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October 13 2023 - Lingering Layoffs, Strikes & AI

October 13 2023 - Lingering Layoffs, Strikes & AI

👋Happy Friday friends. Well, layoffs are back in the news, not all strikes are over yet, and AI + M&A are feeling alive. Let's get into it–

Top Stories

Atlassian is set to acquire Loom for $975 million. The company plans to integrate Loom into its existing collaboration tools like Jira and Confluence while allowing Loom to continue as a standalone product. This acquisition is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2024 and will be partially funded by cash and stock awards. Loom, founded in 2016 and valued at $1.53 billion in 2021 and has experienced continued growth, even as many companies have returned to the office.

SAG-AFTRA's negotiations with studios have collapsed, prolonging the strike that began on July 14. The AMPTP suspended talks, stating they were unproductive, while the studios were accused of using "bully tactics" and offering a deal worth less than before the strike. SAG-AFTRA's demands include wage increases and protections against the use of AI.

The United Automobile Workers (U.A.W.) union has unexpectedly expanded its strike against Ford Motor to include a critical plant in Kentucky that manufactures some of Ford's most profitable vehicles. While negotiations between the U.A.W. and Ford have progressed in recent weeks, the union sought an improved offer from Ford during a bargaining session, which was declined by the company. Following this, the U.A.W. President, Shawn Fain, declared an immediate strike at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

The Washington Post plans to cut approximately 240 jobs throughout the organization to address profitability challenges related to digital subscriptions and advertising. Patty Stonesifer, the interim CEO, announced the job cuts in a companywide email, expressing hopes to achieve them through voluntary buyouts. The Post is on track to lose around $100 million this year. Subscriptions have declined in recent years, with approximately 2.5 million subscribers compared to three million at the end of 2020. The newspaper has also faced difficulties due to the decline in digital advertising.

