The WIR: Instagram Hit by Fresh Brand Safety Troubles, Beeswax Raises $15 Million, and Condé Nast Plans Paywalls for All Titles

In this week’s Week in Review: Facebook-owned Instagram faces fresh brand safety woes, Beeswax raises $15 million with an eye on CTV, and Condé Nast plans to introduce paywalls on all its titles. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

Facebook Faces Fresh Brand Safety Crisis on Instagram
Facebook-owned Instagram faced fresh concerns over its ability to moderate content this week after the BBC reported that a 14-year-old girl who took her own life in 2017 had viewed graphic content about self-harm and suicide on the platform. The BBC investigation found that several UK high street brands have had their ads displayed next to similar content on the Instagram app. UK advertisers’ trade association ISBA called for “an independent, industry-funded body that sets ethical principles, certifies content policies and processes, audits transparency reporting and provides an appeals process” in its response.

Facebook said content which sensationalises self-harm and suicide has no place on its platform, and said that Instagram is constantly reviewing its policies on how it moderates its content.

Beeswax Eyes Up CTV After $15 Million Investment Round
Bidder-as-a-service Beeswax raised $15 million in a Series B funding round led by RRE, Foundry and Amasia this week, bringing total investment up to $28 million. The round comes after a year in which Beeswax claims to have seen 150 percent year-on-year growth in revenues, which it attributes in part to increased brand in-housing of programmatic strategies. The company will use the money to double its headcount by the end of the year, and to support connected-TV (CTV), according to AdExchanger.

Condé Nast to Put All Titles Behind Paywall
US publisher Condé Nast is planning to put all its digital titles behind a paywall by the end of the year. The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Wired are all already behind paywalls which allow audiences to read up to four articles per month before having to subscribe. Now the rest of Condé Nast’s properties, including Vogue, GQ, Glamour and Bon Appétit will follow the same strategy, as the company looks to boost non-advertising revenues.

The Week in Tech Raises €6 Million to Expand in UK
French TV analytics platform has raised €6 million in a Series B fundraising round led by Runa Capital, bringing total investment in the company to €7.5 million. The company says it will use the investment to accelerate its international expansion, with plans to significantly grow the team at its London office and to open new offices in Spain and Germany this year.

French Regulators Charge Google €50 Million for GDPR Breach
Google has been fined €50 million for a breach of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation by French Regulator the National Data Protection Commission (CNIL). The CNIL said the financial penalty was imposed due to a “lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding personalisation of ads”. The fine comes in response to two complaints filed against Google, from privacy groups None of Your Business (NOYB) and La Quadrature du Net (LQDN), over alleged mishandling of user data. After the resulting investigation, the CNIL says it found two specific breaches of GDPR. Read the full story on VAN.

Comcast Launches Next Step of Blockgraph Initiative
Comcast Cable Advertising this week launched the next phase of Blockgraph, an industry initiative designed to create a secure way to use data and share information. Comcast says it is now working with other industry partners on this initiative, including Viacom and Spectrum Reach, the advertising sales division of Charter Communications, Inc., in a collaborative effort that it hopes will facilitate the secure exchange of privacy-compliant audience insights for addressable advertising.

Blockgraph is designed to become the “identity layer” for the TV industry, providing a platform on which media companies and publishers can offer marketers best-in-class data capabilities without disclosing identifiable user data to third parties – adding additional protections to user privacy.

European Governments Begin Drawing Up Tech Taxes
After Austria launched a new tax on multinational tech companies at the beginning of the month, France and Spain both took steps towards implementing their own new tech taxes this week. France proposed a levy of up to five percent on domestic revenues for the likes of Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple, a change from the current system which taxes profits (allowing these companies to avoid taxes by funnelling profits through tax havens). Meanwhile Spain’s government approved a draft law which would see these companies taxed three percent of their digital revenues, which it believes would bring in an extra €1.2 billion each year.

IAB UK Launches ‘Transparency FAQs’ to Clarify Value of Ad Tech
IAB UK is inviting ad tech companies to fill in a set of ‘transparency FAQs‘ to help them clarify the value they provide. The FAQs are made up of 20 questions on pricing, placement and data, and those who do answer them will have their answers shown on their member profile on the IAB website. OpenX, Unruly, The Rubicon Project, Integral Ad Science and iotec are among those who have already filled in the FAQs.

The Week in TV

Viacom to Buy Pluto TV for $340 Million
US media company Viacom has announced it has reached a deal to buy free TV streaming platform Pluto TV for $340 million. Viacom says the acquisition provides it with a scaled direct offering, and will serve both as an addition to its advertising business, as well as a way to drive new customers into its subscription products. Read the full story on VAN.

Hulu Drops its Base Price
Hulu announced this week that its dropping the price of its base ad-supported subscription to $5.99 per month, down from $7.99. The company says the ad load will not change as a result, and its ad-free subscription package prices will remain unchanged. The announcement comes shortly after Netflix revealed a move in the US in the opposite direction, raising the price of its most popular plan from $11 to $13 per month.

