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Mobile Fix / February 14

Happy Valentines Day….I’m Simon Andrews, it’s first thing Friday and this is the newsletter I have been sharing for 10 years - with news and my views on Mobile, Digital, Social and more. Quite a few new subscribers this week (lots in gaming) - let's keep the sharing going. And let’s continue the conversation on Twitter — I’m @SimonBigPicture

TLDR - If you read just one thing this is a really thorough deck on Social Advertising

Lots of smart thinking and it goes some way to bridging the gap between the Brand thinking of Byron Sharp and Binet & Field et al and the modern digital world. As ever it’s a guide rather than an instruction manual, but lots to learn here (It’s a Google doc so loads slowly)

#Adtech Perfect Storm

So much happening here and lots of conversations so i have decided to run a (paid) half day event on this topic - hopefully - next month. We have a number of Fix readers agreed to speak (Arete / Beeswax / Permutive / IAB / 7Stars / Superawesome / Telegraph / Trade Desk) and talking with more. The idea is a Chatham House rules event where we discuss the issues openly and try and navigate solutions that get us to a better place.

I will share the agenda once we sort the date/venue and confirm speakers, but if it sounds like something you would like to participate in, let me know. Still open to more speakers and sponsors that will add real value.

In the conversation I have been using this quote from the US IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg;

This isn’t the end. This is a new and better beginning

At their US event this week we saw some good early thinking and it’s well worth reading both the charts shared and the script of Randalls talk - both here in a PDF. Solving the issues isn't just about tracking; its rethinking how we manage Personalization and Privacy and this quote from the script is worth calling out;

Consider, for a moment, that personalization and privacy – these superficially opposed values – are actually different perspectives on the same thing: individuality.

“Personalization” is a third-party perspective on individuality: It can be a friend mailing me a birthday card to my home, or Spotify algorithmically offering me a package of tunes tailored to preferences it’s gleaned from my expressed interests or behaviors. The agency sits outside of me.

“Privacy” is first-person – my ownership of my individuality: I invite you into my home, but I don’t want that other person intruding in my space without my invitation. You can have my data – but only if I offer it to you and you give me something of value in return.

One of the challenges is that the debate and discussion on these topics is lost in translation as Three Letter Acronyms, buzzwords and jargon are favoured over plain English. So I liked this eloquent explanation of the loss of cookies from Beeswax.

This thread on publisher first-party data is a useful reminder how the balance of power can switch back to good publishers. But we do need to work on standardising the taxonomy so what I buy from one publisher is comparable to what I buy from another.

The allure of SharedIDs is fading as it becomes clear they need cookies to work, but i think another way in which GAFA benefits from the switch to Privacy is that their logins become even more valuable. Could switching to a Facebook, Google or Amazon login boost commercial success as they can sell your ads for you? Given the cookies become 1st party as you are logged into the platform.

In their latest earnings call Criteo are being bullish about their Identity solution - claiming it is not cookie dependent. Their site explanation of their Shopper graph mentions cookies an awful lot and the idea they are protected from the PerfectStorm has not convinced many - their share price is close to a 5 year low.

Facebook Ad Network

I have been digging around Facebook and the way it handles mobile web traffic. As mentioned last week the news that the Facebook Ad Network is to close surprised me - especially as Stratechery had extolled the virtues of FAN just a few days before. I said;

I still think there is something here. Facebook has great data, huge demand from millions of advertisers — from Mom&Pops to P&G — and a constant need to grow their revenue. Could they guarantee their growth by solving the crisis facing content businesses, unable to monetise as their traffic is dark without 3rd party cookies? More to come on this.

One of the myths of Digital is that mobile time is hugely skewed to App and that Mobile Web is something of a side show. This comes from counting the huge amounts of time spent in Facebook as all App time. A significant proportion of that time is following links and opening mobile web pages.

A forgotten part of the ecosystem is the Facebook Mobile Browser that opens all these pages. Look at this Bloomberg page opened by clicking a link in the Feed. It’s the original page, but shown in the Facebook browser. You can switch to Chrome (or Safari on IOS) in the page settings.

I don’t think this thin browser supports cookies but why would it? There is no tracking or privacy issue as every user is logged into Facebook.

So here Facebook have an advantage over the publisher; the loss of cookies will mean that Bloomberg doesn’t know who I am so it is a challenge to monetise me. But Facebook clearly do know who I am and therefore have another surface to monetise me on.

So why doesn’t Facebook offer to monetise all traffic originating in their browser? Some publishers may decide to go it alone but many (most) would take a better revenue source, as long as Facebook was fair in sharing the revenues.

Have I missed something here? Or should we expect Facebook to announce a revitalised version of their Ad Network?

3Cs Content / Community / Commerce

As we think about what a new ad ecology looks like I keep coming back to this 3C idea. You use content to build (and / or) serve a community, and then look at the commerce opportunity. You can start with any one of these focuses, but you need all three to maximise the opportunity.

I keep mentioning the Kevin Kelly thinking on 1000 true fans and A16Z built on this, looking at 100 true fans. And taking their thinking further they look Beyond Ads with a detailed piece on the new business models that can replace or support ad revenue. A similar story can be seen in this great video by the same author.

Merchant

The new Q4 figures from Shopify were great - revenues up by 47% and they made a profit. And over $20bn in GMV went through the platform. Shares up by 200% in a year.

But it’s not all good news - DTC darling Brandless has closed - after raising over $200m from Softbank - whose investment record isn’t that good; WeWork, Uber and now Brandless. Quite why they needed that amount - and what they did with it - is a mystery, but the concept was always flawed.

Brandless became the brand and there was nothing else to attract or retain customers. Muji- which translates as “no-brand quality goods - had the idea first and use design and a clear aesthetic to give meaning to the brand and the business.

