In this week’s Week in Review: Grindr and its tech partners are accused of illegally sharing personal data, TikTok plans an advertiser-friendly feed of curated content, and ethical video platform Good-Loop raises $1.6 million. To receive an update on the industry’s top stories every Friday, sign up to the weekly Video Round-Up.
Dating App Grindr and Tech Partners Accused of Illegally Sharing Personal Data
The Norwegian Consumer Council this week filed a formal complaint against Grindr, a dating app for gay, bi, trans and queer people, and various companies which received personal data through the app including Twitter’s MoPub, AT&T’s AppNexus, OpenX, AdColony and Smaato. The Council’s study found that data including IP addresses, GPS location, age, gender, and metadata relating to sexual preferences were shared by Grindr without users’ consent. The Consumer Council alleged to Norway’s data protection authority that this sharing of personal data is in violation of the EU’s general data protection regulation.
Grindr was not the only app accused of illegal data sharing, with OkCupid, Tinder, Happn and others also found to be illegally sharing data, but the Council has not confirmed whether it will file complaints against these others, too.
TikTok Courts Advertisers with Curated Content Feed
Video sharing app TikTok is considering courting advertisers by launching a curated content feed, providing a brand-safe space for advertising, according to the FT. The app has grown rapidly over the past few years, but as with most UGC apps, has faced brand safety issues. In response, TikTok could launch a carefully curated content feed, or a feed for original videos created by publishers, to bolster its ad offering.
The feed would be similar to rival app Snapchat’s ‘Discover’ section, which features higher-quality content from established publishers like the Wall Street Journal, CBS and NBS. Snap is able to charge higher prices for ads in the Discover section, thanks to the relative brand safety and quality of the content available.
Ethical Video Platform Good-Loop Raises $1.6 Million
UK-based Good-Loop, which bills itself as an ethical video advertising platform, this week announced that it has raised $1.6 million in seed funding, with significant investment from ‘brand tech’ company You & Mr Jones. Good-Loop rewards users who interact with their video ads (for example, by watching the ad past the 15 second mark) by donating half of the advertiser’s money to a charity of their choice. The company, which works with brands including Co-op, Unilever and Nestle, says its model has raised over half a million pounds for various charites. Co-founder and chief executive Amy Williams said the new funding will be used to grow Good-Loop’s commercial teams in Europe and the US.
With Google’s announcement this week likely to make conditions for ad tech companies seeking funding even harder, perhaps those with a unique and ethical business model will fare best.
The Week in Tech
Google Pulls the Trigger on Third-Party Cookies
Google’s announced on Tuesday that it is seeking to end support for third-party cookies within the next two years on its Chrome browser, confirming that it will follow in the footsteps of Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Firefox. Over the two year period, Google says it wants to develop tools to meet the needs of users, publishers and advertisers within its ‘Privacy Sandbox’, which it announced last August. Once these tools are ready Google will end support for third-party cookies. At the moment, Google is prioritising tools to handle conversion measurement and personalisation.
US advertiser trade groups the ANA and 4As have both asked Google to reconsider its decision, saying in a joint statement that “Google’s decision to block third-party cookies in Chrome could have major competitive impacts for digital businesses, consumer services, and technological innovation. It would threaten to substantially disrupt much of the infrastructure of today’s Internet without providing any viable alternative, and it may choke off the economic oxygen from advertising that startups and emerging companies need to survive.”
Meanwhile, Google became the fourth US company to reach a $1 trillion valuation, behind Apple, Amazon and Microsoft.
Four Firms Sue Facebook in Attempt to Prise Control from Zuckerberg
Four companies filed a lawsuit against Facebook on Thursday, asking the US District Court for the Northern District of California to force CEO Mark Zuckerberg to give up his majority control of the company. The four companies; Reveal Chat HoldCo LLC, USA Technology and Management Services Inc, Cir.cl Inc and Beehive Biometric Inc; accuse Facebook of anti-competitive behaviour. They say Facebook revoked developer access to its platform in order to damage potential competitors. Facebook says the case is “without merit”.
Finecast’s Addressable TV Service’s Verified by PwC
Finecast and PwC this week announced that PwC have completed an audit of Finecast’s delivery and reporting of omnichannel addressable TV campaigns in the UK. Finecast claims this makes it the first addressable TV advertising service provider to complete an external audit of their supply chain, delivery and reporting.
“Advertisers have long relied on television to build their brands and sell their products, and they need trustworthy partners to help navigate the modern TV environment where linear TV viewing is declining, and viewing is fragmenting across a growing universe of on demand platforms,” said Harry Harcus, UK MD at Finecast. “Given ongoing concerns about the transparency, brand safety and integrity of the digital advertising supply chain, it’s important that advertisers have confidence in TV as it moves into an online environment.”
The Week in TV
NBC Lifts the Lid on Upcoming Streaming Service ‘Peacock’
NBCUniversal this week revealed fresh details around its upcoming streaming service “Peacock”, confirming that it will rely heavily on ad revenues, unlike many of its competitors. Peacock will have a premium version available with advertising at $4.99 per month, and without advertising at $9.99 – though the premium, ad-supported product will be available to Comcast and Cox Communications subscribers for free. The non-premium tier – completely free and ad-supported, will hold over 7,500 hours of programming according to NBCU, including a mix of catch-up and curated ‘vault’ content. The paid versions meanwhile will include live sports, and early-access to late night shows.
