Facebook vows to change political advertising standards
Last year’s US elections were certainly controversial, with Russia accused of meddling by secretly promoting Donald Trump to the American masses.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has now said his company will share 3,000 Russia-linked political adverts with US investigators, and has pledged to make political advertising more transparent on the platform in future.
“We will work with others to create a new standard for transparency for online political ads,” he said in a live address on his Facebook profile.
He said political advertising will now carry disclaimers about which campaign or organisation paid for it.
He added that the company was continuing to investigate instances of foreign actors abusing its advertising platform, including Russia and other “former Soviet states”.
Uber awaits its fate from TFL on licensing
Uber is expected to find out today whether Transport for London will give it a licence to continue operating in the capital.
The service, which launched in London in 2012, has racked up 3.5 million users in the city but faces strong opposition from the taxi trade.
Its licence is currently due to expire next Saturday (30 September). In May, its licence was extended for just four months, instead of the normal five years, raising questions about whether it would be extended further.
Uber has faced growing issues with regulators around the world ,as well as a string of internal problems. The firm has been accused of skirting local regulations as well as mistreating its drivers, whom it categorises as self-employed. Taxi groups have threatened legal action against TfL if it goes ahead and renews the licence.
Evans Cycles blacklists Daily Mail, Daily Express and Sun over clash of values
Evans Cycles has blacklisted the Daily Mail, Sun and Daily Express websites from its advertising campaigns, claiming that some of the content from the publisher’s sites contradicts their “core values”.
The retailer, which has more than 60 stores across the country, made the decision following queries placed on Twitter about the websites featuring its adverts.
Evans Cycles was initially asked to review its policies by ‘Stop Funding Hate’ – a campaign group set up to, as it puts it, “take on the divisive hate campaigns of the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express”.
A spokesperson from Evans Cycles says: “While we hadn’t previously targeted these outlets specifically, we were made aware that our programmatic advertising campaigns were appearing next to content that is very obviously at odds with our values. As a result, we have excluded these outlets from displaying any of our advertising campaigns.”
Apple faces slower demand for iPhone 8
It has only been a week since Apple unveiled its new iPhone 8 and iPhone X models, but analysts are already concerned about slowing consumer demand.
This is said to be due to Apple’s decision to stagger the launch dates, which is diminishing excitement about Friday’s release of the iPhone 8.
Anticipation for the $999 iPhone X, which offers a radical redesign but will not be released until November, has been blamed for a more muted reception to the iPhone 8, which offers more limited improvements over its predecessor.
“I think demand is down from last year, for no other reason than you have another flagship phone,” Neil Cybart, an Apple analyst at Above Avalon, told the FT. “A portion of the iPhone launch demand is not materialising quite yet.”
That could leave this weekend’s initial sales lower than at any point since the iPhone 6 first launched in 2014, Cybart added.
Ryanair scrambles to fix flight cancellations
Judging by our news round-up, Ryanair certainly hasn’t had the best of weeks. And its struggles are still ongoing.
The budget airline, which has come under fire for cancelling flights every day for the next six weeks after “messing up” the planning of pilot holidays, says it has been in talks with pilots to resolve the matter.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said the firm plans to make some pilots delay a week’s holiday, while some pilots had been offered a €10,000 pay rise in exchange for helping out.
It has also offered captains a one-off payment of £12,000 or €12,000, and first officers £6,000 or €6,000, but representatives said they wanted new contracts and better working conditions instead.
Thursday, 21 September
Google signs $1.1bn deal with HTC
Google’s parent company Alphabet has signed a $1.1bn (£822m) deal with Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC in a bid to expand its own smartphone business.
Under the terms of the arrangement, Google will acquire half of HTC’s smartphone research and development team, around 2,000 people, who will develop Pixel smartphones for the US company.
Google will also receive a non-exclusive license for HTC’s intellectual property, building on an existing partnership between the two tech companies which saw HTC manufacture Google’s Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones last year. The deal is expected to close by early 2018.
Google’s decision to make a stronger play for the smartphone market comes just a week after Apple unveiled its latest suite of phones, including the ultra-premium iPhone X.
Once a major player in the smartphone market, HTC has struggled in recent years to compete with the likes of Apple, Samsung and Chinese competitors such as Huawei.
Ryanair braces itself for further cancellations as pilots reject cash to work on days off
Ryanair is bracing itself for a fresh wave of flight cancellations as pilots reject the offer of a cash bonus to work on their days off.
According to The Guardian, Ryanair’s 4,200 pilots will refuse to work beyond their basic contractual obligations after the airline told them earlier this week that if they declined the £12,000 bonus, more flights might have to be scrapped.
