YouTube, McDonald’s, ITV: Everything that matters this morning

Good morning and welcome to Marketing Week’s round-up of the news that matters in the marketing world today.

YouTube

YouTube sued for LGBT discrimination

YouTube and parent company Google are being sued by a group of US LGBT vloggers for discriminating against LGBT-themed videos and creators.

YouTube has been accused of removing advertising from videos featuring ‘trigger words’ such as ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’, labelling LGBT-themed videos as ‘sensitive’ or ‘mature’ and restricting them from appearing in search results, and not doing enough to filter harassment and hate speech in the comments.

It has also been claimed that Google refused to let the creators of GNews! advertise their show because it contained “shocking” content, with one Google ad representative telling its producers that “sexuality content about the gays” broke its advertising rules.

“Our policies have no notion of sexual orientation or gender identity and our systems do not restrict or demonetise videos based on these factors of the inclusion of terms like ‘gay’ or ‘transgender’,” says YouTube spokesperson Alex Joseph.

“In addition, we have strong policies prohibiting hate speech and we quickly remove content that violates out policies and terminate accounts that do so repeatedly.”

READ MORE: YouTube: LGBT video-makers sue claiming discrimination

Brands are blacklisting hard news sites

McDonald’s, Subway and Colgate-Palmolive are among a growing number of brands blocking digital ad placements in hard news, putting further pressure on news publishing revenues.

The Wall Street Journal reports Colgate-Palmolive is blocking online ad placements in news stories, while McDonald’s is blocking hard news from its automated ad purchases in the US.

In response to the claim, a Colgate spokesperson said: “In general, our media buying goals are to advertise where people are most likely to be receptive to what we have to say.”

Subway, meanwhile, has blacklisted 70,000 websites, including most hard news outlets, while used-car retailer CarMax blocks online ads it purchases through automated systems from appearing next to news content in categories such as ‘disasters’, ‘extreme violence’ and ‘inflammatory politics’.

Of the 2,637 advertisers running campaigns with Integral Ad Science in June, 1,085 blocked the word ‘shooting’, 560 blocked ‘Trump’, 314 blocked ‘ISIS’, 207 blocked ‘Russia’ and 83 blocked ‘Obama’.

Integral Ad Science says the average number of keywords its advertisers blocked in the first quarter of the year was 261, with one brand blocking a total of 1,553 words.

READ MORE: Advertisers Blacklist Hard News, Including Trump, Fearing Backlash

ITV launches Rugby World Cup trailer

ITV is inviting viewers to ‘Rise for the Rugby World Cup’ in its 2019 World Cup trailer, which launches today.

Inspired by elements of modern Japanese artistic culture, each fan’s dream takes a different journey through anime, drawing on influences including renowned Manga artists Katsuhiro Otomo (known for directing cyber-punk anime film Akira) and Satoshi Kon (who co-wrote and directed anime film Paprika), as well as 16-bit games such as Street Fighter and Tekken and classic anime, such as Battle of the Planets and Dragon Ball Z.

The film, created by ITV Creative in collaboration with Stink Films and Golden Wolf, features the track Goku by Jaden Smith, which was also inspired by anime with its reference to the titular character from the Dragon Ball series.

“Because the Rugby World Cup is taking place in Japan for the first time, we already know it’s going to be like nothing else rugby fans have experienced before,” says Chris Anstey, ITV marketing manager.

“The campaign aims to tap into the way the tournament grips imaginations and capture the promise of a spectacular event awaiting on the horizon in September on ITV.”

Pringles unveils new eSports sponsorship

Pringles is the latest sponsor of the League of Legends EU Championship (LEC), the biggest eSports league in Europe.

To celebrate the culmination of the very first LEC season, which launched in January 2019, Pringles cans across Europe will carry a unique code that will allow people to enter an exclusive Legacy skin. Two skins will be given away every day until the finals in Athens on 8 September, amounting to 115 million cans.

Pringles will also offer a raffle until the end of September, which will offer two people the chance to win an exclusive match day experience at the studio in Berlin, which is where the LEC began.

