The WIR: TikTok’s Ad Revenues Continue to Rise, Netflix Has Plans for TV Gaming, and Major Brands Sign Up for ITV’s Retail Media Offering

Tim Cross 06 April, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: TikTok ad revenues soar, Netflix plans TV gaming offering, and ITV announces the first partners for its retail media offering.

Top Stories

Brands Increase TikTok Spend Despite Potential Ban
The threat of TikTok being banned is having no effect on its ad revenues, the FT reported, with US ad spend on the platform growing 11 percent in March. Pepsi, Amazon and Apple are among the top spenders on TikTok, while ad agencies GroupM and Omnicom continue to advise investment on the short-form video app, even as the Chinese-owned company faces regulatory action in the US, EU, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

According to software group Capterra, 75 percent of US marketers are planning to increase spending on TikTok over the next 12 months. “Rather than being spooked by the prospect of a potential ban, we’ve actually seen brands ramping up their investment in TikTok,” said Edward East, chief executive of social marketing agency Billion Dollar Boy. Digital advertising comprises the bulk of TikTok’s $10 billion global revenues, added the report.

Last month the ByteDance-owned firm was grilled by US legislators over national security concerns. Beijing has said it will “firmly” oppose any move to separate TikTok’s US arm from its Chinese owners. As a result, no prospective buyers have stepped forward, sources familiar with the company have said. The FT noted that Microsoft, Oracle and Walmart were in the mix as potential bidders when the Trump administration looked to ban the app in 2020.

Netflix Could be Bringing Games to TV
Netflix is working to bring its gaming services to TV sets, Bloomberg reported this week. The company already offers 55 games for smartphones and tablets, but code in the Netflix app now reveals references to TVs and using phones as video game controllers. “A game on your TV needs a controller to play,” reads the code. “Do you want to use this phone as a game controller?” While no announcement has been made, the report notes that information found within code is how Netflix’s advertising plans were first discovered.

The gaming and TV worlds have been steadily converging, as smart TV have launched cloud gaming offerings and ad tech businesses have pushed for TV-style ads in premium video games. And Netflix’s move into gaming looked like another driver of this trend – though it’s not yet clear exactly how high uptake is for Netflix’s games.

But a move onto the TV set would open up opportunities for Netflix to invest in more premium titles which play better on a bigger screen.

Unilever, Heineken, and PepsiCo Sign Up to ITV Retail Media Offering
ITV this week announced the first wave of brands which are trialling its ‘Matchmaker’ retail media offering launched in partnership with Boots and Tesco, with Unilever, PepsiCo, and Heineken among the brands taking part.

FMCG brands who sell their products through Boots and Tesco can use the tool to enhance their VOD targeting by activating category shopper audiences on ITVX using their loyalty card data, and measuring precise sales uplift among those who’ve seen an ad.

“We are excited to be trialling ITV’s new proposition. Utilising retailer loyalty data allows us to deliver relevant ads to the most relevant audience, with the benefit of closed loop measurement,” said Katharine Crossland, digital commerce director at Unilever.

Following a trial period, Matchmaker is due for a full-scale launch in July, when it will be available for all qualifying FMCG brands.

The Week in Tech

Further Layoffs Underway at Roku
Roku has announced another round of job cuts, losing 6 percent of its workforce (200 employees) by the end of Q2. The company previously lost 200 staff in November 2022. Roku also plans to sub-lease unoccupied office facilities to cut expenses further. The restructuring will cost the firm between $30 and $35 million in severance payments, the company said. Roku shares climbed nearly 3 percent at the announcement.

Meta Introduces Tools to Control Where Ads Are Shown
Meta is rolling out new tools for advertisers to control where their ads are shown, enabling brands to avoid appearing alongside sensitive content. In partnership with Zefr, the company will also offer advertisers precise tracking of the content around their ads. The move follows an attempted boycott of Facebook during anti-racism protests in July 2020, prompting Meta to pledge tools allowing marketers to “better manage advertising adjacency.” 

