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Commentary; our thought leadership, newsletter notes and long form pieces.

Population behaviors

Edition #384Strategy first decision making, thanksgiving and BuzzFeed earnings.Heading into Thanksgiving week, I’m reminded of a study we did a few years ago. We went deep on analyzing where and how content was consumed on Thanksgiving, and other things like Super Bowl. One takeaway was how the device engagement changed through the day, desktop tended to be higher in the morning, then adjusted to mobile through the day. Which when you think about it, isn’t too surprising.But when it comes to large populations of people and their behaviors, it is easy to overlook these things. Populations don’t behave the same as each individual person, which is a common mistake marketers make. This comes amongst this piece from the UK, via Gartner that marketers are looking to analytics teams to find more efficiency. And they’re right, analytics folks, this is their time to shine. Helping their companies find pockets of opportunity and areas to invest more effectively. But to also frame up data in a way that makes sense - and aids decision making.This is an area that I think needs continual investment. Especially amongst younger marketers, who have grown up in a world of light analytics provided to them by social networks. In one respect, the analogy of being spoon fed shallow insights from a social network, who spoon feeds little dopamine nuggets is too perfect. Which is a pity. Education is vital, to give marketers & advertisers better skills and capabilities. Yes a new entrant to the market can get started but a lot of money can be lost without that upskilling.That in itself is not new, this sector changes so rapidly, that there is always a need to upskill on underserved areas, it’s just that this is the area for right now.Notable stories this weekCreators query whether platforms punish branded content and linking out. How the buy-side of the ad industry is now defining ‘premium’ content. Pixability extends brand suitability analytics to CTV. Netflix with ads isn’t that bad. < this is a good preview of the experience. [Cartoon] By bots, for bots. This is too good. Nike continues decade of innovation with its new Web3 platform .Swoosh. [Long form] The unbearable lightness of BuzzFeed. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
November 18, 2022

Data rooms

Edition #383Google is fragmenting measurement, Twitter doesn’t get it & social hooks.One big thingI mean, every story has been about Twitter this week. The tldr; is, they don’t get it. At least they appear to have no idea when it comes to how to improve the ad product.Last week I shared a POV around how they need to improve the tools they give advertisers. Doing that, without changing the ad product, could help activate the millions of advertiser accounts - they already have - but are not spending.Given the wide chasm, I’m not clear where the dissonance is. What does Twitter know internally that we outside do not?Notable stories this weekMarketers brace to defend their ad budgets in an unsteady economy. Why Google is building separate data clean rooms for audience targeting and measurement. Sharethrough launches CTV ad enhancements to drive viewer attention. Media buying briefing: media agencies look to Web3, influencers to grow content marketing. Newsletters are booming. Can their ad products catch up? Patreon adds a long-awaited native video feature. Twitter has never understood the creator economy. Bloomberg opens up its first party data to advertisers. The problem isn’t that Elon Musk owns Twitter - it’s that you don’t. And his biggest problem may be its advertisers. How MrBeast builds amazing social hooks. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
November 4, 2022

