Ad blockers, Google & Uber: Everything that matters this morning

All the marketing news you need to know this morning.

Ad blockers to be used by 30% of internet users by 2018


With ad blocking growing into a standard practice for so many people, new data suggests its use will only rise in the States.

According to eMarketer, around 25% of U.S. internet users were using ad blockers as of the end of 2016. However, it notes that their use in the States remains skewed toward desktop/laptop computers rather than smartphones.

It claims three in 10 internet U.S. users will be using blockers by the end of 2018. On this side of the Atlantic, more than nine million British web users are thought to currently block ads.

READ MORE: 30% of all Internet users will ad block by 2018

Google Maps to let users share their locations

Google Maps will soon allow users to share their real-time locations with friends and family. And all without the need to leave the application.

With the latest update, iOS and Android users will be able to open the app’s menu, or tap the blue dot that represents their location, and instantly tap “Share Location.” Subsequently, they can share their real-time location with any user of their choosing.

These contacts will be able to see the user’s location on their own maps, whether they’re using the Google Maps app or browsing Google Maps on desktop or the mobile web. Should the person sharing their location suddenly feel uncomfortable, they can instantly stop sharing their location.

READ MORE: Google Maps will soon let users share their real-time locations, trips

UberX customers receive surprise Porsche ride

Uber has teamed up with Porsche to give its Australian users a ride in one of the supercars.

Leading up to the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, the 20 best UberX drivers in Victoria drove around Melbourne picking up unsuspecting Uber customers and taking them to their destination in the new Porsche Panamera.

Spearheaded by public relations agency Mango, the campaign features a 45-second viral video that shows the surprise of those being picked up. The campaign will run until the opening of the Grand Prix in Albert Park on Monday.

READ MORE: UberX customers receive surprise Porsche ride in new campaign

Under Armour readies the release of a shoe shaped by a 3D printer

Fresh from debuting a limited run (96 pairs) of Architech shoes that came with a 3D-printed midsole, Under Armour is now extending the line even further.

Its new ‘Futurist’ sneakers use 3D printing to create a “dynamic lattice network” for cushioning. And Under Armour boasts that the new pair of sneakers are “matched to a compression lace system that adds an external sleeve with a zipper and a UA SpeedForm upper for a very secure fit”.

Set to retail for a pricey $300, the new Futurist sneakers will go on sale from the 30 March.

READ MORE: Under Armour’s latest $300 3D-printed sneaker arrives March 30th

Thursday, 23 March

Instagram reaches 1 million advertisers

Instagram says 1 million businesses are now advertising every month on its service, up 400% from the 250,000 using it a year ago. Meanwhile, there are 8 million business profiles, with the UK among the countries with the greatest adoption. And in the last month, 120 million of its users visited a website, got directions, called, emailed or direct messaged to learn about a business.

Instagram is putting the growth down to brands using the platform to showcase people’s passions, whether that is travel, fashion or food. While it says the simplicity of tools such as Boomerang help business to make compelling content.

The majority of its advertiser growth has come from small businesses. Instagram now wants to deepen its relationship with businesses. It will offer more insights on content and more tools, for example the ability to book a service with a business directly through their profile.

READ MORE: Welcoming one million advertisers

Major US brands pull advertising from YouTube

Major US brands including Verizon, GSK and AT&T are suspending advertising on YouTube after their ads were found to have appeared next to extremist content. The move comes after an investigation by The Times in the UK found brand ads appearing next to unsavoury content from terrorists, white supremacists and pornographers.

The spreading boycott threatens to cost Google millions of dollars in ad revenue. Google has vowed to step up efforts to block ads on “hateful, offensive and derogatory videos”.

“We know that this is unacceptable to the advertisers and agencies who put their trust in us,” Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, says in a blog post. Part of its plan including hiring “significant numbers” of people to review content uploaded to YouTube and flag any that might be inappropriate and improving AI so it can learn what content is not appropriate.

However, this has done little to appease advertisers. “We are deeply concerned that our ads may have appeared alongside YouTube content promoting terrorism and hate,” AT&T says. “Until Google can ensure this won’t happen again, we are removing our ads from Google’s non-search platforms.”

READ MORE: Google’s YouTube losing major advertisers upset with videos

Tesco pulls Heineken brands in latest Brexit price row

Tesco is to stop stocking Heineken brands including Kingfisher, Sol and Amstel after the supermarket said it would not accept price increases the brewer has blamed on Brexit and increases in taxes on beer. In total, 24 out of 53 Heineken brands are affected, with eight no longer being sold at all.

