NBCUniversal bails on Snap; online advertising reacts to coronavirus; and protecting first-party data against privacy concerns.
As the coronavirus ripples through the global economy, publishers will now feel some short-term pain as entities, brands, and platforms block terms associated with the disease. During February, “coronavirus” became the second-most common word on blocklists for news publishers, jumping from eighth place in January. Across the open web, the word was the third-most common entry on a block list and it didn’t even rank in January, according to data from Integral Ad Science. The data shows the pace of blocking accelerating as well. DoubleVerify says the volume of content being block had increased 80 percent, mirroring the volume increase in content about the outbreak. And most of that content contained the terms “coronavirus” or “Covid-19.” YouTube is now demonetizing any videos that have coronavirus as a subject. It is not unusual for advertisers to want to avoid associations with unpopular subjects and many will avoid the topic altogether. Group M says those advertisers that aren’t blocking don’t advertise against news as a policy or just don’t engage in keyword blocking in general.
In an era where the trend is toward consolidation for growth, many media companies are now strategically thinking about their capital investments and are not afraid to bail on investments that don’t align with overall strategies. NBCUniversal last year sold off its entire equity stake in Snap, Inc. This move was discovered in 10-K filing by Comcast earlier this year. Now, three years ago NBCUniversal was touting its Snap investment, and others like it, telling the world that they had become a more digitally focused company. And that they would continue to be aggressive in digital asset consumption. But three years later, NBCUniversal has opted for liquidity as it completes other deals and increases its debt load with $39 billion purchase of Sky and plans to commit $2 billion to launch its own streaming service. NBCUniversal is not alone in doing this. Nearly every media company that wants to dive into streaming has divested assets worth nine or even 10 figures.
Who knew there would be unscrupulous vendors that would try to exploit panic over the coronavirus? Facebook’s initial efforts to help thwart online profiteers is to introduce a ban on the sale of surgical face masks. The measure will outlaw all such ads on Facebook in addition to peer-to-peer trading on Facebook Marketplace. The company says it is monitoring Covid-19 developments closely and will update policies as necessary. The main thrust of those policies is to keep people from taking advantage of the public health emergency. Alarmist face mask ads have already been censured by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority. The FDA has even clamped down on ads for hand sanitizer, preventing companies from even mentioning the coronavirus. eBay and Amazon are also working to stop price gouging on selected products by any entity seeking to horde those products and then sell them online.
Despite the growing legal risk to share first-party data, publishers keep being asked to do so. Everybody is your friend when you have direct relationships with your readers, becoming the only part of the ad ecosystem that has such a relationship. Advertisers are saying the tension being created by buy-side ad tech aggressively asking publishers to share user data is something that must be alleviated. Many “workarounds” being pushed by agencies and buy-side tech that basically recreate the identity that powers the open web often don’t meet publisher’s privacy criteria and don’t reflect true innovation in addressing the problem. Thus, the publisher can be left holding the bag. Experts say the industry needs to rethink how privacy is looked at and solutions should respect those views. One example is buy-side solutions asking publishers to add code and many won’t do it because it slows down the loading of content. At the end of the day, it is up to publishers to safeguard their user’s trust in dealing with outside code that allows partners to gain access to a site.
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