Can Amazon Help Itself?; The Mobile Ad Tech M&A Frenzy

Do Me A Favor

Amazon told Congress in 2019 that it doesn’t favor Amazon-owned brands in search results. But that isn’t credible to sellers, who time and again see Amazon rivals shoot into the top three search results immediately. A former Amazon employee told The Markup that Amazon reserved a top search spot for new private-label brands, although the practice has now stopped. Another factor is Amazon’s special designation: “featured from our brands.” The products included there are not considered part of search results, spokesperson Nell Rona told The Markup. Amazon calls them “merchandising placements.” The language Amazon uses is telling. Amazon wants its online retail to be treated like a retail store. Practically every major grocer owns white-label brands that gain huge advantages from being on the best shelf, in an exclusive end-aisle display or by the register. At pharmacy chains like CVS or Walgreens, you might find common branded products such as cough syrup, conditioner or deodorant locked behind a plastic shield so you need to call an attendant – while a store-owned clone sits free and clear nearby. Will Amazon’s argument hold water? Well … “Amazon’s placement of its own products on its own site is advertising, whether or not money changes hands,” said Mary Engle, who retired last year as associate director of the FTC’s division of advertising practices.

Mobile on Tap

The mobile ad tech consolidation spree is still going strong, with the latest news that ironSource will acquire Tapjoy for approximately $400 million. Tapjoy is profitable, and the deal is financed entirely by cash on the balance sheet. Tapjoy is the third acquisition this year for ironSource, which bought in-app monetization company Soomla in January and creative workflow software service Luna Labs the month after. But everyone's been pretty acquisitive: Verve Group bought the customer acquisition company Match2One; InMobi purchased Appsumer; AppLovin snapped up MoPub for a cool billion; Zeta Global acquired publisher survey and data service Apptness – and that’s just in October so far. The year’s been jammed with deals, and so was 2020. Omer Kaplan, ironSource co-founder and CRO, said in a release that the market for mobile app monetization services will be won by companies with successful inorganic growth plans. The Tapjoy acquisition “follows that strategy,” Kaplan said, “ultimately allowing us to serve our customers in the most beneficial way possible, by growing our SDK footprint, improving our monetization capabilities and positioning our platform as a deep and integral part of the in-app and in-game economy.”

Holding Steady

French agency holding company Publicis Groupe is living the American dream. Publicis nudged up its revenue growth forecast for 2021 from 7% to 9%, and reported a strong Q3, primarily driven by the American market. Its business in the US was up 8% from two years ago (the new Wall Street metric, because year-over-year comparisons are a mess), and up 2% in APAC. Over in Europe, though, its business was flat. The Publicis-owned data service Epsilon and Sapient, Publicis Groupe’s digital media-buying unit, were two big growth drivers for the agency overall. Publicis noted that its “data and technology capabilities in the third quarter benefited from clients’ investment in digital media, commerce and direct-to-consumer efforts, especially in the US.” The Wall Street Journal has more.

 

But Wait, There’s More!   

Anzu is teaming up with Roblox creators to develop in-game advertising on the Roblox gaming platform. [VentureBeat]

How newspaper closures open the door to corporate crime. [HBS.edu]

The staggering ubiquity of iPhones. [Axios]

Sebastian Benthall: Toward a synthesis of differential privacy and contextual integrity. [Digifesto]

Merkle and OpenX announce new audience activation integrations. [release]

Metric Media runs 1,200 local news sites. Here are some of the nonprofits funding them. [CJR]

 

You’re Hired

WPP taps Jennifer Remling as chief people officer. [MediaPost]

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