In this week’s Week in Review: The EU plans fines for social media companies if they fail to remove terror-related content, Netflix denies it’s planning to introduce commercial ads, and Reuters finds that GDPR has led to a 22 percent drop in the number of third-party cookies found on EU news sites. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.
EU Plans Fines for Social Media Platforms Over Terror Content
The EU’s commissioner for security Julian King is drawing up plans which could see social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube fined for a failure to remove terror-related content quickly enough. The European Commission had previously allowed tech companies to self-regulate in terms of how they identify and remove terrorist propaganda from their platforms, but King told the FT that Brussels had “not seen enough progress”, and would “take stronger action in order to better protect our citizens”. A senior EU official said legislation, which is still being written, is likely to impose a one hour time limit for platforms to remove flagged material, after which they could face a fine.
Netflix Denies Claims It’s Preparing to Introduce Commercial Ads
Netflix this week clarified that it isn’t planning to introduce ads to its platform any time soon, after users complained about skippable previews for Netflix shows that had begun playing in between episodes. Users took to platforms like Reddit to complain about the previews, with some fearing they might be a precursor to commercial ads on the platform. Netflix however issued a statement saying the previews were part of a limited trial designed to surface shows the user might be interested in, and said that users are able to opt-out of these sorts of tests.
Some believe that Netflix will one day introduce an ad supported tier to it’s service, but the backlash against these skippable suggests that there is a sizeable portion of Netflix’s membership who are only interested in a paid, completely ad-free subscription.
GDPR Sees Third-Party Cookies Drop by 22 Percent on EU News Sites
The number of third-party cookies on European news sites has decreased by 22 percent after the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force, according to a report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. UK news sites saw one of the biggest drops, with the number of third-party cookies decreasing by 45 percent, while German news sites saw only a 6 percent drop. The number of news sites hosting third-party social media content, such as sharing buttons from Facebook or Twitter, dropped significantly from 84 percent in April to 77 percent in July. Meanwhile several ad tech companies saw steep drops in use of their cookies, with Oath falling from 57 percent to 44 percent, Rubicon Project dropping from 56 percent to 44 percent, and AdForm falling from 53 percent to 39 percent.
The Week in Tech
Index Exchange Pauses Bid Caching
Index Exchange this week announced it has paused its use of ‘bid caching’ in response to complaints which emerged last week after the practice came to light. Buyers reportedly hadn’t previously been aware Index used bid caching, which holds onto unsuccessful bids for an ad slot and enters the same bid into a later auction on the same website. While Index defended the practice, many were upset about the fact that buyers hadn’t been informed of the practice, and other framed it as a cynical effort by the company to expand its market share.
As a reflection of our commitment to openness, we are pausing our use of bid caching. In the meantime, we are shifting our focus to communicating and educating about the feature. We will use this opportunity to recommit to an even higher standard of transparency for our industry.
— Index Exchange (@IndexExchange) August 20, 2018
Google Denies Tracking Users in Incognito Mode
Google on Thursday denied that it tracks users while they use Google Chrome’s ‘incognito’ mode after a report earlier in the week claimed the company is able to link individuals’ private browsing activity with their Google accounts. Professor Douglas Schmidt of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee published research claiming that while data around incognito browsing is collected with user-anonymous identifiers, Google has the ability to connect this retroactively with a user’s personal credentials. Google denied it links data in this way, with a spokesman saying that the report was “commissioned by a professional DC lobbyist group, and written by a witness for Oracle in their ongoing copyright litigation”. However the report comes at a time when Google’s data collecting practices are under close scrutiny, particularly following claims last week that the company tracks users’ location even when they have ‘location history’ turned off.