“We’ve been steadily developing our esports foot print to gain stronger brand recognition with the community,” says Dominik Schafhaupt, marketing manager snacks northern Europe at Pringles’s parent company Kellogg.

“We’ve been present at a series of major tournaments generating content and arranging activations but it’s important we keep expanding our outreach and that we’re able to speak to esports fans across different titles. We’ve seen the energy and passion of the LEC fans and were excited to work with the team at Riot to help us build our relationship with their community for the Summer Finals.”

Asda blames sales decline on Brexit uncertainty

Asda has cited ongoing uncertainty around Brexit as a key reason for a decline in sales in the second quarter of the year.

Like-for-like sales fell 0.3% compared with the same period last year, which the supermarket says was amplified by the impact of the hot weather and national sporting events during Q2 2018.

“If ever a case study on the impact the mood of the nation has on UK spending habits were needed, this quarter has provided it,” says Asda CEO and president Roger Burnley.

“Consumer confidence levels are at an almost six-year low – due in no small part to the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and amplified by the impact of weather and tracking against national sporting events in the same period last year. As a result our non-food business has been challenged during the period, however we’re satisfied that our food business has continued to perform well and our online growth continues to outpace the market.”

During the second quarter, Asda invested £22m in refurbishing nine stores, as well as extending its mobile Scan and Go to 25 stores and adding 35 new products to its vegan range.

It also developed new partnerships, including extending its offer of Sushi Daily counters and working with JustEat on trialling a one-hour grocery home delivery service.

“While I remain proud of our continued strategic focus in the quarter, I am under no illusions as to how challenging this market remains for all retailers – and that we must continue to maintain our relentless focus on delivering a consistently trusted experience for our customers and having the most efficient operating model possible,” Burnley adds.

“We continue to work through our contract changes with colleagues and whilst we recognise that change is always difficult, we continue to believe this is the right and necessary approach for us to take in order to remain a sustainable business that delivers for customers.”

READ MORE: Asda releases Q2 results with continued focus on innovation

Thursday, 15 August

WeWork

WeWork prepares to ramp up marketing spend as IPO looms

Office space provider WeWork is preparing to ramp up its marketing investment ahead of its impending IPO next month.

Documents filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission show that sales and marketing expenses at WeWork’s parent organisation, WeCo, increased from $139.9m (£116m) in the six months to 30 June 2018 to $320m (£265.2m) during the same period this year.

In the filing, WeCo explains that “maintaining, promoting and positioning” its brand will depend on its ability to provide a “consistently high-quality member experience, and on our marketing and community-building efforts.”

The document also highlighted the company’s goal to move away from a reliance on word-of-mouth marketing: “Historically, many of our members have signed up for memberships because of positive word-of-mouth referrals by existing members, which has reduced our need to rely on traditional marketing efforts.

“To the extent that we are unable to maintain a positive brand reputation organically, we may need to rely more heavily on traditional marketing efforts to attract new members, which would increase our sales and marketing expenses both in absolute terms and as a percentage of our revenue.”

In the same filing, WeCo revealed it made a $900m (£746m) loss in the first six months of this year as it invested in global expansion across 111 cities. Despite doubling its revenues to $1.54bn (£1.3bn), WeWork has not turned a profit since it was founded in 2010.

READ MORE: WeWork plans to ramp up marketing spend as it goes public 

Home Office under fire for ‘offensive’ #knifefree campaign

The Home Office has been slammed by Labour MPs for a new campaign aimed at dissuading young people from carrying weapons.

More than 321,000 fried chicken boxes will be replaced with #knifefree branding at 210 chicken shop outlets in England and Wales, including Morley’s, Dixy Chicken and Chicken Cottage, following a pilot at 15 branches of Morley’s in March.

The boxes will be printed with real life stories of young people who chose to get into boxing and music, rather than carrying a knife. The #knifefree campaign adverts will also be shown on screens in many of the shops, having already been rolled out this summer at the Wireless and Lovebox music festivals. The campaign will also appear at the Notting Hill carnival.

While the government claims the campaign will emphasise the “tragic consequences of carrying a knife”, Labour MP David Lammy accused the Home Office of using taxpayers’ money to “sponsor an age-old trope.”

