The WIR: Fraudsters Target Ads.txt, BBC and Discovery Plan Joint Streaming Service, and Publicis Groupe Forecasts “Bumpy” 2019

In this week’s Week in Review: DoubleVerify uncovers a new ad fraud scheme targeting ads.txt, the BBC and Discovery plan a new joint streaming service, and Publicis Groupe’s Q4 results forecast troubles ahead. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.

Top Stories

Fraudsters Target Ads.txt
Verification and measurement company DoubleVerify has uncovered a new fraud scheme which specifically targets ads.txt, an industry initiative designed to counter ad fraud, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. Ads.txt helps block ‘domain spoofing’, where scammers sell ads on fake websites designed to mimic legitimate ones, by letting publishers make it clear who is authorised to sell their inventory. But DoubleVerify found that some fraudsters have been creating copies of legitimate website, finding which re-sellers are listed on their ads.txt files, and then opening their own accounts with those re-sellers. As such, when an advertiser sees inventory being bought through a re-seller on a spoof site (but doesn’t recognise it as a spoof), if they check the ads.txt files on the legitimate site, they will find the re-seller listed.

DoubleVerify says it notified clients and partners affected by the scam, and has set up new processes to protect against similar schemes.

BBC and Discovery Plan Joint Streaming Service
The BBC and Discovery are working together on a new natural history and wildlife focussed streaming service, according to a Financial Times report. The service will apparently be owned by Discovery, but the BBC will license its entire library of natural history programming. The as-yet unnamed service will not be available in the UK or US, but will be launched in “all other big international markets”, according to the FT.

With new subscription video on-demand (SVOD) services being announced seemingly on a weekly basis at the moment, it remains to be seen how much space there is for new offerings. But as VAN has previously reported, niche and thematic offerings which appeal to specific audiences may be well placed to survive alongside mainstays like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

Publicis Groupe Shares Dropped as it Forecasts “Bumpy Ride” in 2019
French agency holding group Publicis Group saw its shares fall by over 14 percent this week as it posted mixed Q4 financial results in which organic revenue fell 0.3 percent. The group says it won a “disproportionate share of new business” during the quarter, but attributed the decline to lower ad spend from major fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies like P&G and Unilever.

“We have begun 2019 with optimism even though we expect a bumpy ride in the first quarter due to the prolonged effects in the first months of the year of the FMCG client attrition of Q4 2018,” the company said in a statement. “However, the ramp-up of the significant accounts won towards the end of 2018 should lead to improved organic growth as of the second quarter.”

The Week in Tech

Taptica Buys RhythmOne for $176 Million
Mobile ad tech business Taptica this week announced it is acquiring RhythmOne in an all-share deal worth $176 million. The deal, which was first rumoured last week, merges two companies which both companies specialise in video advertising – RhythmOne started its life handling digital video search and says it specialises in advanced TV advertising, while Taptica has become more video-focussed since its acquisition of Tremor Video DSP (demand-side platform) for $50 million back in 2017.

“We’re excited to announce the acquisition of RhythmOne, which will allow us to combine its strong pedigree in CTV media with Tremor Video DSP’s years of experience in TV retargeting to create a robust and powerful video company that will be able to offer a variety of advanced capabilities to our clients,” said Tremor Video DSP CEO Ofer Druker. “RhythmOne will also add to our media exchange capabilities through its Private Marketplace (PMP), helping us offer enhanced reach, quality and results.”

German Competition Watchdog Orders Facebook to Stop “Unrestricted” Data Collection
Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (FCO) on Thrusday ordered Facebook to change the way it collects user data and shares it between its various properties, arguing that the social media site has abused its market position to coerce users into handing out personal information without their knowledge or voluntary consent.

The ruling, which comes after a three year probe by the competition watchdog, gives Facebook twelve months to update its data policies, or face further consequences. The FCO may impose fines of up to ten percent of worldwide group turnover for the previous fiscal year where it sees fit. Read the full story on VAN.

UK Government Plans New Code of Conduct for Social Media
The UK’s minister for digital and the creative industries Margot James suggested this week that the Government plans to take firmer action in ensuring social media companies do enough to protect children using their platforms. In a speech made on ‘Safer Internet Day’, James said that some social media companies have”pursued growth and profitability with little regard for the security and interests of their users”, and that they have not done enough to stem bullying, abuse and exposure to harmful content. 

James suggested that voluntary codes of practice have failed, saying that “where we are now is an absolute indictment of a system that has relied far too little on the rule of law”. She said that new legislative measures will be set out after a white paper on online safety is released later this year.

The Week in TV

Disney Prepared for $150m Licensing Revenue Hit to Launch Disney+
Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger said his company’s direct-to-consumer streaming offerings are its “number one priority”, acknowledging that there will be some short-term pain for the business as it builds its new Disney+ service. One revenue stream that Disney will lose is the $150 million in cash generated from content licensing fees, which are currently paid by platforms like Netflix to Disney in exchange for its content. Those content deals will become untenable as all Disney content is withdrawn so it’s only available on Disney+. Upcoming blockbuster ‘Captain Marvel’ will be the first property to be reserved exclusively for Disney+. Read the full story on VAN.

MTG Reports Growth in Sales and Profits
Modern Times Group reported growth in sales, profits and margins for 2018, ahead of its planned split later this year. Full year sales grew by four percent on an organic basis, with full year net sales reaching 19.7 billion SEK. The results come as MTG prepares to split into two companies, MTG and NENT Group (Nordic Entertainment Group). “The split will bring even greater clarity and speed, with two talented teams and product portfolios that are more relevant than ever for our customers,” said MTG president and CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindemann. “Both companies are operating in market segments that offer significant structural growth opportunities.”

