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The WIR: EU Calls on Ireland to Speed Up GDPR Fines, WPP to Invest $200 Million in Data, and NBCU Unveils Identity Solution

Tim Cross  26 March, 2021

In this week’s Week in Review: European Parliament calls on Ireland’s DPA to speed up its GDPR investigations, WPP plans to invest $200 million in data, and NBCU unveils its identity strategy.

Top Stories

EU Calls on Ireland’s Data Authority to Issue More GDPR Fines
European Parliament passed a motion this week which called out a lack of enforcement of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation from data protection authorities in Ireland and Luxembourg.

GDPR was expected to have a major impact on ad tech and publishers, requiring consumers to much more explicitly opt in to collection and use of their data. But so far we’ve seen relatively little in the way of enforcement.

This is partly down to the EU’s ‘One-Stop Shop’ approach to enforcement, whereby the Data Protection Authority of whichever EU country a business is headquartered in is responsible for regulating that business. Many big tech companies are based in Ireland or Luxembourg, since both are set up as tax havens.

But the motion passed by European Parliament suggested this system isn’t working, saying that Parliament “is particularly concerned that the Irish data protection authority generally closes most cases with a settlement instead of a sanction and that cases referred to Ireland in 2018 have not even reached the stage of a draft decision”. The motion called on both Ireland and Luxembourg’s DPAs to “speed up their ongoing investigations into major cases in order to show EU citizens that data protection is an enforceable right in the EU”.

WPP to Invest $200 Million into New Data Capabilities
Agency holding group WPP is planning to bolster its data capabilities, pledging to spend $200 million over the next four years on a new data unit which will sit within its media buying arm GroupM, according to the Wall Street Journal. The new business, which will initially be overseen by GroupM’s North America CEO Kirk McDonald, will consolidate GroupM’s existing data capabilities and flesh out its analytics and AI tools.

Data investments have been a big theme for agency groups over the past few years, with Dentsu, Interpublic Group, and Publicis Groupe acquiring data businesses Merkle, Acxiom, and Epsilon respectively. But WPP Mark Read told the WSJ he would prefer to build an internal product, rather than acquiring a large, pre-established data company.

NBCUniversal Announces its Own Data Clean Room and ID
As broadcasters and publishers figure out their identity strategies for the post-cookie era, NBCUniversal this week announced plans to launch its own proprietary ID and clean room.

The clean room product, Audience Insights Hub, will enable advertisers to match their own datasets with NBCU’s for targeting and measurement without exposing personally identifiable information. The clean room tech for this product will be provided by cloud computing platform Snowflake, while measurement will be handled by VideoAmp.

NBCU ID meanwhile will bring together the broadcaster’s first-party audiences across its various platforms and properties, and make them targetable and measurable via one deterministic ID. This ID will also work with Audience Insights Hub.

The Week in Tech

Google Puts FLoC Tests in Europe on Hold Due to GDPR Concerns
Google has suspended its testing of its Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) initiative in Europe, following concerns that the initiative may not be GDPR compliant. FLoC was due to be tested in Q2 of this year, but will now not be tested in areas where GDPR applies. There is disagreement over whether FLoC, which works by putting users in cohorts, counts as use of personal data without consent.

ironSource to go Public After SPAC Merger
ironSource will go public after it merges with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) backed by Thoma Bravo, a private equity firm. The merger between the adtech firm and the blank-cheque firm is worth $11.1 billion.

Digital Turbine to Acquire Fyber for $600 Million
Digital Turbine, a company that helps apps with discovery and engagement, announced this week that it has acquired Fyber, a mobile advertising monetisation platform, for $600 million. Read the full story on VideoWeek.

Google Ads Experience Outage in Europe
Google Ads was reportedly out for hours on Wednesday, with users taking to social media to complain about the issue. The outage began around 10am GMT, Campaign reports. The outage would cost around $280 in ad revenue per minute advertising agency Stretch Digital tweeted. Back in December, Google experienced an outage of many of its services, including Ads and Gmail, the tech giant attributed that outage to “an internal storage quota issue”. 

ISBA Proceeds with Project Origin Despite Broadcaster Hesitancy
ISBA has said it will proceed with testing its new UK cross-media measurement system, known as Origin, this summer. Major digital players like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snap and TikTok have signed up to the project; however more traditional broadcasters like the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are yet to sign up to the scheme. The team working on the project hope to have a prototype available for use this summer.

Google, Facebook and Amazon Collect More Than Half of Ad Spend in the US
The pandemic cemented the “triopoly” of Google, Facebook and Amazon, says the Wall Street Journal. In 2020, the three companies hoovered up over half of all ad spend in the US between them, according to a provisional report by GroupM. This was a first in 2020, which WSJ attributes to the pandemic. 

Facebook to be Investigated by UK Competition Regulator
The UK antitrust regulator is set to investigate Facebook, reports The Financial Times. The Competition and Markets Authority would investigate the way Facebook allegedly uses customer data against rival publishers in terms of advertising, FT’s sources said. The UK competition regulator would also investigate Facebook’s ability to collect data from its customers, which have led to some referring to it as a “gatekeeper”. 

