The WIR: BuzzFeed News Shuts Down, Index Exchange Pledges its Commitment to DSP Relationships, Publicis and Omnicom Post Strong Q1

Tim Cross 21 April, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: BuzzFeed News closes down, Index Exchange pledges its allegiance to DSPs, and agency group financial results come in strong.

Top Stories

BuzzFeed News Closes Down in Tough Ad Market
BuzzFeed News is shutting down after 12 years of operation, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti announced this week, as current macroeconomic conditions and a difficult ad market have made it commercially unsustainable. The move comes as part of a wider cost-cutting measure by the company, which is laying off fifteen percent of its workforce in total.

BuzzFeed News was launched as a serious new counterpart to BuzzFeed’s primary offering of listicles and quizzes. The outfit built a reputation for the quality of its journalism, winning a Pulitzer Prize for its investigation of China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims. Despite this, BuzzFeed’s ad revenues have struggled to sustain the news operation. And with the current macroeconomic environment putting a further squeeze on ad revenues, the company has been forced to make multiple rounds of cuts.

“While layoffs are occurring across nearly every division, we’ve determined that the company can no longer continue to fund BuzzFeed News as a standalone organization,” Jonah Peretti wrote in a note to staff.

Index Exchange says it’s Still Committed to DSP Partnerships
Following Magnite’s launch of ClearLine, a product which will allow agencies to access inventory without going through a DSP, Index Exchange released a note this week reassuring DSPs that it remains committed to DSP partnerships. “Our mission does not involve bypassing DSPs, buy-side platforms, or engaging in dual-sided operations,” said Andrew Casale, CEO and president of Index Exchange. “As we adapt to shifts in the market across the needs and investments of all of our customers, including our recent success in the rapidly expanding streaming channel, our primary focus will always center on the needs of our publishers.”

Publicis and Omnicom Results Beat Expectations
Agency holding groups Omnicom and Publicis both released their Q1 financial results this week, the first of the major agency groups to do so. And it was a positive quarter for both groups, as both beat Wall Street’s expectations.

Omnicom reported first, with total quarterly revenues of $3.4 billion, and organic growth of 5.2 percent. Publicis later reported quarterly revenues of revenues of €3.07 billion, with organic growth of 7.1 percent.

Publicis CEO Arthur Sadoun credited the company’s investment in its data and technology capabilities, which makes up a third of Publicis’ revenues, for the strong performance. Off the back of the strong results, Publicis said it expected full year organic growth to come in at the top end of its previous 3-5 percent forecast.

Omnicom CEO John Wren meanwhile said the company is turning to AI as a major driver of further growth. Through a partnership with Microsoft, OpenAI’s GPT-4 will be integrated into Omnicom’s Omni platform, which pools Omnicom’s data to provide insights and suggestions across the business.

The Week in Tech

Magnite Circumvents DSPs with Launch of ClearLine
Magnite, one of the largest supply-side platforms (SSP) in the industry, this morning announced the launch of ClearLine, a new “direct buying solution” (to use Magnite’s own words) which will give buyers direct access to Magnite’s video inventory. Magnite describes ClearLine as “a self-service solution that provides agencies direct access to buy premium video inventory on the company’s platform”. Magnite already has experience in deal-driven video sales, and says ClearLine is essentially an agency-facing adaptation of the technology which its publishers use to manage their traditional direct-sold demand through their ad server. Read more on VideoWeek

Nielsen Regains MRC Accreditation
Audience measurement firm Nielsen has won back its Media Rating Council (MRC) accreditation following an 18-month suspension. The accreditation was revoked after Nielsen was found to have undercounted TV viewership. Now the MRC has restored its approval for Nielsen’s National TV Audience Measurement service. “We believe the accreditation process has made us stronger as we’ve evolved our panel strategy and quality measures, and inspired new automation technologies and approaches to ensure that our service remains consistent and reliable,” said Karthik Rao, CEO, Audience Measurement at Nielsen.

Google to Use Generative AI for Ad Campaign Creation
Google is planning to introduce generative AI into its advertising business over the coming months, the FT reported on Thursday. “Generative AI is unlocking a world of creativity,” the company said in an internal presentation entitled ‘AI-powered ads 2023’. The presentation suggested the technology would be used to produce campaigns resembling those created by marketing agencies. Advertisers will supply creative assets (imagery, video and text), then AI will “remix” the material to generate ads based on intended audience and sales targets.