TF1 Launches New Digital Division
French broadcaster TF1 has announced it is uniting its digital activities under one new division, Unify. Unify will include TF1’s owned digital publications, its part-owned digital studio Studio 71, its programmatic media specialist Gamned! and digital agency TF1 Digital Factory. It will not, however, include TF1’s over-the-top (OTT) and Replay TV services. Auféminin CEO Olivier Abecassis has been chosen to head up the new division.

Discovery Applies for Broadcasting License in Germany
Discovery has become the latest broadcaster to seek a license outside of the UK, in order to allow it to continue broadcasting across the EU post-Brexit. Broadband TV News reports that the company is seeking licenses for 19 international channels with the Bavarian media authority.

The Week in Publishing

Snap Stocks Soar as it Halts its User Exodus
Snap stocks rose by as much as 25 percent this week after the app maker posted Q4 results in which daily active user numbers remained constant, but revenue grew 34 percent year-on-year to $390 million. Total revenues for 2018 grew 43 percent to $1.2 billion, and while the company continues to run at a loss, CEO Evan Spiegel said in the earnings call that Snap is “substantially closer to achieving profitability”. Snap’s share price rose by as much as 28 percent after the results were released.

The company is reorganising its sales team too to help drive further revenue gains, changing from what chief business officer Jeremi Gorman described as a “free for all” model to one organised by client verticals.

VICE Cuts Ten Percent of Staff
VICE confirmed last Friday that it is shedding around 250 of its workforce, the latest in a string of digital-first publishers to lay off workers as they struggle to meet revenue targets. The publisher had internal difficulties in 2018, with founder and CEO Shane Smith replaced after allegations of a toxic work culture and sexual misconduct from senior staff members emerged. But it’s also been hit by tough conditions which have hit all digital publishers as they struggle to compete with Google and Facebook. The cuts will reportedly affect every department at VICE.

Twitter Signals Tough Conditions Ahead
Twitter beat Wall Street estimates in its Q4 results this week, bringing in $909 million in the quarter, a 24 percent year-on-year increase. But Twitter’s share price fell by over ten percent after the results were announced, as investors were concerned about the outlook for Q1 this year. Twitter forecasts Q1 revenue to be between $715 million – $775 million, a bigger drop from Q4 than investors would have hoped for. And there was concern about Twitter’s decision that it will stop reporting daily active user numbers, switching to what it calls monetiseable daily active users (mDAU) instead – that is, the number of users who can be shown ads.

The Week for Agencies

Amazon Joins Ranks of World’s Largest Advertisers
Amazon’s marketing spend in 2018 rose 30 percent to $8.2 billion, putting it among the ranks of the world’s largest advertisers, according to Campaign. While the advertising industry looks with a measure of apprehension at the company’s growing ad sales, it has been ramping up its own ad spending too. Campaign reports that it’s hard to say for certain which is the largest advertiser globally, since each company measures marketing spend differently, but going by their own numbers P&G and Unilever spent $7.1 billion and €7.6 billion respectively in their most recent financial years.

IPA Calls for Register of Online Political Ads
British advertiser trade association the IPA has issued an urgent call for a publicly available, platform-neutral, industry-owned register of all political ads online. The IPA says it wants each online platform to be responsible for populating the industry-owned register by providing all their political ad campaign data and metadata as feeds.

“Ultimately, no individual platform has the remit, authority and longevity to ensure fairness, transparency and consistency across the board. For this, we need a single body with the resources, cross-industry relationships and regulatory oversight,” said IPA director general Paul Bainsfair. “Which is why we – alongside the acknowledgement by the House of Lords that industry bodies should commit to signing up fully with JICWEBS, suggest that this comes under their jurisdiction.”

Super Bowl Ad Spend Falls
Kantar Media estimates that overall spending on Super Bowl ads fell this year to $382 million, the lowest figure since 2016. The top spender was Anheuser Busch InBev, which ran multiple spots for its Bud Light and Budweiser brands, spending $59 million in the process. Amazon was the next highest spender at $25 million, while Google, Deutsche Telekom and Toyota each spent around $20 million, according to Kantar’s estimates.

Hires of the Week

Brian Wieser Joins GroupM
GroupM has taken on prominent advertising analyst Brian Wieser as its global president of business intelligence. Wieser was most recently a senior analyst at Pivotal Research Group, and has become one of the industry’s go-to’s for comment on trends in the media landscape. “He is uniquely suited to create insightful analysis that will help our clients make marketing investment decisions,” said GroupM chief executive Kelly Clark.

Xandr Media Hires Jay Askinasi
Xandr Media this week announced its appointed Jay Askinasi as VP, head of agency and digital partnerships. Askinasi was most recently global president of Publicis Media.

SpotX Appoints Graeme Lynch as Head of Demand
SpotX has hired Graeme Lynch to lead buy-side activity in the UK as its new head of demand. Lynch, who has previously held roles at OMD, Fox Networks, and Adobe Ad Cloud, will work with buyers to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of their video ad campaigns, according to SpotX.

This Week on VAN

Why Aren’t More Telco Operators Monetising Their Data? read more on VAN

The Super Bowl Ads Winners and Losers: What Does the Data Say? read more on VAN

Disney Prepared for $150m Licensing Revenue Hit to Launch Disney+ read more on VAN

German Competition Watchdog Orders Facebook to Stop “Unrestricted” Data Collection, read more on VAN

Ad of the Week

Bud Light and HBO, Joust, Droga5 and Wieden+Kennedy
Last year’s pick of the Super Bowl, P&G’s ‘It’s a Tide Ad’ campaign, posed as various stereotypical ads which turned out to be Tide ads. Our pick of this year’s Super Bowl plays a similar trick, but with a new spin.

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