Netflix Accused of Tax Dodging
A report from Tax Watch UK this week accused Netflix of dodging taxes by shifting its profits between a network of offshore accounts, moving up to $430 million of profit from its international operations into tax havens in 2018. The report also found that in 2018, despite making £860 million in revenue from UK subscribers, Netflix not only paid no tax in the UK, it actually received £924,000 in tax credits.
ITV’s Hub Reaches 500 Million Hours Watched in 2019
ITV announced this week that viewing on its online service ITV Hub is continuing to grow at a steady rate, up 13 percent in 2019. This took the service to 500 million hours watched overall. ITV’s hit reality show Love Island was the most popular show on Hub, with 1.9 million viewers tuning in to the simulcast of the July final.
Discovery Claims Seven Percent UK Audience Growth in Declining TV Market
Discovery said this week that 2019 was its best year in the UK to date, with the audience for its channels like Quest, Food Network and Eurosport growing by seven percent. The broadcaster said this stands in contrast to the rest of the UK market, which it says declined by four percent. “We have focused single-mindedly on building passionate audiences in the key categories of lifestyle and entertainment, led by Clare Laycock, and factual and passion sport, led by Simon Downing,” said James Gibbons, EVP and GM of Discovery Networks UK, Ireland and ANZ. “As a result we are now leaders in several important verticals, from Food to Weddings, and Motors to Cycling, delighting our engaged audiences.”
The Week in Publishing
Reddit Cracks Down Further on Manipulated Media and Deepfakes
Social sharing platform Reddit updated its policy on manipulated media this week, cracking down further on deepfakes and other forms of deceptive media. Reddit had previously been used to distribute deepfake pornography, which it has since banned. Other types of deepfakes haven’t been too much of a problem for the platform according to Reddit, which says it’s trying to get ahead of the curve before they do become an issue. The updated policy bans content that “impersonates individuals or entities in a misleading or deceptive manner,” including “domains that mimic others, as well as deepfakes or other manipulated content presented to mislead, or falsely attributed to an individual or entity”.
YouTube Faces Year’s First Brand Safety Scandal
YouTube’s brand safety woes have continued into 2020 as it was revealed that a number of global brands’ ads have been running against climate change misinformation videos on the platform. The brands affected included consumer brands like Samsung, L’Oréal and Carrefour, as well as environmental groups Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, whose ads ran on videos with titles like “Actual scientist: climate change is a hoax” and “CIA whistleblower speaks out about climate engineering vaccination dangers and 9/11”.
Avaaz, the non-profit which found the ads, accused YouTube of actively promoting climate change denial videos. “These climate misinformation videos aren’t just being uploaded to YouTube and organically seen by interested audiences,” said the group’s report. “Instead, YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is giving these videos free promotion and showing misinformation to millions who wouldn’t have been exposed to it otherwise.” A YouTube spokesperson said the company is investing heavily to reduce recommendations of borderline content and harmful misinformation.
Telegraph Withdraws from ABC Audits
UK newspaper The Telegraph has announced it is withdrawing from the ABC newspaper circulation audit, a widely used measure on print newspaper circulation. The Telegraph says the measure doesn’t fit well with it’s current subscription-first strategy, and it will instead publish its subscription figures across print and digital. These figures will be independently audited by PwC.
The Week for Agencies
IPA Bellwether Finds Optimism Returning to UK Marketer’s
The IPA’s Bellwether Report released this week found that after a rocky 2019, optimism is returning to UK marketers who are upping their marketing budgets. The IPA’s survey found that in Q4 last year, a net balance of 4.0 percent of firms revised their marketing budgets up (compared to -0.5 percent in the previous quarter). And this trend is set to continue in 2019/20, where a net balance of +15.7 percent of companies expect their total marketing budgets to be revised upwards. “With Brexit still looming, I’m sure it won’t be plain sailing, but these forecasts provide an upbeat outlook for the year ahead for UK plc, their marketers and of course the agencies that work with them to grow their businesses,” said Paul Bainsfair, director general of the IPA.
“We’re Not Being Disrupted by Tech Giants” says WPP’s Mark Read
Holding group WPP’s CEO Mark Read told AdAge’s ‘Ad Lib’ podcast this week that he’s frustrated with the perception that agency groups like his own have old-fashioned business models which are being disrupted by Google and Facebook. “The reality is we’re a modern marketing partner that can help clients answer many of the questions they have as they’re being disrupted,” said Read. Read also reiterated his message that one of WPP’s primary focuses at the moment is trimming the number of agencies it runs. “When I started, I asked how many brands we had and no one could actually tell me the answer,” he said. “We sort of lost count at four, five hundred. We don’t need 500 brands at WPP. We need 12 to 15 really strong brands and maybe we need some smaller boutique brands.”
Hires of the Week
The Guardian Hires Annette Thomas as New CEO
The Guardian Media Group has announced it has appointed Annette Thomas as its new CEO, to replace David Pemsel. Thomas has history as a neuroscientist and academic publisher, having previously worked as an editor at Nature, and leading publisher Macmillan Science and Education.
Twitch Picks Damian Burns as EMEA MD
Twitch has hired Damian Burns as its first managing director for the EMEA region. Burns joins from Facebook, where he was most recently senior director of gaming for the EMEA region.
This Week on VAN
Buy-Side View Special: What’s Your Biggest Bugbear with Video and OTT Advertising? read more on VAN
If You Wondered Why the BBC Seems Less Invested in BritBox, It’s Because They Are, read more on VAN
Customisation, Interactivity and Monetisation: A Guide to the Video Players, read more on VAN
How Will Google’s Phasing Out of Third-Party Cookies Impact Video? read more on VAN
Ad of the Week
Vue, Get Lost, Joint London