News Corp picks a fight; and 'Eau no' - those Depp ads are back

13 Feb 2017  |  Dominic Mills 
News Corp picks a fight; and 'Eau no' - those Depp ads are back

Are News Corp’s efforts to create a safer environment for advertisers the equivalent of a pea-shooter taking on the nuclear weaponry of the fake, the faux and the fallacious, wonders Dominic Mills. Plus: The puzzling return of Sauvage.

Bang#1! First (last Thursday), The Times picks on digital advertising with a front-page splash on how Mercedes, Waitrose, Argos et al are, thanks to the evils of the digital media eco-system, inadvertently funding terrorism. “Big brands funding terror”, the headline shouts.

Bang#2! The Sun follows up the same story.

Bang#1 was no doubt designed to get client CEOs issuing a summons to their CMOs asking for an instant explanation. “WTF? Is this really true? What can we do about it?”

Bang#2 would get the public going. “I’m not buy a Merc if they’re funding ISIS!”

Thus, we are all set up for...

…Bang#3! The day after, last Friday, News Corp announces the launch of its own programmatic exchange where, in the words of News Corp CEO Robert Thomson, advertisers could be secure if they were spending their money in a “verified environment”; where they could be “guaranteed a measurable high-quality audience”; and be spared the worst of the “murky, tenebrous [a new word for me; it means dark or shadowy] world of digital advertising.”

Just for good measure the editorial had a go at Google, and Thomson took a pot-shot at ad agencies.

“Ad Agencies and their programmatic ad networks are also at fault, as they sometimes artificially aggregate audiences, and these are then plied with content of dubious provenance: the agencies win; the fabricators of the take win; and advertisers and society both lose,” he said.

There you have it. News Corp points its editorial and commercial weaponry (not for the first time) the same way. Problem outlined. Solution presented.

Cynics will have a field day about the subjugation of editorial to commercial by News Corp. But they should put their cynicism to one side.

At this point in the game, as News Corp’s results (a Q4 loss doubled to $219m on revenues down 2 per cent, despite digital revenues rising) show – and the Guardian highlighted even more starkly last week – most publishers’ editorial and commercial interests are inextricably interlinked in ways they weren’t before.

By highlighting the issue (much as P&G’s Marc Pritchard did last month) – albeit from a different starting point), News Corp is doing all publishers - bar Google and Facebook - a favour.

But are News Corp’s efforts to create a safer environment for advertisers the equivalent of a pea-shooter taking on the nuclear weaponry of, as the Thomson puts it, the “fake, the faux and the fallacious”?

Possibly. It’s also picked more than one fight: against the tech giants, against ad agencies and, by implication, advertisers.

But if it can build sufficient scale - which might mean letting other publishers in - and alarm enough advertisers, the tide may begin to turn.

I hope so. It is time advertisers valued more properly both content and context.

But I have one question: what’s the difference between this initiative and the one it announced in March 2013?

‘Eau no’, those Sauvage ads keep coming

Hot on the heels of news of Johnny Depp’s heroic $30,000 a month wine habit comes definitive evidence that the man is broke: those so-bad-they’re funny Sauvage ads are back, and one can only presume that Johnny is so desperate for the repeat fees he’s asked Dior to play it out again.

Yes, no less than three times last week I saw the ad. You know the one: Johnny, who looks like he hasn’t been near a bath for weeks, let alone any cologne, drives his car into the desert.

He passes a buffalo trotting the opposite way, and pulls off the road. Taking a spade from the boot (I ask you, does Johnny look like the kind of guy who’d make sure he never drives anywhere without a spade, a rug, a warning sign and a thermos in his boot?), he wanders into the desert, digs a hole and buries the on-trend Native Indian necklace he’s wearing.

I thought this sort of rubbish only ran at Christmas, but I’m guessing it’s on again because of Valentine’s Day. But who’s it aimed at? Men who want to channel their inner Cap’n Jack? Or women who love that whole bad-boy-gone-badder-still schtick?

I’m puzzled though: is Dior still running this ad because it’s sunk so much money into buying Johnny it might as well get what it can from him? Or is it proof that Hollywood stars have that indefinable Teflon quality? However much their life has fallen apart, they’ll always get a perfume gig.

Me, I‘m just delighted to see it again: it brings some cheer to those-otherwise gloomy February nights.

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