Industry Pulse: September’s Top 5 Stories


The Industry Pulse: A fresh perspective on what’s new and next in marketing. See the latest updates and explore industry insights from our +minded team.

Amazon and Buzzfeed Get with the Program

As spending on programmatic advertising continues to increase, Amazon and Buzzfeed are moving to meet the growing demand — each in its own way.

Amazon Media Group (AMG), Amazon’s advertising unit, will expand its programmatic platform as a scalable, self-serve solution. That’s welcome news for advertisers seeking more control of their margins and markups, as they’ll no longer have to do business through Amazon’s manager services. The new platform will offer seller options for purchasing headline search ads in addition to discounts and incentives to advertise on the platform.

While Amazon speeds ahead, Buzzfeed changes course, reapproaching programmatic advertising with banner ads. For the publisher known for its banner ad ban and native advertising know-how, it’s a surprising change — but a sensible (and lucrative) one. After all, branded content is difficult to scale and the margins are relatively low. Still, with a $350 million branded content business, it’s unlikely that Buzzfeed’s native advertising is going anywhere soon.

A New Business Messaging Platform? That’s WhatsApp

One new notification from WhatsApp: Messaging tools for businesses of all shapes and sizes are almost ready for rollout. Flight times, delivery confirmations, and special updates for VIP customers are just a few of the notification possibilities with the upcoming WhatsApp functionality. The company’s press release, following an announcement that the app is testing verified business accounts, does not specify when the tools will become available, but it does make WhatsApp’s new monetization priorities clear. Smaller verified businesses will be able to use the app for free, while larger companies will eventually be charged. (Specific pricing details have not yet been released.)

This step toward monetization is a big change for the Facebook-owned app. For years they stuck to their message of messaging only. (Exhibit A: This strongly worded “Why we don’t sell ads” blog post.) But with over 1 billion daily users, WhatsApp may finally be ready to cash in on its success.

Virtual Assistants Make Their Voices Heard

Virtual assistants have been making a lot of noise as they compete for consumer attention. Could a buzzy new duo turn the cacophony into harmony? Considering the power players involved — Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana — the answer may be yes. According to a joint announcement by Amazon and Microsoft, Alexa and Cortana will start “speaking” to one another on both Alexa-enabled devices such as the Echo as well as devices using the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system. The companies reason that each virtual assistant has its unique strengths (email integration for Cortana, smart home controls for Alexa) that will help round the other out.

The one potentially sour note for Microsoft: Alexa and the Echo seem to be the stars of the show, on the path to control over 70 percent of the market this year. And that’s not all for Alexa. It’s the top choice for third-party product integrations, as was made clear at this year’s IFA exhibition in Berlin. At the conference, more than 30 intriguing Alexa-enabled products were on display, from speakers to lawnmowers to a Yamaha Disklavier piano.

IAB on Podcast Possibilities: Now Hear This

There’s a world of podcasts out there, but is anyone in the world actually listening to all those podcasts? The latest numbers speak volumes. Consider the following: According to the industry trade group Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), 25 percent of U.S. consumers over the age of 12 enjoy a monthly podcast, with the average consumer listening to six every week. The IAB also found that podcast listeners tend toward the younger end of the spectrum — 44 percent are under 34 — and are also educated, wealthy, and likely to be business influencers.

Got all that? Then you might start to see why the IAB recently rolled out its Podcast Playbook, an advertiser’s primer for all things podcast. With predictions putting 2017 podcast advertising revenue at over $220 million, up 85 percent from $119 million in 2016, the IAB may not so subtly be suggesting you fast-forward your podcast ad strategy. Hear, hear, IAB.

What to Watch This Fall: Ad Tech for TV

Though TV ads engage us, they lack the data-driven power of digital ads. But with a slew of new tools that promise to bring the specific audience targeting capabilities of digital ads to TV, that may quickly change. A tool from startup VideoAmp aims to give marketers one common digital data set across TV and web, allowing them to use their own information to track audiences from device to device. VideoAmp recently raised $21.4 million in a series B round, bringing its total funding to $36.6 million — and it’s not alone. Earlier this year Samba TV raised $30 million, while SpotX was fully acquired by RTL Group.

Instead of acquiring or funding ad tech tools, some media companies have made their own, including Fox (Audience Insights Manager), Turner (Audience Now), Viacom (Vantage), and NBCUniversal (Audience Studio). Then there’s OpenAP, a collaborative project between Turner, Fox, and Viacom that’s still in the works. Once available, OpenAP should allow buyers to standardize audience segments across in-house data offerings from the three media giants. With a beta launch set for next month, we’ll soon see if it actually delivers. For now, though, it’s worth noting that most advertisers probably aren’t looking to immediately change the channel on their strategies: An estimated 95 percent of TV ad business continues to rely on traditional metrics.


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