The WIR: BBC Chairman Steps Down, AI Delivers Results for WPP, and TF1 Reports a Drop in Ad Sales

Tim Cross 28 April, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: AI delivers for WPP, TF1 sees ad sales fall, and Samsung Ads builds a clean room.

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BBC Chairman Steps Down while PAC Questions Corporation’s Sustainability
Richard Sharp, the chairman of the BBC, has resigned from his post today following a row over his relationship with ex-PM Boris Johnson. A report publicised today found that Sharp broke rules by not disclosing a potential perceived conflict of interest when he was appointed to the role, relating to his facilitation of an £800,000 loan to Johnson. Sharp said he had decided to step down as his continued presence would be a distraction from the BBC’s work. He will formally quit at a board meeting in June, after which point the process to appoint a successor will begin.

The news came during a hectic day for the corporation, as the Public Accounts Committee issued a report stating that the BBC is “stuck in TV and radio era without resources to compete in global market or on content”. The committee said that while the BBC is moving towards a fully digital future, it currently lacks a plan to actually reach this future.

“The BBC is being held back in a yesteryear of TV and radio by uncertainty over funding and regulation, and by the DCMS Department’s constant delays and down-scaling of national fast broadband rollout plans.” said the committee’s chair, Dame Meg Hillier. “The BBC fulfils an essential public service function – it must have the planning, resources and wider infrastructure support to do so.”

WPP says Generative AI is Already Delivering Results
WPP announced a strong start to the year in its Q1 financial results this week, reporting 4.9 percent growth in like-for-like revenues as total revenue reached £3.4 billion. And the company expects further growth throughout the year, maintaining its full year forecast of 3-5 percent growth in like-for-like revenues.

And the agency group said that its investment in artificial intelligence is already helping to deliver this growth. “Our focus on AI over the last five years is paying off, with many examples of our work with clients, using the main AI platforms, in-market today,” said CEO Mark Read in a statement.

Read expanded on WPP’s use of AI further in a call with investors following the results, stating that modern generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney are already being used for asset creation within some of its creative agencies. And he stated that in the long term, he believes that AI will neither result in job losses, nor erode agencies revenues – two suggestions put to him on the earnings call. Read says that historically, new technology has created new jobs rather than removing them, and the extra productivity enabled by AI may allow WPP to charge higher prices.

MYTF1 Ad Sales Climb Against Falling TF1 Revenues
TF1 Group has filed an 11 percent YOY decline in revenues for Q1. But digital sales held strong, with AVOD service MYTF1 delivering a 17.3 percent boost in ad revenues. 

The French broadcaster noted that more than 30 percent of consumption of popular series (including Koh-Lanta and Ici tout commence) now takes place in non-linear environments. MYTF1 also achieved record levels of live consumption, garnering over one million visits for French national football matches.

Meanwhile TF1’s audience share rose in Q1, capturing 19.7 percent of the 25-49 demographic. And the group said that programme costs fell €19.4 million during the quarter, “largely offsetting the decline in advertising revenue, and further demonstrating the group’s ability to adapt its costs while increasing its audience share in commercial targets.”

The Week in Tech

MediaMath Renews its Attempt to Find a Buyer
Demand-side platform MediaMath has hired investment bank Houlihan Lokey to help it explore strategic options including a sale, something which has been in the works for years, Insider reported this week. Other options could include debt restructuring, according to Insider. This is reportedly the third investment bank MediaMath has appointed in the past three years.

Samsung Ads Builds a Clean Room with InfoSum
Samsung Ads has added its name to the growing list of media owners investing in data clean room technology, announcing this week it is building a clean room using InfoSum’s technology.

The clean room will let Samsung Ads clients match and activate audiences by combining their own data with Samsung’s. This will allow data activation for targeting and measurement on campaigns run through Samsung’s DSP, including ads bought on Samsung’s own free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels. Advertisers will also be able to access Samsung’s viewing data across linear and streaming and combine that with their own audience data, which can feed into campaign planning.

Nielsen Not Ready to Join Measurement Joint Industry Committee
Nielsen will not yet participate in OpenAP’s Joint Industry Committee (JIC), the company said on Saturday. The JIC was set up by Comcast-NBCUniversal, Paramount Global, Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery and TelevisaUnivision, with the aim of establishing standards for currencies in video advertising. The measurement firm, which recently had its Media Ratings Council accreditation restored, rejected a request for information (RFI) from the JIC. “Responding to the RFI now will give a false impression that we endorse the JIC’s requirements. We do not,” said Nielsen CEO of global audience measurement Karthik Rao. But the JIC insists on subjecting all measurement solutions “to the same level of scrutiny so that buyers and sellers have confidence transacting,” it said in a statement. “No one measurement company should be able to influence the requirements to benefit their bid for certification over their competition.”