Twitter Fails to Attract Spend From Advertisers and Users
Advertisers who “paused” spending on Twitter after Elon Musk’s takeover largely haven’t returned, according to Bloomberg. Ad spend on Twitter is down 89 percent on the two months prior to Musk’s arrival, data from Sensor Tower shows. The owner’s subscription product Twitter Blue has also failed to take off, Bloomberg reported. SimilarWeb revealed that out of 2.6 million people who visited the Twitter Blue sales page in March, only 116,000 actually signed up.

TikTok Fined for Misusing Children’s Data
UK data regulator the ICO has fined TikTok £12.7 million for misuse of children’s data. According to the watchdog, TikTok admitted up to 1.4 million UK children (under 13) in 2020, contravening its own age limit rules. The company failed to secure consent from parents or carers in using personal data, and neglected to carry out age identification checks, the ICO revealed. “There are laws in place to make sure our children are as safe in the digital world as they are in the physical world,” said UK Information Commissioner John Edwards. “TikTok did not abide by those laws.”

UID 2.0 Heads for Private Operator System
The Trade Desk is bypassing public operators for Unified ID 2.0, the identity solution designed as a replacement for the third-party cookie. According to AdExchanger, there is little market demand for public operators, who would host UIDs on public servers. The Trade Desk said potential partners prefer private operators, which run an internal version of the service and only process first-party data to generate UID 2.0 identifiers within their own tech stack. The report noted that since ad tech consortium Prebid pulled out last year, UID 2.0 has no public operators.

Azerion Opens Data and Performance Unit
Gaming and entertainment holding company Azerion has opened a new data and technology unit. Performance by Azerion will help clients devise targeting, creative and measurement strategies to drive performance across the funnel, the firm said. The new arm will use data captured from browse, search, share, social and context to identify audiences in real time. “Azerion’s fast growth has been driven by our commitment to provide the best outcomes for brand clients by using a combination of unique data and first-class technology,” said Anna Forbes, UK Country Director at Azerion UK. “Through Performance we do just that, delivering unparalleled results at every stage of the customer journey for display and video campaigns.”

Adludio Announces £2 Million Funding Round
Ad tech firm Adludio has secured £2 million investment from equity group Mercia. The latest funding round follows an initial injection of £4 million in 2021, and enables Adludio to launch a fully automated version of its AI-driven mobile advertising platform. “Adludio combines strong creative campaigns with algorithms that optimise campaigns in real time to engage consumers without using personal data,” said Martijn Kleibergen, VCT Portfolio Director at Mercia. “This investment will enable it to continue its growth in the US and expand its client base with the launch of its new self-service platform.”

The Week in TV

BBC to Cut 1,000 Hours of Programming
The BBC will cut 1,000 hours of programming, the broadcaster revealed, in attempts to save £400 million by 2028. The cuts were announced in the PSB’s annual plan, disclosing a  £271 million deficit, rising to £352 million this year. The organisation said the licence fee freeze has placed “significant financial challenges on the BBC at a time of high inflation and media super-inflation.”

DAZN Seeks to End Saturday Blackout in EFL Bid
DAZN has offered £200 million per year for English Football League (EFL) rights, according to The Times, in a bid that eradicates the 3pm blackout. The current rules ban football broadcasts on Saturday afternoons, but DAZN is reportedly seeking to end the contentious blackout in order to stream every match of the 2024-25 season. Sources suggest such a move would “help close the gap with the Premier League,” on which the company is also considering a bid.

Disney Begins Cost-Cutting Efforts, Announces New Head of Streaming
Disney has begun cutting 7,000 staff, including Hulu SVP of production Mark Levenstein and Freeform SVP of production management and operations Jayne Bieber. The cost-saving exercise includes cutting $3 billion in content spend, and the closure of Disney’s metaverse division. Meanwhile Hulu president Joe Earley has been promoted to lead the entertainment giant’s streaming unit, overseeing Disney+ and Hulu.

