Sunnier Side of the Office

Comcast Will Include Netflix Subscriptions In Its Cable Packages

Comcast Corp. last week announced it will add Netflix to subscription packages to its cable services.

The move, according to Bloomberg, gives “the world’s largest streaming platform another way to boost its viewer base in the U.S., its biggest market.” Bloomberg also reported that Comcast customers, who can already watch Netflix shows like “House of Cards” or “Stranger Things” using the Comcast X1 cable box, will now be able to pay for it directly through a Comcast bundle.

Cable companies like Comcast have been concerned about so-called cord-cutters who eschew traditional cable packages in favor of streaming services like Netflix. Cable companies like Comcast previously viewed streaming services like Hulu and Netflix as threats to their business, but a move like this shows Comcast is embracing them and integrating them into their platforms as a way to retain customers.

The partnership could also be beneficial to Netflix, which operates on subscriptions and does not generate ad revenue. The U.S. is its largest market and the company is facing slowing subscription growth there; many of its new customers are from overseas.

Also last week, Spotify and Hulu introduced a combined subscription that reduces the monthly price of using both, a promotion designed to draw new paying users to the music and video services, according to Bloomberg.

Will Live TV Streaming Inventory Be Available in 2018?

By Arthi Veeraragavan

Last year, Hulu and YouTube launched live TV. In their launch year, both stated their intent to eventually sell ads against the linear streams.

For brands, reaching consumers via live streams could be significantly more cost efficient compared to traditional TV buys, and therefore may be a game changer. However, potential reach within Live TV streaming will be a determining factor in how brands move forward once the inventory is available. The latest figures put Hulu Live TV at 450,000 subscribers, and YouTube TV at 300,000.

Both providers have grown their user base through free trial offerings. However, with cancellation requests at the conclusion of the trial period, it’s difficult to predict future audience sizes.

While neither company has stated how the inventory will be sold, Digiday writes, the offering can be pooled with on-demand inventory. This could help brands test live linear stream advertising, while still providing them with ample reach within the platform.

Industry execs predict live TV inventory to be part of the 2018 NewFronts. If this happens, we will look for Hulu and YouTube to address the following:

  • Scale: How will both companies build the scale necessary for brands to reach a wide audience?

  • Model: Will Live ads be available as a standalone ad buy or will they be sold along with on-demand inventory?

  • Technical Obstacles: Will the technology be in place to ensure seamless ad integration?


Audi is a Finalist in the Art Directors Club Awards


Proximity alert. #AudiA5 #Cabriolet

A post shared by Audi (@audi) on

We’re thrilled to announce more of Audi of America’s work is being recognized, this time by the Art Directors Club! M/H and Audi are finalists in the Photography category for an Instagram series where we take Audi to the Mars Desert Research Station.

The work is part of our broader strategy to make Audi’s Instagram a story-driven and visually appealing channel. We like to call it “car porn with a plot.”

Automotive photography often sticks with the same backdrops: the summertime convertible shoot, the beach balls, coastal highways, the wind in your hair. It’s been done. It rarely sticks with you. We wanted Audi to be memorable, so we captured a series of photographs featuring the A5 Cabriolet for Audi’s Instagram in a surprising place.

We needed a unique location, so we chose one so otherworldly that you’d want the top down to take in the vastness of the breathtaking landscape. We went to Utah’s Mars Desert Research Station to tell its story of scientists investigating what it would take to live on the Red Planet — with the A5 in each picture.

Congrats to the team!


Coachella? Never Heard of Her


INDIO, CA – APRIL 14: Beyonce Knowles performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Coachella )


By Jessica Gaylord

It was the yodel heard ‘round the world. Or, at least, around the Internet. Mason Ramsey, the 11-year-old whose yodeling session at a Southern Illinois Walmart went viral earlier this month, performed at music festival Coachella this weekend. There was nowhere to go but up for the young singing sensation, who reportedly just rode an airplane for the first time en route to appear on The Ellen Show.

 But the true star of the show was Beyoncé, whose Coachella performance collectively shook the Internet this weekend. Beyond blowing up Twitter, Beyoncé also made history by being the first woman of color to headline the festival, which her fans have now appropriately dubbed “Beychella.” A surprise performance with husband Jay-Z, a dance-off with sister Solange, and the highly-anticipated Destiny’s Child reunion were intertwined with her Historically Black College and University-themed set.

If you weren’t able to attend in-person or missed the live stream on YouTube, there’s no shame in enjoying it vicariously through Adele and Rihanna.

Sunnier Side of the Office

Zuckerberg Will Testify Before Congress This Week

After weeks of being in the hot seat, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday to issue “a broad apology for letting the website be used as a conduit for fake news, election meddling by foreign entities, hate speech, and privacy abuses,’ said the New York Times.

Indeed, in his testimony published today by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Zuckerberg said: “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. It was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.” (Read the entire testimony here.)

This comes after news via a whistleblower that data firm Cambridge Analytica used personal Facebook user information, taken without consent, for voter targeting purposes. Original articles said that it affected some 50 million users, but last week, Facebook said that number has increased to 87 million.

While Zuckerberg’s testimony is important, it’s also important to remember this has created a media frenzy, and there are underlying issues from which this stems. Jonathan Albright, research director at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, tweeted, “All the core problems come from lack of any real regs or enforcement on Americans’ personal data, complete lack of transparency in online political ads/targeting, and role of dark money. Rest of issues are derivative.”

