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October 6 2023 - Friday Ad-Ventures

October 6 2023 - Friday Ad-Ventures

👋Happy Friday friends. Listen, there's a lot to get through today, so we're gonna do the "no fuss" thing and get into it–

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Meta is proposing a monthly subscription fee of $14 for European users who want an ad-free experience on Instagram, and $17 for both Instagram and Facebook on desktop. This comes as Meta aims to navigate EU regulations that require user consent for personalized ads, threatening its main revenue source. Users will have the option to choose between the ad-supported free version or the subscription-based ad-free version. The subscription plan, referred to as SNA (subscription no ads), marks a change in Meta's strategy as CEO Mark Zuckerberg had long insisted on free core services supported by advertising.

Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, testified in the government's antitrust case against Google, stating that Google's power in online search is so dominant that Microsoft couldn't effectively compete. He highlighted how Google's multibillion-dollar deals to become the default search engine on smartphones and web browsers made it challenging for other search providers. Nadella expressed concern about Google's ability to use its advantage and scale to dominate the emerging AI industry.

The United Auto Workers union is expected to announce new strike targets on Friday as the strike against Detroit's three automakers enters its third week. UAW President Shawn Fain is scheduled to reveal these targets unless significant progress is made in negotiations with General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis (Chrysler-parent). Currently, more than 18,000 factory workers are on strike at three assembly plants and numerous parts-distribution facilities, representing approximately 12% of the union's total workforce at these companies. The strike seeks wage increases of up to 40% over four years, along with other benefits, while the companies have offered around 20% wage increases and benefits.