In what is being widely described as a public relations disaster, Ryanair has so far been forced to cancel 50 flights a day until 31 October due to issues over scheduling time off for pilots, affecting 315,000 customers.
Wetherspoons protests against VAT with one day discount
JD Wetherspoon slashed the price of its food and drink by 7.5% on Wednesday in protest over the amount of VAT applied to pubs and bars.
Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin said the pub chain wanted to show customers how much they would save if VAT in pubs was scrapped permanently
He argued that cutting VAT would be a win/win situation, enabling customers to save and pubs to hire more staff, who would contribute to the economy.
“It will create more jobs and raise the amount of taxes which the government receives, since pubs and restaurants pay more taxes and create more jobs than supermarkets do,” said Martin.
Luxury British yacht firm plans £100m investment
Super yacht company Princess Yachts is planning a £100m investment programme following a record 85% surge in orders to £640m.
The Plymouth-based business says the weakened value of the pound has helped drive up demand from overseas buyers, particularly in Russia and China, who are upgrading to larger boats. Princess Yachts, which employs 2,500 people at its Plymouth manufacturing site, has now sold 100% of its production capacity for 2017 and 90% for 2018.
The £100m investment programme will see the company extend its product range and hire new staff in order to expand its capacity.
Gant launches YouTube TV show
Swedish fashion brand Gant is switching its focus to YouTube with the launch of six episode TV series, Couple Thinkers.
Debuting on 9 October, the series will follow American comedian Craig Ferguson and his wife Megan as they travel around the world seeking out “answers to the questions they have always wanted to explore”.
Aimed at tech-savvy, young professionals, the unscripted series will show the couple interviewing guest stars like publisher Arianna Huffington, all the while dressed in Gant.
As reported in Drapers, the fashion label chose YouTube because it is “widely populated” and “the most democratic channel”.
Wednesday, 20 September
Thomson kicks off campaign to communicate TUI rebrand
Thomson has kicked off a campaign that aims to communicate its rebrand to TUI. The ad shows a man diving into clear crystal blue water with the message ‘Thomson is changing to TUI’. The 20-second spot, created by Young and Rubicam, is the start of a communications push that TUI hopes will explain the change, thus avoiding confusing consumers.
Jeremy Ellis, marketing director at TUI UK and Ireland says: “The foundations for our re-brand are firmly in place and we are primed ready to become TUI. We want to ensure our customers are ready to take this exciting journey with us so it’s really important that we communicate the transition clearly.
Alongside the above-the-line campaign, TUI has been sending emails to its database of customers, and has sent out a special issue of its Discover magazine. Thomson’s more than 600 stores in the UK will also be rebranding to TUI from this week.
“We are incredibly excited to introduce the TUI name and ultimately the TUI brand to a wider UK audience,” adds Ellis.
Twitter’s AI tools help it tackle extremism
Twitter says it took down nearly 300,000 accounts run by terrorists in the first six months of the year as it looks to clean up the platform and make it a more attractive place for both consumers and brands. The company says 95% of the accounts were spotted by its spam-fighting artificial intelligence tools, which are learning how to identify extremism online. That is up from 74% in the previous six months.
Twitter also claims the tech is becoming smarter, with 75% of the accounts removed before they had even tweeted. Overall, Twitter suspended 20% fewer accounts compared with the second half of 2016, a decline it puts down to it becoming more effective at removing terrorists and them not then setting up another account.
The move comes as part of a major effort by Twitter to clean up the platform as it, and other social networking platforms, face mounting criticism both in the UK and internationally that they are not doing enough to tackle the issue of terrorism.
However, terrorism is not the biggest issue on Twitter, according to governments. The company says it received just 338 government requests to take down terrorist content, with 92% of those deleted. Almost 16,000 requests were for “abusive behaviour”, including harassment on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. Just 13% of those were actually removed by Twitter.
Ocado struggles despite best performance by supermarkets in four years
Ocado has seen its typical basket size go down, despite inflation in the grocery sector, with people typically spending £106.25 at the online grocer, down 1.2% on the same time last year. That continues a long-term trend, with average basket sizes down by just over £10 in a decade as consumers shop more frequently and with their mobile phones, when they are likely to do a smaller shop.
However, Ocado says falling basket sizes are not an issue, with Ocado’s sales up 13.1% to £312.7m in the three months endeed 27 August.
Overall, supermarket sales were up 4% in the three months to 10 September, according to Kantar Worldpanel, as inflation continues to boost sales. Growth was more than 3% for the sixth month running, the gorcery sector’s best performance since May 2013.
