Programmatic and Digital Media – Roundup

Here’s a monthly round-up on all things programmatic, paid and digital media that caught our attention in June 2021.

Floc Off : Google delays third-party cookie removal

The BIG news this month is that Google has announced that it’s delaying plans to phase out third-party cookies until 2023. This is at least a year later than it originally planned and suggested to the market. With all other browsers already implementing some blocking against third-party tracking cookies, advertisers still need to have cookieless solutions. As things stand, Google simply hasn’t come up with a viable alternative, so has flip-flopped on the matter.  

In the blog post announcing this, Google says the decision to phase out cookies over a “three month period” in mid-2023 is “subject to our engagement with the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).” In other words, it’s working with regulators to come up with new technologies to replace third-party cookies for use in advertising. Government public consultation on the matter is open now until 8th July.

The EU thinks Google is anti-competitive

The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Google. It centres on whether Google unfairly favors its own online display advertising technology over competitors. The investigation will also explore whether Google is unfairly limiting access to user data to its competitors.

Apple ups privacy by clamping down on fingerprinting

Apple announced a new feature that will crackdown on fingerprinting at their developers conference. Named ‘Private Relay’ and expected to launch this autumn the tool will prevent advertisers from accessing consumers IP addresses by redirecting traffic through two separate servers, making it impossible to use identification methods.

The CMA is taking action on Fake Reviews

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is looking into whether Amazon and Google broke consumer laws by failing to take action against fake reviews on their sites. Social proofing has long been a favoured tactic of product marketers, and gaming the system has always been an issue.  

Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, said “Our worry is that millions of online shoppers could be misled by reading fake reviews and then spending their money based on those recommendations.” She added that it was unfair to businesses that adhere to the rules if other businesses can give their own products fake 5-star reviews.

Google has a new ads creative studio

Google announced the launch of a new creative advertising tool set called “Ads Creative Studio”. The aim is to unify multiple creative tools (Director Mix, Dynamic Display & HTML5 creation tools, Audio Mixer and Dynamic Audio tools, Project Library) to make it easier to build out multiple creative.

Designed to improve collaboration between creative and media teams, it is separate from the media platforms, so it should be low risk to allow creatives edit access, before handing over to the media teams to implement. Teams can work together to collaborate and once created, they are able to activate directly to Google Ads, Display & Video 360 and Campaign Manager 360 for use.

YouTube bans masthead ads for gambling and alcohol

YouTube is no longer allowing certain verticals to run masthead slots, specifically ads related to alcohol, gambling, politics or prescription drugs. After initially surfacing as rumours, the category stipulations were verified by Google in an update of YouTube’s advertiser terms of service, with the restrictions being rolled out with immediate effect across all operating markets.

The restrictions should have little impact on UK-licensed betting operators, as last year measures established by the Betting and Gaming Council ensured that all online and social media advertising target audiences aged +25 across all major digital platforms. Specific to YouTube, betting advertisers were forced to ensure that all gambling content will be guarded by a ‘+18-verification filter’ for audiences to engage with any content.

TrueView Video for action are being replaced by Video action campaigns

YouTube TrueView for action campaigns are getting an upgrade to Video action campaigns. This will allow for more responsive ad groups across more inventory. Launched last year Video action campaigns are served across YouTube home feed, watch page, watch next and video partners. Advertisers will be able to use TrueView for action ads until early next year, but new ad creative will not be supported from September 2021.

New Academic Study shows Exclusion Lists are Essential

New research from the University of Michigan School of Information shows that 48% of all ad traffic is served on fake news sites in the US. The report highlights the need for brands to pay careful attention to exclusion lists and work with respected providers who know how to stop ads showing up next to fake news and thin content.

Spotify is getting more personal

Earlier this month Spotify launched a dedicated in-app experience called Only You. The feature focuses on a user’s favorite music and how they listen. It’s a similar experience to the popular ‘Spotify Wrapped’, annual review, as it highlights what’s important to an individual, that they can then share across social media. Spotify is also beta testing a collaborative playlist function (called Blend) where users can merge their musical tastes to create a curated playlist featuring songs they both like.

Little will change in Spotify ads initially, but all the signals points towards this being an initial move to cohorts and comparable connections being the future on the platform.

Facebook is testing headset VR ads

While it seems like every year ‘is the year of VR’, it seems that 2021 could be somewhat of a breakthrough now that Facebook is looking to monetize the Oculus platform. It has begun testing ads in some games for their headset based experience. Although user numbers are still relatively small, the interesting aspect for advertisers is that this opens up the possibility of 3D advertising breaking through and the  introduction of eye tracking technology that a virtual headset environment offers.

Instagram Ads are getting Reel

Instagram announced it’s launching ads in its short-form video platform (and essentially it’s TikTok rival), Reels, to advertisers everywhere following territory tests. The ads will be vertical format (similar to Instagram Stories) but as they loop and can be up to 30-second long, it makes them significantly longer than a  standard 15-second Story Ad video or 5-second Story Ad image. There will also be space for “post description” at the bottom of the ad, and users can see likes and comments on the Reels Ad like they would a standard in-feed ad. They will launch with an auction-based model, although performance metrics and guarantees are unknown at this stage.

Affiliate selling on Instagram being tested

Instagram have announced they will start testing a new affiliate selling tool. Influencers and content creators will soon be able to earn commission for the purchases they inspire. It will only be available for products available to buy through Instagram’s in-app payment tool, Instagram Checkout.

Google Ads API v8.0 was released

Coming just six weeks after version 7.0 Google released Google Ads API 8.0 with a bunch of new features for reporting and testing, which you can see in the video below.