Samba TV, Bring CTV Measurement to French Market
Measurement firm Samba TV has announced a partnership with analytics company, which will see the pair bring a measurement and attribution solution to the French CTV market. The partners said this combines Samba TV’s automatic content recognition (ACR) viewership data with’s analytics suite, helping advertisers “close the loop” between targeting and measurement using first-party data. “France is one of the most advanced CTV markets in Europe and we are proud to partner with one of its leading companies to provide an innovative approach to measurement and attribution that bridges linear TV and CTV,” said David Barker, Senior Vice President of International Sales at Samba TV.

Google Releases Results for Cookie-Free Campaign Tests
Google released a new set of results this week testing the performance of cookie-free campaigns, compared with campaigns which use third-party cookies. For the tests, Google used a combination of different alternatives, including its own Privacy Sandbox solutions, as well as publishers’ first-party data. Google found that advertiser spend, as a proxy for reach, was down y 2-7 percent compared with cookie-based targeting. And conversions per-dollar, a proxy for return on investment, was down by 1-3 percent.

Amazon to Cut Advertising Staff
Amazon is cutting staff from its advertising business, the company confirmed on Tuesday. The advertising layoffs are thought to be part of the 9,000 redundancies announced at Amazon last month, on top of the 18,000 jobs already cut. The moves are designed to support the “long-term health” of the company, according to an internal memo. “For Ads, this process has involved reallocating resources by shifting team members, slowing down or stopping certain programs, or concluding we didn’t have the right skills in place to address our priorities,” Amazon SVP Advertising Paul Kotas said in a note to staff. “As a result, we have made deeply-considered decisions about how best to move forward, resulting in role eliminations for a small percentage of our organization.”

LG Ad Solutions, RTL AdAlliance Expand European CTV Partnership
LG Ad Solutions and RTL AdAlliance have expanded their partnership to cover Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The one-year deal gives buyers access to CTV ads within the LG smart TV interface. The partnership was first launched in Italy, providing audience segments based on age groups, socio-demographic data and special interests. “More advertisers in Europe now have access to advanced audience targeting based on proprietary data, premium ad placement on the LG smart TV homescreen, and the ability to optimise media investments across both linear and connected TV spend – all brought to market by a highly specialised local team,” said Ed Wale, VP, Europe at LG Ad Solutions.

ShowHeroes Acquires Asian AVOD Company iVS
Ad tech firm ShowHeroes Group has acquired iVS (Intelligent Video Solutions), a digital video and AVOD company headquartered in Singapore. The acquisition expands Showheroes into six Asian markets, namely Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore. iVS runs a programmatic marketplace comprising independent Asian publishers, advertisers, broadcasters and DooH providers. “Joining forces with ShowHeroes, we will have a much stronger premium video advertising product that brings exclusivity to brand advertisers through ShowHeroes’ high-quality video content production capabilities,” said iVS CRO Hari Shankar.

VIZO Ads Uses IRIS.TV Data to Allow Contextual Targeting
VIZIO Ads has partnered with IRIS.TV, a video-level data company that enables contextual targeting for CTV. Advertisers accessing VIZIO’s CTV inventory can use IRIS.TV’s data to check for brand-suitable content. The smart TV manufacturer uses IRIS_ID to label content, thereby allowing third-party brand safety providers to verify brand safety and run contextual analysis.

LG Channels’ European Users Tripled in 2022
AVOD service LG Channels tripled its European user base last year, LG announced on Monday. The service has also seen an increase in viewing time across its movies, TV series, music and news, though the company did not provide actual figures. LG Channels is to expand its FAST footprint in the coming months, including the launch of 24/7 sport channel DAZN FAST and women’s sport-focused DAZN Rise.

CMA Launches Consultation into In-App Payments on Google Play
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has opened a consultation on proposals to allow alternative in-app payment methods on Google Play. The tech giant offered commitments that would effectively free app developers from having to use the Google billing system to process in-app payments. The consultation stems from concerns that Google’s control over payment processing is leading to higher prices and reduced choice for Android users. The new proposals would enable app developers to choose a different system (Developer-only Billing (DOB)) or let users decide between systems (User Choice Billing (UCB)).