He told The Guardian: “Boris Johnson has already called black people ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles’. Now his government is pushing the stereotype that black people love fried chicken. This ridiculous stunt is either explicitly racist or, at best, unfathomably stupid.

“I know it might cost a bit more time, effort and money, but I would love it if you would announce a programme of investment in our local communities instead of spending five minutes on a harmful gimmick.”

The shadow home secretary Diane Abbott also criticised the campaign, tweeting: “Instead of investing in a public health approach to violent crime, the Home Office have opted for yet another crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign. They would do better to invest in our communities not demonise them.”

READ MORE: Anti-knife branding in chicken shops ‘racist or stupid’, says MP

Facebook takes ‘proactive stance’ against dangerous content in private groups

WhatsappFacebook is taking a “proactive stance” to detect dangerous content being shared on private groups amid fears such communities are spreading extremism and fake news.

The social media giant is introducing a ‘group quality’ function that gives admins an overview of content Facebook has removed and flagged to them for community standards violations, including fake news. With this tool, group admins will have greater visibility into what is happening in their communities.

If a group member repeatedly violates Facebook’s standards, admins will be required to review their posts before anyone else can see them and if a post is approved that breaks the rules, this will count against the whole group. Admins have the option to share which rule a member broke when declining a pending post, removing a comment or muting a member.

There will now be just two settings for groups – public or private. Public groups allow anyone to see who’s in the group and everything that’s shared there, while in private groups only members can see who else is in the group and what they’ve posted.

Facebook also wants to offer people more clarity when joining a group, including information on who the admins and moderators are, and whether the group has gone by any other names in the past. Users can preview a group they are invited to join before accepting or declining the invitation.

“Private groups can be important places for people to come together and share around a range of personal topics, like identifying as LGBTQ or discussing challenges around a rare health condition,” says Tom Alison, Facebook vice-president of engineering.

“But being in a private group doesn’t mean that your actions should go unchecked. We have a responsibility to keep Facebook safe, which is why our community standards apply across Facebook, including in private groups.”

READ MORE: Facebook’s crackdown on dangerous content in groups could backfire, experts say

Guinness celebrates pioneers of Japanese women’s rugby

Ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in September, Guinness has released the latest film in its ‘Made of More’ series telling the story of the female rugby players who defied the conventions of 1980s Japan.

Set in Tokyo in 1989, the film shows the women of Liberty Fields RFC playing the game they love despite having no coach, no doctor and receiving ridicule and hostility from all angles.

This is Guinness’s latest piece of creative celebrating female rugby players after the drinks giant marked its sponsorship of the Women’s Six Nations with the release of the ‘Sisters’ campaign, which told the story of Harriet and Bridget Millar-Mills who played against each other for England and Scotland.

M&S slammed for social post taken near shuttered store

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has been criticised for promoting a photo of a model posing metres away from its shuttered Northampton store.

The retailer posted the image on Facebook of the model – an ‘Insider’ employee who promotes M&S on social – taken just 321 metres away from its boarded-up Northampton store.

The retailer closed the store in August 2018 after having a presence in the town for 111 years, as part of a wider plan to shutter 100 stores nationwide by 2022.

In a statement, M&S confirmed the model was an employee and said it recognised the impact the store closure had on the community, but stated that “reshaping” the business is “vital for M&S and the 80,000 colleagues it employs”.

READ MORE: Marks and Spencer: Northampton photo shoot causes upset

Wednesday, 14 August

Uber hires Google exec to head up marketing two weeks after mass layoffs

Just two weeks after laying off 400 of its in-house marketers, Uber has recruited Google’s Thomas Ranese as vice-president of global marketing in the latest overhaul of its marketing leadership team.

Ranese joins Uber after spending more than a decade with Google where he held various roles and will be responsible for marketing all of the company’s products and businesses internationally, while also heading up its brand, creative, research and regional marketing teams.

He will report to Jill Hazelbaker, Uber’s senior vice-president of marketing and public affairs.

According to AdAge, Uber says it has no plans to replace former CMO Rebecca Messina following her exit in June after less than a year in the role.

