deliver-on-privacy-and-performance/ Tue, 15 Mar 2022 14:26:52 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441858 Michelle Harness, division vice president, Wiland Precision media targeting is entering a new phase of opportunity and responsibility for digital marketing teams. This new era is predicated on the idea that online interactions between brands and consumers should feel and function as much like familiar in-person interactions as possible. Engaging with consumers should be done […]

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Michelle Harness, division vice president, Wiland

Precision media targeting is entering a new phase of opportunity and responsibility for digital marketing teams. This new era is predicated on the idea that online interactions between brands and consumers should feel and function as much like familiar in-person interactions as possible. Engaging with consumers should be done in a personalized way that they will accept as knowledgeable but not invasive. 

At the same time, consumers are increasingly demanding the safeguarding of their personal information and privacy. And they want that protection on terms that they can adjust at any time. 

The new manifesto of the digital marketer is personalization and privacy.

Data privacy and personalization can be complementary

Data privacy and personalized digital marketing are not mutually exclusive. Successful marketing teams almost always view them as complementary, especially as advertising based on third-party identifiers is replaced by addressable — but still highly effective — media targeting based on consented first-party data.

With that, brands are now looking to data providers that can enrich their first-party data, enabling them to offer more personalized engagement with their current customers and target advertising to ideal prospects with whom no direct relationship has been established. 

Finding the ideal data partner — one that can enable such accurate, privacy-compliant media targeting — requires consideration of important issues, such as privacy compliance, quality and first-party data.

A marketer’s privacy compliance is only as good as their data partner’s compliance 

Data providers are tasked with delivering the most powerful data elements or pre-built audiences possible. But the ability to create very precisely targeted audiences also carries the responsibility to use consented data for which there is a transparent chain of custody. This begins with the consumer’s permission to gather and use the data. 

Marketing teams must ensure their data partner takes this responsibility seriously. Not only is it necessary to stay on the right side of consumer sentiment and regulatory governance, but it will also help prevent missteps and liability down the road.

Question the quality and provenance of the data

Data providers with which marketing teams consider working should clearly explain the provenance of their data assets. Provenance relates to both privacy compliance and quality. Because lack of insight into data provenance can lead to inaccurate media targeting or regulatory penalties, it’s crucial to ask the tough questions, such as does the data meet the latest and likely future standards of privacy compliance? How often is the data refreshed? How diverse are the sources from which it is composed? Is the data genuinely unique, or is it duplicative of other sources? Is there some way to test it before going all-in? 

If a prospective data partner is reluctant to answer these questions, it may be due to weaknesses in their data provenance that they’d rather not disclose.

First-party data isn’t just hype — it’s absolutely necessary 

Creating the most effective digital audiences requires optimal use of first-party data collected by a brand or publisher directly from and with its customers’ permission. It should be augmented with second-party data, which consists of other brands’ first-party data utilized in a secure data-sharing environment governed by privacy compliance, and third-party data, such as demographic and other aggregated information. 

A data provider should tell marketers exactly which types of data are used in particular products or solutions and, more specifically, what role first-party data plays in their solutions. It’s also fair to inquire about what adjustments they’ve made to wean themselves off of third-party cookies, mobile advertising IDs and other traditional identifiers to determine how future-proof their data and solutions will be. 

Establishing trust is key to succeeding with any data partner

Whether marketers are purchasing ready-to-activate audiences or building audiences within their own analytics platform, a high level of trust with data partners is crucial for success. 

Building trust with data partners will come with time as campaign performance is evaluated and demonstrates that privacy and performance are not mutually exclusive. Advertisers must test audiences from multiple sources as it’s the only way to know if they’ve chosen a data partner wisely. Data partners’ contributions can be evaluated based on more profitable, personalized customer engagement and new customer acquisition. 

Working together, personalization and privacy form the new digital marketing manifesto, especially as the advertising ecosystem moves away from third-party identifiers and toward addressable media targeting. And finding the right data partner will help marketers ensure they’re delivering on both performance and privacy. They must identify a data partner that takes privacy compliance responsibility seriously, delineates the provenance of their data assets and optimizes first-party data within their solutions.  

