Unilever begins search for new CEO
Unilever has begun work to a find a new CEO, with chief executive Paul Polman expected to step down in about 18 months, according to Sky News. While no date has been set for his retirement, Unilever is working with executive search firm Egon Zehnder International to help find a successor.
Possible internal candidates include CFO Graeme Pitkethly. However, it is understood a substantial international search will take place.
Under Polman, Unilever has focused on making sustainability a core part of its business and had to rebuff a $143m takeover bid from Kraft Heinz. The company is currently reviewing a number of aspects of its business, including the future of its butter division and its dual structure, under which the company has a HQ, board of directors and stock listings in both the UK and the Netherlands.
YouTube under fire once again over brand ads shown next to ‘scantily clad’ children
A new investigation by The Times has found ads from big brands including BT, Adidas, eBay, Mars and Diageo appearing next to videos featuring what it dubs “scantily-clad children”. The videos showg young girls in their underwear, doing the splits or rolling around in bed. Most appear to have been posted innocently, but have attracted comments from hundreds of paedophiles.
YouTube says it will take an “even more aggressive stance” against predatory behaviour on the site. But a number of brands are said to have pulled their ads.
Joanna Wright, vice-president of product management at YouTube, says in a blog post: “We have historically used a combination of automated systems and human flagging and review to remove inappropriate sexual or predatory comments on videos featuring minors.
“Comments of this nature are abhorrent and we work … to report illegal behaviour to law enforcement. Starting this week we will begin taking an even more aggressive stance by turning off all comments on videos of minors where we see these types of comments.”
Uber data breach will impact the UK
The data breach that Uber disclosed earlier this week includes information on users in the UK, according to the government’s Digital Minister Matt Hancock. Speaking in Parliament, he said it was still unclear how many UK users were affected but that he is working to get “sufficient answers” from Uber.
The UK government, like most others, only learnt about the hack after it was revealed in a media report by Bloomberg on Tuesday. Hancock said there is a “very high chance” the way Uber revealed the breach was “illegal under UK law”.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that while the breach did not happen under new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s watch, he was told about it just two weeks after he took on the role. While he immediately ordered an investigation, it is claimed, he did not reveal details to customers or the authorities.
British Gas loses 823,000 customers
British Gas owner Centrica has revealed the company lost 823,000 customer accounts in the four months to the end of October, just after it revealed a 12.5% increase in prices. While British Gas is still the market leader, with slightly more than 13 million accounts, the figures suggest cash-strapped British consumers are finally switching suppliers.
Shares in the company closed down more than 15% yesterday and are now a third below the price they were trading a year ago. Centrica also warned earnings-per-share would be 12.5p, a fifth below what was expected. Its UK business is now only expected to break even, rather than make a profit of £37m.
According to the Guardian, comparison site Energy Helpline called the customer exodus “historic” and said the price rise had been the main cause. Centrica is now trying to appeal to consumers by promising to get rid of standard variable rate tariffs.
Yorkshire Tea ups cricket focus with deal at the Ashes
Yorkshire Tea is increasing its focus on cricket sponsorship as it looks to build on its growing popularity in Australia. The tea brand, which has sponsored the England Cricket Board since 2013 and grassroots cricket for more than 20 years, is running a campaign for the Ashes series in Australia, which started this week.
The campaign features ads on the digital perimeter board designed to target the Australian market. It will feature at all five tests, as well as the one day and T20 matches.
Kevin Sinfield, head of brand marketing, at Yorkshire Tea says: “We have a long-standing relationship with cricket at both a national and grass roots level and we are pleased to extend this overseas with a campaign around The Ashes 2017/18. We see great opportunity for further growth of Yorkshire Tea in Australia – the popularity and passion surrounding Ashes cricket provides the perfect platform for us to drive brand awareness and relevancy.”
Thursday, 24 November
Advertisers condemn attempts by Stop Funding Hate to censor press
The Advertising Association, ISBA and the News Media Association (NMA) have come together to reject attempts by lobby group Stop Funding Hate to get brands to boycott certain newspapers.
