The WIR: YouTube Primetime Channels Lands in Germany, Viant Considers MediaMath Merger, and ANA says Agencies Must Ask Brands Permission to Use AI

Tim Cross 09 June, 2023 

In this week’s Week in Review: YouTube’s TV push continues in Germany, Viant and MediaMath mull a merger, and the ANA says agencies shouldn’t jump the gun with AI.

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YouTube Primetime Channels Lands in Germany

YouTube continued its advance into TV territory with the launch of Primetime Channels in Germany, marking the service’s first international expansion since its US launch in November 2022.

Primetime Channels essentially makes partnered streaming services available from within the YouTube interface. Users can buy subscriptions, or bundles of subscriptions, and then find and watch content from across those services without leaving YouTube’s app. This positions YouTube as the homepage of users’ CTV viewing experience, while also giving it power over content discovery, and access to data on what content viewers are watching. Launch partners include ARD More, Crime + Investigation Play, European League of Football, SPORT1+, and HISTORY Play.

“With YouTube Primetime Channels, we offer our users the opportunity to experience subscription-based premium TV and movie content, both linear and on-demand, from a variety of well-known partners directly in one place, where they are often searched for and discovered,” said Andreas Briese, Country Director of YouTube Deutschland. “They can rely on YouTube’s familiar design and ease of use instead of having to deal with different offerings.”

Viant Eyes MediaMath Merger

Demand-side platform Viant is considering a merger with ad tech firm MediaMath, according to sources close to the discussions cited by Digiday. MediaMath was forced to refinance last year after its founder, Joe Zawadski, was ousted as CEO. The firm has been exploring a sale since 2020.

Reports suggest consolidation is vital for the survival of both companies, due to supply-side platforms encroaching on the demand side. Early MediaMath investors also saw their equity wiped out when Searchlight Capital Partners took a controlling stake in the company last year.

Meanwhile Viant’s stock price is 90 percent down from February 2021, with a market capitalisation around $280 million. A deal is now expected to be closed within weeks, though neither confirmation nor valuation have been disclosed.

ANA says Agencies Should Ask for Brands’ Permission Before Using AI

The Association of National Advertisers this week released an update to its services agreement template, which is designed for advertisers to use when contracting with media buying agencies in order to increase transparency. And among the new additions to the template, the ANA says that agencies should ask for brands’ permission before using AI tools within media buying.

Agency groups have been ramping up their investment in AI over the past year, exploring new ways to implement AI technologies across content creation and media planning and buying. But increased use of AI in media buying carries risks, with less direct human oversight of the decisions driving media buying.

As a result, the ANA says that agencies must get legal sign-off from clients before using any AI applications in the delivery of their services. Though there’s obviously room for debate over what does and doesn’t constitute AI. However widely-used programmatic tools use machine learning to inform media buying strategies. Getting sign off for every bit of technology they work with could be tricky for agencies.

The Week in Tech

LiveRamp Explores a Sale

Data onboarding company LiveRamp is exploring a potential sale in recent months, according to sources familiar with the situation. Sale discussions reportedly began in late 2022 when ad tech stock prices were falling. LiveRamp shares have recovered recently, with a current market capitalisation around $1.6 billion.

The Trade Desk Unveils AI-Driven Buying Platform ‘Kokai’

The Trade Desk has launched a new media buying platform, Kokai, which uses AI to optimise targeting capabilities. The system deploys deep learning algorithms to score every ad impression based on relevance to the advertiser, and help traders make bids at the optimal level. “The Trade Desk benefits from a rich yet highly complex dataset with very high integrity,” said The Trade Desk Founder and CEO Jeff Green. “With Kokai, we are able to help our clients make sense of that data with AI and help the marketer make the best decisions at every turn.”

Pinterest and Tesco Form Retail Media Partnership

Social company Pinterest has formed a media partnership with Tesco Media and Insight Platform, the supermarket’s retail media arm. The deal enables FMCG brands to deliver personalised ads on Pinterest using Tesco Clubcard data. Advertisers can deploy various Pinterest formats, including static, video and carousel ads. “This new partnership will enable thousands of brands to connect with Tesco customers who are seeking inspiration on Pinterest, serving them with the very ideas and products they’re already looking for,” said Pinterest UK sales director Tim Woollias.

