The Stack: Meta Lobbied Ireland Over Data Transfers; TikTok Creator Info Stored in China

This week: Meta lobbied Irish ministers over data transfers, TikTok stores some creators' information in China...Another eventful week for social media giants began with reports that Meta has lobbied Irish authorities over the transfer of European Facebook users' data to the US. TikTok also hit the headlines after the company was exposed storing creators' financial information on servers in China. TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, who testified before congress that the company did not transfer data to China back in March, was later tapped to lead ByteDance's new app, Lemon8.Outside of social media, chipmaker Nvidia announced it is building Israel's most advanced supercomputer the same week the company surpassed a USD$1tn (~£809.5bn) valuation.Looking for the latest MadTech Podcast? Or a new batch of tech teasers?The Stack brings all the news, latest events, and much more to your inbox every Friday. For for our weekly podcast, long reads, opinion, and industry insight, plus a weekly dose of tech trivia, subscribe via the button below.

Streamers Fight For Subs On National Streaming Day

Happy birthday, GDPR! Can you believe just five years ago the European Union put into effect the General Data Protection Regulation? The law went into effect in May 2018, mere months after Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. And it created a snowball effect for data privacy regulation, as US states and other countries followed in its wake. The effects of GDPR have been massive, but they’ve also taken time to unfurl. It took five years, for example, for GDPR to net its first billion-dollar fine (though Meta is contesting it). And the law’s effect on competition, publishers and ad tech companies is still underway. On this week’s episode, we bring on Garrett Johnson, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. He has conducted research into how the law affected a number of metrics, including sites’ tagging strategies, consent rates, overall traffic and, ultimately, the impact on conversions. We also discuss a recent casualty of GDPR: the third-party data company AddThis. The widget stopped collecting data in Europe almost a year after GDPR went into effect, but took another four years to wither on the vine completely. Continue reading »

Maximizing Performance With Personalized Subscription Data

Theresa McEndreeCMOFirst-party data – data collected directly from customers – is worth its weight in gold. Subscription businesses are unique in that the business model, by its very nature, gathers this valuable data to build an initial profile and, ultimately, nurture lasting relationships over time.  Of course, regulatory requirements must be followed, but with the appropriate consent, businesses can consider customer behaviors to deliver an intuitive, personalized advertising and shopping experience. And by delivering a personalized customer experience that relies on the responsible use of first-party customer data, brands ensure loyalty and customer retention.

How much content is too much? Agencies are starting to ask that question

Agencies are beginning to rethink their approach to creating content for clients, thanks to the growing volume of content and more intense competition for eyeballs these days.From using statistical analysis to influencer marketing strategies, the content business is changing as agencies evaluate the quantity, ethics and impact of the content they make for clients. But how much is too much? Brand-driven content has become a major way for marketers to reach consumers, generating awareness and loyalty along the way. Short articles or posts and videos were the top two content types that B2C marketers used in the past 12 months, per Content Marketing Institute in 2022. The demand keeps rising, too. In the U.S., average time spent with digital media was 8 hours and 14 minutes per day in 2022, driven by consumption on devices like smart TVs, gaming consoles and other connected devices, according to Insider Intelligence. This was up 1.9% compared to the previous year’s 8 hours and 5 minutes per day. While the average isn’t increasing as quickly as 2020 pandemic rates, digital media time is still taking up a bigger share of our overall time spent consuming media. Ethics and effectiveness of content creation There comes a certain point in content creation strategizing in which brands need to weigh ethics and purpose alongside other more concrete goals, said Amy Luca, evp, global head of social at Media.Monks. The goal is not to create as much content as possible, just for the sake of producing content — not to mention the mental health impact it could pose for people. “I’m really trying to push my teams and the clients that we work with to really think about whether that content that we’re producing is adding value and is worth spending time with,” Luca told Digiday. “Are the imagery, topics, conversations, doing anything that will detract from mental health and or wellbeing of the consumers that we’re approaching?” Luca believes the way to balance this is through analyzing the fit of the content, the audience and the brand’s goals. To improve this effectiveness, Media.Monks does statistical regression analysis for clients to determine the optimal amount of content. And clients are thinking more about long-term brand equity over the short-term views in social, Luca added. “The algorithms don’t reward us for the content — we see a lot of diminishing returns from the algorithms if we’re just putting tons and tons of content that is content for content sake,” Luca said. The influencer business With a lot of social media content generated by influencers, influencer marketing agencies and firms are similarly having to strike the right balance between the quantity and quality of their content. Ryan Detert, CEO of influencer marketing company Influential, said influencers have to consider their content based on an individual basis, as well as what content and platform they are using. “There isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all answer when producing content for multiple platforms,” Detert said. “The same content that goes viral on TikTok may not go viral on YouTube Shorts and vice versa.” Detert insists that quality content is not just high production value — it also needs to factor in relevance for that creator’s audience. The main elements for influencers trying to grow an audience are “consistency, authenticity and cadence,” he added. At influencer management firm Cycle, the focus is on using certain lo-fi or low-resolution content that often drives more impactful results and makes the content feel more organic. Bea Iturregui, vp of creator and brand partnerships at Cycle, said the firm relies on influencers to know the best tactics for their particular audience. “Sometimes this means having their Instagram Reel loop continuously or syndicating their in-feed post to their story,” Iturregui said. “Other times it means polling their followers or a quick piece of lo-fi content created in a home kitchen.” “And it’s typically never a game of quantity,” added Corey Smock, Cycle’s vp of business development. “Influencer marketing isn’t about being the loudest in the room. It’s about making personal connections and cultural impact. That’s often accomplished through less, not more.” Developing a content discipline Some agencies are also focusing on their content offerings and working with clients on new approaches. Stagwell’s Instrument, a multidisciplinary digital and creative company, this month updated its brand positioning to bring together its product, digital design and brand marketing capabilities with two new core disciplines — content innovation and experience innovation. Last November, Instrument joined forces with digital agency Hello Design within the Stagwell network. Instrument’s units will work with clients to scale across their content and digital experiences, focusing on creating stories it hopes will have impact. Paul Welch, executive director at Instrument, who leads content innovation, pointed out that the content landscape has changed a lot since the pandemic. There will always be new platforms, channels and types of media, Welch added, but Instrument focuses on partnering with right communities and a smaller quantity of content with higher value. “It’s a lot of mid funnel work – we needed to have impact, we needed to have meaning and we needed to essentially move the needle or have an impression for our consumers,” Welch said. “So it isn’t necessarily about the highest quantity of viewership, it’s more about connecting more closely with whatever audience we want to talk to.” Even though there is a lot of content in the market, consumers also have higher expectations now. J.D. Hooge, chief creative officer at Instrument, explained that consumers and clients are “more discerning” these days – and they also have a lot of options to watch something else if the content doesn’t resonate. “They are going to call brands on their bullshit. They are going to hold brands to really high expectations as well,” Hooge said. Luca of Media.Monks added: “[Marketers and social agencies] are going to erode brand equity, and at the end of the day, the consumers will switch. It will be high switching, because whatever gets their attention is the thing that they’re going to gravitate to.”

