TikTok, Asos, Octopus Energy: 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.


TikTok’s parent company sacks four employees for ‘spying’ on journalists

Four ByteDance employees have been fired for improperly accessing the TikTok user data of two journalists, according to a company email seen by Reuters.

As part of an investigation into company leaks earlier this year, the employees tracked the IP addresses of a former Buzzfeed reporter and a Financial Times reporter to see if they were found in the same location as staff suspected of leaking information. Two of the now-sacked employees were based in China and two were in the US.

Company officials have said ByteDance is now taking additional steps to protect user data and is restructuring its Internal Audit and Risk Control department.

In a statement, the Financial Times said “spying on reporters, interfering with their work or intimidating their sources is completely unacceptable”, and promised to investigate the story “more fully” before giving a formal response.

In a separate email also seen by Reuters, TikTok’s CEO Shou Zi Chew said such “misconduct is not at all representative of what I know our company’s principles to be”. He promised access protocols would be further enhanced, following 15 months building data security practices to ensure protected US user data stays in the US.

The news may add to the existing tension between TikTok and the US government. While president Joe Biden reversed an executive order by predecessor Donald Trump to ban TikTok in the country last year, negotiations around a national security agreement with the company have stretched on for months.

This week, US Congress is set to pass legislation banning government employees from downloading or using TikTok on their government-owned devices.

READ MORE: ByteDance finds employees obtained TikTok user data of two journalists

Asos appoints former CMO as non-executive director

Former Calvin Klein and L’Oréal CMO Marie Gulin-Merle has been appointed to Asos’s board as a non-executive director, as the online fashion giant embarks on a 12 month journey to reinvent its business.

Gulin-Merle has over two decades’ experience in marketing and digital transformation within the technology, beauty and fashion sectors. Her more than 16 years at L’Oréal culminated with the group CMO position at L’Oréal USA, before she joined Calvin Klein as global CMO in 2018.

She was promoted to chief digital officer of Calvin Klein-owner PVH in 2019, before taking on her current role as Google’s global vice president of ads marketing later that same year. She joins the Asos board on 1 February 2023.

“Marie joins us with a depth of relevant industry knowledge across international ecommerce, marketing, beauty and brands,” says chairman Jørgen Lindemann.

“The board will greatly benefit from Marie’s expertise, and we look forward to working closely with her.”

Earlier this year, Asos’s new CEO José Antonio Ramos Calamonte blamed “insufficient” brand investment and an over-reliance on promotions with driving a slowdown in customer acquisition over the past year. More than 80% of the online fashion retailer’s marketing investment had been focused on performance marketing, he revealed, adding that Asos has “historically underinvested in marketing relative to its peers”.

Asos swung to a loss before tax of £31.9m in its full year results for 2022, down 118% on 2021, as it battles with the challenging macroeconomic environment. Active customers grew 2% to 25.7 million, but customer growth “slowed” in the second half of the year, particularly in the US.

Calamonte identified four key actions Asos plans to deliver against over the next 12 months, including “renewing” it commercial model, simplifying and reducing its cost profile, ensuring a “robust and flexible” balance sheet, and fostering a “culture of innovation and creativity”.

Octopus Energy completes Bulb acquisition

Octopus Energy has completed its acquisition of collapsed energy firm Bulb Energy, becoming one of the largest energy suppliers in the UK.

With 1.5 million customers, Bulb was the largest energy supplier to fall victim to the sudden rise in wholesale gas prices in 2021. The government bailed the company out and handed the day to day running to administrators, potentially costing UK taxpayers as much as £6.5bn, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

As part of the deal, the UK government has pledged a £4.5bn cash injection to fund the takeover. Taxpayers benefit from a profit share agreement for up to four years.

“This starts to bring an end to the huge financial exposures for taxpayers and paves the way for a better and more certain future for Bulb’s staff and customers,” says Octopus Energy’s CEO and founder, Greg Jackson.