Making Twitter Ads less sucky

Edition #382How to make Twitter ads less sucky, MrBeast’s billion dollar valuation and LinkedIns original video push.One big thingElon shared his vision for Twitter ads early Thursday morning, as he completes his buyout of Twitter. And on balance, this is pretty good and paints a positive picture for advertisers. Readers will know I’m a longtime user of Twitter, I even think there was a point in time where I was the top Twitter account in NZ. Granted, NZ is small :)But so, I’ve used the ad product numerous times over the years. And so have clients. Well, clients are always using Twitter ads. And there was a moment in time where I felt like Twitter Ads had a lot of potential, and that was the number of self serve advertisers they had. But if you asked me today, in 2022. I think the ad product is lackluster.(How long did they not have frequency caps?! Do they even now?)Where Twitter needs to invest, is better tooling, and free tools for advertisers. It’s not all about selling ads, it’s about engaging advertisers and giving them tools, that help them make advertising decisions.Take Google Analytics for example, this free tool, keeps advertisers engaged. And then when they look to change the numbers, Google Ads is a shoo-in. Also, all the insights from Google Analytics is a feedback loop, end to end, that Google gets to see. So they can see how their product is doing but also EVERY OTHER ADVERTISING PARTNER on planet earth. Twitter offers no such solution. One of their key competitors is the yardstick, and Google Analytics hasn’t had that much investment in 10 years. Why should they, it helps Google Ads. Twitter can and should have launched a solution years ago. Even TikTok is making moves in this space.The next area is Twitter Webmaster Tools. Bing has Bing Webmaster Tools, Google has theirs. And this acts as an insight tool for websites on how well their websites are being used in those search engines. Twitter should do the same, for URLs shared, quotes copied/pasted. And then webmasters could make adjustments to make their content more friendly for Twitter.LinkedIn doesn’t like it if you click out. Facebook doesn’t like it if you click out. But clicking out to interesting articles and links, is part of the Twitter experience. So this is an opportunity for Twitter to really set its ad product apart. B2B advertisers would flock to Twitter if they did a better job of offering them solutions.The best they have is, promote profile of the CEO. But that’s not everyone. And anecdotally I’ve heard mixed reviews of it. Last year they launched Twitter Site Visit Optimization, I also gave that a try, and found that Twitter was billing for a bunch of accidental clicks. An easy fix, see that a user clicked, and then was engaging back on Twitter within a couple of seconds, oh that must be an accidental click.The other area that I’ve heard from advertisers is, metrics. And that they’ve found them unreliable over time, and if they pull daily reports, often all the numbers don’t add up. Which of course, just makes advertisers pause.I say all this, with a POV of, hey these are all really addressable. They still remain opportune. But Twitter needs to take ads seriously and build better tools to help advertisers.Notable stories this weekElon shares his vision for advertisers on Twitter. B2B content marketing problem: readers aren’t robots. Why LinkedIn is stepping up its original video and audio content ambitions. Some advertisers were initially all-in on Netflix’s ad tier, but many are now planning to buy ads on competitors like Amazon or Disney instead. How the FT got more than 78,000 replies to a survey. TikTok denies it could use location information to track US users. Square sells your data. Let’s stop admiring problems, and start celebrating streaming’s progress. Apple to start charging Facebook for in app purchases when they sell ‘advertising boosts’ in its app. Unclear if this is meaningful revenue though. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
October 28, 2022

First time CMOs

Edition #381First time CMOs are on the up, marketing is soup du jour and Substack.One big thingThe rate of first time CMOs is up 50% in the past 12 months. Curious.I’d been having a chat with a marketer, about how Peloton right now is a perfect opportunity for a CMO to cut their teeth. It’ll be challenging but they’ll learn a lot as they tackle the many challenges the business faces. So I wondered, has all the market activity created opportunities for new CMOs to break through?I looked at all the CMO announcements in the past 12 months. And then peeked their job history on LinkedIn, to see if they were a first time CMO. Using Nasdaq announcements as my source.It turns out, yes, in the past 12 months, 45% of the CMOs announced were first time CMOs as compared to 29% in the prior 12 months. An increase of 50%. Note a small sample size of 24.That’s refreshing to hear in some respect, bring in new blood, fresh perspectives. And there are new opportunities for new folks at the table. 45% of the CMOs named were female, and 55% of the first time CMOs were female.It’s a reminder, that change creates opportunity and enables people to move up. And that’s nice to see.That leads nicely into my other observation, it feels like marketing has got its mojo back, companies are leaning more into investing in marketing, view it as a strategic priority. And we heard this repeated at AdWeek.https://twitter.com/LouPas/status/1582373403914182657?s=20&t=dCYHjVRlRABr1nbP9aah4AWhatever this back to work recovery is, its still messy and marketing has to work hard, with digital experiences, to bridge customers lifestyle. An anecdote I heard was, at the moment, weekend flights are still high in the US. Every weekend is like a holiday weekend, as people can come back on Monday, and remote work as they go. All of this makes it harder for brands to cut through, and with growth in margins, they have room to invest. Marketing is soup du jour.Are you seeing the same?Notable stories this weekPlease stop calling it the ‘newsletter economy’. The rise of the VC publisher. Branded content on Facebook Reels rolls out globally. Walmart launches new content creator platform. Who are the Twitter creators? Semafor woos advertisers with promises of depolarization. Will include content options for advertisers. How publishers became addicted to the traffic hit from news alerts. The next Sims game aims to be a “nest generation creative platform”. YouTube’s providing more creators with access to shoppable links. TikTok announced a new performance monitoring tool which will charge advertisers based on users attention and engagement. Everyone wants to sell your attention. Netflix announces their ad tiers, and previews what ads will look like. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
October 21, 2022