The lack of understanding about branding does hamper this space. This NYT piece shows the extremes; the Amazon sellers conjuring up names for the me too products proliferating on the platform.

Maybe this doesn't matter if you just want to shift product but if you use a lifetime value metric to justify your Customer acquisition cost, you need a brand. Back to the 3Cs. The idea that there is a Playbook undermines Merchants - especially as it seems to keep changing; BOF now have the new 2020 Playbook

There are new tactics - we have mentioned buy now pay later before but this is a good look at the key players. It’s a very competitive space and UK based Afterplay have just hired a new CMO (and Fix friend) from AirBnB. We see that these companies do have a positive effect on conversion and so too does Apple Pay - which is now doing 10% of all card transactions globally.. Testing all the payment options is essential as they can have a big effect, but getting the customer experience just right can be a challenge.

Who is regulating the regulator?

The excellent new Benedict Evans deck talks about regulation and we are seeing more and more examples. The US regulator blocking the acquisition of Harrys surprised everyone and it raises the question of whether an old school regulator understands markets that are very new ad developing fast. The Amazon Deliveroo issue comes to mind and so too does the Clearscore Experian deal faltering as regulators indicated their concern

The FT think the era of big M&A is over for Big Tech. But if big deals are off, small ones are still taking place; Facebook just bought UK firm Scape who focus on location accuracy.

The US FTC have asked GAFA and Microsoft to detail the acquisitions they have made over the past 10 years - so deals too small to appear on regulator radar will now be looked at. It’s not just GAFA; this thread shows Snap have been snapping up small firms too.

To keep all this in perspective watch Fix friend Richard Kramer argue Why Regulators Won’t Break Up Big Tech. A 30 minute video and well worth watching for a good take on the industry.

Measurement

I am not sure the impact of the Perfect Storm on measurement has been fully grasped yet. Things like ViewThrough - which has enabled the cockroach of digital media to flourish - will stop working. Even Brand metrics will be affected as we will find it harder to separate reached and non reached, without cookies.

So it’s timely that the IAB celebrated Clickhead day this week. We are all going to have to work harder to get robust measurement. And avoid falling back to useless metrics.

SuperApps

If there is ever to be a SuperApp in the West to emulate WeChat it’s likely to be Google Maps. Wired has a good story on it’s first 15 years and with a bunch of new features and a perspective on the next 15 years it is hugely impressive. The new features are rolling out now.

newTV

Matthew Ball reminded us this week of this seminal note from then head of Fox Peter Chernin back in 2005, on the 10 rules of Media Survival. Still apt today.

In a good video (maybe skip the first 2 minutes of sales pitch) Ball talks about Marketing in the Age of the Streaming Wars. This includes some good insight on why Netflix isn't likely to run ads for a while (20mins in). In a long written piece, he rolls back on the idea of streaming wars and does a great deep dive on the various business models. Always worth reading his thinking.

A big PWC survey of US consumers shows that customers are pretty content with the current TV situation - but are excited about the new offerings. Though it seems to suggest new subs may be funded by dropping an old one. A Nielsen study sort of supports this showing that 93% of U.S. consumers say they will either increase or keep their existing streaming services. The key factors are cost, ease of use and variety of content

As part of the Tory pressure on the BBC there was a cheap jibe comparing the BBC to Blockbuster in the age of Netflix. It’s worth remembering that the BBC had a brilliant strategy or video and streaming back in 2008, but the regulators killed Project Kangaroo before it could get started. In my time at Mindshare we met the team and were hugely impressed.

Lots of things happening with Amazon and TV - Studio is a new tool that lets brands add Amazon info to their ads that are bought via the Amazon DSP.

And the new head of the Premier League has been talking up the idea of a Netflix style service for Premier League matches. Remember he is not new to the organisation and these plans are likely to be well developed.

Social Apps

Etc

The image we opened with shows just how many Creatives Trump is using in his campaigning as democrats try and catch up on Digital. It's a powerful argument for what I see as the biggest opportunity in digital marketing - more and better creative – which will pay for itself 10 times over

MWC 2020 cancelled over coronavirus health concerns - and I don't think it will come back

China's mobile giants to take on Google's Play store. By pre-installing apps on devices they could undermine the dominance of Play.

Lots happening in DOOH. A Global exec talks about how they are using the programmatic learning of Radio with Dax to embrace OOH. 

So a Verizon deal with OOH giant Decaux isn't that surprising - your enemies enemies are you friends etc. But we hear that the headline is an over claim - they are just linking with the Decaux automated platform and have no sales agreement.

The former COO of Cheddar has launched her Text company 

People use Twitch to break new songs and artists. On TikTok an influencer can get paid $200 to feature a specific song.

It's easy to knock Agencies these days but at their best they are an amazing collection of smart people with good ideas. A Chicago agency has developed a super project for Black History Month on Chicago soul and it’s a wonderful piece of content. They deserve to win loads of new business as a result. Explore it here and go back in a couple of weeks when they get to the House era

Finally - I am amazed at how many smart people think GAFA is listening in. They see an ad for a product they have been thinking about and decide it must be Alexa or Facebook spying on them. I don’t believe this is true - or even possible.

It’s actually a version of Cocktail Party Effect or what I now call Pret Prattle. I tend to spend more time in Pret than at cocktail parties and the white noise of the other people prattling and chattering lets me get on with my work. But should someone mention a company I know, or Leeds, I hear that. Or when you hear a favourite song and realise for the first time that music is playing.

This is how i think contextual ads work, with relevance triggering Fast Brain Slow Brain. I wrote a light piece on neuroscience and contextual creative here.

You can read the conspiracy theory in this thread - with some smart retorts.

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