“For now, we’d ask Bulb customers to sit tight – they will still be looked after by the Bulb team. We’ll be in touch with customers as and when their account is ready to move to Octopus’ award-winning systems.”

However, British Gas-owner Centrica, as well as E.ON and Scottish Power, have objected to the legality of the decision and applied for a judicial review, accusing the government of a lack of transparency.

Iceland Foods loses trademark dispute with country Iceland

Iceland Foods will no longer be able to stop other companies from using the word ‘Iceland’ in their brand name within the EU, as the grocer’s appeal to the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has been rejected.

The EUIPO cancelled the trademark in 2019, five years after it was first granted, following a legal challenge by the Icelandic government in 2016. The government said the trademark was preventing Icelandic businesses from referring to their country of origin in their marketing.

While the EUIPO’s Grand Board of Appeal said a country name can work as a trademark, it determined that this needed to be approached with “caution” and consideration of factors such as the distance between the country and business and how familiar consumers are with the name.

An Iceland Foods spokesperson told the Grocer the business was “disappointed” with the ruling, but confirmed it would not be changing its name as a result.

“We have never stopped third parties from using the term Iceland to describe products or services from the country of Iceland. We had sincerely hoped that we would be able to avoid any legalities in this unnecessary dispute and reach an amicable agreement,” they said.

Read more: Iceland Foods loses appeal in ‘Iceland vs Iceland’ trademark dispute

Icelolly.com highlights money-saving credentials in stop motion TV ad

Holiday price comparison site Icelolly.com is preparing to launch a multimillion pound post-Christmas campaign, aiming to position itself “front of mind” as consumers begin planning their 2023 holidays.

Led by a TV spot across ITV’s channels from Boxing Day, the campaign highlights the role holiday comparison sites can play in saving consumers money next year.

The stop motion ad centres on a couple struggling to find their perfect holiday among the wide choice available online, with several noisy ice cream vans adorned with different themed holiday destinations falling into their garden as they conduct their search. An Icelolly.com van soon comes to the couple’s rescue, providing them with several options and helping them to find the best holiday deal.

“Everyone at icelolly.com is super excited to get the brand back on TV,” says the CMO of parent company Ice Travel Group, Steve Seddon.

“We have created a campaign that positions icelolly.com front of mind, the place for customers to compare and search for a holiday from all the leading holiday companies. The whole campaign really highlights our strategic drive to help the British public get their much-deserved holiday at the best possible price”.

Thursday, 22 December

NetflixNetflix ‘pleased’ with ad-supported tier despite reports of slow start

Reports suggest Netflix’s ad-supported tier is off to a slow start, after data from analytics firm Antenna found just 9% of US subscribers opted for the new advertising-focused product last month.

Priced at a monthly fee of $6.99 (£4.99), the ‘Basic with Ads’ plan was found to be the streaming giant’s “least popular tier” in November, the same month the service launched.

According to the figures shared with the Wall Street Journal, 57% of US subscribers to the ad-supported tier in its first month were people re-joining Netflix or signing up for the first time, while 43% downgraded from more expensive subscriptions.

According to the analysis, by the end of November 0.2% of Netflix’s US subscribers were on the ad-supported plan, while overall customer growth in the US was down last month compared to October.

The research suggests rival HBO Max, which launched its $9.99 (£8.19) a month ad-supported plan in June 2021, drove 15% of new US signups in its first month, with only 14% of new customers downgrading from a premium subscription.

A Netflix spokesperson told the WSJ there are inaccuracies in Antenna’s figures, describing it as “very early days” for the ad-supported product.

“We’re pleased with its launch and engagement, as well as the eagerness of advertisers to partner with Netflix,” the spokesperson added.

Earlier this month, however, Digiday reported Netflix had been forced to refund advertisers for ads yet to run after allegedly “falling short of ad-supported viewership guarantees”. Agency executives confirmed that in some cases the streaming giant had only “delivered roughly 80% of the expected audience”.

