The WIR: Unilever CMO Keith Weed Steps Down, Mediaset Launches New Streaming Service, and Three Ad Tech Companies Confirm Layoffs

In this week’s Week in Review: Unilever’s long-serving CMO Keith Weed steps down, Mediaset launches a new streaming service, and three ad tech companies confirm staff layoffs. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

Unilever CMO Keith Weed Steps Down
Unilever’s chief marketing officer Keith Weed announced this week that he’s stepping down after 35 years with the company. Weed has been consistently outspoken on issues around measurement, walled gardens and ad fraud during his tenure, and has recently taken aim at influencer fraud. “I have been privileged to lead some of the best Marketing, Sustainability and Communication teams in the world,” said Mr. Weed said in a statement. “As the world’s second largest advertiser, we have been able to leverage our scale for effectiveness and efficiencies, and we have also been able to leverage our scale for good, leading to greater responsibility, transparency and accountability in the advertising and digital industry.”

People with knowledge of internal discussions at Unilever are saying the company might now choose to scrap the CMO role, instead delegating responsibilities to separate heads of its product categories, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Mediaset Launches New Streaming Platform
Mediaset this week announced the launch of Mediaset Play, a new live and on-demand online streaming service, powered by tech from FreeWheel and Comcast Technology Solutions. Mediaset says the new service helps unify its video distribution and advertising stack, and is part of the broadcaster’s overarching AVOD (advertising-supported video on-demand) strategy.

“We chose the Comcast Technology Solutions and FreeWheel platforms because they are true leaders in their field and offer a solid solution to support our business needs,” said Mediaset CTO Maurizio Galli. “This collaboration will ensure Mediaset continues to innovate in a competitive market.”

MediaMath, OpenX and GroundTruth Confirm Layoffs
Demand-side platform MediaMath confirmed to Adweek that it’s conducted a round of layoffs this week, which includes the exit of its general manager of supply Lewis Rothkopf, as part of an internal restructuring process. “The changes we have made in our organisational structure will enable us to develop products for and with our clients in order to ensure that we are best equipped to serve and mobilise the ecosystem as a whole,” MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki told AdWeek.

AdWeek also confirmed that OpenX and GroundTruth have similarly laid off staff recently, as the ad tech sector goes through a period of consolidation and companies are tightening their belts to remain competitive.

The Week in Tech

INVIDI Acquires Ooyala’s Ad Tech Division
INVIDI, an ad technology company specialising in addressable TV advertising, has announced it is acquiring the ad tech division of video distribution business Ooyala for an undisclosed fee. The ad tech division, which started life as an independent company called Videoplaza before being bought out by Ooyala in 2014, owns a sell-side ad serving platform called Ooyala Pulse which focuses primarily on digital video advertising and programmatic trading. Read the full story on VAN.

Chinese Tech Giants Shaken by Arrests
Chinese tech giants Huawei and Alibaba were both shaken by arrests of senior executives this week. Yang Weidong, head of Alibaba’s video streaming site YouKu, was arrested by Chinese authorities on Monday over suspicions of accepting improper payments. Alibaba said it does not tolerate “any form of unethical or unlawful conduct”, and has already replaced Weidong with Fan Luyuan, rotating president of Alibaba’s digital media and entertainment division.

Then on Wednesday it emerged that Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO and the daughter of its founder, had been arrested in Canada for extradition to the US, over unknown charges. Huawei has been seen as something of a potential threat by the US, with suspicions its phones could help Beijing spy on the West. China’s government has called Wanzhou’s arrest a violation of human rights, and asked for her release.

Liberty Global and Cadent Working on New Addressable TV Advertising Offering
European TV and broadband company Liberty Global announced on Tuesday it is working on a new addressable TV advertising offering with advanced TV ad tech company Cadent. The new offering does not have a release schedule yet, but Liberty Global has announced that it will be deployed first by its subsidiary Virgin Media in the UK. Read the full story on VAN.