Vice Co-Produces Slate of Tubi Originals
Fox-owned FAST service Tubi is co-producing a slate of original documentaries with Vice Media Group, the company announced on Monday. The eight Tubi Originals include Elon Musk documentary The Cult of Elon and online vigilantism doc Vigilante, Inc., set to debut on Tubi in the coming weeks. “Vice has a longstanding reputation of award-winning investigative storytelling and we’re excited to expand Tubi Original Documentaries with their expertise,” said Tubi CCO Adam Lewinson.

Channel 4, Vinted Create YouTube Series
Channel 4 has partnered with pre-owned clothing brand Vinted to create a short-form digital series and TV ad campaign. Produced by the broadcaster’s social wing 4Studio, Second Hand Style-Up debuts on Channel 4’s YouTube channels this month. Vinted also returns as sponsor of Hollyoaks, with newly created idents running until June 2023. “We’re really excited about this project, it’s Vinted’s first ever cross-platform UK partnership and is a perfect embodiment of our Good Growth strategy as an agency,” said Ross Minton, Head of Invention at Mindshare, Vinted’s media agency.

NBCUniversal Offers Advertisers Global, Local Media
NBCUniversal has unveiled a “global to local” ad offering for this year’s upfronts, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The pitch enables advertisers to buy ad time around the world (for example through Sky in the UK) or at a local market level (through Peacock or a local NBC channel). “One phone call to NBC reduces complexity,” said John Chleborad, head of global advertising and social media at Accenture. “We’re able to work directly with one team at NBCU and they’re able to put our message around the world across their entire portfolio. It’s one call to place ads in the Premier League in Europe, in Globo in Brazil, Sunday Night Football in the US.”

The Week for Publishers

Gal-dem Closes Down
Gal-dem, an online media publication which describes itself as “a platform dedicated to centring people of colour from marginalised genders”, announced this week it is shutting down as the business is no longer viable. “Keeping a small, independent media company that is reliant on partnerships afloat over the last three years has been increasingly challenging,” the publication said in a post announcing the news. “Through a global pandemic, brand budget reductions and economic downturn, we have worked tirelessly to reconfigure how we operate and keep gal-dem going through it all. And while we’re passionate about our membership model, it’s been difficult to sustain the level of growth needed here to support our work in the long term.”

News Plays “Small and Diminishing Role” on Facebook According to Report
A report commissioned by Meta to examine the role of news media on its platforms has found that news publisher content plays a “small and diminishing role” on Facebook, with news links accounting for less than three percent of what users see on the platform. The report, written by consulting firm Nera, said that “there is no basis for believing that a reduction of news content on Facebook would materially affect the number of users, user engagement, advertising revenues or any other commercially meaningful metric”.

The Athletic’s CCO Backs Ad Model
Sebastian Tomich, chief commercial officer at digital sports publisher The Athletic, told AdExchanger that ads are a good fit for the company, since sports fans have a high tolerance for advertising, given the large role it plays in sports broadcasting. However he added that pre-roll ads don’t play well with readers, since The Athletic is a paid subscription product.

Blavity Splits Business into Media and Tech Units
Blavity, a media business focused on “youth, Black culture and technology”, is splitting its business into a media division and tech division, Adweek reported this week. Blavity’s media properties including Blavity, Travel Noire, and 21Ninety, will sit under Blavity Media Group. Meanwhile DEI Solutions Group will focus on Blavity’s enterprise support products.

Google Core Update Has Mild Impact on News Publishers
A core algorithm update released by Google in March has had a “comparatively mild” impact on news publishers, according to Press Gazette’s analysis of publisher data. Of 68 publishers tracked by Press Gazette, most saw a small or negligible bump in visibility, while 29 saw small or negligible visibility losses.