READ MORE: Netflix’s ad-supported tier was its least popular plan, analytics firm estimates

Kerry Chilvers to leave Direct Line after two decades

Direct Line brand tribe lead Kerry Chilvers is leaving the insurer after 23 years to pursue a “big new opportunity”.

Chilvers, who joined Direct Line after graduating from her degree in marketing at the University of Strathclyde in 1999, assumed the role of brand tribe lead in 2020.

Having led the reinvention of the Direct Line brand, including overseeing the IPA Effectiveness Award winning ‘Fixer’ campaign, Chilvers said in a LinkedIn post she had found “many opportunities for personal growth” in her more than two decades at the business.

“I’m proud of so much of what we’ve achieved – delivering for customers, making our brands household names, marketing fuelled business growth and contributing to the wider advertising industry,” she wrote. “There’s simply too much to mention. We’ve made good insurance matter.”

Chilvers described turning down the opportunity to “lead the team onto its next chapter” as the “toughest (and most emotional) decision” she had ever made.

Her career at the insurance giant has spanned a series of senior marketing roles, from head of marketing for Churchill and Direct Line, to group brands director, a position she held from 2013 to 2020.

Chilvers’ departure follows the announcement in October that managing director of marketing and digital, Mark Evans, is leaving the business at the end of this year to focus on his portfolio of non-executive roles, coaching and pro-bono work.

At the time, Chilvers was set to become the insurer’s top marketer, amid a senior leadership restructure that included the introduction of a chief customer office led by managing director of household, partnerships, data, pricing and underwriting, Kate Syred.

Musk says Twitter in ‘emergency fire drill’ mode as he defends cost cuts

Source: Shutterstock

Elon Musk has compared the situation at Twitter to an “emergency fire drill”, as the social media boss sought to defend cost cutting measures imposed since he took over in October.

In a Twitter Spaces conversation, Musk claimed the business would have faced a “negative cash flow situation of $3bn (£2.5bn) a year” had he not stepped in with aggressive cost cutting measures, including slashing the workforce by half and removing some employee benefits.

According to the Financial Times, these remarks suggest Twitter is on track to generate $3bn in annual revenues in 2023, $2bn (£1.6bn) lower than levels achieved in 2021 – the majority of which is funded by advertising.

Recognising his actions may at times have appeared “spurious”, Musk likened the situation at Twitter to an “emergency fire drill”, adding: “This company is like you’re in a plane that is headed towards the ground at high speed with the engines on fire and the controls don’t work.”

These sentiments echo comments he made on Sunday suggesting the social media platform has been in the “fast lane to bankruptcy since May”, the same day he launched a poll asking Twitter users if he should step down as CEO. Musk has since confirmed he will relinquish the post once he can find a replacement “foolish enough” to take on the job.

However, the Twitter boss also sounded a more confident note, claiming he had had conversations with brands keen to understand how advertising on the social media site will drive ROI.

“With the changes we are making here on massively reducing the burn rate, and building subscriber revenue, I now think that Twitter will, in fact, be okay next year,” Musk added.

On a livestream with a former intern, the Twitter boss also admitted the move to ban links to rival social media sites was “a mistake”. On Sunday, Twitter said it intended to remove accounts “created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms and content that contains links or usernames for the following platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr and Post.”

The tumult at Twitter has driven usage of open-source social platform Mastodon, which has grown by more than 800% from around 300,000 monthly active users to 2.5 million between October and November, the Guardian reports. The social platform now has the backing of browser Firefox and social site Tumblr.

READ MORE: Elon Musk blames cost cuts at Twitter on ‘$3bn negative cash flow’

Weetabix makes £2m investment in value message

Source: Weetabix

Weetabix is investing £2m in a campaign encouraging consumers struggling with the cost of living crisis to think about its cereal “beyond breakfast”.

The new creative, which airs on 3 January, is the latest instalment in the ‘Any Which Way a Bix’ campaign and follows a £12m investment in media during 2022 designed to cement Weetabix as “one of UK consumers’ most trusted brands”.