Other related headlines from the last week:

Ad Age/Bloomberg: Facebook suspends data firm Cubeyou amid privacy scandal

CNet: 6 questions Mark Zuckerberg still needs to answer

Bloomberg: Facebook moves to get ahead of Congress with issue-ad change

Ad Age: Facebook reveals new verification process for large Pages

Instagram Limits Access to User Data

By Ben Shapiro

Last week, Facebook quietly made a change to limit how often developers can use the Instagram API to collect data on the platform’s users. According to recode, the move appears to be in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

The implications for developers include a reduction in rate limit. Rate limits refer to the number of times per hour an outside developer can “call” the Instagram API for updated data on Instagram users. Following the change, many developers saw their rate limit suddenly drop from 5,000 to just 200, while others were cut off from making these calls completely.

The API change also removes developers’ access to user follower lists, public comments, likes, and searches.

Developers and marketers have therefore lost a valuable source of customer data. This presents a significant hurdle for developers that rely on a constant stream of consumer feedback, such as those who focus on customer service. Marketers, on the other hand, will have to make targeting decisions with less information than they are accustomed to. Ultimately, these groups will be forced to adjust to this change by becoming more intelligent about how they gather, analyze, and use customer data.

However, we expect Facebook to provide tools and resources to make this transition as smooth as possible. Maintaining faith in Instagram is too important for the social network to leave advertisers and developers to grapple with the impact of this change on their own.

M/H and Audi are Webby Finalists!


We’re thrilled to announce that we’re finalists for two Webby awards for our Audi work in two categories.

Driver’s Test:

Our work with Audi and Spider-Man has been named a finalist in the Film & Video/Branded Entertainment/Short Form category.

About “Driver’s Test”: Audi’s continued integration with Marvel reached new heights with the Spider-Man: Homecoming Film. Our challenge was to authentically weave Audi into the Spider-Man world. We honed in on the Audi brand’s innovative prowess and new AI features and helped bring them to life in a hilarious story that could excite a range of Marvel, Spider-Man, and Audi fans alike. A-list talent included Spider-Man himself (Tom Holland) and comedian/actor JB Smoove.

Vote for Spider-Man “Driver’s Test” in the Film & Video/Branded Entertainment/Short Form category here.

Think Faster

Think Faster has been named a finalist in the Advertising & Media/Branded Content/Automotive category.

About Think Faster: Think Faster, the world’s fastest AMA, is a live episodic content series that features culture’s biggest names as they answer questions submitted via Reddit. Taking place at over 130 MPH, Think Faster transformed one of the most popular online interview formats, the Reddit AMA, into a live broadcast event.

To vote for Think Faster in the Advertising & Media/Branded Content/Automotive category, go here.

Living The American Meme

By Melissa Santiago

This week was a great one for memes and in case you don’t have time to keep up with all the memes, we understand — and we’ve got you covered.

1. If you don’t love me…

This meme gained traction with a K-pop star, built on Justin Bieber fandom, and reached total self-awareness from an unlikely source, 90’s pop star, Mariah Carey.

2. American Choppers and the subtle art of civil debate also emerged as an unlikely meme hero this week. CNET reports, “it all began with a March 26 tweet from @_ericcurtin that has so far gotten 55,000 likes and 17,000 retweets.”

As memes continue to dominate social media conversations brands and celebrities are finding ways to join the conversation while remaining self-aware and Monterey Bay Aquarium nailed it with this post.

3. Bonus meme round! We’d be remiss if we didn’t give a shout out to the viral sensation known as “Yodeling kid.” While it’d be great to have an explainer for this, it kind of defies all explanation and most of social media is totally here for it.

Sunnier Side of the Office

M/H Wins Multiple Shorty Awards for Audi Work

We are thrilled to announce we’ve won a few honors in the Shorty Awards, which recognizes the most influential, popular and culturally relevant brands, organizations, agencies, campaigns and influencers across social media.

Spider-Man: Homecoming/Audi: “Driver’s Test”

Our work for Audi’s partnership with “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was named best in the Auto category and was also named a Finalist and Audience Favorite in the Entertainment category.

Our winning short film, “Driver’s Test,” features a 15-year-old Peter Parker about to take his driver’s test — but he gets a little help from Audi’s driver-assistance technology, letting him stay one step ahead of his driving instructor, a new character we created for the video, played by comedian J.B. Smoove.

Millions of views came from 30 countries in addition to the U.S., helping to push “Spider-Man: Homecoming” to the top 5 of the international box office for 2017.

Lauded as “so authentic it felt like a deleted scene” by Marvel, and Audi fans alike, our short film garnered 159,000 likes on Youtube, making it the #1 most liked piece of content Audi has ever created. For more on our strategy and execution, visit the entry on the Shorty Awards site.

Audi: “Think Faster – World’s Fastest AMA”

We also won a Gold in the Emerging Platform category for Audi’s “Think Faster – World’s Fastest AMA.” We were a Finalist in the Auto – Online category as well.

For the launch of Audi Sport in the U.S., we had to demonstrate performance in a visceral way that went beyond traditional car advertising.

The perfect platform was Reddit. Why? It already has a native beloved format — the Reddit Ask Me Anything — and we could innovate with it by creating a speedy live broadcast for fans.

So we created “Think Faster – World’s Fastest AMA.” Taking place at 130 MPH, each 30-minute episode transformed the popular online interview format, the Reddit AMA, into a live broadcast from the passenger seat of an Audi. Guests so far have included Elizabeth Banks, Issa Rae, Adam Scott and Olivia Munn. For more on Think Faster’s strategy and execution, go here.

Congrats to the team!