The Week in TV

HBO Max Won’t Arrive in UK, Germany and Italy Until 2025
WarnerMedia’s streaming service HBO Max won’t launch in the UK, Germany and Italy until at least 2025, due to existing content rights deals with Sky for HBO shows and Warner Bros movies. WarnerMedia’s chief executive Jason Kilar told the Financial Times that there’s a “tremendous opportunity” to launch HBO Max in those markets after these content deals expire, though there is no guarantee that WarnerMedia will choose to do so.

Altice Media Runs First Addressable TV Ad Campaigns in France
Altice Media has begun running addressable ad campaigns across its portfolio of channels in France, via SFR set-top boxes. French telcos and channels have been quickly trying to get addressable advertising offerings up and running since last summer, after a law change in France ended prohibitions on addressable TV advertising.

TV Ad Market in Western Europe Won’t Fully Recover This Year
Western Europe’s TV advertising market won’t fully recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic this year, despite a strong return to growth according to Ampere Analysis. Ampere expects total TV ad revenues in Western Europe to reach €17.5 billion this year – up from €16 billion last year, but still lower than the €18.7 billion seen in 2019.

ViacomCBS Seeks $3 Billion Funding to Fuel Streaming Push
ViacomCBS is planning to release two new tranches of shares to investors in order to raise $3 billion, which it will use to fuel its push into streaming via its Paramount+ service. The money would likely be used to help launch Paramount+ in new markets, as well as to create original content for the service.

ITV Invests in What3words via AdVentures Invest
ITV had made its first investment through AdVentures Invest, its media for equity arm, investing $2.7 million in location finding tool What3words.

Roku Launches Branded Content Studio
Roku has launched a brand content studio producing new ad formats and programmes tailored for marketers. Ahead of TV Upfronts, Roku is predicting that more ad-dollars will be spent on streaming services and is encouraging marketers to create streaming-first campaigns. They say their new studio will help marketers go beyond the traditional 30-second TV ad. 

Italy’s Serie A Hold Last-Minute Talks About Media Deal
Serie A are holding last-minute talks about a $2.5 billion media deal in Europe. The teams will vote today on whether to give the deal to long-time partner Sky, or whether to a higher offer from internet streaming service DAZN. Sky are prepared to pay $750 million a season to broadcast Serie A games, whereas DAZN are prepared to pay $840 million. Meanwhile, CBS won exclusive rights to broadcast Italy’s elite football league Serie A in the US yesterday. From 2018, rival ESPN had held exclusive rights to broadcast the games.

RTL Declines to Comment on Rumoured Sale of Belgian Branch
RTL has declined to comment on a newspaper report that it is selling off its Belgian branch. Business newspaper L’Echo had reported that the broadcaster was exploring the sale of its Belgian subsidiary for around 300 million euros and had hired JP Morgan as an adviser. RTL said that it was exploring its options, and urged European consolidation. 

Two-Thirds of UK Media Buyers Think That CTV Ads are More Effective Than Linear
Sixty-seven percent of UK advertising professionals think connected TV (CTV) is a more effective ad channel than linear TV, according to research by ad platform Unruly. The research also revealed that 100 percent advertising agencies and 77 percent of brands planned to invest more in CTV over the next year. 

CTV Advertising Sales Doubled in 2020
Programmatic connected TV advertising sales doubled last year, according to data from ad fraud company Pixalate. Audiences are increasingly shifting to digital TV with WARC Data’s research showing that two in five online consumers now have an internet-connected TV. Advertisers are shifting their spend in response to this trend, with linear TV spend down $47bn over the last five years and online video up by $39bn.

The Week in Publishing

Google Signs Payment Deals with Italian Publishers
Google has signed a number of Italian publishers up to its Google News Showcase product, a new news service which sees Google pay news publishers for their content. These include RCS Mediagroup, Il Sole 24 ore, and Caltagirone editore, according to Reuters.

Tribune Publishing Backs Alden Global’s Bid
US news publisher group Tribune Publishing’s board has opted to back a buyout bid from its largest shareholder Alden Global, despite having received a higher offer from businessman Stewart Bainum.

Telegraph Moves Print Ad Sales to Daily Mail
Telegraph Media Group has outsourced its print advertising sales to the Daily Mail’s commercial division. “The advertising landscape is calling out for an easier route to purchase, and today’s agreement enables the Telegraph to fulfil these requirements and future-proof the business,” said Telegraph Media Group CEO Nick Hugh.

Big Tech’s US Liability Shield Up for Review
US lawmakers are considering changes to Section 230, a provision within the 1996 Communications Decency Act which means online platforms aren’t liable for content posted by third-parties, and which also allows them to remove objectionable content as they see fit. Republicans generally wish to see tech companies less empowered to censor and remove content, while Democrats are more in favour of holding platforms to account for the content they help spread.