The film will be supported by spend on YouTube and video-on-demand, with creative featuring a QR code linking to a specially created recipe book with budget-friendly, all-day recipe ideas such as Weetabix smoothies, protein balls and tiramisu.

The campaign is designed to highlight how Weetabix can be consumed throughout the day, the intention being to help consumers save money through value-focused snack and meal suggestions. Selected influencers – or ‘Bixers’ – will demonstrate the recipes from the cookbook throughout January across Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Claiming a large box of Weetabix can feed a family for four for nine days, the brand is keen to remind consumers its product is one of the most “nutritionally dense” cereals on the market.

“As we all face into tough times, we want to remind consumers not only that we’re on their side but also that Weetabix is central to starting the day right,” says head of marketing Lorraine Rothwell.

“Consumers trust us to provide a healthy, nutritious breakfast and now we’re looking to help at other times. Our recipe book offers consumers affordable and versatile inspiration, helping them to reconsider the role that Weetabix plays in their routine by catering well beyond breakfast.”

Password sharing on streaming sites deemed ‘illegal’

Sharing passwords for streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ could be illegal, according to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

The government body, in a new report co-authored by Meta, claims password sharing infringes copyright rules. The language around subscriptions first appeared in guidance earlier this week explicitly calling out “password sharing on streaming services”, although the text was watered down to refer to accessing content “without paying a subscription”.

The IPO told the Guardian people sharing passwords for streaming services could face prosecution: “There are a range of provisions in criminal and civil law which may be applicable in the case of password sharing where the intent is to allow a user to access copyright-protected works without payment.”

The IPO added that such provisions could include a “breach of contractual terms, fraud or secondary copyright infringement” and in civil law it would be down to the service provider to take action in court.

In a note about the consequences of piracy, the IPO highlighted the impact on the UK’s creative industry, which employs more than 1.9 million people and contributes £84.1bn to the UK economy. The body argues that if consumers are not paying for content they are depriving the industry of “the money it needs to fund the next generation of TV programmes, films and sporting events.”

In October, Netflix announced it will crack down on the practice of password sharing early next year in a bid to add a new revenue stream to the business. Describing this as a “thoughtful approach to monetise account sharing”, the company will allow so-called “borrowers” to transfer their Netflix profile into their own account and for “sharers” to create sub-accounts for an “extra member” if they want to pay for family or friends.

The business expects that in countries offering the ad-supported plan, the profile transfer option for borrowers will be “especially popular.”

The streaming giant has been conducting tests of the new sharing tech across Central and South America, including prompting users in Chile and Peru to fund a sub-account if Netflix detects someone is using their subscription beyond their household.

READ MORE: Sharing TV streaming passwords is illegal, says UK copyright watchdog

Wednesday, 21 December

Source: Shutterstock

Nike steps up marketing investment as revenues rise

Nike increased its marketing and advertising spend over its last quarter, as revenues increased by 17% year on year to $13.3bn (£10.94bn).

The sports brand reports what it calls its “demand creation expense” increased 8% to $1.1bn (£905m) in the second quarter of its 2023 financial year, largely due to advertising and marketing investment.

The company’s results for the quarter ending 30 November also led to Nike raising its guidance for the full year. The brand now expects revenue to grow in the low teens across the year, an upgrade from its earlier guidance when it predicted low double digit growth.

“We are creating more separation between us and our competition thanks to the meaningful relationships we have with consumers and the continued success of our strategy,” said CEO John Donahoe on a call with investors.

Nike has been focusing on its DTC business in a bid to “control [its] own destiny”. DTC sales increased by 16% on a reported basis compared to the same period last year, rising to $5.4bn (£4.4bn). The brand’s digital business increased 25% in the same period.

Donahoe partly attributed this success to Nike’s membership programme, stating Q2 had been its “biggest member demand quarter ever”. He reported the scheme now has 160 million active members and claimed that “repeat buying members”, who spend more at a higher frequency, are growing in the high double-digits, representing “an important growth engine” for the business.

