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Mobile Fix / September 6


More privacy issues with GAFA. Fix friend Johnny Ryan had found a previously unknown (?) process where Google uses Push Pages to - apparently - get around GDPR. Read through some of the evidence and the flow charts and you see how complicated this space is. The FT cover the story and have some initial reaction but it’s generally no comment. There is a lot to play out here.

It's not that google don't take GDPR incredibly seriously - I spoke at their New York HQ early last year and every bathroom had posters about GDPR and the prep they were doing

But look at that flowchart and I wonder if one hand doesn't really know what the other is doing?

Apple had previously acted to protect kids privacy by banning all tracking on kids apps and caused lots of concern in the industry. Much of the industry now believe Apple will soon extend this restriction on using IDFAs and impact in-app ads too.

Related to that the gradual dissolving of cookies has speeded up with Firefox making the blocking of cookies the default. Those who like dunking cookies (biscuits) will recall that the dissolving is slow to start then accelerates and, if you are unlucky, a big chunk of biscuit falls into the tea making a splash. This is more than a storm in a teacup - it disturbs the multi billion market of digital advertising.

Doc Searls has been leading the thinking on privacy since Cluetrain Manifesto and his new piece on privacy fundamentalism is smart - especially his distinction between advertising and Adtech. Well worth reading


Next week is the purest Adtech gathering - Dmexco in Cologne has much fewer clients and suits than Cannes or CES. I am forgoing the glamour this year but lots of friends are making the pilgrimage

Privacy is undoubtedly setting the agenda and the most interesting conversations will be about what to do post cookies and how the various identity solutions might help. This is a good overview of the various solutions getting attention. If you want to go deeper this whiteboard session with Ciaran O’Kane and ID5 is good. And for a general view this list of questions to ask adtech firms is good

The other big topic is context and this FT article asks whether doing ads better will help clean up the web by reducing the oxygen of ad revenue that enables bad content. To be read alongside the Doc Searls piece above.


As the DTC market heats up there is increasing interest from VC and PE firms. The approach tends to be somewhat different to pure tech and VC firm Maveron talk here about their playbook and how they help their brands navigate the ‘Google - Facebook tax’. Comcast Ventures are also getting involved beyond funding, with expertise in media buying, data and hiring. As the sector matures more established brands are attracting interest from Private Equity firms that have a longer horizon than many VCs. We alluded to much of this in our Bonsai Brands thinking but still wonder if some many brands won’t grow more despite spending more, as the routes to market become congested and ‘overpriced’. If you built your LTV and CAC models on what ads cost a couple of years ago, your math no longer works

I still think Amazon are defining modern retail but their store programme seems to be faltering. There are lots of announcements but few openings. And with the latest story I wonder if someone here has a good sense of humour? Apparently you will soon be able to pay in Whole Foods by waving your hands around. Really?


A key element in newTV for GAFA is the ability to get content from the small screen (your phone) to the big screen (your TV). Apple have AppleTV, Google have Chromecast and Facebook are launching their own hardware. Amazon have been successful with the FireStick but now are going one step better - Fire TVs - made in partnership with JVC ( and Toshiba in the US) and with Currys PCWorld. This seems to be in concert with a drive to introduce Amazon FireTV across more European markets

Of course smart TV tend to prominently feature Apps from YouTube, Amazon and Netflix etc but no-one wants to allow Samsung etc to act as a gatekeeper.

Distribution is one thing but getting subscriptions is another, this Twitter thread shows how a plethora of subscriptions becomes a hassle to manage. If you own the hardware can you make managing these subscriptions a useful service?

Advertising in newTV is developing. Channel4 seem likely to join Sky Adsmart which would be a big boost for an excellent service - and put some pressure on ITV who chose a different approach. And Product Placement is starting to go mainstream - huge opportunity.


China exports of digital services keeps growing. A new report on Gaming in China shows Chinese games have more than doubled their ad spend outside China in the last couple of years.

The new L2 report on the luxury market in China is a good read too. They rank Louis Vuiiton as the top brand in terms of Digital IQ - one of three rated Genius - whilst some of the top Watch brands are rated Feeble.

And how L’Oreal sees China as its digital ‘laboratory’ with 40% of sales through ecommerce ( versus 13% globally) and of these 90% are mobile.

Tik Tok

Brands are starting to engage withTikTok - Ralph Lauren are supporting the US Open with a hashtag challenge - and some brand stickers on Giphy. The NFL tries to improve the age profile of viewers with a 2 year partnership to share highlights and behind the scene footage

They are courting Media firms by emailing them with the hashtags that will be promoted in Discovery the following week

Last week we mentioned the article Is TikTok a time bomb? but missed out the link - read it here. And I found this research pointing out that few users realise it’s a Chinese app - just 23% of US users - and knowing it’s from China causes a third to be less likely to use it.

Facial recognition & deep fakes

The UK seems to becoming a leader in facial recognition. Maybe that’s because we have more CCTV cameras than anywhere else. A court case where the Police use of facial recognition was approved has been picked up widely as has the Kings Cross scheme. With the UK police holding 12 million peoples photos privacy activists are concerned.

There are positive use cases. Chinese shoppers can use it pay and Facebook use it to tell you when they think you are in a friends photo. But everytime you confirm that, you help train the system - so Facebook now let you choose whether to allow this.

Developments with Deep Fakes affect how people think about facial recognition. Zao, a Chinese app that lets you become Leonardo DiCaprio in just a few seconds, blew up after this twitter thread explained its capabilities. This review of the app highlights various security features which limit the mischief possible with Zao but a rogue app won’t be far behind.

Imagine how this tech plays out in an election? Facebook are trying to head off these problems with their own detection challenge - designed to find solutions to this problem.

Mobile Web

A couple of times I have spoken at Google events alongside their UX guru Luke Wroblewski and he has been excellent. He tweeted about how terrible mobile web is;

I always thought that Progressive Web Apps would bridge the gap between the mobile web and apps - this is a good update on their current state.

Voice & Audio

The smart people at Betaworks are focusing on Voice with their next workshop and so too are the World Federation of Advertisers

Advertising & Agencies

A good Point of View on why Agencies should focus on their clients and marketing outcomes, includes this great quote;

And a study from the FT looks at the importance of brand and why we need to balance short and long term thinking

Rory Sutherland and I get into these topics in our first Radio Fix podcast, which I am editing at the moment. Soon come.

Quick Reads

A decade or so ago Branded Utility was a thing and some brands had smart ideas to extend their brands by being useful. P&G launched a chain of Tide dry cleaners - they now have 146 stores and are investing as a DTC strategy. A decade earlier J&J bought BabyCentre and built it into the worlds’ leading digital parenting resource with 100m users each month. Now they have sold it - but no word on the price.

Finally…. I have long been a fan of cups of tea with smart people. You nearly always learn something, it’s usually a pleasant half hour and even if it’s not that useful, you get a cuppa. Smart VC Mark Suster shares his enthusiasm - and rationale - for coffee meetings here. 

I shortly finish at TMK and plan to use some of my free time drinking tea. If you think we could collaborate in some way lets plot over a cup of Earl Grey. My shout.

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