Paperchase is the brand most recently caught up in controversy after the activist group and some consumers criticised the brand for running a promotion in the Daily Mail. It has since promised to stop advertising with the newspaper but the advertising and publishing groups feel Stop Funding Hate is attempting to censor the press.
The Advertising Association, which represents advertisers, agencies and media owners, said in a statement: “We believe pressure group lobbying of this kind has negative implications for our press freedom, by seeking to harm newspapers’ commercial interests and thereby influencing their editorial policy.
“Advertisers are free to choose where they do and don’t advertise and should do so, based on what they believe will work best for their customers and their brands, not on the media’s editorial stance. We applaud the vast majority of advertisers that have stood firm on this principle.”
Last year Lego said it would no longer run promotions in the Daily Mail after being targeted by the lobby group and The Co-operative said it would review where it advertises.
ISBA added: “Advertisers of course have the right to choose where to place advertising and some contexts will be more suitable for their brands than others. Every advertiser can and does make its own decision.”
However, it said brands should not seek to influence editorial policies.
“There are very good reasons for this process. We live in a democracy where publishers are not censored by the Government. We shouldn’t take for granted the freedom of the press, even as we are absolutely right to challenge the fairness and accuracy of its reporting.”
Meanwhile, the NMA said it “condemns the actions of political activist groups such as Stop Funding Hate which seek to bully and manipulate advertisers into changing their advertising strategies in order to further their own press censorship aims”.
It has urged the industry to come together to “reject this attempted commercial censorship”.
Thomas Cook posts sharp drop in UK profit
Thomas Cook has posted a 40% drop in UK profits as a result of rising prices in the Spanish holiday market and increase in the number of fraudulent sickness claims.
The holiday firm’s earnings were also affected by having to look after 10,000 holidaymakers in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the US.
Having to absorb all these costs led to the UK arm’s profit dropping from £87m to £52m.
Total sales for the group rose 9% to more than £9bn for the year to 30 September. Pre-tax profits grew 35% to £46m.
The Trump SoHo hotel to rebrand without Trump name
The Trump SoHo hotel is looking to turnaround its fortunes by cutting ties with the Trump Organization and rebranding without the Trump name. The move comes as room rates at Trump hotels have fallen 63% since the election.
CIM Group, the California-based investment company which owns the building, has bought out the Trump Organization, severing a management contract and ending the company’s connection to the struggling hotel business.
The Trump Organization will exit at the end of December, at which point CIM will be able to rebrand the hotel, cutting associations with the Trump name.
Aston Martin on the road to recovery
Aston Martin has posted record profits for the first nine months of the year as luxury cars sales accelerate.
The British sports car brand suffered years of losses before new chief executive Andy Palmer joined the manufacturer three years ago from Nissan. He introduced the 104-year-old company’s ‘Second Century ‘ strategy in a bid to get the car firm back on track.
The strategy seems to be working given the company sold 65% more cars during the period than it did in 2016.
Amazon launches in Australia
Amazon has opened for business in Australia, the world’s 12th largest economy. The soft launch saw the Australian arm start taking orders at 4am GMT, 3pm in Australia.
Amazon has allowed people to living in Australia to register as sellers but they have been limited to sending goods offshore as the company previously had no warehouse in the country. Australian customers also had to pay very high delivery charges and wait long periods for anything to arrive.
Wednesday, 22 November
Uber concealed hack affecting 57 million people
Uber concealed a data breach that affected 57 million customers and drivers. The ride-sharing firm hid the breach in 2016 by paying hackers $100,000 (£75,000) to delete the data.
The hackers stole 57 million names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers, including the names and license plate details of 600,000 drivers. According to Bloomberg, Uber’s former chief executive Travis Kalanick knew about the breach over a year ago.
Drivers have been offered free credit monitoring protection, although the same service has not been rolled out to affected customers.
In January Uber was fined $20,000 by regulators for failing to disclose a less serious breach in 2014.