Twitter Ad Sales Down 59 Percent

Twitter’s ad sales for April 2023 were down 59 percent YoY, according to the New York Times, totalling $88 million in revenues. An internal presentation reveals the social media firm has regularly missed weekly sales projections by as much as 30 percent. The results cast doubt on Elon Musk’s claims that “almost all advertisers have come back or said they are going to come back.”

IAB Tech Lab Forms Group for Advancing Addressable TV

IAB Tech Lab announced the creation of its Advanced TV Commit Group, designed to develop technology frameworks, technical standards and market strategy for addressable TV. Inaugural members include broadcasters Paramount, NBCUniversal, Warner Bros. Discovery, GroupM, Publica and Nielsen. “We are focused on developing technical framework(s) that ensures holistic reconciliation, a unified measurement framework, and consistent ad experiences across digital video and TV environments,” said IAB Tech Lab CEO Anthony Katsur. 

Microsoft Will Soon Require All Advertisers to be Verified

Advertisers on Microsoft will require verification before their ads are served, the company announced this week, as the tech giant seeks to boost the transparency of its advertising. The new process kicks in for new advertisers on 1st July and all advertisers on 1st August. “All ads will display the name and location of the advertiser, the business, or the individual who is funding the ad, and information about why they’re seeing an ad (such as targeting parameters),” added Microsoft Advertising.

IAB Europe Releases Sustainability Commitment 

IAB Europe has released a new sustainability agreement, committing to provide guidance and support on climate action. The European IAB Common Commitment Agreement on Sustainability is signed by 20 National IABs and Federations. IAB Europe’s Sustainability Standards Committee will develop strategies, guidelines and taxonomies to help orgnisations tackle carbon emissions. “The aspiration to reduce CO₂ emissions in the digital advertising supply chain will test our capacity to act in unison more than any other policy or business goal,” said IAB Europe CEO Townsend Feehan.

European Watchdog Slams Crypto Ads on Social Media 

Consumer group BEUC has accused Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter of unfairly promoting cryptocurrencies, through advertising and influencers on their platforms. BEUC lodged a complaint with the European Commission, arguing that the proliferation of misleading crypto ads on social media exposes consumers to serious harm, including loss of money. “Crypto will be regulated soon with the new Market in Crypto Assets Regulation (MiCA) but this legislation does not apply to the social media companies benefiting from the advertising of crypto at the expense of consumers,” said BEUC Director General Monique Goyens.

Apple Launches VR/AR Headset

Apple unveiled an VR/AR headset on Tuesday, positioned as an immersive cinema and games console with 180-degree video and spatial audio. The Apple Vision Pro will launch next year at a $3,499 price point. “Today marks the beginning of a new era for computing,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook. “Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing, and iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Apple Vision Pro introduces us to spatial computing.”

The Week in TV

Viaplay Shares Plunge as Sales Forecast Falls, CEO Resigns

This week Viaplay downgraded its outlook for 2023 and announced the departure of CEO Anders Jensen, sending shares in the Nordic streaming company plummeting by 60 percent. The group lowered its annual sales growth forecast from 24-26 percent to 16-17.5 percent, citing lower demand in streaming subscription markets, the deterioration of TV ad markets, and slower-than-expected progress in the company’s cost savings programme. Read more on VideoWeek.

Amazon Considers Ad-Supported Subscription Tier for Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video looks set to become the latest SVOD service to introduce an ad-supported tier, as the Jeff Bezos-owned company looks to shore up its entertainment revenues. Reports emerged this week that discussions have taken place over the last few weeks, including mention of short ad breaks on the streaming service, though no plans have been confirmed. Read more on VideoWeek.

Disney Writes Off $1.5 Billion in Streaming Content

Disney will incur a $1.5 billion impairment charge after removing titles from Disney+ and Hulu last week, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing. The company expects to remove further content from its streaming services this quarter. It anticipates additional impairment charges up to $400 million.