  • The NFL joined forces with Disney and Pixar for an alternate telecast called Toy Story Funday Football. This broadcast featured a fully themed experience, including animation and announcers in the style of Toy Story. The animation was overseen by ESPN's Creative Studio, in collaboration with Pixar and Beyond Sports, a Sony-owned Dutch AI visualization company. The experince used NFL's Next Gen Stats, which captures real-time location data, speed, and acceleration for every player on the field. Additionally, each player had a chip in their shoulder pads to provide continuous data, combining limb tracking data, to create a more accurate movements. This combined with Hawkeye optical tracking (like tennis, hockey) tracks the players in the physical environment, and is assembled and rendered in Unity. There was additionally an AI tool used to fill in the blanks during multi-player pile-ups, where tracking points might be lost, ensuring a continuous and coherent animation (we should expect to see many more of these in the future).
  • WPP has announced a global partnership with Shopify, aimed at helping their clients leverage Shopify's e-commerce platform. The partnership involves joint product development and combines WPP's extensive network of commerce experts with Shopify's platform to help brands scale their customer reach. Shopify will collaborate with WPP on creating targeted offerings for various sectors, and the partnership will offer customized training and certification programs for WPP employees, with plans to certify 300 Shopify specialists within the first year. This partnership reinforces WPP's commitment to its commerce offerings and follows its acquisition of e-commerce agency Diff in 2022.
  • Spotify is set to offer paid subscribers in the UK, Australia, and later in the US, the ability to stream 15 hours of premium audiobooks each month. The move comes after the company's acquisition of audiobook distributor Findaway in 2021 and the introduction of audiobook purchasing in 2022. Users can access a library of 150,000 titles from major publishers, with an option to purchase an additional 10 hours of listening for $10.99. This approach differs from Audible, which offers audiobooks through a credit system.
  • MrBeast warned his followers about a deepfake video featuring himself promoting a fraudulent iPhone giveaway. MrBeast questioned social media platforms' ability to handle the rise of AI deepfakes and called it a "serious problem." This warning follows actor Tom Hanks recently addressing a deepfake video using his image to promote a dental plan.
  • Twitch has experienced another round of layoffs, marking the second round this year. The previous layoffs in March resulted in over 400 Twitch employees losing their jobs as part of Amazon's cost-cutting measures. This new round of layoffs is said to be smaller in scale. These layoffs come ahead of TwitchCon in Las Vegas starting on Oct 20th.
  • Netflix is planning to raise the price of its ad-free service, following a trend among major ad-free streamers, raising prices by approximately 25% over the past year to improve profitability. Netflix has, until now, refrained from increasing prices, focusing instead on reducing password sharing.
  • Move AI, a UK-based company that produces a smartphone app for generating 3D motion capture models from standard 2D video, has raised $10 million in seed funding. The funding came from investors including Play Ventures, Warner Music Group, RKKVC, Level2 Ventures, and Animoca Brands. Move AI's technology simplifies the process of motion capture which traditionally involves placing markers on a subject's face or body and capturing them with specialized cameras.
  • Spotify is experimenting with AI-generated playlists based on user prompts, according to code discovered by product designer Chris Messina. The code references a feature called "AI Playlist" and the ability to "Get playlists based on your prompts." This feature could function similarly to Spotify Blend, where two users can combine their music preferences to generate playlists.
  • TikTok is testing a paid, ad-free version of its app, allowing users to choose between the free version with ads or an ad-free experience for $4.99 a month. This move is part of TikTok's efforts to diversify its revenue sources, alongside initiatives like TikTok Shop and in-app advertisements.
  • Samsung is reportedly set to launch its cloud gaming service on Galaxy phones, targeting mobile games. Unlike other cloud gaming platforms that focus on PC and console games, Samsung's service aims to recover game-install-ad revenue lost due to ad targeting restrictions. The service intends to streamline the user acquisition process by eliminating the need for game downloads and installations. This move comes as Samsung seeks to diversify revenue streams amid a challenging year for smartphone sales.
  • Apple has been granted patents that explore using sensors in beds to track body temperature for health monitoring. Since its acquisition of sleep-tracking company Beddit in 2017, Apple has been researching ways to improve sleep tracking. One patent, titled "Flexible temperature sensing devices for body temperature sensing," focuses on using sensors to monitor a person's temperature as they sleep.
  • Activision Blizzard Media is launching a new measurement tool to provide advertisers with a more comprehensive understanding of the reach and effectiveness of in-game ads. The scorecard combines gyroscopic data, surveys on ad recall, and Moat data for ad view-ability and completion rates. The goal is to make attention measurement more accessible for marketers, promoting confidence in in-game advertising. Advertisers will receive results and campaign analysis through a turnkey solution, aimed at improving the appeal of in-game ads as a secondary revenue stream.
  • Deutsch New York is reportedly laying off an estimated 19% of its staff. The agency, which employed 215 people at the end of 2022, attributed the staff reduction primarily to the loss of the PNC Bank account to Havas' Arnold Worldwide earlier in the year. The layoffs extend beyond those working on the PNC Bank account, affecting departments like the studio, human resources, and in-house public relations. The agency stated that these actions were necessary for the health of its business and that it would provide support to affected employees, including retaining them through the end of the year and assisting them in finding other job opportunities.
  • Humane, a company founded by ex-Apple executives, recently teased its forthcoming AI Pin wearable at Coperni's Paris Fashion Week show. The Humane Ai Pin resemble the communicator badges from Next Generation and have been the subject of curiosity due to its secretive nature. The device is described as a "screen-less, standalone device built from the ground up for AI". While the exact details of its functionality are yet to be revealed, Humane plans to showcase its full capabilities on November 9th.