Study Finds Only a Third of Publishers See Traffic Boost from Google AMP
Only a third of publishers using Google’s accelerated mobile pages (AMP) tool, designed to optimise websites and ads for mobile viewing, actually see a clear boost to their traffic according to a study from Chartbeat and The Daily Beast. The study calls into question the benefits of AMP, since it in many cases reduces the publisher’s ability to monetise content, which is supposed to be compensated for by a traffic boost. However, the study concluded that publishers might be best off optimising their AMP setup rather than abandoning it altogether, as different configurations of AMP can affect a publisher’s ability to monetise content.
Facebook Removes Targeting Options and Purges Fake News Spreading Accounts Linked to Russia and Iran
Facebook had another busy week dealing with a series of problems around fake news and discrimination which cropped up on its platform. The company removed over 5,000 ad targeting options after it emerged brands were able to exclude certain racial and religious groups from ad campaigns using Facebook’s targeting tools. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development had filed a complaint as the tools allowed landlords to violate the Fair Housing Act, which prevents this kind of discrimination in advertising. Facebook also this week purged hundreds of fake accounts which were found to be spreading misinformation originating from Iran and Russia. These accounts were not found to be working in coordination, but used similar tactics in order to mislead legitimate Facebook users, according to a statement from the company.
Sublime Skinz Enters German Market
Sublime Skinz has announced the expansion of its European operations, opening an office for the German-speaking market (DACH) in Düsseldorf which will be led by Assen Saraiwanow, commercial director DACH. “Assen is a digital marketing expert with a vast network of contacts in the market, ensuring that customers in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland can reap the full benefits of our solutions,” said Andrew Buckman, managing director EMEA at Sublime Skinz.
Drawbridge Raises $15 Million in New Funding
Cross-device ad tech platform Drawbridge this week raised $15 million in new funding from existing investors Sequoia, Kleiner Perkins and Northgate, as the company works through a post-GDPR transition period. Drawbridge closde its media buying arm in Europe just before GDPR came into force, and also sold its US media business backin May.
The Week in TV
China Overtakes UK as Second Largest Spender on TV Content
China has overtaken the UK as the second largest spender globally on TV content, according to research from IHS Market. High spending on TV content from China’s digital giants has driven growth of the Chinese market, and these tech companies are expected to overtake traditional TV broadcasters this year if their high spending continues. TV programming expenditures in China last year reached 73 billion yuan ($10.9 billion) according to IHS Markit’s data, beating out the UK’s content spend of $10.0 billion. Read the full story on VAN.
Comcast Extends Deadline for Sky Deal
Comcast has extended the deadline to September 12th for Sky shareholders to accept its offer of £14.75 per share, as currently less than one percent of ordinary shareholders had accepted the bid. Shareholders may well be waiting to see if 21st Century Fox increases its £14 per share offer to try to outbid Comcast, though earlier this month Fox chose to stick with its existing offer and kick off a new bidding period, rather than increase its offer to outbid Comcast.
Private Equity Firms Planning Bids for US Local TV Stations
Private equity firms Apollo, Blackstone and providence are among those considering buying American local TV owners like Tribune, Sinclair and Nexstar, according to a CNBC report. The private equity firms reportedly see local TV as a reliable cash generator requiring little investment, and would use the acquisitions as a fast way to deleverage. This year is expected to be strong for local TV too as the mid term elections in Autumn will bring in a lot of political ad spend.
ProSiebenSat.1 Launches New HbbTV Portals
ProSiebenSat.1 this week launched a series of new HbbTV powered red button services which the broadcaster says are designed to enable “dual consumption” of different content. The red button will open up an entertainment feed alongside the live broadcast content, which gives access to live news updates appearing via video and text and to a media library where the user can browse other content. ProSiebenSat.1 also said the portal will enable interactive features such voting and playing along with quiz shows.
