Unilever Threatens to Spend Less, While TV Ad Spend Drops

Hot Takes on Unilever Tough Talk

Unilever CMO Keith Weed told the audience at IAB’s ALM that the company would pull spending from platforms that fostered “division,” hate, and conditions that didn’t “protect our children.” He also called digital environments of questionable brand safety a “swamp.” Meanwhile, Unilever has been cutting its advertising spend substantially in the past year and change, in both its media buys and its creative budget. I’m trying to ignore my own bias, which says that unless you’re in a war zone or a riot, playing the “do it for the children” card is kind of a last resort. The Drum has some more tempered hot takes: The digital platform rep who said Unilever had not told them anything previously about reducing spend, the marketing exec who noted how fellow CPG stalwart Procter & Gamble had publicly accepted some accountability for wading into brand-unsafe waters and Weed had not, the agency folks who said Unilever hadn’t told them anything about how to work with Google and Facebook in the future. And also, there’s the question: Would Unilever cutting back spending really affect the major platforms’ bottom line at all?

Has TV Ad Spend Peaked?

Bloomberg notes TV ad spend in 2017 dropped the largest YOY amount of the last 20 years, barring recession years. Cable ad sales dropped for the first time in nearly 10 years. The article paints a bleak picture about the future of TV advertising as a business, but in this column we were talking a few weeks ago about how agencies and brands should be careful about pulling TV spend, on account of the massive reach TV still allows. Bloomberg says the TV networks are “facing a revolt” from advertisers, and that total ad spend in TV seems to have peaked and begun dropping off. So the question is, how are broadcasters going to sell their digital audiences, who are clearly still “watching TV,” just not on a TV, per se? Is there more to getting those digital CPMs up to linear standards than bringing measurement to a certain level of maturity?

This Week in Blockchain

Jarrod Dicker, most recently the Washington Post’s VP of Innovation and Commercial Strategy, is leaving the Post to become CEO of po.et, a company that uses blockchain technology to license digital content to entities who’ll pay for it. In this Q&A with Poynter, Dicker sounds enthusiastic about this idea of liberating content creators from being beholden to any one platform (or one platform at a time) for getting paid for their work, and of liberating brands to buy into media without going through publishers or platforms. And also, he says, why should all content creators at any one website be paid the same rate? It’s an interesting way of looking at the media biz—certainly either a sign of the democratization of media, the free market eating itself alive, or something else.

Long-Game Strategy Needed for Media

Al Jazeera Media Network SVP of Business Growth and Development Michael Weaver says our current environment “reward[s] scale and reach over depth and substance,” and he says that’s destroying the digital business model, as evidenced by cutbacks and closures among high-profile media companies. One of the core problems, he says—one that ends up putting tons of money in the pockets of Google and Facebook, two companies that don’t even produce original content—is that the ad model as we know it is so focused on making revenue in the short term. But media is a long game—there’s always an audience for news. And he says publishers need to think about “curating content with an eye toward context and distribution” to save their hides in the long run. Problem is, there’s no long-game model we can look toward and mimic in this business. Someone will have to come up with one.

New Models for the Data Business

Some of the big data providers are selling data as a percent of media, rather than on a fixed CPM. AdExchanger’s James Hercher explains: “An advertiser, for instance, is unlikely to spend $2 per thousand impressions on data if the media itself has a $3 CPM. Instead of data consuming 40% of the budget, a percent-of-media price caps the cost in the 10-20% range.” That opens a door to buyers who hadn’t been able to justify the cost of audience data, and Hercher says performance campaigns buying low-cost impressions stand to benefit in particular. And because that means they’d be getting new clients, several of those leading data providers are happy to play along.