2017.04.21 Last Week in Digital Media

Given every week for the past month has started with brand safety, this week I’ll end on the topic instead.

  • Facebook’s Global Developer Conference “F8” was held during the week in San Jose. In one sense, you got a real feel for the fact that Facebook is squaring off against Snapchat with constant references to “cameras” and “augmented reality”. That said, Facebook is clearly making huge inroads in the AR, VR and AI worlds which put it significantly ahead of what Snapchat publicly talks about. Wired has a good write up of everything announced by FB. For UM and our clients, the most immediately relevant news is the Camera Effects platform which enables anyone to create Snapchat-like lens/frames that can be applied to Messenger.
  • One of the subtext’s of F8 is just how important FB Messenger is becoming. From the lens/frames, to gaming, to advances in AI. In fact, there was a comment at F8 that appeared directly squared at Google. Facebook’s Messenger Assistant “M” is being geared to answer basic questions that can be gleaned from a company or brands Facebook page e.g. store hours, sales, offers, etc. Called “Smart Replies”, it opens any page to becoming bot content. Facebook then made the comment that Messenger is the Whitepages and with “M” could be the Yellowpages too. Given so much of Google search is essentially Yellowpages like advertising, this feels like a potential to shift power (and ad spend) away from Google and to Messenger as a platform.
  • Amazon’s Alexa developer policy was updated during the week, banning ads in everything except in music and news briefings. There’s various speculation as to why Amazon has taken this step, from the benign “ensuring the user experience is good” to the theory that “Amazon wants to control the Alexa ad stack and only send people to Amazon”. Time will tell which is true.
  • In the Google Home universe, Google updated Home to recognize multiple voices. So now when you ask “what’s in my calendar” it replies with “your” calendar and not that of whoever originally setup Google Home. I have had a play with this and can confirm multiple voices are recognized (even if you try and mask your voice).
  • Major news of the week was the acquisition of ad verification company MOAT by Oracle. The purchase price is rumored to be $850MM. While UM doesn’t have clients who actively use MOAT, it does raise risks around independence given Oracle sits across the entire adtech supply chain.
  • Snapchat continues to build out an ad and general product offerings. On the general product side, you Snapchat now lets you drop AR images onto any photo or video (including your personal Bitmoji). On the adtech front, Snapchat is planning to announce a genuine self-service platform for buying ads during the newfronts (this is in addition to the existing ability to buy lenses).
  • The most surreal moment of the past week goes to Google, where Bloomberg reported that Google will offer ad filtering capability by default in the next version of Google Chrome. While this may seem odd given Google’s business is ad funded, the key takeaway is “filtered”. Filtering vs Blocking is going to be a key debate in our industry over the next few years. This is broader than just getting rid of annoying ads and improving user experience, it’s also about reducing the tech-load on publishers.