Why Cars.com is driving away from performance marketing and toward influencers

A few years ago, at the height of the auto industry’s supply-chain woes, digital media buying and performance marketing were in the driver’s seat. Now, at least one auto dealer is making more space for influencer marketing to boost brand awareness and remain top of mind with car shoppers. As Cars.com celebrates its 25th year with its first major redesign and brand campaign, the auto dealer is expanding its media mix to include influencer marketing networks, or marketplaces that provide access to pre-vetted influencers. It’s an effort that has picked up in the last six to nine months, alongside increased spend on media channels like social media, streaming video and audio ads, according to Jennifer Vianello, Cars.com CMO. “We’d had direct-to-influencer relationships,” Vianello said. “But the influencer networks are a great opportunity for us to syndicate our editorial and to bring our editorial top of mind to consumers in new and different channels.” So far, the dot com company has partnered with networks like Influential and Izea to help push and amplify the brand’s editorial content more widely and bring in new voices, per Vianello. Those partnerships can be anything from written editorial content to short-form videos and other avenues of content creation.  “Sometimes we want to be talking about our own message and our own expertise, and sometimes we need different voices for those messages,” she said. From a paid marketing standpoint, Cars.com scaled back its performance marketing spend and reduced its media spend over the course of the year, per the CMO. Although, it’s unclear how much Cars.com is investing in its influencer marketing as Vianello declined to share specific figures. The brand spent more than $103.5 million on media last year, slightly up from the $95 million spent in 2021, according to Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics. It speaks to the change happening in the influencer marketing space and creator economy as influencers have now become a line item within media budgets. As the industry continues to mature, marketers are seeking longer-term relationships with influencers by way of inking agency-of-record relationships with influencer marketing agencies.  “It’s a natural evolution,” said Devin Peyton, senior creative strategist at 19th & Park Inc., a creative marketing and production company. “Because now people are seeing the impact and the power of these people, it’s only natural that they start making them into their brand voices, making commercials with them in it.” Per Digiday+ Research, both agency clients and brands are investing more in influencer marketing than they were a year ago. In Q1 of 2022, 69% of agency pros said that their clients spent at least a very small portion of their marketing budgets on influencers. By Q3 of 2022, that number jumped to 79% before holding steady at 76% in Q1 of this year. For Cars.com, it’s too soon to tell if the shift from performance to brand advertising is worth the investment, according to ​​Vianello. However, the brand is keeping tabs on results as the foundation for what’s next in its marketing strategy. “Our strategy is going to evolve as consumer behavior evolves and we are constantly testing what channels allow us to better tap into that consumer experience,” she said. https://digiday.com/?p=505996