Microsoft in Talks to Buy Discord for $10 Billion
Microsoft is in talks to buy chat app Discord for $10 billion. Discord, which is popular among gamers in particular, would give Microsoft another consumer-facing media property, though Discord is not yet profitable.

Bloomberg’s Quicktake Live Stream Reaches 7.4 Million Monthly Users
Bloomberg’s short-form video operation Quicktake’s live channel reached an average of 7.4 monthly viewers for its first three months since launching last year. Quicktake started out as a Twitter page called TicToc, which distributed short-form video content from Bloomberg, but then expanded the product to a 24-hour live streaming service last year.

YouTube to Automatically Detect Products Featured in Videos
YouTube has begun testing new tools to automatically detect products featured in videos on its platform, and generate a list of related products that users can search from. The Google-owned video platform has introduced the feature in the US only for now, but its introduction will have a significant impact on the industry as a whole. Read the full story on VideoWeek.

The Week for Agencies

S4 2020 Revenues Grew 59.3 Percent
S4 Capital posted its unaudited 2020 financial results this week, showing that revenues were up 59.3 percent, or 15.2 percent on a like-for-like basis. Gross profits also grew despite the pandemic, up 19.4 percent on a like-for-like basis.

Women Worst Hit in Agency COVID Cuts
Women were disproportionately hit by agencies’ staff cuts during the worst of the pandemic, according to advertiser trade group the IPA’s recent agency census. The number of women full-time employed by IPA member agencies fell by 13 percent last year, men fell by eight percent. Overall staff count among IPA members fell by ten percent, according to the census.

WPP’s Read says Advertisers Neglect Creativity in Targeting Focus
WPP CEO Mark Read believes the ad industry has become overly focused on media targeting and optimisation, and has neglected creative at its expense. Read told Campaign that WPP is making reinvesting in creativity a priority, after its major creative agency networks have seen declining revenues in recent years.

OMD Named Best Performing Global Media Agency by RECMA
Agency research group RECMA named Omnicom’s OMD as the top performing global media agency in its most recent Network Diagnostics report. IPG’s UM and Publicis Groupe’s Carat came joint second

Jam3 to Merge with MediaMonks
Canadian design and experience agency Jam3 has agreed a deal to merge with S4 Capital’s content arm MediaMonks for an undisclosed fee. “We are delighted to welcome the Jam3 team to S4 Capital,” said S4 executive chairman Sir Martin Sorrell. “Data-driven creativity is at the heart of our offering and Jam3’s reputation, talent and client base is second to none.”

Government Named as Top UK Advertiser in 2020
The UK government was the top UK advertiser last year, thanks to its various coronavirus-related public awareness campaigns, according to Nielsen. Unilever was the second biggest spender, upping its UK budget by 76 percent to £137 million, according to Nielsen.

Hires of the Week

WarnerMedia Names Katrina Cukaj as Lead of Ad Sales
WarnerMedia has appointed Katrina Cukaj as lead of ad sales and client partnerships. She succeeds Joe Hogan who is leaving the company after 30 years. Cukaj has been at the company for over 20 years and was previously lead of marketing, creative and network partnerships.

Finecast Appoints Laura Lilley and Nicola Lewis
Finecast have named Laura Lilley as their new chief operating officer and Nicola Lewis as their new chief growth officer. Lilley joins the addressable tv provider from KPMG where she was head of transformation. Lewis was previously chief investment officer at GroupM Australia.

Sacha Khari Appointed Head of Digital Commissioning at Channel 4
Channel 4 has named Sacha Khari as the newly-created head of digital commissioning. Khari previously held the role of group director of video at digital media company, UNILAD.

Omnicom Appoints Sara Porritt as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
Omnicom Media Group has appointed Sara Porritt as its chief diversity and inclusion officer for the US. Porritt succeeds Justin Reyes in the role and has previously acted as both U.S. diversity and inclusion lead and senior director of integrated media planning for Clorox and PepsiCo at OMD.

M&C Saatchi Promotes Richard Thompson, Names Tim Duffy Global Strategy Chair
M&C Saatchi have promoted Richard Thompson to be the UK group chairman. He replaces Tim Duffy, who will take on the role of global strategy director worldwide. Thompson was previously head of the talent division at the group.

This Week on VideoWeek

Ad Agencies Are Cockroaches, Not Dinosaurs says Rishad Tobaccowala, watch on VideoWeek

CAID Could be Facebook’s Get Out of Jail Free Card for IDFA, read on VideoWeek

Digital Turbine to Acquire Fyber for $600 Million, read on VideoWeek

Connected TV Can Compliment FLoC in a Post-Cookie World, read on VideoWeek

There’s Not Much Appetite for European Broadcaster Consolidation Beyond RTL and Mediaset, read on VideoWeek

FLoC’s GDPR Woes Highlights Google’s Lack of Transparency, read on VideoWeek

YouTube to Automatically Detect Products Featured in Videos, read on VideoWeek

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