This chart that Benedict Evans tweeted is a great reminder of the scale of what we do. Most people are now using smartphones and it’s changed how they live their lives. And will continue to do so.
The challenge for brands is to add value to the customer experience on smartphones. There is some way to go here and given how most brands still struggle with mobile, those who do get it right enjoy a huge competitive advantage.
This post sums up how lazy much of the industry is — we’re trying to solve this. And keen to talk with anyone and everyone who recognise the opportunity of Mobile; a mass market machine for making money.
With GAFA having reported their Q3 results it’s the turn of BAT. Alibaba sees growth slackening slightly but the scale is amazing — MAU now up to 666m people. The piece is worth reading as a reminder of their diverse businesses. Defining these businesses is hard — most think of Alibaba as an ecmmerce business but a highly respected Chinese exec says they are really an ad business.
Baidu beat their forecasts and their strategy of focusing on search and AI — and divesting everything else — seems to be paying off.
But all the big players in China are worried about ByteDance and their domination of short videos which are huge in China — they represent 9% of all time online by Chinese. And they appeal across all age groups — people above the age of 50 now spend as much as 50 minutes on them every day — double the figures last year. Whilst the app is called TikTok in the west — and still hugely popular — it is called DouYIn in China and this is a good breakdown of the app and the types of content shared.
Tencent — who are big investors in Snap — are responding with their own version of Snap Spectacles; glasses that record video clips. Called WeiShi glasses — meaning Micro Video — they have the same name as the Tencent short video app that competes with DouYin.
Given the huge take up in China — and the popularity of TiKTok — we expect Snap to push into this space. Vine may be gone but it’s not forgotten — YouTube is full of Vine compilations with millions of views. So maybe the new Snap spectacles will get some traction — but little sign so far with just 37 reviews on Amazon.com — half of which are 5star.
The whole industry now sees that newTV will be driven by programmatic advertising. Signals will let brands identify the right audiences and serve the right creative message, within the high engagement TV environment. But is the programmatic plumbing up to this? Inserting small file size display ads onto a web page or app can be done really quickly. But it’s not always quick enough. Inserting the right 30 second video into a live stream of TV is not trivial.
We have talked before about how we can imagine Amazon or AT&T solving this. The business model of programmatic may be an issue too. Already premium inventory is disadvantaged by the % of spend charging that is typical — the higher CPMs of precision newTV will exacerbate this. In the US people are finding that buying direct is proving cheaper than going through aggregators.
A background to this is that the nature of clout in TV buying is shifting. For the past decade the big media agencies combined their clients spend to gain clout in negotiation- driving down prices and using the value to win the regular media pitches. Now, as this piece explains, the clout comes from the data and the ability to interpret and use the data — in (near) real time. One other benefit for brands is that, done properly, your data is an asset that you alone use — often in the past brands didn’t get the right return for their investment, with cannier clients getting a disproportionate benefit.
Whilst the industry expects investment in adtech to fall one category is finally getting the attention it deserves. With creative accounting for c70% of the effect of a campaign, the tech that lets one optimise creative is vital. Forester now have a wave for creative ad tech but the selection of firms is a little random.
The biggest challenge to getting the most from Creative Adtech is who is using it. Often it sits within the purview of the Media Agencies where creative talent is usually limited. And whilst some creative agencies do get this opportunity, most aren’t that involved.
Campaign makes the obvious point that media and creative need to work more closely together. But how many even speak the same language? We got into this in some detail at the recent Google Firestarters. There is a huge opportunity if you can get both elements in sync — we believe the best way to optimise a media plan is through the creative.
Evolution of the business model of adtech will help too — this is useful summary of the pros and cons of different approaches.
Personalisation gone Rogue
One of the reasons we love Creative Adtech is the ability to personalize — or contextualise — messaging. We know that this can and does drive better results (happy to share our work and thinking on this)
But the same tools can be misused and dynamic pricing is a dangerous thing. At least with surge pricing in Uber I am told that the prices are higher
Now the UK government is looking at whether consumers are disadvantaged by personalised pricing. A WSJ piece on secret customer scores and how they affect your service builds on this.
And China has taken this a lot further with your credit score influencing how you fare on Tinder. This video shows a train message that tell you if you don’t have a ticket your score will be affected. And lots more in this podcast Blacklisted in China.
It may be a smart way of boosting revenue but personalised pricing risks breaking the brand bargain of online and it could be the Achilles heel of e-commerce.
The hype around in housing continues — Sprint are the latest brand extolling the virtues.
As more and more people consider this option — we find it pops up in most conversations with brands — this presentation from MightyHive goes through the arguments and the factors to consider, with the slides probably more useful than the video.
One part of the industry where we do see a lot of inhousing is DTC brands. Paradoxically this sector is seeing lots of dedicated agencies emerge. I still believe that the Architect role of a smart agency is still hugely valuable to DTC brands ( and all the rest) even is the building is done in house.
More people are coming round to our thinking on Apple and Ads. And rumours of a tie up between Apple and IHeartRadio would support that idea — as well as boosting their music streaming it gives them access to more ad sales experience.
Fix friends as Super Awesome have taken a look at how the privacy habits kids are used to, could destabilize Facebook if they behave the same way when they grow up.
Facebook have recognised the trend for DTC brands to invest in retail stores — often as pop ups — and have partnered with Macys to facilitate this. These cooperation makes sense for everyone and we expect more of this type of thing.
There are lots of people selling social expertise and whilst most are just selling courses, some do have good insight. This interview is a little folksy but these notes are a comprehensive summary of the Facebook algorithm. Well worth reading.
Location is sometimes described as the secret sauce of mobile and the Wall Street Journal look at how valuable it can be. There are issues around privacy and consent, but the ecology is improving.
SideFix is an interesting new ad format from Facebook Messenger that rewards users who get their friends involved, with exclusive content displayed through devices being placed together. It’s one of those things where the picture is worth a thousand words. Very interesting to see new formats like this.
Good look at Ubers Dark Kitchens and virtual restaurants — ones that don’t exist other than through the app. We love how tech enables radical new business models like this. Anyone can start a new restaurant on the Uber platform — the menu becomes the key thing. How long before someone like Jamie Oliver tests a new concept this way rather bothering with a restaurant fit out?
Amazon play in the food delivery business but haven’t really gone for it — yet. Rumours are circulating that Amazon could buy Lyft. It’s an old story but there is lots of sense in the idea.
Brands under invest in Gaming as an ad medium as they don’t really understand the scale and potential. A Fix friend went to Twitchcon and looks at it through a marketers lens.
Finally…. I mentioned Scooters last week as they were so visible on my Paris trip. They are being tested out in Londons’ Olympic Park and now Ford are acquiring one of the many start ups and plan a global escooter service. This disruption is only possible because of Smartphones. What are they about to do to your business?
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