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Dec 1 2023 - The Gang is Back Together!

Dec 1 2023 - The Gang is Back Together!

👋Happy Friday friends, slight ramble today. In our new reality of infinite content, I think what's even more surprising is the low barrier of entry, and ability to deploy infinite touchpoints. Every week I read about a new moment, interaction, place in time – an opportunity, to fuel personalized contextual content based on my activities and goals. We've created a parallel online/offline ping pong of targeting. I think this week has a lot of stories that lean into this narrative. You know the drill, let's get into it–

Top Stories

Amazon has introduced Amazon Q, a chatbot specifically designed for business, not consumer use. Developed by AWS, Amazon Q is aimed at assisting employees with tasks like summarizing documents, filling out support tickets, and answering company policy/operations questions. It will compete with other corporate-focused chatbots like Microsoft's Copilot, Google’s Duet AI, and ChatGPT Enterprise. Amazon Q is designed to be secure, with capabilities to work with corporate data and integrate with other platforms like Slack and Gmail. It utilizes Bedrock, an Amazon platform that integrates multiple AI systems, including those by Amazon, Anthropic, and Meta. Q is priced at $20 per user per month, in contrast to the $30 monthly charge by Microsoft and Google for their enterprise chatbots. These developments were announced at Amazon’s annual cloud computing conference, where it also revealed plans for enhanced AI computing infrastructure and a partnership with Nvidia.

Disney is strengthening its board by adding James Gorman of Morgan Stanley and Jeremy Darroch, ex-Sky head, in response to a looming proxy battle with activist investor Nelson Peltz. This move, signaling a strategic focus on long-term growth, comes amidst challenges in Disney's succession planning and streaming business. The appointments are part of Disney's broader efforts to stabilize its leadership and adapt to changing market dynamics and investor pressures.

OpenAI's new board has formally taken over, and announced the inclusion of Microsoft as a non-voting observer. This marks the beginning of a new phase for the artificial intelligence company following the dramatic events surrounding Sam Altman's surprise ouster and subsequent return. Altman, along with CTO Mira Murati, emphasized the priority of stabilizing the company and reassuring employees, customers, and investors about OpenAI's future. The board, which also includes Larry Summers and Adam D’Angelo, plans to create an independent committee to review the circumstances of Altman's firing. Despite the turmoil, OpenAI maintained its customer base and didn't lose any employees. In an internal memo to OpenAI employees, CEO Sam Altman expressed no resentment towards Ilya Sutskever, the company's co-founder and chief scientist, who was initially involved in the board's decision to remove Altman.

Apple is moving to officially end its credit card and savings account partnership with Goldman Sachs. Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, has been looking to divest from this partnership as part of a larger pullback from consumer banking, which hasn't been as profitable as expected. This move is a bit of a setback for Apple's services business, which it has been focusing on more as iPhone sales start to level off. The partnership had its share of problems, including disagreements over marketing and regulatory challenges, leading to this reevaluation. Potential replacements for Goldman Sachs in the partnership include American Express and Synchrony Financial.

Stability AI, known for its Stable Diffusion image generator, is reportedly exploring a sale amid financial concerns raised by investors. The London-based startup, valued at $1 billion, has engaged in early talks with potential buyers, though a sale is not imminent. Coatue has also called for CEO Emad Mostaque to resign, citing leadership issues and financial instability. Despite the tension, Stability AI insists it is not actively seeking a sale and remains focused on its products, including a new video generation model. The company's spending has significantly outpaced its revenue, with expenses of about $8 million a month compared to much smaller revenue figures. This financial strain has led to discussions with other AI firms like Cohere and Jasper, though they have not progressed into negotiations. Stability AI's complex situation is compounded by its investor relationships and the departure of several senior figures amidst concerns over Mostaque's management style.

On Tuesday, the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced its provisional findings, stating that Adobe’s proposed $20 billion acquisition of Figma would significantly harm competition in design software markets, stating it would "eliminate competition between two main competitors in product design software, reduce innovation and the development of new competitive products, and remove Figma as a threat to Adobe’s flagship Photoshop and Illustrator products". Adobe and Figma have until December 19th to respond to these findings, with a final decision by the CMA expected by February 25th. This provisional decision follows concerns raised by regulatory bodies in the EU and potential legal action from the US DOJ.