Why Unity Technologies is leaning into AI as economic headwinds pick up

As the hype around artificial intelligence reaches a fever pitch, executives at Unity Technologies are finding themselves at the center of the storm. They believe that AI can multiply revenues across all facets of their popular game engine — including Unity’s in-game ads business. In fact, they say it already has. Over the last few weeks, leaders from across the gaming industry have spent hours extolling the virtues of artificial intelligence for game development, with Nvidia’s stock price skyrocketing on the back of a May 24 earnings call brimming with AI hype. As one of the largest gaming companies listed on New York Stock Exchange, Unity Technologies also leaned into AI during its May 10 earnings call, with Unity CEO John S. Ricciatello stressing Unity’s “competitive advantages in and around AI.” Earlier this week, Digiday caught up with Ryan Peterson, Unity’s vp of accelerate solutions, to talk about his company’s plans to use AI tech to improve its ad offerings and game development tools. This conversation has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. On the ways Unity is already leveraging AI technology for its advertising offering Ryan Peterson: What people don’t realize is that AI already has scaled Unity Ads. AI powers our entire ads platform — frankly, that’s why we beat our last earnings round. What happened is that ChatGPT captured everyone’s imagination, but we’ve had AI teams and a head of AI for the last, like, eight years at Unity. I use AI all the time in our work. So we’re leaders in machine vision; we’re leaders in simulation; we’re leaders in perception technology and we’re also leaders of adopting AI to drive our ads business. Digiday: At the moment, Unity’s ad offerings are mostly located inside mobile games, which could be a challenge for the company as it looks to scale up and start offering the premium gaming inventory that brands covet. But the numbers and potential scale behind Unity’s advertising inventory are already impressive: 1.8 monthly active creators used Unity Editor in 2022, and over 50 percent of augmented reality apps and virtual reality experiences are currently made with Unity, according to statistics shared by Unity Technologies. Last year, gamers spent an average of over 5 billion hours per month playing games made with Unity. On how AI can make Unity’s real-time development tools more accessible to creators Ryan Peterson: People are already innovating using the tools that are available. People use Copilot for programming; other people are creating assets online through a variety of different platforms for asset generation and generative AI. There are things I can’t talk about, but in the future you’re going to see announcements of tools that will show how accessible we’re going to make game development. Digiday: Peterson wasn’t able to speak openly about some of the AI-related tools that Unity has in the works, but the writing is on the wall. At the moment, Unity’s biggest game-engine rival is Epic Games’ Unreal Engine — and after introducing a new ecosystem to support in-game creators at this year’s Game Developers Conference, Unreal is arguably the most accessible real-time development platform out there right now.  But Unity’s generative AI initiative “Project Barracuda” — which was somewhat hush-hush before it was leaked by Ricciatello on a Forbes podcast last week — could help the company catch up quickly. By injecting generative AI into its game engine, Unity hopes to make it easier for developers to add realistic characters and environments into their titles, with minimal work. On the impact of AI on the gaming industry at large Ryan Peterson: Within the video game industry, there’s been some big transitions. The first was going from 2D to 3D, and we all remember that, during that transition, there were actually a bunch of companies that couldn’t make the leap. These iconic brands just disappeared; they couldn’t make that technology transition. And mobile came around — massive — and most companies that were successful in the 3D market had to buy their way into the mobile market, because they couldn’t make that transition.  We’re having that same clear moment. It’s bigger than mobile and the transition to 3D — AI is going to fundamentally change how content is created. Some of the bigger game companies have huge sunk costs into running these big games, and they were created in technology that needs a 1,000-person team. With AI, you may still have a 1,000-person team, but you’re going to get 30 times the productivity. Digiday:  On May 3, a week before its May 10 earnings call, Unity announced that it would be laying off 600 employees — or roughly 6 percent of its workforce — causing a drop to the company’s stock price. But Unity stock rebounded following its AI-hype-infused earnings call, with investors perhaps starting to believe that reduced headcount does not portend the collapse of a company that is increasingly powered by artificial intelligence. On the benefits of being a publicly traded gaming company as a potential recession approaches Ryan Peterson: Being a public company forces organizational discipline. By adopting that discipline, and having clear access to capital markets, we don’t just actually survive a recession, we thrive through it. I call it “compressing the spring” — we’re investing, we’re working hard every day. And you see things with our partners, and more and more features come out, and you bounce up to the next level.  Digiday: Since the 2008 financial crisis, some economists have championed the gaming industry as relatively recession-proof — but with another recession on the horizon, some observers are starting to challenge that assumption. But if any gaming companies are going to be recession-proof, Unity is likely going to be one of them. It’s an infrastructure provider that is practically invaluable for game developers across studios large and small — so for Unity to really go down, the entire craft of game development would have to go through several fundamental shifts. https://digiday.com/?p=505998

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