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DIGITAL MEDIA DIGEST: APR ‘20

A monthly look at the world of digital from NORTH’s point of view

Fandango Acquires Vudu Creating More Ad-Supported Streaming Options
By Caroline Desmond, Director of Media Strategy

Image Source: TechCrunch.com

NBC Universal’s online movie ticketing and video-on-demand service, Fandango, just announced it will acquire Vudu. For those unfamiliar, Vudu is currently owned and operated by Walmart and it also allows consumers to stream movies and TV shows from Walmart.com. The companies have said that Vudu will continue to power Walmart’s digital movie and TV store on Walmart.com even after the acquisition.

The key benefit for NBC Universal is that this deal opens up more opportunities to sell streaming video ad inventory. Beginning in 2016, Fandango started to offer consumers the option to pay to stream popular movies and TV shows through its FandangoNow transactional video on demand (TVOD) service. Although Vudu offers a similar TVOD service, it has chosen to operate a free ad-supported streaming platform. With this acquisition, NBC Universal will likely begin to offer advertisers the ability to buy not only full episode player ads on NBC owned platforms, but also video ads on Vudu. The reach opportunity is significant. According to TechCrunch, Vudu “reaches more than 100 million living room devices across the U.S., including smart TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles and other over-the-top streaming devices, as well as Windows 10 and Mac computers, and iOS and Android mobile devices.”

This acquisition certainly comes at an opportune time. Media industry outlets are consistently reporting significant increases in streaming video consumption as consumers shelter in place and seek entertaining escapes from the day-to-day stresses. FandangoNow’s President, Paul Yanover, was recently quoted by Adweek noting that, “family films, comedies, thrillers and fantasy titles are all performing particularly well” right now. AdWeek has also reported a surge in streaming attributed to movie theaters shuttering their doors and the increase in movies releasing to on-demand platforms. Forbes recently reported a surge in Disney+ subscription sign ups, describing the platform as “serv[ing] up the type of comfort food viewing that people clamor for during hard times.” According to Forbes, “Disney+ traffic searches saw a 43.48% increase over the past month” as reported by marketing analytics provider, SEMrush.

Furthermore, Axios recently reported that “Americans (over the age of 2) streamed 85% more minutes of video in March 2020 compares to March 2019, according to a new report from Nielsen.”

Image Source: Nielsen; Chart: Axios Visuals

Other notable stats illustrating the rise in on-demand video streaming (courtesy of The Verge):

  • “[T]he television industry as a whole saw a 20 percent increase [the week of March 16th] compared to the month prior.”
  • “The percentage of people binge viewing series has increased 65 percent, while movie watching is up 70 percent on HBO Now.”
  • “Amazon’s other streaming platform, Twitch, has seen a 31 percent growth in viewership, with the total amount of hours watched jumping from 33 million on March 8th to 43 million on March 22nd.”

It is not clear at this point how much of Vudu’s ad tech or how much of Walmart’s shopper data will be available to brands through NBCUniversal ad sales based on the latest acquisition news from TechCrunch. Nevertheless, for brands, this acquisition is likely good news. Having another ad-supported streaming provider that offers premium content will likely help keep rates competitive because no one streaming platform is allowed to dominate the marketplace. As the saying goes, the more the merrier.

Facebook Warns Users About Misinformation
By Izzy Kramer, Media Planner

Image Source: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek/Getty via The New Republic

Since the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, Facebook has been trying to build their reputation back up as a trustworthy, credible platform. Amidst the swirl of information being published and shared during the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook is being put to the test. Facebook is actively trying to reduce the spread of misinformation on their platform.

These changes come at a crucial moment as last week protests began breaking out across the United States fueled by restlessness and misinformation, despite the crucial need to remain at home and away from others.

With Facebook and Instagram continuing to be a highly efficient and effective platform for advertisers to reach their desired audience, it is important for brands to be aware of the changes Facebook is making to their platforms during this crisis.

On April 16th, Facebook’s VP of Integrity, Guy Rosen, released this press release laying out the changes they plan to make over the next few weeks. Prior to this press release Facebook has made various minor changes across their platforms (i.e. educational pop-ups). However, the changes below are the bravest we’ve seen from Facebook yet.

