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Morning Brew January 27, 2022

Marketing Brew

LiveClicker

Good afternoon. We hope you’re having a good week. Looks like Noom is probably not—the weight-loss app got dragged (and also trended) on Twitter yesterday after a tweet criticizing the program’s ads went viral.

In today’s edition:

  • Where did the ads go?
  • A study on bias
  • Super Bowl newcomers

—Kelsey Sutton, Ryan Barwick, Alyssa Meyers

STREAMING

I’ve got a blank space, baby ♪

a TV screen that says "Back After The Break" in front of a football field Francis Scialabba

Picture this: You’re sitting down to watch the Lakers take on the Hornets. You turn on your TV and head to the NBA League Pass app. You settle in for the tip-off. You crack open a brewski (or a non-alcoholic spritz). A commercial comes on.

And then, for a few seconds, there’s…nothing. You may see a static message from the streaming service telling you there is a commercial break occurring, or maybe there’s simply a blank screen. But in an industry ruled by ad inventory, it seems unthinkable that there’s just nothing.

So why isn’t all the ad space filled? Turns out, it’s complicated—and it can come down to how ads are bought and sold, and how streaming has made that process even more intricate.

A regular occurrence

First things first: If you are a fan of any kind of sport, and you’ve streamed a game, you’re probably familiar with this phenomenon.

“Everybody that watches premium sports on streaming has experienced that,” said Dave Morgan, the CEO of TV-buying platform Simulmedia.

The exact reason as to why a viewer might see a static message, sometimes referred to as a “slate,” depends on a few factors. To understand the cause, you must first understand which service is streaming the event, who has the rights to stream, and through which connected device a viewer is watching—all factors that affect how ads are sold.

Let’s break it down: In the case of NBA League Pass, there are two main ways ads are sold during games, depending on how you’ve signed up to watch, explained Seth Ladetsky, the SVP of client partnerships and head of digital revenue strategy at Turner Sports; Turner Broadcasting operates NBA League Pass through a partnership with the NBA.

  • The ads in the linear version of NBA League Pass—that is, the version you would get if you were to pay for it through your cable package—are sold by the network, which typically sells national ad inventory, and cable operators like Xfinity, which typically sell local ad inventory.
  • Ads running on NBA League Pass’s direct-to-consumer option, offered as a standalone product and an add-on for viewers paying through a cable package, are sold differently. Ladetsky and his team at Turner are in control of selling ads and setting rates, not local cable operators.
  • On other streaming services, watching games OTT sometimes means watching a simulcast of what is being broadcast on linear TV. In that case, local cable operator rules and operations usually do apply. (There are exceptions here, too, including the fact that some ads aren’t cleared for digital use and must be replaced in streams.)

Too many cooks: The growth of connected-TV platforms and devices adds an extra complicating factor to the already labyrinthian world of sports broadcast and streaming rights.

Platforms like Roku or Amazon Fire TV can get their own cut of ad inventory, selling it and managing it themselves. That means there can be quite a few players involved in selling ads during a single stream. If you, for instance, switch on your Roku to simulcast a local baseball game on Hulu, that means the network, the local cable operator, Hulu, and Roku may all be involved.

Click here to read why, even with all these players in the mix, blank slates still show up.—KS

        

RESEARCH

IBM just released the results of its ad targeting bias audit

A smartphone with the IBM logo on it next to a keyboard SOPA/Getty Images

Yes, the algorithms marketers rely on to show ads probably have an unwanted bias. That’s according to IBM, which just released the findings of a five-month study on bias in advertising.

First announced in June, IBM partnered with the Ad Council to audit a subset of its massive Covid-19 vaccination campaign using an artificial intelligence tool that could help advertisers find bias in their digital targeting.

A reminder: Marketers want to reach relevant audiences, obviously. But, assumptions about the right audience can overlook potential customers. For example, nail polish has traditionally been marketed to women, despite a growing audience of men with actual style.

  • A study from a few years ago examined how algorithms can perpetuate biases in advertising; after finding that “people in wealthy areas responded more strongly to e-commerce discounts than those in poorer ones,” researchers explained that an algorithm could essentially take that information and run with it, offering “lower prices to higher-income individuals going forward.”

Here’s what IBM found:

  • The Ad Council’s test was set up to target “liberal- and conservative-leaning” designated market areas (DMAs), which were then divided into age groups. According to IBM, analyzed ads ran programmatically and across its owned properties, like The Weather Channel.
  • Pouring through 10 million impressions and 108 unique pieces of creative, the tool found that the campaign favored women, people aged 45–65, and those with incomes of less than $100,000.
  • It held a particular bias against those without a college education, meaning the model didn’t try and assemble the right creative to “convert” that group, or to get lower-educated audiences to click on advertisements.

Though IBM says it doesn’t exactly know why this particular campaign was biased, it did show that specific audiences were underrepresented. “The question becomes…what’s happening elsewhere in the campaign that we’re missing,” Robert Redmond, head of AI ad product design at IBM, said.