Commercial Broadcaster Trade Group “Vehemently Opposes” Ofcom’s Ad Proposals

The UK’s Association for Commercial Broadcasters and On-Demand Services (COBA) has hit out at Ofcom’s proposal to allow public sector broadcasters to run more ads. While Ofcom’s decision isn’t final, it said back in April that it intends to adjust rules to allow PSBs to run an average of nine minutes of ads per hour (up from a current limit of seven minutes). While such a change would give PSBs’ ad revenues a boost, COBA says it would result in a decline in PSB news output, while also harming smaller broadcasters. Read more on VideoWeek.

Central and Eastern European FAST Revenues to Reach €39.3 Million by 2028

Central and Eastern European free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) revenues will reach €39.3 million by 2028, according to Omdia. The CEE FAST sector is nascent but growing, said Omdia senior director Maria Rua Aguete, with Rakuten and Plex the only FAST platforms available in the region. “Though CEE is present in the FAST race, growth will be limited compared to other regions,” said Aguete. Rapid expansion is expected in the UK, Canada and Australia over the next four years.

Intermarché TV Campaigns Drive Store Visits, Says TF1 PUB

Post-campaign testing suggested that TF1 PUB’s TV ads brought an average 335,000 more shoppers to Intermarché supermarkets. Advertising effectiveness specialist Kairos Fire measured Intermarché TV campaigns activated between July and October 2022. They proved to be “one of the most powerful and effective levers for generating store visits,” as well as delivering 40 percent higher ROI than the average for the sector. 

CNN Chief Resigns After Tumultuous Year

CNN CEO Chris Licht resigned on Wednesday, following a profile in The Atlantic entitled, ‘Inside the Meltdown at CNN.’ Licht’s one-year tenure at the network was depicted as a series of missteps, marked by layoffs, low ratings and the immediate closure of CNN+. Sources said the decision was taken by Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.

Verizon Offers Netflix, Paramount+ and Showtime as a Bundle

Verizon is bundling Netflix, Paramount+ and Showtime together in a package called +play. The telco said the offer saves customers $70 per year. “With partners like Netflix and Paramount+ with Showtme on +play, we’re leading the industry in offering customers the content they want, with never-before-seen bundles they can’t get anywhere else,” said Verizon Consumer Group CCO Erin McPherson.

70 Percent of HBO Max Subs Switch to Max

Warner Bros. Discovery has seen 70 percent of HBO Max subscribers transition to its new streaming service Max. Discovery+, which continues to operate as a standalone streaming service, lost an undisclosed number of subscribers. The company added that viewing hours have increased each day since Max launched. 

The Week for Publishers

The Telegraph is Put Up for Sale

The Daily and Sunday Telegraph will be put up for sale, as Lloyds Banking Group seeks to recover debts owed by the newspapers’ owners. The Barclay family reportedly owes hundreds of millions of pounds, prompting Lloyds to place the family’s holding company, B.UK, into receivership. The bank is set to put the holding group which owns the newspapers, the Telegraph Media Group (TMG), up for auction. But the Barclay family are reported to have made a last ditch attempt to regain control of the newspapers with a news offer made to Lloyds, which would write off some of the debt.

Google Rolls Out Tech Fee Transparency Tool to All Publishers

Google this week announced it is rolling out Confirming Gross Revenue, its tool for publishers and advertisers to verify that hidden tech fees haven’t been extracted from programmatic trades via Google Ads Manager. The tool was first rolled out last year via test with publishers such as Raptive and Prisma Media and buyers such as OMG and Jellyfish. Confirming Gross Revenue will now be available for all publishers using Ad Manager 360 and all buyers using DV360.

Financial Times Finds Success with Frequency Optimisation Tool

The Financial Times’ new frequency optimisation tool, which it launched earlier this year as a replacement for cookie-based frequency capping tools, is proving successful at driving brand metrics, Adweek reported this week. Frequency optimisation uses logged in data to cap the number of times users see an ad, but also to set a floor, ensuring readers see an ad often enough for it to be memorable. The tool allows marketers to precisely control how many times users see an ad within the FT’s own ecosystem, and has been effective at increasing brand recall and lift metrics.