Google Acquires Tenor

By Katharine Painter

Last week Google acquired the popular GIF search engine Tenor. The four-year-old company has more than 300 million users and 12 billion searches per month. It also powers GIF keyboards across smartphones and within social messengers like Facebook Messenger.

Many brands have already created and distributed GIFs as organic content because it allows them to express a shareable message by using text and multiple images. In 2017, Tenor released its first sponsored GIF, and since then, has had partnerships with brands like Dunkin’ Donuts, Sprint and KFC. These partnerships allow branded GIFs to appear in relevant searches.

By acquiring Tenor, Google plans to incorporate GIFs into Google images and the Gboard, a keyboard extension that can be added to a smartphone. These incorporations will vastly extend the daily usage and reach of Tenor’s platform.

If advertising opportunities remain the same on Tenor, partnerships will now allow brands to reach a larger group of people at multiple touchpoints. Ben Clarke, co-founder of The Shipyard, predicts “GIFs will become a part of the normal fabric of search,” which “could reinject some personality into digital ads.” Brands that adopt GIFs will have a new way to reach their consumers in a more authentic and engaging environment.

Your Weekly Facebook/Cambridge Analytica Update: Third-Party Data Edition


News continues to come out in the wake of the Facebook/Cambridge news from two weeks ago, which revealed via a whistleblower, the New York Times and the Observer that Cambridge Analytica used personal Facebook user information, taken without consent, for voter targeting purposes. There are still too many articles and hot takes to link to here. So we’re focusing on one aspect this week: third-party data.

Why? Because Facebook said it was shutting down Partner Categories, which allows third-party data providers to offer their targeting capabilities directly through Facebook. The company said that the move will help improve users’ privacy. According to Ad Age, these providers include “Acxiom, Oracle Data Cloud, Experian, Epsilon, and others. These data providers have some of the deepest insights into consumer behavior across the world—information on what people buy, where they shop, what kind of cars they drive, health profiles, incomes, family makeup—and they are integral to the entire digital ad ecosystem.”

Though we have yet to see how this will play out for Facebook in the long term and what else the company will do to tighten up its platform, it’s not the end of Facebook by any means. Forrester said that people prophesizing Facebook’s doom are overreacting, and Ad Age reported that marketers are very likely to keep their ad spend there.

For an overview of third-party data and the hurdles facing that space, read eMarketer’s report from last week.

And to read an interview with Mark Zuckerberg on Vox, go here.

This Week in Social: What is r/CircleofTrust?

By Melissa Santiago

This year, r/CircleofTrust emerged on April 1. The subreddit warned users, “This is your circle. You only get one. Share it wisely.” If one chooses to set up their circle, they set a “key” or password and share their circle and its key with others. The only catch? Make sure you trust those you let in. Once someone has access to your circle, they can choose to join it or betray you. Once you’re betrayed, your circle is broken and will no longer function.

If the thought of destroying someone’s circle by betraying them gave you a rush, please know your name will be flagged a known traitor. At the time of writing this, the subreddit has been marked as private to so the moderators can fix some bugs. Create a circle if you dare, but choose carefully who you invite to join your circle.

Sunnier Side of the Office

The Latest on the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Controversy


Last week we wrote about the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica story, which, as predicted, has produced too many follow-up stories to count.

A quick recap: The New York Times and the Observer (sibling of The Guardian) published stories about Cambridge Analytica, on account of a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, who had worked at the data firm. Cambridge Analytica “used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements,” according to the Observer. At the time frame in question, Cambridge Analytica was headed by Steve Bannon.

This data harvesting happened through a third-party app in which hundreds of thousands of Facebook users were paid to take a personality quiz and agreed to have their data collected for academic use. The problem with that, according to the Observer, is “the app also collected the information of the test-takers’ Facebook friends, leading to the accumulation of a data pool tens of millions-strong. Facebook’s ‘platform policy’ allowed only collection of friends’ data to improve user experience in the app and barred it being sold on or used for advertising.”

What’s new this week? A lot. For one, Mark Zuckerberg apologized on Wednesday after a 5-day silence. From the Guardian: “‘We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,’ Zuckerberg wrote. He noted that the company has already changed some of the rules that enabled the breach, but added: ‘We also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.’”

Today, the Federal Trade Commission confirmed it was conducting an investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices and “is focused on whether Facebook violated terms of a 2011 consent decree over its handling of personal user data that was transferred to Cambridge Analytica without users’ knowledge,” according to a person familiar with the matter.

On the advertiser front, Facebook has been communicating with the marketing industry “to tell them it is working to audit all apps on its platform and reassure its users that their personal data is being protected,” according to the Wall Street Journal.


Conde Nast Bids Adieu To NBCUniversal and Vox Media

By Zuli Mohammad

After less than a year of working together, Conde Nast announced that it has left its partnership with NBCUniversal and Vox Media. The partnership worked to bring Conde Nast’s data platform ‘Spire’ and Vox and NBCU’s advertising platform ‘Concert’ together.

Concert, which was formed by Vox and NBCU in 2016, combined premium digital inventory and audiences from both companies’ digital assets. By layering on Conde Nast to this partnership in 2017, Concert was able to reach over 200 million consumers and 99% of millennials in the U.S. across the three companies’ digital networks.

Three campaigns ultimately resulted from the partnership with Conde Nast. The overall goal, General Manager Ryan Pauley told Digiday, was “to take these to market, and then the partnership would end.”