Google has resolved a dispute with the Canadian government by agreeing to pay C$100 million each year to support Canadian news agencies. This deal ends a months-long standoff that began with Canada's new online news law, which aims to redistribute some online ad revenues to news publishers. Initially, Google resisted the law, fearing it would set a costly precedent and threatened to remove news links from its services. The compromise involves paying into a collective fund, easing Google's concerns about negotiating with individual publishers. The law, intended to create a fairer distribution of online ad revenue, had led Meta to block news links in Canada, a stance it plans to maintain despite Google's agreement.

Shein has confidentially filed for an IPO in the United States, marking a significant step in what could be one of the decade's largest US listings. The company, which became a major player during the pandemic's online shopping boom, is collaborating with big banks like JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs for the IPO. Despite a recent valuation decrease, Shein has set a goal to significantly boost its revenue in the coming years.

Gut, celebrated for its creative prowess, has sold a majority stake to Globant, a global tech and digital consultancy and a client for the past three years. Despite the sale, Gut will operate independently with its existing leadership team. The agency, co-founded by Anselmo Ramos (aka my hair twin), plans to expand to London and Asia. Globant's CEO, Martin Migoya, sees this acquisition as a fusion of technology and creativity, enhancing their service offerings with bold ideas and top-notch technology. Gut, based in Miami, boasts 500 employees and a roster of clients like Google and Coca-Cola, while Globant, with 27,500 employees in 30 countries, has previously acquired marketing firms in various countries.

