Facebook Staffers Question Political Ad Policies; CMOs Lose Titles, Gain Influence

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Political Unrest

There’s dissent brewing in Menlo Park. The New York Times reports that more than 250 Facebook employees recently signed a letter addressed to Mark Zuckerberg slamming the company’s decision to let politicians lie in ads on its platform. The impassioned letter pleads with Zuckerberg to rethink Facebook’s policy on political ads. “Free speech and paid speech are not the same thing,” the authors wrote, arguing that Facebook’s “current policies on fact-checking people in political office, or those running for office, are a threat to what FB stands for.” Aka, can we please not reprise 2016? Last week, during a six-hour grilling before the House Financial Services Committee, Zuckerberg was asked if Facebook would “take down lies.” His response: “It depends on the context.”

CMO No Mo’

The CMO role might be going extinct, but marketers aren’t in trouble. CMOs are historically known for creative and production that other C-suite members view as a cost. So companies are embracing titles like chief growth officer or chief customer officer, which shift the marketing to growth and revenue, according to a Forrester report. Former Birchbox CMO Amanda Tolleson, for example, was promoted to chief customer officer last year after the company eliminated the CMO role. The promotion gave Tolleson a bigger role across employee management, merchandising and technology disciplines. “Leading that entire cross-functional initiative for the company is not typically what you think a CMO would do,” she told The Wall Street Journal. The CMO title may come back in vogue, however, once business departments realize how the role of marketing has expanded, said Forrester VP and research director Keith Johnston. More.

Here To Shop

NBCUniversal is coming out of beta with its shoppable ad units for linear TV. Viewers use QR codes to visit affiliate product pages. NBC is working on more interactive tools specifically for audiences who watch streaming video on smart TVs, where television remotes could add more options, TechCrunch reports. NBC still has a significant amount of testing to prove whether the shoppable ad drives traditional sales metrics. It’s also figuring out how to sell the placement, and how to signal to the viewer that an ad spot is shoppable, perhaps using a host or commentator to call out the QR code. NBC will limit the shoppable units to one brand per program, said strategy and operations VP Collette Winn, to keep viewers from being inundated by product codes. More.

Agree To Disagree 

AT&T settled a dispute with activist investor Elliott Management, which took a 1% stake in the company in September and challenged some of AT&T’s spending decisions. The telco will separate the CEO and chairman role once CEO Randall Stephenson steps down, which won’t be until at least the end of 2020. AT&T also pledged not to make any major acquisitions and focus instead on paying down its enormous debt in order to meet profit targets of between $4.50 and $4.80 per share by 2022, up from about $3.60 this year. Elliott will also gain two directors on AT&T’s board after current members retire in the next 18 months. Those are relatively minor concessions – AT&T is still committed to businesses such as WarnerMedia, DirecTV and Xandr. Elliott wants AT&T to focus more on its core wireless business, but the telco isn’t turning back on its media strategy yet. More.

Keys To The Kingdom

The Disney Plus ad blitz hasn’t started, but Disney still pulled out all the stops in its messaging, from TV promotions to billboards and wraps on city streets, buses and Disney’s own cruise ships. “(It’s) a synergy campaign of a magnitude that is unprecedented in the history of the Walt Disney Company,” said Ricky Strauss, Disney Plus president of content and marketing. Disney’s also getting an extra boost from all the press coverage surrounding its marketing efforts. “They have gotten more awareness for Disney Plus from press coverage of these subscription deals than they ever would have been able to get through paid avenues,” Gene Del Vecchio, a marketing professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, told The New York Times. But the stakes for Disney are incredibly high, the Times writes: “The video platform represents a make-or-break attempt by Mr. Iger to reposition Disney for growth – its traditional cable businesses are in decline … ”  More.

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