Vidcon last week was full of interesting people who are slowly and surely reinventing how TV works - from YouTube SEO tactics to the visual memes that TikTok are propagating.
One of the points I made is that the centre of the industry has shifted - from Hollywood & Vine to place like Lenoir and Council Bluffs - the places GAFA build their data centres. In a great podcast interview Barry Diller (the only person to be a major player in content and subsequently one in digital business) says that Hollywood is now irrelevant. Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke makes a similar point, discussing the 5 movies she bought at Sundance
The week of Mobile
Mobile World Congress is happening next week in Barcelona. It’s a while since we attended and much of the news in recent years has been about new devices and the trials and tribulations of Mobile Network Operators.
But we may see some more interesting trends this year as MNOs seem obsessed with content, so deals may well crop up. New devices tend to be of little interest but the new Samsung is very interesting. They have finally beaten Apple to the punch and their new foldable smartphone is a real game changer. And whilst the price point is ridiculous, it does reframe the market, with Apple deposed from both the most innovative and the most expensive device.
It’s interesting to see how the Apple PR machine works; this Sun story on the $92 billion that Apple have paid to app developers might be read differently by most app developers. The payment is simply the money collected by Apple when users buy an app or make an in app purchase. Less the 30% commision that Apple takes.
That tax is a contentious issue for most developers but to be fair the AppStore has kept the market safe and secure for users and given them the confidence to buy apps. But some of the big boys want to find an alternative and Fortnite developer Epic keeps trying different approaches.
Apple are still handpicking firms to buy, adding capabilities in the areas they see as valuable. So a voice specialist full of ex Pixar people makes sense as they try and get Siri back in the race with Google and Amazon around voice.
But latency on mobile ads is an issue now and without action, will only get worse with 5G. The Accelerated Mobile Pages that Google initiated is one way to solve for this and their solution for AMP Ads is also getting traction.
A couple of interesting articles around the agency space. One argues that inhousing is good for Agencies and we tend to agree. Customer acquisition is so vital to many businesses that it’s a core competence and should be handled in house. Agencies can add value with thinking rather than doing. As Campaign points out one huge opportunity is Media Planning which has been neglected by the big boys who prefer to manage their trading deals.
Our focus is on letting brands benefit from our creative thinking, and we don’t mind whether that is activated by us, an inhouse team or another buying shop.
After lots of conversation around this I think the key problem for agencies is that we have never managed to find a way to change properly for the value we deliver. So the business has tended to wrap thinking up with a time and team approach geared to execution. And when you get rewarded for being fat and slow, guess what happens.
It’s now possible to measure the value of a smart thinking, through the impact on outcomes. That’s the area we are focusing on; if thinking is driving real value lets take our fair share of that value.
Amazon clearly drive the agenda in e-commerce, retail and so much more. But there are people fighting back. Kroger is one of the biggest grocery retailers in North America and has an ambitious plan, taking a holistic view of all their business. And Walmart are really taking the fight to Amazon and their ecommerce sales were up by 42%
The next battle will be around ads as Walmart plan to emulate the Amazon move with their own ad sales operation. And just as supermarkets have always done with instore promotions, they can tax brands. So if you are spending on Amazon, Walmart will expect you to spend with them too. (It’s interesting that Walmart have been selling ads for a while, using WPP Xaxis to do so. Isn’t having a sales house within a buying operation a difficult balancing act?)
The Amazon ad sales operation got some heat from this tweet this week, showing an Amazon own label brand promoted on a rival product page. But as many of the comments pointb out, this is what has happened in store for the last 20 years; go to pick up Persil and on the shelves right above is the own label rival.
BTW, for my Voice workshop this week, I tested out Alexa by asking it to buy batteries - and it came back with Duracell, referencing my past purchases. Claiming Amazon want to kill brands is a cheap headline. They want to maximise their share of shopping and they will balance brands with private label, just as the traditional retailers do.
One more thing on retail; the collapse of the Sainsbury acquisition of Asda could prove interesting for Amazon - could their ambitions be accelerated by buying a UK supermarket? The big problem is that whilst Walmart were happy to sell Asda to Sainsury you can’t see them doing a deal with Amazon. So Sainsbury could be the target?
With the acquisition of UK fintech firm WorldFirst Ant Financial (part of Alibaba) make their first European move. This video of the Chief Data Scientist of Ant is a really good insight into a fascinating business. Finance isn’t yet a big part of Alibaba; as this analysis of how they make their money shows.
TikTok are testing video ads. They are moving quickly with lots of smart hires in the US and in Europe. And new product features like mini apps that have been hugely successful for WeChat. The rivalry between the TikTok owner ByteDance and Tencent is intensifying
Lots of innovation with Snap & AR. Partnering with Lego they have an empty store in London selling a range of Lego branded Clothes. On entering the store, you scan a SnapCode ( their own QR codes) and AR shows you the clothes and the store fittings
We mentioned the success of Uber eats last weeks. Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is getting back in the kitchen with a new dark kitchen venture called Cloud Kitchen. With the ubiquity of delivery, a new food concept is like an App - easy to launch on the platform and the focus is just on the product ( the menu) and customer acquisition.
GDPR is back - and it looks like Google and the IAB are in the firing line. There is a lot of argument here and the facts are really not clear - but the easy solution of everyone just clicking a consent button and GDPR being solved was never convincing.
Finally...developing the workshop around Voice and Vision that I shared in Sweden this week meant going deep into who is doing what and why. The day after the presentation i saw this great piece on the search for the one perfect answer and how Amazon hired a really smart thinker to drive Alexa. A must read.
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