A Return To Ads For Microsoft?; Ad Pullback Favors Programmatic

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Here’s today’s AdExchanger.com news round-up… Want it by email? Sign up here.

Microsoft Returns? 

Microsoft has been in talks to acquire TikTok from its Chinese parent company ByteDance, The New York Times reported Friday. And then those talks were placed on hold after President Trump signalled opposition, The Wall Street Journal reported. Regardless of outcome, the deal discussions suggest Microsoft is prepared to recommit to digital advertising as a revenue stream after turning its back on media. Beginning in 2012, Microsoft wrote down the value of its aQuantive acquisition, conceding failure. It sunsetted its AdECN ad exchange. And it outsourced ad sales to AppNexus and AOL. While the company has slowly crept back to advertising in recent years, with the acquisition of LinkedIn, the launch of a customer data platform and other moves, its TikTok approach would appear to cement its seriousness. More. 

Don’t Call It A Comeback

Summer is usually a slow season in advertising, but it’s 2020, so nothing is normal. That goes for programmatic ad revenues, which have skyrocketed recently after advertisers pulled back spending this spring. News and politics publisher Salon, for example, ended June and July with revenues up 25% for the year, and is “cautiously optimistic” for the second half, said CRO Justin Wohl. Returning advertisers have driven up demand on the open exchange, and ad spend volumes are almost back to where they were in Q1, Digiday reports. But publishers are cautious the momentum will last, as uncertainties about the government’s next stimulus package remain. “I don’t think we’re going to see a return to full-blown pause, but we will see some cautiousness,” said Ray Jenkin, CEO of programmatic agency Hybrid Theory in North America. 

PubCommerce

BuzzFeed, a longtime player in affiliate marketing, is launching an ecommerce website. Consumer shopping behavior has shifted as direct checkout options become more common on websites and apps, said BuzzFeed’s SVP of commerce, Nilla Ali. The ecommerce site, which sells items from face masks to creams, is stand-alone from the shopping section on BuzzFeed’s main site and transactions are powered by ecommerce platform Shop Bonsai, The Wall Street Journal reports. The publisher will take a 25% commission on sales, with an undisclosed amount going to Shop Bonsai. But BuzzFeed isn’t the first media company to wade into ecommerce; publishers such as PopSugar and Complex Media have tried this game before, without much luck. “It’s hard to say now whether consumers want or prefer to shop from publishers,” said Camilla Cho, SVP of ecommerce at Vox, which is also considering moving into ecommerce. 

Trust Token Testing

Google is close to moving its trust tokens into active testing as it builds tech to replace third-party cookies. The Trust Token API (part of the Privacy Sandbox) helps distinguish between bots and human traffic without resorting to fingerprinting. They are small files issued by a website and stored in a browser’s “digital wallet,” Chetna Bindra, Google senior product manager for user trust and privacy, explained to AdExchanger. “You cannot be identified or tracked across the web with trust tokens.” Google also released an alpha version of a browser extension that helps users track why they’re seeing ads, and will make its “Why this ad?” feature more robust in coming months. Read Google’s blog post.

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