YouTube Revenues Down for Third Quarter in a Row
YouTube’s ad revenues fell for a third consecutive quarter in Q1, down 2.6 percent YOY at $6.69 billion. The decline follows a 7.8 percent drop in Q4 2022 and 1.9 percent dip in Q3. Nevertheless the earnings slightly beat Wall Street forecasts, and CFO Ruth Porat said the ad business was showing “signs of stabilisation”.

Advertisers Seek Refunds for Facebook Ads Glitch
Advertisers are asking Meta for refunds following a glitch on Facebook’s ad system, CNBC reported. On Sunday morning, Facebook bundled unusually high numbers of ads, prompting a “bidding war for nothing,” according to Yarden Shaked, CEO of data firm Varos. CPMs rocketed as a result, causing one company to spend 90 percent of its daily budget before 9am. “The results were horrendous,” said Alex Gorlick, CEO of marketing agency Intensify. “It’s the biggest malfunction I’ve ever seen on Facebook ads.” Meta did not provide an explanation, but claims to be “conducting a detailed analysis that assesses opportunities for refunds.”

Snap Ad Sales Down in Q1, Forecasts Further Decline
Snap revenues were down 7 percent YOY in Q1, sending its stock plummeting 19 percent. The company said it was attempting to improve the relevance of its advertising, but as a result of the changes, some of Snap’s largest advertisers are seeing fewer interactions – therefore hurting demand for ads on Snapchat. The company is internally forecasting a 6 percent decline for Q2.

IAB Europe Issues Guidance on TCF Updates
IAB Europe has published guidelines for TCF v2.2, the updated version of its Transparency and Consent Framework, the technical specification for passing user consent through digital supply chains. Some of the changes relate to the action plan submitted in response to the Belgian Data Protection Authority’s ruling that the TCF violates GDPR. The update also removes “legitimate interest” as a legal basis for ad personalisation, and tightens up requirements that facilitate users’ withdrawal of their consent. TCF v2.2 is due to be launched in May.

Twitter Advertisers to Require Verified Accounts
Twitter now requires anyone wanting to advertise on the platform to pay for a verified account, TechCrunch reported this week. The company emailed users: “Starting April 21, your @account must have a verified checkmark or subscribe to either Twitter Blue or Verified Organizations to continue running ads on Twitter.” This means advertisers must pay $8 per month for the checkmark, or spend $1,000 per month to be recognised as a verified business account. Twitter will also charge a reported $42,000 per month minimum for access to its API.

UK Legislation to Empower CMA & Digital Markets Unit
The UK Government has drafted legislation granting the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) new oversight of digital firms, including powers for the Digital Markets Unit (DMU). The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill will allow the CMA to fine businesses up to 10 percent of their global turnover, prevent companies from dominating digital markets, and take faster action against mergers deemed anti-competitive. “Digital markets offer huge benefits, but only if competition enables businesses of all shapes and sizes the opportunity to succeed,” said CMA Chief Executive Sarah Cardell. “This bill is a legal framework fit for the digital age. It will establish a tailored, evidenced-based and proportionate approach to regulating the largest and most powerful digital firms to ensure effective competition that benefits everyone.”

Microsoft Revenues Beat Expectations in Q1
Microsoft revenues rose 7 percent YOY in Q1, beating analyst expectations but missing double-digit growth for a second consecutive quarter. For Q2, the company has forecast revenues between $54.85 billion and $55.85 billion, above Wall Street estimates of $54.71 billion. “The excitement around AI is creating new opportunities,” the tech giant added, now owning 49 percent of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. 

AI Helps Meta Monetise Instagram Reels
Despite its Facebook ads hiccup, Meta saw its revenues rise 3 percent YOY in Q1, $28.1 billion of which came from advertising. The company emphasised the role of AI, which helped boost monetisation on Instagram by 30 percent and Facebook by 40 percent, quarter over quarter. 

AI-based content recommendations also helped drive a 24 percent increase in time spent with Instagram Reels since the product was launched in 2020, and the firm expects Reels to become “revenue neutral” by the end of the year. Meta stock was up 11 percent following the results.

Yieldmo and Cedara to Measure Campaign Emissions
Ad exchange Yieldmo has teamed up with carbon intelligence platform Cedara to track its emissions. Announced on Earth Day, the partnership enables Yieldmo to report its carbon emissions using Cedara’s Media Taxonomy. This allows brands and agencies to measure the carbon footprint of a campaign using Yieldmo’s Emissions Intensity metric through Cedara’s Investment Hub. “We are thrilled to partner with Cedara on this important initiative to measure and reduce our environmental impact,” said Teddy Jawde, CPO and co-founder of Yieldmo.