While Conde Nast has yet to disclose why they left the partnership, they mentioned that they will look to utilize Concert again under the right circumstances. Vox and NBCU will continue to work together on Concert, which has tripled its sales from 2016 to 2017 and is on track to double sales in 2018.

While Conde Nast’s involvement with Concert didn’t last long, publisher partnerships similar to this are important and continue to grow as they can work to create reach and scale equal to the likes of Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google. Additionally, partnerships like these work to create more room for contextually relevant and brand-safe environments for brands to live within.

As these types of partnerships continue to grow it is important that publishers focus on not only hitting the right target audience, but also on providing insights that will help measure and meet campaign goals.

HQ Trivia Lands Warner Bros. and Nike Ad Deals

Popular live game show app HQ landed its first sponsorship deal, Ad Age reported yesterday. The partnership, worth $3 million, will include the promotion of three movies, starting with Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One.”

If you’re not familiar with HQ, it’s an app that hosts live game shows twice a day, with a jackpot that varies in size. There are 12 questions, and as soon as a player gets one answer wrong, they are disqualified. (HQ’s most popular host, Scott Rogowsky, is pictured above.)

Nike yesterday was promoting a partnership with HQ on Twitter, and MacRumors reports that with Nike, HQ will have a surprise third game today with a $100,000 prize and a sneaker giveaway, billed as “a prize that money can’t buy,” according to a HQ spokesperson.

This Week in Social: Elon vs. Facebook, Instagram Changes, Wendy’s Fire Mixtape

By Melissa Santiago

This week on social media was relentlessly eventful. Aside from social movements, political news and various scandals, the internet continues to deliver some light-hearted moments. While the former is very important, it’s also important to look to the latter and rally around a few things that can unite us and momentarily lower our collective stress level, so please enjoy.

1. Elon Musk deletes SpaceX & Tesla Facebook accounts. It seems based on his tweets Elon wasn’t aware the Facebook pages existed, but after some prompting from random people on Twitter, the pages were gone on Friday. Elon’s tweets about deleting the pages don’t explicitly mention the #DeleteFacebook movement, but those calling on him to delete the pages referenced the hashtag. After both pages had been deleted, he added, “looks lame anyway” in reference to them.

Thoughts and prayers to the social media manager who set up and managed those pages — and the massive panic attacks they have most likely experienced since Friday morning.

2. Instagram’s new algorithm will favor more “recent” posts. After users voicing their complaints about the randomness of the Instagram algorithm and seeing posts several days after they’d been posted, Instagram has announced they will make some changes.

3. Fast food Twitter beef continues, now comes with mixtapes. Move over Burger King, there’s a new burger royalty—at least on Twitter. Wendy’s is aiming to dominate all other fast food burger chains on Twitter between being a major part of the most retweeted tweet to date, to flirting with Moonpie, to dropping mixtapes full of diss tracks firing shots at competitors last week on Twitter. Wendy’s social media team is on fire and challenging the popular notion that large brand social accounts are manned by “interns.”

Sunnier Side of the Office

How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

Surely by now, you’ve heard about the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica story. As I’m writing this there are almost too many new stories to keep up. More news will keep coming out of this in the coming days and weeks, but here’s a recap of how this news cycle began late Friday.

On Friday night, Facebook posted a statement saying that it had suspended Cambridge Analytica, the data and voter-targeting company that the Trump campaign used for the 2016 election, after discovering it had harvested user data, even though it told Facebook that the data had been destroyed.

That post was to get ahead of news coming out Saturday, when the New York Times and the Observer(sibling of The Guardian) published stories about Cambridge Analytica, on account of a whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, who had worked at the data firm. “used personal information taken without authorisation in early 2014 to build a system that could profile individual US voters, in order to target them with personalised political advertisements,” according to the Observer. At the time frame in question, Cambridge Analytica was headed by Steve Bannon.

How’d Cambridge Analytica get that data? Through a third-party app in which hundreds of thousands of Facebook users were paid to take a personality quiz and agreed to have their data collected for academic use. The problem with that, according to the Observer, is “the app also collected the information of the test-takers’ Facebook friends, leading to the accumulation of a data pool tens of millions-strong. Facebook’s ‘platform policy’ allowed only collection of friends’ data to improve user experience in the app and barred it being sold on or used for advertising.”

The New York Times reported that some of that user data can still be seen online, indicating that there was indeed a breach of data privacy. The New York Times also said that “the breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.”

There are too many articles to link to at this point, but here are a few key ones:
For more on Wylie, the whistleblower, go here.

On MondayFacebook said it hired a digital forensics firm to conduct an audit of Cambridge Analytica to see if the Facebook data obtained by CA still exists.

Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth wrote a post  Monday addressing the issue. Facebook security chief Alex Stamos plans to step down after disputes with policy executives.

Time will tell how this all shakes out, but one outcome could be U.S. regulation for the social platforms as it relates to user privacy and data collection.


Programmatic Audio Expands in 2018

By Coltin Chapman

We’re just three months into 2018, and the programmatic audio landscape has already changed. Pandora is the latest to offer programmatic audio, following Spotify, which started programmatic in 2016, and iHeartRadio, which has offered it since 2014. Advertisers will be able to leverage all 2,000 of Pandora’s proprietary audience segments when buying media programmatically, allowing for more in-depth targeting and audience breakouts.

This growth within the audio market has caught the attention of the Media Rating Council (MRC), which works with the industry to establish accreditations for audience measurement services. The MRC noticed a spike in audio related media earlier this year and worked with 66 audio partners to create standards for the growing medium:

·      Audio Ad must be played with the audio player in a non-muted state and at a non-zero volume.