Ghost Tweets

Edition #380Ghost writing VC tweets, CTV and WhatsApps ad in Piccadilly..One big thingMike Shields pokes the box this week - questioning, is CTV big enough? As in most of streaming isn’t ad supported. And that that is, will be eaten up by Disney, Netflix and YouTube. Which is the opposite of how it was with mobile. For years it was going to be the year of mobile, and mobile attention outpaced advertising allocation. Mary Meeker would do her presentation, and yes we were still under. But now we seem to have the opposite.Whether that is a reality, is hard to know, because measurement of the space is challenged. We also saw Bloomberg this week pull out of open web programmatic. So CTV appears to not be growing and not rushing to programmatic, unlike previous iterations of web advertising. What does this mean? There’s probably going to be a crunch in the space.The analogy I give, it’s almost like the businesses that pop up surrounding a mall. Not technically part of the mall but benefit from all the traffic to and from the mall. That’s where a lot of these players are aiming, hey you’ve made the decision to buy direct from CTV, why not do some extension over here. And no its not for everyone but it will be enough to sustain some business. IF the measurement challenges can be solved.The other thing I liked is this BI piece about superstar VC tweets, people freelancing and making good income working with VCs to write witty tweets, I mean why not. This person, writes the tweets, sends via Trelo, and the executive assistants will post them. If it’s a banger, it stays up, if not it gets deleted. The point is that, being relevant on Twitter is worth enough to these VCs to do just this. And I’m sure as a creative, its a fantastic brief.Notable stories this weekNick Wignall made $3.9k from his Medium posts in the last month. I made $200k last year ghostwriting tweets for Superstar VCs. YouTube launches data stories in its analytics. Very neat. Twitter launches updated Professional Account analytics tab. Netflix signs up to ratings body Barb in the UK and announces two ad verification partners. Financial Times profit up after ‘strong rebound’ from covid-19. Digital revenue up 8% YOY. Newsletters don’t stay newsletters. ^ Good point. CMOS are on their toes and not conducting ‘business as usual’ as data privacy regulators get more assertive. Former Google ads boss launches Web3 search startup. DeliveryHero launches new own ad network. Bloomberg Media is shutting of its open-market programmatic advertising. Are we sure that ad-supported streaming is really that big? Google will support your first party audiences. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
October 14, 2022

Attention Economy

Edition #379On the attention economy, short consideration and Chad Powers.One big thingIs the attention economy redundant? I say this gingerly, as someone with many horses in the race. But I pose the question of - is it really adding more to the conversation right now? Or has it done its job.The Attention Economy really refers to, mind share, what is capturing and cutting through with consumers. It’s been a hot topic though, as we’ve been on a bull run of growth in internet usage. People spend more and more time on their screens. And when they’re online, engaging with brands, that time is quantifiable. So that’s why it’s been so exciting, 1) there was a way to measure it and 2) now there was a lot more of it. 3) we were empowered to do something about it.But that growth has tapered off, with a peak of 417 minutes in Q2 of 2021. With that change, even before then, as growth slowed. That’s where competition ramped up.So yes, attention is still valuable, the marketplace is even more competitive. But is the vernacular 'Attention Economy' any better now? With 417 minutes/day — digital isn’t niche, it is the thing. So should we revert to mindshare, cut through? Probably. But with a digitally-led market, I think attention will stay, but how we think about it will evolve. It has done its job, but will likely evolve, to something next. What this is, lets see.Notable stories this weekVideoAmp launches second-by-second TV measurement. YouTube Shorts is sharing ad revenue. Will that mean more money for creators? Yahoo is on a string of high profile product hires. Meta is shuttering its Bulletin newsletter subscription service. How bots corrupted advertising. Instagram to increase ad load as Meta fights revenue decline. This person read 100 marketing papers and here are the top 10 they found most interesting. Musk’s “super app” vision. Could Eli Manning’s Chad Powers become next Ted Lasso? [Long read] How YouTube created the attention economy. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
October 7, 2022