Employer confidence sinks
Employers’ confidence in the UK economy has sunk to its lowest level since the EU referendum. A survey by the Recruitment and Employment Confderation found that 33% of eployers believe the situation is deteriorating, with just 26% thinking it is improving.That gives a net balance of -7%, down from -3% in the previous month and the lowest score since June 2016.
Neverrtheless, employers continue to hire. A net balance of 10% said they are hiring, steady from previous months. However, Kevin Green, REC CEO, says employers need an early agreement on the rights of EU nationals living in the UK.
“Employers are showing a great deal of resilience as they continue to hire despite a growing number losing faith in the direction the economy is heading. The political climate isn’t helping the situation. Businesses need clarity in order to plan effectively and so far the Brexit negotiations have not resolved any of the core issues,” he adds.
Sainsbury’s releases first ad shot on Snapchat Spectacles
Sainsbury’s has released the first ad in the UK to be shot on Snapchat Spectacles. The 10-second ad aims to capture the comforting feeling of huddling around a hot stew. Created by its agency Gravity Road, the video is shot in 115-degree format, meaning viewers can rotate their phone to see more action. They can also swipe up to access extra content, including seasonal recipes.
Burger King is running a similar ad campaign in the US.
Direct Line provides drones for search & rescue teams
Insurance brand Direct Line has gifted its fleet of torch drones to Caister Lifeboats in Great Yarmouth to help the team on its rescue missions. And yesterday (18 September), the newly wateproofed drones took their first flight in the hope that by lighting up the sea the fleet will help lifeboat crews locate more people lost at sea.
The drones can be ordered and controlled via GPS and mobile technology directly from smartphones. This enables the crew to find people in real time as their path adapts to changes in the user’s journey.
Direct Line first introduced its Fleetlight drones, which are designed to help provide lights for its customers who might be broken down in their cars on a dark road, last year.
Tuesday, 19 September
Toys R Us files for bankruptcy protection as its struggles continue
With three months to go until Christmas, Toys R Us has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US and Canada as the kid’s retailer struggles with huge debts, increased competition from the likes of Amazon and pressure from suppliers.
Toys R Us, which has 1,600 stores globally and employs more than 60,000 staff, claims its operations outside the US and Canada won’t be effected by the move. The proceedings are designed to give the struggling retailer time to sort out its finances and protect itself from creditors as it aims to fix debts that are believed to top nearly $4bn.
Toys R Us, which is a equity-owned company, claims it has already received a commitment for more than $3bn in financing from a syndicate of lenders. Although this is subject to legal approval, it would markedly improve its financial health.
“While today’s decision does not necessarily mean it is game over for Toys R Us, it brings to a close a turbulent chapter in the iconic company’s history,” says Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.
Guinness goes to Compton, California for new ad campaign
Guinness has unveiled the latest chapter in its ‘Made of More’ advertising series, which has previously featured gay Welsh rugby star Gavin Thomas.
‘The Compton Cowboys’ ad, created by AMV BBDO, tells the story of a group of men from Compton, Los Angeles, who have stayed away from gang violence by instead choosing to save and care for horses.
“We are proud to celebrate the ‘Compton Cowboys’ in our new campaign, a group of people who have made a bold and unexpected choice to live a different life,” says Duncan Elliott, marketing director for Guinness.
“Through their love and devotion to their horses and each other, they are a source of inspiration and a cause for hope within their local community.”
Uber pays £2.9bm to stay in London as it sues ad agency
Transport for London is introducing a new licensing fee structure that means Uber will have to pay £2.9m over the next five years to continue to operate in the capital.
It plans to introduce the new system that means companies with more than 10,000 vehicles on London’s streets will have to pay a total of £2.9m – which includes a £580,000 application fee – for five years. Since 2013, any company with more than 10 vehicles was charged a much smaller £2,826.
“The capital’s private hire industry has grown dramatically, from 65,000 licensed drivers in 2013/14, to more than 116,000 today,” says a TfL spokesperson. “The new fees more accurately reflect the resources required to regulate firms, based on the size of their operations.”
According to TfL, the money it receives from Uber will go towards tackling illegal activity and licence enforcement.
In other Uber news, the ride-hailing ap is taking its advertising agency Fetch to court for click fraud, alleging that the firm improperly billed Uber for “fake” online ads and put its advertising on far-right website Briebart without consent.
Legendary music magazine Rolling Stone is put up for sale
US magazine Rolling Stone is up for sale. Wenner Media, the publishing company created by the magazine’s founder Jann Wenner, wants to sell its controlling stake in a bid “to best position the brand for future growth”.
