Week in Media: gradually then suddenly
Change can be hard to notice until it becomes obvious. But doing so will be an important competitive advantage, writes the editor
A couple of weekends ago, my wife and I decided to stop for a drink at a pub. I went inside to the bar to buy drinks, and, without thinking, I put on a face mask – a learned behaviour that had become almost second nature after 18 months of living through a pandemic.
“Oh, ok…” was my reaction as I realised, I was literally the only person wearing a mask. The sudden discomfort of such a situation can be intense: it’s not just the power of social proof or “peer pressure”, but the overwhelming feeling that you’ve failed to notice the world around you has changed.
This week supplied a buffet of such “oh, ok…” moments in media.
Wolverhampton Wanderers, a Premier League football club, launched a record label.
Wolves Records, backed by a part of Warner Music, will focus on developing artists from the Midlands.
Yes, this may be a relatively low-cost marketing wheeze for a football club that is keen to grow its fan base; media channels are increasingly more cost-effective as the way to bolster brand awareness.
This trend however is set to intensify: there are already several Premier League clubs that have their own TV channels. What’s more, in its recent financials, Manchester United’s owners made it abundantly clear that it supported the (grossly unpopular) European Super League breakaway because it ultimately, wants to negotiate its own broadcast rights deals with TV companies. One of these rights, BT Sports, is reportedly in advanced acquisition talks with DAZN.
And yet, where are the TV companies in this week’s Emmy Awards winners in the US?
The winners were again dominated by ad-free streaming platforms: Netflix’s The Crown and Disney Plus’ The Mandalorian led the nominations with 24 each, going into the night, followed by Disney Plus’ WandaVision with 23.
Hollywood Reporter, of all titles, had it right in 2018 when it said CBS, one of the three US networks largely absent from the winners’ circle this year, was airing its “own funeral”.
If it wasn’t for public-service broadcasting commitments, you would suspect our own BAFTAs or National Television Awards in the UK would be just as saturated with streaming winners.
That alone should give the Government pause as it considers consultation responses to privatising Channel 4 – a proposal for which no one asked for and which no one can make a convincing business case.
Plus, this week Nick Manning reminded us in his excellent piece on investigating adtech that The Trade Desk is worth roughly double WPP on about 15% of the revenues.
On the one hand, this observation shouldn’t be a surprise because we all know the last decade’s adspend growth has come from digital advertising.
But yet, my question in response to Manning's article is, do we actually know enough about the companies that control the bulk of digital adspend and, as he puts it, “where the bodies are buried”?
Our reporter, Ella Sagar's analysis of Boots launching “Boots media group” is yet another sign of how retailers are in a prime position to follow where Amazon has led in not only making the most out of their first-party consumer data, but enabling brand partners to more effectively sell and market themselves online at point-of-sale.
We've also reported on how social media platform Reddit has significantly ramped up its international operation, based in London – following a similar expansion journey to that of TikTok and Snap in recent years. Pinterest, another challenger social media brand, has also been quietly growing its London-based sales operation.
Change can be surprising because we seem to be insensitive to the beginnings of change – we only really notice change near the end when we can actually measure the delta with our eyes or calculators.
Or, as Hemingway wrote, it happens “gradually and then suddenly”. Those in our industry, quickest at noticing change, and adapting in response, will be the biggest winners over what might be a volatile post-pandemic period.
Also, a brief “thank you” to those of you that have messaged me with suggestions and offers to contribute for our new Strategy Leaders newsletter, which launched on Tuesday.
This will evolve over time but the response we’ve had has been very encouraging and shows this industry is, if nothing else, still fizzing with ideas and passionate about media.