·      Ads must be filtered for invalid traffic using the MRC’s Invalid Traffic Detection and Filtration Guidelines Addendum.

·      Ad must play for a minimum duration of two continuous seconds.

Pandora entering into the programmatic audio market gives advertisers the option to extend their audio media buys to a broader audience. Brands will also have a larger incentive to purchase programmatic audio thanks to the MRC’s recent audibility standards, which ensure that their audio impressions are fraud-free and brand safe.

Getting Lucky with Lyft

We’re thrilled to partner once again with Lyft for a project where we brought the luck o’ the Irish to riders over the weekend. Users who opted in to ‘Lucky Mode’ in eight cities were picked up in a gold-wrapped car with a gold treasure chest waiting for them in the back seat. If they found the lucky key before the ride ends, they kept the treasure. In Boston, that treasure was tickets to see the Dropkick Murphys.

See more at Ad Age’s Creativity.

This Week In Social: March Madness Madness

By Melissa Santiago

NCAA Bracket season is here once again. Every year approximately 70 million people fill out NCAA March Madness brackets. The money wagered amongst friends, coworkers, and online is estimated to total over $10.4 billion.

Part of the bracket appeal is Cinderella teams, which are low-ranking teams who go on to win games against top-tier teams. A new Cinderella story emerged on Friday when the University of Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers, the No. 16 seed and underdog, beat No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers. Twitter users came out in full force to launch the Retrievers into momentary internet fame.

This marks the first time a 16-seed has ever beat a 1-seed team and is being called the second-greatest upset in NCAA history. What did this win mean for 70 million brackets? The NCAA reports Friday’s upset means there are no more perfect brackets left.

Sadly, UMBC was knocked out the tournament on Sunday night after a loss to Kansas State, but have secured their place as one of top two Retrievers in basketball history.

Sunnier Side of the Office

Facebook To Launch News for Watch

Facebook is prepping to launch a news section for its Watch platform, according to Axios. The social network has reached out to both legacy and digital news publishers to test a daily video feature.

As we’ve written about a few times, Facebook earlier this year announced sweeping changes to its newsfeed algorithm in which it would de-prioritize publishers’ and brands’ posts in favor of posts from users’ Facebook friends. At the time, Facebook said it was trying to combat passive engagement and encourage more meaningful engagement.

“While executives have said they don’t know exactly how they will measure meaningful engagement through comments and shares, creating a news product that’s native to the platform and includes content from vetted publishers will hopefully drive less passive engagement and curb the spread of misinformation on its platform,” said Axios.

This move comes after a year in which Facebook was forced to acknowledge the spread of fake news sites on its platform. As Axios wrote this could be an opportunity for the platforms to guide users to credible news sources, especially during a breaking news cycle.

Creating Balance: The Future of The Economist‘s Readership

By Arthi Veeraragavan

The Economist announced it is actively pursuing an audience that they believe will allow them to increase their global readership: women.

Recent figures put subscribers at 1.4 million, with the gender split heavily under-representing women. Currently, less than 30% of subscribers are female.

To balance this figure, the publisher has partnered with Ipsos, a leading market research company, to conduct an analysis of how various audiences perceive nuances in language style. The purpose of the research is to help increase relevancy amongst women, with the publisher’s EVP of Circulation and Retail Marketing stating, “There are societal elements that people have that mean they perceive communications differently, and we’re adjusting that to improve our relevance among female prospects.”

While it will take time to balance out The Economist’s current gender split, if successful, brands will have a greater opportunity to reach their target audience through the publisher. Additionally, language research could become a tactic leveraged by more publishers that are looking for ways to increase relevancy amongst specific demographic groups.

Networks Are Removing Clutter To Improve TV Viewing

Digiday has a good overview of TV networks cutting down on their ad loads as they work to adjust to consumers’ changing viewing habits.

Fox Networks Group plans to cut advertising on its networks to two minutes per hour by 2020. NBCUniversal said it will reduce the number of ads in its ad pods by 20% and the total ad time by 10% on more than 50 original prime-time programs across its networks. Turner has also made some announcements in this space for TruTV and TNT.

As Digiday points out, these moves are the exception at this point, as TV national ad loads are still on the rise. But these announcements illustrate how networks are realizing that because of the rise of Hulu, Netflix and video-on-demand services, tolerance for ad load time is decreasing.

“The average episode of NBC’s ‘The Voice’ is watched for 35 minutes on live, linear TV,” said Digiday. “That jumps to 43 minutes on connected TV devices and 48 minutes on digital video recorders. With video on demand, time spent is at an average 51 minutes.”

Even with the decrease in ads on network TV, media companies may be able to charge advertisers more, as less commercial time makes the inventory more scarce, and therefore ad rates could actually go up.

This Week in Social: AI With a Side of LOL

By Melissa Santiago

Machines listening to our conversations and mining them for data is not breaking news, but like something straight out a dystopian thriller, Amazon’s Alexa home devices have reportedly been emitting laughter, and people are not amused.

According to The Verge, “Alexa seemed to start laughing without being prompted to wake. People on Twitter and Reddit reported that they thought it was an actual person laughing near them, which is certainly scary if you’re home alone.”

After people started sharing Alexa’s creepy laughter on Twitter and reddit, many owners of the devices opted to disconnect theirs.

Amazon has acknowledged the issue and says it has a fix for the problem: “In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase ‘Alexa, laugh.’ We are changing that phrase to be ‘Alexa, can you laugh?’ which is less likely to have false positives, and we are disabling the short utterance ‘Alexa, laugh.’ We are also changing Alexa’s response from simply laughter to ‘sure, I can laugh’ followed by laughter.”