Sponsored By: Wiland

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Why Overtime’s Elite basketball league is using social audience interest to find a live TV rights buyer https://digiday.com/media/why-overtimes-elite-basketball-league-is-using-social-audience-interest-to-find-a-live-tv-rights-buyer/ Tue, 15 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441740 A year in, the Elite league has secured several multi-million dollar sponsorship deals but is still searching for a white whale.

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One year ago, Overtime announced it was creating its own basketball league made up of 16- to 18-year- old players — a demographic representative of the sports’ publishers’ audience.

Called the Overtime Elite League (or OTE), the social media-first sports publisher used some of the $80 million raised last year in its series C to build a basketball arena, boarding school and dorm facility in Atlanta, and recruit 27 high school-aged athletes, all of whom are paid six-figure salaries, to get the league off the ground. 

As the three-team league wraps its first official season, Overtime’s co-founder and president Zack Weiner came on the Digiday Podcast to talk about the advertiser-based business model his team has created around the Elite League. The ultimate goal for making the league profitable, however, is to sell the live game rights to a network or streaming platform, which is the money maker for professional leagues, like the NFL, NBA and MLB.

Currently, OTE’s games are not broadcast to Overtime’s audience, but Weiner said the off-the-court video series and game highlight reels are working to introduce viewers to these players and generate excitement around the league, which will hopefully get a buyer to purchase the live rights for a sizable sum. 

Below are highlights from the conversation, lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

One season in, advertisers are paying to play  

Ultimately, we believe that this will be a league that young people are desperate to watch, whether it’s in person or digitally. And I would say that premium IP, like that, has never been more valuable to the rights holder, but it’s also never been more valuable to potential partners, streaming partners, legacy networks, etc.

We felt that if we could create a basketball league, with significant fandom, it would be extremely valuable. So that’s what we feel we’re in the process of doing and the business model is already starting to work in the sense that we have multiple, multi-million dollar sponsors that we’re really proud to be working with. Most startup leagues in the first year don’t have the benefit of having 70 million fans to distribute to on day one and I feel like that has given us sort of this, quote, unquote, unfair advantage, which is something that we try to take advantage of every day.

Owned & operated IP vs. live rights licensing

For now, we are publishing everything on different platforms, so you can watch highlights on TikTok [and] on Instagram, you can watch full game recaps on YouTube and then cut down on Snapchat. We’re really strong on all these platforms and that’s where our audience is spending a lot of time, so we are programming there.

One day in the probably not-so-distant future, I definitely expect that we will have a media rights partner. In year one, and perhaps year two, we really want to be as distributed as possible, and really let the entire world of young people have access to this amazing content. But certainly, we believe that the live rights are honestly going to be extremely valuable for the right partner.

Rounding out the business model 

What we’re right now doing is building the most amount of hype and interest as possible. And in fact, I see people on Instagram or YouTube or wherever commenting all the time, “Where can I watch the live game?” And I think in the early couple of years, that’s actually a really powerful sort of pent-up energy that we want to eventually capitalize on but I don’t think the moment is right just yet. Almost every platform at this point can do live but having the technology to do live and a product being right for live on that platform is a different question.

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Marketing Briefing: When it comes to NFTs, brands should prioritize utility over headlines since ‘consumers don’t care if brands participate’ https://digiday.com/marketing/marketing-briefing-when-it-comes-to-nfts-brands-should-prioritize-utility-over-headlines-since-consumers-dont-care-if-brands-participate/ Tue, 15 Mar 2022 04:01:00 +0000 https://digiday.com/?p=441728 Rather than chasing a headline by having an NFT, brand marketers need to think about what that NFT can offer as well as if it makes sense for the brand’s purpose and audience. 

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Brands are all in on the NFT craze. In recent months, pitches for various NFT activities have ramped up at brands like Acura, Wrangler, Pepsi and others, as they look to use NFTs to get consumers’ attention. (In case you’re not caught up on NFTs, we published an entry into our WTF series on NFTs last March.)