Takeaway: IBM’s report concludes that “bias can exist in the data and algorithms that are employed for digital advertising, and that bias is not always immediately observable to the human eye…there is more work to do to understand which external forces drive these inequalities.”

In the meantime, IBM is looking for more campaigns to audit for further research—the tool isn’t yet available for use.—RB

        

TOGETHER WITH LIVECLICKER

Learn from these email e-ficionados

LiveClicker

We’re willing to bet you just got, dunno, something like 40 emails in the last 10 minutes. And most of them are probably just so-so … boring subject lines, grainy images, no soul.

It’s also safe to say that none of those emails were sent by the recipients of Liveclicker’s Q4 Email Innovators award. The current list features Insider, the WWE, and Kabam Games—and Liveclicker has put together some insights into how these three companies excel at creating engaging, innovative email content.

By leveraging Liveclicker, they’ve been able to push the boundaries of what’s possible with email. And the results are—well, take a look:

  • WWE received 35% more clicks after incorporating video content.
  • Kabam Games saw a 286.5% increase in engagement after embedding features such as polling.
  • Insider created a successful welcome series to connect with its 250 million readers.

We’d say that’s all pretty awardworthy.

Learn more about how Liveclicker can help your team create better emails right here.

SPORTS

First time for everything

First time for everything ABC/Full House

It’s out with the old and in with the new (sort of) on this year’s roster of Super Bowl advertisers.

Over the past few months, first-time Super Bowl advertisers have been coming out of the woodwork:

  • Earlier this week, medtech company Hologic and Colgate-Palmolive soap brand Irish Spring each announced plans for 30-second spots.
  • Last week, Sam’s Club said it tapped Kevin Hart to create and star in its first Super Bowl ad.
  • EV charger maker Wallbox, Booking.com, and Rakuten have all made their planned Super Bowl debuts public.

On repeat: New advertisers were also venturing into the game last year. Brands like DoorDash and Fiverr that thrived during the earlier days of the pandemic bought up ad space, while some of the typical advertisers benched themselves for the year.

Jay Pattisall, principal analyst at Forrester, told us over the summer that he expected to see “relatively smaller, platform businesses returning to or breaking into the Super Bowl in February 2022.” Looks like he was onto something.

Return of the brewer: Perhaps the most notable brand to skip last year’s Super Bowl was Budweiser, marking the first time in almost four decades that the beer brand—known for trotting Clydesdales through its ads—didn’t appear in the game. This year, parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev is bringing Budweiser back, alongside ads for five more of its brands.—AM

        

WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • NBCUniversal’s Peacock ended last year with 24.5 million monthly active accounts.
  • Spotify removed Neil Young’s music from its streaming service after the musician requested it, citing objections to what he called “misinformation” in Joe Rogan’s podcast.
  • Facebook is closing up shop on its cryptocurrency effort, the Diem Association, per the Wall Street Journal.
  • Bud Light released thousands of NFTs as part of a campaign for its new zero-carb beer.
  • Barbie parent company Mattel won back the license to produce dolls based on Disney princesses like Frozen’s Anna and Elsa

TOGETHER WITH BRAZE

Braze

Feelin’ about your customer engagement? Sweet, because Braze found that 98% of companies that give their customer engagement efforts high marks also exceed their revenue goals. Key insights from Braze, a leader in the customer engagement space, can help inform your customer engagement strategy in 2022 and beyond. Click here for Braze’s 2022 Global Customer Engagement Review.

FRENCH PRESS

French Press Francis Scialabba

There are a lot of bad marketing tips out there. These aren’t those.

Inclusivity: Reevaluating your marketing strategy with an eye on DE&I? This list of Black creators could help inspire this year’s partnerships.

Trending: Social media trends move fast. Here are eight important ones to monitor to keep your head from spinning.

Crisis: Stay calm under pressure. That’s perhaps the most obvious of these tips for how to be a great crisis manager.

Bringin’ serious value to virtual: With Hopin’s new actionable e-book, How to Deliver 6-Figure Value to Virtual Event Sponsors, Hopin shares how your event teams can secure -worthy sponsorship revenue from your virtual events, pronto. Read it here.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.

MARKET RESEARCH

The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) released its fourth annual privacy study, which includes insights into consumers’ trust in brands and platforms, their opinions around data privacy and targeting, and more.

Targeted but not too targeted: ARF polled more than 1,200 Americans on a range of targeting scenarios—from ads for ski resorts popping up after a person googles ski equipment to rental-car ads appearing after a drive to the airport—and found that anywhere from 24% to 38% of respondents found the scenarios presented to be a misuse of their data.

  • The ski scenario was viewed as the most acceptable, while the airport geotargeting was most off-putting. Scenarios in-between included ads for espresso machines on YouTube after adding an espresso machine to an online shopping cart, and landscaping ads on cable after emailing with a landscaper about yard work.

Paul Donato, chief research officer at ARF, put it simply: There’s a certain “creepy factor” that comes with the realization that ads know where you are in real life, like at the airport, in addition to what you’re doing online, he told Marketing Brew.

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Written by Kelsey Sutton, Ryan Barwick, and Alyssa Meyers

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