  • Dove and the Open Source Afro Hair Library have launched "Code My Crown," the world's first guide for coding textured hair and protective styles in video games. Developed by Black artists and Edelman UK, the guide aims to improve the diversity and representation of Black hairstyles in 3D in the gaming world. It offers step-by-step instructions, 360-degree photo mapping, and cultural insights for developers to accurately model and represent textured hair and styles. The initiative addresses the limited and stereotypical portrayal of textured hair in video games, which 85% of Black gamers find poor representation.
  • Walmart is set to launch "Add to Heart," a shoppable video series, on platforms like Roku, TikTok, and YouTube. The programming consists of 23 episodes that integrate 330 shoppable products into a "romcom" narrative. The series marks a strategic move by Walmart to leverage the increasing trend of social shopping and seasonal moments, while creating a topical shopping experience, within a storyline. This series is supported by Walmart's comprehensive media strategy, including organic social and earned media.
  • Paste Magazine has acquired the feminist website Jezebel from G/O Media, reviving it shortly after its shutdown due to economic issues. Founded in 2007 and known for its bold feminist perspective, Jezebel was closed earlier this month. Josh Jackson, Paste's co-founder, aims to restore Jezebel's unique voice and also purchased the political site Splinter, planning its relaunch in 2024.
  • General Motors is scaling back its investment in the Cruise autonomous driving division in 2024 following safety concerns and accidents involving its self-driving taxis in San Francisco. California regulators suspended Cruise's license after an incident where a pedestrian was seriously injured. GM's CEO, Mary T. Barra, announced at an investor conference that the company will substantially reduce spending on Cruise, focusing on only one city and rebuilding trust with regulators, first responders, and communities. The financial impact includes a significant cut in Cruise's budget, with GM's CFO Paul Jacobson noting a reduction by hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • McDonald's is set to introduce a new small format-concept restaurant called CosMc’s, first revealed during a July earnings call by CEO Chris Kempczinski. This new concept is currently being developed in Bolingbrook, a suburb of Chicago. The store, which has been largely secretive, offers a glimpse into the future of McDonald's with its unique menu items like S’Mores Cold Brew and Churro Frappe, alongside classic offerings such as the Egg McMuffin. The concept's name, CosMc, originates from a fictional alien character from McDonald's 1980s and 1990s McDonaldland campaign. This move marks McDonald’s first significant U.S. store expansion since 2014 and aims to open more global locations, offering more real estate opportunities due to its smaller format.
  • Cyber Monday is projected to set a new record in online shopping in the US, with sales expected to reach at least $12 billion. This surge in ecommerce follows the Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales, outpacing growth in physical store business. Economists and investors are closely monitoring these holiday sales as indicators of the US economy's health amidst inflation and rising interest rates. The use of "buy now, pay later" services is also on the rise, contributing to this year's robust online sales figures. Notably, popular items include electronics, toys like Barbie dolls, and gaming products. Amazon reported significant Black Friday sales, with over 1,000 items sold per second, and Shopify experienced a 22% increase in Black Friday sales globally.
  • Jonny Bauer, who led Blackstone's brand strategy group, is launching a new brand agency called FundamentalCo with his team. This 12-person agency will include former Droga5 CEO Sarah Thompson as Chair and Jenna Lyons, former President of J.Crew, as Executive Creative Director. Blackstone will be a key client of the agency, which will assist with potential acquisitions and help shape the investment firm's brand. FundamentalCo's establishment reflects the increasing emphasis on branding and image for private equity firms as they seek to attract a wider range of investors.
  • Unity is laying off 265 employees, 3.8% of its global workforce, mainly from its 2021 acquisition of Weta Digital's technology and engineering division. The layoffs are part of a company "reset," following recent challenges including the rollback of a controversial runtime fee and CEO John Riccitiello's resignation after nine years. Weta FX, now a separate entity from Unity, plans to offer positions to as many affected employees as possible. Additionally, Unity is closing offices in up to 14 locations, including Berlin and Singapore, and reducing its office presence in San Francisco and Belleview, Washington.
  • TikTok has unveiled the "Artist Account," a new feature designed for musicians to enhance their profile discoverability. This addition allows both emerging and established artists to curate their profiles with a dedicated music tab and an artist tag. Already adopted by over 70,000 artists, these tools underscore TikTok's influential role in music discovery.
  • Microsoft Retail Media and Vibenomics are collaborating on a multi-channel advertising strategy, combining in-store audio ads with digital ads on retail websites. This approach has led to increased effectiveness, evidenced by a notable rise in sales for a test campaign. The partnership focuses on integrating online and offline advertising experiences, using AI for content creation, and is part of Microsoft's plan to expand its advertising capabilities, including into connected TV.
