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Mobile Fix / August 30


For all the doom and gloom around adtech it is enlightening to see that The TradeDesk IPO has been the most successful tech IPO - up 1300% and performing 3 times better than Facebook.

Is there a flight to quality / size? Will the rise of Identity allow the big players like TTD and AppNexus to dominate? Are we starting to see exclusive inventory become more attractive? - For example Teads now sells Moat certified 100% viewable video inventory. And Clean Rooms - enabling valuable data sets to be shared in a secure environment - are being used more. Even Amazon - who have possible the most sought after data - are testing this approach.

Efforts to combine inventory between publishers to drive scale - like Ozone in the UK - are working in some markets but not in others - the impressive Kiwi Exchange has broken up as their biggest player took their inventory home with them. Can these consortiums work?

So is AdTech maturing? With a smaller set of well established players who have clear - differentiated - offerings? And how does the continuing trend of inhousing affect this? Diageo talk about their experience taking programmatic inhouse and how control and productivity have improved.

But the overriding question for everyone in the industry is what effect the Privacy is going to have?


A FT interview with the head of the Information Commissioners Office highlights the problem; they warned the UK industry 2 months ago that they had until the year end to clean up their act. But they have given little guidance (at least in public) on what needs to be done.

Mr McDougall said the ICO has yet to audit any individual companies, but has had “ongoing detailed discussions” with Google and the Internet Advertising Bureau, the trade body. “I am really happy with the level of response and engagement we’ve had so far, especially given we’ve done it over the summer. But there is a huge amount of work to do,” he said.

So as that Sword of Damocles dangles, the putsh against cookies gathers steam. Following moves by Apple and Mozilla to degrade tracking with cookies, all eyes have been on Google. Now they are talking of a Privacy Sandbox as a sort of compromise, whilst pointing out the consequences of restricting cookies. Whilst this has got lots of coverage in the WSJ etc it’s worth reading the original Google paper (PDF). Their argument is - essentially - that ads are worth less when tracking is removed, so the creators of content suffer as their revenue falls.

Ironically within this paper they share another - related - finding; more evidence that people are fed up of irrelevant ads;

So had we all been smarter and used the tools to show people good ads for things they are interested in, we would never have been in this mess.

Stratechery has a good response to the NYT piece on hundreds of trackers. In his piece he argues that much of the plumbing has little to do with ads and summarises by saying

The consequence of Apple ITP etc is Ghost Audiences and that’s a problem for everyone in the Advertising Trinity.


The big prize for regulators is GAFA and Facebook suffers from the Cambridge Analytica hangover. That headache came back with news that a Facebook marketing partner had been scraping data and Facebook are now reviewing all their partners. That ecosystem works incredible well for Facebook, Brands and the Marketing Partners, but times change and Nanigans, who were reliant on managing clients adspend on Facebook, are apparently up for sale

More proof that this model works is that Amazon are essentially duplicating it - now sharing a list of their partners.

I was pleased to see that Facebook are to bring in new rules for political ads before the 20202 elections in the US. Shame they will be too late for our likely election, especially as the cabal running the country have form when it comes to breaking the rules on political ad spend and obscuring the sources of money.

Whilst Facebook have banned ads from the Epoch Times ( we mentioned last week this pro Trump group were actually focused on taking down the Chinese government) the new rules still look like they have some holes in them. Why not just say no to anything political?

Meanwhile NPD continues; someone has found that Facebook are testing mobile screen sharing in Messenger and Instagram’s latest assault on Snapchat is a messaging app called Threads. Inspiration from apps like Squad perhaps?

Next Gen Social

A poor title to cover the exciting activity of Snap, Tiktok and other apps (like Squad) that have traction with the yoof but tend to be overlooked and misunderstood by those of us who are slightly more mature.

This video/podcast about Snap is long but a great summary of why Snap is so interesting. At over an hour long you could watch it speeded up and /or read the transcript. If you just want to skip through, look at the AR ads for Subway and Gatorade at 26 minutes - ads that people have to share - and look at how the Yolo apps integrates with Snap at 69 minutes

Yolo comes up again in this thread looking at all the apps that are using Snap ARkit. And this fully playable AR pool game on Snap is breathtaking. So much going on here.

Lots happening with TikTok too. Their hashtag challenge has been extended to include ecommerce and brands have rushd to take part. They have ambitions for more traditional ads too - Adweek shared that they are planning an ad network -selling ads on TikTok and on other sites and apps too. But it’s interesting that one quote calls them the Chinese Cambridge Analytica.

