Direct Brand Economy
Rather than the new Davids or DNVBs, we prefer this term that the IAB are pushing, as a name for the plethora of startups that focus on a product they sell direct. They are interesting to us as they use digital platforms for their core business processes and are therefore role models for older brands, who need to better navigate the new ecology of commerce. In his address at an IAB event, Randall Rothenberg talks about why they are significant
Today, if you’ve got an idea for a better toothpaste, you can make it yourself. And market it, sell it, and deliver it yourself. You can find, sell, and deliver to your health-conscious segment… You can start a subscription service… Or you can “unbrand” it and bring it straight home, at a discount.
A good Wharton study looks deeper and sees that customer retention and loyalty is a much underrated factor in valuing these companies. Using this approach they were able to see some fragility in Blue Apron before their share price plummeted. It is interesting that we see more and more evidence that existing customers drive growth most of the industry is obsessed with the Byron Sharp view that constant acquisition of new customers is the only way to grow. As ever, it is more nuanced than that.
With the skills our friends at KBS Albion have in product and proposition development (Skype, Giff Gaff, Ada etc) and our expertise in driving growth, we think we are well placed to help in this space. So we are talking with some new brands, forward thinking old brands and with VCs. If you would like to talk about this sector, get in touch.
As we work towards our newTV event in April we keep seeing clues as to where that world is heading. TV ad spend in the US was down 7.8% last year. Viewing at the 4 broadcasters was down 10% on the core 18-49 demographic. And some of that money must have followed the eyeballs to Facebook video.
Where there are strong OTT opportunities the money isn’t flowing - which we suspect is down to the agencies involved. This is probably a sweeping generalisation but the people buying broadcast don’t get the targeting opportunity and those buying Facebook video etc don’t see the OTT world as their space. Our hypotheses is that it is easier for those used to data driven, precision buying on GAFA will better adjust to the OTT world than those relying on volume deals to buy broadcast.
People tend not to be too concerned about the tech delivering their favourite content or the platform - instead relishing the ability to watch anything anywhere with the smartphone as the access point. This US piece looks at cable cutting and how YouTube TV is a good contender to replace.
Brands need to be equally agnostic
The relentless growth of GAFA has to slow at some point - that’s a sign of maturity. If you have almost half the population of the US using Facebook every day can you really expect more growth? But it seems to have Facebook concerned; look at these ads i saw in my Feed this week.
Should brands be concerned? Not really - hundreds of millions of people spend a lot of time there and enjoy that time. So it’s still the place to do precision advertising at scale. And done properly it is highly cost effective.
This BBC clip on the Trump campaign talks about how Cambridge Analytics has over 30000 campaigns running at a time. To get him elected you needed to be really good at Facebook ads. And if you are, you can use them to sell your products too.
A widely reported speech by Unilever CMO Keith Weed talks about their insistence that platforms be responsible, saying Social media should build social responsibility. Jon Mew of the IAB puts it well in his commentary on the speech
Facebook and everyone else gets the message they need to learn and adapt, and few are as good at evolving their product to meet their disparate users needs as Facebook have proved to be. But making a similar point to our long tail story last week, someone asks do big advertisers even matter to GAFA?
We have probably seen Peak Facebook but it is going to be a significant player for some time.
At the event i spoke at in New York last week a number of speakers covered the mobile web - including a fascinating talk from Google on Accelerated Mobile Pages and on Progressive Web Apps - soon to be called PWAMP? I think that was a joke but you never know; they are two sides of the same coin. Both add an extra dimension to the mobile web, speeding up the pages; which is crucial in keeping visitors on your site and helpful in search as Google rewards fast loading sites.
New functionality within AMP keeps arriving - now it’s possible to have Snap like stories on mobile web pages and it can be used to improve email. And Googles’ ambition to make this an industry initiative, rather than one of theirs, is helped with Microsoft supporting Progressive Web Apps. And it looks like support from Safari and iOS isn't that far away.
One issue slowing down adoption of these technologies has been finding talent to implement them; many web agencies don’t really get mobile and usually resort to a simple responsive site as their solution. So AMP and PWA don’t get the priority they deserve. The sponsors of the event Ezoic have stepped up with convertors for AMP and now for PWA for their customers.
The other significant development in mobile web is the Chrome ad blocker which kicked into action this week. It works across both desktop and mobile but it is on the smaller screen of mobile where many of the bad ad formats are so annoying.
The domestic Premier League rights hasn’t caused any big upsets - Sky and BT have bought the majority of the games and saved a bit of money against the record prices paid last time around. The two new experimental packages are still to be sold and these are more likely to be of interest to Amazon or Facebook. But because of the companies circling Sky - Disney, Fox and Comcast - this auction is big news in the US, even if GAFA don’t get involved. The fact China paid $700m for the Premier League rights is proof of the global appeal.
Our friends at OnDeviceResearch shared some impressive figures on ROI for digital ads by FMCG brands. Using an interesting new technique they estimate that for each £1 spent the average return was £4.28
Finally the audience at the New York event last week was publishers. But as well as the big well known ones, there were a number of niche publishers with very successful businesses. Just as the new digital world enables the Direct Brand Economy we opened with, so too does it enable Modern Media brands. Our friends at Vida are working to nurture these new media brands and this piece looks at how Clique blend Media and eCommerce
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