UK ad spend set to rise 4.8% to £19.8bn in 2018
UK advertising spend is set to increase 4.8% to £19.8bn in 2018, according to the latest forecast from GroupM. The media agency forecasts 2017 to conclude better than expected, with ad spend up 5% to £18.9bn.
Digital advertising is expected to hold a 60% share of UK ad investment in 2018, due to rising digital audiences, the growth of ecommerce and a preference among marketers for driving near term return-on-investment (ROI).
GroupM predicts digital advertising to grow by 13.3% in 2017 and 9.8% in 2018. Key growth is expected to be in audio/visual (A/V) content creation. It estimates that two-thirds of advertisers who suspended advertising on YouTube earlier this year due to brand safety concerns have returned to normal investment levels on the platform.
While ad spend on TV declined 2.9% in 2017, GroupM expects levels to stabilise in 2018 in a context of slower audience loss and attractive pricing. In terms of linear TV, GroupM forecasts impressions among 16-to-24-year-olds to fall by 12% in 2017, down a further 8% among 16- to 34-year-olds.
Looking ahead to next year, expectations are that out-of-home ad spend will rise by 2%, if promised improvements in effectiveness, automation and efficiency come to fruition. However, ad spend for national news brands is forecast to plummet by 12% in 2017 and 8% in 2018.
Samsung to debut UK’s longest ever single shot ad
Samsung has created the UK’s longest ever single shot TV advert, featuring nothing but a washing machine cycle.
Filling an entire ad break during Channel 4’s Gogglebox on 24 November, the 3 minut and 20 second-long advert will be preceded by a Channel 4 branded introduction.
Developed by creative agency Taylor Herring to mark the launch of Samsung’s new QuickDrive washing machine, the advert was inspired by the TV “interlude” series of the 1950s, which most famously featured a rotating potter’s wheel to cover for gaps in programmes. The Samsung commercial directly references the inspiration via on screen text and 30 seconds of sepia tinged footage before fading to full colour
The campaign will include a tie up with the Gogglebox personalities, who will tweet about the advert as it airs on Channel 4.
Retailers up marketing spend as Christmas confidence grows
A third of retailers have increased their marketing spend in time for Christmas despite rising cost pressures, according to Barclays Christmas Confidence Survey.
Some 43% of retailers predict that increased marketing across the industry will have a positive impact on Christmas trading, with 71% saying they are more confident or as confident as last year about their overall Christmas trading prospects. In fact, 49% expect to achieve revenue growth.
The Barclay’s research shows that 73% of retailers surveyed are participating in Black Friday, although their approach to the discount event is becoming more sophisticated. Some 50% plan to limit their Black Friday deals to certain channels and more than a third (36%) will limit the amount of product on offer.
This discount savvy strategy is extending to the wider Christmas period, with 70% of retailers saying they are planning discounts more carefully to maximise margins by discounting select products over a longer period this year rather than simply slashing prices on Black Friday.
Some 49% of sales this Christmas are expected to involve more than one channel, with an estimated 30% being eventually completed online, around double the usual level in a standard month. According to Barclays, to accommodate this shifting consumer behaviour retailers have invested 41% more in their online capacity and infrastructure this year.
ASA upholds complaint against Pernod Ricard
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that Pernod Ricard breached the CAP Code with an advert for its Absolut brand prominently showing people drinking who appeared to be under 25 years old.
Aired on 9 August, the sponsored Facebook post by Absolut featured a video of a group of young people sitting in a boat drinking, alongside on-screen text stating “Enjoy Absolut Responsibly”.
The ASA noted that during the ad the camera focused on all of the individuals in the boat and, in the context of a short ad, featured them prominently. The individuals were also shown dancing and using their mobile phones to record the experience, which the ASA considered an action reflective of adolescent culture.
Absolut provided identification proving everyone featured in the advert was 25 years or older, arguing that whether an individual “appeared” to be under 25 years was subjective, although it had no intention to portray them as such.