  • Leo Burnett UK has transformed its design department into POPDesign, a new studio with its own business strategy and client base. Led by David Allen, the creative director of design, POPDesign aims to leverage the agency’s strategic capabilities to produce distinctive assets across various channels and platforms. With a mission centered around tapping into popular culture to create broadly appealing work, the studio comprises 20 conceptual designers skilled in social, branding, packaging, illustration, and animation.
  • Disney CEO Bob Iger critiqued the quality of Disney movies released under his predecessor, Bob Chapek, suggesting they strayed from the core mission of entertainment. During a recent conference, Iger remarked that Disney films during Chapek's tenure, lost focus on primarily entertaining audiences.
  • Tesla has finally started delivering its long-awaited Cybertruck, first unveiled four years ago. This electric truck, starting at $60,990, offers up to 340 miles of range, marking a significant price increase from its initial 2019 announcement.
  • NASCAR has announced new seven-year TV rights deals with Fox Sports, NBC Sports, and newcomers Prime Video and TNT for live coverage of all NASCAR Cup Series races from 2025 to 2031. While specific terms of the agreements were not disclosed, the deal outlines that Fox and NBC will each broadcast 14 races, with Fox retaining the Daytona 500 and NBC airing the playoffs and championship race. Prime Video and TNT will share coverage of 10 midseason races and have exclusive rights to practice and qualifying sessions for the entire Cup Series schedule through 2031. NASCAR President Steve Phelps expressed that the goal of these agreements was to provide long-term stability and an optimized mix of distribution platforms.
  • Activision is exploring ways to personalize gaming experiences by recommending games based on the livestreams viewers watch. A newly filed patent titled "systems and methods of dynamically modifying video game content based on non-video game content being concurrently experienced by a user" reveals Activision's plan to track users' livestream viewing habits. This data could then be used to recommend specific games, generate new games, or modify existing game content to align with the user's preferences in livestream content. The concept aims to transform passive viewing into a more interactive experience, potentially leading to games tailored to individual tastes based on their choices. This approach is part of Activision's broader strategy to integrate gaming experiences with other forms of digital content.
  • Apple and Spotify have released their top podcasts of 2023, offering insight into people's podcast consumption habits. However, there is surprisingly little overlap between the two lists, with only a few shows appearing on both. This difference reflects the distinct audiences and strategies of Apple and Spotify. Apple's list includes more true crime, news, and traditional podcast standbys, appealing to older listeners, while Spotify's list features celebrity chat shows and leans towards its own original content, catering to a younger audience. It's important to view these rankings as snapshots of their respective platforms rather than industry-wide assessments.
  • Netflix has launched its first co-branded campaign on its ad-supported tier with the animated film "Leo." This marks the first time Netflix has partnered with a brand to create custom content for its ad platform. The partnership was a collaboration with Netflix Marketing Partnerships and it's long standing AOR, The Martin Agency, developed in conjunction with Framestore Pictures and Animal Logic.
  • Tubi is gearing up for international expansion with the appointment of David Salmon, a former executive from the sports, media, and entertainment group Endeavor. As the new EVP and International Managing Director based in the U.K., Salmon will spearhead Tubi's growth beyond its current availability. Anjali Sud, CEO of Tubi, emphasizes the growing demand for more personalized and accessible entertainment options worldwide, particularly in the context of rising subscription fees from other services.
  • TikTok is shifting its strategy to focus on long-form videos, aiming to boost its advertising revenue. A recent report indicates that TikTok is encouraging creators to produce longer content, offering the incentive of higher earnings and more effective message communication. The company informed creators that users are increasingly engaging with videos over a minute long, and those posting longer videos are seeing a significant growth in followers. This change is a departure from TikTok’s original short-form video format, which prompted other social media platforms to introduce similar features. The move towards longer videos, akin to YouTube’s format, is part of TikTok’s efforts to create more opportunities for ad placements and increase creator revenue. The upcoming Creativity Program, replacing the Creator Fund, will require videos to be longer than one minute for creators to qualify for higher payouts, reflecting TikTok’s focus.
  • Amazon has become the largest shipping company in the U.S., overtaking giants UPS and FedEx in package delivery volume. In 2023, Amazon is expected to deliver 5.9 billion packages, surpassing UPS's 5.3 billion and FedEx's 3.3 billion from 2022. This growth is attributed to Amazon's investments in its last-mile network and its dominance in online retail, holding over 37% of the market share. The company sold around 500 million items during the 2022 holiday weekend, reflecting its extensive reach. In contrast, UPS is now focusing more on international and enterprise markets and recently cut its package volume projections for 2023 due to weakened demand.
  • Pika, a startup specializing in AI video editing and generation, secured $55 million in funding. Pika introduced "Pika 1.0," a suite of video tools featuring generative AI for diverse video styles.
  • Netflix is adding "Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy - The Definitive Edition" to its growing library of games. Netflix has been expanding its gaming offerings, featuring titles like Kentucky Route Zero, Oxenfree, Spiritfarer, and Dead Cells. While Netflix doesn't disclose user data on game usage, it continues to attract users with well-known titles. The GTA Trilogy will be available to Netflix subscribers on iOS and Android via the Netflix mobile app on December 14th.