Seems like an easy problem to solve, but raises the question, why would Alex need to be programmed with laughter? I mean, whatever — as long as she doesn’t start responding with, “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Sunnier Side of the Office

Reality Check Is Coming for Subscription-Thirsty Publishers

Facebook in January announced its sweeping algorithm change: The platform would place more priority on user content than on organic brand and publisher content. This move served as a painful reminder that has long flummoxed publishers — digital ad revenue is often an untenable revenue model, especially when revenue can be so deeply affected by changes in platform algorithms.

Some observers have said in light of this change that a bright spot for publishers is subscription-based revenue. There is one big problem. For most publishers, the subscription-based model isn’t a feasible one to rely on for a significant portion of revenue. Sure, you’ve seen publications like the New York Times tout their subscription growth, but the fact is that it won’t work for most publications.

From Digiday: “The reigning perception is still that most online news can be gotten for free. A 2017 Reuters Institute survey found 16 percent in the U.S. paid for online news in 2017, up from 9 percent in 2016. That sounds impressive, but 79 percent still said it was “somewhat or very unlikely” that they’d pay for online news in the future.”

RIP, LittleThings, a Facebook Algorithm Casualty

 By Katie McKinley

Also related to the Facebook January algorithm change: its first known casualty. While the update is meant to be a positive for consumers, it has already begun impacting publishers that relied heavily on the reach Facebook provides.

Last week, LittleThings, a fast-growing lifestyle site that built its audience by sharing feel-good content on Facebook, shut down after the algorithm change, ultimately putting 100 people out of work. What was once a great case study for building audiences through Facebook is now a cautionary tale for sites depending too much on a singular traffic source.

LittleThings started out as a pet e-commerce site, PetFlow, and grew to become a publisher focusing on feel-good content to engage PetFlow’s largely female customer base. The site specialized in sharing pet videos, underdog stories, acts of kindness and parenting content.

LittleThings’ audience grew to about 50 million uniques in only three years, thanks largely to their use of Facebook as a distribution channel, accounting for about 75% of its traffic.

CEO Joe Speiser often dismissed comparisons to other Facebook-grown publications like Upworthy and explained that publishers need to adapt with Facebook’s changes and “as long as you constantly pivot to that, within the Facebook ecosystem, you’ll be fine.”

 But that success didn’t last, and it’s entirely possible that other publishers who built their success on Facebook will meet similar fates.

Facebook Releases CPMs for 2016 Election Campaign, Everyone Outside Advertising Asks, “What are CPMs?”

Facebook last week saw itself having to respond to a Wired article written by former Facebook employee (and Chaos Monkeys author) Antonio Garcia Martinez, suggesting the Trump 2016 election campaign paid lower CPMs (cost per thousand ad impressions) in Facebook’s ad auction than Hillary Clinton, thanks to its allegedly more engaging creative. Brad Parscale, the digital director of the Trump 2016 campaign, supported that claim in a tweet.

This prompted Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s VP of AR (and former VP of ads), to respond on Twitter (LOL) with a chart that shows the Trump campaign actually paid higher CPMs on most days than the Clinton campaign did.

I’m willing to bet that before last week, most people outside the industry didn’t know what a CPM was, and probably still don’t. But if you’d like a fun rundown of this “spicy drama” about CPMs, read this meme-laden BuzzFeed story.

This Week in Social: When Life Gives You Lemons, Take a Bite and Go Viral  

By Jessica Gaylord

In 2014, the Internet was abuzz with Ice Bucket Challenge videos, a viral sensation that raised awareness and millions of dollars in charity for the ALS Association. 2018 has ushered in a new viral phenomenon for charity called Lemons for Leukemia Challenge.

Friends Chris Betancourt, 20, and Dillon Hill, 19, started the challenge in an attempt to set a World Record for the most donors added to the national bone marrow registry within a 24-hour period. Similar to the Ice Bucket Challenge, the Lemons for Leukemia social media campaign calls on participants to record themselves biting into a raw lemon, post the reaction online, and then challenge others to join them.

Despite setting the bone marrow registry record on March 1, interest in the Lemons for Leukemia Challenge has not soured. From the Good Morning America news team to actors Dwayne Johnson and Danny Devito participating, puckering up for the cause continues to take off online.

Sunnier Side of the Office

Facebook Simplifies Metrics After Data-reporting Issues and Advertiser Confusion

Facebook last week announced it was simplifying some of its metrics for advertisers, a move that comes after some previous metrics mishaps and advertiser confusion over its data.

According to the Wall Street Journal: “Facebook is taking steps to appease advertisers after acknowledging over the past year and a half several discrepancies or flaws in its data, which undermined marketers’ trust in the company’s data-reporting practices. In the wake of those errors, Facebook agreed to undergo audits by the media industry’s measurement watchdog, the Media Rating Council, a year ago.”

One new change will be that Facebook will more clearly mark when data points are estimated or still in development.

Snapchat Plans To Double Number of Video Shows

By Ben Shapiro

Snapchat plans to double the number of publisher produced video shows it will release this year to roughly 80, according to Digiday. This move is likely a way to attract brands seeking to promote premium video content, an opportunity many publishers lost with Facebook’s Newsfeed algorithm update.

In 2016, Snapchat launched its Shows section. Since then, the offering has been dominated by companies like NBCUniversal, A&E Networks, and ESPN, while digital publishers have been encouraged to create magazine-style content for Discover.

