Google's Cookie Plans Draw Regulatory Scrutiny; Podcast Ad Spend Is On The Rise

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Cookie Drama

In the wake of multiple antitrust lawsuits and a US congressional probe, Google’s attempt to get rid of the third-party cookie is attracting regulatory attention, Digiday reports. On Jan. 8, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority launched an investigation into whether Chrome’s Privacy Sandbox has the potential to cause even more spend to be concentrated in Google’s ecosystem at the expense of its competitors. Although Google invited ad tech firms, publishers and others to join the W3C and work together to hone and test its sandbox proposals, there’s deep wariness in the industry. Just look at the recent firestorm over FLoC. Trust in Google – or the lack thereof – is at the core of most complaints about the Privacy Sandbox process. “Google has magnanimously allowed the industry to play a role,” said Alan Chapell, president of Chapell and Associates, a lawn firm that focuses on privacy for tech companies. “Google should not be allowed to call this an industry consensus project.” [Related in AdExchanger: “The Privacy Sandbox And A Pre-emptive Breakup Of Google?”]

Hear This

Advertisers are starting to tune into podcast advertising. According to new data from MediaRadar, ad spend on podcasts was up 11% YoY in Q4 2020, with spend set to increase by an estimated 10% to 15% this year fueled in large part by high-profile consolidation, including Amazon’s purchase of Wondery and Spotify’s acquisition of Megaphone. Advertiser renewal rates in podcasts are rising, which is good news for publishers and a sign that advertising in pods can generate positive ROI. And the number of advertisers buying into podcasts also continues to accelerate. In 2020, there were nearly 6,000 advertisers buying ads in the Top 500 podcasts, up from 5,154 the year before. The top five podcast producers in terms of ad revenue last year were NPR, iHeartRadio, Barstool Sports, Wondery and The Daily Wire, which collectively captured 33% of all podcast ad revenue. The top five podcast advertisers in 2020 were online mental health counseling service BetterHelp, Capital One, Geico, home security system provider SimpliSafe and ZipRecruiter. According to Edison Research, the average amount of time people spend listening to podcasts has gone up every year for five consecutive years and currently clocks in at 6.5 hours a week. Adweek has more.

Reality Check

QAnon conspiracy theories, false information about election fraud, far-fetched misinformation about COVID-19 … 2020 left quite a legacy. And many are hoping that newly-minted President Joe Biden will usher in a much-needed reality check, writes Kevin Roose of The New York Times. The muddled, chaotic information ecosystem that produces these misguided beliefs doesn’t just jeopardize lofty ideals of national unity – it actively exacerbates our biggest national problems, and creates more work for those trying to solve them, according to Roose. All of this raises an important question for the Biden administration: How do you unite a country in which millions of people have chosen to create their own version of reality? There are a few practical steps Biden can take, according to the experts. One, appoint a “reality czar” who will lead a cross-agency task force to tackle disinformation and domestic extremism. Two, push for more transparency into the inner workings of the black-box algorithms responsible for amplifying conspiracy theories and extremist views. Three, establish a “truth commission” to investigate  the planning and execution of the Jan. 6 Capitol siege. And, four, enact a “social stimulus” via a series of federal programs to encourage people to get off their screens and into community-based activities to keep them engaged and occupied. Apparently there’s a whole real world out there. [Related in Axios: “Tech Giants Open Up About Their Algorithms.”]

But Wait, There’s More!

Univision acquires Spanish-language streaming service VIX to fuel its new streaming offering, PrendeTV [Forbes], and joins Project OAR, the media consortium focused on addressable advertising for TV. [Ad Age]

TV platform Cadent has expanded its partnership with TEGNA’s OTT ad platform Premion, which will use Cadent’s cookieless matching tech. [release].

Sixty-one percent of Snapchatters say they plan to watch the Super Bowl this year. [blog post]

Sinclair Broadcast Group inked a deal with Taboola to use its mid-article video placements across its TV station sites, including ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC affiliates. [release]

The ad industry is miffed that in his waning days as California AG, Xavier Beccera, who’s about to leave his post for a new job as Biden’s secretary of Health and Human Services, tweeted support for a universal opt-out mechanism, which he said would comply with the CCPA. [MediaPost]

McDonald’s-owned Dynamic Yield released a multilingual tool that makes it easier for brands to localize their campaigns. [release]

Video: A chat with TVSquared’s president, Jo Kinsella, on the company’s new cross-platform measurement solution. [Beet.tv]

Magnite has introduced a new CTV and OTT platform that unifies direct and programmatic demand. [release]

You’re Hired!

DTC edition: Luxury bedding brand Boll & Branch brings on former Ralph Lauren top marketing exec Jonathan Bottomley as CMO [WSJ]. Fashion brand Everlane hires former Nike exec Sophie Bambuck as its first CMO. [Adweek]

Rebel Girls has added former Warner Bros. and Disney exec Soo Koo as chief creative/marketing officer, and former Blavity News editor-in-chief Lilly Workneh as head of digital content. [Deadline]

Search intelligence company Captify has hired former LiveRamp exec Amelia Waddington as global VP of product. [release]

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