Image Source: Facebook
  1. Informing People Who Interacted With Harmful COVID-19 Claims
    In the coming weeks Facebook plans to include messages in the New Feeds of users who have liked, reacted, or commented on information about COVID-19 that is deemed “harmful”. The Guardian explains how “harmful” is defined in this context: “The new policy applies only to misinformation that Facebook considers likely to contribute to ‘imminent physical harm’, such as false claims about ‘cures’ or statements that physical distancing is not effective.” These News Feed messages will click out to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 myth buster page. As Facebook puts it, “we want to connect people who may have interacted with harmful misinformation about the virus with the truth from authoritative sources in case they see or hear these claims again off of Facebook. People will start seeing these messages in the coming weeks.”
  2. Making It Easier for People to Get the Facts
    In the U.S., Facebook has started sharing fact-checked information by adding a “Get The Facts” section to their COVID-19 Information Center located in Facebook News, Facebook’s answer to a news aggregator similar to Apple News and Google News. Facebook is hoping that easier access to accurate information as well as debunked myths will help stop the spread of false, harmful information.
  3. Funding to Support Worldwide Fact-Checking Organizations
    Last month, in association with the International Fact-Checking Network, Facebook launched a $1MM grant program to support thirteen fact-checking organizations around the world. Facebook explains the fact-checking process: “Once a piece of content is rated false by fact-checkers, we reduce its distribution and show warning labels with more context. Based on one fact-check, we’re able to kick off similarity detection methods that identify duplicates of debunked stories. For example, during the month of March, we displayed warnings on about 40 million posts related to COVID-19 on Facebook, based on around 4,000 articles by our independent fact-checking partners.” Specifically in the U.S. this funding has gone to PolitiFact, a nonpartisan fact-checking website owned by the nonprofit journalism school, The Poynter Institute.

Responding to COVID-19 and Engaging with Millennials and Gen Z
By Madelyn Engel, Performance Marketing Manager

Image Source: The Guardian

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust brands under the spotlight as consumers await and judge brand responses to the “new normal.” Joanna Hawkes, VP of Integrated Strategy at Dentsu Aegis reports, “more than half of Millennials and Gen Zers said they’re paying more attention than usual to what brands are doing right now, and how they’re advertising during the crisis.” Furthermore, results from the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer found “there’s an almost unanimous worldwide belief that brands have a critical role during this trying time.”

While audiences were initially looking for distraction, as time goes on audiences are looking for more action from brands; however, the response that consumers expect varies by generation. The Dentsu Aegis report found that Boomers want to see a strong brand response, but remain passive themselves, while Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to want to participate and want brands to show them how to get involved.

Recent data shows that how brands react to this current crisis could have long term effects on a brand’s success. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer reports that “29% of U.S. survey respondents have already begun using a new brand due to the innovative or compassionate way they have responded to COVID-19.” Furthermore, 71% of respondents agreed with the statement “Brands and companies I see placing their profits before people during this crisis will lose my trust forever.” Consumers are also being exposed to new brands and product options due to a rise in online shopping. Results from Perksy’s study on COVID-19’s impact on consumer trends found that of consumers who were buying different brands than they did before the pandemic “42% said they would definitely or probably continue buying from that brand in the future.”

In line with younger audiences’ desire to get involved in the crisis and support their local communities, Instagram announced, “Small businesses are an important part of our community, and many are facing immense challenges during the COVID‑19 crisis. Today, we’re making it easier to discover gift cards, online food orders, and fundraisers on Instagram so you can support the businesses you love.” This new update allows businesses to share gift card, food orders, and fundraiser stickers in Stories and on their profiles.

Image Source: Social Media Today

While promoted on Instagram, fundraisers will be attached to personal fundraisers on Facebook. To advertise a fundraiser, business owners can create a personal fundraiser or raise money for an existing nonprofit. This new fundraising tool is the perfect solution for big brands to show their younger audience that they are taking action, while at the same time giving that audience a means to participate.

Image Source: Social Media Today

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