Rolling Stone launched the careers of legendary gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and photographer Annie Leibovitz while running definitive interviews with everyone from John Lennon to Stanley Kubrick. However, Wenner’s son Gus says the publisher’s level of investment can no longer support the future ambitions of the magazine.
“Rolling Stone is a uniquely powerful brand with enormous opportunities to succeed in today’s environment,” he explains. “So we are being proactive and want to get ahead of the curve by finding a new owner.”
Over recent years, the US magazine has been hit by the rise of the internet and print sales have dried up. The Wenner’s decision to buy back a 50% stake in US Weekly for $300m in 2006 – after originally selling the stake for just $40m five years prior – had also left the magazine’s publisher in debt.
Wenner Media says Rolling Stone reaches more than 60 million people each month through multiple platforms (from social media to videos), and that its online traffic has grown by nearly 50% over the past three years. They say this proves it is a print title more than ready to succeed in the digital world.
Monday 18 September
Facebook and Google set to be taxed differently by the EU
EU finance ministers from 10 countries backed a plan over the weekend to start taxing the revenues of digital giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook, which have been accused of paying minimal tax.
The plan would force major tech firms to start paying a tax on revenues in any country where they do business, instead of being taxed on profits that they currently report in often low-tax countries.
But as all members have to agree on any plans to change EU taxation rules, the ministers agreed to take up the issue again in their meeting in December “to reach a common understanding.”
The plan was spearheaded by France, and backed by Germany, Spain and Italy. Six other nations have now also backed the reform by signing a public letter voicing their support.
“We should no longer accept that these companies do business in Europe while paying minimal amounts of tax to our treasuries,” read the letter, seen by POLITICO.
Snapchat blocks access to Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has a controversial relationship with the media and it seems US tech giants have not been left unaffected.
The social media platform has blocked access to Al Jazeera content after it was asked by the Saudi authorities to remove the Qatari-backed broadcaster’s Discover Publisher Channel because it violated local laws.
“We make an effort to comply with local laws in the countries where we operate,” a Snapchat spokesperson says in a statement.
Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s most restrictive media environments, according to human rights groups and media freedom advocates.
But the Saudi authorities have a particular dislike for Al Jazeera. At one point they had demanded Qatar’s government shut it down altogether as one of 13 conditions to remove sanctions against the country. Those conditions were later withdrawn.
Ryanair cuts 324 flights after messing up ‘planning of holidays’
Some 30,000 more passengers will be affected by Ryanair’s decision to cancel 164 flights after what it calls messing up “in the planning of holidays”. The Irish airline has already cancelled more than 160 flights over the weekend.
By far the worst affected airport is Stansted, its leading base. On Monday alone, 22 Boeing 737 flights to and from the Essex airport have been cancelled, including links to Barcelona, Budapest, Oslo and Prague.
Ryanair’s marketing director, Kenny Jacobs, says: “Cancellation notices for flights cancelled up to and including Wednesday 20 September have been sent to affected customers and posted on the Ryanair.com website.
“We will continue to send regular updates and post flight information on our website, with the next set of cancellations to be issued on Monday. We apologise sincerely to all affected customers for these cancellations.”
PwC admits it pays black and Asian workers 13% less
Diversity and inclusivity are becoming increasingly important to corporate agendas, and professional services firm PwC has joined the likes of the BBC by releasing pay gap figures.
They show that black, Asian and minority-ethnic staff (BAME) who work at PwC in the UK earn almost 13% less than other employees. The firm said its BAME workers were statistically paid less because more of them worked in administrative and junior roles, rather than senior ones.
PwC said it had published the data to help it speed up progress on the issue, and help tackle “ethnicity challenges”. It has been voluntarily publishing gender pay gap figures since 2014, but this is the first time it has released figures on BAME staff.
“The more transparent we are with our diversity and social mobility data, the more we hold ourselves accountable to achieving real change,” says PwC chairman Kevin Ellis.
Uber found guilty of using software to evade government officials
An investigation by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has found ride sharing company Uber guilty of using software to avoid government officials.
The report concluded that when Uber “illegally entered the Portland market” in 2014, before it had received a permit to operate in the city, it used its Greyball software to “intentionally deceive PBOT’s officers”.
Uber has not been penalised over the findings, but the report did confirm that PBOT was cooperating with a federal inquiry from the Northern District of California which may carry criminal penalties.
“As regulators, it is our job to ensure these companies [like Uber] play by the rules, keep passengers safe, and act ethically,” says Portland city commissioner Dan Saltzman.