  • Amazon is undergoing layoffs in its communications divisions, impacting more than 5% of the workforce in Amazon Studios, Prime Video, and Music communications teams. This represents less than 1% of Amazon's global communications staff. The layoffs come as part of a regular review of team structures, and affected employees will receive pay and benefits for 60 days, along with severance packages and job-placement support.
  • Epic Games has announced that Unreal Engine will no longer be free for non-gaming industries starting next year. The company will adopt a subscription-based pricing model for studios using Unreal Engine for non-gaming purposes, charging based on a "seat-based enterprise software licensing model". While no specific prices have been provided, CEO Tim Sweeney mentioned that it wouldn't be "unusually expensive, or unusually inexpensive".
  • The MSG Sphere opened this past weekend with a U2 concert featuring immersive visual artworks by designer Es Devlin, artist John Gerrard and others. The venue can seat nearly 18,000 people and the Sphere's interior screen is over 250 feet tall and more than 180 degrees around (media deck screenshots at the end of the newsletter).
  • Disney VFX Artists have unanimously voted to unionize with the IATSE. This follows a similar move by Marvel Studios VFX staffers. The 18-member group, responsible for work on recent Disney films, voted 13-0 in favor of forming a union.
  • IATSE is also working with employees of DNEG, a VFX company in Canada, to help unionize. This effort extends to workers at sister companies Redefine and DNEG Animation. Workers interested in unionizing are being asked to fill out IATSE VFX Union Support Cards.
  • Traffic referrals from Facebook and X to top global news sites have significantly declined over the past year, according to data from Similarweb. This decline in social media traffic has disrupted revenue models that have heavily relied on clicks from these platforms.
  • DirecTV has cautioned Warner Bros. Discovery about offering CNN as part of its streaming package, warning that it may violate the contract between the two companies. CNN recently launched CNN Max on WBD's Max streaming platform, offering a streaming simulcast of its traditional cable channel. Cable and satellite providers, who pay substantial fees to content programmers, have expressed concerns about news networks offering such streaming services to a broader audience. CNN Max claims to rely on the CNN International feed, which has different agreements than traditional CNN, and WBD argues that its streaming audience is younger than its linear viewership.
  • MullenLowe has successfully retained a military contract with the Defense Human Resources Activity, a division of the U.S. Department of Defense, that is worth up to $454 million over a span of five to six years. The contract includes responsibilities related to brand planning and marketing efforts to support the government's Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies program (JAMRS), aimed at recruiting volunteers for all branches of the military, especially among youth and those with influence. MullenLowe has been working on the JAMRS program for over two decades.
  • Airbnb is looking to expand into longer-term housing rentals and experiences as part of a revamp of its platform. CEO Brian Chesky said that from next year, the company will move beyond its core business of short-term rentals, offering accommodation for up to a year. Chesky added that travel remains Airbnb's main focus, but he sees potential to become a more integral part of customers' lives. The company is set to make its biggest-ever update next month. The push into longer-term rentals comes as Airbnb faces criticism over declining housing options in some major cities, with New York recently introducing new rules limiting the renting of rooms.
  • Google unveiled its Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro smartphones during the 'Made by Google' event. The phones feature a refreshed design, brighter displays, and improved camera technology. Google also introduced the Pixel Watch 2 with health and fitness tracking features, and Pixel Buds Pro with audio enhancements.
  • Omnicom has been selected by BMW to handle media buying and planning for the U.S., Canada, and Latin America, including Mexico. This assignment encompasses the BMW brand, Mini, and motorcycle business, Motorrad. Omnicom is expected to establish a bespoke team led by its agency Critical Mass to manage this business. This decision comes as part of a larger review that began in January, including creative, social media, digital, and CRM. BMW's media expenditure in the U.S. was $98.9 million in 2022, and the winning agencies will operate under five-year contracts beginning January 1, 2024.
  • McCann Worldgroup has made moves in its creative leadership, with Shannon Washington, who previously served as the U.S. chief creative officer at IPG sister agency R/GA, has been appointed as the global chief creative officer of gotham, McCann's global boutique creative agency. In addition to this, Shayne Millington, who served as the co-chief creative officer at McCann New York, has been named as the chief creative officer of McCann New York.
  • Meta's newly introduced AI-generated stickers in Facebook Messenger and Instagram Messenger are already causing controversy, as users can easily create offensive content. While Meta has implemented filters to block objectionable images, inappropriate material still slips through. Meta acknowledges the issue and plans to improve the feature, emphasizing the need for responsible development.
  • Uber has introduced a new service called "Return a Package" that allows users to have a courier pick up sealed and prepaid packages and drop them off at a local post office, UPS, or FedEx. This feature can be tracked in real-time within the Uber app, and it comes with a flat rate fee of $5 or $3 for Uber One members.
  • WGA's new labor contract has some major victories in the latest agreement. Notable wins include pay increases for staff writers and story editors, staffing requirements to counter small writing teams, job security for show-runners and writer-producers, guaranteed on-set access for writers, mandatory and compensated rewrites, prompt payments, and increased transparency for streaming show data. Beyond that, the use of AI tools in writing services will require consent and disclosure. The contract also simplifies health insurance qualification for writing duos and teams. Members have until October 9th to cast their votes on ratification.
  • Snapchat is shifting its focus from creating AR tools for businesses to building its AR ads business. While retail advertisers are still spending on Snapchat's AR ads, the platform is not a "must have" for buyers. Challenges such as budget constraints for less-established advertisers and the perception of AR as an experimental ad format still exist.
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