According to the Guardian, Heineken said it would have to put up prices due to an increase in costs caused by the devaluation of the pound following Brexit and a higher than expected increase in alcohol taxes in the budget.

A similar price row last year saw a number of Unilever products removed from sale in Tesco. However this was only temporary as the two firms came to an agreement over pricing. Heineken and Tesco are not expected to reach a compromise in the near future. Tesco is also thought to be keen to increase its range of craft beer and own label.

READ MORE: Tesco pulls Sol, Amstel and Tiger from shelves in Brexit price row

Next profits fall as it warns about prospects for 2017

Next’s full-year profits fell by 3.8% in the year to January, with the retailer posting underlying profit before tax of £790.2m. That was in the mid-range of its guidance but comes after Next warned in January that profits would fall following a difficult 2016. Full price sales were down 1.3%, with its directory business performing better than retail as customers continue to shop online.

The retailer says it remains “extremely cautious” about 2017. But has plans to develop the business to boost sales including the closure of smaller, less profitable stores (while opening new, cheaper retail space), changing its buying culture and modernising its directory business.

“The clothing sector faces three potential threats: a sectoral shift away from spending on clothing, price inflation as a result of sterling’s devaluation and potentially weaker growth in real incomes in the wider economy,” Next explains.

READ MORE: Clothing retailer Next ‘extremely cautious’ about year ahead

UK airlines told to move to Europe post-Brexit

The EU has warned UK-based airlines such as easyJet that they will need to move their headquarters to Europe or sell shares to European nationals if they want to fly route between EU countries fater Brexit. According to the Guardian, airlines will have to havea significant base in EU territory to be allowed to fly across the continent, for example from Paris to Madrid or Berlin to Rome.

The warning makes it more likely airlines will restructure before Brexit, potentially hitting UK jobs. The UK is also likely to reciprocate to make it difficult for EU-owned airlines that could potentially dampen their investment in the UK, at least in the short term.

READ MORE: UK-based airlines told to move to Europe after Brexit or lose major routes

Wednesday, 22 March

Apple launches app to rival Snapchat and Instagram

Apple has launched a video editing app that allows users to create “expressive videos” by combining video clips, photos and music.

Clips, which will be available next month, also lets users create animated captions with their voice using the new Live Titles feature.

The app is already being likened Snapchat and Instagram Stories thanks to its array of filters, but Apple is not launching its own social network. Clips is a standalone app through which videos can be shared via platforms including Facebook and Instagram.

“Clips gives iPhone and iPad users a new way to express themselves through video, and it’s incredibly easy to use,” said Susan Prescott, Apple’s vice-president of apps product marketing in a statement from the company. “The effects, filters and amazing new Live Titles we’ve designed for Clips let anyone make great-looking, easily sharable videos with just a few taps.”

Apple is also loosening its device restrictions around movie rentals in the iTunes Store. The update means consumers can rent a movie on one device and watch it anywhere.

READ MORE: Apple offers its own take on Snapchat and Instagram Stories with the simple Clips video editing app

Airbnb looks to crack China with name change

Airbnb pushed its ‘Trips’ service in the UK in January with experiential ‘outside-in’ house

Airbnb has changed its name to ‘Aibiying’ in China, which translates to “welcome each other with love”, according to the company.

It is also set to launch its Trips platform in a bid to crack the market and succeed where other Western startups like Uber have failed.

Tourists from China staying in Airbnb properties in other countries grew 500% in 2015 and 142% in 2016. Chinese travellers have stayed in Airbnb homes more than 5.3 million times since it launched.

Airbnb says it has around 80,000 listings in China at present and more than 80% of users in the market are under the age of 35, a higher proportion than any other country.

However, Airbnb faces tough competition in China as the country’s leading home sharing site Tujia claims to have 450,000 listings.

READ MORE: Airbnb Doubles Down In China, Where Uber Failed

Brands unlikely to hit sugar targets by 2020

Brands are not on track to meet government targets of cutting sugar by 20% before 2020, according to a spokesman from the Food and Drink Federation, which represents companies including Mars, Cadbury, Kellogg’s and Nestlé.

Talking to The Times, Tim Rycroft said cutting sugar by a fifth “won’t be technically possible or acceptable to UK consumers”.