It’s hard to believe that current Trump rhetoric about China - with firms ordered to shut up shop there -won’t have an effect on TikTok at some point. This Fast Company article is an indicator. Callled Is Tik Tok a time bomb? it covers the use of AI and the Chinese roots, and uses this quote

“Within a day, the app can get to know you so well it feels like it’s reading your mind.”

Someone is going to join these dots and decide the Chinese are brainwashing american kids.


The launch offer for Disney+ is so good (signup for 3 years and it’s half price) it crashed their website. These early buyers are likely Disney fans so didn’t really need a discount but Disney want to show momentum. Lots of scrutiny on their UI too - much cleaner than Netflix.

Traditional broadcasters seem unable to work out how to stop their viewers deserting them for streaming, yet to make their numbers add up they plan to show even more ads - Viacom is up to 14 minutes per hour.

Smarter thinking from Sky. Faced with lower audiences for Premier League they have partnered with YouTube to show highlights. This sampling drives additional ad revenues and drives subscriptions too.

YouTube continue to push their 6 second bumper ads and shared research from Ipsos showing their Top 10. The Dove one in particular shows a good idea can work in a short ad.


Spotiyf doubles down on podcast testing a Create button at the top of every users list of subscribed podcasts - pushing the Anchor app they acquired earlier this year. The other wing of the Swedish Voice Mafia are Acast who have raised more money to fund expansion and R&D.

New data on smart speaker sales show how big China is - Baidu outselling Google Home. But we presume Baidu Alibaba and Xiaomi are selling just in China. For now, anyway.

Retail DTC

The defining news of the week is that Le Tote, a DTC brand doing clothing rental, has bought New Yorks’ oldest department store Lord andTaylor, for $100m. That gets them 38 stores where they plan to reduce floor space and add in tech. It sounds like there is a significant property play in here too, but it will be fascinating to watch.

It feels like the opposite of our friends at AppearHere - the Airbnb of retail - but is part of the rethinking of how online and offline relate. An analyst says;

And AppearHere offer much more than an ‘estate agent’ service and are an essential partner to what Bain call “Hitchhikers”;

In a series of interviews with top retail execs the Sephora CMO says;

But the other side of the equation is Why go to the mall when you can look at Instagram? And preowned versus new? - Got It on Depop goes into the appeal of this app which has ‘GenZ hooked on thrifting’

Does Amazon have a Brand Safety problem, as it lets users control much of the content of the site?

They helpfully tell you how to avoid problems here. Amazon is an amazing company but they don’t get everything right. Talking with an Exec in the food business in the US he mentioned that the Whole Foods business doesn’t seem to have changed much since the acquisition. In the UK their grocery business hasn’t had any real impact. I still think they need to buy a supermarket chain. But in the US Target are getting serious about online grocery with a new private label initiative and;

Quick Reads

NetEase eyes game-centric live-streaming business - Chinas’ second largest gaming company

Contagious tell the story of a Cannes Lion winner - where our friends at Spirable were instrumental. I am interested in tech firms that enable great creative ideas - like the huge contribution of Braze to the Burger King campaigns. These great ideas could not have happened without the tech, so what do we need to do to make this magic happen more often?

The FT on how Big Brands are embracing big data to try and rekindle growth. But as one person points out;

Accelerated Mobile Pages - or AMP - is Google tech to speed up mobile. It works well but is highly controversial.

Ten years of FourSquare - now doing $100m revenue

Starbucks is pretty average at Coffee but excellent at mobile. In our digital transformation workshops we always go deep on Starbucks as they have used mobile to reinvent their business. One happy side effect of their app is customers have loaded $1.6 billion onto their phone- so Starbucks have more cash than most banks.

Finally ….The New York Times on How Uber got lost. I have an unfinished article on business models and this fits in perfectly. Selling £5 notes for £4 will always get you lots of revenue - but turning that into profit is hard. Are Uber, WeWork, Deliveroo actually real businesses or just VC Bonanzas?

Jobs Board?

One of the things we are considering for our more commercial future is adding a jobs board. We will limit it to good jobs with great companies and see whether it adds value for our subscribers. As with all our plans, we will test and learn.

And our friends at Spirable are looking for a Head of Sales

If you are interested, apply direct or let me know and I am happy to make an intro

Next up is a Book Club - more to follow

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