The Adobe measurement of the Black Friday weekend now has day by day data for the US — with Black Friday at $7.4bn and Cyber Monday at $9.4bn. Mobile sales on the Friday were $2.9bn and are growing even faster than the total.
Driving those sales was helped by 2 billion emails sent through MailChimp on the Monday. But there is a darker side to this customer dialogue — more and more DTC brands are using text and even phone calls to follow up on site visits. Telemarketing has a poor reputation in the offline world for good reason — people hate being bothered. But it’s (just) successful enough for some people to keep using it.
It’s back to an old favourite of ours — the Missing Metric. Business is diminished because we cannot measure when we piss someone off. If we could, life would be very different; ads would be better, marketing messages would be better and shop staff much sharper. This breakdown of DTC metrics is a good read but we need to remember that lifetime value is — for many businesses — a guess. And whilst a text or call may make a sale it’s unlikely to improve customer retention.
Fake reviews are a thing and this NYT piece looks at brands that have been caught manipulating reviews. How they did it shows why it’s so hard to stamp out this practice.
More news around live video selling; good thinking from VC A16Z on video commerce in general and live video (which draws on learnings from China) and coverage of how Amazon are encouraging live video. And Tiktok have changed the rules on Gifting and live streams, making it for over 16s only.
Lots of debate over the merits and otherwise of personalisation. Readers know my view and I’m with the ANA when they call it as the Marketing Word of the Year. Lots of good quotes on why and this was my favourite;
“We’re all striving to show value to customers in a way that’s relevant to them. Technology is changing the way marketers are able to do so, and we’re all united by our efforts to showcase personalization.”
Yet Gartner Predicts 80% of Marketers Will Abandon Personalization Efforts by 2025. Why? Because it’s being done poorly;
“Personal data has long been the fuel that fires marketing at every stage of the customer journey, and the drive to find new forms of fuel and devise new ways to leverage them seems to be boundless,” said Charles Golvin, senior director analyst in the Gartner for Marketers practice. “However, this quest has failed to meet marketers’ ambitions and, in some cases, has backfired, as consumers both directly and indirectly reject brands’ overtures.”
The clever people at Spotify show us how to do it well — adding real value and driving conversations with smart personalisation. Mine was the Carters album — highly recommended.
The arms race against the browsers is intensifying. The IAB Universal ID is going to be blocked in Firefox — and it seems it is unlikely to work on Safari either. A French firm seems to have developed an unblockable tracker — and Criteo are thought to be using it. But the browsers fight back and Firefox can now block it.
There is no doubt that Apple see Privacy as key and are going to ensure Safari doesn’t track their users — and the Apple engineers focused on this are active in sharing their learnings with the industry as a whole.
GDPR and California Privacy requires the Industry to rethink its whole approach.
The FT give both WPP and Publicis a bit of a kicking in an article talking of advertising gloom. Noting their different strategies, it rehearses the familiar lament about GAFA. One thing I agree with is the question over buying data firms — I can see no advantage in owning a data firm when data has never been more abundant and the half-life of data has never been shorter. And the problems are not over yet;
“There is a world of pain coming,” said one banker advising a rival group, who noted structural challenges to the media buying business would bring disruption to agencies “that is only just starting”.
Another issue is the replacement of Agencies with inhouse resource, although one of the higher profile inhousing examples seems to have foundered with Coty dismantling their Beamly unit and moving media back to Zenith.
As cookies and privacy reinvent the digital ad business, those media brands that can aggregate valuable audiences are going to start to get a fairer share of ad revenue.
The Telegraph is making good progress on their journey to be a subscription business — they now have 418k subscribers and the majority will be digital by the end of this year. As speculation about a sale grows, the synergies with the right buyer could be really interesting.
The Economist is another UK success story — switching their social strategy from one of distribution of stories to driving traffic to stories has worked out well. Some good insight here.
The economics of media brands remains a challenge and blending ad revenue with subscription revenue is still the favoured strategy. Raising investment for media business is still hard — but focusing on depth seems to work as this piece looks at some niche media brands that are prospering. Knowing your niche can unlock different revenue streams. One good example is the FT launching a consulting business.
