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Future of Media: Media sales adapt, great walled gardens of China, how to win on TikTok


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

April 8, 2021 | 8 min read

This is an extract from The Drum’s Future of Media briefing. You can subscribe to it here if you’d want the full thing in your inbox once a week from media editor John McCarthy (Twitter, Linkedin, email).


The media sales pitch

Last week we explored how media companies are building more useful products out of first-party data and audience insights for a market weaning off of the third-party cookie.

That spurred me on to look at how the big publishers and their ever-evolving sales houses are selling these ideas.

Big publishers have a chance to seize back some of that revenue lost over the last two decades to the tech giants while they pursued low-value scale. They need to develop unique propositions and loving long-term relationships. The only issue is, a bit like that show The Batchelor (which I've never watched, honest) the bachelors (publishers) all look and sound quite similar and the brands have proven time and time again to like to shop around.

So with that said, we asked the likes of CNN, Washington Post and Reach to talk us through the coming sales race. They speak of 'true partnerships', equity sharing and even 'marriages'. The Bachelor would approve.

The great walls of China

Alibaba is currently the largest digital ad seller in China, with its ad revenues accounting for more than 32% of the market in 2019. Together, tech giants Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT) occupy more than 60% of the total digital advertising market in the country. They're not quite as entrenched as the duopoly in the west.

But there's change afoot with a curmudgeoning Chinese state looking to bash any monopolistic advantage.

Darren Woolley, the founder and global chief executive of TrinityP3, puts it concisely: “In the US, the government is considering using antitrust laws to break up Google and Facebook et al. In the EU they are using concerns over consumer privacy to curtail their reach and influence. In Australia, they used the funding of public interest journalism as the lever to bring them to the task. In China, the same struggle is going on and the government is using its power and influence to achieve the same result.”

Anyway, this is a hugely interesting read from my APAC colleague Shawn Lim. I won't spoil the best stuff, so read it here.

I'm out of TikTok puns

We've been writing a lot about TikTok this past year. I may be out of puns that rhyme with TikTok having used them all on this newsletter at some point, but that hasn't stopped our trends editor Rebecca Stewart from exploring how brands can best activate on the platform.

Stewart notes that TikTok's strength is in influencer marketing. Research acquired by The Drum found that Tiktok had seen a 164% increase in sponsored posts and a 481% increase in engagements in 2020. It is the only platform to have seen substantial growth in this area, with paid-for influencer posts down 23%, 10% and 39% for Instagram, YouTube and Facebook respectively.

More here.

Farewell, Captain

Former Mediacom strategy man and previous IPA Scotland chair 'captain' Murray Calder sadly passed away from cancer earlier this week. He was beloved by many in the marketing community on Twitter (an almost impossible feat) so I thought I'd take this moment to add to the chorus of those paying their respects and point you to The Drum's tribute. Calder became a beacon of positivity and touched the lives of people he'd never physically met during the pandemic. He entertained many with his Spotify playlists (I've got one rocking right now) and recently curated a playlist with help from the industry to support Maggie’s Centres, which had supported him through diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

You can donate and add a track here. Bon voyage, cap.

More essential reading

That's all for this week. If you missed the last issue, read it here. And you can subscribe to our other briefings here. We're always looking for clever contributors and sponsors who want to talk to this cracking audience, so if that sounds like you, don't hesitate to get in touch.

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