The Week in TV

Peacock Revenues Rise as Comcast Declines
Comcast revenues dipped 4 percent YOY in Q1, for a total $29.7 billion. The company cited “lower revenue at our networks, driven by audience ratings declines”, but still beat expectations. NBCUniversal streaming service also grew its subscriber base by 60 percent, while its revenues climbed 45 percent to $685 million. The results come days after the dismissal of NBCU CEO Jeff Shell over accusations of sexual harassment.

ProSieben Profits Plummeted in 2022
ProSiebenSat.1 saw its revenues tumble 7.4 percent in 2022, totalling €4.16 billion. Operating profit was down almost 20 percent at €678 million, prompting calls to slash this year’s dividend. The German firm is also replacing CFO Ralf Gierig with United Internet’s Martin Mildner. Meanwhile ProSieben anticipates “significant recovery in the important advertising business in the second half of the year in parallel with the forecast general economic development.”

Roku Revenues Hit by Struggling Ad Market
Roku has reported advertising declines for Q1, although total revenue climbed 1 percent to reach $741 million. The company said streaming hours were up by 4.2 billion hours to hit 25.1 billion. However ARPU fell by 5 percent, causing platform revenue to drop 1 percent at $635 million. Roku noted that “the macro environment remained challenged in Q1”, while consumers are pressured “by inflation and recessionary fears, and thus discretionary spend is likely to remain muted.” But the firm stressed the positive impact of its partnerships with retail media networks and DSPs, gaining ad spend “by making certain ad inventory more accessible.”

Bouygues Telecom Launches Live Shopping TV App
French telco Bouygues Telecom has launched a live shopping TV app called B-Live Shopping. Currently available on set-top boxes and mobile devices, Bbox subscribers can shop for goods from brands including Monoprix, la Redoute and Decathlon. The e-commerce offering lets viewers search by brand, theme or product type via the TV. “We are delighted to offer to our customers this unique live shopping experience from the user interface of our box,” said Laure Joslet, SVP Head of Consumer & Pro Market at Bouygues Telecom. “We are convinced that this new channel for discovery and sales is going to become one of the standards for brands.”

Barb Lets Advertisers Plan by Genre on BVOD Campaigns
UK measurement body Barb has upgraded its Advanced Campaign Hub (ACH), helping advertisers plan genre-based campaigns and sponsorships across BVOD services. ACH users can now choose genres (including entertainment, news and reality) to forecast reach on BVOD services over multiple screens (TV sets, PCs, tablets and smartphones). “This latest upgrade to the ACH is in direct response to requests from our users to further enhance their BVOD planning capabilities,” said Jim Jarrett, Head of Research Operations at Barb.

‘Come Dine With Me’ Enters the Metaverse
ITV and Channel 4 have launched Come Dine With Me in the metaverse. A collaboration between ITV Studios label MultiStory Media, metaverse creative agency Metavision, and Channel 4, Come Mine With Me enables Minecraft players to build a dinner party in the custom town of Minechester. “The further in development we went with Come Mine With Me, the more we asked ourselves, ‘Why hasn’t this been done already?’ The format feels like it was designed from the very beginning to be played with friends on Minecraft,” said Ryan Norrington, Creative Lead at Metavision. “We’re very excited to be bringing a cultural heavyweight like Come Dine With Me to the Metaverse, where it can be discovered by an entirely new, highly engaged and younger audience.” 

Netflix Heavily Invests in South Korean and UK Content
Netflix has announced a $2.5 billion investment in South Korean entertainment, doubling its spend in the nation behind Squid Game. South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol met Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos in Washington as part of his six-day state visit to the US, the FT reported. Also this week, Netflix revealed it had spent around $1.5 billion per year on UK production since 2020. “Between 2020 and 2023, we will in fact have invested almost $6 billion creating Netflix series and films here, an increase of nearly 50 percent on what we originally anticipated,” said Netflix VP of content Anne Mensah.

The Week for Publishers

Time Plans to Tear Down its Digital Paywall
Time Magazine plans to remove its digital paywall at the beginning of June, Axios reported this week, twelve years after first launching the paywall. Thus Time will double down on advertising to fund its digital output. CEO Jessica Sibley told Axios that the decision is both an editorial and a business one. Without the paywall, Time’s content will reach more users, specifically reaching younger and more diverse audiences.