Microsoft Boots Twitter From Ad Platform
Microsoft is to drop Twitter from its advertising platform, in response to the social media firm charging over $42,000 per month for access to its API. “Starting on Apr. 25, 2023, Smart Campaigns with Multi-platform will no longer support Twitter,” Microsoft said on its website. Elon Musk threatened to sue the tech giant, accusing Microsoft of “ripping off the Twitter database.”

The Week in TV

Netflix With Ads Delivers on ARPU
Netflix’s Q1 earnings this week showed that the service’s newly launched ad-supported subscription tier is paying off. On an earnings call following the results, the company revealed that its average revenue per user (ARPU) was higher on the ad-supported tier than its basic ad-free plan – and in the US, higher than the standard plan. Read more on VideoWeek.

ITVX Reaches One Billion Streams
ITVX has hit one billion streams, ITV announced this week. The BVOD service reached the milestone on Easter Sunday, around four months after launching. In addition, March was the UK broadcaster’s “best ever month” for streaming, with 282 million streams. ITV added that Love Actually is the service’s most popular film, and The Chase its most popular FAST channel.

ITVX has also overtaken Disney+ and All4 in terms of audience consideration, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex data. This places the service fourth in the rankings, behind Netflix, iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video – still short of ITV CMO Jane Stiller’s aim to have ITVX in the top three, but undoubtedly making progress.

Origin CEO Calls on Broadcasters to Sign Up
Origin CEO Tom George has expressed surprise that TV broadcasters have yet to sign up to ISBA’s cross-media measurement project. Responding to a Thinkbox article about the difficulty of finding measurement solutions to fit the needs of different media owners, George called on broadcasters to join the Origin stakeholder group. “Of course, it’s their decision whether they wish to join, but I think the proven power of their medium and the level playing field argument are pretty compelling reasons to participate,” he said in The Media Leader

Channel 4’s Youth-Focused YouTube Brand Hits 25 Million Views
Channel 4.0, Channel 4’s digital brand launched in October 2022, has reached 25 million views and attracted 104,000 subscribers, the broadcaster announced. Available on YouTube and social channels, Channel 4.0 has landed with its target 13-24 demographic, which accounts for 82 percent of total views. “Channel 4.0 was born to reach young people authentically and meaningfully on the platforms they are spending a chunk of their time, so to see that over 80 percent of views are coming from under 24s at this point is incredible,” said Sacha Khari, Head of Digital Commissioning at Channel 4.

MFE Revenues Took a 4 Percent Hit Last Year
MediaForEurope (MFE) saw its revenues fall 4 percent in 2022 to reach €2.8 billion, while income dropped by 40 percent over the course of the year. Despite the tough advertising environment, Mediaset Italia captured 40.5 percent of the TV ad market, a 1.2 percent increase on 2021. The company also reported “positive” sales in Italy for Q1 2023, but noted the “somewhat difficult market” in Spain.

AMC+ to Introduce Ad Tier and Targeting Platform
AMC+ will launch an ad tier by October 2023, AMC Networks revealed on Monday. The advertising offering allows buyers to target genres and franchises, AMC CCO Kim Kelleher said in a statement: “With our new series content, library titles and other targeted streaming platforms that are all bundled into AMC+, partners can move beyond individual shows and even series and choose to ‘own’ whole genres and franchises, and drive messaging to target audiences no matter what they are watching or where.” AMC also unveiled a new data targeting platform called Audience+, helping advertisers target audiences across linear and digital. The announcement makes AMC+ the latest SVOD service to introduce an AVOD plan, following a tumultuous period for the US broadcaster, which has had four CEOs over the past year.

AVOD Growth to Double SVOD Over Five Years
Global OTT revenues from TV and films will reach $235 billion in 2028, according to Digital TV Research. The forecast added that AVOD revenues will grow almost twice as much as SVOD, hitting $91 billion in five years. The US will remain the dominant territory with 41 percent share of global revenues, but the top five countries will see their command of revenues fall as other markets grow their share. 

Viaplay Lands on Roku in UK, US & Canada
Viaplay has landed on Roku as part of a multi-year deal between the streaming service and device manufacturer. Following Viaplay’s recent international roll-out, the Nordic SVOD service is available on Roku devices in the UK, US and Canada. “This multi-year partnership makes it even easier for audiences in Viaplay’s three newest markets to subscribe to our unique service,” said Vanda Rapti, Viaplay Group EVP and CCO, North America & Viaplay Select.

