This Week in Social is a weekly digest of some of the biggest stories in social media marketing news. These stories are the show notes for the Brave Ad World Podcast. Each story is discussed at a deeper level on the podcast.
Twitter Launches Six-Second Ads with View Guarantees
Twitter has launched a new video ad option that allows advertisers to run 15-second or shorter video ads and only be charged if viewed for six seconds or more. The move is similar to YouTube’s six-second bumper ads, which allow advertisers to run and pay for ads on a similar basis. The videos run with the sound-off and are available for Promoted Video, In-stream Video Sponsorships and In-Stream Video Ads.
Currently, over half of Twitter’s ad revenue comes from video ads, and it's the fastest-growing ad format on the platform.
While six-seconds is certainly a constraint, the fact that Twitter is only charging if the content is viewed is a benefit. Advertisers have the opportunity to tell short, concise stories and can do more than just show the logo or product, albeit within six-seconds. As video advertising gets shorter, it’s incumbent on platforms like Twitter to offer some sort of guarantee to advertisers that at least a portion of their ads are viewed. The success of six-second ads on YouTube points to the potential for the format on Twitter as well.
Facebook’s Clear History Tool is Here
A moment that’s been in the making for more than year is here. Facebook is finally rolling out its clear history tool, but it comes under a new name—off-Facebook activity.
The tool allows users to see which advertisers and websites have their data and then uncouple themselves from that data to prevent being targeted with ads based on it. That’s a big reason for the name change. Because users can’t actually delete data from Facebook, the name “Clear History” created misperceptions among users. What the tool actually does is it allows users to unlink data stored about them from their activity outside of Facebook collected by the Facebook pixel or Facebook’s SDK. That data, which has been used by advertisers to target ads, can now be uncoupled from user profiles. The data will still be there, which allows advertisers to see how well their campaigns drove traffic in aggregate.
The tool was announced in 2018 to appeal to rising demands in transparency, privacy and data control for users. Since then , Facebook had to rebuild new data sets to make the tool work and then put it all into testing. Now, it is being rolled out in phases, beginning with Ireland, Spain and South Korea. It’s available within user settings.
Grab the popcorn because watching this play out is going to be interesting. What Facebook has essentially done here is created a way for users to clear cookies from their Facebook profile. That has the potential to significantly hinder advertisers’ ability to specifically target their ads should users decide to use the tool en masse frequently. That all comes with a big “if,” however. Time will tell IF users even take advantage of the tool, and if they do use the tool, they’ll have to use it pretty frequently because more data will be added to their profiles as they revisit websites and apps using Facebook data collection tools even though some users may take advantage of the option to “disconnect” browsing activity from their accounts.
News Quick Hits
Verizon sold Tumblr to Wordpress’ owner Automattic Inc. for an undisclosed amount, but it is somewhere below $20 million. That’s a far cry from the $1.1 billion Yahoo acquired Tumblr for in 2013. Now, Verizon doesn’t have this asset it has no idea what to do with, and Wordpress feels like a better fit from an M&A standpoint.
CBS and Viacom agreed to a merger, which will bring together CBS, MTV, Paramount Pictures, Showtime and other properties. Part of the merger includes plans to create more streaming content, which means the battle between Netflix, Disney, Apple, Amazon and other streaming services is just getting started.
Snap announced version 3.0 of its Spectacles AR sunglasses. The steel framed glasses are less clunky than previous versions and come in priced at $380. The glasses can take 70 videos and 200 photos with each charge and are capable of 3D effects. Snap has not specified production numbers, and it’s unclear whether or not there’s any more demand for these than for previous versions. But Snap may not care about that and may be using these to set a foundation for more AR efforts down the line. Expect them to ship this fall.
Facebook has simplified group settings down to two choices. Group admins will no longer have four group options. Secret and Closed group setting are being removed leaving only public and private. Groups that had been secret will now be private, and groups that were closed will now be public. The goal of the decision was to simplify and provide group admins more clarity in how their groups are set up, but this was one aspect of a larger initiative underway at Facebook to prevent groups from becoming about hate or harm.
Instagram has launched a bug bounty program that will pay researchers who discover third-party apps misusing the platform’s data. Facebook already had a program like this, but now, that program has extended to Instagram as well.
Facebook is hiring a small team of journalists to curate content for a new dedicated news section. That means Facebook appears to have lost faith in algorithms carrying that load. However, making human curation central to the process may prompt calls for bias in what news they choose to feature and what they don’t. That critique, however, has existed for awhile now, even when algorithms were doing the curation.
YouTube has made YouTube Originals free and viewable to all users. Previously, they were limited to YouTube Premium subscribers. While the Originals can be viewed for free, Premium subscribers can watch them ad-free and get access to extra scenes and other exclusive content.
Apple is planning to roll out its Apple TV+ platform in November for $9.99 per month. The service will have a small catalog of shows initially with plans to expand quickly. The rollout is part of a major strategic focus shift for Apple from hardware to services, which also include Apple Music, Apple News+, iCloud and the upcoming Apple Arcade gaming service. Apple TV+ is entering a crowded market dominated by Netflix and Hulu with major new players like AT&T and Disney entering the fray.
YouTube is ending “targeted” ads on videos meant for kids in the wake of an FTC investigation into potential COPPA breaches by YouTube. YouTube and the FTC reached a settlement in that investigation, but terms have not been disclosed. The move would likely mean a revenue hit for YouTube as targeted ads tend to bring in a significant share of YouTube revenue. Details around how YouTube will define videos “directed at children” have not been established, so this is still developing.
Instagram is testing back-to-back ads from different advertisers within Stories. The test is being used to determine whether or not such placements create a smoother experience for Stories, but a more likely reason is pressure from parent company Facebook. It wants Instagram to include more ads. It’s already doubled ads on the platform since last year.
Google has announced the launched of what it calls a “privacy sandbox.” It’s a bit of an olive branch to publishers as the intent of the effort is to give users more control and awareness of how their data is being collected and used, while allowing publishers to get paid. The move is meant to find a happy medium between publishers who have been limited by ad blockers and browsers in their ability to collect revenue and users who are becoming more privacy-conscious.