READ MORE: Uber hires Google exec Ranese for global marketing vp role

CBS and Viacom to merge in $30bn deal

Entertainment giants CBS and Viacom plan to merge in the latest media mega-deal worth $30bn.

The pair, once part of the same company until a 2006 split, say they are trying to keep up with evolving consumer demands in the industry. The BBC reports that the new company will have $28bn in revenue and will be home to brands including MTV, Comedy Central and Paramount Pictures.

The merged company will be called ViacomCBS and will be controlled by holding company National Amusements.

Bob Bakish, Viacom’s current chief executive, will take on the role of president and chief executive of the combined business while Joe Ianniello, interim chief executive of CBS, will be named chairman and chief of CBS.

The merger means the company will now have a global reach, spanning from Britain to Argentina and Australia.

“I am really excited to see these two great companies come together so that they can realise the incredible power of their combined assets,” Shari Redstone, who will chair the new company, says.

“My father once said ‘content is king,’ and never has that been more true than today. We will establish a world-class, multi-platform media organisation that is well-positioned for growth in a rapidly transforming industry.”

The companies predict savings of $500m thanks to the merger, which brings together a movie studio and some of US’s most popular TV shows.

READ MORE: Media giants Viacom and CBS to merge in latest media mega-deal

Dr Martens’ profits surge thanks to vegan range

Dr Martens’s revenues jumped by 70% for the three months to the end of March, thanks to the success of its new vegan range of boots.

The Guardian reports that sales of the shoe retailers’ vegan shoe range – which uses synthetic materials rather than leather – have skyrocketed by “multiple hundreds of percent” in recent years.

The company’s vegan range now accounts for 4% of sales. Children’s boots, sandals and collaborations with Marc Jacobs and the Sex Pistols have been cited as other successful ventures for the shoemaker.

Additionally, online sales grew by two-third to £72.7m, now accounting for 16% of total revenues for the company. Direct-to-consumer revenue was up 42% to £199.4m, while wholesale grew 23% to £255m.

READ MORE: Dr Martens’ profits up 70% with success of new ‘vegan’ range

Lidl campaign banned for making ‘misleading’ savings claims

A Lidl price comparison ad, which appeared in the Belfast Telegraph and showed two supermarket trolleys filled with different products, has been banned after rival Tesco made a complaint.

The ad showed two trolleys beside each other accompanied by the text: “Healthy Savings! Save £46 versus the same shop in Tesco”.

Britain largest supermarket chained argued that Lidl’s advert was misleading because the selection of products compared branded products at Tesco with own-brand products at Lidl, even when in some cases Lidl sold the branded product.

Tesco also claimed it was not clear that branded products at its supermarket were being compared with own-brand products at Lidl.

However, Lidl argued that the ad did compare products with the same purpose and which met the same need on the basis of price. The German discounter said neither the law nor the CAP Code prevented comparisons between branded and non-branded products and that roughly 40% of the comparisons made in the ad were with Tesco own-brand products.

Lidl added that care was taken to ensure that the positioning of products in the trolleys mirrored each other so that it was easier for consumers to see what was being compared.

In response, the Advertising Standards Authority, says: “While we understood the products had been arranged with the intention of making each one visible to consumers, it was not possible to determine the nature and/or brand of every product in each trolley or the extent to which the Tesco shop contained branded or own brand products without visiting the website for further information.”

The ad has been banned and is not to appear again in the same form.

Majority of consumers would not buy products advertised near extreme or dangerous content

More than 80% of US consumers say they would reduce or stop buying products they regularly purchase if they were advertised next to extreme or dangerous content, according to a survey by the Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and Brand Safety Institute (BSI).

As part of the study, researchers tested how a range of hypothetical situations involving ad misplacement would impact participants’ purchase decisions.

According to the survey, consumers define brand safety quite broadly to include issues such as ad-related piracy and malware, as well as those involving ad placement around inappropriate content. In terms of content consumers expressed the strongest concern about ads running near hate speech (73%), pornographic content (73%), violent content (70%), and illegal drug-related content (69%).

Meanwhile, less than half of respondents said advertisers should prevent their ads from running near gambling-related content (43%) or controversial political views (41%).