  • Adobe has introduced 11 experimental AI tools at its annual Max conference. Among these are Project Stardust, an "object-aware editing engine" that can identify individual objects in photos, allowing users to move, change, or delete them with ease. Another is Project Primrose, an interactive dress featuring "flexible textile displays" that allow wearers to display patterns and images on their body like a screen. Adobe is also developing Project Dub Dub Dub, an AI audio feature that can automatically translate voice recordings or video audio tracks into multiple supported languages while retaining the original speaker's voice.
  • YouTube CEO Neal Mohan has stated that the platform is currently more focused on refining its NFL Sunday Ticket sports experience rather than pursuing NBA rights. YouTube acquired NFL Sunday Ticket in a $14 billion deal, and Mohan emphasized the importance of enhancing the viewer experience for NFL fans. While he didn't rule out a potential bid for NBA rights when they become available after the 2024-25 season, he noted that it isn't a near-term priority. YouTube's focus is on innovations related to NFL Sunday Ticket, including product enhancements and creator integrations.
  • Crunchyroll has launched a new free 24-hour streaming channel. The first services to carry Crunchyroll’s FAST channel are LG Channels, Roku, Vizio WatchFree+ and Amazon’s Freevee. The channel is a joint collaboration between Crunchyroll and it's corporate cousin Game Show Network (GSN), which is part of Sony Pictures Entertainment. This channel is aimed at introducing anime to an "anime-curious audience".
  • Miramax has secured the television rights to the Halloween franchise, controlled by Trancas International Films, in a competitive bidding war. This deal includes a Halloween TV series and a first-look agreement for other television projects. The new Halloween series is aimed at potentially launching a cinematic universe across both film and television.
  • Netflix is planning to launch "Netflix House," physical retail destinations, offering merchandise, food, and immersive experiences inspired by popular Netflix content. The first venues are set to open in the US. Josh Simon, Netflix's VP of consumer products, emphasized their aim to take fans' immersion of it's content "to the next level".
  • A report by MediaSense and the World Federation of Advertisers reveals that 25% of multinational marketing organizations plan to centralize their agency partnerships within the next three years. It highlights a shift toward more integrated agency models, with 92% of respondents prioritizing the integration of media buying. This trend signifies a return to fully integrated models similar to those of the 1980s and 1990s. Holding companies, which currently represent 77% of respondents, have adapted to this demand by expanding their capabilities and offering one-stop solutions for brands. While specialists are still important, the report questions when major brands will appoint specialist agencies for full-service work. Some brands are bringing media buying in-house, with 27% having done so to date. Talent remains a top priority, with 97% of brands acknowledging its importance. Changing the agency remuneration model, including a shift toward outcome-based pricing, is suggested to attract and retain talent.
  • DEPT® is consolidating its teams in Australia under one brand to provide comprehensive digital customer journey support. This consolidation brings together Two Bulls/DEPT® and FEED/DEPT®. Current clients are eBay, Ancestry, Beyond Blue, Service Victoria, and Meta.
  • Brands and retailers are increasing their investments in Instagram according to research surveys of over 100 companies by Digiday+. 88% of respondents stated that their brands posted content on Instagram in the last month, with half of them posting content every day. Brands are also investing more in original content for Instagram, with 66% stating they invest a moderate amount or a lot in creating original content for the platform. Additionally 72% of respondents mentioned that their brands purchased advertising on Instagram in the past month.
  • Nationwide, the world's largest building society, has undergone its first major rebrand in over 35 years. Designed by New Commercial Arts, the rebrand features a simpler and more abstract logo, a smoother all-lowercase wordmark, and a new dark red-and-blue color palette. This contemporary look is aimed at positioning Nationwide as a "dependable disrupter" in the financial sector, competing with both traditional banks and newer fintech companies.
  • DreamWorks Animation has laid off approximately 4% of its staff, cutting around 70 positions. The reasons cited for the layoffs include the cyclical downturn in the animation business, rising production costs, and recent strikes within the industry. The affected roles spanned corporate functions, feature, television, and technology departments as part of a broader cost-reduction effort. The studio is looking to revive its fortunes with the release of the third installment of the Trolls movie franchise, set for release in November.
  • Block has acquired Hifi, a music-focused fintech startup. Hifi, established in 2020, serves as a financial rights organization for artists, allowing them to monitor their royalty income through a centralized dashboard. The company introduced a royalty acceleration service named "Cash Flow," which provides artists with a bi-monthly salary. Block's acquisition of Hifi is its second investment in music technology, following its purchase of music streaming service Tidal in 2021. Block also owns other financial services and technology platforms, such as Cash App, Afterpay, Spiral, and Weebly.
  • Pinterest is pitching itself to advertisers based on its mission to inspire users. The platform emphasizes that 9 out of 10 users view Pinterest as an online oasis where they inherently trust the content. The company is positioning itself as a mix between a social media platform and a search engine. Pinterest also claims to have a more "efficient CPM" than its competitors, making it an attractive option for advertisers. However, some marketers note that conversion rates on Pinterest can be lower than on other platforms.
  • Momentum Worldwide has secured three AI patents for the machine learning of experiences, becoming the first agency to do so in the experiential space. These patents will enable Momentum to create intelligent, responsive, and measurable experiences across various touchpoints, from stadiums to store shelves. Global brands like Coca-Cola and Walmart have already started using Momentum's machine learning system to personalize campaigns and better understand customer preferences.
  • Anonymous Content has laid off approximately 8% of its staff, amounting to around 170 employees. The cuts were made across various divisions, including talent management, television, motion picture, literary, media rights, and branded entertainment.
  • Adobe has unveiled a new symbol called Content Credentials, designed to indicate when content has been generated or altered using AI tools. This symbol aims to bring transparency to media creation and reduce the impact of misinformation or deepfakes online. It reflects the presence of metadata stored in a PDF, photo, or video file that includes information about the content's origin and the tools (both AI and conventional) used in its creation.
  • Netflix is restructuring its animation unit, leading to job cuts and the cancellation of two pre-production films. The company is seeking third-party output deals to maintain its animated content output. Karen Toliver, who became VP of animation in February 2022, is working on the long-term strategy, with the animation division looking at potential output deals with third-party producers for airing their animated content on Netflix. Despite these internal changes, Netflix Animation had a successful 2023, winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for "Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio."
  • JCPenney has turned to live sports advertising as the industry continues to wait for scripted TV shows to return amid ongoing strikes by actors. The retailer launched its "Make It Count" campaign last month, incorporating live sports into its media mix with a season-long sponsorship of Amazon Prime's post-game for Thursday Night Football and media buys for Major League Soccer. While the strikes influenced the move, JCPenney had been reevaluating its media mix to boost awareness. The department store chain has been reallocating its budget from linear TV and newspaper inserts to digital and performance marketing.
  • Instagram is testing a feature that allows users to share Stories with multiple audience lists. Currently, Instagram offers a "Close Friends" feature that lets users create a list of specific friends with whom they can share Stories. This new feature would expand on that by allowing users to create and maintain multiple lists for sharing Stories with different groups of people and subsets of followers. This would give users more control over who can see their Stories and allow for more personalized sharing.
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