He added: “It’s very unlikely that all categories and all companies will achieve 20% by 2020 and that will be true of the first year as well.”

Companies can hit the target by reducing the amount of sugar per 100g, making portions smaller or shifting consumers to healthier alternatives.

While he agrees more needs to be done to tackle the obesity epidemic, Rycroft believes brands are already taking steps to cut down sugar in response to consumer demands and that implementing “arbitrary targets” is not the way to do it.

“My advice is to tone down the 20% by 2020 stuff and talk about it in terms of a continuous journey. It’s more about the direction of travel and momentum rather than setting arbitrary targets.”

READ MORE: Food giants reject lower sugar target

Tech sector growing faster than the UK economy

The UK’s digital economy is growing at twice the rate of the wider economy, and now contributes around £97bn a year, up 30% in five years, according to the third annual Tech Nation report.

The UK leads the march across Europe having attracted £28bn in technology investment since 2011, compared with £11bn in France and £9.3bn in Germany.

And it’s not just businesses in London, given 72%, the equivalent of £9.2bn, of venture capital and private equity investment went to regional businesses in 2016.

Some 2,700 tech workers and investors were questioned for the report, which reveals the highest concentrations of high growth tech companies are found in London, Bournemouth, Poole and Newcastle.

READ MORE: Tech sector growing faster than UK economy with 72pc of investment outside London, report says

Marriott to create 300,000 new rooms

Marriott International, which owns brands including Sheraton, Westin, The Ritz Carlton, W Hotels and Marriott, is set to add 300,000 new rooms by 2019 as part of a three-year global growth plan.

When the hotel group acquired Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide last year for £10bn it became the world’s largest hotel business with more than 1 million rooms worldwide.

Given the size of its existing brand portfolio – Marriott operates around 30 hotel brands around the world – Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson has suggested the group’s challenge will need to streamline without losing customers.

He said: “Not so long ago, owning and operating a large portfolio of brands made sense. The bigger the better. But with globalisation and the ever-increasing cost of building and protecting brand equity, the fascination with adding more brands has been reversed in recent years.

“These days it’s the challenge of learning how to kill a brand and keep a customer, as the famous Harvard Business Review article puts it, that occupies most senior managers.”

READ MORE: Marriott to add up to 300,000 rooms by 2019

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

British banks facing Russian money laundering investigation

Some of the biggest names in British banking have been implicated in a major money laundering investigation tied to Russia.

HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts are among 17 UK-based banks that are thought to have processed nearly $740m from the international criminal scheme, according to a report in the Guardian.

The operation, known among investigators as “the Global Laundromat”, has links to Russian criminals, oligarchs, Moscow bankers and the Russian government and KGB.

Among the banks that responded for comment, HSBC said: “This case highlights the need for greater information sharing between the public and private sectors, each of whom holds important information the other does not.”

READ MORE: British banks handled vast sums of laundered Russian money

Tesco’s head of international departs in reorganisation

Tesco’s new CEO for Central Europe Matt Simister

The head of Tesco’s international business Trevor Masters is leaving the supermarket chain after 38 years.

Following his departure his role is to be divided into two, focusing on Asia and Central Europe.

The Asian business, comprising Malaysia and Thailand, will be led by Tony Hoggett, while Matt Simister will head up the Central Europe division. This covers the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Despite past struggles in a number of markets, Tesco’s international arm has stabilised of late and saw like-for-like sales growth of 2.6% in the six months to the end of August 2016.

READ MORE: Tesco’s international boss to depart as role is split in two

Adobe launches Advertising Cloud to manage online ad spend

Adobe is today (21 March) launching its Advertising Cloud platform to allow brands to manage their spend across a variety of online channels.

The platform appears as a single dashboard through which advertisers can look to manage and optimise spend across search, display, social and video. It includes the integration of video ad tech company TubeMogul, which Adobe acquired for $540m in November.

The platform is being unveiled at Adobe Summit 2017, which is taking place in Las Vegas this week.

READ MORE: Adobe launches its Advertising Cloud to manage ads across search, social and TV

Asda in labelling dispute over its Slimzone range

Asda has pulled some of the meals from its diet range Slimzone following a dispute over its on-package labelling.

The supermarket chain launched a range of 12 meals this year using a categorisation from the weight loss organisation Slimming World.