The Week For Agencies

AdGreen’s Annual Review Lays Out Carbon Costs of Ad Production
AdGreen, an industry initiative designed to help reduce carbon emissions associated with ad production, this week released its first annual review analysing data from its carbon calculator collected over 2022. Across 515 projects analysed, the mean footprint of a completed project was 4.7 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent). However the range was very wide, with the smallest project creating 1.5kg and the largest clocking in at 129.6 tCO2e.Skip the Plane, Take the Train to Cannes says Ad Net Zero
Industry sustainability initiative Ad Net Zero is inviting those in the industry who are planning to attend this year’s Cannes festival to take the train rather than the plane, in order to reduce the event’s carbon footprint. Ad Net Zero says a return trip from London to Cannes via train emits 10.76kg of carbon dioxide equivalent, compared to 342kg for flights to and from Nice airport.

WPP Tops Holding Group Billings Table
WPP’s media agencies recorded the highest billings of all the holding groups, according to data from Campaign and Nielsen released this week. WPP’s media agencies clocked £3.2 billion in billings last year, up three percent year-on-year. Omnicom meanwhile ranked second highest, with £1.7 billion in billings, and Publicis Group came in third with £1.4 billion,

Kepler and MSix&Partners Split EasyJet EMEA Media Duties
EasyJet is splitting its EMEA media account between Kepler and MSix&Partners following a media review, Campaign reported this week. Kepler will handle digital media, while MSix&Partners will run offline media planning and buying, as well as media strategy. EasyJet’s EMEA media account was previously held by OMD.

Omnicom’s TWBA Acquires Dark Horses
Omnicom’s TWBA\Worldwide has acquired UK-based sports specialist agency Dark Horses, which counts Nissan and TikTok among its clients. “We’ve been watching Dark Horses for some time. As a collection of best-in-class agencies at the top of their game, we’re always looking for those deep specialists that complement us and add significant expertise to the total brand experience of our clients,” said TWBA’s global CEO Troy Ruhanen.

IPA Council Split on AI Threat to Ad Industry
A recent debate held by the IPA Council showed a split among industry leaders over the threat AI poses to the ad industry. The motion was argued by AI-generated versions of former IPA President Julian Douglas and IPA Director General Paul Bainsfair. By one vote, the audience voted that AI is not a threat to agencies.

Weetabix Picks Mindshare as its Media Agency
Cereal brand Weetabix has picked Mindshare to run its media account, Campaign reported this week, following a review managed by AAR.

Hires of the Week

Mars, Asahi Execs to Co-Chair WFA Planet Pledge
The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has named the first co-chairs of its sustainability programme Planet Pledge. Dale Green, Global Director, Purpose Marketing at Mars, and Preeti Srivastav, Group Sustainability Director at Asahi Europe & International, will lead the pledge and drive uptake around the world. WFA also announced AB InBev, Nissan and Schneider Electric as the latest signatories, bringing the total number of participating brands to 32.

Kate Jones Appointed Head of Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum
Kate Jones has been named Chief Executive of the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum (DRCF), the online services regulator made up of the ICO, CMA, Ofcom and FCA. Jones is a technology governance specialist, international and human rights lawyer, and diplomat. She currently serves as Senior Associate, Governance, Human Rights and Diplomacy at Oxford Information Labs.

This Week on VideoWeek

Broadcasters Need to be Confident in Embracing Programmatic CTV Advertising, read on VideoWeek

How TikTok Competes for SMB Ad Spend, read on VideoWeek

Smartclip Enables Programmatic Ad Replacement on Linear TV Ad Breaks, read on VideoWeek

Video Ad Spend to Outpace Social for First Time in 10 Years, read on VideoWeek

Creativity is the Biggest Missed Opportunity in TV Advertising, read on VideoWeek

There’s Still Plenty of Education to Do Around CTV, read on VideoWeek

Yahoo Predicts Most SVOD Services will Invest in FAST by End of 2024, read on VideoWeek

For Advertisers, Cricket is More Attention Grabbing than Football, read on VideoWeek

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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