MailOnline failed to identify advertising clearly, finds ASA

Associated Newspapers, which owns titles such as The Daily Mail and the Evening Standard, has been told by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to ensure marketing content on its website is clearly flagged.

The ASA received four complaints challenging whether ads on the MailOnline website were clearly flagged as such. The complaints challenged whether homepage headlines and articles were clearly identified as containing affiliate links.

The advertising watchdog upheld all the complaints. One complained-about article, which did not comply with advertising rules, was about Love Island star and influencer Molly-Mae Hague. Partway down the article there was a box with details about how readers could mimic the celebrity’s wardrobe, with links taking readers to third-party sites. At the bottom of the box in smaller, grey text it was stated: “MailOnline may earn commission on sales from these product links”.

In its response to the complaint the ASA says this wording was “ambiguous and confusing”. Some of the other complained-about ads saw MailOnline writers recommend certain products, which were then linked to through the website.

Associated Newspapers maintained that this content was editorial. It said in response: “While the editorial referred to products and did so in favourable terms, it could equally have referred to some or all items in more critical or neutral terms, or in whatever way their journalists chose to write about them.”

However, in the ASA’s response it says it understood the journalists who wrote the content “were not making a personal recommendation” rather going off a curated list provided by Amazon and basing the description on the retailer’s reviews.

The newspaper group has been told to ensure its affiliate marketing is clearly identifiable as such in future.

Elon Musk claims he will quit as Twitter CEO when replacement is found

TwitterTwitter owner Elon Musk claims he will step down as CEO of the platform, once he can find a suitable replacement.

In doing so, he would be abiding by the results of a poll he conducted through his Twitter account earlier this week, with 57.5% of voters saying he should quit the role.

“I will resign as CEO as soon as I find someone foolish enough to take the job! After that, I will just run the software and servers teams,” he tweeted in the early hours of this morning (21 December).

The billionaire owner has previously implied finding someone else to lead the platform will be a difficult task.

Earlier this week (19 December), he tweeted: “No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor.”

Commentators have been speculating on who might replace Musk. Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, who quit the platform in November 2021, is one name which has been touted, as well as Meta’s former chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Donald Trump’s son-in-law and former presidential adviser Jared Kushner has also been mentioned by onlookers as someone who Musk might consider as a replacement, as well as the billionaire’s close confidante, engineer Sriram Krishnan.

READ MORE: Elon Musk to quit as Twitter CEO when replacement found

Amazon agrees to give customers more visible choices in EU settlement

Amazon has reached an agreement with the European Union which brings to an end two ongoing antitrust investigations. The settlement will see the retailer make changes to its platform, designed to even the playing field for third-party sellers and give consumers more visible choice.

The business will make changes to its “buy box” feature, a part of its website which promotes certain products that critics have argued privilege its own products and curtail choice for customers. It has also agreed to refrain from using the information of third-party sellers’ to inform its own product launches and operations.

Amazon will now also reduce restrictions around third-party sellers on its Prime service.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “Today’s decision sets the rules that Amazon will need to play by in the future instead of Amazon determining these rules for all players on its platform.”

The agreement will only apply to Amazon’s business in Europe and will last seven years.

READ MORE: Amazon to make big business changes in E.U. settlement

Diageo promotes moderation in New Year’s Eve campaign

Diageo is promoting responsible drinking this New Year’s Eve, with an out-of-home campaign designed to make partygoers think twice about their consumption.

The creative is designed to inform drinkers about how many units are in popular drinks, like a bottle of wine, or pint of beer. It does so in a light-hearted way, warning people about the dangers of a drunk selfie or a lost shoe this New Year’s Eve.

The campaign, from the company behind brands such as Guinness and Smirnoff, will be displayed in prominent out-of-home London locations such as Kings Cross St Pancras, Waterloo and Leicester Square, designed to catch the eye of revellers as they head out to celebrate the end of 2022.

The campaign uses the slogan ‘Do you really want to go there’. This is the second time Diageo has deployed this slogan, the first being to promote responsible drinking to British students as university term restarted in September.