Strategic Analytics

Edition #378On strategic analytics, metaverse and YouTube shorts.One big thingDaily rituals drive behavior. Like reaching for a cup of coffee each morning, one hand coffee, other hand phone. As you sip, you read, or watch, or interact. On the other side of that screen is billions of dollars of R&D, to keep you engaged. And largely, it is successful.For any business, in that equation, most of us got attention by turning up. But that’s no longer good enough, we have to provide a richer experience. Whereas being in the inbox used to be enough, that no longer works. Because everyone is a swipe away from something else more interesting.It’s like when I pop into the local pub, they could open their doors in a good location and get foot traffic. Now, you’ll see someone on the street, checking the reviews before deciding to pop in. And even walking off if the reviews don’t line up. Ok, so right location and right reviews.In delivering excellence, we need to be smarter with strategy. And that’s why analytics needs to be more involved in what goes on in strategy. To provide context for strategy and to give the lay of the land. Not only internal but also external context. We’ve recently polished up our enterprise services page. To highlight where companies are allocating resource and capital, to get ahead. It’s no grand secret, like most solid advice, it’s the basics, done well, which make all the difference.Which ties into this post on strategy, planning and improving execution. With Brady Moore, a former Green Beret, getting into the weeds. Worth a read.So as you look to navigate the ever changing market, consider, what is our strategy? How do we know we’ve made progress on that strategy? And how do we know when we should change? Or pause or abandon ship.Speaking of ships, it was only this week I discovered that Chelsea Piers was the destination for the Titanic, and that some of the survivors were brought there aboard the Carpathia. There are discoveries to be found around every corner.Notable stories this weekPaul Graham shared a video of him writing/editing a piece from scratch. Would love to see more of this type of content. YouTube shorts could steal TikTok’s thunder with a better deal for creators. Netflix’s new ad chief has an appetite for danger. With first CMO hire, OpenWeb hopes to de-troll the discussions and data space for publishers and Contently names Dawn DiLorenzo as new Head of Marketing. Spotify now sells audiobooks. Hints at opportunities to advertise within audiobooks. TheAtlantic is pushing into film and TV projects. Ted Lasso and AFC Richmond are coming to FIFA 23. NFL signs Apple Music as Super Bowl halftime sponsor. As we saw Prime Video rocket up the app charts are debut of football. Publicis Sapient ‘all in’ on the metaverse, finds VR adoption not so hot. Netflix is opening a video game studio in Finland. Attentive, Galloway dives into the analogies between the oil business and attention businesses. Podcasters are buying millions of listeners through mobile=game ads. Arghh. Hacker breaches Fast Company systems to send offensive Apple News notifications. Brands blast Twitter for ads next to child pornography accounts. Google focuses on making search more visual. TripAdvisor built a travel media biz before retail media took off - and now it’s got a creative studio too. "Marketing needs marketing” The curious case of Tony’s Chocolonely. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
September 30, 2022