Emails Suggest Facebook Leveraged User Data as Bargaining Chip for Ad Sales
Internal emails at Facebook published by the UK parliament this week suggest that Facebook withheld access to user data from companies which didn’t buy ads on its platform, using it as something of a bargaining chip to encourage higher ad spending. Facebook had historically let app developers access a fair amount of users’ data, but began restricting this access in 2014. However, some companies were white listed according to the emails, and it appears that companies which ran ads on Facebook got access to more data than those which didn’t.

Inadvia Secures New Partnership with Global Eagle
Global Eagle Entertainment on Thursday announced a new partnership with in-transit programmatic media trading platform Inadvia. Global Eagle says the platform will help its media sales team maximise sell-through rates, streamline media operations and help advertisers better plan, buy, optimise and target their campaigns. Global Eagle will begin using Inadvia’s tech in early 2019.

Google Accidentally Places Dummy Ad on “Huge Number” of Website
Google accidentally posted a blank yellow rectangle in ad slots on a “huge number” of websites this week during a training exercise, the Financial Times reported. Trainees were being shown how to use Google’s ad placing system, and one trainee reportedly went too far and submitted a live order, resulting in yellow rectangles being visible across lots of sites and apps to users in the US and Australia. The FT speculated that the mistake will cost Google around $10 million in total.

AnyClip Launches LuminousX
Video content data specialists AnyClip this week launched LuminousX, a tool which the company says will enable publishers to create an endless feed of automatically-matched editorial content. LuminousX will let publisher embed video content provided by over 80 content producers on their web pages, and will also analyse the videos themselves to create an endless feed of relevant clips.

Connatix Announces New Partnership with Wibbitz
Connatix this week announced a new partnership with Wibbitz to increase the selection of video content available via Connatix’s Content Marketplace. Videos produced with Wibbitz’s automated creation platform will now be available to Connatix clients, which the companies say will help publishers add new streams of video revenue.

The Week in TV

Nexstar Buys Tribune for $4.1 Billion
US broadcaster Nexstar Media Group this week agreed to buy Tribune Media Company for $4.1 billion, making Nexstar the largest regional TV operator in the country. Nexstar currently owns and operates 174 TV stations across the states, and the Tribune Media acquisition would add a further 42, subject to approval from Tribune’s shareholders and federal regulators.

Hulu and AT&T Planning Ads During Pause Breaks
Hulu and AT&T are both considering running ads during viewing breaks where users pause the shows they’re watching, according to a report in Variety this week. Hulu’s VP and head of advertising platforms Jeremy Helfand told Variety that the ads would be designed to create more natural ad breaks during binge viewing sessions, and that these ads could start appearing as soon as next year. Meanwhile AT&T’s Max Van Houten said his company is considering the format in part due to the 100 percent viewability that would be captured when the viewer pauses and unpauses.

UK Broadcasters Warn MPs that Brexit Cliff Edge Would Cause “Huge Disruption”
UK broadcasters have told British MPs they must avoid a Brexit “cliff edge” which could cause “huge disruption for the UK’s international broadcasting sector, its workforce and its suppliers”. The warning, issued by the Commercial Broadcasters Association (COBA), said broadcasters might find themselves forced to implement contingency plans and move their operations abroad. Read the full story on VAN.

Viacom CEO Plans More Streaming Services
Viacom’s CEO Bob Bakish says the company plans to launch three new streaming services in the reality TV, Spanish-language and African-American spaces. Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York, Bakish also said the company is not looking for any “big transformational deal” as it looks to spur new growth, but is eyeing a differentiated strategy around production for streaming platforms, AdVOD services and direct-to-consumer offerings.

RTL Group Investing in Joint VOD Tech Platform
European broadcaster RTL Group announced on Wednesday it is ramping up its investment in video on-demand services, part of which will be dedicated to building a new joint VOD tech platform to run across the group’s various markets. The broadcasting group had already been investing significant sums in the various VOD services run by its subsidiaries, such as TV Now in Germany and Videoland in the Netherlands. Now however the group is planning to develop a joint tech platform which these various on-demand services will eventually be migrated onto.

The Week in Publishing

Oath Looks for Alternatives to Ad Revenue
Verizon’s soon-to-be-renamed content division Oath is looking to diversify beyond ad sales after failing to meet revenue targets, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Oath is apparently considering subscriptions for HuffPost news and Yahoo Sports content, following on from an announcement earlier this month that Yahoo Finance will start a subscription service early next year.