Paper Magazine Lays Off Entire Editorial Staff
Fashion and pop culture publisher Paper Magazine, which went digital-only in 2020, this week laid off its entire editorial staff, becoming the latest victim of a tough advertising market. Publisher Tom Florio, who runs Paper, is hoping to keep the business alive according to Adweek, though editorial operations will have to pause with the lack of staff to produce content.

Insider Lays Off Ten Percent of US Staff
Insider has announced it is laying off ten percent of its US staff, a move which the publisher says is necessary to stay “healthy and competitive” given current economic headwinds. The cuts will affect both editorial and commercial roles.

Vice Makes “Long-Term Commitment” to Twitch
Vice is firmly committed to producing content on live streaming platform Twitch, Press Gazette reported this week, having found success in building an audience on Twitch. According to Vice staffers who spoke with the Gazette, Vice is “beyond the ‘let’s give it a try’ phase,” and is now prioritising monetisation on the platform.

Pinterest Rated Best Media Owner to Work with in IPA Poll
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) released the results of its latest Digital Media Owners survey, polling advertisers on which media owners are best to work with. Pinterest topped the rankings out of all media owners, with 83.1 percent of respondents saying their experience working with Pinterest was a good one. Pinterest was second only to buying platform Blis, which rated at 84.9 percent.

Google News Showcase Launches in Belgium
Google this week announced that Google News Showcase, its news product which it uses as a vehicle for paying publishers, is launching in Belgium. IPM Group, Mediafin, Rossel Group and RTL info are confirmed to have signed up to the service, meaning they will create tailored content for the News Showcase news feed, receiving payments from Google in return.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

UK Ad Spend Reached $34.8 Billion Last Year
Total UK ad expenditure grew 8.8 percent in 2022, reaching $34.8 billion in total, according to the latest Expenditure Report from the AA and WARC, released this week. However the report downgraded expected growth for 2023, with growth of just 0.5 percent expected for the year ahead. And total spend actually fell in Q4 last year according to the report, down 5.8 percent year-on-year, the first Q4 decrease since 2009.

Interpublic Group Sees Dip in Revenues
American agency group Interpublic Group posted its Q1 financial results this week, with organic net revenues down 0.2 percent year-on-year. IPG CEO Philippe Krakowsky said softness among marketers in the tech sector was one major contributor to the decline. Overall however, IPG says it still is on track for full year organic growth of 2-4 percent.

Havas’ Organic Revenue Growth Slows
French agency group Havas saw its organic revenue growth slow to 1.1 percent in its Q1 financial results this week, a significant fall from last year’s growth of 11.4 percent. Havas did however report it is seeing “strong commercial momentum,” with several major contracts with big clients including Danone set to kick in later in the year.

VoxComm Warns of Damage Done by Long Payment Terms
VoxComm, a trade group representing communications agencies, this week issued a warning to agencies and clients of the potential damages of extending their payment terms. VoxComm said that some marketers are abusing their power and forcing longer payment windows on agencies, forcing agencies to borrow money to cover their running costs. “Not only is this approach damaging to agency creativity and effectiveness but also detrimental to businesses’ reputations when they are in danger of breaching laws and regulations around the world,” said a statement from VoxComm.  “We would like to call on clients to act more responsibly.”

WFA Calls for “Fairer, Safer, More Transparent, More Sustainable” Ad Ecosystem
The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has published its third update to its Global Media Charter, a charter outlining WFA members’ priorities for the wider advertising and media ecosystem. The charter picks out five areas which the WFA says the industry needs to focus on in order to drive growth: competition and plurality; measurement and accountability; responsibility and society; sustainability and planet; and people and partners.

Stagwell Consolidates Folds Three Agencies into CP+B
Stagwell this week announced it is combining four of its agencies, MMI, Vitro, Observatory, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky, into one integrated agency under the CP+B brand. Adweek reported that the combined entity was formed in response to increased client demand for integrated capabilities across creative, media, and communications.

Hires of the Week

DoubleVerify Names Facebook’s Daniel Slotwiner as SVP Attention
DoubleVerify has appointed Daniel Slotwiner to SVP of Attention. Slotwiner spent a decade at Facebook as Director of Advertising Research, following a three-year stint at Google.

ProSiebenSat.1 Executive Board Replaces CFO
ProSiebenSat.1 has named Martin Mildner its new CFO, replacing Ralf Peter Gierig, who has been with the company since its inception in 2000. Mildner previously served as CFO of United Internet AG, where he took the subsidiary IONOS public.

This Week on VideoWeek

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The Interest Rate Question for Media and Tech, read on VideoWeek

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UK Video Spend Outpaced Display in 2022, read on VideoWeek

Microsoft/Activision Merger Blocked in UK, read on VideoWeek

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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