This is an extract from The Drum’s Future of Media briefing. You can subscribe to it here if you’d like it your inbox once a week.
Afternoon. John McCarthy (Twitter, Linkedin, email) here. We're through the Super Bowl now and the inevitable conversation around the ads' value (more to come) has once again reared its head. With an Olympics and a Euros ahead of us (hopefully), there's year's worth of big media moments to buy.
We looked into marketers' media spending priorities, and there's a theme emerging of increasing discernment. Maybe they've learned their lessons, or maybe their hand was forced by privacy regs and the death of the cookie.
Also this week, I had some real talk with a Brand Advance, a media diversity network frank about its growing pains, and the heads of Taboola and Outbrain about their post-merger-that-never-was objectives.
Not so chummy
Outbrain and Taboola were once primed for a $2bn-valued mega-merger. It didn't quite come off but both still have big ambitions. One exec pointed out I've spent more time making jokes about content recommendation engines than actually writing about them - so that was as good a time as any to get both bosses on the ringer to go through the historical negative perceptions of the space, how they'll attract more serious advertisers, and their plans to build something bigger, and better.
For me, the most interesting story here is the content recommendation engine's role as premium media pivots (back?) to paid. Will publishers want these feeds throwing the open web into bespoke experiences built to charm a subscription out of a reader? Right now, publishers need to balance quality perception vs immediate revenue but soon they could be using such platforms as a pillar of their strategy. Content recommendation + metered paywall is a fascinating mix and something both firms are working towards.
The media diversity band-aid
In 2020, my inbox was aflood with marketing companies touting their improvements in investing in diverse media and, sometimes, staff. To help them do just that, said marketing companies often turned to the services of fledgeling media diversity network Brand Advance. This lot was absolutely on it. It felt like an entire industry was leaning on them to solve one of the most pressing issues of modern times.
At the start of the lockdown, the company had five members of staff. By the end of 2020 it had more than 100. But it hasn't all been smooth sailing, with some staff complaining of an uncompromising environment. Chris Kenna, the boss, and diversity media consultant Eberé Anosike, talked me through the firm's growing pains.
What struck me was that this wasn't just another agency growth story. Instilled with a huge sense of purpose to support minority media and increase the diversity of the industry, for Kenna, Brand Advance doesn't have the privilege of failure. And that's fueled its aggressive expansion.
Super Bowl. We liked a savvy five-second spot from Reddit. It was a wordy Reddit post no one had time to read without pausing. It's playing the underdog, saving some cash, and we're all here for it.
We have the rest of the ads here. Catch up with them quickly.
One trend that was prominent was the sheer amount of celebs on show. We asked top marketers how to get the most out of a star-studded Super Bowl spot.
In a nostalgia-driven year, Cadillac’s ‘Edgar Scissorhands’ reboot is well worth watching.
Hot take time. Is a Super Bowl spot worth the cost in 2021? If ads are flushed down a toilet bowl to get distributed to mass audiences, the Super Bowl spot is a gold-plated toilet bowl. You can fight over the quality of what is flushed but the simple fact it was distributed by a prestigious golden bowl says a lot of positive things about the flusher. If you can afford a golden loo, you should get one too.
What buyers want
Really stupid metaphors aside, there has been a “dramatic shift” in the priorities of media buyers, from focusing on the cheapest ad space to quality and effective targeting according to the 2021 ID Comms Global Trading Survey, which in December polled 162 media, marketing and procurement professionals who manage $20bn of global ad spend between them.
Up the agenda: targeting, quality media, auditing. Talent remains the biggest barrier to in-housing although access to quality data shot up.
Twitter ad revenues exceed $1bn as CEO says Trump ban is forever [only expects modest impact’ from Apple's looming iOS14 privacy changes]
TikTok races ahead of Facebook, Google and Twitter in fight against harmful content [says IPG Mediabrands]
PSA sees Harry Potter and The Joker ask US citizens to mask up [WarnerMedia brings out the big guns]
Will the GB News channel be a hit with advertisers? [The pre-emptive boycott has been interesting...]
Polish media suspend reporting to protest planned tax on advertising [well that's one way to bankrupt the press]
Bloomberg Media expects to hit $100 million in consumer subscription revenue in 2021 [It will quadruple subs to 400k from 2019]
Rethinking the media agency [David Gaines CEO and founding partner at Media by Mother talks about what clients are REALLY buying]
Call to action! Are you a senior media exec with strong thoughts on the challenges facing the industry and fancy contributing or participating in a Q&A? Get in touch. That's all for this week. If you missed the last issue, read it here. And you can subscribe to some of our other briefings here.