Good morning. It’s the annual tech dog and pony show in Vegas this week. Yes, it’s CES time again, and this year, much like the last, it looks as if applications for voice assistants and smart devices from the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google are likely to grab most of the attention. Before you dive into your meetings, check out The Wall Street Journal’s CES preview.
Girls Just Wanna Have Sports
TV advertisers generally have looked to sports as a way to reach men. But the tides are changing, CMO Today’s Alex Bruell reports. ESPN, armed with more granular data about its viewers, is more aggressively selling its sizable female audience to advertisers, beginning with the College Football Playoff. Northwestern Mutual, no stranger to the playoffs, has developed different ad spots targeting women and families—including the first TV ad with a story line focused solely on a woman and her career. Longtime ESPN advertiser Warner Bros. is promoting the family-friendly film “Paddington 2.” What’s going on behind the scenes? It’s become more difficult to reach women through other prime-time programming. General prime-time entertainment ratings, usually seen as a vehicle to reach females at mass scale, are declining more than sports ratings. ESPN also has new data points from Nielsen, such as information that the out-of-home audience for the playoffs skews slightly more female than its in-home audience. And now, ESPN’s ad sales pitch is far more focused on audience than it is on the sport itself.
Writing Checks For Ad Tech
The ad tech sector has seen a wave of consolidation over the past couple of years, with some companies exiting at fire-sale prices. Big funding rounds are less common than in the glory days of ad tech past. And venture capitalists’ skepticism of the space hasn’t been helped by the performance of public ad tech stocks. But here’s some news that could be viewed as a ray of positivity for ad tech firms still looking to raise capital. As I report for CMO Today, ad tech company MediaMath is launching an independent venture capital fund, MathCapital. Former Undertone executive Eric Franchi will lead the fund, while MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki and other members of the MediaMath leadership team will be involved as partners. The initial fundraising target is $5 million, with an eventual goal to raise $25 million. That may be small change compared with other big tech funds, but MathCapital’s goal is to not only invest in ad tech firms itself but educate other generalist investors—who can offer more significant capital—about the sector’s potential. Stay tuned: Mr. Zawadzki tells me MathCapital is working on its first investment, which it is set to announce in the coming weeks.
Just Review It
Agency reviews happen all the time, but Nike’s move to assess its global roster of digital agencies looks set to raise eyebrows. Ad Age reports the sportswear giant has asked its rostered agencies to provide information about their rates and capabilities. It then is planning to run a “reverse auction,” according to the report. In agency land, “reverse auction” tends to be a code name for putting pressure on firms to rein in their fees, as the contracts usually are awarded to the lowest bidder. Such a focus on costs also may signal the marketers involved view these agency services as a commodity, rather than wanting to remunerate them on their ability to drive value for the business. That such a major global brand appears to be running this type of review is an ominous sign at a time when agencies already are bemoaning clients and their procurement departments for taking a short-termist view by ratcheting down their spending on advertising services.
Criteo and GDPR
A lot of people in the marketing industry have been wondering how ad tech firms, which don’t tend to have direct relationships with consumers, are going to obtain consent from people to use their data for advertising purposes once the new European General Data Protection Rule is enforced in May. I asked Criteo Chief Financial Officer Benoit Fouilland how the company is going to seek permission from users. Mr. Fouilland said Criteo’s interpretation of the rule is that online identifiers (such as the cookies it uses for ad-retargeting purposes) are categorized as “nonsensitive personal data,” so “an explicit opt-in is not required.” Mr. Fouilland said its existing in-house product “Extended Browser Support” is one method that allows consumers to “give a positive acknowledgment of opting in.” Safari users may be familiar with the solution already: It’s one of the permission devices Criteo has been using to circumvent Apple’s “Intelligent Tracker Prevention” feature, where the ad tech firm displays a message and lets users “signal consent” to cross-site tracking by clicking anywhere on the webpage. It also allows them to opt out via Criteo’s privacy page. (Here’s an example of what that looks like.) “We are also investigating new solutions and potential partnerships that offer appropriate technical solutions to our clients to help them with complying with the GDPR requirements,” Mr. Fouilland said.
Best of the rest
L’Oréal ran an ad during the Golden Globes featuring Winona Ryder that carried the tagline, “Everyone loves a comeback…damaged hair deserves one too.” [Huffington Post]
A job ad signals Snap is planning an “ambitious” effort to attract advertisers in China and other Asia-Pacific countries. [Business Insider]
GroupM has promoted U.K. CEO Nick Theakstone to the new role of global chief investment officer, reporting to global CEO Kelly Clark. Tom George, who was most recently MEC’s chairman for U.K. and Northern Europe and global head of business development, will move into the GroupM U.K. CEO role. [Campaign]
WPP has merged its four global Kantar consulting companies into one unit. Kantar Consulting will be led by Kantar Retail global CEO Philip Smiley. [Ad Age]
The total number of scripted shows on television and streaming platforms such as Netflix hit 487 in 2017, according to data from FX Networks. That surpasses the previous record of 455 the year before. [WSJ]
Two activist shareholders have written to Apple to say the smartphone maker needs to respond to what some see as a growing public-health crisis of youth phone addiction. [WSJ]
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