Epic Fall Preview

Big tech starts the season with major moves in TV, web-enabled accessories and more

Smart TVs, smart sunglasses, and what looks like a not-so-smart decision on how to serve content to the kids. The busy season kicked off with a vengeance this week. Let’s jump in.

Wall-mounted Garden

An Amazon TV is coming — which seems to signal that the e-commerce titan is about to get really serious about video advertising — and maybe T-commerce (TV commerce, which could one day be a real thing). The Amazon TVs are coming this October and will sell for $370, reported CNBC. It remains to be seen what they look like, how great they are and how quickly they gain adoption or not (smart TVs are relatively cheap these days). But from a digital advertising perspective, here’s another move by Amazon aimed at inserting itself into many phases of customers’ entertainment lives and purchase journeys, all while strengthening the company’s data and ability to connect digital IDs across devices. Google can make a claim there, as can Apple (which is meh on the ad business). That’s one arena where Facebook, which doesn’t have a phone, a TV or an operating system, can’t play yet. However…

Major Shade

Facebook is giving digital specs a go, even after Google Glass went bust a few years back, reported The New York Times. The coming smart Ray-Bans are actually getting decent reviews, and in terms of privacy, Facebook swears these are not the next big consumer tracking device. Still, it’s not hard to imagine Facebook asking people to log into Instagram while using these glasses, which could feed more data back to the mothership and make for even richer consumer profiles (most platforms strive to profile users — Facebook would literally see what its users see). Of course, we’re probably getting way ahead of ourselves here since it’s far from a given that people will want web-enabled eyewear.

IDFAIL

If digital glasses are Facebook’s version of a moonshot, the more immediate concern for the social network is how to keep its ad business humming. And while we’ve seen some anecdotes trickle in regarding Apple’s consumer tracking restrictions blunting Facebook’s ability to track conversions, things are getting real now. According to Ad Age, brands are starting to wrestle with problematic data gaps for Facebook campaigns. Media consultant Jeff Richards said that aside from the bug recently reported, Facebook has been undercounting app installs driven by paid ads since April:

“One of his clients, which he declined to name, recorded 20 purchases on their website. The purchases seemed like they would correlate with a Facebook ad campaign that was running at the same time, but Facebook Ads Manager reported zero conversions.”

“There’s definitely a mismatch between the conversion value reported and the actual conversion value,” Richards said.

Whether this is a long-term headache, something that can be worked around or something that will really cause brands to think twice about using Facebook — well, that’s the question of the year.

Epic Victory

We’d be remiss not to mention the precedent-setting news this week in the Apple vs. Epic Games trial — the judge gave Epic Games (makers of Fortnite) and really anybody looking to do business in the App Store a huge win. In a nutshell, app makers can use whatever payment system they want and don’t have to give Apple a 30 percent cut anymore, per Bloomberg. This likely doesn’t have any huge implications for advertising at the outset but could be promising for publishers and brands angling for a more direct, data-reciprocal relationship with consumers.

Tik Tok…Bust

If targeting web users using some kind of personally identifiable information has been the subject of a growing amount of scrutiny/scorn over the past few years, the use of anonymous-by-design smart algorithms has suddenly made old-fashioned cookie retargeting look quaint. If you haven’t yet, check out The Wall Street Journal’s investigation into how TikTok serves video content to minors. That’s the sound of millions of parents snatching their tween’s phones and brand advertisers scrounging for their cancellation agreements. Among the many scary nuggets in the piece was the basic/kinda-crazy admission by TikTok that it doesn’t currently look to restrict what videos it shows to its under 18 audiences to the rest of the app. Like YouTube, TikTok feels too big to ignore long term, but in the meantime, expect lots of reassessments of brands marketing budgets — which is an opportunity for any digital publisher that can safely deliver young audiences.

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