Despite acknowledging that the individuals were all 25 years or older, the ASA argued that some of those featured would be considered to be under the age of 25 by some consumers.
As the CAP Code requires that people shown drinking alcohol or playing a significant role in a marketing communication must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25 years of age, the advert was ruled to have breached the code and must not appear again in its current form.
Tuesday 21 November
Uber looks to buy 24,000 self-driving Volvo cars
Uber plans to buy up to 24,000 self-driving cars from Volvo, marking a change from its long-standing business model where contractor drivers buy or lease and maintain their own cars.
Volvo said in a statement on Monday (20 November) it would provide Uber with its flagship XC90 SUVs equipped with autonomous technology as part of a non-exclusive deal from 2019 to 2021. A Volvo spokesman said it covered up to 24,000 cars.
Should Uber buy all 24,000 cars, it would be Volvo’s largest order by far and the biggest sale in the autonomous vehicle industry, giving Uber its first commercial fleet of cars.
Uber isn’t the only business doing this, with Lyft striking a similar deal with Ford. The car hailing app has also faced a lot of scrutiny in the UK for not giving its employees enough rights – could this be a move by the company to find a way around it?
Paperchase ‘truly sorry’ for advertising in the Daily Mail
Paperchase has promised not to run any more promotions in the Daily Mail following a backlash from online activist group Stop Funding Hate, which criticised its “transphobic” news stories.
The stationery firm offered free wrapping paper in Saturday’s newspaper. But after criticism from the campaign group and some consumers, on Monday, it said: “We’re truly sorry and we won’t ever do it again.”
A Daily Mail spokesman said: “It is deeply worrying that Paperchase should have allowed itself to be bullied into apologising – on the back of a derisory 250 Facebook comments and 150 direct tweets – to internet trolls orchestrated by a small group of hard left Corbynist individuals seeking to suppress legitimate debate and impose their views on the media. .”
Stop Funding Hate is an lobby group which targets companies to stop advertising with the Mail, the Sun and the Daily Express. Last year, Lego ended its promotional giveaways in the Daily Mail following a campaign by the online activists.
British Gas ditches standard tariffs ahead of price cap
British Gas has announced it will stop selling the contentious standard deals to new customers. It will also block existing customers from rolling onto the variable tariff when their fixed deals end.
The demise of the standard variable tariff was seen by many to be a reaction to the Government’s pledge to cap the price paid by almost 17 million homes in a bid to end what it called “rip-off” energy bills.
The pledge has not been well-received within the industry, with the tactics raising concerns that the industry’s efforts to boost competition is being actively undermined by Government posturing.
Facebook market value overtaken by Tencent
Move aside Facebook, as a new competitor has overtaken it in terms of market value.
Tencent is the first Chinese company to break through the $500bn mark, making it the first Chinese technology company to join an elite group dominated by US groups.
The Chinese social media group’s share price jumped as much as 4.7% in morning trading, bringing it to a record high and lifting market capitalisation to as far as $534.5bn, above that of Facebook at $519.4bn.
More than half of the 980m users of its WeChat platform spend over 90 minutes on the app every day, with Tencent dominating its home turf thanks in part to Beijing’s block on Facebook.
Businesses to ramp up investment in artificial intelligence
Most businesses are planning to plough cash into artificial intelligence over the next two years, as just one in 10 leaders believes the UK to be a world leader in digital.
Some 85% of the more than 50 organisations surveyed by Deloitte, which collectively are worth more than £200bn, said they will invest in the technology along with the Internet of Things.
AI was identified as potentially the most disruptive technology, though only 22% have invested in it already.
“The first edition of the index shows that few UK businesses are successfully exploiting digital technologies and ways of working,” said Deloitte’s digital transformation leaders Paul Thompson.
“Strategies are not coherent, investment levels are modest and the relevant skills are in short supply. As a result, the UK is’t living up to its digital potential.”