Roku Unveils Primetime Ad Delivery Guarantee
Roku has unveiled a tool to guarantee ad delivery during primetime, dangling the opportunity for US advertisers ahead of Upfronts season. Roku will prioritise delivery on a specified primetime date to unique households across The Roku Channel, plus the additional top 100 channels on the platform. “TV streaming has long brought precision and measurement to the largest screen in the home,” said Kristina Shepard, Co-Head of US Brand Sales at Roku. “Now, marketers can launch campaigns knowing they will deliver meaningful reach and impact quickly, too.”

Viaplay Content Arrives on Deutsche Telekom’s MagentaTV
Viaplay has signed a deal with German telco Deutsche Telekom to add Viaplay Select content to the MagentaTV streaming service. The Nordic media group calls Viaplay Select a “branded content concept” that offers its programming, along with third-party content, to partner platforms in different countries. “We know our customers love to stream Nordic crime, noir thrillers and modern European drama series, so this is a great fit for our content portfolio,” said MagentaTV MD Arnim Butzen.

7 Percent of UK Households Cancelled an SVOD Subscription in Q1
UK households cancelled almost 170,000 streaming subscriptions in Q1 2023, according to Kantar. The post-Christmas cull saw 7 percent of households axe their SVOD service, with Netflix hit hardest by cost-conscious consumers. “Netflix consumers are increasingly questioning the value for money they get from their subscriptions,” said Domenic Sunnebo, Global Consumer Insight Director at Kantar.

The Week for Publishers

Vice Media Hires Interim Finance Chief as Buyer Search Continues
Vice Media has hired Mark Del Priore, director of AlixPartners, a specialist in company turnarounds, as its new finance chief according to the Wall Street Journal. Del Priore has been taken on to “oversee strategic plans to improve the company’s financial health,” according to an internal memo seen by the journal. The news comes as Vice Media continues to search for a buyer, with Group Black reported to be in the running.

The Guardian Agrees Payment Deal for Use of Contextual Data
The Guardian has agreed a deal with contextual advertising specialist Illuma, whereby Illuma will pay The Guardian in order to be able to collect contextual data from The Guardian’s web properties and sell that data to advertisers. The news follows an open letter from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP) last month complaining that ad verification firms frequently sell publishers’ contextual data without their permission. Digiday reports that the deal between The Guardian and Illuma represents more equitable terms for both sides

Meta Turns to Deals and Discounts to Drive Reels Spend
Meta is using deals and discounts to encourage agencies to try to encourage advertisers to test advertising on its TikTok-like video product Reels, The Information reported this week. One agency told The Information that they were being offered discounts up to 25 percent if they were willing to commit certain sums to Reels, a discount which the source said was unusually high.

Twitter Launches Content Subscriptions in Creator Push
Twitter launched a new offering this week which lets users run a subscription service to their followers, where certain content is accessible only to paying subscribers. CEO Elon Musk has previously stated his desire to encourage more users to create, distribute, and monetise content specifically over Twitter. For the first year, Twitter won’t take any of these subscription revenues itself – after that, Musk says it will start charging “a small amount”.

Sega Agrees Deal to Acquire Rovio
Video game publisher Sega has agreed a €706 million deal to buy mobile gaming specialist Rovio, creator of the Angry Birds series, it was announced this week. Sega says the acquisition was motivated by Rovio’s expertise in live service mobile game operation, meaning it will likely look to bring more of its own IP into mobile-first titles.

Future Sells Shooting Brands to Fieldsports
Specialist publishing group Fieldsports has acquired a number of shooting magazine brands from Future, including Shooting Times & Country, Sporting Gun, and The value of the deal was not disclosed.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

IPA Bellwether Finds Mild Growth in UK Advertiser Budgets
UK advertisers’ total marketing budget growth was at its highest point in the first quarter of this year since Q2 2023, according to the latest IPA Bellwether report. But while there are signs of optimism within the ad industry, many advertisers are holding off on increases in marketing budgets. And the report forecasts an overall decline in total ad spend this year, in the context of an anticipated fall in GDP. Read more on VideoWeek.