Snapchat’s expansion of video content feels very similar to Facebook’s development of Watch, a video streaming service. However, there are key differences that set the two apart:

  • Funding: While Facebook Watch contributes funds to produce shows on their platform, Snapchat will not be subsidizing the production of its programs.

  • Revenue: On Facebook Watch, brands keep 55% of ad revenues whereas those on Snapchat’s platform will keep an even 50%.

  • Rights: Brands will also own the rights to the shows they produce for Snapchat, unlike those that do the same for Facebook Watch.

Scroll Signs On Publishers for Service That Will Curb Their Ads

Here’s an interesting twist on ad blocking. Scroll is a new startup working to get publications on board with charging readers for an ad-free experience, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Readers would pay $5 a month for a subscriptions service that lets them read articles on participating publishers’ websites, without being interrupted by ads. A number of publications have already signed up for the service, including Business Insider, Fusion Media Group, the Atlantic, MSNBC and Slate.

Tony Haile, former Chartbeat CEO, co-founded the company in 2016 amid the rise in popularity of ad blocking software. Publishers have been under intense revenue pressure for years, though that stress has come into sharper focus in recent years, not only as ad blocking gains popularity but as Facebook and Google’s dominance in the digital ad revenue market continues to strengthen.

As the Journal notes, “Scroll is unlikely to stop the use of ad blockers or persuade a majority of news readers to sign up, but it does offer publishers a way to appease consumers who want to avoid the intrusion of advertising while making incremental revenue.”

Snap Inc. and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Tweet

By Melissa Santiago

Is Snap, Inc doing well? According to the stock market and lip gloss maven Kylie Jenner, no. Jenner tweeted last week,”sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.”

Less than 24 hours after her tweet, Snap’s stock fell $1.3 billion in market value, according to Bloomberg. Countless headlines ran saying Jenner killed Snapchat, but that’s likely an oversimplification.

For one, “before Jenner announced her Snapchat betrayal, Wall Street wasn’t so hot on the company,” said Fast Company, adding that after the app’s recent redesign, “Citi downgraded Snap’s stock from ‘neutral’ to ‘sell’ the day before the Jenner tweet.”

Snap’s stock prices have had a tumultuous ride since CEO Evan Spiegel rang the NASDAQ opening bell in March 2017 for its IPO. Its most recent trouble was a data leak that revealed low user numbers. This led to promises to investors that the aforementioned redesign was coming, and along with it, hopefully, user growth.

How have others responded to the redesign? Well, there’s been a flood of memes pointing out how difficult Snapchat’s new design is to navigate. Not to mention a petition, which has 1.2 million signatures, asking Snap to revert to the old version of the app.

Snap responded saying it hears everyone’s complaints but isn’t going to revert back to the old design just because people are complaining.


Sunnier Side of the Office

Google’s Chrome Ad Blocker is Here

Google rolled out its built-in Chrome ad blocker last week, a move that is expected to make a big impact on the web. Its goal is to block annoying ads, such as auto-play ads with sound and pop-up ads, with a particular emphasis on mobile ads. It will also blacklist sites that violate specific guidelines, and then filter all ads on those sites (though so far the number of sites in violation is very small).

“The company notified sites in advance that they would be subject to the filtering, and 42 percent made preemptive changes, the spokesperson says, including Forbes, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and In Touch Weekly,” said Wired.

Google’s evaluation of ads is based on the Coalition For Better Ads standards. The Coalition is a group of major digital advertising players, including Google, Facebook, GroupM, Crieto and many more. The Wall Street Journal reported that “several coalition members said Google conceived of the coalition and conducted the bulk of the research it used to determine which ads should be blocked.”

More than 59% of internet users use Chrome, so it does pretty much force ad-reliant publishers to comply with the standards. Many publishers are welcoming the changes, though some are reportedly somewhat uncomfortable with the company’s power.

Google’s AMP Project Releases New Story Format

By Katharine Painter

In 2015, Google launched the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) Project to accelerate load time of content on mobile devices. In basic terms, the AMP Project is a set of guidelines that a website developer follows when creating mobile web pages to allow nearly instantaneous page loading and smooth scrolling. Today, there are nearly 31 million AMP domains.

Last week, Google announced the launch of the AMP story format, similar to stories on Snapchat and Instagram. The story format is now available for anyone to use; however, CNN, Mashable, and Conde Nast are some of the first adopters. Stories appear within Google search, allowing publishers to connect with consumers as they’re actively seeking information.

As consumers are spending more time on their mobile devices, it’s important for publishers to tell an intriguing story, while also fulfilling expectations of a quick loading, smooth user experience.

While ads aren’t currently available in this format, a Google spokesperson mentioned that details around advertising will be released in the upcoming weeks. Since stories will be created from scratch, it’ll be interesting to see if publishers use resources to develop new posts. If they do, brands will have new ways to incorporate themselves within this content.

Audi Wins Three Graphis Awards

Good news for our friends at Audi! We worked with Audi and photographers Reuben Wu and RJ Muna to create stunning photos for Audi’s Instagram feed. Not content with the same old automotive photography, we traveled everywhere — from the Ice Castles in New Hampshire to Transylvania to the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah — to create magazine-editorial worthy photographs for Instagram.

We’re delighted Audi’s trip to Transylvania won Gold and Silver in the Automotive category. The visit to the Mars Desert Research Station series (above) took home a Silver, also in the Automotive category.

Congrats to all!

