This is up there with one of the more unusual product-launch announcement venues: AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson used his time on the witness stand in the high-profile AT&T-Time Warner antitrust case to pitch his company’s plans for a new “skinny bundle” of TV channels that will cost $15 a month, but won’t include sports. That’s an aggressively low price plan for streaming live TV. AT&T Wireless subscribers would get the service for free. During his testimony Thursday, Mr. Stephenson described the proposed acquisition of Time Warner as a “vision deal” crucial to helping the companies compete for ad dollars with the likes of Google, Facebook and Amazon. To have a chance at doing that, “we need to own content,” he said, and widen its distribution to keep people on its platforms. Mr. Stephenson also said advertisers want an alternative to the digital status quo, and that a plan to offer brands sophisticated targeting would go hand-in-hand with asking customers for permission for their data to be used.
Move Fast, Don’t Break Things
Martin Sorrell’s departure from WPP led analysts to suggest the advertising holding company may need to dispose of some of its assets in order to create immediate shareholder value. But the lady’s not for turning, according to WPP. As WSJ reported, recently appointed co-CEO Mark Read sent a memo to staff, reassuring them that WPP doesn’t think a breakup would make sense. Analysts at Liberum (one of those suggesting a sale of WPP’s data-investment unit or public-relations assets would make sense) responded with a note Friday saying that while a break-up has been ruled out, “we do not think the [memo] precludes asset sales.” Liberum also pondered whether the fact the memo came from Mr. Read essentially on behalf of his co-CEO Andrew Scott could hint Mr. Read is in line to be the new CEO. That said, he was always one of the front-runners anyway and a single memo isn’t exactly a crystal ball. Meanwhile, the Guardian reports the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority has contacted WPP to make sure the ad company’s announcement about Mr. Sorrell met its disclosure requirements. The FCA didn’t comment on whether it would investigate further.
Guess Who’s Back, Back Again
Remember YouTube’s brand safety saga that kicked off just over a year ago, when newspaper investigations found ads appearing next to objectionable content? Recall YouTube’s pledges to give advertisers more controls, to hire more human content checkers and its move to demonetize channels that didn’t meet a certain threshold? And remember how it all simmered down somewhat within the marketing community, then Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal happened and we basically forgot about it? Some déjà vu for you: CNN reports ads “from over 300 companies and organizations” were running on YouTube channels that have carried all manner of awful videos. CNN says many of those companies used a sensitive subject-exclusion filter, presuming that would safeguard them from such unsavory videos. YouTube told CNN that when it discovers ads mistakenly ran against content that doesn’t meet its policies, it immediately takes them down. But advertisers could ask why such a situation could occur again. Under Armour suspended its spending on YouTube following CNN’s investigation. Another timely reminder to keep those filters and whitelists up to date!
Can You Smell What the Rock Is Reppin’
Speaking of Under Armour, its YouTube ad boycott comes just as the brand is on the cusp of a major campaign. I wonder where the video spend will be redirected? Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said 2017 was “a reset for our business and our brand as we try to operate as a bigger company.” The company is facing sales declines in its home market of North America and is hoping that growth outside the U.S. will make up for the shortfall. That’s the aim behind its new global ad campaign. It stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, alongside international athletes with inspiring back stories, including Syrian Refugee Olympic team swimmer Yusra Mardini and Johnny Agar, a sportsman with cerebral palsy. Adrienne Lofton, Under Armour’s senior VP for global brand management says, “sometimes, because we’re an elite performance brand, we may not reach the everyday, hard-working athletes around the world.” The effort is Under Armour’s biggest campaign yet and will run in China, Europe and the U.S.
Best of the rest
Facebook is rolling out an update to its terms of service next month to reduce its exposure to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation. Currently, Facebook users outside the U.S. and Canada are governed by terms of service agreed with the company’s international headquarters in Ireland (subject to GDPR in May, of course.) Next month, Facebook plans to make that the case only for European users, so some 1.5 billion users in countries such as Africa and Latin America won’t fall under GDPR. [Reuters]
The German Supreme Court threw out publishing giant Axel Springer’s case against Eyeo, the owner of Adblock Plus, on Thursday. Axel Springer was hoping to get Adblock Plus banned, arguing the blocking of ads and Eyeo’s paid-for whitelisting scheme violated competition law. Axel Springer says it will appeal to the Constitutional Court. [Reuters]
Vincent Bolloré announced Thursday that his son, Yannick, CEO of advertising group Havas, will succeed him as chairman of Vivendi. Arnaud de Puyfontaine, Vivendi CEO, also said the French conglomerate is weighing a public listing of Universal Music Group. [New York Post]
Reddit has hired Time Inc. veteran Jen Wong as its COO. [WSJ]
Verizon is looking to Tumblr to be the home of some its original video programming. [Digiday]
Private-equity firms were responsible for 22% of all marcomms M&A deals in the first quarter of this year, according to Results International. [Campaign]
CVS has debuted a beauty campaign that contains no airbrushing. The pharmaceutical giant pledged in January to stop using “materially” airbrushed photos to promote its beauty products. [Ad Age]
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Source : https://www.wsj.com/articles/cmo-today-at-t-announces-streaming-bundle-wpp-resists-breakup-talk-youtube-brand-safety-issues-linger-1524224719