Overall, 90% say it is very or somewhat important for advertisers to make sure their ads don’t appear near dangerous, offensive, or inappropriate content.

READ MORE: More than 80% of consumers say they would reduce/stop purchases of products that advertised near extreme or dangerous content

Tuesday, 13 August

Nike

Nike launches kids’ shoe subscription service

Nike has launched its first footwear subscription for children, as it looks to make shopping for kids’ shoes “as convenient as possible for parents”.

Designed for children aged two to 10, Nike Adventure Club offers parents three subscription choices enabling them to get four to 12 pairs of shoes a year.

It allows kids to choose from 100 Nike and Converse shoes as their foot size changes, while the subscription can also be upgraded, downgraded or paused at any time.

If the shoe is a hit it can be kept, but if the child changes their mind or grows out of it, it can be returned and Nike will either donate it to charity or recycle it.

Dave Cobban, general manager of Nike Adventure Club, says: “[The service] provides a wide range of options for kids, while at the same time, it removes a friction point for parents who are shopping on their behalf.”

Mattress brands Eve and Simba in merger talks

Mattress startup Eve has confirmed it is in “very early-stage” talks with rival Simba about a possible merger.

The two business have struggled over the past year, with Eve forced to offer investors a steep discount during its £15m funding round at the end of last year, which caused its shares to crash. Simba, meanwhile, had to slash its valuation to £20m in order to raise more cash.

While Eve has said it is likely to acquire Simba, the pair haven’t ruled out a reverse take-over, saying it is “too early to say”.

Eve’s shares have been temporarily suspended while talks take place, and will be opened again when the talks end or a deal is agreed.

READ MORE: Struggling mattress start-ups Eve Sleep and Simba confirm merger talks

Poundland pilots new pricing structure as part of transformation

PoundlandDiscount retailer Poundland is introducing a range of products above and below the £1 mark as it moves away from its single price offer.

The chain started selling some items at £2 and £5 in 2017 but it will be extending this to options priced at £1.50, £3 and £4, as well as introducing products for 50p and 75p on a regular basis for the first time.

These products will account for around a quarter of those sold in-store, with the majority still priced at £1.

Poundland will be piloting the new pricing structure across 24 stores in the Midlands.

Barry Williams, managing director at Poundland, says: “While three quarters of the products we offer will still be £1, it’s important we look to broaden our ranges elsewhere, whether above or below £1. These extended price points mean we can meet an even greater range of customers’ needs, while offering the same outstanding Poundland value.

“Our customers are among the savviest in the country. We know that and it’s why we’re moving at the pace they dictate to become the simple price retailer they want us to be.”

Hertz sets up in-house creative agency

Car rental firm Hertz Europe has set up an in-house creative agency, working with content specialist Adjust Your Set, as it looks to centralise marketing content creation and operations.

The in-house team, known as Hertz Engine, will be responsible for driving strategy, data, creative, design, content, social and publishing, in order to “align business growth objectives with creative output”.

By doing so, Hertz hopes to increase quality, volume and speed of output as well as drive consistency across the brand.

Hertz has worked with Adjust Your Set previously and vice-president of international marketing, Vincent Gillet, says the development of an in-house agency is “the logical next step”.

“We want customers to have the best experience of our brand at every touchpoint. To us that means having a highly creative team onsite that is fully immersed in our mission, vision and values, working with us side-by-side,” he adds.

Hertz Engine will be based at the company’s European headquarters in Uxbridge

Verizon to offload Tumblr to WordPress owner

Verizon is selling blogging site Tumblr to the company behind WordPress for “less than $3m”.

This is considerably below the $1.1bn (£910m) Yahoo paid for the site in 2013, but after six years of failing to turn a profit the business decided it was time to offload the service.

Verizon, which acquired Yahoo for $4.5bn in 2017, will sell Tumblr to WordPress owner Automattic.

While the exact fee has not been confirmed, US news site Axios suggests it will be “well below” $20m, with some estimates suggesting it could be as low as $3m.