It makes sense. Marketers are always vying for consumer attention and often jump on the latest trend to do so. But some agency execs and industry observers say marketers need to think about utility and brand fit before dabbling in NFTs, as some brands have faced a backlash for doing so, including MeUndies just last week. Rather than chasing a headline by having an NFT, brand marketers need to consider what that NFT can offer, as well as if it makes sense for the brand’s purpose and audience. 

“Most brands don’t understand NFTs; most humans don’t – the entire phenomenon is in its infancy,” said a creative director at a creative agency who asked for anonymity. “As with any phenomenon, brands are always quick to jump on top of it and see if they can leverage it to see if they can enhance communications, but more often than not it’s not appropriate.” 

Without fully understanding NFTs and the potential to offer something beyond ownership of a JPEG, some marketers may just be seeking out PR mileage – X brand is rolling out NFTs. That mindset is more likely to elicit eyerolls or backlash from consumers, according to agency execs and industry observers. 

What would be far more useful, agree those observers, is spending more time and effort getting educated on NFTs and how they could potentially be used for their brand marketing. Brands should also work to “educate customers on what an NFT is and why they should value it” from a brand, notes Dennis Hegstad, co-founder of SMS marketing company LiveRecover, which he recently sold to VoyageSMS.

Hegstad sees the potential for NFTs to grow into brands, selling exclusive products and experiences only for NFT holders, as NFT project Doodles showcased this past weekend at SXSW, more successfully than brands wading into the NFT space. 

Given that they likely won’t stop advancing into the NFT space, brands need to think about what they are offering to consumers via NFTs beyond the latest fad or gimmick.  “Consumers don’t care if brands participate,” says Brendan Gahan, chief social officer and partner at Mekanism. “They do care about how they participate. Brands need to be adding value.” 

Brands should take a “crawl, walk, run” approach to NFTs rather than diving straight in, per Gahan. “The window for novelty participation in this space is over,” he adds. “Big picture: We’re emphasizing the importance of utility. What value are we able to bring? How are we contributing to this community?”

3 Questions With Sennai Atsbeha, vp of brand marketing in North America for Gymshark

What does your current media mix look like? How have you adapted it to today’s changing creator economy?

Social has been key to everything we’ve done from day one–earned media, piggybacking on a moment, really finding ways to integrate into culture and lean into culture and make the brand relevant in that way. One of the things that we’re evolving to now is being a little bit more proactive and planting our flag in the ground as to where we see culture going.

How so?

One of the ways that we’ve done that is through focusing on new audiences, working with media partners, identifying media partners that are authentic spaces where we’re looking to go. We were early on in the TikTok space, one of the first brands to jump on TikTok, which is why we’re one of the largest and most engaged communities within our category on TikTok. Same thing with Clubhouse. When obviously the pandemic was in full swing, we leaned heavily into Clubhouse.

How much of your social media strategy is dedicated to influencer marketing versus boosted posts or proper ads?

It’s an “and” conversation. The reason I say that is because those pieces really work together. We want to lead with branded content. Branded content for us is storytelling, our value proposition, making sure that folks understand who we are as a brand, why we are the way that we are. We want to do things that only Gymshark can do. It’s not about us trying to out-whoever someone else as much as it’s us trying to be the best version of ourselves. If we commit to being the best version of ourselves, then we want to lead with that branded content that articulates who we are. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

2022 is supposed to be the year working women recovered from the so-called “Shecession,” where women were pushed from the workforce to shoulder the brunt of the housework during the pandemic. While there has been movement, new research shows that women are feeling more stressed out and isolated in comparison to their male counterparts. Strategic and creative agency Berlin Cameron partnered with Kantar, Luminary, Eve Rodsky’s Fair Play on the report; data points below:

  • 64% of women wish they had more time for themselves and 53% of women wish they could invest in themselves and their interests and hobbies.
  • 66% of women didn’t receive a pay or salary increase and 79% did not receive a promotion since the start of the pandemic.
  • 55% of women never or rarely do an activity that inspires them. — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“When advertisers say they’ve pulled the plug on ads in Russia, it doesn’t mean they’ve stopped paying. There’s a huge run-off cost of advertising that they [the advertiser] will need to pay for.” 

Jo Farmer, partner at law firm Lewis Silkin, on the complicated nature of the ongoing advertiser exodus from Russia.

What we’ve covered

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