How Facebook’s Vision for Democracy Crumbled

By Jessica Gaylord

Wired released an in-depth report last week detailing how Facebook’s defensive, confused behavior led the platform to “disaster.” Around two years ago, Facebook wanted to be the platform for breaking news. However, it’s clear that Facebook did not carefully consider the implications of becoming a dominant force in the news industry. Mark Zuckerberg saw Facebook as an open, neutral platform. He had to, or else Facebook would be responsible for the content its users put out into the world based on Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

To maintain this image, as well as avoid regulation, Facebook started presenting every piece of information to its users regardless of its veracity. Sensational headlines and fake news became favored in the algorithm, which Russian operatives took advantage of for the 2016 presidential election. But Facebook didn’t catch this until it was too late—leading it to only now take steps to rectify the damage. The article is worth reading, even if you don’t personally use Facebook.

Sunnier Side of the Office

Twitter Soars After Ad Spend, Video Content Increases

Twitter’s earnings report last week surely made investors happy. The company posted its first revenue growth in four quarters, driven by improvements to its app and added video content that are persuading advertisers to boost spending on the social network, according to Bloomberg. It also reported profit for the first time, after aggressively slashing spending.

From Bloomberg: “The report adds to positive momentum in recent months for Twitter, which spent the second half of 2017 explaining how Russian-linked accounts — including automated bots — influenced content on its platform around the 2016 U.S. presidential election. [CEO Jack] Dorsey has been working to broaden Twitter from a microblogging site into a destination for users to see ‘what’s happening now’ by striking live-streaming partnerships with news outlets and sports leagues.”

Some observers have questioned whether Facebook’s pain is Twitter’s gain. With Facebook’s recent news that it’s de-prioritizing brands and publishers’ organic posts, you could argue that marketers may find Twitter more attractive. It’s possible that’s true to some degree because brands and publishers still have a shot at organic reach on Twitter. But then again, it’s not necessarily a zero-sum game wherein one platform’s changes equal a total win for another.

After all, many marketers are probably spending on both platforms. And with Facebook’s tweak, the fact that brands’ organic posts will be seen less may prompt marketers to spend even more on Facebook in the form of paid posts.

Who Is Poppy?

YouTube stars have come into the spotlight recently, and not always for good reasons. A few weeks back, we wrote about YouTuber Logan Paul, who faced backlash after he posted a video of a dead body — complete with callous commentary — during a recent trip to Japan.

But there are far more interesting YouTubers who pull in hundreds of millions (or even billions) of views and sometimes millions in ad dollars. New York magazine’s The Cut last week profiled one such luminary: Poppy, a mysterious YouTuber whose persona leads some to wonder whether she is a robot and whether she’s satirizing YouTube fame or if she’s earnestly pursuing it. (Who knows!)

“Is she a robot, a troll, a high-concept art project, a postmodern cultural critique, a cult leader, a clever satirist?” asks The Cut. “Do I get the joke? Is there a joke? What is reality, even? But somehow, Poppy has confused people into paying attention to her.”

In reality, she’s an actual human, probably inspired by the likes of Andy Warhol, Banksy and Matthew Barney. She and her “collaborator-slash-Svengali-figure” Titanic Sinclair, are keenly aware how to use an identity shrouded in vagueness to their video-view (and ad dollar) advantage. She’s even becoming a pop star now, touring to promote her album. Her mystique has prompted countless YouTube conspiracy-theory videos (of course) that declare she’s a robot and/or a member of the illuminati. Again, she is a human being.

For a fascinating look at Poppy and YouTube fame, read the whole story here.

Amazon’s Echo Look Joins Forces With Vogue and GQ 

By Zuli Mohammad

Amazon is continuing to exhibit ways in which their line of Echos can work towards supporting e-commerce. Most recently, their “Echo Look” line, which includes a camera and companion app, announced its first ever publisher collaboration with Vogue and GQ that will debut on Feb. 19.

This collaboration will allow these publications to insert everything from fashion recommendations to celebrity content, some of it being shoppable, within the Echo Look’s companion app. The most exciting part of this collaboration will be how it will serve in increasing sales for certain brands. Additionally, the publisher will be receiving a cut of the sales made.

Currently, the Echo Look is only used by a small percentage of the 31 million people that use Alexa-powered devices. It is also important to note that purchasing the Echo Look can only be done after requesting an invitation (and Amazon has yet to disclose how many it has sent out), so it is unclear how many people this test will reach.

M/H is eager to see how these tests with GQ and Vogue rollout, as the results (positive or negative) will help to establish further ways in which brands can integrate into AI and help drive sales on an emerging platform.

This Week in Social: Platform User Growth Is A Long Way From Stable

Social-media platform growth is big news these days as media dollars shift from traditional channels to social. Instagram is the front-runner for platform growth, but there are deeper levels to those numbers and they paint a clearer picture of what ages are contributing to new user growth. They also can reveal where people under 25 are consuming media.

While Instagram has seen steady growth and the news is full of headlines about how Instagram released their Stories feature and essentially killed Snap — Snap isn’t done yet. According to Ad Age via eMarketer, “… Snapchat might be the new destination of choice among youth, according to eMarketer. Snapchat already has more 12- to 24-year-old users than Instagram, and is still adding more users in that age range than Instagram.”

The two more fragile platforms, Twitter and Snap, both reported positive revenue results to shareholders last week while Facebook reported the first daily user decline for the first time in recent memory. What are marketers to make of this rapidly changing landscape and how can they avoid whiplash from all the chaos? Partner with social-savvy media teams and agencies with nimble teams who are fully immersed in this constantly changing landscape.