The Big Story: NewFronts Week Means Galas And Shiny New TV Tech – But The War In Ukraine Reveals A Grittier Side Of Advertising

The Big Story podcast

AdExchanger’s Alyssa Boyle reports back from the NewFronts trenches (which is to say, the red carpets and would-be galas).

The event isn’t just about celebrities and dress-up, however. Big players like Amazon and NBCU also unveiled some of the new ads tech toys they’ve been working on.

One major theme: dynamic product insertion. Ad tech companies have been all over product insertion for years – it’s a way to create auctionable inventory within a stream (as opposed to a pre-roll or interruptive mid-roll ad). And it helps brands stand out compared to typical ads that viewers breeze past like a billboard on the highway.

But sponsored product insertion still hasn’t become a real ad offering. That could change with the likes of NBCU and Amazon involved – they have the right to insert products into their original content. (Directors, producers and actors may not appreciate a streaming distributor placing a grapefruit-flavored Bubly brand soda water next to, say, a badass protagonist or a killer supervillain, regardless of the personalization data.)

On a more serious note, this week the podcast returns to the war in Ukraine.

It’s tempting to think in terms of “demonetize, demonetize, demonetize” when it comes to Russian media or social accounts. But Ukrainian supporters and Russian dissidents, such as Putin opposition leader Alexei Navalny, say shutting down all the levers of digital media and advertising isn’t the strategic move.

Ads have a unique capability to break through the Kremlin’s information controls, if platforms like Google and Facebook enable it. There is no legit news or organic way to reach Russian mothers with reporting on how Russian leaders are suppressing casualty counts. But ads are being used to spread the truth about the Russian army being greeted with deadly counterattacks, rather than being welcomed as liberators.

On the flip side, efforts to freeze Russian state-sponsored news outlets like RT and Sputnik out of the global advertising ecosystem don’t go far enough. And the industry lacks the tools it needs to demonetize the hundreds of fake news sites that repurpose the Kremlin’s talking points.

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