  • DoorDash has partnered with Best Buy to provide on-demand delivery for tech products, including headphones, game controllers, tablets, and more. This service is available in the DoorDash marketplace alongside other non-restaurant businesses. Best Buy, having a similar arrangement with Instacart, becomes the "first national consumer electronics retailer" to join DoorDash. Customers can expect fast delivery from Best Buy's 900 US stores, with some size limitations.
  • ByteDance plans to wind down its Nuverse gaming business, impacting hundreds of employees. The company, focused on mobile and web games, including Marvel Snap. The company has instructed employees to stop working on unreleased games by December. ByteDance is also discussing the sale of Moonton, a mobile gaming studio acquired in 2021. This follows recent layoffs at Pico, as the company attempts to refocus.
  • Amazon introduced Titan Image Generator as part of its Titan suite of AI services. This model enables image generation and editing from text prompts, emphasizing its ability to create lifestyle images while retaining the main subject. This tool focuses on enterprise clients, incorporating safeguards and proprietary watermarks. Additionally, Amazon extends copyright indemnity to users of Titan foundation models, assuring legal protection for AWS customers.
  • Premium whisky prices have experienced their sharpest decline in a decade, apart from the pandemic, reflecting weakening demand for luxury goods. Investment bank Noble & Co reported a 7% drop in the value of "fine and rare" single malt whiskies over the past year. This decrease comes after a 19% increase the previous year, signaling a change in the market's status. The decline is indicative of the broader trend of luxury items facing softer demand, even in asset classes considered haven investments.
  • X may face a potential loss of up to $75 million in advertising revenue by the end of the year. This comes after owner Elon Musk endorsed an antisemitic conspiracy theory, leading several major brands to pause their advertising campaigns on the platform. Internal documents from X's sales team indicate that more than 200 ad units from companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Coca-Cola, and Microsoft have either halted or are considering pausing their ads on the platform.
  • The fashion industry faces economic challenges, technological shifts, and evolving competition in 2024. While 2022 showed resilience, 2023 brought deepening challenges with slow growth in Europe and the US and weakening luxury demand. Uncertainty prevails in 2024 due to subdued economic growth, inflation, and weak consumer confidence. Key themes include fragmented global economy, evolving consumer expectations, influencer dynamics, reinvented outdoors wear, fast fashion competition, brand marketing emphasis, sustainability regulations, and supply chain volatility.
  • The Spotify Design Team has unveiled the visual identity for the 2023 "Wrapped" campaign, which provides users with personalized data on their listening habits over the past year. This year's visual identity reflects a more fluid and chaotic aesthetic, inspired by the evolving nature of how people consume culture in 2023. The design team drew inspiration from the blending of online and offline life, nostalgia, and the expressiveness of the early internet to create a visual identity that blurs the lines between the internet and real life.
  • Billion Dollar Boy, a creator agency, has launched an innovation unit called Muse. Muse focuses on helping brands and the creator community make informed decisions about emerging technologies, including generative AI. The agency conducted extensive research, including a survey of more than 6,000 people in the US and UK, to understand generative AI's impact on the creator economy. The unit plans to expand its creative partnerships and is led by the agency's CEO and co-founders.
  • Sports Illustrated faces controversy after being accused of publishing articles authored by AI. Investigative reports from Futurism revealed articles with fake authors, complete with AI-generated headshots and biographies. The Arena Group, which owns Sports Illustrated, denies the allegations, stating that the articles in question were commercial content from AdVon Commerce, a third-party advertising company.
  • Domino's and Expedia Group are using GumGum's Mindset Platform to go beyond measuring attention and identify new audiences and effective content. The platform combines creative, attention, and contextual observations, using proprietary technology and Playground xyz's eye-tracking data to determine how creative and channel placement affect viewer attention. It also offers the Mindset Index, helping marketers understand topics that resonate with their target audience.
  • Instacart has entered its first streaming partnership with Peacock, offering Instacart+ subscribers free access to Peacock Premium. The collaboration includes a custom 30-second ad highlighting holiday scenes from shows like The Office and Parks & Rec.
  • McDonald's is reviving the McNugget Buddies, a collection of Happy Meal toys from 1988, in collaboration with DJ and comedian Kerwin Frost. The Kerwin Frost Box will launch in the U.S. and select global markets on December 11. The characters draw inspiration from Frost's childhood experiences and encourage self-expression. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Harlem Arts Alliance.
  • Mtn Dew's latest marketing campaign, "Mtn Dew Raid," collaborates with Twitch to use image recognition technology for identifying streamers showcasing Mtn Dew products. Successful participants could have their channels promoted by Mtn Dew, including potential features on the Mtn Dew Twitch page, Twitch's homepage, or receiving subscriptions from Mtn Dew
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