The Week in Publishing
Twitch Removes Ad-Free Viewing for Prime Members
Amazon-owned live streaming platform Twitch this week removed ad-free viewing as a benefit for Twitch Prime subscribers, following last week’s reports that the company is aiming to generate $1 billion in ad sales annually. Twitch Prime, which comes bundled with Amazon Prime subscriptions, will continue to give subscribers access to free games and one channel free subscription (where a user pays a fee to a specific channel for exclusive benefits) per month, but users will now have to pay for a separate service called Twitch Turbo to watch without ads. “Advertising is an important source of support for the creators who make Twitch possible,” said a company statement. “This change will strengthen and expand that advertising opportunity for creators so they can get more support from their viewers for doing what they love.”
Majority of Video Ad Spend Going to Social Media Platforms says WARC
Global spending on digital video advertising is set to reach $30 billion this year, and despite concerns around brand safety and ad fraud the majority of this new spend is going on social platforms, according to WARC’s latest Global Ad Trends report. WARC reports that total global spending on online video advertising, including pre/mid/post roll, social, and broadcaster video on-demand (VOD) will reach $29.8 billion this year, representing 27.5 percent year-on-year growth. Read the full story on VAN.
Facebook’s Watch Goes Unnoticed by Fifty Percent of Users
Facebook’s video-devoted tab ‘Watch’ may be a big part of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the future of his social media platform, but it’s off to a stuttering start as 50 percent of Facebook users haven’t even heard of it according to research from The Diffusion Group (TDG). In a survey of 1,632 adult Facebook users, 50 percent had never heard of the Watch tab, and 24 percent had heard of it but never actually used it. Read the full story on VAN.
The Week for Agencies
Publicis Media and GroupM Receive IAB Gold Standard Certification
GroupM Digital Programmatic Services and Publicis Media both received IAB Gold Standard certification this week, which recognises their commitment to reducing ad fraud, improving brand safety and improving the digital advertising experience. The two companies are two of the biggest media buying groups to have been awarded certification so far, with other big names including Havas and Xaxis also having committed to go through the certification process.
WPP Must Dissolve Agency Brands says Forrester
Analyst Forrester this week recommended that holding group giant WPP should dissolve hundreds of its agency brands in order to better meet the needs of chief marketing officers. Several of the big holding groups, through a variety of different initiatives, are trying to break down barriers between agency brands and pool talent from different agencies, but Forrester recommended that WPP should go even further and massively simplify its structure. The Analyst suggested that WPP’s media agencies should operate as a single GroupM, and that creative agencies should be consolidated into seven global brands.
Four in Ten Brands Have Delivered Ads to Unsafe Sites
Thirty-eight percent of brands have knowingly run ads on websites deemed ‘unsafe’ according to a survey released this week by Sizmek. The study highlight that while brands are conscious of the problems of running campaigns across unsafe sites, being strict on brands safety remains difficult. Sixty-four percent of those polled said they find it a challenge to implement effective brand safety solutions, with the same number saying that achieving strict brand safety hurt the overall effectiveness of their campaigns.
Hires of the Week
Facebook Hires Antonio Lucio as New CMO
Facebook made a rare change to its executive lineup this week, hiring HP’s Antonio Lucio as its new chief marketing officer. Lucio has previously help CMO positions at Pepsi and Visa as well as HP, and will replace Gary Briggs who announced his planned departure earlier this year.
Engine Group Hires Kasha Cacy as CEO
Holding company Engine Group this week hired Kasha Cacy, a former US CEO of IPG agency UM, as its new CEO. Cacy will report to executive chairman Paul Caine and oversee a global team of over 2,000 employees in her new role.
Spotify Appoints Two Sales Directors
Spotify has appointed Mike Buckley and Clare Leonard as sales directors in its UK team, working under head of sales Rak Patel. Buckley joins from Loopme, while Leonard joins from Oath.
This Week on VAN
Bid Caching – How Big a Problem Is It? read more on VAN
China Overtakes UK as Second Largest Spender on TV Content, read more on VAN
Facebook’s Watch Goes Unnoticed by Fifty Percent of Users, read more on VAN
Majority of Video Ad Spend Going to Social Media Platforms says WARC, read more on VAN
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