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Fix/Friday-August 28

TikTok

As the NYTimes points out the TikTok sale is turning into a soap opera. It’s unclear who is interested in doing a deal; Microsoft is involved but we hear Oracle, Netflix, Walmart and Twitter touted as rivals. Quite what is up for sale is equally unclear - it ranges from just the US business through to everything outside China. And no one seems to have a clue on how to arrive at a price tag. (Stop press It does look like a deal is imminent.)

When the new CEO gets fed up and quits after just a few weeks, you know this is not going well. Why wouldn't he at least see the sale though and leave then? The users stats, revealed in the lawsuit against the ban, shows that the US is of falling importance - 100m Monthly Average users versus 700m globally.

The UK lead for TikTok has been talking with journalists and explains UK and European data is currently held in the US -- with no Chinese access - and will move to Dublin once their data centre is built.

Rolling Stone cover how TikTok is working with the music industry and Glossy talks about the streetwear brands using the platform - making the points brands seem slow to advertise. That’s not quite true - ASOS are on their right now and we saw Hollister do a great collaboration. In the latest Good TikTok Creative! we look at how UK telecoms brand Three are using it - read it here and sign up.

Adtech Perfect Storm

We are just a couple of weeks away from the launch of iOS14 and hence the deprecation of IDFA - making tracking much harder. This topic has migrated from the world of Adtech into headlines, largely because Facebook have come out with all guns blazing against Apple - citing the impact the changes will have on Facebook business

This VOX piece is a pretty thorough look at what's going to happen and likely consequences - at least in the short term. The WSJ also went deep and is worth reading too.

I will be talking about the impact of the IDFA changes at the POQ retail Festival in a couple of weeks - see the panel at the end of this email.

The antipathy between Apple and Facebook comes just days after Facebook chastised Apple over its App store policy.

One thing that blights publishers is the poor ads they end up running - for next to nothing - because the programmatic meccano doesn’t really value creative. The occasional exceptions could be threatened as Google rolls out a new tool designed to intervene in heavy ads. They make it clear they don't want to disrupt video ads but anything that discourages a rich user experience risks adoption of lower standards.

newTV

In Wednesdays midweek deep dive on newTV we looked at Resolving Complexity, the growth in ad supported streaming , Creative Formats and more. If you missed it, catch up here.

There is some interesting new research from Unruly on connected TV in Europe and the US.

London firm Secret Cinema have pioneered social events around film and are now running interesting projects in the US with a cool partnership with Netflix

And a recent spate of firings at Warner is seen as the end of old Hollywood. Good read and ends with this killer quote from Barry Diller - the Hollywood exec who reinvented himself as the don of ecommerce.

Merchant

Retail media is one of the most interesting areas of adtech. With Walmart and Target leading the pack copying Amazon, there is more inventory than ever before and a good set of tools to help brands experiment in this space. This piece looks at the adtech and the new set of pop up retailers like Neighborhood Good and PopUp Grocery.

One of the drums I keep banging is the potential for publishers to sell things to their readers. It worked well for newspapers for years and Hearst proves it can work today too. With a 322% increase year on year for the second quarter it’s becoming a significant revenue stream - though they won't put figures against this. With the ideal context and the trust of their community, publishers could become another channel for DTC brands.

The moves by Facebook to be more involved in ecommerce continues. Beyond selling the ads that drive transactions, they want to participate in the sale and the new Facebook Shop is a big step forward

Goldman Sachs discuss ecommerce in this video and ponder whether growth will be sustained. Spoiler alert - yes, they think we have 2025 behaviour now

Social

Lots of interesting thinking about new business models where creators get paid by their fans. Here they are called Digitally Native Vertical Creators and here the role of Curators is discussed; The Business Model of Good Taste.

This NYTimes piece from a few months ago looked at this space with The New Model Media Star Is Famous Only to You

And creators Colin and Samir sign up for some of these fan experiences across all the leading platforms - including CardiB on OnlyFans. It’s really interesting to see how fast this space is moving.

China

The Guardian looks at the stellar growth of Chinese ecommerce upstart Pinduoduo. This is an amazing company - touted as a cross between CostCo and Disneyland - and if you want to go deeper we share some good resources in the Plus section of the last Merchant Fix..

A key factor in the huge growth of Chinese ecommerce is the way logistics have evolved. The huge scale of Singles Days etc tests the systems and during the 11.11 shopping festival last year, more than 1.3 billion orders were processed within 24 hours by Alibaba.

Consumers now take free fast delivery for granted.

AI

There are still so many people that think the platforms are secretly listening to our conversations and then serving up ads based on what we mention. I firmly believe this is a version of cocktail party effect - your brain notices ads for things you are interested in.

But the conspiracy theorists are looking at how well AI manages natural language understanding and putting 2 and 2 together and getting 5. Capital One has achieved 99% accuracy in its call centres and someone on Twitter reminded us that Facebook acquired a specialist in this field a few years back. Wit.ai is more focused on chat bots but you never know...

This essay on how AI could get 100x better in a matter of months mentions the 1.3 million people working in call centres - how long before AI impacts them?

Plus

Strativerse - a research team at BNP Paribas have looked at 80 technologies to see what 2030 might look like

Good podcast with Darren Herman of Bain Capital talking about what a modem digital business needs, to be on the right side of history

Good AI driven Spotify experience; The Weeknd "Alone with Me" AI Experience. Watch it here

Good look at App Clips - the new light apps from Apple. Thinking about Snap Minis and remembering Progressive Web Apps from Google are we seeing a new class of tools emerge?

Facebook Reality Labs - Home - the new approach for Oculus and all things VR and AR at Facebook.

Virtue - the agency from Vice - has a neat report called DIGITAL RENAISSANCE that is worth scrolling

Amazon researchers win an award for a paper on improving recommender systems

Finally….. I am really pleased to be taking part in the POQ AppCommerce Virtual Festival. I am on a panel talking IDFAs and moderating one on how to engage with GenZ. If you are in the retail space, register for your free ticket.

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