Rakuten May Buy PopSugar; WPP Launches Data Consultancy Firm

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Is Rakuten Raking In PopSugar?

TechCrunch is hearing whispers that Japanese ecom giant Rakuten might acquire publisher PopSugar for $580 million. Apparently, we’ll know in the next few weeks whether it’s to be or not. It might seem weird on the surface that Rakuten is buying what’s nominally a celeb gossip site, but it has a history of investing heavily in companies that deal with content, either directly (ebook and audiobook firm OverDrive and video portal Viki) or tangentially (attribution vendor DC Storm, retargeter MediaForge and affiliate marketer PopShops). And it’s not as if PopSugar is just a celeb news hub, seeing as it has an audience data repository and a commerce/content platform called ShopStyle. Plus, as TechCrunch’s sources point out, Rakuten is gunning to get its products into the hot hands of US consumers. Pushing material goods is a lot easier when you can message on a celeb site with 41 million monthly uniques.

WPP Debuts Data Consultancy Shop

WPP has launched a new agency-slash-consulting-firm dubbed Gain Theory to help clients sort out their data strategies. Former Maxus Chief Information Officer Jason Harrison will lead the agency, to be housed under GroupM. Gain Theory will purportedly be independent of GroupM’s media-buying operations. “Because we sit alone as an independent entity, we can bring a point of view to a marketer that’s not connected to any of the decisions that get made about actual tactical executions,” Harrison told the WSJ. “We don’t have a dog in that fight.” Though he adds, “We can connect to the vast array of tools and assets that live within WPP in a really independent and objective way.” Agency, reinvent!

Agency Rebates, Cont.

On Monday, Pivotal Research Group’s Brian Wieser downgraded stocks from four of the largest global advertising agencies, citing client pushback over the practice of media and technology supplier rebates.  WPP, Omnicom, Publicis and IPG were switched to “sell” or “hold.” Wieser writes, “The volume and specificity of allegations by aggrieved media owners, former agency executives and marketers are difficult to ignore.” There is a growing concern among marketers that the digital ad buying space isn’t simply complex and opaque, but deliberately so. Read the report at Business Insider.

OTT’s Time To Shine

A recent research report from The Diffusion Group claims that OTT TV advertising will rise to $31.5 billion in 2018, and traditional TV advertising will fall to $47.5 billion. However, according to Digiday, “That OTT programming is mostly the same long-form content people watch on a traditional TV broadcast – from AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’ to ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’ – but served through connected devices,” which means there will be more total advertising dollars going through TV, despite the descending revenue for traditional TV ads. The report’s author, Alan Wolk, believes that “By 2020, give or take, there will be no distinction between OTT and TV buying.”

Backing Away From Nielsen

Time Warner and Viacom are talking with TV advertisers about dropping Nielsen’s demographic-centric measurement approach, Variety reports. These new deals would measure how spots affect consumer behavior and interactions. “Overall TV ratings are in structural decline,” explained Christopher Vollmer, global managing director of Strategy&’s Digital Services. “Marketers are increasing their spend on digital marketing priorities, especially around social, digital video and mobile. The TV networks need to evolve their data, analytics and insight capabilities.” Advertisers, he added, “will shift their money to the partners where they have the greatest confidence in the return on their video investment. They want and need more than Nielsen age and demo.”

Video Production Moving In-house

The agency world has long shopped out most of its demand for high-quality video production, but we may now be seeing “an arms race fueled by the rise of digital video,” according to Ad Age. Interpublic, MDC and Omnicom have all recently announced major reinvestments in their internal production capabilities. Shops that can’t churn out clips for Instagram, live streams for Meerkat and commercials for TV will fall behind. “It’s requisite to the sustainability of the agency,” affirms BBDO’s director of integrated production, David Rolfe. Viewers are migrating to new video content platforms, and marketers are scrambling to follow.

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