Netflix Ads Measurement

Edition #377Netflix measurement, who is bringing back blogging and live sports.My riff on Netflix measurement is a bit longer than normal, but it does highlight that what may look like an easy task initially, is not.One big thingAna Miliceviz of Sparrow put on a Twitter spaces this week with Eric Seufert, Terry Kawaja and Lou Paskalis jumping in. Myself just a regular listener. And the chat is good, you can catch the recording.Of course the conversation naturally touched on the issue of measurement. As Netflix may launch without measurement and are struggling to measure reach. I thought I'd share more on why this isn't as simple as it seems.To think about measurement of Netflix ads, we need to think about what makes Netflix good. And consistently it is the experience, the app, whilst having received flack over time, I would say is consistently better than the competition. Have you ever used YouTube, even on your phone, and the ad has loaded in high quality, then the video itself is slow to load or in low quality? The reason is the ads are hosted somewhere else. This is exactly what Netflix will want to avoid, a diminished experience. And, on tv, sitting on the couch. That’s exactly what you don’t want. So the addition of ads, is a genuine threat on their core product experience.And to make that product experience good, Netflix has pioneered many different creative ways of delivering content to you. They auto generate many different ratios of a tv show, so that if you are on mobile, and your signal drops, it can swap to a different version seamlessly. They have experimented with putting more ‘local hubs’ of storage for content closer to you. And often they have deals with ISPs, who provide your internet, to have local caches of shows with them. All of this to help avoid, what happened with shows like Game of Thrones on HBO, bringing the service down. Each of these content optimization decisions, means, that adding an ad to a tv show, is not that simple.For example, lets say I’m in New Zealand, and I open up Stranger Things, chances are it is cached at the local ISP, which is within 25km of me. So the show loads fast. But the ad, has to ping the Microsoft server, and respond, then send me an ad. That ad isn’t cached on the ISP. So the dynamic relationship with the user changes. Now you want to get measurement in there, in a timely fashion.Then you have to consider all the different ways people watch Netflix! In a browser, on my tv, from my Apple TV, iPad, iPhone. On our iPad mini, we have an old, no longer supported version of the Netflix app, which still works. Xboxes, PlayStation’s, all the Android devices.Each of these, has to be compliant, and then in a way that avoids opening the kimono and having to update all of these apps. We once did a campaign with a telecommunication company, spurred on by direct emails to customers. And we saw over 30,000 different versions of browsers opening the content. And the long tail included browsers that were off the market for over 10 years, Windows 98 etc. It happens. For Netflix, this is no small undertaking.That is the context, at which you need to think about adding measurement. The technical delivery of a measurement pixel, is a herculean effort itself. And that’s without even considering adding third party pixels etc. My inkling is that measurement on Netflix will be a lot longer than anyone thinks, as they navigate these challenges.Once you’ve got technical delivery set, you also need to consider data leakage. Is our methodology retaining privacy. As just by virtue of all of these things phoning home, you can be giving data away.At this point, Netflix can then start to think about what their roadmap should look like. Measurement needs to support the strategic sell. This is where there’s art and science on the positioning, if you measure the wrong things, it can send the wrong signal to buyers. You want to enhance your differentiation in the market, not erode it. Which is a continual challenge for any media sales team.If I was Netflix, I would first just do geography and watches. Keep it super simple. Here’s how many people watched and in what GEOs. This for media buyers, helps them cover off the basics. And lets the sales team weave a narrative.Based off the early feedback, would then look to build upon that. Probably things like time of day, how people are watching.Then, maybe you get into interests and other contextual information.The latter is where Netflix can really shine, viewers of Stranger Things, or people in binge mode, or sports documentaries etc. Timing your ad, to show within those different contexts. Family viewing.The Netflix way would also be to have some sort of dashboard, to really let it shine. Spotify Ads, is probably a good reference for this, as it is functional, supports the narrative. But for any serious spend, you’re still getting the custom report/pitch at the end etc.Longer term, the question will be, what is the ambition? Is it to get to a programmatic ads, like a YouTube, where in niches the CPV is higher. Or like a Twitter or Snap and stick with direct deals. Given the international nature, I would suspect they will stick with the former, for a lot longer. As the markets aren’t as competitive.In prior newsletters I have noted that in local markets Netflix have faced pressure in the past over hurting local tv production etc (like the Walmart going into a small town effect). These local broadcasters streaming services are the current receiver of these ad dollars that will likely switch to Netflix.Hope you can see, why, something so simple an idea, can in reality be quite a process to thread the needle. Especially when the initial guidance is for 500,000 users on the ad supported tier.Notable stories this weekSalesforce to co-produce a show with CNBC. TheVerge wants to bring back blogging. ARF launches project looking at measurement of Attention. Interview with Curt Larson, Chief Product Officer at Sharethrough. Wordle debuts ads, Rimowa is the first. New Google update, intends to elevate more helpful content. Barclays esports/crypto crossover - diving into monetization of esports. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
September 16, 2022