Google News Showcase Set to Launch in the US

Google has announced it plans to launch Google News Showcase, its news platform whereby publishers distribute curated content in exchange for payment from Google, in the US. News Showcase will go live with a mixture of local and international publisher partners, including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters, and the Associated Press.

LA Times Cuts Over 70 Staff Amid Ad Revenue Struggles

US newspaper the LA Times became the latest news organisation to announce stuff cuts, with 74 jobs set to be eliminated. The newspaper cited “economic pressures brought on by advertising and print readership declines”. These are the first cuts to the paper’s staff since it was bought by billionaire couple Patrick Soon-Shiong and Michele B. Chan from publishing group Tribune five years ago.

Ad Market Remains Challenging for Ukrainian Publishers

Ukrainian publishers’ businesses have shown signs of recovery since last year, according to a report from Ukraine’s Media Development Foundation, as publishers say they’re planning further into the future, and some are increasing their headcounts. But revenue generation remains a challenge. The advertising market remains pretty much non-existent in some regions, and in others where the ad market is recovering, hiring and training staff for commercial teams is proving difficult.

The Week For Brands & Agencies

IPG Launches Creative Commerce Labs

Interpublic Group this week announced the launch of Creative Commerce Labs, a new unit designed to help brands explore new opportunities within emerging commerce channels. “The Creative Commerce Labs were created to help brands navigate the influx of creative commerce challenges that are presented in what we call the ‘commerce everywhere’ world,” said Roald Van Wyk, who is leading the new unit. “We see these challenges as positive disruptions in the industry as they provide new canvases for creatives to innovate across media channels, generating significant opportunities for our clients to grow profitable share.”

Publicis Sapient Acquires Ecommerce Business Corra

Publicis Sapient, Publicis Groupe’s digital transformation arm, this week announced the acquisition of ecommerce development specialist Corra. Publicis Sapient says the acquisition will complement its existing commerce capabilities, including Adobe Commerce and MACH Alliance composable commerce solutions, while strengthening its omnichannel and digital commerce capabilities.

PwC Leaves Joint Transparency Project with the ANA

The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) says it is no longer working with consultancy business PwC on an ongoing study into programmatic media buying transparency, due to dissatisfaction with PwC’s performance, Digiday reported this week. The ANA has already decided on an alternative partner for the project, according to Digiday, and initial findings from the study are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

ASA Bans Ads from Shell, Repsol and Petronas

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has banned ads from oil and gas businesses Shell, Repsol, and Petronas, stating that these ads could mislead the public about the sustainability of these companies’ operations. The ads in question promoted these companies’ green offerings and net zero goals, but did not mention that their wider businesses are still highly pollutant and unsustainable.

US Ad Employment Reaches Highest Level Since 2001

Total US employment in advertising, public relations, and related services increased by 2,600 jobs in May, reaching 496,600 jobs in total, according to AdAge’s analysis of data from the US Department of Labor. This is the highest level in the sector since 2001, according to AdAge.

ASA Concludes IPP Pilot

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has concluded a year long pilot of its Intermediary and Platform Principles (IPP) with a number of major online platforms. The idea behind IPP is for online platforms to play a role in informing advertisers of what they can and cannot due under the ASA’s CAP code, and to remove ads which the ASA has banned if the advertiser hasn’t removed the ad itself. A final report on the pilot is due in the Autumn.

Hires of the Week

Government Appoints Acting BBC Chair

Professor Dame Elan Closs Stephens has been appointed Acting Chair of the BBC. She has been a member of the BBC’s governing body since 2010, and will chair the board for twelve months, or until a permanent Chair is appointed. She replaces Richard Sharp who resigned over failing to disclose a loan to Boris Johnson.

NBCU’s Joe Benarroch Joins Yaccarino at Twitter

Former NBCUniversal exec Joe Benarroch will lead business operations at Twitter. He joins fellow NBCU alum Linda Yaccarino at the struggling social media company, having worked together in the broadcaster’s advertising business.

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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