Ben Young
Ben Young
February 2, 2024

Edition #434

AI in branded content, Flashtalking’s big game ad & lego.

Ever heard of The Hairpin? It was a beloved indie blog. And Wired highlights how someone bought the domain and has flooded it with AI content. To much dismay.

Let’s dig into it.

Consider these two scenarios:

Scenario 1: A big publisher, automating the creation of fairly utility driven content. I.e. sports game summaries.

Scenario 2: A scrappy newsletter, using AI to add extra editorial features, i.e. sports game summaries.

Here’s the twist — it’s the same sports summaries. But when the big guys do it, it feels like a loss, someone’s job has been swallowed by the machine. But with the underdog – punching above their weight, being competitive, doing more with less?

Which one fires you up more?

Toolkits did a good piece on AI content generation this week. Worth a read. Especially how it intersects with branded content.

Earnings are out, but I haven’t had a chance to dig in! We also do see Pharrell announcing his biopic, in Lego. Would love a deep read on how Lego cracked culture, how in it are you if Pharrell is doing his biopic in the Lego world. Impressive. Maybe the GOATs of branded content? Thoughts?

Notable stories this week

  • How brands are experimenting with AI for content generation.
  • Tips for native content campaigns.
  • Taboola’s AI that automatically maximizes conversions sees almost double growth in past 90 days.
  • How beloved Indie blog ‘The Hairpin’ turned into an AI Clickbait Farm.
  • Pharrell announces Lego biopic.
  • TechCrunch ends its subscription product.
  • How a writer fabricated a series of stories for Atlas Obscura.
  • TikTok’s music fiasco: UMG set to yank songs from app.
  • The tactic leading luxury brand success in the digital space.
  • TikTok’s pursuit of Super Bowl ad dollars.
  • Axios launches entertainment division.
  • X partners with MGM’s sports betting to integrate sports betting stats into the platform.
  • Meta floats idea that Apple & Google should manage parental consent.
  • The Messenger to close after less than a year.
  • Streaming pirates are Hollywood’s new villains.
  • Cable news has no protective moat.
  • Dentsu releases latest ‘attention economy’ report with insights from gaming.
  • Why testing Google’s cookie-alternative Privacy Sandbox is still minimal.
  • Overheard at IAB ALM.


  • Minute Media valued at over $1b after new round of funding.
  • Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes take podcast to SiriusXM for $100m plus.
  • Vice’s Refinery29 and BuzzFeed’s Tasty are up for sale.
  • G/O Media has no plans to sell in 2024, CEO says.

Campaign of the week

View all 2024 best campaigns.

Smartest commentary

  • “We think of AI not as artificial intelligence but augmented intelligence.”Esi Eggleston Bracey, Chief Growth & Marketing Officer, Unilever

Datapoints of note

  • Consumers are bad at guessing whether content is produced by humans or AI. Over half (53%) were wrong when asked if they were served content written by a human or AI.
  • AI-generated content performs on par with human content across key characteristics. It is seen as equally attention-grabbing, engaging, and authentic as human-created content, and even outperformed human content when it comes to personability and relatableness.
  • MrBeasts first video on X make $263k over 156m impressions.
  • The Bulwark generates $3.6m in newsletter subscriptions.
  • Bot clicks and fake traffic set to cost advertisers over $71bn in 2024.
  • Early Arc search data has 40% of all search queries using their browse for me feature.

View all 2024 datapoints of note.

That’s it for this week.