“New Year’s Eve is one of the biggest holiday events of the year, a time when people should come together and celebrate with their friends and families,” says Diageo global society director Kate Gibson.

“When it comes to alcohol, responsible drinking doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the festivities and we hope this campaign will enlighten consumers about the importance of moderation.”

Tuesday, 20 December


BrewDog brings back CMO role

BrewDog has promoted its brand and marketing director, Lauren Carrol, to CMO.

It is the first time the Scottish brewer has had a CMO since the exit of Jon Evans, who left the business in January 2019 just three months after taking on the role. Shortly after his stint at BrewDog, Evans, who is now chief customer officer at ad effectiveness consultancy System1, told Marketing Week the brewer was not ready for a CMO at that time.

He said it quickly became “fairly obvious” it was “too early” in the brand’s evolution to have a CMO role. He described BrewDog’s co-founder and CEO, James Watt, as the “engine behind the business”. “He is the ideas, and does things in the way that he does. We got on famously, we just agreed it was a bit early on in their lifestyle to have a CMO,” he added.

However, Watt has now changed his mind, promoting Carrol to the reinstated role just 18 months after she took on the brand and marketing director role. She has been at BrewDog since 2018, working her way up from continuous improvement project manager for supply chain to group continuous improvement manager to special projects director, a role she held until June 2021.

Prior to joining BrewDog she spent three years as an administrative officer for the Department for Work and Pensions before working at manufacturing firm Stork for nearly six years, most recently as business improvement manager. A short stint at The Oil & Gas Technology Centre followed before she joined the brewer.

In a post on LinkedIn announcing Carrol’s promotion, Watt said: “Lauren has been outstanding in all the roles she has worked in across our business and contributed massively to everything we have done over the last few years. As our new CMO she has huge potential to positively impact our growth as well as play a very important role in our senior leadership team.”

Carrol’s first campaign for BrewDog came as it looked to distance itself from the claims of “toxic culture” following the ‘Punks with Purpose’ scandal last year. The ‘Beer For All’ campaign launched in August 2021 shortly after her promotion and looked to show consumers that people from all walks of life enjoy BrewDog.

BrewDog has also promoted Tom Reding to chief digital officer and James Brown to CEO of BrewDog Bars. Watt added: “Lauren, JB and Tom are all world class senior leaders who have developed brilliant careers for themselves as they have progressed through the ranks at BrewDog.”

He also emphasised the importance of promoting from within and nurturing existing talent, as the business again looks to distance itself from the accusations it faced last year.

“Their progression is also testament to The BrewDog Salary Cap and our philosophy of developing the next generation of senior BrewDog leaders through our own teams as opposed hiring these leaders externally,” he said.

The BrewDog Salary Cap means salaries are capped at a maximum of 14 times the entry level position, increasing by one for each year of service. People joining the business can also not be paid more than seven times the level of an entry level position.

Watt added: “At BrewDog we are committed to developing our own leaders and offering ample progression opportunities for our amazing team members. This helps us build a new type of business, one that rejects the status quo and turns normal business assumptions on their head.”

Tesco faces ‘landmark’ lawsuit over working conditions in Thai factory

tescoTesco is facing a lawsuit brought by Burmese workers in Thailand who claim they were forced to work 99-hour weeks for less than minimum wage in terrible conditions, according to an investigation by the Guardian.

Some 130 former workers at the VK Garment Factory, which made jeans and other items for the supermarket’s F&F range between 2017 and 2020, are suing the retailer in what is being described as a “landmark” case.

Tesco does not own the factory and was not involved in its day-to-day running, but former workers are claiming the UK retailer should have known the factory was located in an area notorious for exploitation and done more to protect them. According to the Guardian, it is the first time a UK business has been threatened with litigation in English courts over its use of a foreign garment factory it does not own.

Workers claim they were paid as little as £3 per day when the Thai minimum wage during the time in question was £7 for eight hours. They also report they had to work long hours – sometimes for 24 hours a day – to fulfil orders. There were also cases of serious injury and reports of control over bank accounts to so it appeared they were getting paid more than they were.