EU Broadcasters Need Digital Ad Alliances says IHS Markit
Broadcasters took only 25 percent of digital video ad revenue across Europe’s five biggest markets in 2018 according to IHS Markit, and collaboration between broadcasters may be key to taking a greater share. IHS points to France, where collaboration between commercial and free-to-air broadcasters has boosted France’s share of digital ad revenue, and says that cohesive AdVOD platforms might offer European broadcasters the best chance to regain ad market share from the duopoly, by aggregating content and distribution rights.

SVOD is Growing Rapidly But is Still in a Minority of UK Households says BARB
Just over 40 percent of UK households are subscribed to at least one subscription video on-demand (SVOD) service, with 49 percent of individuals having access to at least one SVOD, according to UK measurement body BARB’s 2018 SVOD Report. Netflix is the most popular of the three SVOD services measured, reaching 34.1 percent of households in Q3 last year. Amazon Prime Video lagged behind at 17.2 percent, while Sky’s Now TV reached 5.7 percent of households. Read the full story on VAN.

The Week in Publishing

Verizon Media Group Cuts Seven Percent of Staff
Verizon’s struggling media arm Verizon Media Group (formerly Oath) has cut seven percent of its global workforce, roughly 800 jobs, after a review of the unit. CEO K. Guru Gowrappan, who replaced Tim Armstrong late last year, said in an email to staff that the business will focus more on its mobile and video products as it seeks to ramp up revenues, which have been falling short of targets.

While the media group seeks to turn its fortunes around, it doesn’t seem be Verizon’s number one priority. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg recently told Axios that the group must stand on its own merits, and while he sees potential in the content operation, he is mostly focussed on his company’s push into 5G.

BuzzFeed Cuts 15 Percent of Staff in Latest Round of Cuts
BuzzFeed announced this week that it’s shedding 15 percent of its workforce, as it seeks to “focus on what is working”. The cuts amount to around 250 jobs, and come roughly one year after the digital publisher cut eight percent of its global workforce. The company is looking to invest more in the more promising areas of its business, which include content licensing and e-commerce, according to the Wall Street Journal, but also wants to avoid any more fundraising rounds.

Microsoft Warns Users to ‘Proceed with Caution’ on Mail Online
Microsoft’s Edge browser has begun warning users to ‘proceed with caution’ on the Daily Mail’s Mail Online, saying the news site “generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability”. The warning is delivered by Newsguard, a browser extension that rates news sources based on their standards of journalism. Newsguard has been issuing the warning for months, but it’s come to prominence as Microsoft has begun installing Newsguard on its Edge browser by default on mobile devices.

LinkedIn Launches Interest-Based Targeting
LinkedIn on Wednesday launched interest-based ad targeting via its ad platform after a three month beta trial. LinkedIn says it has created a list of 200 interest-based targeting categories, which pull signals from how users interact with content on its platform, according to AdExchanger. This will then enable advertisers to target interests like ‘super computing’, ‘AI’, ‘customer experience’ and ‘global economy’.

The Week for Agencies

Agency New Business Revenues Up 7.5 Percent
While the number of accounts up for review declined in 2018 by 5.5 percent, those which did change hands led to a 7.5 percent overall increase in revenues for agencies, according to R3 Worldwide. Publicis Groupe was found to have performed best out of all the holding groups, picking up $736.4 million in new business. WPP followed with $579.1 million, with Omnicom coming third with $340.5 million.

Majority of Marketers say Talent is in Short Supply
Fifty-four percent of senior marketers say that talent is in short supply, but 32 percent believe their teams lack the skills required to deliver “brilliant” work, according to research from recruitment company Aquent. Sixty percent also said that those applying to work in their teams are often underskilled.

WPP Drops Complaints Against US Army
WPP has dropped its complaint against the US government over the handling of the US army advertising account. WPP agency Possible had alleged that DDB had won the account by undercutting its competitors’ prices, in a way which would make it unable to fulfil the brief. However WPP has now dropped its legal case, following McCann which had also filed a complaint, before withdrawing last week.

Hires of the Week

Discovery Names Avi Saxena as CTO for D2C
Discovery has picked Avi Saxena for the newly created role of chief technology officer of direct-to-consumer, it announced this week. Saxena previously worked as VP of technology for Amazon Marketplace.

Ian Thomas Joins Publicis Spine as Chief Data Officer
Publicis Group this week announced it has chosen Ian Thomas as chief data officer for its data platform Publicis Spine. Thomas most recently worked as global leader of digital marketing, data, analytics and operations for Microsoft’s Xbox, Windows, Surface and Bing brands.

This Week on VAN

What’s Holding Online Publishers Back from Investing in OTT? read more on VAN

French Regulators Charge Google €50 Million for GDPR Breach, read more on VAN

Are We Nearing SVOD Saturation? read more on VAN

Viacom to Buy Pluto TV for $340 Million, read more on VAN

SVOD is Growing Rapidly But is Still in a Minority of UK Households says BARB, read more on VAN

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