Dentsu and IPG Mediabrands Join Conscious Advertising Network
The Conscious Advertising Network, a coalition of businesses in media and advertising which aims to tackle ethical issues facing the industry, has added agency groups Dentsu and IPG Mediabrands to its membership. Both media agencies have committed to CAN’s ethical business practice manifestos, which cover hate speech, dis/misinformation, diversity and inclusion, children’s wellbeing, informed consent, ad fraud, and climate and sustainability.

M&C Saatchi Adopts Client Focused Model Under New Europe CEO
M&C Saatchi is adjusting its model under new Europe CEO Carlo Noseda, Adweek reported this week. The agency group will look to foster more collaboration between its various agencies and teams, enabling clients to pay for specific services rather than employing one specific agency. “We are trying to present ourselves as a creative solution partner, because for clients the world has changed and they need more than one thing to address the issues they have,” Noseda told Adweek. “They can no longer ask one agency to handle advertising, and for another one to handle media, and then another to specialize in marketing.”

Ukraine’s Media Market Holds Surprisingly Strong
A report on the state of Ukraine’s media market, in the context of Russia’s ongoing illegal invasion of the country, found that the local media market is holding surprisingly strong. The report, produced by media auditor KWENDI, found that the number of TV advertisers sits at 30 percent of the 2021 level, and predicted that 2023 TV investment could be as high as 50 percent of the pre-war level.

LloydsPharmacy Accused of Sharing Sensitive Data with Social Platforms
Pharmaceutical retailer LloydsPharmacy was accused this week of sharing sensitive customer purchase data with TikTok and Facebook, to be used for targeted advertising. An investigation by the Guardian and Radio Sweden found that the shared data included search terms entered on the Lloyds’ website – “erectile dysfunction” and “irritable bowel syndrome” were too examples, as well as items added to shopping carts, which included Viagra and chlamydia tests.

WFA Extends its Global DEI Census
The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has extended the submission deadline for its second global DEI census to April 30th. The WFA says the survey, which aims to measure the state of diversity, equity and inclusion in marketing and advertising, has had over 8,000 submissions so far.

Hires of the Week

WPP Appoints Chief Operating Officers at GroupM & EssenceMediacom
GroupM UK, WPP’s media investment group, has made Luke Bozeat its Chief Operating Officer. Satin Reid will replace Bozeat as UK COO at GroupM agency EssenceMediacom.

BritBox Taps Former HBO Exec for International Marketing
BritBox International has named Diana Pessin SVP of marketing, North America and group marketing services. Pessin has held executive positions at HBO and Warner Media, and will lead the British joint venture’s international marketing business.

Seedtag Promotes Emilia Kirk to UK Commercial Director
Contextual advertising company Seedtag has promoted Emilia Kirk to UK commercial director. Kirk was previously Seedtag’s Head of Growth, following an eight-year stint at Avid Media. 

ProSieben, RTL Deutschland Appoint Ricarda Jebsen to d-force Board
ProSiebenSat.1 Media and RTL Deutschland have appointed Ricarda Jebsen to the management board of d-force, a joint venture for addressable TV advertising. Jebsen is Managing Director of ad tech firm Virtual Minds, and takes up her co-MD Ralf Hammerath’s seat on the board.

Outbrain Enlists New CTO, CPO
Content recommendation specialist Outbrain has hired Yonatan Maman as Chief Technology Officer and Andraz Tori as Chief Product Officer. Co-Founder Ori Lahav will hand over CTO responsibilities while continuing as General Manager, Israel.

This Week on VideoWeek

Magnite Circumvents DSPs with Launch of ClearLine, read on VideoWeek

Netflix Finds Live Streaming is Harder Than it Looks, read on VideoWeek

AI for Generating Professional Video is Only a Matter of Time, read on VideoWeek

Ofcom is Set to Allow PSBs to Run More Ads, read on VideoWeek

Netflix with Ads is Delivering on ARPU but Password Crackdown is Kicked Down the Road, read on VideoWeek

IPA Bellwether Finds Mild Growth in UK Advertiser Budgets, but Forecasts Fall in Ad Spend This Year, read on VideoWeek

Cutting Out High-Carbon Publishers Can Eliminate 16 Percent of Emissions, Finds Scope3 Report, read on VideoWeek

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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