YouTube tightens ad controls
YouTube finally made a meaningful update to how it thinks about monetising content on the video platform. It follows a year that has seen swathes of advertisers boycott the site over mounting concerns about where and when their ads are appearing. The wide-ranging changes include a tightening up of the type of content that adverts can appear next to, manual reviewing of all videos on premium content in Google Preferred, better controls for advertisers and more transparency.
The move shows Google is listening to the concerns of advertisers, certainly much more than it used to. The updates were broadly welcomed by the industry. But there is still some way to go to assuage advertisers’ concerns, particularly around third-party verification on brand safety and quite what form the monitoring of Google Preferred content will actually take.
Evian joins the fight against plastic waste
The fight to cut down on plastic waste is gaining pace and brands are quickly joining up. The week started with Iceland pledging to cut plastic packaing from its own-brand products by 2023 and was followed by McDonald’s promising that all its guest packaging would come from renewable, recycled or certified sources by 2025.
Another addition to the fight is bottled water brand Evian with its commitment to use 100% recycled plastic in its bottles and pledge to become a “circular brand”. Evian’s move is perhaps the biggest because it is calling on others to join its mission, admitting cutting plastic waste cannot be done on its own and will need the co-operation of governments, big brands and consumers.
It’s true that plastic waste is high on both the political and consumer agenda at the moment. But that doesn’t mean we should see brands’ promises as trying to jump on a bandwagon. As Evian says, “For us, it is part of our DNA and the way that we work. It’s not something that is a marketing campaign, it completely embodies who we are and is something we have been working on for many years.”
A gloomy outlook for marketing budgets in 2018
The ad industry proved surprisingly resilient in 2017, with budgets continuing to rise and the IPA upping its forecast for spend last year. But that resilience will be sorely tested in 2018 as a combination of weak consumer spending, inflation, rising costs and worries about Brexit and the economy hit investment.
The latest update from the IPA’s quarterly Bellwether shows that while more marketers are still expecting to raise budgets than cut them, that number is shrinking. Hiring rates are also slowing down, while even digital advertising is seeing growth decelerate.
Predicted growth of 0.3% for this year is worrying, particularly given this year will get a World Cup bounce. Time for marketers to show that marketing drives growth and adds value, rather than being a cost to be cut.
M&S looks to boost customer engagement as it overhauls marketing team
Marks & Spencer has had a difficult few years. Clothing sales have failed to pick up despite numerous attempts and now food is struggling as CEO Steve Rowe admits its offering is often too expensive and it faces growing competition from premium ranges, both at the big four grocers and the discounters.
There is clearly work to be done behind the scenes on supply chain, infrastructure and ranges; but M&S is also turning to marketing to help turn the business around. And a restructure of the marketing team gives a clue as to where the retailer’s focus lies going forward.
Former Tesco marketer Sharry Cramond will head up food and hospitality marketing and Nathan Ansell will move from loyalty to clothing and home, while Rob Weston adds a focus on the customer to his role as brand director.
As marketing boss Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne puts it: “The new team structure, coupled with our one-brand approach, will ensure that we are faster, more commercial and acutely focused on our customers.”
The first industry-wide standard for direct mail
The direct mail sector finally has its own industry-wide standard after the DMA, IPA, ISBA, Royal Mail and Whistl joined up to create the Joint Industry Committee for Mail (JICMail). The move means the channel will be able to record standardised audience data for the first time, with the organisation measuring readership, reach and frequency of exposure for each piece of direct mail delivered in the UK, whether addressed or unaddressed.
The JICMail methodology, similar to that of BARB’s data on TV audiences, involves a nationally representative research sample of 1,000 people run by Kantar TNS, who photograph what comes through their letterbox and record their subsequent actions over four weeks. The hope is it will make a big difference to the perception and evaluation of direct mail as an advertising channel and help media planners.
The move is long overdue for the direct mail industry, which has struggled to attract budgets as marketers look online to reach their audiences. But, as Chris Combebale, CEO of the DMA, points out, online is now the only sector without independent verification.