Meanwhile Oath-owned Tumblr received a mixed reaction this week after announcing it will no longer allowed pornographic content or nudity on the platform. The reaction perhaps highlighted Oath’s troubles, with some commenting that Tumblr had removed one of its key remaining draws.

Thompson Reuters Cuts Twelve Percent of Global Workforce
Thompson Reuters has announced that it will cut its staff count by 3,200 and close 55 offices by 2020, a twelve percent reduction in its workforce. The news publisher told CNN Business that the decision comes as the company looks for ways to make its operations run more efficiently and effectively, but didn’t mention any financial troubles as motivating the cuts. The company also reportedly plans to reduce its capital expenditures by three percent, and cut the number of products it sells.

Otter Media Announces Staff Cuts
AT&T-owned digital media company Otter Media is cutting around 10 percent of its employees amid a restructuring, according to Variety. The company is also rejigging some of its businesses, putting Rooster Teeth under the oversight of Ellation CEO Tom Pickett, and splitting branded content business Fullscreen into three divisions. “These changes will make our business more focused, competitive and profitable,” said Otter Media CEO Tony Goncalves in a memo to staff.

The Week for Agencies

S4 Capital Buys MightyHive for $150 Million
Martin Sorrell’s investment vehicle S4 Capital continued its spending spree with a $150 million acquisition of programmatic trading ad tech company MightyHive. MightyHive’s co-founders Pete Kim (CEO) and Christopher Martin (COO) will remain in their roles, while also joining the S4 Capital board of directors. Sorrell, who has previously described his new venture as a peanut compared to the holding group giants, said “the peanut has now morphed into a coconut, and is growing and ripening”.

GroupM Downgrades Ad Spend Expectations
GroupM on Monday lowered its ad spend forecasts for both 2018 and 2019 due to “tighter money, China’s slowing growth, and the potential for pricey trade wars”. The media buyer downgraded 2018 growth expectations from 4.5 percent to 4.3 percent, and lowered its 2019 growth projection from 3.9 percent to 3.6 percent. This brings predicted new investment in advertising next year to $19 billion, down from $23 billion predicted previously.

Accenture Reportedly in the Running to Buy MDC Partners
Consultancy Accenture is reportedly among the final bidders to buy agency group MDC Partners, according to Adweek. MDC Partners, which owns more than 50 agencies around the world including Anomaly, 72andSunny, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky, was reported by the Wall Street Journal to be exploring a sale back in September, as the company is apparently struggling with over $1 billion in debt.

Samsung Becomes Highest Spending Advertiser
Samsung has overtaken P&G to become the world’s largest advertiser, according to AdAge. AdAge’s figures show that the consumer electronics giant spent $11.2 billion in 2017, overtaking P&G’s $10.5 billion. Total spending by the world’s 100 largest advertisers rose by 4.9 percent to $279 billion, according to AdAge.

Hires of the Week

Wunderman Thompson Picks Shane Atchison as North American CEO
Newly formed agency Wunderman Thompson has picked Shane Atchison, former global CEO of Possible, as its North American CEO. Atchison will report to Wunderman Thompson global CEO Mel Edwards from January next year.

4As Hires Simon Fenwick as EVP of Talent Engagement and Inclusion
American trade association the 4A’s has hired Simon Fenwick as EVP of talent engagement and inclusion, a role that will see him take charge of the body’s diversity, learning and development programmes. Fenwick has previously held roles at Facebook, IPG Mediabrands and Starcom MediaVest Group.

This Week on VAN

How the Duopoly’s Brand Safety Scandals are Hurting News Publishers, read more on VAN

Liberty Global and Cadent Working on New Addressable TV Advertising Offering, read more on VAN

INVIDI Acquires Ooyala’s Ad Tech Division, read more on VAN

UK Broadcasters Warn MPs that Brexit Cliff Edge Would Cause “Huge Disruption”, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

PlayStation Classic, Play History Make History, BBH New York

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