Workers also claim living conditions in the factory accommodation provided were overcrowded and dirty.

More shockingly, one woman says her seven-year-old daughter was raped by a co-worker in the accommodation while she was working unpaid overtime downstairs and that the assistant manager at the factory told her not to call an ambulance as the police might be alerted.

Tesco says it only became aware of this incident and other claims this year and would have terminated its contract with VKG immediately if it had known at the time.

READ MORE: Girl, 7, raped at Thai factory supplying clothes for Tesco while mother worked

Elon Musk: Only subscribers will be able to vote on future policy-related polls

The poll Elon Musk set up on Twitter to determine whether he should step down as CEO of the platform has ended with 57.5% voting in favour of his departure.

On sharing the poll, which received more than 17.5 million votes, Musk said he would “abide by the results”.

However, he has not commented directly on the result since the poll closed, although he has responded to a tweet suggesting only blue tick subscribers should be allowed to vote in policy related polls, to which Musk tweeted, “Good point. Twitter will make that change.”

He also described another user’s suggestion that bots might have been involved in the vote as “interesting”.

Fortnite maker to pay $520m for tricking users into making purchases

Epic Games, the company behind video game Fortnite, has agreed to pay $520m (£427m) after US regulators claimed it violated child privacy laws and used “deceptive interfaces” to trick users into making purchases.

While the game is generally free to download, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said some users were misled into making purchases while the game loaded.

The FTC also took issue with Fortnite’s “privacy-invasive” default settings and failed to comply with rules over parental consent despite making changes to address concerns.

FTC chair Lina Khan says: “Protecting the public, and especially children, from online privacy invasions and dark patterns is a top priority for the commission, and these enforcement actions make clear to businesses that the FTC is cracking down on these unlawful practices.”

Epic Games has blamed “past designs”, adding that “no developer creates a game with the intention of ending up here”.

The company says it has accepted the agreement as it wants to “be at the forefront of consumer protection and provide the best experience for our players”.

READ MORE: Fortnite penalised after claims it tricked users

Mondelez sells gum business for $1.35bn

Cadbury owner Mondelez International is selling its gum business in the US, Canada and Europe for $1.35bn (£1.11bn).

Perfetti Van Melle Group, the company behind sweet brands such as Mentos and Chupa Chups, will take over the Trident, Dentyne, Bubbaloo and Bubblicious gum brands under the agreement.

Mondelez put its gum business in developed markets up for sale after demand plummeted during Covid lockdowns.

As part of the deal, Perfetti Van Melle Group will also acquire Mondelez’s manufacturing facilities in Rockford, Illinois in the US and Skarbimierz, Poland.

READ MORE: Mondelez to sell gum business in developed markets for $1.35 bln

Monday, 19 December

Ikea UK sales rise 13% but profits fall

For the 2022 financial year, Swedish furniture retailer Ikea’s UK business has seen an uplift of 13% in sales, equivalent to £2.2bn. The company also saw its online sales double against 2019’s pre-pandemic figure. However, profits fell to £49.6m, down from £61.2m in 2021.

“Against the backdrop of financial uncertainty and rising costs, we made major strategic investments towards greater affordability, accessibility and sustainability,” says Ikea UK and Ireland country retail manager and chief sustainability officer, Peter Jelkeby.

He says Ikea is still on it’s journey to becoming “even more customer-centric” as part of its long-term transformation efforts, in a year where the retailer opened its first smaller format, more convenience focused store in Hammersmith earlier this year.

Ikea’s loyalty offering, Ikea Family, now has 10.5 million members in the UK, while the retailer reports it fulfilled 1 million click and collect orders this year. Last year, online sales made up 45% of the company’s total sales, which this year has dropped to 35% as customers return to stores post Covid-19.

Twitter says it will shut down accounts designed to promote other platforms, leading Musk to ask Twitter poll to decide if he should stay or go

Source: Shutterstock

In a now deleted post, Twitter declared it would be banning users from linking to other social media platforms on Sunday (18 December).