READ MORE: Blogging site Tumblr sold for ‘less than $3m’ – six years after Yahoo paid $1bn for it

Monday, 12 August

Sports Direct aims to become the ‘Selfridges of sport’ by 2023

Sports Direct wants to become the “Selfridges of sport” by 2023, but while the brand’s head of elevation, Michael Murray, admits its plans to become upmarket are “not, not working” it is taking longer than expected.

Murray, who is also Mike Ashley’s future son-in-law, says: “It’s not, not working, it’s just not going fast enough — they’re two different things.”

In the past year the company has been on a spending spree, snapping up troubled retailers including House of Fraser, Sofa.com and most recently Jack Wills.

Sports Direct bought Jack Wills last week for £12.8m, after the fashion chain went into administration. The preppy brand will be housed in a new division within the high street giant that will focus on buying and building fashion and sports brands.

Murray also promised Sports Direct would continue to buy up struggling retailers while calling on the government to intervene with high rents to help the high street.

READ MORE: Sports Direct’s move upmarket ‘will take us four years’

Gambling brands see complaints skyrocket

Customer complaints about British betting companies have increased by almost 5,000% over the past five years.

The figures, obtained by BBC Panorama from the Gambling Commission, show there were a record 8,266 complaints in 2018, compared with just 169 in 2013.

Gamblers are now losing almost twice as much to betting companies as they were a decade ago, with the total reaching a record £14.5bn in 2018. Online gambling plays a large role in this rise, with new games and products attracting new customers.

Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, says: “We are pushing the industry to know its customers, and part of this is actually, possibly, a good sign because it’s suggesting that consumers are demanding more of the gambling operators. And I would encourage them to continue to do that.”

The UK’s top five gambling firms have offered to pledge £60m a year in funding for addiction treatment, six times the current contribution, but critics argue this isn’t tackling the root causes of the issue.

READ MORE: Gambling companies see huge rise in complaints

Casting call for Milka advert banned redheads and ‘fat children’

Milka is facing criticism after a casting call banned overweight children from auditioning for its Christmas ad.

The casting call was published on Spotlight, a talent agency that helps performers find employment. It asked for a prepubescent girl to play ‘Mia’ for a Christmas advert, explicitly ruling out overweight children and red hair.

The request also said the child must be ‘beautiful and angelic’ and no taller than 4ft 4ins. It added: “She can be aged 9 to 12. If she is 12 she must be very small and still be childlike.”

It was later posted on Twitter gaining criticism from actors and consumers, with Milka’s parent company Mondelēz International apologising for the casting call.

A spokesperson says: “We’d like to thank people for bringing this casting notice to our attention. We take our advertising responsibility very seriously and this is not representative of the brief we shared with the casting agency and does not meet our high standards.”

READ MORE: Milka criticised for advert casting call demanding ‘no overweight children’ and ‘very good teeth’

Empty shops hit highest level for four years

The number of empty shops in town centres is at its highest level for four years, industry figures show.

The vacancy rate was 10.3% in July, its highest level since January 2015, according to the British Retail Consortium and Springboard survey.

Footfall also fell by 1.9% in July, the worst July performance for seven years.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard insights director, says July had been “much more challenging” for shopping centres and high streets than out of town stores.

READ MORE: Vacancy rates hit worst level in over four years

Heist launches ‘anti-feminist’ shapewear campaign

Hosiery brand Heist is launching a shapewear campaign that asks commuters to question whether this type of underwear is ‘anti-feminist’.

The tights startup will run 18 ads across central London, which state “Shapewear is anti-feminist, right?”. The campaign aims to confront the fact shapewear often sparks debate with some feminists accusing it of body-shaming.

Heist’s vice-president of marketing, Hannah Craik, says: “This campaign addresses the fact there is still a huge amount of stigma around shapewear; women are still shamed for wearing it – and for wanting to look and feel good.”

For the next two weeks commuters will be encouraged to share their thoughts using the hashtag #HeistTalk.

She adds: “We hear a lot – shapewear is the modern-day corset therefore it must be anti-feminist – because we think there is more to it. For us, just like with make-up, it’s about having choice over your appearance.”

Heist launched its shapewear last November after gaining a reputation for premium quality tights with controversial ads. In 2017, Transport for London banned an ad for being ‘overtly sexual’ after it showed a woman’s naked back.

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