The other week I went along to a great breakfast celebrating the 60 year career of a former boss Mike Yershon — a true ad industry legend. Mike probably doesn’t get all the respect he deserves as he is a Media Man rather than a Creative. But few in the industry were as creative as Mike, who changed the industry and determined — for example — how TV and outdoor are (still) traded. Such was his influence he was asked by the Football League how they could revive the then moribund sport of Football. His proposal for televising games had him — initially — thrown out of the meeting, but the clubs called him back and the rest is history.
With Amazon showing Premier League games this week it feels like we are at another seminal moment. The general view is everything went well — and it wasn’t that different from a Sky game. And Amazon sold ads but kept the ad load down and pushed prices up. But the quality of a Prime audience would justify a higher price and it is early days for Amazon. One buyer said;
I think they will be up to speed pretty quickly. Especially when Amazon start to use their data for targeting. How soon will brands get up to speed with how TV ads and Amazon sales sync?
The money in newTV is already huge — Hulu reported nearly $700m in ad sales for 2019 with subscription revenue almost double that. This blended model makes sense for many and as Amazon have just shown, ads can be added to the user experience without spoiling it.
But will the US experience play out over here? Clearly Europe is an attractive market for most if not all the streaming companies, but a key difference is Sky. With a blended model of ads and subscriptions, the best sports rights and a position as access point for most trad TV, they take a huge chunk of the budget for home entertainment. Will the new streaming firms want to fight them or could they look to partner? The news that Sky plan a huge new UK Studio shows they intend to stay a key player — and they can collaborate on making shows as well as showing them.
Analysts estimate that Apple will have sold over 3 million Airpods over the Black Friday weekend — 2019 sales are projected at 65m units and next year the figure expected is 85–90m units. It’s clear from the growth of AlwaysIn enthusiasts these are a good product with marketing baked in. VC M.G.Siegler raves about them here — particularly the noise cancelling feature.
As Audio grows, the pace of innovation in audio content accelerates. Our Amazon Polly version of Fix seems to have found a niche and in researching this space I have come across some really interesting firms. A VC friend introduced me to Resemble on the West Cost who are cloning voices — their demo is fun and very interesting — my northern mumbling was captured well. Closer to home another friend introduced me to Speak in London who have a slightly different approach and focus on building a library of actors voices that can be automated. Again their demo is really impressive.
Others worth looking at include Descript who focus on podcasts and their OverDub product does a similar job to Resemble and Speak. And Otter is more about transcription but really cool too — I use it on calls to replace writing notes.
The big boys are playing here too. Amazon Polly is the only one (for now) that works with long content and it’s quick and easy to use. Microsoft now have their own version. And Google have a new product from the opposite direction — adding real time captions automatically for any audio content on your Pixel phone
Like all tech the interesting challenge is understanding what’s possible, then working out what problems can get solved. Happy to make intros and to help work out how this tech and creativity can be best blended.
The head of the US IAB made a good point on Twitter in a conversation about Brands;
The “brand era” was actually the “distribution lockout era”: 3 cos. had 90% share of prime-time TV viewership, and only 200 cos. could afford to advertise on network TV. (Google by contrast has 10 million advertisers.) Similar lockouts @ retail distrib. advanced CPG oligopolies.
The debate over brand and performance that rages at marketing events seems to miss this seismic shift in the ecology that sustains brands. A Fix friend has illuminated the debate with some real data — found by scrutinising Booking.com company reports. Coming from someone who worked on the brand, and has a really good knowledge of media, this is real insight.
My view is that the best way to build brand love is through experiencing the product — so the sooner you can make a sale the better. And as we all know — and Nick confirms — you get the best result by finding the right blend, rather than going with one or the other.
We see confirmation that market conditions are tough with the resignation of the CEO of their main rival Expedia. Google are flexing their muscles in travel and the industry has to rethink their approach. If you didn’t watch the Chamath interview we shared last week, it’s worth a look as he gets into what Google are doing in travel ( 3.30 minutes in)
Amazon partner with Verizon on 5G. There are not really any significant use cases for 5G yet — but the speed will change things. What takes an hour now will take a minute. And what takes a minute now will take a second.
Larry and Sergey quit Google — again the Chamath explanation of how he sees Google gives some context to this move
Finally… I wrote an article on Neuroscience and Contextual Creative which you may find interesting.
And it’s getting close to Christmas so it’s time to share our Soulful Christmas playlist — Play it loud.
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