However, Slimming World has said that Asda is misusing its trademark and that the retailer has failed to provide a detailed breakdown of the ingredients used.

The decision to pull meals from shelves comes one week before a court hearing into the trademark dispute.

READ MORE: Asda withdraws Slimzone meals amid row with Slimming World

Politicians oppose takeover of Dulux maker AkzoNobel

Representatives of four Dutch provincial governments have announced their opposition to the proposed takeover of paint manufacturer AkzoNobel.

The company, which makes Dulux among other brands, rejected a $22 billion takeover proposal from US group PPG Industries on 9th March. Analysts expect the business to return with a higher offer, according to Reuters.

The four provinces of Gelderland, Overijssel, Groningen and Zuid Holland – where AkzoNobel bases several R&D facilities and factories – said the takeover would put 5,000 jobs at risk.

READ MORE: Dutch provinces oppose Akzo Nobel takeover, fear job losses

Monday 20th March

Google under fire as Sky and Vodafone pull ads

Media giant Sky and telecoms company Vodafone have joined the growing list of brands pulling spend from Google over fears their advertising is being used to fund hate.

Over the weekend banks HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) also suspended spending on the search platform due to concerns their adverts were being placed next to content created by hate preachers and extremists.

The growing list of high profile brands to pull ad spent from Google includes McDonald’s, L’Oreal, Audi, the BBC, Sainsbury’s and Argos. Tesco is also thought to have “paused” spending on YouTube.

They join Havas, whose clients include O2 and Royal Mail, which on Friday became the first major global marketing company to pull all its entire ad spend from Google and YouTube.

READ MORE: Google braces for questions as more big-name firms pull adverts

Unilever plots £6bn sale of spreads after Kraft Heinz collapse


Unilever is exploring the £6bn sale of its spreads business in a bid to calm shareholder pressure following the failed $143bn (£115bn) takeover bid by Kraft Heinz.

The cost-cutting and restructuring plans could see the sale of brands including Flora, Stork and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, which make up part of the margarine and spreads business moved into a subsidiary in December 2014.

Next month Unilever will release the results of a strategic review aimed at “improving investor returns”. The Anglo-Dutch FMCG giant promised to shake up its business to “capture the value in Unilever” after successfully evading the merger bid from US rival Kraft Heinz in February.

READ MORE: Unilever is exploring a £6bn sale of spreads brands such as Flora and Stork after Kraft Heinz deal collapse

Uber president steps down after six months in role


Uber president Jeff Jones has unexpectedly stepped down after just six months in the role.

According to the BBC, Jones was frustrated at not being considered for the new chief operating officer role, although he is also thought to have been facing pressure over issues around Uber’s alleged culture of sexism and sexual harassment.

The creation of the chief operation officer is important, as BBC sources at the company report Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick is likely to step down soon after the new COO is in place.

READ MORE: Uber president Jeff Jones steps down

Next annual pre-tax profits expected to slide 4%

next brand

Retailer Next is expected to post a 4% drop in annual pre-tax profits this week as consumers continue to shift spend away from clothing and footwear.

Profits are expected to fall from £821.3m in 2016 to £792m, as the retailer continues to grapple with declining sales and the pressures of the falling pound following the Brexit vote.

Chief executive and pro-Brexit campaigner, Lord Wolfson, has already proposed a 5% price hike to offset the currency issues. Speaking at a trading update in January, Wolfson forecast 2017 would be “even tougher” for the retailer, predicting profits in 2018 to be between £680m and £780m.

READ MORE: Next poised to report fall in full-year profits amid plunging pound

YouTube accused of having “anti-LGBT” bias


YouTube has been accused of having an “anti-LGBT” bias after it was found to be filtering  out videos about same-sex relationships under its restricted mode.

Members of the LGBT vlogging community accused the video platform of discrimination after finding their videos were being hidden, taking to Twitter in their frustration with the hashtag #YouTubeIsOverParty. One British vlogger complained over 40 of her videos had been “made invisible”.

The restricted mode can be turned on to automatically filter “potentially inappropriate” content, which according to Google, is identified by “community flagging, age restrictions and other signals”.

YouTube responded on Sunday in a statement, saying the restricted mode is intended to filter out “mature content” and while LGBTQ+ videos are available in the restricted mode, videos that discuss “sensitive issues” may not be visible.

READ MORE: LGBT community anger over Youtube restrictions which make their videos invisible



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