Monday 20 November
YouTube under fire again as brands pull ads
A number of brands have pulled their advertising from YouTube again after an investigation by The Times showed ads apppearing next to clips aimed at or featuring children that were “inappropriate” or “disturbing”. Iceland, O2 and Which? are among companies to have suspended advertising.
YouTube has now shut down some of the offending channels including one, called Toy Freaks, that had attracted seven billion views.
This latest news comes months after a widescale brand boycott after ads were found appearing next to white supremacist and terrorist content.
In a statement, Google says: “We take child safety extremely seriously and have clear policies against child endangerment. We recently tightened the enforcement of these policies to tackle content featuring minors where we receive signals that cause concern.
“It’s not always clear that the uploader of the content intends to break our rules, but we may still remove their videos to help protect viewers, uploaders and children. We’ve terminated the Toy Freaks channel for violation of our policies. We will be conducting a broader review of associated content in conjunction with expert Trusted Flaggers.”
Asos overtakes M&S in market cap
Marks & Spencer has been overtaken by commerce rival Asos in terms of market cap, a sign of the struggles of the high street and shift in shopping towards online. On Friday, Asos shares gained 2% to boost its market value to £4.89bn. M&S was worth £4.88bn, according to Reuters data.
Despite the move, M&S still remains bigger than Asos both in terms of sales and profits. Asos saw profits of £80m on sales of £1.9bn last year, compared with profits of £176.4m and sales of £10.6bn at M&S. But Asos is still growing while M&S has seen full-year profits fall from a hire of more than £1bn in 2008.
Worrying signs for retailers as research predicts fall in Christmas spending
Retail spending is expected to fall this year for the first time since 2012 as cautious shoppers rein back. According to research by Visa and IHS Markit, there will be a 0.1% fall in consumer spending this festive season. That is in sharp contrast to last year when spending was up 2.8% year on year and comes amid a backdrop of rising inflation and slugging economic growth.
“While it still looks likely that consumers will be hitting stores and websites in search of bargains this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we expect spending for the duration of the festive season to be lower in comparison to last year,” says Mark Antipof, chief commercial officer at Visa.
“Looking back, consumers were in a sweet spot in 2016 – low inflation and rising wages meant there was a little extra in household budgets to spend on the festive period. 2017 has seen a reversal of fortunes – with inflation outpacing wage growth and the recent interest rate rise leaving shoppers with less money in their pockets.”
New crackdown on the ‘gig economy’ urged
Companies operating in the so-called gig economy are exploiting loopholes in employment law and leaving workers worse off, claim MPs, who say minicab and delivery drivers are facing an “unacceptable burden” to prove they are workers and not self employed.
The Work and Pensions Committee and Business Select Committee have drawn up a draft bill that assumes people are “worker by default” and therefore have to receive holiday and sick pay. Companies would face punitive fines for falsely classifying workers as self-employed and denying them benefits under the proposals.
A government spokeswoman tells the BBC the government recognises that the “labour market is not working for everyone” and that there is an ongoing review of working practices.
Despite rising concerns about workers in the gig economy, these firms continue to see rapid growth. Deliveroo has just raised an additional $98m for its latest funding round, bringing its total to $482m.
Government urged to pause corporation tax cut
Tax experts are urging the chancellor Philip Hammond to “rethink” a planned cut to corporation tax to free up money for other spending priorities. The governement currently plans to cut the tax to 17% by 2020 to send a clear message that Britain is “open for business”. However many now think there are bigger policy concerns that should be addressed first and that Hammond should use the budget on Wednesday (22 November) to halt the cut.
The British Chambers of Commerce is among those urging Mr Hammond to “pause” and keep the corporate tax rate at 19% until after UK leaves the EU, acccording to the Financial Times. The lobby group has said that the resulting revenue could be ringfenced to ease other burdens on business.
Elsewhere, Hammond is expected to unveil a major investment in driverless cars in the UK, with the aim of having them on the roads by 2021.
READ MORE: Tax experts call for ‘rethink’ of UK corporation tax in Budget (£)