TikTok have been searching for a US based CEO for a while and have landed a real prize with Kevin Lander - the head of streaming at Disney. The industry was surprised when he was overlooked as the Disney CEO role went to Bob Chapik (although Bob Iger quickly stepped back into the role). Lander was head of strategy when Disney made those killer acquisitions; Pixar, Lucas Films, Fox and Bamtech.
Disney+ has got off to a great start and have been quick to appoint Rebecca Campbell to run the business but as Matthew Ball tweeted all the new players have changed leaders a number of times - yet Netflix is still the original team.
Covid has changed the landscape and the next big event is HBO Max - with an ex Disney (Hulu) and Amazon exec Jason Kilar at the helm. The structure of AT&T is complex and the new CEO concedes that the SVOD and linear TV businesses will - eventually - get closer. He is very commercial and talks of expanding ad funded content and looking at revenue sharing to carry other content on their platform. So it's not that surprising that the one service HBO ‘may’ not appear on is Amazon Fire. We understand that Amazon is keen to have inventory to sell from all their distribution partnerships and it would seem AT&T want to keep their ad sales to themselves.
One big advantage for HBO is an exclusive on all episodes of Friends and this Variety piece goes into how the service is coming together. The FT coverage of HBO max is good too and includes these quotes from a couple of the execs;
With the eagerly anticipated third series of Succession in (delayed) production HBO Max will be one to watch, in every sense
They have benefitted massively from a lockdown audience and those family dynamics seems to have broadened reach beyond kids and teens
Ads are the big opportunity - they offer amazing reach and a different, more accessible context. And given the current low levels of spend, it’s quite easy to get stand out. We expect the app download markets and a slice of DTC to ramp up spending and TikTok is now rolling out it’s self-serve ad platform to accelerate this. They also want Brand budgets and ran this advertorial in Marketing Week. Buyers are starting to get their heads around how the algorithm works too
Next is commerce - as we have covered they have lots of experiments running - some with brands and some with influencers.
If you need more background this VC has written a thorough look at the development and history of TikTok and Bytedance - including some good thinking on the wide range of services offered in China. And this comedian tells how he grew his followers to 300k in just 2 months.
Smart brands are now taking action - and this Fix friends guide on how to run ads on TikTok is highly recommended. If you need any help with TikTok ads our network of friends and family is well qualified to help.
Facebook gets more products and more smart people and Giphy secures a future (there seem to have been some financial clouds facing Giphy) and cements itself as the default in the biggest social ecology. If you are Snap or Twitter do you start to look for another partner? Google took Tenor off the table a while back.
Down in the engine room, people are getting smarter about how to make the most of the Facebook algorithm in their ad buys. Lots of insight in this thread about buying broad audiences and using multiple creatives. More deep thinking on how to buy social here. And this is a good explainer of the Bayesian Bandit theory that drives the algorithm.
Remember you don't really need to understand this level of detail - but you want to be sure that the people spending your social budget do.
And they should be really involved with the creative. The secret about social media is that the media levers are now a lot less effective than the creative ones. But too often responsibilities still sit with media people who don’t get creative.
AdTech perfect storm
There is a line in Butch Cassidy - Why do you rob banks? Cos that’s where the money is. I think of that line whenever I read of adtech fraud - like this good piece from Dr Fou asking why there is such a disconnect.
A journalist saw one of her articles scraped and used elsewhere so set herself up as a fake site - and shows how easy it is to get ads from well known firms. Isn't it the duty of the agency to better police this? If (as ISBA shows) brands are using 40k sites that would seem to be a big part of this problem.
This casual approach burns businesses money and starves legitimate publishers. And pushes them into taking the pieces of silver offered by Taboola etc, ruining the user experience but helping to balance the books. This is a great analysis of how ad arbitrage makes this tawdry model work.
The pace of innovation and change in this space is remarkable. The Shopify Reunite event yesterday saw lots more big news from Shopify - well worth watching. A range of new products included a big focus on fInance with the Shopify Balance Debit card and a Klarna like buy now pay later service. They also announced a local delivery product. Lots of businesses will be feeling the heat as Shopify moves into their space.
The FT covers the Shopify event well, with this great quote;
Video is huge in China and an interesting player is Bilibili - described as the YouTube of China. It is growing quickly as the free alternative to Tencent Video and Baidu’s iQiyi. Both of which are subscription services (with Netflix style professional content) whilst Bilibili is more UGC. It gets a mention in an article looking at how Baidu is struggling as consumers and advertisers move to newer more nimble platforms.
Apple has played a key role in the fortunes of QR codes. Because iOS didn’t support them in the camera, they have struggled in the West. More recently we have seen iPhone cameras recognise and open QR codes, so we have seen some adoption -- but nothing like their ubiquity in China. Rumours suggest iOS14 will go big on QR codes with a specific app - Gobi - that runs a proprietary version of QR codes. Some more leaked pictures here.
The noise and gossip around Apple is building as their Developer event gets closer and the Glasses stories keep coming. One of the more credible tippers shares his thoughts and thinks it’s a 2021 launch, which suggests they won't get announced now.
The headline in this space is that top Podcaster Joe Rogan is moving to Spotify and will be exclusive. The idea of an audio Netflix has been around for a while but the market is so fragmented that talent tends to be on all platforms. It’s good for Rogan - he could make $100m - and it's good for Spotify as it gives them more ad options and does not involve the record labels. And it should bring a bunch of new users - some of which may go paid.
It's not good for podcasting as it weakens the open RSS ecology and risks big players exercising control over the talent
The other headline is that Clubhouse - an audio chat app with an invite only model - has raised $100m from VC A16Z. As a launch marketing strategy, making something exclusively for VCs is right up there. With the success of always in Airpods audio has huge potential and a Social approach is likely to work just as well as a content approach.
To Do List
There are some interesting events happening at the moment and we will point out some of the best
Brent Hoberman and his team know how to put on an event and have curated some of their illustrious network for a series of Zoom talks. I joined the one with Martin Sorrell and it was fascinating. Future guests include the founders of PayPal, Klarna, Rent the Runway, Eventbrite, Calm and Yammer. Sign up here
Amongst the Fix community we have more than our fair share of smart strategic planners and a few of them are involved in the second Group Think - great guests and well worth the modest fee - details here.
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