Summer ends

Edition #376The end of summer, rate of change and why attention and reach is so important.One big thingFrom the sparse editions received over summer you can tell things were quiet. Now we’re back in the hot seat.If you’re in New York during advertising week this year, I’m hosting some drinks. Details to be announced in due course but leave your email here. We haven’t done this one since 2019, quite a time, but glad to be doing it.Inflation is this hot topic, and what it means for media. On top of the last few years of turmoil. Spend continues to adjust. Valuations of private companies are down, impacting ecommerce and DTC brands. Snap faces pressure and Apple is looking to eat share. Whilst Netflix partners with Microsoft to deliver ads. Needless to say, the rate of change remains normal for media ha.Finally, our thoughts go to the royal family. The Queen, a role model for women and girls around the world will be missed.Notable stories this weekFinally, some details on Netflix’s ad-supported offering. Media startup aims to capture a chunk of the aerospace industry. Platforms are pulling back on their creator incentives. Why attention and reach need each other. How brands experiment with Web3. Brands are updating their user-generated content strategies to stretch marketing dollars. Tony the Tiger is now a Twitch streamer. SalesForce and NBCU launch new branded series “The Shift” Andreessen Horowitz introduces a new copyright license for NFTs. Vox Media is full steam ahead on its events business, with 100+ in 2023. Instagram scaling back shopping features. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
September 9, 2022

Anonymous trust

Edition #375Anonymous trust, more creator solutions and the autostrada of partnerships.I’m traveling a bit this summer, so the newsletter won’t be every week :) But as much as I can.One big thingI’ve been using a car share app whilst travelling. The first I booked looked up someone had ingested polystyrene and spread it throughout the car. Who would leave a car in such a state. The next however was clean, so away I went. Having swapped sides of the roads three times in the last month.All these sharing platforms are akin to brand partnerships. We find something listed and think we can use that to achieve what we want. Hopefully there are some reviews/testimonials, the specs are correct. And we can get where we are going.But brand partnerships are hard. Finding and capitalizing on the points of intersection to a high degree of quality. Do that week in week out. And just one other thing, all your work is in the public domain. So when something goes wrong, it goes wrong.You might be surprised anyone works in media. But the work is good, it’s challenging, always changing and competitive. These redeeming feature are what bring people back for more.And occasionally you get the right partnership where everything just clicks, and you’re cruising down the autostrada at 130 kmph. This week we feature a couple of partnerships which just work.Illimitly partnered with the FT to raise awareness of their offerings. Now it’s not rocket science but it 1) teaches you about the brand. 2) Gets it on your radar as an FT reader. The other is Circular Cities from Bloomberg Media Studios for Holcim, the cement company. Highlighting cities in the race to net zero. Great positioning for the company but also subtle sales, if you’re a city featured and its your mandate, maybe you’ll see what Holcim can offer.Notable stories this weekDisney inks major deal with The Trade Desk. And Netflix partners with Microsoft for advertising. The Information launching social network for subscribers. SwapStack crosses more than $1m paid out to newsletter creators. Congrats! ^ Related, Spark Loop launches the partner network. ANA releases first-ever guidelines for measuring influencer marketing. Distributed Trust: The Future of Crowds & Honesty. Via Ben Dietz. PR Newswire expands sponsored placement network to Europe and Canada.Deals/M&ASpotify to acquire music trivia game Heardle. Podcast platform Acast to acquire Podchaser. StoryChief raises $3.4mCampaign of the Weekillimity with the FT. The Circular Cities Barometer, Bloomberg Media Studios with Holcim. Continue reading

Ben Young
Ben Young
July 22, 2022