The tweet said the platform would “no longer allow free promotion” for other social media services. “Specifically, we will remove accounts created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms and content that contains links or usernames for the following platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Mastodon, Truth Social, Tribel, Nostr and Post,” it added.

And now, Twitter owner Elon Musk has tweeted a poll asking Twitter users to vote on whether he should remain as head of Twitter. The poll currently has more than 13 million votes, with the majority calling for him to step down.

As a precursor to the poll, Musk tweeted that “Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes. My apologies. Won’t happen again,” after backlash to the platform’s decision to ban sharing to other social media sites.

The news comes after yet another tumultuous few days for Twitter, after Musk banned a raft of tech journalists from the site on Thursday (15 December), from the likes of the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN. The bans for many of those suspended were then reinstated.

READ MORE: Musk asks Twitter poll if he should stay as boss

Vaping, soft drinks and energy drinks declared 2022’s fastest growing grocery categories

It’s been a year of convenience, claims new data from NielsenIQ and The Grocer. It’s convenience store categories that have witnessed the highest rise in 2022, such as vaping, which has grown by £434.1m.

Carbonated soft drinks come in at the second fastest growing at £264.3m growth, and sports and energy drinks have grown by £251.1m.

On the flip side, spirits have dropped by £752.5m, table wine by £615m, and lager by £575m, making all three the fastest falling categories, despite them last year being among the fastest growing. NeilsenIQ suggests the drop is in response to the shift away from at-home dining following the removal of Covid-19 restrictions.

Both the fastest growing and fastest falling lists exclude tobacco products. “The UK this year returned to more normal patterns of behaviour, from being able to socialise with friends and family without restrictions, to venturing into the office more frequently,” says NielsenIQ managing director UK and Ireland, Rachel White.

Other fast growing categories include bagged snacks (£229.1m), Petcare (£222.2m), cold and flu remedies (£218m) and bottled water (£214m). Among the fastest falling are vegetables, down £456.2m, fresh meat with a drop of £247.9m, and ale and stout which is down £166m.

“This has naturally led to a shift in the types of products in shoppers’ baskets to reflect consumers’ busier lifestyles, as well as a rise in demand for more convenience items, such as sports and energy drinks and bagged snacks. This may have also led to a decline in at-home cooking occasions, with many fresh items falling out of favour,” she adds.

Tesco to increase loyalty offering with more coupons

Tesco is reportedly revising its Clubcard scheme to increase the number of coupons it gives to customers. As the Independent reports, the supermarket retailer’s new ‘Clubcard & Grocery’ app, which is replacing the current Clubcard app in 2023, will offer customers vouchers three times more often than current levels.

Customers will be sent personalised savings offers every two weeks under the new scheme. Previously, customers received vouchers eight times a year. Tesco says customers who prefer the physical postal statement and vouchers can continue to use that method, however customers will be encouraged to go digital.

The change comes of the back of a year where Tesco drove its loyalty proposition further, with its Clubcard being used in approximately 75% of all Tesco sales and with 10 million customers using it through the app in the UK.

READ MORE: Tesco announces Clubcard changes to offer more savings

Audi goes out of home for Piccadilly Christmas campaign

Audi has created a 3D billboard at London’s Piccadilly Lights with agency BBH, becoming the first automotive brand to run ‘Deep Screen’ activity at the location, the brand claims.

‘The spirit of Christmas future’ sees the brand promote its Audi Grandsphere car, a “concept car that will shape the automotive future”.

“We’re excited to launch this futuristic campaign, using progressive media like one of the UK’s most high profile outdoor sites. For Audi, future is an attitude, and this campaign illustrates this attitude perfectly,” says Audi UK brand marketing manager, Laura Brennan.

“Our job is to put some distance between Audi and the other players in this burgeoning market. With its seasonal message, this amazing display is a great opportunity to help us do that,” adds BBH creative director Sacha Ward.