2018.03.23 Last Week in Digital Media

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica incident dominated the headlines and has implications across the entire industry. So this week, this email is part editorial on the event and then other industry news.

Summary: A good primer on the controversy can be found on Vox. Cambridge Analytica obtained a substantial amount of Facebook user data through questionable means. Total Facebook users impacted ranges from 30MM – 50MM. Despite Cambridge Analytica giving undertakings to Facebook that they would delete the data, investigative journalists discovered this was not the case. Further, Cambridge Analytica used the data in marketing for Trump’s Presidential campaign. Vox has a really simple diagram that shows how it’s all connected.

Facebook Response: Facebook has responded by terminating Cambridge Analytica’s access to data, offering to cooperate with authorities and hiring forensic auditors to understand what data was not deleted.  Mark Zuckerberg was interviewed on CNN (full transcript), offered to appear before Congress (an invitation letter is coming) and showed openness to the regulation of online advertising. Zuckerberg also said sorry (but too late according to some) and published full-page apology letters in newspapers on Sunday (3/25) in both the UK and the US. Facebook’s share price has also suffered.

Facebook has committed to stricter controls over what data can be accessed by 3rd parties, better and simplified privacy controls and full transparency and disclosure to users whose data was misused. All of these changes are “coming soon”. From a client perspective, we have issued a recommendation on proactive steps that can be taken – please contact me if you didn’t get a copy

Public Reaction: Facebook has been criticized for being slow to make public statements and the search term “delete Facebook” (source: Mashable) is trending at 5-year highs.

Advertiser Reaction: Advertiser and brand reactions are somewhat muted if you compare it to the immediate reactions around last years brand safety issues. Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP Of Global Marketing did a Q&A on AdWeek where she noted that the advertising community has been “supportive”.  Mozilla (makers of Firefox) have pulled advertising from Facebook, Sonos is pausing ads on Facebook, Instagram, Google and twitter for a week (money is being donated to an internet privacy group) and the band Massive Attack are temporarily withdrawing their Facebook presence. Elon Musk deleted the Facebook presence of Tesla and SpaceX but there’s also an ongoing personal feud between Musk and Zuckerberg, so this could be somewhat opportunistic. All cited concerns about data, privacy, transparency, and accountability.

Personal Opinion: The incident is a wake-up call for how the industry uses and shares data and that means everyone – Individuals, Advertisers, and Agencies. It highlights how important trust is when it comes to using data and that we all have a responsibility for ensuring data is used appropriately and for good. If you want my full perspective, read my post on AdExchanger about data, trust. and that “the line between good and bad use of data is the moral, ethical and value compass of each and every individual working in this industry.”

It’s going to take months for this to play out and there will be impact beyond Facebook (GDPR comes into effect in Europe May 25th, which will add to the complexity). I am happy to answer any questions you, your clients or teams may have about the incident. I’ll continue to monitor the news and share-back all information.

If you’re on Facebook it’s a very good time to check what apps you have given permission to access your data. That’s also true for Google and twitter. If you don’t know the app, don’t use it, or don’t like the permissions it has – delete the app and revoke access. Same goes for app permissions on your phone.

Now onto the other news, because there’s more to digital and media than Facebook.


  • Snapchat updated Snap Maps with a feature called Map Explore. This lets users see what their friends are up to with Snapchat automatically providing a status based on where you are and it thinks you are doing. You can enable “Ghost Mode” to turn off or selective share the information.
  • Instagram continues to play with how the feed timeline is presented. The change will help surface new posts with a “new posts” button that will refresh the feed as well as more generally giving priority to new posts in the timeline.
  • Pinterest is expanding the availability of their shopping ads to more retailers (previously it was a limited beta). Pinterest shopping ads make use of real-time data feeds and provide additional discovery tools to help drive sales. Pinterest is also expanding the “Shop the Look” pins to additional markets (UK, France, Germany, and Japan.
  • The next version of Google’s Chrome Browser (66) will block certain types of autoplay video by default. The watch out for advertisers is that video with sound on will only be allowed to autoplay if a user consistently watches videos on the site (as measured by Google). This will come into effect with the mid-April Chrome release. So keep an eye on video performance in April-May.
  • Pandora acquired AdWizz, an audio adtech platform for $145MM. AdWizz’s capability is around dynamic ad insertion in-stream as well as embedding within other audio (e.g. Podcasts). AdWizz tech powers ad products on Spotify, iHeart, and TuneIn.
  • Google has formally announced their News Initiative. The goal of the program is to help fight fake news, help news sites continue to be commercially viable, and create new tools to help journalists. Google is pledging to invest $300 million into the program over the next 3 years.

Research & Stats

  • MAGNA Global published their advertising industry forecasts (PDF) with digital on track to represent more than half of all advertising dollars. Mobile is driving the bulk of the growth in digital. There are some interesting observations about the “Vertical Divide” which is how some verticals (CPG, Pharma, Movies) are favoring traditional while others digital (Technology, Retail, Finance).
  • eMarketer published their digital ad revenue forecasts. Of note, it has Amazon and Snapchat on trend to grow share at the expense of every player in the industry.

Have a good week.


Joshua Lowcock

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Joshua Lowcock

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